Weller Full Proof Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted July 11, 2022Pours a medium amber orange color. Smells nice, lots of vanilla, less in the way of baking spice, but it’s there, cinnamon and the like, some caramel, with hints of oak and a nice fruity note. Taste follows the nose, vanilla, light spice, a bit of caramel, hints of oak and dark fruit. Mouthfeel is full bodied, rich, with significant alcohol heat. Overall, certainly worth the shelf price, but the hype and secondary market are way out of proportion here… still, it’s a nice, enjoyable dram. Beer Nerd Musings: Lots of beers are aged in Weller barrels, and the hype and status as a Pappy alternative transfers to beer as well. The BCBS Anniversary was aged for 2 years in Weller 12 barrels, and it’s pretty great, a solid upgrade from standard BCBS.
Elijah Craig Private Barrel Uncut
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted June 11, 2022State Line Liquors Erik & Chad selection 8 Years Old, 133 Proof, 66.5% ABV, Barrel No. 6570975 Not quite as oaky or complex as standard 12 year expressions, but it’s still got a good oak character, and the high octane proof hits hard. Oak, vanilla, light spice box, caramel, pretty classic bourbon notes intensified by the high proof. Good stuff, but the 12 year barrel proof expressions are better… still good though… Beer Nerd Musings: I actually don’t know of any beers specifically aged in non-12 year (or older) EC barrels, but EC is generally considered great for barrel aging beers, and this would certainly do well. I’d still be on the lookout for EC aged beers.
Blanton's Original Single Barrel
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted May 24, 2022Pours your standard golden orange color. Smell has that classic bourbon character, oak, caramel, vanilla, a bit of baking spice, cinnamon, and the like. Taste hits that same standard profile, caramel, oak, vanilla, a little brown sugar, molasses, cacao, some of that baking spice rounding things out. Mouthfeel is pretty good for the lowish proof, not big and burly, but not thin at all either, just a really nice balance. Overall, this is great. Not exactly sure about the hype and definitely not worth secondary, but worth the flier at this bar… Beer Nerd Musings - One of last year’s 2021 Bourbon County Reserve variants was aged in Blanton’s barrels and it was fantastic - It had a distinct brownie batter, fudge, richer and more intense character than regular. I haven’t had a ton of other Blanton’s barrel aged beers, but the ones I have had tend towards that same fudgey character, which is interesting.
Charbay R5 Whiskey
Other Whiskey — California, USATasted May 6, 2022Pours a light golden yellow color with moderate legs. Smell has that distinctive new make character to it, but the hops come through strong. More floral up front than I would expect from all the American C hops in Racer 5, but a lemony citrus is peeking in as well. And truth be told, I tend to think of Centennial and Columbus as being more floral than citrusy anyway, so perhaps that’s not too surprising. Taste again features new make booze, but the hops save the day. Like the nose, the hops are floral and almost spicy up front, but provide a more citrusy honey-like note towards the finish. Mouthfeel has a nice spiciness to it, a little heat too. Maybe that’s just may baby palate talking though, as all whiskey has a little harsh heat for me. Overall, this is a fascinating dram of whiskey here. The hops come through, but not quite in exactly the way I expected. Nevertheless, I enjoy drinking this and am quite happy with the purchase (despite the relatively high price tag). Beer Nerd Musings: Aside from several other Charbay variants on the theme, there are a bunch of other spirits that are distilled from drinking beer. There’s one called Son’s of Liberty that claims it starts as an IPA (not specified whether it’s a commercial version or one they make themselves) that is distilled, aged, and then dry hopped with Citra and Sorachi Ace (which are some pretty fantastic choices). This seems to mostly be a small distillery thing, and I do have to wonder how more mature whiskey would react. Apparently there’s a 12 year old version of distilled pilsner that was made for the LA Whiskey Society, and according to some reviews, the hop character has faded somewhat (or been overtaken by the oak, or both), even if it’s still described as excellent whiskey. I would be curious to see what other beers would make a good base for this sort of treatment. In terms of hoppy beer, I’d look at something like a Tired Hands or Hill Farmstead IPA. They both have super citrusy, juicy takes on the style (which I suspect is due partially to the yeast they use as well as the use of newer aroma hops). Would that character survive distillation? Or would that bright citrus turn into dank pine in time (nothing wrong with that either, to my mind)? Anchor made a spirit out of their vaunted Christmas beer called White Christmas, where I assume the spices would come through in the finished product. I suspect the barrels used for this whiskey would not be the best to use for beer. The subtle hop character would get blown away by big, assertive stouts, or would get lost in the mix of a hoppy barleywine and new make whiskey doesn’t quite integrate with beer as well as moderately aged stuff. That being said, there’s really only one way to find out. I’m clearly not an expert on this stuff.
Buffalo Trace Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted April 17, 2022Pours a golden orange color with adorable little legs (i.e. not much). Smells sweet, caramel, toffee, vanilla, leavened with hints of spice. Love the nose on this. Not intense, but it hits the right notes for me. Taste hits the spice a little harder, but the underlying sweetness is still there, a little caramel and vanilla goes a long way. Mouthfeel is soft and approachable, light on the booze (keep in mind by beer palate is unused to this sort of assault, so this is saying something). Overall, this is an all purpose bourbon, great neat and I’m sure it would do fine in cocktails. Would be perfect for bourbon-oaked homebrew. It’s not intense or mind-blowing, but it gets the job done. Beer Nerd Musings: The Buffalo Trace Eclipse variant won the blind horizontal tasting I held several years ago, narrowly beating out Four Roses and Elijah Craig 12 (each of which had a single outlier that dragged them down). Local brewery Neshaminy Creek got in a whole boatload of Buffalo Trace barrels a while back and aged a few beers that I’ve had in them, to varying degrees of success (I think any issues I have with them come down to the base beer). Not quite as local, but Voodoo brewing made a Black Magick variant aged in BT barrels that was phenomenal (if not quite the equal of the Pappy Black Magick). This is much harder to find these days than it used to be - would be great for homewbrew purposes otherwise…
Rye — Kentucky, USATasted April 16, 2022Pours a yellowish orange color with thin legs. Unlike Rittenhouse Rye (which I drank at the same time), this doesn’t smell much like bourbon. Definitely a little spice, more of an anise note than anything else, but an almost fruity note to it (I notice this in high rye beers too), certainly not “new make” but the oak does not tamp down the rye at all, some nice vanilla though. Taste has a lot more of that spicy rye character, anise and cinnamon, not as harsh or boozy as Rittenhouse, though I guess the lower proof will do that to my baby beer palate, a little oaky character pitches in too, but like the nose, it’s not overwhelming and what you really get is the rye. Mouthfeel is lighter than the Rittenhouse, more subtle, less oily, with an approachable booziness. Overall, this reminds me of a more mature Dad’s Hat Rye in that you really get that rye character coming through, but it’s got less of a new make feel to it. I’m sure this is great for cocktails, though I haven’t used it for such just yet. Beer Nerd Musings: Rye has a reputation for contributing spicy elements to both beer and whiskey, but as mentioned above, I find that some higher rye beers tend to also exhibit a distinct, almost fruity note that I got out of Sazerac too (and not at all from Rittenhouse). Funnily enough, one of the few examples I’ve had of a rye wine (Ithaca’s Old Habit) that exhibited this fruity twang was a beer aged in Rittenhouse Rye barrels. Go figure. I’ve never had anything specifically aged in a Sazerac Rye barrel, though there are apparently a few examples out there. To be honest, I don’t know how well it would work, as it seems a little too subtle to really impart that great, rich character that a good barrel aged beer displays. If you think I’m full of it, I will gladly submit to your Sazerac Barrel Aged brew to test it out.
Rittenhouse Rye Bottled in Bond
Rye — Kentucky, USATasted April 16, 2022Pours a light golden color with moderate legs. Smell has a nice spicebox component to it, a little oak and vanilla kicking in as well, but feels very bourbony (as opposed to distinct rye). Certainly get that rye spice in the taste as well, almost peppery, with some caramel too. Again, though, it has a very bourbony feel. Mouthfeel is medium bodied, a little on the oily side, a little harsh and moderately boozy. Overall, it feels like a pretty standard whiskey, very nice for what it is, works fine neat and it makes good cocktails, but there’s nothing here that melts my face either. I’m no rye expert, but this feels more like an extra high rye bourbon than full rye, but maybe that’s just my lack of experience coming through. Still, as an all purpose whiskey, it’s good, and cheap too. Beer Nerd Musings: The Rittenhouse Rye barrel aged Eclipse stout was my favorite entry from the 2012 vintage, though it did not fare quite as well in the 2014 vintage horizontal tasting I held. The 2019 Bourbon Count Brand Stout Reserve was aged in Rittenhouse Rye Barrels (I know you guys, but the Bourbon County brand extends to rye) and it’s exceptional! Weirdly, the rye seemingly comes out more in this beer than the whiskey itself… I always wonder if younger barrels make for better beer aging than older ones, and honestly, the propensity for good Rittenhouse aged beers gives me pause because older whiskey barrels tend to get the most attention.
Old Rip Van Winkle 10 Year Bourbon (107 Proof)
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted April 14, 2022Pours a light golden orange color. Smells nice, lots of bourbon spice, some caramel, vanilla, hints of honey and ripe fruit. Taste follows the nose, lots of spice, nutmeg, rich caramel, hints of vanilla and fruit. Mouthfeel is rich and full bodied, spicy, a bit on the hot side (keep in mind my baby beer palate) but still quite approachable. Overall this is fantastic stuff, though I’m not sure it’s worth the insane hype. Really glad I splurged for a pour at a bar (which wasn’t too excessive), and I’d be really psyched if I got a bottle of this in the PA lottery someday (they charge standard retail, which is actually great for this - secondary is ridiculous as usual). Beer Nerd Musings - Anything in the Van Winkle Orbit gets the same overwhelming hype as the bourbon itself, including beers aged in the barrels. I actually don’t know of any beer specifically aged in Old Rip Van Winkle barrels, but I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the”Van Winkle” aged beers are this rather than the more preferable Pappy 15, 20, or 23 expressions. Still, I can imagine this being fantastic for bba beers, so there is that. Anyway, some of the best beers I’ve ever had were aged in Van Winkle barrels, so while I’d love to alleviate some of they hype, I really can’t… On the other hand, some base beers can’t really stand up to the BBA treatment - Stillwater brewing aged their Folklore Belgian strong dark ale in Pappy 20 barrels and the results were underwhelming to say the least… but in general, anything Van Winkle is prized, even for beer dorks.
Wild Turkey Master's Keep 17 Year
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted April 14, 2022Standard dark orange color. Smells great, tons of oak, plenty of vanilla, oak, with a a healthy dose of the spice box, vanilla, oak, caramel, maybe a hint of cherries. I know I emphasized the oak in the nose, but it’s not over-oaked, it’s actually almost perfect balance, and the vanilla character is beautiful. The taste features the spicy character much more than the nose would imply, but that oak and vanilla come though loud and clear as well, as well as more typical caramel corn notes. Mouthfeel is surprisingly nimble, the lowish proof keeps things approachable (maybe too low? But the complexity makes up for it I think). Overall this is fantastic, if a bit pricey. Definitely worth a pour at this bar, not sure the bottle price would be worth it, but the secondary price is ridiculous. Still, it’s pretty great… Beer Nerd Musings: My initial thought is that Wild Turkey’s unique attributes, like their lower entry proof, would make for interesting bourbon barrel aged beer. However, in my experience, beers aged in Wild Turkey barrels have been somewhat disappointing. Anderson Valley supposedly only uses Wild Turkey barrels for their program, but while Huge Arker was nice, it’s not really top tier stuff either (and their other entries are not quite at that level either – generally having a surprisingly low bourbon barrel character). Local favorite Neshaminy Creek has used Wild Turkey barrels a few times. I haven’t had the barleywine, but the first BBA Leon they made was a middling effort as well (then again, so was the second vintage, which used Buffalo Trace barrels – I think the base beer is the determinant factor there, or perhaps the process). Wild Turkey is definitely a component of many BBA blends, including BCBS, which are certainly great. BCBS did a sorta stealth single barrel thing a few years ago and Wild Turkey variants were well received, but I missed out on that mania. The 17 year Masters Keep barrels would be fantastic for barrel-aging beer, but to my knowledge, they have not been explicitly used for that purpose (and honestly, even if I had a bottle of the stuff, it’s to expensive to use for home brewing)…
George T. Stagg Bourbon (Fall 2019)
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted April 10, 2022In comparison with the 2015 vintage, this somehow feels even better. The nose is more expressive, the lower proof makes it much more approachable even though it doesn’t lose much in the way of intensity or concentration, this is phenomenal stuff… Beer Nerd Musings: There are more Stagg barrel-aged beers than there used to be, but not a lot of really high profile ones and I’ve still not had any for sure. Seems like the sort of thing we’ll see BCBS do someday (given their access and recent propensity for aging in rare barrels), but who knows. I’d love to try one though, as the profile here would be great with a stout or barleywine…