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Bourbon Review

ETL_710KHe’s back! Long awaited and much anticipated, Elmer T. Lee has returned to store shelves, even if it’s just for a short while. Today, The Bourbon Guys were fortunate enough to lay our hands on a bottle of 1919-2013 Elmer T. Lee, Single Barrel, Sour Mash, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey! A commemorative, limited edition, this offering comes in at 93 proof (in honor of Elmer’s 93 years spent making this world a better place), slightly higher than the traditional Elmer T. Lee. At just a couple of dollars more than its 90 proof brother, 1919-2013 is worthy of a far higher price tag. Continue reading


 Over the past year, The Bourbon Guys have had the honor of tasting many great and different bourbons. As a follow up to last year’s “Sweet 16 of American Whiskey” we have decided to share our list of Sweet Sixteen Bourbons for 2013 and 2014. Once again we also wanted to release this list in honor of March Madness. We see this as fitting because it’s the start of the NCAA Basketball Tournament Sweet 16 and because we are likely to stir up a little “Madness” with our choices. Continue reading

OldFitzgeraldEarlier this week, we had the unique opportunity to try Old Fitzgerald with our friend, and foremost bourbon historian, Michael Veach of the Filson Historical Society and 64 of our newest friends. This long running product of corn, wheat and malted barley comes in at 100 proof, but it is as smooth as any bourbon at least 10 proof points its junior.

Bourbon Name: Old Fitzgerald 100

Distiller: Heaven Hill Distillery

Proof: 100

Age: At Least 4 Years, but the color implies older components

Year: 2014

Color: Honey Burnt Orange

Nose: The nose began with sweet caramel giving way to that Heaven Hill nuttiness of pecans. One of our dear friends called attention to a silky “buttercup” – MW.

Taste: Pears present on the front palate with a prominent butter pecan. The mid-palate finds pepper spice and a rise in savory barrel elements.

Finish: The pepper carries through the long, long finish where it is met with a sweet vanilla, butter, and a return of the Heaven Hill signature nutty pecan.

Overall Rating: ( 86/ 100 ) Get It

Old Fitzgerald has proven once again why it has so long endured. From distillery to distillery, this label has undergone mild modification over its extensive history, but its quality carries on. At $15.00 per 750 ml, do yourself a favor: Pick up a bottle and have a friend set up a blind tasting with this one in the mix. I think you’ll be surprised at just how much you like it compared to your usual suspects.


A few days ago, we had the opportunity to revisit an old favorite, Old Forester Signature Bourbon. This 100 proof staple from Brown-Forman is a heartier version of its 86 proof sibling, and a solid offering form master distiller Chris Morris. This Straight Bourbon whiskey lacks an age statement, but we would peg it at least four years old. At less than $20 per 750 ml, this bourbon is a star of its price point.

Bourbon Name: Old Forester Signature

Distiller: Brown Forman

Proof: 100

Age: 4+ Years

Year: 2014

Color: Rich amber

Nose: The nose produced sweet elements of apricots and brown sugar. Mild rye spice and cinnamon rise up to balance the experience.

Taste: The front palate is dominated by candied walnuts, leather and brown sugar. Cinnamon spice rises on the mid-palate along with the caramels of charred oak. Mild rye helps to balance the sweetness, but we might have liked a bit more of this savory spice.

Finish: The finish is clean and relatively long for a bourbon of this price point. The sweet apricot notes and pleasant nuttiness return to bring the experience full circle.

Overall Rating: ( 88 / 100 ) A Definite Go-To

Old Forester Signature is an elevated offering from a staple in the bourbon world, Brown Forman. The sweet elements are balanced by pleasant, savory spice on the mid-palate where they become the star straight through to the finish. If you are looking for a well-crafted bourbon at an entry level price point, you may just have found it.

GeorgeTStagg-2013Bourbon Name: George T. Stagg

Distiller: Buffalo Trace

What does the distiller say: “Straight out of the barrel, uncut and unfiltered, the taste is powerful, flavorful and intense. Open it up with a few drops of water, sit back and ponder the wonders of the universe.”

Proof: 128.2

Age: 15 Years (or so we’ve been told)

Year: 2013

Color: ( 92 )

Deep, burnt orange

Nose: ( 91 / 100 )

Nutty, like roasted pecans, with vanilla and butterscotch

Taste: ( 91 / 100 )

The front reveals mild oak with elements of sweet vanilla and caramel. Heat rises on the mid-palate carrying the sweet elements to the roof of the mouth where they linger into the finish.

Finish: ( 90 / 100 )

Heat fades a little as the savory notes are further revealed in a finish of moderate duration.

Overall Rating: ( 91 / 100 ) Buy (Stagg is still Stagg!)

The nose is worthy of the Stagg moniker, but we would have liked a longer duration on the finish. The front palate flavors are worthy of the Antique Collection series, but the mid-palate is the star as those sweeter elements collect at the roof of the mouth, a truly unique experience. Overall, much like its proof, the 2013 George T. Stagg is a great whiskey, but falls just short of the epic 2012 bottling.

WT_ForgivenBourbon Name: Forgiven

Distiller: Wild Turkey

What does the distiller say: An accidental blend of 78% Bourbon and 22% High-Proof Rye

Proof: 91

Age: Blend of ages

Year: 2013

Color: Golden copper


Nose: (89/100)

Neat -

Tim: (88/100) “Light, sweet, and flowery. The bourbon component is pronounced but you definitely get a very nice high rye nose. I Could smell this all day.”

Larry: (89/100) “Floral overtones are aromatic but not cloying. The rye comes through in perfect balance with the bourbon, offering vanilla and caramel with spicy notes of cinnamon.”

Water – A few to several drops of water did not appreciably change our observations.

Taste: (91/100)

Neat –

Tim: (90/100) “Brown sugar, giving way to cinnamon and rye spice on the mid-palate.”

Larry: (91/100) “Beautiful and balanced. Bread pudding on the front with rye rising to strike a perfect rye/bourbon balance mid-palate.”

Water – A few to several drops of water did not appreciably change our observations.

Finish: (90/100)    

Neat –

Tim: (89/100) “Long, and mellow with just the right amount of rye and cinnamon spice.”

Larry: (90/100) “Lengthy. The balance on the mid-palate carries clear through to the end. The residual flavors are wonderful. Greater duration is all that could have given this finish a higher rating.”

Overall Rating: (90/100)

Though some believe that Forgiven is more marketing than mistake, we have it straight from Mr. Jimmy Russell that Forgiven was, in fact, the most fortunate error in recent memory. Whichever you believe, you can rest assured that Wild Turkey Forgiven will not disappoint.

Picture3Bourbon Name: Stagg Jr.

Distiller: Buffalo Trace

What does the distiller say:

Uncut and unfiltered, this robust bourbon whiskey ages for nearly a decade and boasts the bold character that is reminiscent of [George T. Stagg] himself.

Proof: 134.40

Age: 8 Years

Year: 2013


Color: Very Deep Amber

Nose: 91/100

Floral with strong overtones of sweet vanilla. The high proof does not translate to overpowering alcohol as might be expected. A few drops of water adds to the sweetness.

Taste: 89/100

Neat – Bold up front, as the proof would suggest, followed by caramel and a lot of vanilla mixing on the mid-palate. The mouth feel was noticeably thin and showed its relative youth just a little.

With Water – A few drops of water and the flavor opened up a little providing slightly more sweetness and depth of flavor.

Finish: 86/100

Neat – The finish was mild and, as anticipated by the thin mouth feel, faded more quickly than we like.

With Water – The finish changed dramatically, actually adding to the duration, a welcome surprise.

Overall Rating: 89/100 (Recommended)

Recommended, especially if you like the higher proof bourbons. It has been produced as a more accessible version of the older and nearly unattainable George T. Stagg. At roughly $50 retail, we find this bourbon to perform its role admirably.

As the tournament comes to a head, we thought it was appropriate to repost our ‘Sweet 16 of American Whiskey‘. We know there are a great many fine bourbons that did not make this list, and we look forward to hearing your views on the ones that did and/or did not make it… and remember:
“The Best Bourbon is the One You Enjoy” – The Bourbon Guys

Sweet 16 of American Whiskey

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