About – Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is produced by the Wild Turkey Distillery and uses the standard Wild Turkey recipe. It is essentially the best barrels of Wild Turkey chosen by Eddie Russell. It is bottled at 110 proof and non-chill filtered. The version I am reviewing is a private barrel chosen by Middlebrook Liquor Store in Knoxville, TN. Normal cost is around $50 at most stores in my area.
Smell – If there were one bourbon I would use to illustrate what a good bourbon smells like it is Russell’s Reserve and the single barrel offering is no different. There is a noticeable floral scent, accompanied by a strong dose of vanilla, oak, and honey, and caramel that borders on toffee.
Taste – Once again this bourbon delivers on the classic bourbon flavors. Opens up with a sweet honey, followed by a nice oak, citrus and dark fruit that are a hallmark of a high rye, and a strong dose of vanilla.
Finish – I would characterise the finish as medium-long. A rye spice that fades into oak with vanilla and a touch of that toffee/caramel.
Score – 91
Verdict – Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel is everything I love about the Wild Turkey brand just taken to a higher level. For a classic bourbon profile this is hard to beat. Not cheap at $50+ per bottle, but compared to other bottles in the price range is better than most. If money is tight I recommend the standard release of Russell’s Reserve, at $30 it is one of the best bourbons in the price range. However if you have the extra money single barrel is a nice upgrade.
If you have the money to spend, the bourbon secondary market can be a fantastic and magical place. All the bottles you have been unsuccessfully searching for are now at your fingertips. After first joining the market I was having a blast grabbing bottles I had never seen on my shelves before, and growing my collection more rapidly than my wallet could keep up with. This is where the problem with the secondary market begins. First of all, the bottles available on my local store shelves no longer interested me. Since I had access to rare and limited bottles the normal bottles and paltry store picks were of no interest to me. Secondly it sucked all of the enjoyment out of finding allocated bottles on the shelf for all but the rarest bottles. At one point I was lucky enough to come across a bottle of Abraham Bowman Gingerbread Cocoa my first thought was how much I could get for it on the secondary market. Beyond that it took all the enjoyment out of products like Orphan Barrel because they had no increased secondary value they were no longer worth buying. Over time i began to notice these things and made the decision to leave the secondary market behind. Since making this decision I am proud to say my enjoyment of bourbon has increased tremendously. I began picking up the bottles on the shelf I had been passing over, and to my surprise a lot of these were great bourbons. I can’t count the number of times I passed on Henry McKenna because it wasn’t rare and valuable. After trying it I must say it is far better than many of the allocated bottles I have tried. Another benefit is that it brought back the excitement of finding allocated bottles on the shelf. During this years hunting season my haul was Hancock’s Reserve, Elmer T. Lee, Barterhouse, Forged Oak, and bottle of George T. Stagg that had me so excited I felt like jumping up and down in the store. Many people rip Barterhouse and Forged Oak, but I have really enjoyed both and was excited to find them at retail. Leaving the secondary market was a decision I will never regret.
About – Booker’s is considered by many the bourbon responsible for creating the market for barrel proof bourbon’s. Named Booker’s because each barrel was hand chosen by Master Distiller Booker Noe, the task now done by his son Fred. Booker’s generally represents the best of what the Jim Beam distillery has to offer. As with all Booker’s releases this bourbon is unfiltered and uncut. Off Your Rocker is bottled at 129.7 proof and can be bough for ~$60.
Smell – Alcohol is definitely on the nose in this high proof monster, beyond that there are peanuts, caramel, vanilla, toasted oak, white pepper, and with ice or a touch of water honey begins to come through.
Taste – Oak is dominant on the front along with classic vanilla bourbon flavor, then a good bit of spice leaning towards black pepper, and also a slightly herbal quality that I can’t quite put my finger on.
Finish – A long oak laden embrace with a bit of lingering heat. As usual with Booker’s it is much easier to drink than the proof would lead you to believe.
Score – 91
Verdict – For me the thing that first draws you in to a great batch of Booker’s is peanuts on the nose, and this one is no exception. Off Your Rocker is just a classic example of what Jim Beam is truly capable of. Booker’s is something I would always recommend to anybody looking to dip their toes into barrel proof as it usually brings classic bourbon flavors. Every batch is slightly different, and I don’t try them all, but am usually impressed when I do, and usually keep one stocked in my home bar.
About – The bottle states “genuine bourbon whiskey, handmade in the hills of Kentucky”. Noah’s mill is produced by KBD (Kentucky Bourbon Distillers) also known as Willett. It is not actually distilled by Willett however and it’s source distillery(s) is undisclosed. This is a product that used to carry a 15 year age statement that was removed a couple of releases ago. Noah’s Mill is a seasonally released product that retails for around $50. It is bottled at a healthy 114.3 proof.
Smell – Mint, clove, so much mint that I am having trouble picking up on much else. It does have a sharpness on the nose that would indicate to me some younger whiskey in the mix. Surprisingly not a strong sense of alcohol from this 114 proof bourbon.
Taste – A lot of complexity here, oak and smoke are dominant, mint and clove from the nose poke their way through, some dark fruit like sweetness, and some grassy flavors at the end that once again indicate some younger whiskey in the mix. Adding ice brings out some interesting changes as this bourbon really takes on a creaminess and caramel comes through with it. Really nice.
Finish – Long, hot, and oaky but not the expected burn considering the proof.
Score – 91
Verdict – Honestly I came into this review very skeptical knowing that the age statement had been dropped and the fact that it is sourced. Really wasn’t sure what to make of this at first, but the cream and caramel that came through after the iced addition put this one over the top for me. The only thing holding it back from being a truly top flight bourbon are those young whiskey characteristics that keep popping up. I would love to get my hands on a 15 year age stated version of Noah’s Mill, but as far as the current release goes it is really good and given the limited release schedule if you see this in your store I would recommend picking up a bottle. Easily worth the price.
About – Old Grand-Dad is a name that has a long and complex history. It is a brand that has changed hands several times throughout it’s long history and is currently a product of Beam-Suntory. It is famous for being a high-rye bourbon. The name Old Grand-Dad is a reference to whiskey pioneer Basil Hayden as it was his grandson who took the family distilling to a professional level and honored his grandfather in the name. As the name in implies this bourbon is bottled in bond meaning it has been aged a minimum of 4 years and is bottled at 100 proof. I paid $25 and that seems to be the normal price around me.
Smell – A bit astringent right off, dark fruits lead the way along with vanilla and a touch honey, there is some raw grain at the end.
Taste – Let’s start off by saying it is bold, it is spicy, and has a bit of an oily mouthfeel. Burnt sugar, oak, a bit of corn still in there, and a little hint of something vegetal.
Finish – Medium length, primarily oak and burnt sugar. Does have a bit of lingering hit, but nothing overpowering. Leaves a bit of an oily/waxy mouthfeel.
Score – 82
Verdict – I hate to say this, but I find my self a bit disappointed here. OGD is a brand that has developed somewhat of a cult following with an avid fan base it just doesn’t stand out to my palate. A 100 proof bourbon at $25 is definitely a rarity in the current market so I will say this is a decent deal in the same price range I would be more inclined to pick up a bottle of Buffalo Trace or Wild Turkey 101 however.
About – This high proof, Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon was named for Henry McKenna, the Irish immigrant who adapted his family’s whiskey recipe to work the grains he found in Kentucky. Henry McKenna is the longest aged Bottled-in-Bond available today, resting in the barrel through 40 Kentucky seasons. Critics agree that this is perfectly balanced Bourbon. This whiskey is produced by Heaven Hill, aged 10 years, and bottled-in-bond at 100 proof. Normal price for Henry McKenna 10 year seems to be around $30.
Smell – Sweet honey with a slew of baking spices, cinnamon, nutmeg, a hint of clove. Classic straight forward bourbon aroma with the 100 proof alcohol making its presence subtly present.
Taste – Strong oak profile with undertones of vanilla. Some heat sneaks up in the form of cinnamon similar to than from a mouthful of red hot candies.. Even at 100 proof the alcohol is just as subtle on the palate as it is on the nose.
Finish – Medium length finish showcasing the oak, but not in an overpowering way and fading into a cinnamon spice similar to the red hots mentioned earlier.
Score – 90
Verdict – In a world where age statements are disappearing and single barrel offerings are either going away or rising in price, Henry McKenna 10 year represents one the best values available in the current market. For me this holds a slight edge over both Russel’s Reserve and Eagle Rare in the same price range. I would imagine though that in this current market that either the age statement will disappearing soon or the price will be increasing, so pick this up while it still holds the value it does.
About – Four Roses is a brand that carries a lot of historical weight holding the crown of being the top selling bourbon brand in the U.S. after prohibition through the 1950’s. The distillery located in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky opened in 1910. Today Four Roses is well known for producing a premium product and having 10 different recipes made up of 2 different yeast strains and 5 different mashbills. All of these recipes can be found as single barrels store picks and in the gift shop. The standard single barrel release which is being reviewed here is always the OBSV recipe consisting of 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley, and as the V indicates uses their V strain of yeast. Four Roses Single Barrel carries no age statement and is bottled at 100 proof. Price varies from $35-$40 one store I frequent usually has it for $32.99.
Smell – Light and subtle blend of dried fruit and oak. After adding a couple of ice cubes it really opens up. The rye takes center stage and is accompanied by caramel and a good dose of mint.
Taste – Contrary to the nose this bourbon explodes onto the pallet. Apricots lead along with a strong dose of oak and honey rounds it out on the back end along with a dash of pepper.
Finish – Long and dry. Just like the nose and pallet oak stands out the whole way through and is accented by a touch of cinnamon.
Score – 92
Verdict – A very complex and versatile bourbon that manages to walk a tightrope between the flavors of a typical bourbon and a rye whiskey. This is one of my favorite bourbons. I usually try to keep some on hand and when at a bar there aren’t many others I will order above it given the chance. Truly great stuff here!
Moving into a new house along with a hectic school and work schedule has taken me out of the biurbon blog game for a while, but I am glad to announce that I will be returning soon with new reviews and articles. Thanks to all of you who take the time out to visit this blog, and look forward to sharing new updates with you soon.
About – Founded by Tom Bulleit and now owned by Diageo, Bulleit bourbon is one the highest selling and most well known bourbons on the market today. It is known for its high rye content (28%) and its trademark bottle design. The whiskey in the bottle is actually distilled by Four Roses. The final product is aged around 6 years, bottled at 90 proof, and generally costs around $25.
Smell – Bright, floral, rye spice, wildflower honey, vanilla. All the classic bourbon smells are there along with a nice floral touch.
Taste – Very bright, even more so than the nose with citrus, caramel, and a healthy dose of oak forming the base for everything.
Finish – Long and woody leaving a cooling hint of mint behind
Score – 87
Verdict – Overall this is a very solid bourbon with nothing really jumping out either good or bad. That is what makes it a favorite of many bartenders. I would recommend it as a base whiskey for any home bar as well. At the $25 price point it is a bargain, especially when you take into account the crazy state of the bourbon market.
About – James E. Pepper is one of many historic bourbon brands that has been purchased and relaunched during the recent surge in bourbon popularity. The 1776 label dates back to the civil war and was even a favorite of Ulysses S. Grant as well as Andrew Jackson. The modern iteration is an extremely high rye recipe (38%) that is distilled for James E. Pepper by MGP. The finished product is aged 6 years and bottled at 92 proof with a price around $30- $35. This bourbon won the Double Golf Medal at the San Francisco Word Spirits Competition in 2013.
Smell – Dark fruit, mildly reminiscent of a dark red wine, an uncanny hint of smoke. It is clear from the nose that this is a very high rye content bourbon.
Taste – Not sure exactly what I was expecting, but the first taste was definitely a curveball, leading me to regroup and give this bourbon another go. One the second taste I am picking up dark honey and the dark fruit from the nose. If you can’t tell so far this bourbon leans on a deep, dark profile.
Finish – A decent amount of oak followed by a burst of characteristic rye spice, followed by more of the sweet dark fruit fading out slowly for a nice long and luscious finish.
Score – 86
Verdict – By no means is this your typical bourbon, but it is a tasty and unique poor. Due to the unique flavor profile I could see this bourbon being very polarizing, and would recommend trying it at a bar before picking up a bottle. It probably isn’t for everyone, but it does it for ,you tastes.