Rendezvous Rye from High West – Review

Rendezvous Rye is my second review from High West. Previously I reviewed High West Double Rye!, which like Rendezvous Rye, is a bend of two straight rye whiskeys. I’m a big fan of both of these, but Rendezvous Rye is something special. The blending/vatting done at High West makes these products pretty exciting.

High West Rendezvous Rye Background

High West Rendezvous RyeRendezvous Rye is a blend of 6-year-old 95% rye and 16-year-old 80% rye. Comparatively, Double Rye is a 2 year 95% rye and a 16 year 53% rye. So, there’s a significant difference in the assertiveness of the rye. The younger whiskey is 6 vs 2-year-old and the older rye is a more robust 80% rye. It’s thought the 6 year comes from LDI/MGP and the 16 from Barton.

High West is headed by former bio-chemist David Perkins. He took a visit to the Maker’s Mark distillery while in town for a wedding and there he found his passion for making whiskey. High West started distilling in 2007 in addition to blending products such as Rendezvous Rye. They distill some clear liquor products, in addition have an oat whiskey and an all-malt whiskey aging in barrels.  David said the inspiration for Rendezvous Rye came from drinking Cognac blended with old and new brandies.

Details

Blend of 16-year-old whiskey of 80% rye, 10% corn, and 10% barley; and 6-year-old 95% rye and 5% barley. Non-chill filtered. Bottled at 46%. Batch 13J30. Bottle 2553. Paid $51 (ABC Minimum)

Aroma

Spearmint, pine, grassy. Apples. Young rye is evident in the nose. Nice oak and vanilla in there too.

Flavor

Minty and sweetness up front. Lots of caramel and vanilla. Nice rye spices in there. Buttery. Flavorful and balanced. Mild warming going down. Light oak with a little astringency in the finish

Overall

Very nice. Nice complexity and really smooth drinking. There’s just a lot of stuff going on. It’s like the old and young ryes are having a boxing match in my mouth and everyone’s invited. Flavors go back and forth between the ryes. The best of two words of an aged/refined whiskey and a feisty young rye. This may not be for everyone since this seems like two distinct whiskeys in one glass. I could see someone may want to go either or one at a time, but there’s not exactly a lot of old rye whiskey on the shelves today. I’m impressed and really enjoy it.

I’m curious how much of this 16-year-old rye is around. I’ll be keeping a close eye on this one in case shelves start to go empty. If so, I’ll probably be stocking up.

High West Rendezvous Rye Recommendation

Buy Again – 4.5/5.0 Rating

Links & Reviews

 

Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel Bourbon – Review #9

Rock Hill Farms Background

Rock Hill Farms BourbonNot a lot of background on Rock Hill Farms, but the brand has been around since 1990. It has a classy bottle and an upper shelf price. Rock Hill Farms uses the #2 mash bill at Buffalo Trace, so that makes it a lesser known sibling to the popular Elmer T Lee and Blanton’s. Other Bourbons include Hancock’s President’s Reserve and Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star. Like most those, Black Hill Farms is bottled as a single barrel release. It’s bottled at 50%, which a good bit higher than both Blanton’s and Elmer T, which I reviewed at 46.5% and 45%. At least one reference indicated Rock Hill Farms has barrels pulled from “sweet spots” in warehouses I, C, and K. The name itself is a reference to the name of farmland near the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

Details

No age statement, but said to be 8-9 years old. Bottled at 50%. Rumored to use Buffalo Trace mash #2 which is thought to be about 13-15% rye. MSRP – $49.99 (2016 Price)

Aroma

Apples. Light nail polish. Cinnamon. Sweet caramel. Honey. Juicy Fruit. Corn

Flavor

Atomic fireballs, cinnamon. Cherries. Burnt sugar, toffee. Hot alcohol, solvents, acrid. Corn sweetness. Oak and medium astringency. Some water cools down the burn, but doesn’t seem to help other flavors. Acrid alcohols seem to still linger in the finish.

Overall

To me Rock Hill Farms is the black sheep of the mash family. Granted it’s bottled at a higher proof, but to me it’s still feisty for 50%. Perhaps it’s not aged as long as references suggest? The alcohol leads up to hot cinnamon flavors and a considerable burn. There’s definitely more flavor here than its brothers, but the hot alcohol seems to overpower everything else. It’s got a punch, if that’s what you’re looking for. Comparatively the other #2 mash Bourbons are more subtle with softer, sweeter, and fruity tones. I’m curious to compare this to one of the higher proof Blanton’s that are distributed internationally. Blanton’s Gold is a little over 51% and would make an interesting comparison of barrel aging and selection.

Maybe I’ve got a bad bottle, but I came away negative across each tasting. Adding some water helps, but it’s still not really enjoyable. Factor in the price and there are lot of better options out there, namely the rest of the #2 mash lineup. If you’re curious, try a glass and let me know what you think, but otherwise I’d suggest trying a different whiskey.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2/5 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.)

Rock Hill Farms Links & Reviews

 

W. L. Weller 12 Year Bourbon – Review

W. L. Weller 12 Background

W. L. Weller 12 Year BourbonNamed after William Larue Weller, Weller 12  is the 12 year expression in a line of wheated Bourbons from Buffalo Trace Distillery. Wheated means the mash recipe uses wheat and not rye as the secondary grain. The majority is still corn and a little malted barley to convert the mash. Buffalo Trace’s lineup also includes Old Weller Antique at 107-proof and W.L. Weller Special Reserve at 90-proof. Weller 12 year here is also at 90-proof but about twice as old as the other products. There is also William Larue Weller as part of the annual Antique Collection that probably could be considered a selection of Weller 12 at barrel proof. So, there’s a good range of expressions produced.

Weller is credited as the first to use a wheat recipe for Bourbon. The resulting recipe makes for generally a sweeter and milder whiskey. The character isn’t directly related to the use of wheat as much as the lack of rye. Another bonus of using wheat is it’s thought a wheated Bourbon ages better. Thus, we get the most popular wheated Bourbons in the heavily aged Pappy Van Winkle line.

Speaking of Pappy, Weller 12 has gotten a lot of press as a Pappy alternative. Pappy and the Wellers use the same mash bill and they share the Sitzel-Weller Distillery legacy. Either currently or in the near future all Pappy should share the same Weller juice as barrels from Buffalo Trace come to age. Difference between all these Bourbons is basically bottling proof and barrel section, in addition to age.

Details

12 year age statement. Bottled at 90-proof. Wheated grain bill with no rye. MSRP – $24.99 (2016 Price)

Aroma

Bunch of charred oak and vanilla. Caramel, black cherries. Cola. Tobacco.

Flavor

Ample oak and vanilla with buttery flavors. Charred wood in there. If you’re a barrel fan, this is tasty. Cherries, toffee. Rich sweetness. Oak astringency and that’s taming the sweet. And some tartness. Getting some medicinal on the back-end that’s got me cleansing my palate a bit.

Overall

I had a sample of this a while back and enjoyed the barrel influences. It was my first longer aged Bourbon and it’s what really turned me on to Bourbons. It took me a while to get my hands on this bottle and I’m still impressed with the rich and oaky experience. Nice complexity and it’s a bit of a departure from a lot of the other Bourbons out there. The finish is a little rougher than I remember, but is still quite enjoyable.

Compared to Old Weller, Antique, Weller 12 seems a little flatter, but with nice oak complexities. The higher proof and younger Old Weller Antique I think is just more lively even if rougher around the edges. Even still, I still prefer Weller 12 to Old Weller Antique for the age and barrel flavors.

Right now I’m vatting a couple samples of Weller 12 and Old Weller Antique. I’m curious to sit down with those. One is 50/50 and the other is 60/40 Old Weller/Weller 12. I sneaked a sip and the more feisty Old Weller and the rich complexities of Weller 12 seem to go well.

Weller 12 can be hard to find and I’d guess it’s not going to get better. Being the same juice as Pappy, significant age on the bottle, and a great price, I’d guess people are going to keep scooping it up. When I managed to track some down, I stocked up. I’d suggest buying a bottle if you can find it, and if you like it, run back to buy another.

Rating

Buy Again – 4.0/5 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.)

W.L. Weller 12 References & Reviews

Eagle Rare 10 Year Old Bourbon – Review

Background

Eagle Rare 10Eagle Rare 10 Year was until recently a single barrel Kentucky Bourbon. It still has its 10 year age statement, but is no longer sold as a single barrel. Buffalo Trace indicate the change is result of moving Eagle Rare to a higher capacity bottling line to better meet demand. Because of this change, apparently it’s more difficult to bottle this brand one barrel at a time. It’s made at Buffalo Trace Distillery from their #1 low-rye mash. The brand was created by Charles Beam and introduced in 1975 by Seagrams. The Eagle Rare brand was acquired by Sazerac in 1989. A 18 year old expression sits in Buffalo Trace’s annual Antique Collection, but the original Eagle Rare was a 101-proof 10 year Bourbon. The 101 was discontinued in 2005 and today we have the 90-proof bottle.

Details

10 Year age statement. Uses Buffalo Trace’s #1 mash. Guessed to be about 8% rye. Bottled at 45%, MSRP – $29.99 (2016 Price)

Aroma

Jammy. Fruity sweet. Lots of apples. Honey and grapes. Oak w/ some char. Vanilla. Grilled dessert. Maybe a little cola in there

Flavor

Light and sweet. Honey and apples carry through from the nose. Corn. Some tartness in the finish. Nice oak flavor. Wood astringency dries out the finish a little. A little watermelon? Not a lot of rye to balance out the sweetness. Crisp and sweet with warming finish.

Overall

Things seem to quickly transition from fruity sweetness to drying oak. Just not a ton of character and length in there. Oak and tannins really linger. Another sip refreshes the fruity sweetness and reinforces the oak. Oak may dominate a bit, but it really balances out the initial sweetness. Very nice. Initially seems a little dull and heavy on the oak/tannins, but keep sipping it seems to build layers. Refreshing. A warm weather whiskey.

Depending on the mood, Eagle Rare 10 might not fit the bill. It’s not too complex and it lacks richness. For what it lacks, it has a nice wood presence and is supremely sippable. Nice Bourbon on its own and even better for the price. I’ll be keeping this one stocked.

Eagle Rare 10 Rating

Buy Again – 4/5 Rating

Eagle Rare 10 Links

Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon – Review

Blanton’s is my second stop on Buffalo Trace’s Mash #2 Train. Last time was Elmer T Lee and next up is Rock Hill Farms, Hancock’s President’s Reserve, and Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star.

Blanton’s Background

Blanton'sBlanton’s is named after Albert Blanton who started working at what was then the George T. Stagg Distillery in 1897. He stayed with the company for 55 years. In 1984 Blanton’s Single Barrel was released as a full strength premium product. It sold for 2-3 times typical Bourbons and was a risky venture during some darker days of the Bourbon industry. Other whiskeys were more fashionable as well as a general downturn in whiskey consumption. With a premium single barrel product backed by a strong marketing campaign, Blanton’s slowly gained a strong following. It’s credited as the first single barrel Bourbon product, at least in the modern marketplace. 

The inspiration for Blanton’s came from parties thrown by Albert back in the day. Blanton would pull samples from his favorite Warehouse H. He would pick a barrel or two and then have them bottled for his guests. Blanton felt Warehouse H made the best Bourbon, and that has been the source of Blanton’s from the beginning. Warehouse H is a tin clad building that Blanton had built shortly after prohibition. The intention was to make a metal warehouse to age whiskey faster, which obviously was suddenly in demand again. As a result, the warehouse tends to get warmer during the summer days than others. Like other warehouses at Buffalo Trace, Warehouse H is also steam-heated during the winter, further aiding the aging process.

Today that full barrel strength and some other variations are only available outside of the U.S., which is a shame. What we have here in the U.S. clocks in at 46.5%. Overseas you can find a Gold Edition at 51.5%, Straight from the Barrel around 66.25%, and an entry expression Special Reserve at 40%.

Details

No age statement ,but said to be around 9 years old. Bottled at 46.5%. Aged in Warehouse H. Uses Buffalo Trace Mash #2, which is thought to be about 13-15% rye. MSRP – $54.99 (2016 Price)

Aroma

Fruity. Some apples, maybe cherry. Grapes. A little perfume. Oak. A little cola. Vanilla. Some corn.

Flavor

Mild char flavors. Caramel. Vanilla. Light toffee. Mild rye spice. Tartness. A little chocolate in the finish. Nice sweetness up front balanced by char, a little spice, and some astringent drying. Delicate with good flavor.

Overall

Excellent. The bottle of Blanton’s is a classic whiskey decanter with that iconic jockey stopper. This drink exudes history of American Bourbon. My Bourbon preference is more on the spicy side and this Bourbon seems to lack some oomph. Some days I feel it’s a little boring, but it’s a delightful glass. I’m really wondering what the Straight from the Barrel Blanton’s is like. Or even the Blanton’s Gold. I’ll have to source a bottle or at least a sample some day.

I’m very happy with this buy and I don’t think anyone should be disappointed in buying a bottle. It’s a page out of modern Bourbon history and a very nice experience. I think it would also make a nice gateway Bourbon being a mild whiskey with still good character. You may be able to find it cheaper than my ABC price book, but $60 is a little pricy, I think.

This is where things get complicated… For $60 I don’t see myself keeping this stocked. It’s not rare, yet, and I just don’t love it that much. Right now I like to slightly better than Elmer T Lee, but that could change with the day. They’re each very nice, but Elmer T Lee is over $25 cheaper. So while I like it, I’m not sure I like it $25 better. I’ll probably eventually buy another bottle, especially if I find it on sale in my travels. Plus, those cork stoppers are collectible, so there’s that for when I run out of things to buy.

Blanton’s Recommendation

Buy a Bottle – 3.5/5 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.)

Blanton’s Links