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Whiskey

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Every now and again, we have the opportunity to try something new. What does not happen every day is experiencing a resurrected brand that has been dormant for 95 years.

Orginal Kentucky Owl Bottle - Photo courtesy of Dixon Dedman

Orginal Kentucky Owl Bottle – Photo courtesy of Dixon Dedman

The story of the Kentucky Owl dates back to 1879 in north Mercer County. The original distillery was started by C.M. Dedman, an orphan who was adopted by a judge that gifted Dedman the distillery as a wedding present. Dedman operated the distillery until 1916 when the government shut down the operation and confiscated around 250,000 gallons of bourbon aging at the time. Sometime in 1919, after the passing of the Volstead Act, a mysterious fire destroyed the warehouse. It is speculated that the fire burned only bright enough to make the warehouse unusable and that a great deal of the bourbon made it out unscathed before the fire was set: It is thought that the bourbon made it into the hands of those that would sell it in speakeasies across the country. T.C. Dedman, the son of C.M. would fight tooth and nail to receive compensation for the loss, but never saw a dime. Despite insurmountable odds, the family came into ownership of the Beaumont Inn in Harrodsburg, KY, which is run by the Dedmans to this day.  

Fast forward five generations, and the Inn is now operated by Dixon Dedman, 33, whose hands-on approach to the management of the Inn speaks volumes of doing things “the proper way” (Beaumont Inn). Several years ago, Dixon met Mark Carter, fellow innkeeper and proprietor of Carter Cellars in Napa Valley, California (Carter Cellars). After long discussions (and a few drinks), plans to bring back the Kentucky Owl, “the Wise Man’s Bourbon,” started taking shape. Dixon and Mark wanted to make sure that this first batch was done correctly and in a way that would pay tribute to the many generations that came before them. With that philosophy in mind, they decided that the first batch would come in at barrel proof and be uncut/unfiltered. Dixon and Mark believe that “the consumer should decide how they want to drink it.”  After several iterations and consultation with some of the most respected folks in the bourbon industry, they decided on a blend of five hand-selected barrels that would yield a little more than 1,500 bottles.  

We were thrilled and honored to have the opportunity to be one of the first to review this bottle.    

IMG_3740.JPGKentucky Owl

Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Batch 1 Bottle 1366/1506

ABV: 59.2% 118.4 Proof

Price: TBD

We allowed the bourbon to sit for about twenty minutes and did not add water to the first part of the tasting.

Nose: The nose was complex and evolved the longer the pour was in the glass. The aromas of vanilla custard/creme brulee/caramel, mandarin orange, dried apricot and ginger were well represented.

Palate: The palate was remarkably different than the nose. The initial hit to the front palate delivered a viscous mouthfeel that carried flavors of cinnamon candy, savory wood, evergreen, and molasses with an oily disposition.  

There was little burn that did not make itself present until the finish. The finish is long lasting and pleasant with evolving citrus and candied fruit flavors. After adding a bit of water, we found that the savory wood was diluted, leaving more pronounced corn sweetness. If one were to use this in a cocktail, it would likely hold up well to ice and bitters. 

Concluding thoughts: Overall we enjoyed this pour. One would not think this to be the first batch as the quality of the bourbon spoke volumes of the time that was invested to resurrect this brand. While we believe there is always some room for improvement, this pour was very nice. The bottle should be available in limited quantities in August and will be released only in Kentucky.  

Overall grade: 90/100,  Buy if you can find it.

If you want to experience Dixon’s hospitality, make a point to venture to Harrodsburg and stay at his Inn. There you can experience a variety of bourbons at the Old Owl Tavern, enjoy the historic charm of the Inn, and even make arrangements to have a bourbon tasting with Dixon. 

 Thank you to Bill Whitlow and the staff at Wiseguys Bar and Lounge for allowing us to use their venue. (http://www.goodfellaspizzeria.com/wiseguy.php

 

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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.

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!

EagleRare17-2013

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!

MedleyBrothers_2

 

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.

 

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.

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