Knob Creek 9 Year Small Batch Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky , USATasted September 27, 2021Nose rich cedar, maple syrup, sour cherries, grapes. Body is heavy caramel, syrup, hint of grape musk. Finish is salty with white pepper, caramel, and a bit more of that grape flavor lingering on. Nose is my favorite part of this drink. I forget how good this basic bourbon is.33.0 USD per Bottle
Old Forester Single Barrel Bourbon 90 Proof
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted September 16, 2021You see: that’s the thing about store picks. Sometimes one store picks an awesome barrel while other stores pick terrible ones. Sometimes one store you trust picks a damn good barrel from Buffalo Trace (perhaps the best new whiskey I tried in 2020), and then immediately after picks an Old Forrester barrel that is the worst OF juice you’ve ever had. This is from floor 1, warehouse L. The nose smells older than this whiskey could possibly be. There’s a musty, leathery smell that reminds me of flavors in Rhetoric. There’s lemon, caramel, maple syrup, vanilla. Bourbon standard, inoffensive. Body hits with that leather, and a bitterness that I find extremely unpleasant. It’s just pure bitterness for bitterness’s sake. I can’t tie it to a specific flavor. There’s vanilla and butterscotch too, but that bitterness takes the main profile. Finish presents chocolate, mild pepper, and maple syrup. I don’t hate the finish, although I very much hate the journey you have to take to get to it. I generally like Old Forrester juice. I generally appreciate store picks. This is such a bizarre thing for a store to pick out of what I know of the OF portfolio, that I’m marginally convinced that there’s a genetic component in play here. Perhaps someone else’s tongue doesn’t get Spartan-kicked by that bitterness on the body. There are flavors involved, both on the nose and on the finish, that I really like in my bourbons. If I could just skip the body on this one, I think I’d have something that I decently like. But as it is, I would never buy another one of this pick. Ever. I’ve never had to say that about an OF product or a store pick, especially from this store.
Thomas S. Moore Chardonnay Cask Finished Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted August 24, 2021Nose is grape soda. Grapes, sugar, raspberry, mint, caramel. Body is gummy bears. I’ll be dammed if this isn’t a Jefferson’s product. There’s also melon, cherry, leather. This is my favorite part of the drink. Finish is dry wine. There’s a bit of spices on the side of your tongue but this is really where the Chardonnay takes control. It’s bizarre to jump from those sweet notes to the dryness on this finish. This is odd. I like this less than their port finish, but I think this is stronger in the category of Chardonnay finish than the port finish is in a highly saturated port-finish market. It really does some interesting things, but I can’t say I enjoy it. Drinkable, interesting, won’t buy again.
Benchmark Full Proof Bourbon (125 Proof)
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted August 21, 2021“Whiskey Credit Score.” It’s a concept a buddy and I came up with to describe what you’d be willing to drop on a new bottle you knew nothing about, purely based on the distillery. For example, for me Rare Perfection has a very low WCS. I don’t care if you claim to have sourced your juice from Willett. Don’t believe you. Don’t care. On the other hand, Bardstown has a very high Whiskey Credit Score with me. They could finish their magic juice in horse dung barrels, and I’d still probably buy one to crack and one more to save for later. Similarly, Buffalo Trace has a horse-dung- tolerant WCS. So there’s the scene. Enter Benchmark, stage bottom shelf. Out of thin air, one day my local liquor store had 5 new Buffalo Trace products on display that I had never seen. Thankfully, they were all under $20, because I just sold my last barrel of horse-dung to Bardstown for $100, and I had not a penny more. The question was not “which one will I choose,” but “how do you describe the choice using python?” def choice(benchmarks, my_shelf, wallet): —for bottle in benchmarks: ——my_shelf.append(bottle) ——wallet = wallet - 20 —return home_a_happy_man So here’s the Benchmarks: Benchmark 8 (80 proof) Benchmark Top Floor (86 proof) Benchmark Small Batch (90 proof) Benchmark Single Barrel (95 proof) Benchmark Bonded (100 proof) Benchmark Full Proof (125 proof) These are all made using Buffalo Trace mashbill #1, which is BT’s low-rye mashbill. People that are smarter than me think it’s about 10% rye, 5% malted barley, and 85% corn. They think this, but I don’t think anyone outside of BT actually knows. I wanted to do a true mashbill #1 round robin, so I threw in: Buffalo Trace (90 proof) EH Taylor Small Batch (100 proof) Eagle Rare (90 proof) Stagg Jr. Batch 13 (132.3 proof) 10 mashbill #1 bourbons. 45 blind taste tests in glencairns. Only one can be the best. 10th place: Benchmark Small Batch 9th place: Benchmark 8 8th place: Benchmark Top Floor 7th place: Benchmark Bonded ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 6th out of 10: Benchmark Full Proof. This is the one that turned me on to the Benchmark line. If you’ve ever heard the phrase “poor man’s Stagg Jr.,” this is the guy they were talking about. And without even taking a taste, it’s worth praising the existence of a 125 proof bourbon for $17.59. Nose is sweet, sugary, desert-themed. There’s powdered sugar, honeysuckle, lemon zest, oatmeal, tart cherry, walnut. Really pleasant nose. Body hits hot, but not as hot as other drinks at this proof point, like high-proof Knob Creek, Bookers, or even Stagg Jr. It’s that sweetness that tones the heat down. There’s oatmeal, cinnamon, sugar, lemon, leather, praline, salt. I can get strawberry. The desert theme carries through here. The main takeaway for me is cinnamon oatmeal. The finish is lingering cinnamon, with hints of the sugar. This drink transitions pretty evenly from sweet to salty, and by the end it’s mostly spices and salt. I’m not a huge Stagg Jr. fan, but for those that are, this bottle could justify a road trip to my local liquor store, where it still sits for under $20. I don’t care where you live. At the price Stagg Jr. moves for these days, you could get a case of this and have a fill-in until the supply/demand curve with BT juice flips. Gas is cheap compared to Stagg Jr. I popped this guy into an old fashioned just now, and if you fit into that mid-section of the Venn Diagram for “folk who like high proof bourbon in old fashioneds” and “folk who like sweeter/juicier old fashioneds,” this is a no brainer for you. It’s delicious. The sweet notes interact with your sugars and cherries, and the salt/cinnamon notes interact with your bitters. It hits that sweet spot of quality/cost that makes it near-perfect as a mixer. 6th place is misleading. It lost only to the non-Benchmarks and Single Barrel, which I recognize was less about quality and more about proof for me. If you like high-proof bourbons, this is the Benchmark for you. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I have 1 more Benchmark, so if you want to play along next time, feel free to skip the intro. However, I did just acquire a fresh barrel of horse-dung to peddle, so I may be able to afford some fresh material next time. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Fun new discovery about mashbill #1: If this is “poor man’s Stagg Jr.” and Stagg Jr. is “poor man’s Stagg,” then by the transitive property this is “broke-as-hell man’s Stagg,” and I’m going to encourage us all to start referring to it that way.17.59 USD per Bottle
Thomas S. Moore Port Cask Finished Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted August 4, 2021Nose gives you that characteristic port finish. I get sangria, cane sugar, cedar. This is the best part of this drink. Body is the first place you start to really feel the youth. The port finish is there, but there’s not a lot of flavor brought in by the bourbon itself. This kind of tastes like sangria spiked with vodka. There’s some wood notes and possibly caramel, but not much else. Finish is hotttt. It burns every part of your tongue and lips without really adding any flavor or complexity to justify it. There’s clove and cinnamon, but mostly just burn. There’s also this metallic aftertaste that makes you feel like there’s pennies in your mouth. I really wanted to like this more than I do. I mean, it has a horse on it. How many bourbons have horses on the bottle and aren’t good? Unfortunately, it costs too much to be worth a spot on my shelf right now, as I would reach for Isaac Bowman or Angel’s Envy before this every time (and they’re cheaper). I like the way they introduced the port finish (this can be done poorly into a sickeningly sweet zone) but the underlying bourbon here just isn’t up to snuff. However, I would still be interested in future offerings by these guys, because I do think they understand the art of finishing.
IW Harper 12yr (1970s)
Bourbon — Kentucky , USATasted July 31, 2021Big shout out to Libby’s in Covington, KY and Lady Luck for collaboratively placing me there on a Thursday, which apparently is half-off dusties night. This 1oz pour only cost $19, which in my book is a solid deal. Nose is sugar, lemon, sour cherry. Body turns sweet, but the cherry remains. There’s grape flavor as well. It’s a bit dry, and the overall vibe is sangria or a red wine. The transition into the finish is lovely. It’s delayed, and the sweet pit fruits transition into a nice cinnamon buzz. The heat lingers longer than you expect, and I freakin love it.19.0 USD per PourLibby’s Southern Comfort
Old Charter 10 Year
Bourbon — USATasted July 31, 2021Big shout out to Libby’s in Covington, KY and Lady Luck for collaboratively placing me there on a Thursday, which apparently is half-off dusties night. This 1oz pour only cost $19, which in my book is a solid deal. Bottle Date: 1973 Nose is must, lemon, vanilla, sour pear. Body is vanilla and sweet tarts. There’s a really pleasant grainy mouth feel. The pear rings through. I can get peach as well. Finish is fruity and sweet. There is no heat. No burn. If I had to pick a heat favor, I’d say baking spice. But this really is a sour-to-sweet fruity bomb. It’s delicious, and honestly unlike anything I’ve had before. Very good. I’m not a dusty hunter, but if this drink is any indication of the standard dusty experience, I get why people are.19.0 USD per PourLibby’s Southern Comfort
Rabbit Hole Cavehill Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky , USATasted July 31, 2021Sometimes we drink whiskey to taste whiskey, and sometimes we drink whiskey for other reasons. You know the reasons. I opened this bottle on a day where I did not care to notice whether the flavor on the front of my tongue differed when holding this juice against the roof of my mouth. I did not care if water or ice made any pleasant changes to the finish. In short: I did not give this bottle the respect it deserved. I did not like this whiskey, and at the time I was a pretty big fan of Rabbit Hole. Heigold was impressive, Boxergrail was a solid rye, and Daringer was good, although not even top 5 in the sherry-finished space from a “bang for your buck” perspective. Nonetheless, I labeled this product as “whiskey to drink after I’ve had a few.” It wasn’t until today, near the bottle’s end, that I gave it a true chance. It’s delicious. Nose is sugar, leather, cedar, blackberries. Grape jam. Body is raspberry, jam, sugar, caramel apples, tea leaves. Finish is cinnamon, praline, more caramel apples. This is lovely, and I regret that I did not give this the time it deserved. My only guess to how this misconception happened is that this whiskey is very flavor dense. I genuinely get all those flavors, and I often don’t detect that much variance on a single pour. I can definitely see how drinking this quickly and recklessly could make you merge a lot of these flavors into a palate that occupies the “generic bourbon” zone. I have learned my lesson, and will be sipping the rest of this bottle slowly and respectfully.
Benchmark Bonded Bourbon (100 Proof)
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted June 12, 2021“Whiskey Credit Score.” It’s a concept a buddy and I came up with to describe what you’d be willing to drop on a new bottle you knew nothing about, purely based on the distillery. For example, for me Cleveland Distillery has a WCS so low that if I see a new offering on the shelf for cheap, I’m still more likely to buy Dogecoin. Don’t talk to me about science, you disgrace. On the other hand, Very Olde St. Nick has a very high Whiskey Credit Score with me. Did you know they released an even more rare version of their already pricey and hard-to find 17 year antique barrel? It literally has the word “unicorn” on it in purple letters. I’m thinking about selling my body to science antemortem to finance a bottle. Similarly, Buffalo Trace is certainly in the high WCS category. So there’s the scene. Enter Benchmark, stage bottom shelf. Out of thin air, one day my local liquor store had 5 new Buffalo Trace products on display that I had never seen. Thankfully, they were all under $20, because you can only sell your body once. The question may have been which one, but the answer was “yes.” So here’s the Benchmarks: Benchmark 8 (80 proof) Benchmark Top Floor (86 proof) Benchmark Small Batch (90 proof) Benchmark Single Barrel (95 proof) Benchmark Bonded (100 proof) Benchmark Full Proof (125 proof) These are all made using Buffalo Trace mashbill #1, which is BT’s low-rye mashbill. People that are smarter than me think it’s about 10% rye, 5% malted barley, and 85% corn. They think this, but I don’t think anyone outside of BT actually knows. I wanted to do a true mashbill #1 round robin, so I threw in: Buffalo Trace (90 proof) EH Taylor Small Batch (100 proof) Eagle Rare (90 proof) Stagg Jr. Batch 13 (132.3 proof) 10 mashbill #1 bourbons. 45 blind taste tests in glencairns. Only one can be the best. 10th place: Benchmark Small Batch 9th place: Benchmark 8 8th place: Benchmark Top Floor ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 7th out of 10: Benchmark Bonded. Nose is very astringent, mostly sugar and oats. There’s also cherries, dust, and I’ve never gone to this place before tonight but I think there’s tomato plant. I’ve grown tomato plants before, and this nose takes me there. Body is heavy on oats. This is far nuttier than the other BMs I’ve had so far. Gotta be a better way to say that. There’s also cane sugar, milk, and a pleasant creamy mouth feel to go with it. Finish is heavy cinnamon, vanilla, and a faint orange. This is genuinely enjoyable. This is the first Benchmark that I thought: I’ll probably buy another one of these. To be fair: the reason the other ones don’t get that treatment is that Benchmark has saturated this flavor space with other iterations of itself. Which is... an interesting marketing strategy. I still feel like BT is somehow screwing with all of us with this product line. 5 nearly indistinguishable bourbons, all better than many $40 bourbons on the shelf, all under $20. This whole thing feels like an augmented reality game. There’s gotta be a treasure map that reveals itself when you align the bottles in just the right way. That would make more sense. 16 dollars for this son of a *****. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ I have a few more Benchmarks, so if you want to play along next time, feel free to skip the intro. However, I did have trouble figuring out the best mad scientist to sell myself to, so I may have some fresh material next time. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Fun new discovery about mashbill #1: You can mix all of them together in an infinity bottle and still have a truly spectacular bourbon.15.99 USD per Bottle
Lee W. Sinclair Four Grain Bourbon
Bourbon — Indiana, USATasted June 3, 2021Note: picture is of 2016 edition, at 56.1%. Mine is not dated, and is bottled in bond (50%). I’m in construction. There’s a slow season and a ridiculous season. During the slow season, I often find myself with more time than sense, doing absurd things like trying a new whiskey every day. During the busy season, I’m lucky if I log in once a month. So when I feel an uncontrollable urge to review a whiskey in June, it’s going to be amazing or terrible. There is no middle ground today. Backstory: The B-team sales force at my local liquor store told me this whiskey could be the next big thing, since it was recommended by “Whiskey Jesus or whatever.” Now, I have personally known “Shoe Jesus,” “Carnie Jesus,” and “Toubab Krewe Jesus.” The first one cured my shin splints, and the last one hit on my date. I still have no idea who Whiskey Jesus is, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t buy two bottles of this bourbon on the spot. The nose is enough to know this whiskey is going to suck. There are some whiskeys that smell and taste like they’ve been aged in a lead barrel, run through a Diesel engine, and then filtered through a bunch of pebbles from my driveway. It’s what the word “contamination” tastes like when you lick it in the dictionary. Filtering that out from the nose, there’s raspberries, lemon, sugar, honey. Gingersnaps. The rest of those scents are interesting, but again, this whiskey is going to suck. There is no way to filter that note out of the body. The body is everything I licked as a child when my parents weren’t paying attention. It’s industrial. It’s exactly what I expected. It’s hard to get past, but possibly sugar, caramel, tea leaves. It honestly does taste like someone cleaned off a dirty penny with my whiskey. Finish is caramel and lemon. Very mild. Very low buzz. I did not want to be contra-Whiskey Jesus. That seems like being on the wrong part of whiskey history. But this is bad. And it bums me out because there are parts of this that suggest some talent behind the process. Add this to my ever-growing list: Journeyman Woodinville Lee W. Sinclair There really is something sinister happening with those distilleries. I don’t think those guys lack talent, but I think they’re working with tainted raw materials. I don’t know if it’s barrels, water sources, machinery, or what, but it’s painful to compare these $40-$50 offerings with the bottom shelters of people who know what they’re doing, like Heaven Hill or Wild Turkey. I’d rather drink those neat over this, and you can’t even mix with this stuff without ruining your cocktail. If anyone knows what I’m talking about and can explain to me what that funk is, I’d love to hear it.40.0 USD per Bottle