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
Jack Daniel's Single Barrel Barrel Stength
Tennessee — Tennessee, USATasted April 1, 2021This was technically a shortbarrel pick for Jax Beverage, but since I don’t have the bottle for a picture, this seems like the best place to put it. It was 65%. I am not a Jack fan. I’m anti Jack. I could not possibly have lower expectations going into this. I’m expecting: bananas, wood, dust, leather. Basically all the notes I could do without. Nose does betray the heritage. There’s yeast, bananas, sugar cookies, cedar. Not enticing to me, but to its credit, one of the better Jack’s I’ve sniffed. Body is heavy on sugar, caramel, and lemon. There’s some cherry there. The yeast and banana standard with Jack are present but not dominant on this body. Finish goes off the rails, in a good way. I get Dr. Pepper, licorice, Fruit Soda, grape juice. There’s some bold after flavors that I’ve never before found on a Jack product. I actually have a “fizzy” mouth feel, akin to the 2019.01 Bookers but with far more flavor. This finish is by far my favorite and most interesting part of this drink. I am not a Jack fan. But I can respect well made whisky nonetheless. I genuinely love the spin they put on the Jack profile here, and the flavors were so bold, it only took a few sips of my 2-ounce sample to get those notes. I poured the rest over ice, and as suspected, it shines here. It’s basically a Jack and coke (no coke required). If I had more, I’d also try it as a mixer, because I think it’d have a shot at “best on show” in the Jack and Coke category.
Oban 14 Year
Peated Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTasted February 3, 2021Some days I crack open a new bottle to grieve, like the day I realized that this surgery had to be my last, and to make sure it would be, I would have to give up my lifelong love affair with soccer decades earlier than I would’ve liked. This is not one of those days. Some days I crack open a new bottle to celebrate, like the day I get the all-clear from my surgeon to be done with weekly trips to physical therapy after months of hard work. This IS one of those days. I went to my local liquor store to pick out something new to celebrate. The manager was too busy with a shipment gone wrong, something about someone jamming too many wine bottles into one box, so I had to figure out something new and tasty on my own. Bourbon selection was depressing. There were a few scotches that I had never tried, but I landed on this guy for 2 main reasons. 1- On the back of the tube it recommends Talisker, which I know I like. That makes this bottle the friend of a friend. Edit: Talisker did not recommend Oban on the back of its box, so this just got awkward. 2- It calls itself a “western Highlands” scotch. I have no idea what that means. I’m generally positive on Highlands scotches, so western mean that plus cowboys, right? Forgive me Scotland, I know nothing of your history. Or geography. Nose is dough, green grapes, raisin, grain, tart yogurt. It’s gentle and inoffensive. Body is acidic. Spicier than I’d expected. I get jalapeño, cheddar, blue cheese. Finish is mild smoked meat, baking powder, and black pepper. Faint orange at the very end. A splash of water made some fascinating changes. It basically nullified the nose, which was already relatively mild. More interestingly, the water really helps this body, and introduces a sweet mouthfeel that I could not detect at that stage previously, along with caramel, pear, and rice pudding flavors. I can taste that mochi stuff I put on froyo sometimes. Finish still has a pleasant tongue buzz, but there’s vanilla, toffee, dark chocolate, and possibly raspberry. I like this scotch. I don’t love it, but that’s okay. At the price I paid for it, I doubt I will ever repurchase, and I’d probably recommend mooching this from a friend or buying a glass at a bar if you’re curious.93.0 USD per Bottle
Benchmark Top Floor Bourbon (86 Proof)
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted January 26, 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 Journeyman has a WCS so low, you’d have to pay me to take it. And I still might not. What do you want me to do with this? Hotel Tango has a very high WCS, and if I ever get into gin, it’ll probably be because they make one and I get curious. Similarly, Buffalo Trace has a very high Whiskey Credit Score with me. I’m a little concerned that it’s a blank check. If Rock Hill Farms ever did the collectible topper thing like it’s younger sibling, maybe each glass topper came in different colored glass and you had to collect the whole rainbow... I’d probably have to sell my car and start biking to work. 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 again, those bastards own my wallet. The question wasn’t which one, it was: “Where’s the nearest ATM?” 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 out of 10: Benchmark Top Floor. Nose is sugar, lemon, oats. It’s a lemon-frosted oatmeal cookie. Is that a thing? Body is caramel, honey, vanilla, milk. Mild apple and oats, but that milk is dominate. Finish is baking spices, citrus. This is the place in my experiment where mashbill 1 starts becoming enjoyable for me. This is a tasty whiskey at an incredible price. It’s a bit nuttier that I typically care for, but for $13.29 I don’t know if you can find a better bottle. Very low proof, so if you’re used to bonded or higher, this is going to taste like water to you. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 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 deciding which BT stopper to rainbowify, so I may have some fresh material next time. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Fun new discovery about mashbill #1: The oats/oatmeal/oat cookie note is always there, but I never would have noticed it if it hadn’t been for these cheaper iterations.13.29 USD per Bottle
Glen Scotia 15 Year
Single Malt — Campbeltown, ScotlandTasted January 2, 2021This will likely be my last taste for a while, because when you open a new bottle almost every day for a month, turns out you have a lot of whisky to drink. To that end, if any of my distiller friends would like a sample for free plus boat of any of the stuff I tried in December (aside from the sample-sized stuff of course) hit me up. Let’s make some magic happen. I was talking to a few friends last night about my scotch tour over December when it occurred to me that I never hit Campbeltown. Oops. This is the only scotch from Campbeltown available in my area. Nose is... absent. I transferred to a glencairn. Faint lemon, grain, honey, salt. This nose feels a bit astringent, but the notes are very faint. Maple syrup and wet stones come later in the drink. Cinnamon and apple come on the second pour. Body is butter, citrus, raisin, creamed corn. Vanilla too. Again, on the second pour, apple showed up. I got ginger at one point. Finish is black pepper. Surprisingly spicy given the mildness of nose & body. If you let your palate rest for a bit, a very small amount of peat surfaces, I’d say in the form of smoked meat. Very faint, very late in the finish. This is a subtle but well-balanced scotch. I think the mildness of the notes contributes to their number. I could easily see 10 different people trying this and coming up with 10 different dominant flavors. The most opinionated part is that black pepper on the finish, but the rest is so muted. I like it okay, but I ain’t twitterpated. I think if I mapped “cost” vs “enjoyment” of all the scotches I have experienced over the past month, this would be on the wrong side of that regression line, but that’s less a problem with enjoyment and more a problem with cost. For that reason, I factually will enjoy this bottle to the last drop, but when I replace it, I will likely spend less money on a different scotch.70.0 USD per Bottle
Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon (2020)
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted December 31, 2020It’s 2020. It’s December. Let’s shut this year down with a brand new whiskey (or whisky) every day. It’s my own personal whiskey advent calendar. +7! Dec. 31, 2020 It’s yearly release time! I made it through another December trying a brand new whiskey/whisky/rum each day. I really appreciate you Distiller friends for playing along, and pointing me in the direction of a lot of new things that I love. In particular, Spice Tree, Octomore, and Loch Lomond are 3 favorite new things on my shelf, and I’m almost certain I wouldn’t have found any of those on my own. Hell, the Octomore was a special order. So in addition to making this last month (of a very trying year) a lot of fun, you also changed my outlook on scotch and the look of my whiskey shelf. While about half of my bourbon supremacy schtick is for fun, I genuinely did believe that bourbon had a more diverse range of flavors and a greater flavor density. Leaving the Speyside region killed premise 1, and Octomore swallowed premise 2 whole without saying sorry. While I still prefer bourbon, I no longer view it as an argument to be won. Scotch has a lot to offer, so thank you for changing my mind. Nose is brinier than I’d expect. There’s pickles, lemon, apple, tea leaves, sugar, caramel, pancake batter, maple syrup. Fantastic nose. That body. The high rye influence is jarring at first, but it’s growing on me. With it comes heavy cane sugar, blood orange, green apple, and caramel. There’s a very grainy mouth feel, but it works. Finish is dark chocolate, cinnamon, pepper. Pepper over cinnamon. Nice buzz that trails off. I like this whiskey. Last time I tried one of these, my hair was 90% shorter, my family was 20% fewer in number, and my number of tastes was 95% fewer. A lot has changed, and I was afraid that I would be disappointed. It’s not quite what I expected or remembered, but I truly can’t find fault with it. It’s extremely well done. I added an ice cube on my second pour, and this is also phenomenal. Complexity goes way down, but the caramel and fruity notes emerge even more. On the rocks, this reminds me a lot of Rock Hill Farms or Hancock’s. And coming from me, that’s one of the biggest praises a bourbon can receive. Everybody have a safe and amazing New Years. Bugger off 2020, and cheers to 2021! ‘Tis the season. I’m day-to-day on my whiskey selection, so if you’re reading this and there’s something readily available out there you’d like me to enjoy/suffer through this holiday season, leave it in the comments. Merry whiskey to all, and to all a beer flight!182.0 USD per Bottle
Peated Single Malt — Highlands, ScotlandTasted December 30, 2020It’s 2020. It’s December. Let’s shut this year down with a brand new whiskey (or whisky) every day. It’s my own personal whiskey advent calendar. +7! Dec. 30, 2020 This is the first time I have tried to understand a non-Speyside regionally, though I’ve seen other people do this before. My current impression is that the Highlands are my jam, with Loch Lomond, Compass Box (Spice Tree), and Highland Park being three solid new discoveries for me this December. And I understand the caveats that go into calling Compass Box a highland scotch, but the argument could be made. So I’m going to attempt to nail down expectations for this one. I’ll start small, since I’m still learning here. I’m going to assume low peat, juiciness, some sort of citrus, and an oily, sweet mouth feel. This is my final sample from the very generous @PBMichiganWolverine and so one more big thank you for the many experiences you’ve given me this December. Nose is low burn, but also low in scent. I honestly don’t get a lot. Oats, bran cereal, and a very low smoked meat note with some effort. Body starts off subtly, then builds. Holy cow that’s fascinating. Notes are orange and sugar initially, but there’s a sharp turn mid-body toward bitterness. I’m not sure what I’d call that note. On a bourbon I might call it leather, but it’s different here. I’m going to go with (don’t judge me) the taste of dried sweat on skin. I said don’t judge me. Finish has some smoked meat on it, maple syrup, baking powder, black pepper, baked bread, cinnamon. It’s a punch on your taste buds, and I dig it. I need to say something about the mouth feel of this whisky, because it damn near knocked me out of my chair a second ago. I often like a mouth feel that comes at you like a sine wave, where as the drink develops on your tongue you have changes in texture, you have rise and fall of how you experience the flavors, and you have some wrap-up of all those things that makes the drink feel complex and dynamic. This is not that. Even if you wrap in the nose, this experience starts like a volume dial at 1 that gradually cranks up to 11 by the finish. There’s a reason I got few notes in the beginning and a boatload at the end, and it was because of that ever-increasing intensity of experience. That first sip I thought my head might explode. I don’t know what that is or how they accomplished it, but I really don’t remember having that specific experience before. The flavors were all good, and perhaps with more of it I could have figured out more, but the first few sips were pure survival mode. I both liked it and was confused by it. I think this makes sense as a manifestation of my very fuzzy understanding of “highland scotch.” I was kind of off on the juicy/sweet bits, but the rest of it tasted like what I was thinking. I maintain that the highlands are my jam! ‘Tis the season. I’m day-to-day on my whiskey selection, so if you’re reading this and there’s something readily available out there you’d like me to enjoy/suffer through this holiday season, leave it in the comments. Merry whiskey to all, and to all a beer flight!