Rowan’s Creek: Solid dram for the price

Clocking in at a proof of 100.1, this is another Willett product in disguise.  I still don’t know why all of Willett’s non-eponymous brands even exist, because they all are substantially lower priced compared to their Family Estate lines… I’m sure there is a reason, I just don’t know what it is. Rowan’s is apparently a batch bourbon and this batch is 16-81.

Rusty amber color in a nice tall bottle.

Very classic aroma, butterscotch, s’mores, gravel, ginger snaps, Twix and baking spices.

The taste has everything that the nose has following through with an enjoyable finish that tickles the tongue.  The mouthfeel is enjoyable but not overly complex.  It’s not as thick as I would like, but with a non-cask strength bourbon, it does pretty well with the tannins and a touch of oil.  Finish goes on for well over a minute and stays consistently fun.

This is a good value bourbon.  I think I paid $40 for this, but it’s readily available in the mid to high 30s, and for that price it’s absolutely worth it.  I’d be curious to see what the other batches taste like and when I go through this bottle I probably will check out another batch.  The funny thing is, if this was an eponymous Willett, it easily would command $100 or higher.  90/100.

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Widow Jane Whiskey Distilled from Rye Mash: BOLD FACED LIARS

I have to say, this is one of the least attractive bottles I’ve ever seen.  Don’t judge a book by its cover…. they say, and because I’ve never tried anything from Widow Jane, let us just hope that the worst part is the visual.  The liquid in the bottle is super hazy, with weird clouds of nebulous clumps floating around, in addition to a touch of charcoal dust at the bottom–I really do like the dust.  There is a sticker they attached to the top of the bottle that says: “new technique, blah blah blah.”  Here is where I have a problem. This sticker, is a bold faced lie.  They claim they have a new technique of non-chill filtering that causes this issue?  No.  This is a very old issue that every distillery encounters.  Distillers that choose to proof their whiskey down well below 100 proof (this one is 91), are faced with cloudiness in their bourbon due to the way water interacts with the liquid.  So if a distillery wants to non-chill filter (which I’m so glad so many do!) they usually sell it at a cask strength, or at least a bottled-in-bond style.  At this proof, the liquid is clear and beautiful.  Once you get to 91, it clouds up so you would have to chill filter to remove those elements to make it look attractive.  So again, saying that it is a new technique, is just a bold faced lie.  The question is whether or not, even with the weird asthetic choice, proofing down a non-chill filtered young rye whiskey to 91 proof is the right decision from a taste perspective.  I’m willing to forgive the ugliness of the rye if the taste makes up for it.

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Spoiler Alert… it didn’t.  The nose is moderately hot, medicinal, soapy, full of cough syrup, menthol, with hints of rock candy, eucaliptis and mint.  Not particularly inviting at all.

The taste echoes the nose with heat first and foremost, with unexciting flavors that go into a short finish dominated by more heat.  The mouthfeel is the other redeeming aspect of this rye which is due to the non-chill filtered, as you get some nice grippy tannins.  Unfortunately this doesn’t salvage the dram.

I did a little research online and here is what I think happened…  No where on this bottle does it mention where this whiskey was distilled (is that still legal in this day and age?), and I heard they source it from somewhere in Kentucky.  My bet is that this is barely two years old from the new Willett rye production.  They ship it up to Brooklyn, and no, not everything is cooler and better in Brooklyn.  They probably move it into different barrels they had in the distillery so they can say they finished it in New York.  Then they bring a few barrels of water from their eponymous source upstate, and use it to proof down.  They probably wanted to bottle this at 100 or higher proof, but the heat is so bad, and they didn’t feel like waiting for the rye to mellow, that they felt they had to release it at the lower proof.  Putting a sticker at the top of a label in certain states is legal, not requiring TTB approval, so they stuck it on after the fact once they realized that it wasn’t selling because of the cloudiness.  These are all educated guesses, but I’m willing to bet that they are pretty close to the truth.  Ultimately, Widow Jane should be embarrassed to put this product out with a label that is a lie, and with a product that isn’t very good.  I’m relieved to say that I didn’t buy this bottle, instead my wife received it as a work gift from one of the law firms that her firm works with.  I guess they don’t care too much about her business, otherwise they wouldn’t have sent such a shit gift.  I can’t believe anyone would pay anything for this awful “craft” whiskey, let alone the $50 MSRP.  73/100

Canadian Club 20yr: LCBO Pickup

I rated a different 20yr Canadian Rye a couple days ago, (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/01/16/ninety-decades-of-richness-20-canadian-rye-whisky/) and this was the other bottle I bought from the LCBO.  This is a “Limited Edition” yet my bottle was number 301,802… so I’m not sure if by limited they mean less than a million bottles?  That’s not particularly limited to me… but what do I know?   Anyway, on to the review…

CC20 is a 80 proof Canadian Rye whiskey, which a dark amber color.  Much darker than the Nintey Rye I tasted a couple days ago, even though it had a higher proof.  The nose has mint, menthol, eucalyptus, graham crackers, and vanilla with medium heat.

Even though this is only 80 proof, there is a decent balance here with the spices, flavors and just enough heat to make it enjoyable.  There is a very smooth sweetness on it, that brings out the best of the Canadian Club, but with overlays of just enough complexity to make it a sipper rather than a mixer.  The finish is moderate, but the mouthfeel is lacking due to the low proof and chil filtering.

This one certainly is better than the Nintey rye from the other day, but one wonders what could have been if it was bottled at 120 proof instead of 80 without any chill filtering.  This could have been a really amazing rye if that was the case.  But in classic Canadian fashion, they water it down and screw it up.  Sorry, eh?  86/100.

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Ninety: Decades of Richness 20 Canadian Rye Whisky

I picked this bottle up at the LCBO the last time I was in Toronto.  Ninety proof, 20yr Canadian rye whisky: what’s not to like?  And it was pretty cheap, I don’t remember the exact price, but converted back to USD, it ended up being around $40-50 or so.  Hard to find anything 20yrs that cheap.  And it said “Ultra Premium” on the bottle, ooooooooohhh… on to the review.

The color is pretty pale, not unexpected for Canadian whisky which typically uses multiple time used bourbon barrels.  The nose is light with stone fruit, baked apples, allspice, vanilla, Necco wafers and baked bread.  Very little heat and the nose is subtle.

The taste is enjoyable, getting flavors from the nose, but the finish isn’t very long and it’s not terribly complex.  There is some light heat on the chest which is good, but the chill filtering takes out most of the mouthfeel leaving me with a thin finish.

Is this worth $50?  Probably.  But would I buy it again?  No.  It’s good, but for a 20yr old rye, I just expected more.  Pikesville Rye, which is only 6yrs old, blows this away from every possible perspective.  I’m going to review the Canadian Club 20 in the next day or so, we’ll see which is better.  This one is an 83/100.

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Dusty 1970’s Wild Turkey Decanter… It’s good!!!

This is the third 1970’s decanter that I’ve blogged about in the past year or so, and the last two were not very good.  The first one was terrible, but that was probably because the cork was broken and was leaking the past decade or two.  The last one was drinkable, but nothing spectacular.  The expectations were sufficiently low for this one.

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This decanter is a Wild Turkey 101, 8 year old 4/5 quart Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, made by Austin Nichols.  This is a limited edition decanter series, this is the 6th in the series.  I got this in the original box from the basement of a liquor store that shut down over a year ago.  The dust you can see on the top of the box is original dust from the store in the basement… talk about legit.

When removing the turkey head off the bottle, the cork cracked in half, but it was definitely sealed for the last 40 years so the chance of it being good was ok.

Dark amber color…. the nose it muted, a little musy and charcoaly, but not getting much spice or sweetness.

The taste however, it much better than the nose.  The heat is coming through nicely, warming my throat, but I’m getting pepper spices and some cinnamon as well.  The mouthfeel is a little thin, but not too bad.  The first sit was the best, and after it was in the glass for an hour, it lost some of it’s initial pop.  I’m hoping that won’t be the case for the rest of the bottle I poured it into.

I’ll be honest… this is better than I expected.  Very drinkable, and I probably will keep drinking it over the next few months and if there are any significant changes, I will provide an update to this blog.  80/100

 

2016 BTAC George T Stagg: Proper Glassware Matters!

I first had 2016 GTS at a bar a month ago.  It wasn’t it the proper glassware, the situation wasn’t perfect, and when I tried it, I found it to be way too hot on the nose and unable to enjoy it.  When I was able to acquire one a couple days ago (thanks bottle-spot.com!) I considering flipping it, but after a few drinks, drunker heads prevailed and I opened it.  I decided that I will review it twice to see how it evolves given how high the proof is.  I also decided to do the first  review in a Norlan glass to help focus on the flavors and reduce some of the heat.

Right after opening it: the Norlan glass is amazing because I’m finding this to be not nearly as hot as I remember it in the crappy bar glass.  The color is pretty much as dark as I’ve ever seen for a bourbon.  On the nose, French toast brioche with maple syrup, buttered cinnamon toast, butterscotch, candied walnuts and subtle charcoal.  The taste is BIG.  Huge tannins, huge mouthfeel and a big amount of heat.  This is so complex, and there is so much happening on the palate.  The heat quickly dissipated leaving the oak notes, tannins and the flavors.  The finish is several minutes long finishing nicely.  When you first taste it you think that the oak tannins will overpower everything, but they integrate nicely and much better than expected in an amazing way.  This is a very special bourbon.  I’m very glad I opened this because it is nothing like when I tried it in the bar with the wrong glassware.

A couple weeks later: this time in the classic Glencairn glass… the aroma is so rich with everything from a couple weeks ago and even though not in the Norlan glass, the heat isn’t that bad.  It’s incredible what a bad bar glass will do to the experience.  The taste is huge, big tannins, big flavor, with an insane finish.  So much sweetness and spice the lingers for minutes.  This is a special bourbon.

144.1 proof, a monster, but in the right glassware, it can be tamed.  Highly recommend picking this one up if you can find it at the lower end of secondary, but given pricing these days, it’s not easy to find.  97.5/100

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Top 5 Disappointments of 2016 in Bourbon

Age statements going away… prices going up… there is just so much to complain about, but I would argue there is so much more to celebrate.  So please check out my top 5 drams of the year (my review) first because I do believe 2016 was a great year in bourbon.  But here are my complaints….

#1 Retailers charging more than secondary prices… it’s a huge pain in the butt and here are the ones that I found to be most obnoxious:

#2 Your favorite low cost bourbon going away… whether it was going NAS for some, but for me it was losing OGD114.  However… I called up my local retail store, took down two cases, so I now have more than 24 bottles in the bunker which should last me quite enough time 🙂

#3  Trying some really terrible new craft stuff… 99% of the time when you are at a farmers market and someone has some small batch, small barrel, new whiskey they are excited about from some local farm with locally sourced grain, it’s horrible.  There are too many to cite, but they are almost all bad (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/26/orange-county-distillery-back-to-the-drawing-board-please/)

#4 Diageo and their never ending cash grab… latest example was Whoop & Holler which should have been used as an industrial cleaner… it was literally not worth drinking.  There was some whiskey writer who put it on his top whiskeys of the year… I tweeted that guy directly, and I’m not sure he even knows what bourbon is. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/11/26/orphan-barrel-whoop-holler/)

#5 Willett’s new make 3yr rye.  I love Willett products, but this was just terrible.  I’m really hoping it was a one off and will get better, but this was just disappointing. (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/09/29/3yr-rye-distilled-aged-bottled-by-the-willett-distillery/)

Again… this is just my top 5…  a few things barely missed the cut, most specifically the Knob Creek 2001: put it in a wooden box, call it limited release and 3x the price?  Seriously?  I hear they are already over 60k bottles, and to be honest, I’ve yet to have one that I like.  I’d love to hear from my readers what their biggest disappointment was and what they are most excited for in 2017!

Top 5 Drams of the Year 2016

Another year gone by and I’ve read so many negative stories, yet, there were some pretty awesome bourbons released this year.  Overall the prices have gone up, but you can still find bargains and making friends with your local retailer has never been more important… onto the list!

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#1 2016’s Buffalo Trace Thomas H Handy 126.2 proof 97.5/100  secondary price: $300 (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/11/27/btac-thomas-h-handy-2016/)  This was my favorite of the BTAC releases, with a close second being GTS, but THH is far easier to get your hands on and better price giving it the edge.  Handy may be the BTAC that is least respected, but time and time again it is my favorite release.

#2 2016 Release Four Roses Elliott’s Select OESK 52.9% abv 91/100 secondary price $225 (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/15/four-roses-elliotts-select/)  There was a lot of worry when Jim Rutledge retired from Four Roses, but when Brent Elliott came out with this bottle immediately afterwards, all fears were assuaged.  In fact, this bottle was substantially better than the 2016 Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition release, although not quite as good as last year’s winner, the 2015 FRSBLE.  I think we can all sleep soundly knowing that Four Roses is in good hands.

3# Barrell Bourbon New Years 2017 retail price $99.99 (for now!) (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/01/02/happy-new-year-barrell-bourbon-2017/)  Another top award for this up and comer.  This is their first true marriage release of 4 different barrels from Indiana, Kentucky and Tennessee, and once again blows the competition away.  Grab a few while you still can as the first release of this bad boy probably will be worth a lot of money in the near future…. keep your eye

#4 Willett Family Estate Single Barrel Bourbon #438 119.8 proof 96/100 $120 @ gift shop (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/01/27/willett-family-estate-single-barrel-bourbon-438-holy-moley/)  This was one of the bottles I was lucky enough to buy when I visited Willett in January of 2016.  This was a honey barrel if I’ve ever tasted one.  If you are ever able to get some of this, don’t hesitate!

#5 Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Bourbon #3824 97 proof 96/100 $100 retail price (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/11/24/go-visit-garrison-brothers-single-barrel-amazing/) Garrison Brothers consistently puts out a great product.  I also visited their distillery this year and really enjoyed meeting Dan and the team.  Very excited to see the 2017 Cowboy Bourbon when it is released next year!

There were so many that almost made the cut… I tried a couple rums this year that were really good including one from Balcones (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/06/29/balcones-texas-rum-special-release-batch-15-1-63-9-abv/) and another from Barrell (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/12/03/barrell-rum-batch-001-7yr-jamaican-pot-still-rum/).  Barrell’s Whiskey 002 was another one that almost made the cut, but after careful consideration I preferred the New Years (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/04/24/barrell-whiskey-002-magical-sherry-cask-finish/).  Most lists have Booker’s Rye on their top 5, and although it is a good whiskey, it’s just too hot and expensive and does not deserve to make it in my very humble opinion (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/08/23/bookers-rye/).  PHC 10yr was also hotly debated, and I thought it was extremely good, but given the price, just not quite worthy vs the Garrison or the WFE (https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2016/09/19/phc10-parkers-heritage-collection-10-24yr-bourbon/).

I’ll have my top five disappointments in the world of bourbon coming up soon… thanks again for a great 2016 to everyone who reads this blog.  Readership has gone up 5x and I hope to continue that trend into 2017.  I’d love to hear what your top 5 of the year were?  Happy New Year!

http://www.barrellbourbon.com/  http://www.garrisonbros.com/  http://www.kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com/  http://fourrosesbourbon.com/  https://www.buffalotracedistillery.com/

Happy New Year Barrell Bourbon 2017

Happy New Year!  This is the inaugural release of Barrell Bourbon’s New Year bourbon, a once a year release based on a blend of multiple barrels from multiple ages, specially picked by Joe Beatrice and the Barrell Bourbon team to come up with what they believe to be an epic marriage.  I did a little research and discovered there are 5yr, 8yr, 9yr, 10yr and 13yr barrels in this blend from Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana.

The nose is incredibly sweet with candy corn, Kit Kat, Reese’s Pieces, Peanut Butter M&M’s and fresh french toast topped with fresh butter and maple syrup.  Again, in classic Barrell Bourbon fashion, the nose is not hot at all which is unbelievable for a 117 proof.

What a blend!  The taste is so good, encompassing all the flavors from the nose, with the Peanut Butter M&M’s coming through the most.  The gentle warmth is enjoyable, while the finish is long.

I think Barrell Bourbon New Year is the start of something special, and if you are lucky enough to find a bottle on the shelf, run to grab it, do not hesitate.  I have a feeling this is going to be one of of the most anticipated releases of the year for many years to come… I wouldn’t be shocked if this showed up on bottle-spot.com at 2x retail very quickly.  97/100.

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