Maker's Mark Private Select Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted"Chocolate Marmalade" pick by OHLQ. 110.9 proof, bottled SEP2020. Stave profile: 2 Baked American Pure, 2 Seared French Cuvée, and 6 Roasted French Mocha. Not listed on the app, and I don't have a good, unopened bottle photo in order to add it (which I found seems to matter to nobody except myself). The Maker's Mark Private Selection program has to be one of the best ideas in bourbon, period. Not only is there so much customization involved, but it's a great way to bond a little closer with your favorite stores and bars. Plus, having been to the underground "library" and seen just how much has already been made, being able to have another one is exciting no matter the profile. This one means a good amount to me, as it was a Christmas gift from a good friend. I don't like to give bottles to others personally, but any time somebody gives me something so custom (and somehow found in OH, no less), I feel pretty flattered. The smell easily has chocolate on it, more so raw cocoa powder, with some citrus behind it, but not necessarily orange. A ~110 proof whiskey is easily the perfect range to unlock a lot of flavors, and also works well with the nose itself, allowing easy access to the scent without being too overpowering. Caramel, vanilla, and oak are also present, but these are classic notes found in Maker's Mark cask strength anyway. So, I've never had a Private Selection with this many of the Roasted French Mocha, and always wondered if it was really so potent with the delivery of the "mocha" profile. Well, it's definitely true to the name. I didn't know how or if coffee would come into play, but it does, and after the hit from the chocolate; I would equate it to a chocolate covered espresso bean. The finish is hot and long, which is expected from the base cask strength, but what was a taste and feeling of liquid chocolate changes to cocoa powder that coats the gums and stays around for a bit. If there are any other flavors imparted from the other 4 staves, I don't get them well enough to distinguish it from regular cask strength. Notably, the citrus/orange that was expected to be found (from the name) is missing for me. The individual that gifted me this had also purchased a different Private Selection profile (I do not remember the specifics of the profile), and let me try that one as well. As it turns out, I liked his bottle better, and he liked mine better. But he flipped a coin in order to gift me this, so we honored it (I guess we'll just have to visit more often). One of the reasons I liked this profile less than the other one I tried is due to the high sweetness, imparted not only from the wheat in the base spirit, but the added "mocha" flavor from the stave combo. If you told me this was a flavored whiskey, I may believe you, and the only aspect I would question is why and how someone would produce a flavored whiskey at such a high proof. However, there's certainly nothing else in my collection with a flavor like this, and this still easily hits the sweet spot when you need a little high proof burn (or in my case, when you can't stand drinking watered down offerings any longer).
George Remus Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon
Bourbon — Indiana, USATastedCask what? Damn, it's not that hard. Too bad I don't have a clean photo to make my own (although I can see that clean photos don't mean as much to others). Liquor Barn 2020 barrel pick, barrel #498. Bottled at 121.5 proof. I've passed on this once before, as I usually try not to give any business to whiskeys that remain mysteries (great way to do business). However, with this being a barrel pick and cask strength, it did intrigue me enough to pull the trigger. The nose has plenty of ethanol, but that was expected. It is hard to get any other notes, but since I have to fill in the blanks myself, I'd say it does smell high corn, with rye making up the rest. I do specifically get some butterscotch and vanilla, leading me to the high corn assumption. Of course, the taste starts hot, but it is manageable, as are all cask strength whiskeys. It's bland, but not flavorless; it has good traditional rye bourbon flavors typical of MGP bourbons, but struggles to distinguish itself any further. There's charred oak, caramel, vanilla, brown sugar, yadda yadda, but so far it's just the proof that's different from other MGP nobodies (no hate to MGP, but decent hate for mystery MGP). Yeah, it's a good cask strength offering, but being a barrel pick was the only way it could get away being priced at what it was, and even then it was still too expensive for what I got. It will appease my friends who absolutely cannot drink anything less than 120 proof, but hopefully even they can see that this is just bourbon. Having said that, I believe this is a good standard to judge all bourbon across, as it's simple, traditional, and, most importantly, not watered down.
Town Branch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Single Barrel Reserve
Bourbon — Lexington, KY, USATastedLiquor Barn barrel pick, barrel #1260, bottle #83 of 206, barreled 10MAY2014 and bottled 03AUG2020. I don't know why I had the urge to buy this, other than it being a barrel pick, and for unknown reasons, I can't seem to resist that. Town Branch's standard bourbon is quite bad, but I remember their rye whiskey actually being decent. With this one not only being a single barrel, but also aged for just over 6 years, this may be enough to bring more excitable flavors to the party. There is a lot of ethanol on the nose, probably right on the line of it being too overpowering. I get some mild caramel scent, and some dark sugar, but I'm not totally convinced that it's brown sugar, if that makes any sense. The taste starts by coating the gums, more so than expected for this proof. I was very fearful when black cherry was given as a tasting note on the bottle, but now that I'm tasting it, I can confirm that there is a dark berry flavor, but thankfuly it does not overwhelm the palate. The oak flavor also persists, but perhaps only as a toasted oak note instead of charred, as I'm not getting any of the typical vanilla or caramel notes anywhere. The finish is very hot, and really hammers home the main flavor that is stewed berries, almost that of a good Pinot Noir. I very much despise bourbons with fruity notes, which is usually a factor seen from younger offerings. However, this 6 year version is aged just long enough to forgive and forget grainy flavors of young bourbons, as the barrel has done sufficient work on mellowing it out, whereas the proof allows you to taste the flavors offered without any hesitation. If, for whatever strange reason, you're looking for a bourbon with fruity notes, but also one that's not boring, this is it.
Willett Family Estate Bottled Rye 4 Year
Rye — Kentucky, USATastedWas able to locate this today for a decent price. I've seen it around here and there, inflated to hell, but have been wanting another good rye lately, so it seemed fair. I remember trying this at the distillery (although I don't know if it was the 4 year or otherwise) and it being a good rye representation. For the life of me, I don't understand why it's regarded as such a rarity (other than the fact that people cream over any whiskey that begins with the letter "W"), but maybe I'll get to find out a sliver of why in the next few minutes. I'm loving the color on this one, but disappointed that the cask proof is only 105. (Has cask strength simply been getting nerfed over the years? A shame that that's blindly accepted.) Bright grain spice, good mint and cinnamon, and a bit of something sour as a surprise guest. The scent easily showcases a young spirit, although I've found 4+ year old rye whiskeys to start hitting sweet spots, whereas bourbon takes much longer. This has such a strong malt character, more so than any other rye whiskey I've ever had. In fact, the beginning of the taste is barrel (vanilla, caramel) flavor, but as soon as air is introduced, Scotch levels of malt shine through, along with the expected rye spice and burn. The finish is long in both of the above regards, which is not fun, because the longer the malt lasts, the more out of place it seems. I think I have an idea on why this is rare and highly regarded now. With the label, bottle shape, and malty character, this is a whiskey that is trying to appeal to all markets; something a Scotch lover could easily show off the same as a bourbon or rye goer. For me, this is not a good example of what I think a good rye whiskey is. Distiller thinks this tastes and drinks like a whiskey 3 times the cost; I think the price is too high even for MSRP, and the hype convinces others that a high price means good whiskey, which has never, ever been the case. Rare ≠ good.
Paddleford Creek Bourbon Whiskey
Bourbon — USATastedTasting from a 50ml. While at the store and having noticed they had a lot of different 50ml sizes of whiskeys that I had not heard of or had, I only decided on this one. The problem is, I can't remember why I thought I was going to enjoy this one over any of the other mystery bottles. All I remember is shuddering at the charcoal filtering, but I guess curiosity won me over somehow. Fortunately, the scent here is actually quite a bit enticing, so long as you can get past the extreme napalm that is ethanol vapor. I can smell the nuttiness that Jack Daniel's brings to the party, which I associate with charcoal filtering, since I steer clear of any other brand that uses that same filter medium. However, this is also easily detectable as a bourbon, because the corn seems to rule over the remainder of the nose with a lot of sweetness and sugar. Upon first taste, I struggle with getting anything other than the charcoal filtering nuttiness after a few seconds, likely due to the weak proof. The comparison here to Jack Daniel's was good, and honestly, it's hard for this product is distance itself much further than that. I'm getting a little bit of barrel and young corn sweetness in the middle of everything, but the finish comes quickly, burning any other taste profiles out of the way. As I go back for a few more sips, it's actually the smell that I don't like, leading me to believe this is something different; in fact, I would easily be convinced this is Jack Daniel's but aged in a freshly used bourbon barrel, or a re-charred bourbon barrel, something catchy like that. It's not winning any flashy awards, but I didn't think that's what path I was on here anyway. Honestly, if you're looking for a comparable, yet still different charcoal filtered whiskey, I would actually recommend this. I feel like following all the other painstaking rules to get bourbon on the label (and then filtering it at all, let alone through charcoal) is giving people a false hope of things that could have been. I would say if the strict new barrel rule were dropped (so barrels could be reused and helping to mellow the corn even more) and the proof were increased just slightly to say, 90, then this would actually be a pretty good whiskey without any other standards to worry about.
Redemption High Rye Bourbon Single Barrel Select
Bourbon — Bloomington, IN, USATastedTotal Wine & More selection, barrel #20-079. I've always loved Redemption products. I think the standard high rye bourbon was one of my very first bottles that I had ever purchased, probably some time before I ever thought I'd start collecting. That was when my bar consisted of an upturned milk carton... Wow, how time does fly. I was not aware that they made single barrel offerings, let alone barrel picks; I suppose this could be new, though, since I had to add it to Distiller. But today I found this along with a rum cask aged rye, which was also new to me (maybe next time on that one). It's been a while, but I do remember the rye being potent on the nose (duh). Whereas this barrel still holds true to that, the ethanol is what hits hardest upon first sniff. I'm too lazy to look this up now, but I'm fairly certain this, at 105 proof, is slightly higher than the standard product, it's just hitting harder than I expected. Also on the nose is great, lightly charred oak, and mild vanilla. Speaking of rum from before, there's also a slight sugar sweetness, which bonds nicely with the spice and punch. So maybe I wasn't crazy with that whole sugar sweetness thing. The first taste brings a whole lot of sweet to my tongue, while the rye works into my outer gums before presenting itself. I can tell the corn is the star here (which is odd since 60% is not necessarily high corn content for a bourbon), with the sweet from that combining well with the unknown age and oak. It tastes like vanilla and sugar cane are the leading profiles, but it feels more well rounded than that, likely the rye doing a fine job in bringing the cinnamon gum burn in at just the right moment. The finish shows that the whiskey itself has a fairly light body, but the grain, particularly the high rye content, linger around to continue to showcase the base flavor. I'm happy to say that I enjoyed this slightly more than I anticipated. I didn't think it was going to be bad, by any means, but I'm really enjoying how this tastes both very unique and yet still standard. The friendly, cute employee used one descriptor of this being "complex," and although I detest that as an adjective, comparatively, it isn't far off. If one were to believe that rye bourbon is the only true bourbon (they would certainly have good values, assuredly), then this carries that belief to an even higher level by putting all the focus on the grain combo at it's roots, and gives no other gimmicks. Sure it's a single barrel and uniqueness is implied, but this is also what I remember from the standard high rye bourbon bottle, and this was clearly a good pick.
Peated Single Malt — Islands, ScotlandTastedIt's been quite some time since I've had the standard Talisker 10 year, and although this sounds pretty different from that one, I was really just feeling very seafaring and needed to add something else like that to my collection. However, after reading into it, I'm very excited about the de-charred and re-charred barrels. The bottle is really beautiful, and contrasts very well with the deep color of the whisky itself. The smell starts strong with the smoke, but peat and honey enter the picture quickly afterwards. The proof is slightly higher than most Scotches, but the ethanol does hit my nose more than what I would have expected. The taste starts strong, but begins in the gums as a burn before the smoke and peat round out the remainder on the tongue. I expected to taste more salt or brine, and although it's there, it's not enough to make me envision a storm or the ocean. It does taste like a much peatier Scotch, say Ardbeg, got mellowed out by aging in a rickhouse near the shore. I'm assuming this is aged less than the 10 year version, so I can see how "storm" is a good descriptor, but it's also not different enough to justify the price. The taste is good, especially if you want a bit of a heavier Scotch, but I don't get any other sea notes that I was hoping to find here.
Puncher's Chance Single Barrel Cask Strength
Bourbon — Bardstown, KY, USATastedLiquor Barn barrel pick. Picked from Warehouse D. Hoping this will be good. I usually don't buy anything new that I can't find any information on, and although I was able to get some info on this after a bit of digging, it really should not be that hard to learn about your product that you're trying to sell me. The original Puncher's Chance wasn't interesting enough for me, but seeing that Liquor Barn was getting this exclusive single barrel, and getting it at barrel strength, caught my interest. Plus, it's sourced from Bardstown, the heart of KY for bourbon (in my opinion), so I should hope to like this at least somewhat. For some unknown reason, I thought this was going to have strong cherry notes, but luckily it does not. Instead, I initially got a very strong cinnamon spice on the nose, but after coming back to it, this mellowed out to just a little bit of light fruit and some berries, but mostly good oak caramel and heavy ethanol from the proof. The proof, high but not insanely so, is the first thing that goes to work, coating the gums with a nice spice forward profile. I'm getting a bit of the light fruit along with some young grain flavor as well, but the majority of the flavor is really "standard" bourbon, something you would expect to come from a veteran Bardstown distillery. The finish lasts a good while due to the proof, but fades away quickly from all flavor except a bit of dark chocolate. I would not be surprised at all to find that this involves 1792's mash bill or even the final product right out of the barrel. If you like the 1792 small batch, you would like this, and honestly not find too much of a difference between the two. This costs a little too much to justify itself given the similarities, but because this is also a rare offering, redeems itself back well enough in that way.
Boone County Small Batch Straight Rye Whiskey
Rye — Boone County, KY, USATastedThis one makes me a bit giddy. It feels like forever ago, but I just confirmed that it was only March of last year that I was at the distillery, and tasted the 1833 bourbon and the rye new make. Having thought the rye was easily in my top 3 favorite rye whiskeys, even being unaged, I followed Boone County closely in wait for the aged product. I remember them saying it had already been aging for a few years and would be ready soon, so I waited. Today, I gleefully find out I has a minimum age statement of 5 years, so my very high expectations will hopefully not over-judge what I'm sure will be a good product. Great rye spice on the nose, with a spot on balance between cinnamon, grass, mint, and a bit of candy sweetness. This does not include great barrel spice, but it is actually oak spice that I'm getting instead of the traditional vanilla or caramel. There is a slight ethanol burn, too much for being only ~90 proof, but I so hope this won't get in the way of the experience. The taste took more surprising turns than I was expecting, but all was well received. The initial taste on the cheeks and front of tongue is young grain, but given that this grain is rye, it adds to the profile that will soon change. As I open my mouth for a bit of air, the cinnamon and spice take the show, introducing good burn, but not too much to shudder away. The oak also is tasted at this point, but again, more of the woody spice than the sweet char that is usually expected. The candy, sugary sweetness takes the finish, still resting on a decent cinnamon wave from before. Okay, this is good, and what I expected not only from Boone County, but from a proper rye whiskey. That being said, this also isn't extraordinarily different from some other quality rye whiskeys. If, however, you are a fan of Boone County and are watching them closely as they further develop their younger brand, this should also impress you as it did me. The price point is decent enough to not turn you off if you know the brand, but they likely won't get too many new customers without a bit of a drop. All in all, I'm happy to have found this, and hope that I can not only buy it again, but find it as a higher age several years from now.
Boone County Small Batch Bourbon
Bourbon — USATastedSo, I'm fairly certain that this is finally Boone County Distilling's actual product, whereas the 1833 was confirmed to be their sourced product. Looking through the Distiller results, I was very surprised to see so many different age variations, most of them only a year off from each other. I remember loving 1833, and went crazy for their (not sourced) rye new make, but I suppose we are still waiting on the latter product. This is already a pricey offering from what I've seen (I'm tasting a 50ml), so not sure how the price of higher age bottles would hold up, but that all depends on how the base thing tastes. That's got much more of a depth to the scent than I thought there would be. It's got notes from unfiltered barrel strength products, even though the proof is quite far from it. Huge sweet corn cues, combining with classic barrel vanilla and caramel with just a tad of tobacco, but it's all hidden under a really tame cloud, like it has a lot of careful age behind it (how much, I wonder?). Okay, now it makes sense that the corn was so strong on the nose. Usually it's a blend of grain that gives away that a bourbon is young, but this one was harder to detect. Sure, I could be wrong, but at the end of the day, it TASTES young, and at that point no number makes a difference. Lots of raw corn and a bit of rye, with the good news being that there is nothing else here to complicate it. The finish has a robust bite like it's a higher proof than it is, but this is all in a good way. This really has great potential, and I can't wait until a few more years down the line. So, so many craft distilleries have no patience and release these young bourbons with high price tags, but who can blame them when there are people who will literally buy anything. Again, this is not bad in any sense, it's just premature and young, and should be marketed as such, to avoid disappointment like I just experienced. Had I of bought a full bottle, that would have turned to anger; just put the damn age statement on the bottle again. Unless you're specifically looking for a young bourbon, keep going with 1833.