The Balvenie Single Barrel 12 Year
Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTastedThe nose is delicious. Raisin, grapes, straw. A bit of salted peanuts. Body delivers on that raisin and grape scent. Reminds me of a good sangria here. It’s bitter, it’s salty, and it’s tart. Finish turns away from the bitterness and saltiness into a pure sweet raisin finish. That sweet finish is very long. It’s amazing. It sits on your molars long after the drink is gone. I wish I could remember well enough what the doublewood 12 tastes like to give a proper comparison now. In a blind taste test about a year ago, doublewood 12 won, but I am enjoying this dram so much I find that memory surprising. This is a delicious, slow-sipping scotch.
Forty Creek Barrel Select
Canadian — CanadaTastedHere goes another “Christmas of 2017 50ml Plastic Bottle Stocking Stuffer.” Rolls off the tongue. Unfortunately this whisky does not. It coats the tongue like a shrunken turtleneck of undesirable flavor. The nose smells like something you’d cook with, but not want to taste alone. Corn starch. Possibly a scented bath wash. Only whisky scent I get here would be sugar, but a syrupy version. Like pure simple syrup. Body is what the nose suggests. I genuinely feel like I’m previewing a step in making whisky, not the finished product. So thick, so buttery, so syrupy sweet. It’s terrible. I’ve genuinely had better white dog. Finish carries off a melted butter flavor. This is so bad. Why is the average rating so high? Not speaking rhetorically here, I really want someone to educate me. I don’t know a ton about Canadian Whisky, so I may just be ignorantly dumping on the holy beaver of whiskies right now. Best in show. You do you, Canada. Not for this guy.
Hotel Tango Bravo
Bourbon — Indiana, USATastedI’ve been sitting on this review for awhile, and this is the second bottle I’ve been through. I really wanted to make sure this was as good as I thought it was. And it really is. To quote a wiser and far less endowed friend of mine: “It’s a one-trick pony, but I really dig the trick.” The nose is the first place the watermelon kicks in. I’ve never smelled a bourbon quite like it. It’s sweet and fresh, like I just cut into a melon. Delicious. Body has more watermelon. Mouth feel is honestly a bit buttery and grainy, but I don’t mind. Hint of leather and caramel bitterness here too, but I’d say the predominant vibe is sweet. Finish is more watermelon, and a bit of cherry. Technically not breaking my rule of thumb that all Hoosier bourbon north of Indianapolis blows, this distillery IN Indianapolis officially has my attention. I mean this: this bourbon is the best hidden gem I have ever found in the bourbon world. It’s not my favorite bourbon ever, but given the reasonably low expectations I had from an unknown entity (not to mention the fact that I can find it on every shelf in my area—looking at you, Buffalo Trace portfolio) the quality that I’ve found for about $60 will make this a permanent resident on my bourbon shelf. I genuinely don’t understand the low marks on this app. Not everyone will find this a 5/5 bourbon. I do, because that’s my way of tagging a personal favorite. But 3s? Look, if watermelon doesn’t eek you out, don’t let the score deter you. Super underrated, and a new top 10 (possibly top 5) whiskey for me.60.0 USD per Bottle
Crown Royal Peach Flavored Whisky
Flavored Whiskey — CanadaTasted$%#¥. That was the sound I made when I realized I was buying this “whisky”. When my bourbon dealer recommended this bottle, I was horrified. And yes, I do think of him as a dealer, not a retailer, because he has this way of suggesting that something good will come my way in the near future when I buy crap like this from him on an off week. And it typically does, presumably because I typically do. Still, I was horrified because I knew I had to buy it, and I hated most everything I saw on the label. “Flavored Whisky.” “Age: NAS.” “Georgia peaches.” “Canada.” The nose: peaches. The body: peaches. Why am I doing this. The finish: bit of NyQuil. Oh, and peaches. Disclaimer: this actually is pretty delicious. It’s some bullshit, but it’s tasty bullshit. I do like peaches. The fact that this $30 bottle comes with a felt bag inside a sealed box is pretty comical. But I dig it. I probably will try to cocktail this little guy and enjoy it quite a bit.31.0 USD per Bottle
Four Roses Small Batch Select Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedI find it very interesting that this bourbon has a worse reception on this app than the standard small batch. I made the mistake of trying to compare this one-on-one with small batch, and if others out there are doing that, I guess I get it. This is such a different animal, that it probably should be tasted outside of the shadow of its older brother. Nose is astringent and bitter. I get sugar, leather, straw. Body is a heavy hit of caramel and honey. Bit of sweet tea. That part reminds me very much of single barrel. Finish is alternating sweet caramel and cinnamon. There’s an awesome tongue buzz on that cinnamon flavor. Since I goofed and drank this in tandem with standard small batch, here’s the comparison that I wouldn’t recommend making: Standard small batch has a flavor profile that I find much more pleasant. It’s body’s is far more interesting, where this guy kinda tastes like a lot of unremarkable bourbons in the 100-110 proof range. The body feels much more run-of-the-mill to me, which is ironic if you think about it. But the finished on this select is the best part. That buzz combined with an alternating sweet/cinnamon flavor is amazing. The standard small batch just kind of fizzles out in this category, especially when drank in tandem. If I had to choose, I’d prefer this to standard. I’m glad it’s part of the family on their website now, and I hope it sticks around and becomes as readily available as small batch and single barrel.60.0 USD per Bottle
Barrell Bourbon Batch 014
Bourbon — USATastedI’ve been hanging on to this bottle for a long time. I’ve heard mixed things about this distillery, and though most people have told me that some batches are far better than others, there seems to be a general respect for their business model. There’s something to be said for building a brand by blending good juice to make a good product, paying your bills first, and then distilling your own juice later. I hope batch 14 delivers! I get cinnamon, apple, and nutmeg on the nose. Smells promising. Body comes in as a sugar bomb. I get milk chocolate, sweet tarts, smarties, powdered sugar. Finish is mild in feel given the ABV, but still spicy in flavor. Cinnamon, bit of black pepper. I don’t know if batch 14 is generally considered to be one of the hits or one of the misses, but I dig it. It’s like someone took some Willett juice and replaced the nuttiness with some tartness present in a lot of Buffalo Trace products. In fact, I think my next drink will be 1 oz Rock Hill Farms blended with 1 oz Noah’s Mill. Don’t look at me that way. It’s for science. It’ll be interesting to see what these guys come up with when they do their own juice. It’ll probably be something entirely new compared to this, but they’ve made a new fanboy today. They know how to blend. Postscript: I felt so strongly about my RHF/Noah’s Mill hypothesis that I went and did that before I finished the review. I’m not miles off, but I’m off. My blend is way too nutty compared to this batch. I think I’m correct with RHF. I will probably try this again, with something that’s a true chocolate bomb without introducing nuttiness. I’m thinking next will either be that mocha infused Makers Mark PS or a Blanton’s Gold.
Maker's Mark Private Select Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedBegin disclaimers. On a previous review, I stated that Trail Inn/Triangle should give me this bottle for free, seeing as how I’m reviewing their other store picks on an app with a super limited following and zero impact on their business model. Inexplicably, they did not in fact meet this request, which they probably never heard, and I paid full retail for this bottle. I find these terms completely unacceptable and am concerned my poor purchasing experience could negatively flavor my review of this fine bottle. End disclaimers. Things I didn’t know prior to purchase: They take makers mark barrel strength and screw with it. They stick in 10 staves out of 5 categories, options in this case being “Baked American Pure 2,” “Seared French Cuvée,” “Makers 46,” “Roasted French Mocha,” and “Toasted French Spice.” I’m not sure what gives the staves those names, but in this case Trail Inn/Triangle picked: 2 Baked American Pure 2 4 Makers 46 2 Roasted French Mocha 2 Toasted French Spice Bottle comes in at 108.1 proof. Another thing I appreciated about this purchase is that it came with a candid admission from the barrel picker. The panel of 15 had it narrowed down to 2 barrels. One of them was very super interesting, and the other was more approachable. They shrewdly went with the more approachable version, but it makes one wonder... Nose gives off heavy baking spices. I get cinnamon and vanilla. Brown sugar too. That nose is very busy, in a good way. Body is very chocolatey. A bit of powdered sugar, but it’s hard to get past that chocolate. It’s good, just dominating. Finish had a bit of cinnamon, and tons of chocolate. A slight bitterness there too, which on its own might seem nutty or leathery. In this context, it just melts into that chocolate. The heat carries longer than you’d expect, and keeps the flavors alive on your tongue. I really like that finish. Overall my impression of this is a chocolate bomb. It’s good neat, and I could see it being epic in certain cocktails. If you see a 2-0-4-2-2 pick, I highly recommend. I’m also now very excited to try other combinations to see what others have selected. Perhaps one day I’ll find that super interesting yet too risky runner-up barrel.60.0 USD per Bottle
Elijah Craig Small Batch
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedIt’s another store pick! This one is also courtesy of Trail Inn/Triangle. And by “courtesy of” I mean they picked it out and I bought one. Dear Trail Inn/Triangle: this is twice in a week I’ve reviewed your store picks. I think my next one should be free. Looking at your Maker’s 46. I can be bought. The nose on this one is awesome. Tart cherry, a bit of apple, vanilla, sugar. I could almost be tricked into thinking I was sniffing a cobbler. Body is pretty standard EC, which is slightly disappointing given that nose. This one veers a bit more into caramel-apple territory than I’m used to, but the basic flavors are all still there. Mustiness, hint of lemon. Finish carries cinnamon and pepper, with a pleasant lip buzz. As someone who generally doesn’t care for Elijah Craig small batch, these store picks really are something else. It really makes you wonder how they choose to mix barrels. They clearly have some pretty dynamic stuff, so are they cutting the good stuff with mediocrity for volume? Is there a place in the rickhouse that generally produces garbage? When you mix opinionated tart-nose with relentless chocolate body, do you somehow end up with a lower shelf bourbon that kind of tastes like so many other low shelfers? I think there’s a place for Elijah Craig on my shelf, but I’m going to make it a point to keep it stocked with store picks. I clearly won’t be able to predict what I’m signing up for, but I have yet to be disappointed.45.0 USD per Bottle
Rebel Yell Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATastedBig soft spot for this little guy. I hope it’s good enough to merit bottom shelf value. Yeasty nose. I get fresh baked bread and sugar. Simple. Body is oilier than I typically like. There’s leather, salt, and cedar there. Finish is mild and delivers on that fresh bread flavor. A bit of dust too. It was a bit of a let down. Not as glorious as I remember it being, yet also totally sufficient.
Backbone Bourbon Uncut Single Barrel
Bourbon — USATastedBig shout out to Trail Inn/Triangle for this store pick. I’ve never had the standard Backbone, which is admittedly a suboptimal scenario. This store pick comes in just under 5 years at 123.4 proof. I bought it because I was told by a store clerk that it was one of the purest chocolate flavors available in bourbon. Let’s see if that person was right. Don’t worry: not the same store where I was told that Rhetoric 23 tasted like Pappy 23-year. Tried Neat: I get heavy vanilla and powdered sugar on the nose. Hint of maple. Pretty standard, unremarkable nose. Sufficient. Body hit early with a surprised smoked meat flavor. Did not see that coming. Good though. Rich chocolate flavor as well. Mouth feel on the finish is awesome. It’s an intense lip buzz that doesn’t feel overpowering anywhere else. But damn, my bottom lip is tripping balls right now. More powdered sugar flavor here, and the chocolate fades away with a bit of dust. Finish is by far my favorite part of this drink. “Dust” usually presents itself to me as an undesirable impurity, but it holds its own here. It’s like I picked a chocolate bar up of the basement floor, but I’m not grossed out because it’s still delicious. On the rocks: Nose goes haywire. That shy-of-unpleasant dustiness is back. There’s a sweet cherry scent there too. So now I have chocolate covered cherries on the nose. Possibly dropped on the floor. Less than 5 seconds, still very cool. Ever sipped a new Powerade flavor and said, “Wow, that tastes just a margarita,” even though you haven’t had a margarita in years? There’s something iconic there that rings true. In the same sense, this body on the rocks = Elijah Craig Small Batch. Mic drop. Finish is identical to the neat finish, less buzz. So I’ve thrown some shade at Indiana distilleries before. They deserve it. No regrets there either. However... I believe my exact target-o’-shade-tossing was: “Any distillery north of Indianapolis.” I’m delighted to still be correct on that cartographical technicality. For two reasons: 1–being correct is awesome. 2–this bourbon is a surprise delight. (At least this store pick variant.) I prefer it neat, because life is too short to not have your bottom lip buzzing. That was awesome. Flavors were solid too. The more this guy watered down, the more it resembled Elijah Craig. So much so, that I felt the need to compare mash bills. This guy: 70 corn, 25 rye, 5 magic dust. EC: 78 corn, 10 rye, 12 unicorn tears. I’m impressed by this distillery. I prefer this to EC barrel proof, which is no small accolade. If you’re able to find this guy in your region, give it a shot. If the standard version sucks, come to Northwest Indiana, and I will happily greet you with an apology and a taste of this store pick, which is exemplary. Offer expires the moment my bottle runs dry.