The Hits Just Keep on Coming… Barrell Bourbon Batch 012

Batch 12 is the most recent release from Barrell Bourbon, just off the heels of their best Bourbon of the year award from San Francisco Ultimate Spirits (http://www.fredminnick.com/2017/04/27/shocking-whiskey-upsets-17-san-fran-world-spirits-comp/). I also was a huge fan of Batch 011 (link). I think I have a future as a spirits judge…

Batch 12 is quite a bit older than 11 coming in at 9 years, but is lower proof, 108.5. I’m not sure, but this might be the lowest proof they have ever released.

The nose on this one is completely different than any previous batch I have tried. This one is a complete fruit bomb: plums, dried cherries, orange peel, hints of graham cracker and brioche. Very little heat on the nose.

Great oils and tannins on the mouthfeel with a wonderful spiciness I didn’t get first on the nose. Getting the fruit and more on the palate. Warmer than expected, in a good way.  The finish is at least two minutes long.

This is a really solid follow up to Batch 011. While most of the stores I go to have sold out of Batch 011, if you buy 012, you won’t be disappointed. It might be enjoyed even more by people who don’t like their Bourbon at 135 proof–probably is more approachable to most whiskey consumers. 94/100.

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https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/04/25/newest-barrell-bourbon-batch-is-a-home-run-011/

https://newbourbondrinker.wordpress.com/2017/05/14/barrell-bourbon-batch-10/

http://www.barrellbourbon.com/

http://www.barrellbourbon.com/bourbonbatches

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

FRSBLE2016…big shoes to fill from the 2015…

Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2015 was my favorite bourbon of last year… it’s almost impossible to follow that up, as expectations are aggressively high.  The Elliot’s Select, out early this year, was one of my favorites, so I was very excited to get one of these bottles.  The bottle I am rating is 262/9258 which I bought on bottle-spot, but was lucky to get one for $119.99 a few weeks later from one of the liquor stores I go to a lot (thanks for keeping one aside for me).

Last year was a blend of four, this year is only three and is a 12yr OESO, 12yr OBSV and a 16yr OESK.  The bottles looks the same as last year, just with a 2016 instead of a 2015 and this year comes in with an sbv that is 1.3% higher to 55.6%.  The colors are basically the same.

The nose is good, very sweet, butterscotch, candied popcorn, cinnamon sticks, canned dark fruits and bbq grill ash.  The depth of the nose isn’t quite as complex and deep as last year’s.  Very little heat.

The bourbon on the tongue goes down smoothly.  The mouthfeel is enjoyable with just enough grip to let you know that it isn’t chill filtered, and is warmer than expected.  The taste is better than the nose with additional complexity coming through as the finish is very long, much longer than expected.

The lack of complexity on the nose was cause for concern, but the taste on the palate and the fun mouthfeel come through in the end.  This is a bourbon with a long finish and although is not nearly as good as last year’s release, is still a very good bourbon and one of my favorites of the year.  If you can find it at retail, it’s a steal, but don’t chase this one like I am still chasing the 2015 release.  94/100.

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BTAC Thomas H Handy 2016

Unlike a lot of bloggers out there, I have yet risen to the level of free BTAC samples; I have to fight and scrape and use the secondary market like the rest of people to get my BTAC. I bought this one on bottle-spot.com (like most of you) for around $300.

The 2016 edition clocks in at 126.2 proof, NAS as always, and forever beautiful in the iconic BTAC bottle. Nice amber color.

Candy corn, rock candy, white pepper, cloves and cinnamon. Not very hot considering the age and proof, but that’s why it’s THH. Smells amazing.

And the taste… Wow. The spices and sweetness come through immediately while firming up a nice grip on the tongue. There is an extremely enjoyable warmness that permeates through your mouth and upper chest creating an absolutely incredible finish. Even after two minutes the flavors are still evolving and improving. This review is without a drop of water; I don’t think it needs it and I won’t even do it because it is just that good.

I’m pretty much obsessed with Handy. The 2014 was one of my favorites of all time and this one is pretty darn close. If you can find one at a reasonable (and I’ll let your budget determine that) price, don’t be afraid to pick it up. And if Buffalo Trace is reading this and wants to add me to next year’s blogger sample list, I won’t say no (please add me to next year’s list–thank you so much). 97.5/100

 

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Barrell Bourbon Batch 009: 13yrs!!!

The newest release from Barrell Bourbon is a 13yr Straight Bourbon Tennessee Whiskey, and is the oldest to date.  It’s a dark caramel color, in the classic BB bottle.  This one is bottled at one of their lower proofs, 112.1.  Never chill filtered, bottled at cask strength, just the way Bourbon should be…

The nose has a sweet caramel popcorn nose, graham cracker s’mores, crispy apple tart, rock dust, cedar bbq chips and cheerios.  I guess I shouldn’t be surprised by now with Barrell Bourbon, but there is almost no heat on the nose at all.

Down the hatch… the taste is great, getting all the flavors from the nose on the palate with a great mouthfeel as well.  It really coats the tongue and brings in a peanut butter aftertaste, and like peanut butter, sticks to the top of the mouth finishing for well over a minute, with a very enjoyable warming.

I posted this photo for this review, not just because I like #bourbonporn and #bbqporn but because I thought this bourbon was the perfect pairing for a nice long smoked rack of ribs in my green egg.  Thirteen years is a long time for any bourbon, and quite rare to find one at under $100 that is this good.  This bourbon is also so much better after you have opened it for a few hours or even days.  When I first opened it I thought this was going to be a high 80’s or maybe low 90’s rated whiskey, but after a while this baby really opens up.  I also am generally not a fan of adding water, but a couple drops really helps this bourbon evolve.  Like a great rack of ribs, it takes all day, and evolves by the end of the day.  I’m definitely grabbing a couple extra bottles of this one to put into the bunker, I mean, 13yr cask strength bourbon for under $100?!?!?  95.5/100

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ORANGE COUNTY DISTILLERY… back to the drawing board please

I love a good craft distillery; I hate a bad craft distillery.  Orange County Distiller may be the epitome of everything I have come to hate about the craft movement:

  • They have a cute farm in upstate New York and are really stressing the farm-to-bottle thing.
  • They are making vodka and gin because you can sell it fast.
  • They are using small barrels for their bourbon and aged rye, and tried to explain to me at their stand that seven months in a small barrel in upstate New York is the equivalent of five years in a large barrel.  Wrong!!!
  • They bottle their products in 375ml apothecary-like bottles, trying to be like another small New York State producer known for good marketing and lesser products.
  • They charge way too much.
  • On their website they write: “This is what a craft distillery should be.”
  • And the only thing that matters… they have a shitty product.

It’s too bad that the craft movement has become overwhelmed with new entrants who are rushing their products to market and diluting the truly good stuff out there.  There are some great craft distillers out there, there are some great craft made sourced producers out there as well, but they are now becoming the minority in a field inundated with awful to marginal liquid.  There are far more bad “craft” producers out there than quality ones, it’s sad.

Anyway… maybe you can guess how I am going to rate these before I even get to them?

OCD Bourbon Whiskey: sweet and nail polish nose, yet thin palate, honeysuckle, more nail polish and tongue numbing finish.  Not enjoyable.  Maybe needed another couple years in the barrel? 73/100

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OCD Aged Rye: spices and medicinal on the nose with spicy notes and menthol coming in strong on the palate.  Mildly less offensive than the Bourbon, but still needs a lot more time in the barrel.  77/100.

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The moral of the story is don’t just buy the new craft whiskey at your local liquor store or farmer’s market because the bottle looks cool.  Try it, do your research, and be a smart consumer.  Everyone hates buying that bottle that sucks and keeping it on your shelf for years, looking at it every day, mocking you for your poor choice.  Damn you shitty craft whiskey!