If you’re reading this you are probably well aware that bourbon is booming. The spirit is seeing a renaissance of incredible magnitude. But how has the recent bourbon boom affected us short term and how will it affect us long term? Continue reading
Earlier 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
Age: At Least 4 Years, but the color implies older components
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
Age: 4+ Years
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.
story by The Bourbon Guys contributor Maggie Kimberl
The bourbon industry has long been thought to be a boys’ club. For years it was run seemingly by men and only men, and men were thought to be the primary consumers of the spirit. But the more I’ve learned about the bourbon industry, the more I’ve come to realize that women have played a critical part not only as consumers, but also as distillers, tasters, and marketers. Continue reading
We recently had the opportunity to taste the new Jefferson’s Ocean bourbon. This craft offering from Jefferson’s is the latest round of seafaring whiskey in this grand experiment by Trey Zoeller. We had the opportunity to discuss the project with Trey at this year’s Bourbon Classic in Louisville, KY. He told us that the latest Ocean is a blend of roughly seven and eight year old whiskeys that were strapped to the deck of an ocean going vessel, kept out at sea for a full ten months, then proofed down to 90. At roughly $70 per 750 ml, we were particularly eager to see the end result. Continue reading
When we first heard about the arrival we were very excited! After all, we’ve never had the privelege to taste a 10 year version of Booker’s, not to mention a 10 year Bourbon that Booker Noe himself had his hand on before his passing in 2004.
Fred Noe stated on the Jim Beam website that “These are some 10-year old barrels laid down from the last bourbon Dad made before he passed away. . . . I have the final say, so if you don’t like it, blame Fred. The only thing Dad told me before he died was, ‘Take care of my Booker’s’.” We think it’s safe to say that Fred is taking care of the Booker’s!
Bourbon Name: Booker’s 25th Anniversary Edition Bourbon
Distiller: Jim Beam
Color: Copper, Deep Amber (A little darker than standard Booker’s)
Age: 10 Years
Nose: The nose on the 25th Anniversary Booker’s does not pack a lot of heat considering the high proof but that is actually a good thing. The lack of burn on the nose allows you to savor the notes of black cherry and banana with a nice blend of pepper spice and pine. The longer you sniff
you even get a little salted caramel flavor. It’s an excellent nose that allows you to enjoy the sum of its parts without frying your nose. Adding a few drops of water didn’t really add much to the nose.
Taste: When you get around to tasting the Booker’s 25th Anniversary Bourbon you get a rich mouth feel with upfront cherry flavors combined with toasted caramel, bit o honey and black walnut with an excellent peppery rye spice. Not a lot of oak but enough. Adding water added more sweetness but that’s about it. We preferred this Bourbon neat.
Finish: The finish of the Booker’s 25th Anniversary Bourbon seems a little mild at first, but what you soonrealize is that the finish only seems mild because there is absolutely no burn when the Bourbon travels down your throat. This is really unique, especially for Bourbon of this proof. There is a very nice taste: sweet cherry and peppery spice with subtle oak that rests on the back and sides of your tongue. The longer you drink the better it gets. This stuff is dangerously drinkable And has much more finesse than regular Booker’s.
Overall: We are so glad and honored that we were able to acquire a bottle of this fine Bourbon. This is a true sipping whiskey that we prefer drinking neat, but I’m sure you can enjoy this fine Bourbon any way you desire. There were only 6000 bottles of this rare Bourbon produced so this one won’t last long. This is also a must have Bourbon for anyone that enjoys nice barrel proof Bourbon with a bit of history behind it. Fred Noe and the rest of the Noe family should be extremely proud of this gem! Get yourself a bottle before this piece of history is gone!
Overall Rating: 93/100
The Bourbon Guys are always looking for new or changing trends that are taking place in the world of American Whiskey. One of the recent trends we’ve been seeing is the term “Solera” aged whiskey. One of the most popular of the “Solera” aged whiskies comes from Hillrock Estate Distillery in Ancram, New York. We wanted to learn more about this product so we thought we would do a little research and give it a try.
According to the Hillrock Distllery website the term “Solera” aging is described as “A stack of barrels where a small portion of whiskey is removed periodically and new whiskey is added. No barrel is ever fully emptied, and age and complexity gradually increase over time. Hillrock marries small barrel-aged Hillrock Estate Bourbon with mature seed bourbon before finishing in 20 year-old Oloroso Sherry casks to balance flavors and add layers of complexity.”
According the the Hillrock website, “the resulting spirit offers a pronounced nose of caramel, dried fruit, vanilla, oak and spice, accentuated by an elegant floral note. The full-bodied palate opens with rich notes of brown sugar, molasses and toffee, followed by roasted corn, clove, cinnamon and a touch of spicy rye. Oloroso Sherry notes of walnut, fig and candied fruit merge with caramel and butterscotch on the long, balanced finish.” Wow! Now that is quite the description for a whiskey!
Our friend Jason just happened to have a bottle of Hillrock Solera aged bourbon, so we asked him to join us for this review. Let’s see if this bourbon lives up to its description:
Bourbon Name: Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon
Distiller: Hillrock Estate Distillery
Color: Medium Amber (Looks a little darker in the bottle)
Age: at least 6 years old (according to the distillery)
Barrel Number: 6
Nose: The nose is very light when neat. We got earthy notes of honey, raisin, sassafras, root beer and vanilla. When we added a little water more sweetness developed along with some sweet tobacco.
Taste: The taste when neat started very mild and then a grainy astringency rose in the mid palate. It was almost a tannic feeling, which could be from the Sherry finish. We also tasted a little bit of vanilla but it was very mild. The taste wasn’t bad but there were not a lot of flavors. When we added water the bourbon really opened up and a great deal more rye spice came out. This bourbon tasted much better with water.
Finish: When tasted neat, the finish was mellow and didn’t stick around very long. The main flavors of vanilla and oak were noticable but very faint. After adding water the rye spice developed quite nicely.
Overall: At a price point of $79.99 to $92.99 we had high expectations, but the Hillrock Solera Aged Bourbon didn’t blow us away. The bottle is beautiful but the whiskey inside doesn’t quite match up. In addition, we feel that you really have to add water to this whiskey to get any of the more complex notes to emerge. Due to the overall lack of flavor profile along with the price point we would probably pass as there are other superior whiskies available for much less.
Overall Rating: 85/100
The Bourbon Guys want to thank our friend Jason Farler for graciously sharing his bottle as well as his tasting input.
Many of you have asked us to review Jefferson’s Chef’s Collaboration, the latest joint venture from Jefferson’s Trey Zoeller and the famed Louisville Chef Edward Lee. According to the Jeffersonsbourbon.com website, “the Chef’s Collaboration developed after a late night spent tasting some of chef Edward Lee’s culinary creations led Trey to the idea that someone should blend a bourbon that would pair well with the bold flavors in chef Lee’s cookbook and other modern cuisine. Without hesitation, Trey and Ed set forth. The result is a blend with a spicy upfront and a fruity finish, enhanced by the addition of rye whiskey into the mix. Perfect with meals, for mixing cocktails or simply drinking neat.”
The description sounded intriguing to us as we have been a fan of Trey’s whiskey for quite a long time. We bought a bottle the day that it arrived in stores and we weren’t disappointed. Here are our tasting notes:
Bourbon Name: Jefferson’s Chef’s Collaboration Bourbon
Proof: 92 Proof
Color: light amber
Nose: The nose is very nice and light but at the same time has lots of explosive rye spice. It has a slight youthfulness to it but that doesn’t detract from the overall nose.
Taste: The front palate begins with the same nice rye notes that you get from the nose and then rises into the bourbon spectrum with a very well balanced oak and cherry flavor.
Finish: The Chef’s Collaboration finish is fairly long but mellow with continued oak, cherry and cinnamon flavor. Very nice!
Overall: We tasted the Chef’s Collaboration neat, with water and on ice and this whiskey tasted great any way. The nice rye spice on the front followed by the smooth bourbon finish is a perfect match when pairing with food. In our humble opinion Trey Zoeller and Chef Lee have done an excellent job with this project. At a price point of less than $40.00 the Chef’s Collaboration is a must for any foodie/bourbon fan!
Overall Rating: (90/100) highly recommend
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.”
Age: 15 Years (or so we’ve been told)
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.
Distiller: Buffalo Trace
What does the distiller say: “Uncut and unfiltered, this hand-bottled bourbon is barrel proof. Weller substitutes wheat for the traditional rye grain, a production method pioneered by W.L. Weller.”
Age: 12 Years (or so we’ve been told)
Color: ( 93 )
Dark and rich, like the leather it brings to mind!
Nose: ( 94 / 100 )
Pronounced tobacco with modest notes of leather and caramel
Taste: ( 94 / 100 )
The front is wonderfully balanced between the savory leather and oak elements, and the sweetness of butterscotch and bread pudding. The mid-palate develops some of that high proof burn while elevating the sweeter components.
Finish: ( 94 / 100 )
Long and satisfying, the sweetness slowly recedes to relinquish the spotlight once again to components of savory leather and oak.
Overall Rating: ( 94 / 100 ) Buy (Until you can’t buy any more!)
We’ve got just three words for you: A-Maz-Ing! The 2013 William Larue Weller surpasses the 2012 offering by striking a cleaner balance between the savory flavors of leather and oak (which the 2012 had in spades) and the sweeter notes that became the star of the mid-palate. Excellent in every way, our initial response was to rate this at #2, just behind the Sazerac 18, but further reflection put them in a dead heat!