Davidson Reserve Four Grain
Bourbon — Nashville , USATasted March 8, 2022Batch #009 Bottle #1391 Aged at least 3 years 100 proof / 50% ABV Only a slightly incorrect posting here, score. Given to me as a gift, thank you, Jeromy. I promised to be unbiased and honest with my review as always, and with a young rye/wheat amalgam bourbon from Tennessee, this isn't off to a great start. I absolutely pray this was not charcoal filtered, as so many Tennessee whiskeys are, but since tiny craft distilleries hate giving up information about their products, we'll never know. This also gives us other sins in the form of unknown mash bill percentages and, worse of all, the bleakly hopeful "at least" aging statement. Anyway, with that out of the way, I do love free whiskey, so this is bound to still be an enjoyable tasting. The color is surprisingly very dark for only 3 years old, which is hopeful in the front of being unfiltered or non-chill filtered. There's only one thing I hate more than wheated bourbon, and that's bourbon with wheat AND rye added, as if the distillers didn't know what they wanted to make. Even without the mash bill percentages, there's no way either of these grains are present enough to cut through the corn, which is why the nose is all over the place. I definitely smell sweet corn, almost sickly sweet, with some cinnamon from the rye and some candy from the wheat. It seems balanced at first, but there's far too much fighting for attention, and then there's what I swear is the familiar scent of tang that comes from charcoal filtering, but again, it's hard to distinguish. Honestly, 3 years isn't as young as most craft American whiskeys are today, but the intense raw grain flavor I get up front tells me the age didn't do very much of anything here. From beginning to end, there's a metallic note that I swear is from charcoal, but this is far more intense, like I'm drinking this over rocks of grill briquettes. If this were a standard American whiskey with charcoal filtering disclosed on the label, this flavor, along with a decent ethanol for only 100 proof, would actually be quite enjoyable. But because it's a bourbon with wheat and rye, this flavor is very much out of place. As mentioned before, however, the proof is quite enjoyable, both strengthening the flavors present, and also helping this avoid an even deeper disappointment that would be watery, 80 proof whiskey. The rye is not tasted among the mess, but does stick in the gums a fair amount. After a burp, I realize the corn is also sticking out well, but is still too raw, and definitely needs more barrel time. The finish is hot (good), but also very sticky (bad, in this case), and elicits a face of regret-adjacent after each sip. Today, the sport of the review won out with it's unwavering honesty, as I would not dare waste my own time and rate this anything other than what I believe. Since I have not seen this in any stores, it's likely that this is a very small distillery that either does not distribute or only does so very little. Then I did a little research on them, and it actually appears like they offer quite a few products, which means they should be smart enough to avoid poor choices that lead to this bottle. However, I also realize that this could have easily been a fun experiment before they ever even had a DSP number, and this one just didn't happen to work out, as the fate of experiments very well succumb to sometimes. Normally I am an advocate for just keeping that stuff in the barrel LONGER, but nobody listens, and wants to make a quick buck. With the potent flavors that do not mesh together in this "four grain," however, I say it's probably a good idea to sell as many barrels and bottles of this as you can right now, because I don't predict this surprising anyone later down the road.
Redbreast 12 Year Cask Strength
Single Pot Still — IrelandTasted March 6, 2022Batch B1/20 ABV 57.6% Another huge shout out to Napa Valley Beverage Company, where the selection of Redbreast exceeded more than I've ever seen elsewhere, and certainly more than I'd ever thought I'd see in my lifetime. Given the general weakness of Irish whiskys (almost unanimously ringing in at 80 proof), hunting a cask strength Irish whisky to enjoy this month was my mission. With Redbreast already being a fantastic part of my tasting journey so far, getting this was a no brainer. This also seems like a good place to give thanks to Europe for aging their whisky decades as a minimum, while America is too busy trying to get a quick dollar after 24 months in a barrel. For aging in the same handful of used barrels as European whiskys generally are, this one has a noticeably darker color, albeit only by a small factor. God bless cask strength whisky, because it's so much easier to let the nose go wild in detecting the base notes. A salty caramel along with banana and a touch of citrus are present at first, all on top of an oak presence that's somewhere between toasted and charred. A delightful amount of ethanol that carries the scent without being too overpowering. Because of the high proof, I had to let a few sips acclimate me. Along the way, the ethanol gave me burns that made me think of rye, even though it's not involved at all here, but the gum spice was very much welcomed. At a lower proof, I would expect more fruit or some light spices, but the cask strength has heavy, winter spices that accompany a light vanilla sweetness. The finish is very hot and long, which is very enjoyable, and also imparts similar oak from the nose, although this time much closer to a charred version. As enjoyable as this is, it really changes the image of Irish whisky and Redbreast as well. Redbreast takes the soft, tropical fruit, honey, and floral spices and elevates it with a quality I have not experienced from another Irish distillery. However, this cask strength version really brings about a spiciness that sticks around, very much unexpected from what Ireland offers otherwise, although this is an expected flavor difference since there is almost 20% more ethanol involved. I would not offer this to anyone who is truly looking for a light whisky and is familiar with other distilleries who have released plenty of 80 proof products that they have already enjoyed. Instead, this should go to someone who is versed in detecting flavors hidden inside of strong ethanol, but is still also familiar with the profile of Redbreast or similar Irish whiskys.
Old Soul High Rye Straight Bourbon Single Barrel
Bourbon — USATasted March 3, 2022Private selection by Napa Valley Beverage Company. Barrel entry proof: 114 Barrel number: 16D21B-7 Huge shout out to Sammy at Napa Valley Beverage Company, one of the very few men left out there that still cares for the craft of collecting and helping others to discover good beverages, and not selling out for the money (*cough* BUFFALO TRACE *cough*). His generosity allowed me to taste this bottle before purchasing it, although I certainly wish I had enough money to have purchased all of his barrel picks. Sammy shared that he picks barrels with a long, powerful finish, and although I remember this from my shop taste, let's see how it holds up once I'm home. Given that this is a high rye, unfiltered, cask strength MGP bourbon, there isn't a whole lot to not like here anyway (except for the lack of age statement, which America has apparently given up on). I noticed the color in the bottle was so dark, almost like a shade of walnut, and this reflects similar while in the glass as well. The rye and corn are detected simply on the nose at first, but the rye starts to develop into a freshly cut grass bomb, with some cinnamon and citrus behind it. The corn is a simple sweet, as it always is, but carries some of the classic caramel and vanilla from the barrel, but mostly letting the oak speak for itself. The ethanol is definitely light here, and although the proof isn't super high, I would definitely not have guessed over 50% based on this nose. The initial flavor is light, not so much on the ethanol (although, again, I would not have guessed this was even over 100 proof), but also with light corn and even barley grain. There's a slight bitterness and wet earth flavor that goes along with the raw corn taste, but the corn really owns it. This is where I can certainly tell that this barrel has not aged for long enough, because even the rye is struggling to communicate. As the flavor progresses, the rye thankfully finds it's way into the gums, where familiar cinnamon candy flavors hold true. There's still a slightly smoky, earthy note, maybe a fraction of peat or just moss in general, that stays around to the finish, which does not belong in this mix. The finish does have some more bravado than the earlier body, but the flavors aren't melding together like they should, leaving me a bit let down. MGP makes too much stuff for everything to be good. Especially when a single barrel is involved, and even though I'll support Napa Valley Beverage Company every chance I get (and can afford), not all barrel pick opinions are going to resonate with me. I think this tasted so good in the shop because I was so happy to just get any barrel pick, and this was among the less expensive ones (although still not very affordable; thanks, whiskey economy). I can keep sipping it without hating it, especially as the rye continues to stack on the gums, but this was too pricey to not have something more, like an age statement, or a higher proof, or more rye, etc. This feels too much like every other starter distillery MGP sourced pick, most of which are cheaper and much closer to my location.
Bone Snapper Rye Whiskey Single Barrel
Rye — USATasted February 7, 2022Nice watch photo, genius. Barrel pick from The Party Source Barreled date: SEP2014 Bottled date: NOV2021 Age in months: 86 Bottle number: 133 out of 147 Proof: 119.8 ABV: 59.9% Okay, wow, this really sounds like a unicorn right up front. This little ghost distillery has been popping up a lot (for me) lately, and although I've only had a barrel pick of their Backbone bourbon, I was still a very large fan of that to begin with, so this rye excites me even more. An absolutely fantastic start of 7+ years of age here, which is a really healthy amount for a rye whiskey versus what would normally be around the bare minimum desire for a bourbon. It makes me wonder when the distillery would normally offer up barrels of Bone Snapper for barrel picks, and/or if The Party Source had this barrel in mind for a long time, or if they chose this one for other reasons, where there may have been even longer aged barrels to choose from. Either way, with proof, age, and a delicious 95% rye mash bill checked off, let's waste no time. Truly a lovely color that almost imparts a copper-scarlet hue throughout, much of which coming from a good time in the barrel, but also is a good prediction that heavy char levels were picked for those barrels, and here's hoping. Classic cinnamon, mint, grass, and freshly cracked rye scents join together with a fairly prominent sweet vanilla, spiced oak, and, from somewhere, citrus peels. There's nothing on the nose that's out of the ordinary, although not to say that these classic notes aren't outstanding, especially with the ethanol present but not burning out the nostrils. The first taste is actually not that impressive, truly being used as an acclimation. Before tasting any specific flavors, I notice the whiskey tastes "warm," despite it being slightly below room temperature, where this is normally a felt observation for rye whiskey involving the gums. It takes a good beat, but light cinnamon does become the first tasted note. This is underwhelming at first, until an explosion of spicy, minty grass transforms the mouth, spicing up tongue, gums, and even teeth like a fuel air bomb. This obviously creates a very hot, sticky finish (my favorite kind of finish), but it really seems like this is all from a good batch of fresh rye rather than the proof. I would definitely recommend this never be used in cocktails; the base flavors are too weak to make a noticeable statement, and the finish would either overpower or underpower other ingredients in said cocktail. However, this is only moderately enjoyable neat, and really only due to the finish. I know for a fact that adding a few drops of quality water would transform this in all the right ways, and although I do not officially rate modified spirits, I'm very much excited to pour another glass like this. I will do my best to keep an eye on this distillery for future products, since their flagship bourbon and rye whiskey hit and improve upon classic flavor profiles and expectations.
Sipsmith VJOP London Dry Gin
Navy-Strength Gin — EnglandTasted February 1, 2022Batch #VJOP/00053 Bless be gin that does not fuck around. As hard as it is to find Navy strength gin, I am so ecstatic to have found one that triples the essence of why we love gin: the juniper berry. Ever since my favorite flavor profile became bitter, juniper, and in turn, gin, has become a lovely staple in the bar (albeit more so in the summer), and very exciting to taste and explore. The problem, as this applies to most other spirits as well, as anything that's worth a damn will either never be found, or never be distributed in the first place. I decided to go into Sipsmith blind, and although I've never heard of this distillery and also very much dislike London gin, let's see if they can at least make the Navy, any Navy for that matter, proud. Guess what, juniper on the nose. Duh, although there are layers of different notes here. I'm definitely getting clean, whole juniper berries with a vegatal backing, pine and black pepper forward juniper paste, and citrus or even soap notes from classic distilled juniper. Or so I imagine. It's clean, but this also comes from a good hit of ethanol, which is both enjoyed in the glass as it is burning to the inner nostril. I could swear I have wet, whole juniper berries in my mouth upon first sip. This develops indeed into a vegetal body, which is very, very dry, although has just a touch of citrus to slightly balance it. Near the finish is where it becomes the hottest, but is not hot enough to deter the appreciation of the juniper. The finish is more of the raw juniper berry, just slightly brighter than tasted up to this point. I actually do not like this, and honestly, the only reason is due to the immense dryness typical of London gins. The juniper is captured in all it's glory here, but unfortunately, is not complicated by any other flavors. I have to think that, if this were a typical American gin, a good portion of citrus and/or floral extras would work immaculately with the juniper bomb. Thankfully, this still has great uses on a bar, and would make a hot and damn good gimlet or gin & tonic.
Hard Truth Sweet Mash Rye
Rye — Indiana, USATasted January 30, 2022Having just had the standard rye whiskey from Hard Truth, I had done enough research to find the other new whiskey products that they were releasing, and was really excited to see that this was a part of it. Especially so given how rare sweet mash is, but at least they are proper enough to give it an extreme percentage of rye, as it should be. I resigned to never being able to find it in the shithole that is Ohio, but I luckily found myself out of state for business (and confirmed my new credit card works), and found this among my gains. Even though I did confirm that this is not Straight No Chaser's brand (just a collaboration for one of their shows in the past), a barrel proof proper rye did sound like a great improvement from the original rye whiskey (and a proper 115 proof, none of that 105 "barrel proof" garbage). However, for $72 a bottle (and "on sale," no less), the expectations are incredibly high. After all, being a small distillery does not automatically allow you to charge a premium for your whiskey without justifying it; there is no substitute for time, and having the "dumped on" date but not the barreled date is not a good start. The scent starts out quite nicely, and very simple. The rye grain is very potent, both from abundance and ABV, with notes of cinnamon, mint, citrus, and a decent amount of red berries. I can tell the spiciness will easily (and thankfully) enter the gums when tasted, but I'm very curious about the lighter notes that are very much not typically found in other rye whiskies. As predicted, the initial flavor is quite hot, with the cinnamon spice overpowering the mint "spice," although this is still present as it attacks the gums, but doesn't dig that deep. The rye grain transitions to a floral flavor after a few seconds, with a bit of citrus floating around, but the sweet/sour berry note on the nose is now missing. The finish is pretty short, given that the floral and citrus notes are too light to be drawn out. However, after a few quick sips back to back, the spices from the gums seem to "release" back into the mouth, rounding out the final flavors with more familiar rye notes. Additionally, this is the first place that I taste oak, most of which is from a lighter barrel char, but compliments the lighter notes of the taste; I wish this was more present during the actual tasting notes. Empty glass scent includes a warmer cinnamon, like from a cobbler, more citrus and mint, and a small touch of raw melon, like cantelope or honeydew. This is actually a cool, fairly unique rye whiskey, especially with the floral, berry, and citrus notes that I have yet to really find in another rye whiskey. Since the age is quite young, it seems the high proof is the only thing that gives this particular rye the more familiar spicy mouth feel, so this was probably the best choice of bottling strength. I'd love to continue supporting this whiskey and continue buying it, especially since each batch will be fairly different from each other, given the sweet mash, but this is definitely not $72 good. If this price point continues, this will be my final bottle purchased from this distillery, until the price point becomes more competitive, or until the age more accurately reflects the monetary amount demanded.
Hard Truth Indiana Straight Rye
Rye — Indiana , USATasted January 24, 2022This will be the second time reviewing this, the first being on "episode 0" of my Drinking Buddies podcast, set to release soon. Hard Truth has been an ignored distillery (by me) for the last few years, as all they have released is "party" liquors and liqueurs with flavoring to attract the masses. I went on a good research high during the podcast, although was still unable to confirm or deny if this is the distillery belonging to the once-local a cappella men's group, Straight No Chaser. I seem to remember the guys of that group promoting Hard Truth's products, and I know the vodka had merch and posters with SNC that at least represented a collaboration. Either way, this distillery appears to be coming around since their inception in 2015, to grab the whiskey market with some new, fairly impressive products. Knowing the 4 year age statement and 100 proof status helps here, along with the known rules of the new "Indiana rye" law. However, as I wondered why this wasn't bottled in bond, I found that this particular whiskey is blended, and not distilled by Hard Truth. Although blended American whiskey (a la Johnnie Walker) should never exist, this did make me think that it is fairly likely that the whiskeys in question came from MGP, given the close proximity. On top of an unreleased mash bill (a sin for rye whiskey, with the blending being no excuse), we go into this with a fair shining of hope, albeit still pretty confused. My buddy commented on the lovely, dark color during the podcast, but on this night, I am seeing both the bottle and the amount in my glass as an expected 4 year hue, if not a 2 or 3 year lightness. Thankfully, the nose imparts a very high rye content, at least 85% or higher, as my guess. I get plenty of the bright rye notes, like citrus, grass clippings, and simple, raw grain of both rye and barley. I also get some cinnamon, not artifical, surprisingly very little oak, and just a touch of dark fruit. It doesn't have a lot of layers, but it is exactly what I'm looking for in a classic rye whiskey with no gimmicks. The initial flavor provides some of the bright citrus, and then moves into a bit of a floral body. It takes a few sips for the rye to get into the gums, and since the proof isn't that low, this can support that there may be a lower rye mash bill. The cinnamon flavor exists only around the gums, where the tongue tastes rye grain, somewhere between raw and mellowed down by the barrel, even though the oak flavor is almost entirely missing. The finish is light, but provides continued rye flavor, with the spice persisting only if you've had quite a few sips. Considering this distillery just decided to release more serious products, even though some of them are not their own, this is a pretty damn impressive shot into a good rye whiskey. Of course, I will always want a single batch of any American whiskey, because rye especially deserves to shine alone, so I hope they find this approach sooner rather than later. Although their other new releases don't sound interesting enough on their own to seek out bottles, the promise of ATV distillery tours on the website, all within a beautiful small town, does mean I may find myself there in the near future... (ATVs are far more fun in a snowy winter than a muddy summer, if only by a little bit).
Brother's Bond Bourbon
Bourbon — USATasted January 2, 2022Yet another celebrity whiskey that nobody asked for. It turns out it actually wasn't me that really wanted this whiskey because I happen to know the names of guys who play vampires in some movie or show, as shocking as that is. Normally I would give every whiskey and distillery a fair chance to represent their product from a clean slate, but I've never met a single celebrity endorsed or made spirit that was even remotely palpable. Given that this was likely sourced from MGP gives it slight hope, in addition to the mash bill and barrel charring also not being too weird or different. The nose is full of charcoal, sweet corn, and just a touch of barrel character, leaning towards caramel and vanilla. I might also be detecting some harsh floral notes, almost botanical-like, but it's very similar to the charcoal, which is taking over hard. Naturally there's a very minimal amount of ethanol, since, well, this is the minimum amount of ethanol needed to pass off the minimum standard of whiskey. The body is extremely light, but the flavor starts off with heavy charcoal (think 3 or 4 times that of Jack Daniel's), shocking me to the point of needing several more sips to even detect anything else. The corn is here, very young, but thankfully not raw. The rye also comes through slightly with traditional cinnamon and some vegetal flavors. I don't taste the wheat specifically, but I can tell it's a touch sweeter than it would be without it. The finish is harsh and hot, but not from ethanol, instead letting the (likely) charcoal filtering coat the gums and quench the thirst for anything to rid the continued flavor. This is pretty bad. I really hope this didn't come from MGP, because that would be a shame to their brand. If it truly was sourced from MGP, I can only imagine these "celebrities" didn't want to spend big money (to increase return on investment), and opted for the "clearance barrels" of stuff that should never see the bottle. This is just marginally above corn whiskey, only because the rye provides a spiciness that just barely reminds me of bourbon. If I wanted a charcoal bomb, I'd drink Gentlemen Jack; corn whiskey with charcoal ice cubes may end up tasting better than this.
Glenlivet Nàdurra Peated Whisky Cask Finish
Peated Single Malt — Speyside, ScotlandTasted December 4, 2021Batch #PW1015 For some reason, I only thought Nadurra was one particular whiskey, and didn't consider it to be a line of cask strength items from Glenlivet. The previous one I had was aged in American oak, so I'm looking forward to the peat notes hopefully found one this one. The color is indeed a light gold, dark straw hue. The scent has plenty of burn to it, but also carries notes of honey, cereal, raw grain, and just a touch of smoke on the nose. The body is more approachable than I would have thought, although the proof picks up quickly on the tongue. A honey flavor is here, although is elevated to an almost spicy range by the proof. The peat flavors come through, but there's no feel of peat in the pores like a proper peated whiskey gives off. The finish is still approachable (as long as you get past the central mouth burn from the heat) with a bit of sweet grain and a light smoke. This may be the only whiskey I've ever had that has actually numbed my front tongue and upper gums. The flavors are still detectable in other parts of the mouth, but there's definitely something missing from the numbness of the aforementioned mouth parts. Overall, this is a highly enjoyable whiskey, but doesn't distinguish itself enough as being "heavily peated," and longs for a flavor enhancer of some kind (like age, a fresh barrel, a certain malt, etc) that just isn't showcased with what's in this glass.
New Riff Single Barrel Barrel Proof Bourbon
Bourbon — Kentucky, USATasted November 21, 2021Barrel #5259, distilled 29AUG2017, bottled 21SEP2021, 108.8 proof, picked by Jay Erisman, Co-Founder. For some reason, I have not officially rated my many previous bottles of this single barrel that I've gone through. As always, I only buy the single barrel rye and bourbon directly from the distillery, only after I have tasted all 3 offerings and picked my favorite, mostly because I want to experience what members of the distillery thought good enough to pick from these barrels. Jay's picks have been my last few purchases, and although this was my favorite pick of the 3 at the distillery, I look forward to tasting it again in a slower environment. An expected color of a 4 year bourbon, very similar to their other single barrels. Bright rye, citrus peels, and bruleed brown sugar on the nose. The scent showcases classic bourbon notes remiscent of some older, more established distilleries and their bourbons. Compared to the other 2 available single barrels, this one is the most familiar and "classic." The rye immediately penetrates the gums on the first sip, giving cinnamon and deep mint flavors, but saving the burning spice for later on in the throat. The mashbill is already a decent balance, but this barrel really combines perfectly mellowed rye flavors with a good amount of sweet corn that allows a fuller body for the finish. The finish focuses entirely on the rye, letting some of the initial notes seep from the gums and combine with a high proof that gives plenty of spice when combine with air, but isn't so overpowering that it doesn't compliment the other found flavors. When reviewed by itself, this sounds somewhat bland and quite close to notes found on the standard New Riff bourbon. This is certainly true, but all of these notes are greatly elevated, and create a bourbon that's approachable by a good number of folks, but can be recognized still as a unique single barrel. One of the management members of New Riff once told me that their standard bottled in bond offerings fully represent their vision for their desired bourbon, and the single barrels are "experiments" and different takes on the standard stuff. I tend to disagree across the board; a single barrel selected by a distillery member should be an elevated version of whatever your standard offerings are, and should be just as susceptible for judgment as a batched blend, if not more so. This barrel is an ideal sample of this thought, and would really only benefit from a few more years age.