Tag Archives: Try a Glass

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.)

Links & Other Reviews

 

 

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

 

Evan Williams White Label Bottled-in-Bond – Review

Evan Williams White Label Background

Evan Williams White Label
Evan Williams White Label

Evan Williams White Label is a part of the Evan Williams line from Heaven Hill Distillery. There are a number of Evan Williams bottling, but it seem the most popular are the 100-proof Bottled in Bond (AKA White label), 86-proof Black Label, 86.6-proof Evan Williams 1783, and an 86.6-proof Evan Williams Single Barrel.

I’m a fan of the Evan Williams Single Barrel which is available in yearly batches. Actually I dig Heaven Hill in general with a number of pretty great Bourbons for the money. With Evan Williams White Label we’ve got an exceptional value with a lower shelf Bourbon that drinks above its price tag.

Details

Bottled at 100-proof.  No age statement. Standard rye Bourbon thought to be 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. Paid $15.

Aroma

Corn mash/roasted corn. Nutty. Pecans. Caramel, charred wood. Sawdust.

Flavor

Similar to the nose. Big roasted corn, nutty. On the sweet side. A little alcohol heat and some zip. Some fruitiness. Rich, roasted flavors. Slight drying in the finish.

Overall

On its own Evan Williams White Label isn’t anything special, but factoring in price it becomes  more impressive. There’s a nuttiness that remind me of the Beam flavor profile, but not quite the same. Otherwise seems like typical Heaven Hill to me with full, rich, roasted flavors.

To me, the dominate flavor is corn and is a little hot and lively. Guessing it’s on the younger side. There’s no age statement, but being Bottled-in-Bond it must be at least four years old. The dominant cereal flavor to me is a off-putting, but the rest is just fine. Nice caramel, a little roasted nuts, and like I said, a lively Bourbon with just a little bite.

Price on this is pretty great. If you’re looking for a house mixer, it’s hard to beat this flavor and price. The 100-proof and youth should stand up well with a mixer. Also, if you’re on a budget, this will also do just fine for sipping.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.0 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

Personally, I’d prefer Evan Williams Single Barrel with more mellow flavors, even though it also loses a bunch of character in the upgrade. A similar Henry McKenna 10 Year also from Heaven Hill is a good choice for retaining more of the woody-roasted depth with added mellowness.

A real good alternative, however, in the price range could be Old Ezra also made at Heaven Hill. Getting out to other standard rye Bourbons could be Wild Turkey 101.

Links & Other Reviews

Charter 101 Bourbon – Review

Old Charter 101 Background

Charter 101
Charter 101

Charter 101 comes from Buffalo Trace Distillery as part of their #1 low rye mash recipe. The Old Charter brand has roots back to 1874, but in more recent history the it was a part of the United Distiller (later reorganized as Diageo) portfolio until the 80’s From there it was sold to Buffalo Trace parent Sazerac.

Old Charter had an 8 year and 10 year expressions, but the 10 year is gone and the 8 year lost its age statement. Old Charter 8 is still available at 80-proof, but the 8 is just a number on the bottle to make loyal customers feel warm and fuzzy. Like the new Old Charter 8, Charter 101 also lacks an age statement.

Details

Bottled at 101-proof.  No age statement. Buffalo Trace #1 mash of less than 10% rye. MSRP – $27.99 (2016 Price)
 

Aroma

Caramel, honey, fruity. Light char. Vanilla. Roasted corn. Grainy, kind of barn yard straw.
 

Flavor

Light, sweet. Pleasant oak char then sawdust. Corn comes through. Fruity with the edge of solvent. Medium-low astringency in the finish with slight bitterness.

Overall

I don’t know the age on Charter 101, and I don’t want to assume based on price, but I’m thinking this is a younger Bourbon. In Charter 101 I’m getting the heavier corn and sawdust flavors that to me age out with more time in the barrel. Not quite my preference, but this is still some pretty easy drinking stuff. Given the 101-proof and reasonable price it certainly is a fine candidate as a mixer.

I get what I think of as Buffalo Trace signatures of fruity with the edge of acetone. Also not much in the way of rye that jives with their low-rye #1 mash recipe. Buffalo Trace Bourbon I think matches up well and tasting these side by side the resemblances are apparent. While actually not generally my preference, I like Buffalo Trace better as it seems a more mature Bourbon for my tastes. Although, it’s about $10 or so more expensive, so there’s that.

To sum it up, Charter 101 is a good Straight Bourbon that might be on the younger side, but carries a nice punch of a proof and an attractive price. It’s not my choice for sipping, but you could do a lot worse. Charter 101 seems a quality budget bottle to keep around for mixers.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.0 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

Charter 101 is a low rye Bourbon, which is a little unique in my classifications. In this price range, you could check out the mentioned sibling Old Charter 8 and Buffalo Trace. Both have the same Buffalo Trace mash recipe. From there, a little high rye recipe could be Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star, Wild Turkey 101, and Old Forester.

Links & Other Reviews

Dickel 9 Year Old Hand Selected Barrel – Review #49

Background

Dickel Hand Selected Barrel 9 BottleGeorge Dickel 9 Year Hand Selected Barrel is one of two special bottlings from George Dickel. The selection line includes a 9 and 14 year bottled at 103 and 106-proof. The idea is this whiskey is sold to stores willing to purchase an entire barrel. So, it would seem they’re sort of rare, although if you do find a host store you’ll likely find plenty of bottles. This of course makes this a single barrel product and each store’s selection will vary slightly.

The Dickel 9 Hand Selected Barrels are filtered in the Lincoln County Process style with charcoal. Dickel uses 13-foot vats filled with charcol. Prior to filling, Dickel chills the whiskey so it’s also chill filtered. The Lincoln County Process is shared by the other major Tennesee producer Jack Daniel’s. The goal is to give the whiskey a “smoothness” and tends to also lend a distinct flavor. Another benefit is it should also shorten the aging time as some of the volatile compounds will be stripped away that normally take time to dissipate. As a result of this process this is not Bourbon, but Tennessee whiskey.

Details

9 Years Old. Bottled at 103-proof. Thought to be  84% corn, 8% rye, and 8%. Purchase price $45.

Aroma

Cherry, solvent-like. Smoky maple. Barrel char. Sweet, sweet. Mustard. Spices

Flavor

Syrupy. Tart. Sweet. Kind of cloying. Some heat. I like to add some water. Smoked maple keeps coming to me. Barrel char is prominent. Fruity.

Overall

Not really my thing. This is different, but not the good kind of different, at least for me. Technically it seems a fine whiskey. A little water dials down the heat and overall more enjoyable. I’m not just digging the flavors all that much. It seems like it was finished in a barrel of something I don’t really care for. It’s just not my thing.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – Rating 2.0/5.0

(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

This is a low rye Bourbon without too many piers. For low rye around this price a good bet are the Colonel EH Taylor Jr Small Batch and Single Barrel. A higher rye recipe that is similar is John J Bowman.