Tag Archives: non-chill filtered

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel – Review

Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Background

Russell's Reserve Single Barrel
Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel

Launched in 2013, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel comes in at 110-proof and is non-chilled filtered. I find Wild Turkey’s lineup to be a little confusing with some overlap. Russell’s Reserve has become its own brand that to me has some parallels to the Wild Turkey brands. Perhaps making it a little more confusing, to me Wild Turkey has a distinctive flavor profile so they all have shared traits. I enjoy them all, so the goal with Wild Turkey Bourbons may be simply finding the flavor you like best at a favorable price.

How I wrap my head around Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, and I could be wrong, is I see it as a premium single barrel version of Wild Turkey Rare Breed, but a little older like Russell’s Reserve 10 Year. Maybe. We do know though that Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is selected from “center cut” barrels, meaning barrels from the middle floors of the aging warehouses. Wild Turkey uses seven story warehouses and the Russells feel the middle floors are the sweet spot of their inventory. The upper floors get hotter and age faster with more robust flavors and lower floors age slower and more mellow.

The bottle shown here is actually their old label as the Russell’s Reserve labels recently were revamped. The old label here is kind of funny saying a small batch single barrel, which I guess is the smallest batch possible, technically. The new labels I think help unify the Russell’s Reserve brand and appears to also clean up the superfluous buzzwords.


No Age Statement. Bottled at 110-Proof. Mash recipe of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. $53 Shelf Price


Vanilla, Grainy, caramel, orange peel, toast, cinnamon,


Toffee, oranges, Werther’s Originals. Berries. A bunch of spices. Some nail polish remover. Dark roasted flavors. Viscous, soft and creamy. Woody tannins coming towards the finish. Grainy and roasted corn.


Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel seems a bit of a contradiction. It’s got some of that signature big flavor and zip of Wild Turkey, but it also quite full and creamy backed up by sweet caramel flavors. It doesn’t seem like a 110-proof Bourbon to me, but at the same time flavor is big and bold with just some rough edges towards the finish. I’m getting a little roasted bitterness, some alcohol, and tannic bite that leave a little cotton mouth. Between there is a sweet caramel goodness and full-flavored barrel char.

If there’s ever a case to be made for higher proof Bourbons skipping the chilled filter process, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel would seem to be a good example. Chill filtering is a practice of crashing the temperature of Bourbon near freezing and running it through plate filter. Proteins, fatty acids, and other stuff precipitate out of solution at lower temperatures and then get filtered out. If they’re not chilled and filtered, they could appear as a haze or clumps in your glass when ice is added. But this is only an issue for below 90-proof or so, and even then it’s largely a cosmetic phenomena. Filtering may make whiskey more visually appealing under certain conditions, but it also strips away components that lend to mouthfeel and perhaps also flavor.

Anyway, I’m a fan here of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel. I think Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is a nice step up from Wild Turkey Rare Breed, and Wild Russell’s Reserve 10 Year. I could also toss in Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, which in my mind is basically an older single barrel version of Wild Turkey 101. Basically, I think Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is my favorite from Wild Turkey, although the other’s listed have their respective charms and value.

I feel like you can get the Wild Turkey experience for less, so Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel pricing I think is a little high, but at the same time reasonable for what appears to be a top tier bottle. The few things towards the finish have me hedging a bit, but everything else is plenty to enjoy.


Buy Again – 4.0 out of 5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

I like to offer some options for similar Bourbons around this price. Feel free to investigate other reviews for further research.

If we call this a high proof Bourbon, some similar options may be Booker’s, Stagg Jr, Knob Creek Single Barrel, and if you can find it, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. I think too it’s worth checking out Wild Turkey Rare Breed, Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit, and Russell’s Reserve 10 Year.

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Maker’s 46 Cask Strength – Review

Maker’s 46 Cask Strength Background

Maker's 46 Cask Strength
Maker’s 46 Cask Strength

Bill Samuel’s Sr. launched Maker’s Mark in 1958 as wheated Bourbon in an attempt to reboot his family’s Bourbon. Company lore is that his wife Margie helped by baking various recipes of bread. The recipe without rye was favorable and Maker’s Mark wheated Bourbon recipe was born.

Until a few years back, classic Maker’s Mark recipe was basically the company’s only product. Through careful warehouse management for consistency, Marker’s Mark has traditionally only had one product, however, there have been boutique products such as Maker’s Mark White and pre-mixed Mint Julep. As Bill Samuel’s Jr. reached retirement, he was looking to put his stamp on his dad’s company with a new product while not disrupting the classic Bourbon product.

Maker’s 46 is standard Maker’s Mark further aged with toasted french oak staves. The 46 is the recipe name of the wood treatment from barrel maker Independent Stave, which happens to be have a factory a few miles away.

Recently Maker’s Mark introduced a barrel proof version of its standard Bourbon called Maker’s Mark Cask Strength. For my taste, I prefer the Cask Strength over regular Maker’s 46 and thought it might be a little ironic Bill Jr’s legacy could have simply been bottling up his dad’s standard recipe as unadulterated, straight from the barrel goodness.

Anyway, Maker’s Mark Cask Strength appears to be a hit as it reached wide market availability earlier in 2015. Without being cut with water, Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is about 25% more product by volume, but carriers about a 100% price premium at retail. With the popularity and success of that product, you don’t have to be a genius to think of what could be next for Maker’s Mark… That leads us to Maker’s 46 Cask Strength.

For the first run of Maker’s 46 Cask Strength, Maker’s Mark bottled a few hundred cases only to be sold out of its Loretto, KY gift shop. In fact, the label of these initial bottles as you can see in the picture is pretty generic. So, this is basically limited edition, although I’m pretty sure more is coming  along with a fancier label.


No age statement. 108.9-proof. Wheated Bourbon. Paid $40 (375ml)


Butterscotch, caramel, charcoal, fruity cherries


Rich, buttery, Werther’s Originals. Vanilla, some cinnemon. Some astringency. Smokey Char flavors. Roasted corn. A little bite and burn at the end. Finishes a bit dry.


If you like Maker’s 46, there’s obviously a more to enjoy here. I actually prefer regular Marker’s Mark to Maker’s 46, and yeah, it can be a little boring for Bourbon nerds, but sometimes “boring” hits the spot. Plus the price is reasonable. When Maker’s Mark Cask Strength came out I was interested in checking it out and even though the value equation isn’t great, I gave it bump over the regular despite the price hike. I feel like I’m in the same spot with Maker’s 46 Cask Strength. I think it’s pretty good stuff, although at least initially pricy when equalized at $80 for a 750ml bottle.

I think Maker’s 46 Cask Strength has a little bite at the end that’s sort of bitter-metallic. A little water helps smooth this out, but that’s counter to paying the premium for barrel proof Maker’s 46. Also, it seems more astringent than I enjoy. Beyond that, it’s got that sweet, charcoal, smokey, BBQ-like flavors of Maker’s Mark backed up with softer toasted oak that seems butterscotch-like.

So basically if you’re a Maker’s fan this is a must find. If you like trying new stuff, this is a good bottle to enjoy. The value from Maker’s Mark, however, I think is still in the original. I still think Maker’s 46 profile and price is best aimed at fans of Maker’s Mark, and Maker’s 46 Cask Strength I think is a nice spurge bottle for those drinkers to at least experience for themselves.


Buy a Bottle – 3.0/5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

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Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey – Review

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey Background

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey
Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

Grand Traverse Distillery is based out of Traverse City, Michigan where they have a couple tasting rooms. Currently they said they’re not retailing their whiskey widely since it’s in short supply, so you most likely need to visit the distillery or one of their tasting rooms. They make all their whiskey themselves and have been at it for about eight years.  They promote themselves as a farm to bottle operation sourcing all their grains/cereal from local farms.

Grand Traverse Distillery has three main whiskeys with Ole George, a 100% rye whiskey, a Bourbon made of 20% rye, and a Cherry whiskey which is their Bourbon with infused Michigan cherries.

Another Whiskey reviewed here is a limited release cask strength rye whiskey. It’s aged 6 years and made with 60% rye and 40% corn. Their first batch, which I’m told was actually a single barrel, is non-chill filtered and uncut 116-proof.
I tried Ole George, the Bourbon, and the Cask Strength Rye and came away buying this bottle as my favorite.


No Age Statement. Bottled at 116-proof. 60% rye. $45 for 375-ml. 


Minty. Pine needles. Baking spices, cloves. Vanilla. Cough syrup. Sawdust.


Minty, sawdust. Vanilla. Caramel. Sweetness. Graham crackers. A little cola. Lively. It has some heat. Some astringency in the finish.


Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is pretty tasty with some of that raw rye and sawdust flavors I pick out on younger rye whiskey. I compared to some other barrel proof rye whiskeys with a 2-year-old and 4-year-old bottles from Willett Family Estate. I was hoping to get a nice reference point, but they’re actually all pretty different other than for being high proof rye whiskeys. Differences in age, recipes, and perhaps aging bring different things to the table. If I were to guess, I think I’d figure Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey tastes like younger than 6 years, which could be an interesting contrast in aging in northern Michigan vs closer to the Mason-Dixon line.

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey brings spicy bold flavors that emphasize the rye. In the background, a sweetness comes in the finish for a pleasant sip.

It’s encouraging to see new distilleries’ product come to age and hold a lot of promise. Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is a treat, but not a rye I’d regularly pull down off the shelf. Forget the fact there are only so many bottles out there to buy, the pricing makes this an exclusive bottle. The mentioned Willett is basically half the price for the volume, and there are a number of quality rye whiskies out there for even less, even though not barrel-proof. This is a challenge with new craft distillers doing interesting things on a different scale, but I think it’s still appropriate to not evaluate up-starts in a bubble from the rest of the industry.

Ultimately, my reviews are about quality and value. I’m told a second batch is in progress and I’d be curious to see Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey maybe at older age to take off some rougher edges, but then again that’s part of the character here. Still, Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is a good whiskey in quality, however, with the pricing I’m going to go strictly by my scale and recommend making the trip to try a glass.


Try a Glass – 2.5 out of 5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)


Grand Traverse Distillery


Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch 7

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch 7
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch 7

Last three weeks I’ve been sipping on the latest batch of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch 7. I’ve posted about Batches 3-6 and thought I could mention something about Batch 7. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch 7 is the lowest proof of the releases as you can see in the table below. Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch 7 comes in at 64% / 128-proof. The earlier “hazmat” 140-poof bottle got everyone excited just on proof alone. Being the other end of the spectrum I’m curious how people feel about Batch 7. For me, I don’t really care about the actual proof. I just want a nice big Bourbon to sip on.

Batch 1 – 67.1% / 134.2-Proof
Batch 2 – 68.5% / 137.0-Proof
Batch 3 – 66.6% / 133.2-Proof
Batch 4 – 66.2% / 132.4-Proof
Batch 5 – 67.4% / 134.8-Proof
Batch 6 – 70.1% / 140.2-Proof
Batch 7– 64.0% / 128.0-Proof
Batch 8 – 69.9% / 139.8-Proof
Batch 9 – 67.8% / 135.6-Proof
 Batch 10 – 69.4% /138.8-Proof
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is one of my favorite Bourbons. It’s very rich, and being 12 years old, has a lot of barrel character. Big burnt/char flavors with heavy dark caramel and vanilla goodness. Chasing special Bourbon releases is an exercise in frustration, but these Elijah Craig Barrel Proof releases are relatively easy to obtain. I can usually snag an extra bottle, and since it comes out every 3 months or so, I can easily enjoy one and stash another.
Anyway, I just can’t get motivated to keep reviewing the same Bourbon over and over to pick out slight various between batches. So, I’ll just add some comments.
Batch 7 I get a big caramel-vanilla punch and sweetness up front. Then in comes the burt-char flavors, filled in with oak and astringency. Throughout a steady alcohol burn from the barrel proof. The finish I get some dark fruits like raisins and some acrid residuals.
I’m not sure Batch 7 is my favorite, but there’s nothing here to change my appreciation of these releases.

Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof – Review

Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof Background

Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof
Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof

Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof is the big brother in the new-ish Taylor Jr line from Buffalo Trace. Current Bourbon releases also include Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch and Colonel EH Taylor Jr Single Barrel. There’s also a Colonel EH Taylor Jr Rye out there.

There have been three releases of Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof and I’m looking at the last two.

  • Batch 1 – 134.5-proof (67.25%)
  • Batch 2 – 135.4-proof (67.7%)
  • Batch 3 – 129.0-proof (64.5%)
  • Batch 4 – 127.2-proof (63.6%)

I never got a chance to try the first release, but I’ve had plenty of time with the second and have been getting acquainted with the third. There are some differences between the releases, but I’ll get into that in a bit.

So, the idea is we’ve got a barrel proof version of Buffalo Trace’s low rye #1 mash. This should make Bourbon nerds think about George T Stagg, which is also a barrel-proof Bourbon from that recipe. The big difference is Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof is aged likely around 7-8 years while George T Stagg is about double that, typically. We also have Stagg Jr, which promises to be a younger version of the granddaddy GTS, but if you were to ask me, I’d call Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof more of a true “Stagg Jr,” but lets save that comparison for the review.


Bottled at 129.0-proof.  No age statement. Buffalo Trace #1 mash of less than 10% rye. $69.99 (2016 MSRP)


Dark fruits, raisin bread, some grapes. Vanilla. Burnt sugars. Charred Oak. Trace of coffee. A little perfume. Add some water: Fruit turns more to pears, apples, cherries. Now getting baking spices of Cinnamon and cloves. Brown sugar. Vanilla seems stronger.


Roasted coffee, charred oak, toffee, burnt sugars. Overwhelming at full strength. A little water brings out a bunch of caramel and more sweetness. Finish has wood and some astringency.


I hate to sound like a hipster and claim the older version of Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof is better, but I do like the second release more than the third. I enjoy both of these releases, especially with a splash of water, but the second release more so. I think the difference is enough to affect my rating, but only in the sense of it’s worth buying, but not worth stocking the bunker.

As far as George T Stagg, there is no comparison, in my opinion, but if you dig Stagg, Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof arguably could be the next best thing. It lacks the complexity and robustness of Stagg, but to me it’s much more enjoyable than Stagg Jr. Retail pricing is only about $10 less than Stagg, which is kind of funny, but the big difference is you actually have a relatively decent chance of finding Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof sitting on a shelf.

On the flip site, another way of looking at Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof could basically be a barrel proof version of Buffalo Trace, which also is #1 Buffalo Trace mash. I’m not sure I’d agree with that, although the resembles is there when adding enough water. Even if the years in barrels are close, I think Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof is aged better than Buffalo Trace, thus worthy a premium.

I enjoy barrel proof Bourbons and this is a good one to have on hand. A little water I think really makes Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof sing.  If you can find some of the second release, I’d say grab that one, but the third release is just fine. If the third release matched up for me like the second, I’d be probably gushing more in this review. I’ll be curious to see what next year brings.

I’ve seen pricing get up to $100+, which is getting to be a questionable value, in my opinion. If you can find it for a little closer to retail, I think it’s a good buy. Compare that to other Barrel Proof offerings from Heaven Hill, Marker’s Mark, and Four Roses, and Buffalo Trace itself, Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof retail is about ball park, I think.


Buy Again – 4.0 /5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

I’m going to stack this up against other barrel/high-proof Bourbon near in price. Four Roses Private Barrel is a great deal, I think, and worth considering for a few dollars less. Also, the new Marker’s Mark Cask Strength is about the same price retail for equal volumes. Booker’s is another option for less, sometimes a lot less, depending on your local pricing. Then we have Stagg Jr, which I’m not a huge fan, but does fit in well price-wise and comparable in flavor. Lastly there’s Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, of which I’m a fan.

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