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Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar Tasting: 2-20-14

Old Kentucky Bourbon Bar Tasting: 2-20-14

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


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

Proof: 92.6

Color: Medium Amber (Looks a little darker in the bottle)

Age: at least 6 years old (according to the distillery)

Year: 2013

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.

20140113-200216.jpgMany 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 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

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.

WilliamLarueWeller-2013Bourbon Name: William Larue Weller

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.”

Proof: 136.2

Age: 12 Years (or so we’ve been told)

Year: 2013

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!

ThomasHHandy-2013Bourbon Name: Thomas H. Handy Sazerac

Distiller: Buffalo Trace

What does the distiller say: “Full of rich flavors, this authentic American rye whiskey is a symbol of the timeless history of New Orleans and the legacy of Thomas H. Handy”

Proof: 128.4

Age: 6 Years

Year: 2013

Color: ( 92 )

Aged Penny

Nose: ( 92 / 100 )

Leather at the outset with notes of banana bread, clove, walnuts, and mild rye spice

Taste: ( 93 / 100 )

Thick and rich, the front palate is loaded with sweetness reminiscent of bananas foster. Wonderful rye spice that is elevated on the mid-palate to bring the taste into perfect balance.

Finish: ( 93 / 100 )

The finish is long and luxurious. It was here we found the heat we had been expecting from a whiskey of this proof, but it was welcomed, carrying with it a wonderful cinnamon and evergreen undertone that lasts and lasts.

Overall Rating: ( 93 / 100 ) Buy (As many as you can find!)

The Thomas Handy carried with it the expectations of the 2012 release. As incredible as that whiskey was, perhaps it was inevitable, even if a bit unfair. Overall, the Thomas H. Handy Sazerac had the longest lasting finish, and that is saying something considering it was the last of the five we sampled in the same evening! (We know, it’s a dirty job, but somebody has to do it!)


Bourbon Name: Eagle Rare 17 Year Old

Distiller: Buffalo Trace

What does the distiller say: “Sip this polished, well-aged whiskey to appreciate why patience is such a virtue.”

Proof: 90

Age: 17 Years

Year: 2013

Color: ( 92 )

Beautiful, Antique Copper

Nose: ( 91 / 100 )

Mild leather and oak with hints of vanilla and toasted marshmallow

Taste: ( 91 / 100 )

Medium viscosity carries noticeable oak on the front palate giving way to a sweeter mid-palate of orange peels, pears and spice.

Finish: ( 90 / 100 )

The finish is short but nutty with pleasant overtones of pecan mixing with a return of oak and leather.

Overall Rating: ( 91 / 100 ) Buy (If you like a strong showing by the barrel)

The Eagle Rare 17 really didn’t hit the mark for us this year, when compared to its Antique brethren. The barrel was far too prevalent for our tastes, but that will certainly appeal to many (who would likely score it higher for that very reason). While always good, for us, Eagle Rare 17 came in 5th in our Antique Collection comparison this year.

Sazerac18-2013Bourbon Name: Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old

Distiller: Buffalo Trace

What does the distiller say: “This straight rye has a mellow spice and dry sweetness that dances on the tongue, giving pure delight that is worthy of the Sazerac name.”

Proof: 90

Age: 18 Years

Year: 2013

Color: ( 93 )

Deep Burnt Orange

Nose: ( 95 / 100 )

Impressive with rich fruit, subtle rye, and faint leather

Taste: ( 95 / 100 )

Buttery with a complex mix of fruit, toffee, and chocolate on the front palate is met on the mid-palate with a pleasing balance of rye spice

Finish: ( 92 / 100 )

The finish is pleasing with a return of sweetness from the fruit and toffee on the back of the tongue. The shorter duration was the only thing holding the finish back from a 95 rating.

Overall Rating: ( 94 / 100 ) Buy (As many as you can find!)

The Sazerac Rye 18 Year Old was our favorite of this year’s Antique Collection. The rich mouth feel and balanced complexity make this the year’s best rye to date. A longer finish would have earned the Sazerac 18 another point in the overall rating. If you can only buy one bottle of the Antique Collection, try to make it the Sazerac 18!


Bourbon Name: Abraham Bowman Pioneer Spirit: Last Millenium Bourbon Whiskey

Distiller: A. Smith Bowman Distillery

What does the distiller say: “Each Abraham Bowman Limited Edition Whiskey expression is truly unique. It is released periodically, always with a distinct flavor profile and expression. These special releases are very limited and once released, are unlikely to be repeated.”

Proof: 100

Age: Mix of 15 Year & 13 Year

Year: 2013


Color: ( 90 / 100 ) Antique Copper

Nose: ( 88 / 100 )

Bright vanilla, mild cinnamon, and sweet bread pudding

Taste: ( 88 / 100 )

Vanilla and light coffee on the front palate give way to strong mid-palate flavors

Tobacco and leather dominate the mid-palate sweeping away the front palate sweetness

Finish: ( 88 / 100 )

The tobacco and leather linger through a finish of moderate duration. By no means is it short, but it does not carry on the way we expect from a premium bourbon

Overall Rating: ( 88 / 100 ) Don’t Buy

The latest Abraham Bowman bottling, Last Millenium, is certainly a good whiskey, but it is closer to a John J. Bowman release than the exalted Abraham Bowman line. At its price point of approximately $80 per 750 ml, I think we have to mark it a DON’T BUY. The name Abraham Bowman sets the bar pretty high, and this particular version just doesn’t hit the mark. There are several offerings in the $50 – $70 range that are as good, if not better.



Bourbon Name: Medley Bros.


Distiller: Charles Medley Distillery


What does the distiller say: Originally, Medley Brothers was sold in 1958. This month marks 55 years that the Medley Brothers label has been off the market. We’reproud to have reclaimed the label so that we can be here today to announce the return of Medley Brothers!


Proof: 102


Age: 4 – 5 years


Year: 2013

Color: (88)

Amber. Reminiscent of its cousin, Old Medley 12 Yr.

Nose: (87)

Youthful grain with aromas of caramel and butterscotch

Taste: (87/100)

Momentary sweet grain on the front palate with hints of caramel and vanilla

Oak rising in the mid-palate adds complexity and balance

Finish: (86/100)

The finish is faster than we would like, but a prominent leather component adds nicely to the mid-palate complexity.

Overall Rating: (87/100) Recommended

Medley Brothers is the latest offering from Charles Medley Distillery. While not as refined as Old Medley 12 Year, it also retails at just half the price of its older cousin. With a mashbill of 77% corn, 10% rye, and 13 % malted barley, you’ll find Medley Brothers a pleasant sipper with a sub-$30 price tag, and at 102 proof,  you’ll find that Medley Brothers stands up nicely in your favorite mixed drinks.


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