Colonel E.H. Taylor, Jr. Small Batch Bottled in Bond Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted April 15, 20213.0... 3.0??? I know, I know, "but Beppe, you said Col Taylor SiB was one of the best ever, you even pushed it as your choice for Bourbon of the Year, how can you be so hard on the small batch? What gives?" That's just it, the SiB from 2019 really was one of the all time outstanding Col Taylors, a perfected display of the art form brought out in bursting sugars and full bodied barrel notes, from runny legs on glass to nose to final finish. In fact that's really the problem for Small Batch, it can't even hold a candle to big brother SiB, who shows it up in an almost embarrassing fashion. Both are 100 proof, both minimum 4 years BiBs, and yet Small Batch is no where near the mark that is set by the much much better SiB. The glaring difference starts at the nose where Small Batch doesn't bring out that rich deep maple syrup, but is just light in the sweet caramel notes, from then on it's much thinner at the front and even a little harsh in the finish, a factor that never reared it's head in the SiB. Really you can almost blame the SiB for showing up the issues with Small Batch, coming in the same Bottle in Bond form factor and yet not even comparable. Yet Col Taylor Small Batch is starting to see the higher price points set forth in many other Saz/BT product. At 30ish this would be a pretty acceptable bourbon, but at more than twice that, it's not even a decision. HARD PASS. Time for the folks at Sazerac and their BT fanbois to be taken down a peg. This Col Taylor just isn't that good. Cheers!81.0 USD per Bottle
Old Forester 1870
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted April 13, 2021Old Fine, Prohibition, Birthday the Forester label is known for some headline making bourbons, and while the standard 86 proof and BiB are both drinkable enough, among those pricey if available bottles including the overpriced IMO, Statesman, somewhere nestled in the middle you find 1870. This bottle is going for around 40 in my area putting it just in range of some of the other starter small batches. What we have is a very decent bourbon, comparable to the standard small batch a lot of labels offer up, 1870 offers a great nose of orchard fruits, light sugars and just a hint of some rich red rum sweetness and spice. That light sugar starts with a bit of vanilla, a bit on the dry side it is after all only 90 proof, some middling starchiness gives way to the rye baking spice and mint. Just a hint of those red fruit sugars give notice and it all fades away nicely without any harsh or bitter finishings. It really is a good healthy sample of bourbon with out frills but also nearly free of any faults. It's an easy drinker. Adding to the versatility, this is a bourbon you can drink neat or offer in a Old Fashioned without flinching. If this really is the "original batch" bourbon out of Old Forester, you can easily see why they succeeded. If it came in, say in the 30ish range it could be in the "deal" category, but at least in my area Old Forester generally stays with the pricier brands. Cheers!41.0 USD per Bottle
Johnnie Walker 18 Year
Peated Blend — ScotlandTasted April 8, 2021Being a fan (or not) of Blue Label may lead one to wonder, "hey, is the 18 year very close to Blue?". At least those are the kind of meandering musings that percolate around in my somewhat rattly skull these days. Maybe we have the JW version of "poor mans pappy" for Blue Label masquerading with a 18year goldish label on it? Having sampled at least one version of each, Blair Athol, Cardhu and Glen Elgin I'm already intrigued with some fairly high expectations. Fresh off a Blue Label review this might be kismet like timing to take on the 18 year. Nose: sweet and fruity, a honey or meade sweet bread and fruits maybe more like peach are well forward. This really seems sweeter than Blue Label which carries much the same nose spectrum. Now for the real test. Wow, this is something, that peach syrup sugar is well accentuated by a hardy bitter nut center. That bitter carries through the finish and this most definitely ends the direct comparison to Blue Label, while it's not a terribly harsh bitter finish, more of a flail to the other side, it really shows how a blend variation can produce drastically differing results. The Blue Label continues that bread and honey circus right out the gate and will not be denied its namesake winning ribbon color "Blue". 18 year has more of a "hey IN YOUR FACE" coarse attitude as it shuffles off to the alley. Had the comparison ridden only on the nose the 18 looked like a potential winner but the Blue Label ends the ride in a far more refined finish. 18 year is like roaring into the driveway with a hopped up 400 V8 rattling under the hood of a Mustang Cobra while Blue Label is like coasting in, lights off in a convertible Caddie with under inflated tires and the top down on a July night. Both great in their own way but just not the same thing at all. Conclusion: Still a Blue Label fanboi all the way, but respect for 18 Year where it is due. Not a bad effort at all Johnnie. Cheers!
Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Peated Blend — ScotlandTasted April 6, 2021As any genre of liquor there is as much subjective variation on Scotch as to what makes it "good" as any. For me it's about both the spectrum and the finish, I like a Scotch with a nice variety of notes and as importantly it must linger on in a desirable fashion. Blue Label is one of those "wheel house" Scotches for me. The nose on Blue Label is just a smooth dream, it's a bit of fruit orchard and cinnamon bread, maybe some kumquat citrine and also as important, a lack of anything off putting. No ugly over wood barrel bitterness here. Creamy smooth front with bright, light sugars, the bread middle hangs on just a wee longer than the fruit sugars, and then it all just calmly fades leaving you wanting more. This is definitely a top blended Scotch. Yes the price is a bit bearish but if it was any less the supply would be outstripped by demand and we would have yet another BTAC like allocation mess. It's kind of nice to be able to count on not just Blue Label but even an assortment of rarer Blue Labels being available. If I had to put down a complaint it's that Blue Label is just a bit lighter through the middle than the heavy sugared high proof bourbons that I'm used to, but that's really being extra critical. It's not that Blue Label is the greatest thing you'll ever taste, it's just one of those really good things you can generally count on. Cheers!
Grangestone 12 Year
Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTasted April 5, 2021I found a few of these shooters on the shelf at the local and grabbed them to see what we can see, sorry didnt get a chance to spot the price on full sized bottles. A very Highlands nose of spicy citruses, Glen-maOrangie if you will, really nice if that is your thing. That nose theme follows with some sweet cereals, lemon and orange fruit loops through the middle and ends with only slight smokes. This fruity Highlands dram seems really "approachable" to use that over worked word. What I like, as a novice Scotcher, is the laid back peats and smokes, nothing about the malt side bowls over the nice, sweeter notes, some real balance here. This is a good one for a lot of palates, here is a Scotch that doesn't taste like it's ready to take the paint off the walls. This one isn't going to win any awards for complexity nor are the hard core Islay fans going to be impressed, but a nice bottle for those who appreciate the fruity easy going scotch profile. Cheers!
Old Bardstown Estate Bottled Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted April 3, 2021A really nice Christmas time chocolate orange slice nose awaits you. This comes off as a holiday in a bottle bright sweet orange and slight cinnamon clove with just a nit of the old ethanol. The age and proof really come through on the nose. The front is a bit harsh, amazingly the proof bite is real. As it rolls around on the tongue you get some of that orange and syrup spice melange, it's not a bad bite just a bit of the youth coming through, another few years in the barrel may well have done wonders for Old Bardstowns Estate version. The finish unveils some dusty barn door oak along with some nutty cola, not overly complex yet still appreciably full bodied. For the low 30s this is some pretty well done work. Letting this bottle air out a bit will help unleash some of the packed in flavors. Easy to enjoy. Cheers!
Hendrick's Lunar Gin
Modern Gin — ScotlandTasted March 29, 2021More goodness from Hendricks, one of my favorite purveyors of gin. I'm trying to nail down the exact differences in this and Midsummer Solstice. They really aren't all that much as you'll find much of the same fragrant botanicals in Lunar that exist in Midsummers. First and probably most notable is the far more subdued berry notes, they just don't pop like the forward rasp and blue berries in Midsummers. Lunar also brings forth the spicy pepper notes that are less pronounced in Midsummers, it's slightly dryer while still bringing a nice variety of herbal notes. I know this might seem less helpful for those who haven't tried or at least read reviews on Midsummers gin from Hendricks but the similarities make their comparison fairly relevant. If you really loved the berry forward Midsummers as I did, you might like the Lunar a little less, while if you prefer a dryer, spicier gin, you most likely will find the Lunar more to your liking than Midsummers. I'm going to wind up rating them about even as they both bring a lot of gin features I like and avoid the pitfall of over reliance on juniper and anise. Another good job by Hendricks on yet another limited specialty release. Cheers!
Modern Gin — JapanTasted March 17, 2021Well it's been almost a year since my covid-19, as I was one of the first, and a lot of self prescribed gin and tonic is under the bridge since then. I have to say it's been an interesting almost 'silver lining' bringing gin back for me, but unfortunately too many didn't survive. It's an undeniable fact the British would have never founded an empire without the concoction so to the doubters I say regards from Churchill Square. On we go. It comes as no surprise that Suntori puts the same effort into their gin as their other products, and that effort is immediately notable in the quality of Roku, a gin that can hold it's own with the likes of Hendrix and other upper shelf gin bottles. The juniper remains subdued and balanced, the tea bitters and other leaf and root dryness form a nice harmony with the sweet fruit and peppermint. Again no real surprise coming from the distillers that bring us Hibiki. Getting it right just seems to be their mo. Not only is Roku an unassuming quality product, unlike certian blue label offerings from another island nation, you don't have to pay through the nose for this one. Roku may not be the best, but what it is, is very good gin at a very modest price point. Given the beautiful packaging it would be hard to go wrong with Roku, for your own bar or as a gift. Can recommend. Cheers!
Lost Prophet 22 Year Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted February 21, 2021The banana - caramel is most notable, the leather is also apparent, as my sniffer is broken from this cold weather I can't be overly confident of a good report on the nose. What comes through is good though and nothing out of place off the top. Much dryer than what I was expecting, perhaps the extra aging is the reason but not as sweet for a higher proof, the burnt toast and banana effect sticks and while its tailing off with some nibs the apple sweetness makes an appearance. Surprisingly accurate notes from Distiller on this one, while some of the sugars may have aged out the extra aging does yield the relative warm cream like finish. One thing I like about Prophet 22 is how well the finish fades out without even a hint of harshness. I guess if you're looking for a 200$ bottle this will suffice, it's sure to beat out some others in that price range but I'm not sure it really beats some of the better Booker releases at half the price. If it's a true orphan barrel the enthusiast who can would likely want to buy on sight. Cheers!
Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Rye
Rye — Tennessee, USATasted February 12, 2021Nose: Warm sweet rich spicy banana bread. At the front it's a small dill rye note, the sweet honey bread kicks in, the nose banana really doesn't take shape. The rye just manages to dry out the sweet middle reaching a nice balance. The entire menagerie all finishes up at the end, nothing bitter or sweet, the array of beautiful notes hold up as it just fades off in a tempting memory. I wanted to take another look at this very special rye from not the distillery you would expect, as the bottle is about gone. Did it hold up? Without a doubt. Will this be one of my "go to" bottles from here? Without a doubt. This mash balance is just exceptional. I can't wait to see where Jeff Arnett goes and what he does next as this is one of the premiere whiskeys produced this century. I don't even know if Jeff was the real mastermind behind this work but whoever did it, Jack Daniels owes a huge debt of gratitude for showing they can do something big outside the bounds of Lincoln Co. Process. Just goes to show if you keep at it long enough, you eventually can catch lighting in a bottle. Cheers!