Tag Archives: Wheated Bourbon

Larceny Wheated Bourbon – Review

Larceny Background

Larceny
Larceny

Every great Bourbon needs a great story, and as we know, sometimes these stories can stretch the truth if not be an outright fantasy. Old Fitzgerald was a fantasy of the best distiller (John E. Fitzgerald) making the best Bourbon in the land that most can’t buy. As it turns out, there actually may have been a John E. Fitzgerald, but he wasn’t a distiller. Fitzgerald was actually a Treasury agency working for the Feds. The new story goes that John E. Fitzgerald was charged with safeguarding stocks of whiskey, but he happened to have a taste for the brown stuff. He was known to have “sampled” barrels to the extent some barrels became pretty light. When these barrels were removed from the warehouses, staff called them Fitzgerald barrels due to the considerable loss.

Heaven Hill branded Larceny with this new legend.

Details

None, Barrels aged 6-12 Years Old. 92-proof. Wheated Bourbon. Paid $25.

Aroma

Brown sugar, nail polish, charred oak, fruity, cherries and bananas. Vanilla.

Flavor

Sweet up front with bunches of caramel and vanilla. Cinnamon. Some harshness sort of medicinal. Roasted corn. Some alcohol heat. Thick oak flavors with a little astringency. Nice thick mouthfeel.

Overall

Larceny is a nice Bourbon and given it’s wheated and a good price are bonuses. If you’re a fan of wheated Bourbons, that is Bourbons with a recipe of wheat rather than spicy rye, you don’t have a lot options that are both budget friendly and found on shelves. Larceny isn’t as widely available as many mainstream Bourbons, but where it is distributed it seems to be on the shelves.

Larceny is lively with some bite, but also carries some age with nice oak profile. The lively side I’m getting the roasted corn and rougher alcohols I usually get from younger Bourbons, but nice dulled oak profiles from more aged Bourbons. The first few sips I get a little harshness, but once I ease into Larceny the palate adjusts and it’s more enjoyable. If needed, a little splash of water helps. Larceny reminds me of a couple other Heaven Hill Bourbons I enjoy in Elijah Craig 12 and Henry McKenna Single Barrel. All have that Heaven Hill profile I dig, but have a little edge.

Being about $25 is a nice price for a quality Bourbon and certainly worth checking out.

Recommendation

Buy a Glass – 3.5 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.)

Buying Options and Further Research

If you’re looking to check out other wheated Bourbons in this price range, I’d suggest looking at Weller 12, Old Weller Antique, and Maker’s Mark.

Links & Other Reviews

 

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?

Links & Other Reviews

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength – Review

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Background

Marker's Mark Cask Strength
Marker’s Mark Cask Strength

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is a full strength bottling of the classic Maker’s Mark. Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is uncut and non-chill filtered Bourbon that basically turns up the volume on the standard Maker’s Mark.

For decades Maker’s Mark basically only offered its iconic wax dipped bottle filled with Bill Samuels Sr’s family wheated Bourbon recipe. In 2010 his Bill Jr was thinking about his legacy, but they had a problem. They didn’t have capacity and perhaps too time to launch a new product. Maker’s 46 was the result of some creative thinking to utilize existing barrels but finish them with toasted oak staves. Now a few years later there’s a booming demand among Bourbon nerds for barrel strength bottling. Heaven Hill last year launched a barrel proof version of its Elijah Craig, which I’m a big fan. Seems a great idea for Maker’s Mark to do the same.
Maker’s Mark is bottled at 90-proof and the Maker’s Mark Cask Strength version here is a relatively low proof. Maker’s Mark is thought to have a lower barrel entry proof, and given it’s aged around 6-7 years, Maker’s Mark Cask Strength lower proof would seem to confirm that. This bottle is is batch 14-02, or the second batch. The initial batch was initially only available for retail at the Maker’s Mark gift shop, but distribution is widening. Batch 14-01 was bottled at 56.6%.

Details

Bottled at 113.3-proof / 56.7%. No age statement. Wheated Bourbon. Paid $35 (375ml)

Aroma

Old coffee grounds, lots of butterscotch, Werther’s originals. Charcoal. Floral with fruity berries. Cinnamon.

Flavor

Surprisingly a little thin. Butterscotch, creamy vanilla. Cinnamon. Maple. Sawdust. Charcoal. Burnt sugars. Rich Dessert like. Some astringency and roasted corn in the finish. A little hot.

Overall

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength reminds me of breakfast. It’s a rich, sweet experience and I think I’m keying on a few things to bring up cinnamon french toast w/ strawberries. I enjoy this with just a little water. The proof isn’t extreme to require water, I think, but at least this batch just gets better knocked down slightly. This is a little disappointing because the proof is just 20% or so higher than the standard bottle, but the price is over 100% more. Adding water feels a little counterproductive.

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is distinctively Maker’s Mark, but at the same time pretty unique. I’m going to make the assumption this is the same age as regular Maker’s Mark, and if so, it might benefit from a bit more age. It’s a little rough, but has plenty of barrel character. Could stand to round out some edges, I think. With that said, this is a pretty interesting pour. A light splash of water improves the glass and helps with those rough edges I think. Brings out more of caramel and butterscotch. Good stuff.

I like regular Marker’s Mark, although it can be a little plain jane  at times. Cask Strength fixes that nicely by giving rich, sweet, charred flavors of Maker’s Mark, but then turns up the volume for more of fruity, caramel, and butterscotch.

The 375ml bottle on Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is a bit high, but the $60 or so 750ml is more reasonable for a something special than the standard these days.

Recommendation

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’ll compare this to other barrel-proof/high proof offerings around this price. Some good bottles to also consider include Colonel EH Taylor Jr Barrel Proof, Booker’s, Noah’s Mill, Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel, and the already mentioned Elijah Craig Barrel Proof. Those are all near the price, although Maker’s Mark Cask Strength is unique in the group as the only barrel strength wheated Bourbon.

Links & Other Reviews

Weller Blend (AKA Poor man’s Pappy) – Review

Weller Blend Background

Weller Blend BottleI’ve reviewed three different Weller products in Weller Special Reserve, Old Weller Antique, and W.L. Weller 12 Year Old. This time I’m going to look at a blend of Old Weller Antique and Weller 12. This blend originated at the Straight Bourbon forums and is known there simply as the Weller SB Blend. The goal here is to get close to the Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year, and perhaps something that resembles the other bottles of Pappy Van Winkle, with a couple $25 or so bottles of Bourbon. This blend has even been promoted around the web as a “poor man’s Pappy,” so does this get close? Not in my opinion, but the blend is a real nice pour and is better than the individual Weller Bourbons.

The thinking here is that all these mentioned Bourbons are made with the same/similar recipe at Buffalo Trace. They may or may not be aged similarly and likely go through a different barrel selection process. Old Rip Van Winkle is aged 10 years, Pappy 15 is aged 15 years, and both are bottled at 107-proof. Old Weller Antique is aged about 6-7 years and also bottled at 107-proof. Weller 12 is aged 12 years and bottled at 90-proof. So Old Weller Antique has the power of Pappy, but lacks the age. Weller 12 is closer in age, but lacks some oomph. In my review I enjoyed the aged complexity of Weller 12 and the potency of Old Well Antique. So the blend here tries to pump up the volume while keeping some age characteristics.

Process

I tried two different blends. One at 50/50 and the other 60/40 Old Weller Antique to Weller 12. 50/50 blend should make a Bourbon that’s about 98.5-proof and 60/40 is about 100.5-proof. I vatted these into 100 ml glass jars for three weeks. Conventional wisdom is the whiskeys need time to “mingle,” but I have no opinions or guidance as to how long. I’d guess at least 2-3 days to be safe.

I did side by side comparisons of the 50/50 blend and 60/40 blend. I also brought in samples of both Old Weller Antique and Weller 12. I’m going to break convention here by rather than reviewing the blends individually I’ll just compare and contrast in a narrative.

Results

These both are pretty close. As expected each blend seems to lean closer to either Weller 12 or Old Weller Antique depending on proportions. 50/50 is a little woodier, smoother and sweeter and 60/40 has some more acetone and is more fruity and lively. I like both blends, but I’m leaning towards 60/40.

Once I narrowed down what I thought was my preferred blend, I compared the blend against Weller 12 and Old Weller Antique. The blend I thought tamed down Old Weller Antique and added some nice age character. Interestingly, I was surprised how much better I preferred the blend over Weller 12. Compared to the blend, Weller 12 seems noticeably flatter. The differences actually kind of altered my original opinions of Weller 12 a bit. Weller 12 also has more oak, which isn’t a bad thing, but also some more astringency which may or may not be desirable.

Closing

With these results I made up a larger batch of 60/40 blend. I’ll enjoy that and then maybe revisit the 50/50 to see if I’ve changed my mind. Perhaps my second batch will be 50/50 and just drink that over a period of time. Either way, I do seem to enjoy both blends more than the individual Bourbons. Interesting! I could see this being my go-to wheater Bourbon and simply keep Weller 12 and Old Weller Antique on hand just for blending.

Does it Blend?

Yes!

Maker’s 46 – Review

Maker’s 46 Background

Maker's 46 BottleMaker’s 46 is Maker’s Mark Bourbon finished with French oak staves. Maker’s 46 is aged just like Makers Mark, but after six years it’s dump and then returned to the barrel with the staves. The staves are “seared” or heavily toasted and not charred. Treatment of the staves is called Profile 46, which is where we get the Maker’s 46 name. The goal here for Maker’s Mark was to make a unique product without negatively disrupting an already stressed Maker’s Mark inventory.

I covered the history of Maker’s Mark in that review, but for here what you need to know is this is a wheated Bourbon. This means it uses wheat and not rye as the secondary grain. The recipe was derived by Bill Samuels Sr. through some bread baking. He and his wife would try different recipes that they thought would make a flavorful and easy drinking Bourbon. There is also a Stitzel-Weller connection as Pappy Van Winkle provided help with his recipes. Stizel-Weller produced wheated Bourbons of their own with the Pappy, Weller, and Old Fitzgerald brands.

Currently the company is undergoing expansion with third still. This will increase distilling capacity by 50%. The expansion seeks to replicate their existing setup to maintain character and quality. Maker’s Mark did a similar expansion to two stills in 2002.

Details

No age statement, but said to be about 6 years old. Bottled at 47%. Mash bill is 70% corn, 16% red winter wheat, 14% barley. Paid $40 (state minimum price).

Aroma

Werther’s Originals. Butterscotch, caramel, vanilla. Oak. Rich and sweet.

Flavor

Caramel, toffee, butter. Toasted oak is really coming across as butterscotch to me. Cinnamon and vanilla. Sweet and rich. Alcohol warmth in the finish with a touch of astringency.

Overall

It has the bones of Maker’s Mark with its rich sweetness, but a lot of other stuff going on. The char I liked is still there, but a bit more fleeting I think with these new bolder flavors. Lots of new character here with the oak staves. As I said this comes across as butterscotch to me. If you like Maker’s Mark but found it boring, this should address that niche.

I feel like Maker’s 46 is distinctly different and I wouldn’t describe it as a Maker’s 2.0, or an upscale Maker’s. If Maker’s Mark is the one Bourbon you really enjoy, Maker’s 46 should make a nice detour. If, however, Maker’s Mark is one of a number of Bourbons you like, Maker’s 46 should have to stand on its own against a crowded shelf of contenders.

Maker’s Mark to me was a borderline Buy a Bottle decision. My primary complaint was I felt it was too sweet for me and a bit dull. Maker’s 46 is still too sweet, but more interesting in character. That’s good. Unfortunately it’s also much more expensive. I think I prefer the more simplified original with the cheaper price tag. The stave process is interesting and brings a lot of flavor, but ultimately I’m not a big enough fan of the original to pay for a similarly sweet experience with that added character. On the flip side, Maker’s Mark is already one of only a handful of wheated Bourbons, so it’s unique in that regard. This process makes for an even more unique product and definitely worth at least trying out.

Maker’s 46 Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.5/5 Rating

Buying Options and Further Research

As I said Maker’s 46 is a unique product in a subset of Bourbon, so it doesn’t have any peers. It’s the most expensive wheated Bourbon I’ve reviewed. The closest option is Maker’s Mark itself for about $10 less. So, really this comes down to I think taste preference and willingness to try something different. If you’re looking get into a wheated Bourbon, I would highly recommend trying a Weller 12, Old Weller Antique, or Maker’s Mark. Larceny is another good option from Heaven Hill. If you’ve had those and want to expand your wheated horizons or simply want to try something different, give Maker’s 46 a spin.

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