Tag Archives: special releases

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (2015) – Review

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon Background

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (2015)
Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (2015)

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is a limited edition annual release from Brown-Forman. It’s released each year around the start of September to commemorate founder’s George Garvin-Brown’s birthday on September 2nd. The Old Forester Birthday Bourbon special releases date back to 2002. This year, 13,200 bottles were produced.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is a 100-proof, 12 year old Bourbon barreled from a single day’s production on June 13, 2003. So, that’s kind of interesting, but also unique to this batch is its aging. The barrels for 2015 were pulled from the same warehouse location rather than blended together from barrels of different locations. All the barrels here are said to have aged near a heating duct which results in higher temperatures during warehouse’s climate control cycles. Brown-Forman says this resulted in a “very robust, intense wood-derived characteristics.”

Details

12 Years Old. 100-proof. Thought to be standard Old Forester mash bill of 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% barley. Paid $70

Aroma

Rich aromas reminiscent of Old Forester line and a lesser extent Woodford Reserve. Reminds me of toasted/burnt marshmallows. Lots of spices, sweet, fruity, apples, touch of latex. Really nice smelling glass

Flavor

Soft and sweet. Fruity cherries, charred wood with general deep roasted flavors, coffee. Some sharp bitterness and astringency towards the finish.

Overall

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon is sweet, caramel goodness with a firm wood presence. To me once Bourbons age to a certain point, they begin to turn towards more oxidized musty, medicinal phenolic flavors and also usually get extra woody. Old Forester Birthday Bourbon I think is heading down that path. While there is some woody-astringency in there, it’s not too heavy. If you like older and woody Bourbons, this may be more to your liking.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon packs a punch of flavors. Minus a little chemical in the nose, the aroma is pretty outstanding. The flavors and even alcohol seems a little more reminiscent of a barrel proof than a still significant 100-proof. I think Old Forester Birthday Bourbon would be a good slow sipping Bourbon on a cold day.

In recent years, prices for Old Forester Birthday Bourbon have been climbing as it started to show up on the limited edition radars. With any limited edition, there’s a premium that more times than not to me fails to live up to what’s in the bottle. I think this is true of Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, so really you’re probably looking to buy it for chance to try something that’s a once a year thing. Given my preferences for younger Bourbons, I’d probably suggest trying a glass first.

Recommendation

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.)

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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.

Details

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

Aroma

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

Taste

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

Overall

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.

Recommendation

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.)

Links

Grand Traverse Distillery

 

Pappy Van Winkle 15 (2014) – Review

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Background

Pappy Van Winkle 15
Pappy Van Winkle 15

So, Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old. I’ve been sitting on this bottle about five months. I wasn’t sure if I was going to post a review of this because, really, what’s the point? You’re not going to roll into your local Mega-Mart and find Pappy Van Winkle on the shelf and if for some freak reason you did, you’re not going to reference my or anyone’s review before buying. I’m also not sure how I feel about feeding into the hype where people are searching the seedy secondary market for any bottle of Pappy. I wouldn’t want anyone getting robbed or losing a kidney meeting someone in a Target parking lot.

The other thing is I’m not sure if I can actually review Pappy Van Winkle 15. It took a lot to get this bottle and I’m emotionally invested. How could I resist the pressure of the hype and not like it? On the flip side, what’s in this bottle could never match the hype and craziness surrounding anything Pappy Van Unicorn. Thus, the pendulum can swing the other way into an overly negative reaction.

So, months later I’ve sipped Pappy Van Winkle 15 here and there. I’m about as far removed from the hype before it cycles back up toward the fall Bourbon releases. I’ll give it a shot because I might as well have something to show for my trouble.

Details

15 years old. Bottled at 53.5%. Wheated mash recipe. MSRP $80. 

Aroma

Woody, dusty. Medicinal, band-aids. Coffee grounds. Cherries. Figs. Complex.

Flavor

Oak/cedar up front with caramel, toffee. Bubble gum. Medium to high astringency. Vanilla. Nutty. Cinnamon, cloves. Tobacco.

Overall

In addition to Pappy Van Winkle 15, I got to try glasses of this year’s Pappy Van Winkle 20 and Old Rip Van Winkle 10. I had some chances for the 23-year-old, but passed because it the prices were stupid. I think the 20-year-old is really nice. If you get a chance to try a glass of any, I’d recommend going for the 20. I also enjoyed the 10-year-old with a nice 107-proof punch and a little age vs the more familiar Weller 12 and Old Weller Antique. An no, Poor Man’s Pappy isn’t as good, but it is a decent compromise for normal people.

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old for me was a disappointment. There are phenolics that I don’t like. I’ve had Pappy Van Winkle 15 in the past, and perhaps my memory isn’t as good and/or at the time my Bourbon experience was more limited, but I recall enjoying that more this this 2014 batch. Maybe this year was just an off bottling or maybe it’s just not for me now that I’ve tried a lot of different Bourbons.

So, no it’s not worth chasing. No it’s not worth paying stupid prices. And no it’s not worth losing a kidney in a Target parking lot. Personally, and thankfully, I prefer younger more lively Bourbons, so, while Pappy Van Winkle 15 has some real interesting complexities, I’d still prefer a more conventional good bottle of 8-year-old Bourbon. Plus, personally, I can enjoy a Bourbon more when paying $30 and knowing there are plenty more bottles on the shelf.

If you can find Pappy Van Winkle 15 for at or near the $80 list price without much effort, it’s a good buy. At the very least enjoy a little variety once in a while. Act like a baller and share with your friends. Otherwise, just between you and me, there’s better stuff on the shelves right now.

Recommendation

Sure?

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Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition (2014) – Review

Four Roses Small Batch LE 2014 Background

Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2014
Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2014

Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition/LE 2014 is the latest annual release of Four Roses’ special Small Batch. Each year Four Roses selects a special version of its Small Batch bourbon using a blend from 10 of their different recipes. The recipes are different from the standard Four Roses Small Batch, which is mixture of OBSO, OBSK, OESO, and OESK barrels. Also different is the Limited Edition is a barrel strength bottle where the standard Small Batch is at 90-proof.

This year’s Four Roses Small Batch LE 2014 is bottled at 55.9% / 111.8-proof. The selected barrels are OBSV @ 13 years, OESV @ 12 years, OBSF @ 11 years, and OBSK @ 9 years. So, technically this is a 9-year-old bottle, but consists of Bourbon of up to 13 years old.

Continue reading Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition (2014) – Review

George T Stagg 2014 – Review

George T Stagg Background

George T Stagg 2014
George T Stagg

George T Stagg is of course the flagship release in the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection. It’s pretty much right up there with the Pappy Van Winkle line in sought after bottles.

George T Stagg for 2014 comes to us from a long slumber in Buffalo Trace’s Warehouses C, H, I, K, L, P, and Q. So, a wide variety of barrels, although still very constrained number of bottles. The good news, however, is starting with this year’s release there should be more bottles to go around as Buffalo Trace ramped up production of George T Stagg starting in 1997. Of course, demand is disproportionately higher, so it’s likely still a net negative. This batch was distilled in the spring of 1998, which makes it officially 16 years old, but at least 17 summers old.

Details

16 Years Old. 69.05%. Buffalo Trace #1 Mash of less than 10% rye. 

Aroma

Dark fruits of raisin and figs. Old wood, wood polish. A little musty. Dark caramel. Deep, dark, and old. A little water brings out more lighter fruits and spices.

Flavor

Lots of sweetness and alcohol heat up front. Fruity. Thick syrupy. Resiny wood and tannins make for a nice thick mouthfeel. Char lingers in the finish. With a little water I get a bunch more caramel, vanilla, and cinnamon spice up front that the heat may have been hiding along with chocolate and coffee. Still has some heat.

Overall

So, I have no idea why I’m posting this review. Odds are if you’re interested in George T Stagg, you either will buy it on sight or can’t find it. What I may say here probably won’t persuade you and certainly won’t change your chances. But hey, I managed to get a bottle, so lets have some fun.

This is my first go around with George T Stagg. I never got a bottle before, so I don’t have much frame of reference to previous releases. I do know some old Bourbon and barrel proof, so we’ll go from there. George T Stagg is a flavor bomb. It’s big, old, and packs a punch. After a respectable pour uncut from the bottle it probably doesn’t much matter what you drink afterwords. Adding some water brings out a lot more nuanced flavors pulled from at least 16 years in the barrel and dials down the heat.

The downside on George T Stagg is it is an old Bourbon, which may not be everyone’s thing. It’s heavy on barrel character and has some dullness compared to more lively younger Bourbons. Personally I prefer Bourbons in the more conventional 8-11 year, depending how they’re aged. Still, a nice old Bourbon is quite enjoyable as a change of pace and special occasions. It also has some fire with its high proof, but a sensible person can solve that with a splash of water. It’s not the most delicate and nuanced pour out there, but it’s a treat that doesn’t come around often.

I don’t know if George T Stagg is the best thing ever, but it’s very nice, very interesting, and a fun pour.  Considering how rare this is, given the opportunity, my hoarder instincts would push me to buy as much as I could at a relatively reasonable price. If this was plentiful, however, I think I would be content with this bottle and just replace it when it was eventually gone. I don’t see it as a frequent pour, nor something to stock up just in case the world ends. That’s based on price and characteristics of age. I do love barrel proof Bourbons, however, so I’m down with that bold power.

So if you can find George T Stagg anywhere near list price you must buy a bottle. I only ask you actually drink it. In fact, drink it with friends. If you can’t find George T Stagg, there’s a lot of great stuff out there right now on shelves.

Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.5/5.0 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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