Whisky Advocate

Some new bourbons and my thoughts on them

January 20th, 2012

The holidays are over, but the whiskey companies are still pumping out new releases. Here’s an overview of some bourbons (and one wheat whiskey) that have come my way in the past few weeks. Formal reviews will follow in due time, but here are my informal thoughts.

First up is the first new permanent line extension from Woodford Reserve. They’re calling it Woodford Reserve Double Oaked (pictured). I just received this sample yesterday and tasted it last night. I really enjoy it. It’s richer and creamier than the standard Woodford Reserve. Smooth too, with a kiss of sweetness to it. But it will cost more than the standard Woodford too: $50.

Here’s some details on the whiskey which I pulled from the press release:

“Maturation in a new, charred oak barrel provides Woodford Reserve with all of its natural color and a great deal of its award-winning flavor. This Double Oaked expression has been uniquely matured in  two separate, custom crafted barrels,” said Chris Morris, master distiller for Woodford Reserve. “The second was deeply toasted before its light charring.  The double barreling of mature Woodford Reserve in this unique barrel allows the spirit to extract an additional amount of soft, sweet oak character.”

Some more good news on a line extension. I’m working my way through a bottle of the newest release of Colonel E.H. Taylor bourbon (“Warehouse C Tornado Surviving”), and it is my favorite of the three releases to date. (Picture below.) It’s more rounded and even-keeled than the previous two.

Some details from this press release:

It was a Sunday evening, April 2, 2006, when a severe storm tore through Central Kentucky, damaging two Buffalo Trace Distillery aging warehouses.  Fortunately, no one was injured and Warehouse “B” was empty at the time. However, Warehouse “C” sustained significant damage to its roof and north brick wall.  Warehouse “C” is one of the most treasured warehouses on property, built by Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. in 1881.  This historic aging warehouse stores more than 24,000 prized bourbon barrels in its ricks.

All of the 93 Tornado Surviving Bourbon barrels were located on the top two floors of Warehouse C, and were at least 9 years, 8 months old when dumped; many of them were as old as 11 years, 11 months old. Like the previous two E. H. Taylor, Jr. releases, the Tornado Surviving Bourbon is “Bottled in Bond” at 100 proof.  ($70)

Many of you will remember my glowing review (96 rating) of the single barrel of Elijah Craig 20 year old that was produced for the 20th Anniversary of the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and sold only at Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center. Well, that bottling (Barrel #3735) sold out very quickly. But, they replaced it with another single barrel offering (#3742) which still is available at the time of this post.

That’s the good news. The bad news? The replacement barrel is not as balanced or as smooth. It’s showing its age more, with more aggressive oak on the finish. I will eventually rate this formally in the mid to high 80s, but not in the 90s. (Sorry about that for those of you who missed out on the original release. That’s how it goes with single barrel releases–especially older ones.)

Finally, I have two new offerings from Julio’s Liquors up in Westborough, MA. The first one is a Bernheim Wheat Single Barrel that wasn’t chill-filtered ($35). (It’s a straight wheat whiskey, not a bourbon.) My main issue with Bernheim Wheat is that it’s almost too easy-going, thanks to all that wheat. Not chill-filtering it, as it is with this bottling, really does help give it some extra character, which is nice to see. If only we could increase the proof from 90 to 100, I think we just might have Bernheim Wheat where it shows itself best.

The other offering from Julio’s is a Henry McKenna 10 year old 100 proof that’s also not chill-filtered. It’s not the most elegant bourbon I’ve ever tasted, but it’s nice and robust–and suiting me just fine on this cold winter’s day in Pennsylvania. ($32)


No Responses to “Some new bourbons and my thoughts on them”

  1. NP says:

    “The second was deeply toasted before its light charring”:

    I would get: bourbon in cask type 1 (lightly toasted/charred) then in cask type 2 (heavily toasted/charred) –> Double Oak

    Now this seems to indicate that one type of cask was heavily toasted “before” being lightly charred; it does not make much sense to me on a process standpoint (one heavily toasts a barrel, it then becomes…a heavily toasted barrel…in which there is by definition nothing to “lightly char” after that…).
    Any ideas?

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Maybe it’s not that simple? Maybe a light char is a different procedure? Maybe they clean out some of the heavily charred material? Good question NP…

    • sam k says:

      Sounds to me like they’re doing exactly what they say; toasting the barrel more extensively prior to giving it a light char. both procedures have the potential to add their own nuance to the wood, and hence the finished product.

    • M Lange says:

      All American whiskey barrels are toasted before being charred with an open flame. Typically they are toasted to a medium or medium plus toast level (terms taken from the wine barrel industry) then charred to a level 3 or 4, both of which are considered a “heavy” char. In fact, storage in a “heavy” char barrel is a requirement for bourbon.
      The second barrel sounds very different, in that it was toasted much more heavily than normal, then charred less than normal. It would give a very different flavor profile than the standard whiskey barrel.
      Brown Forman has their own cooperage, but the Independent Stave Company website has a lot of good info on barrels:
      What Woodford is describing for the second barrel sounds similar to the “Coopers Reserve” option listed on the ISC site.

  2. Vince says:

    Thanks for some informal insight John! I am really looking forward to the Woodford and the EH Taylor. I thought the 2 previous EH Taylor releases were excellent. It is good to see that this one is on par.
    I understand the new Woodford is being introduced because of the limited edition “seasoned Oak” Woodford of a couple years ago. (similar flavor profiles). I hope so because I really enjoyed the Seasoned Oak release.

  3. Red_Arremer says:

    Thanks for the heads up on these, John. Myself– I like Bernheim just fine, but rarely pick it up. The price/quality ratio is just too blah. This NCF s/b offering sounds worth ($) a look, though.

  4. Sylvan says:

    @NP Toasting is not the same as charring – it darkens the wood and changes the flavor profile, but does not blacken the surface or break it open into ‘alligator skin like’ textures. So it is completely possible to toast and then char. I’m guessing the first barrel is heavily charred only, the second barrel is toasted and then lightly charred.

  5. Jason Beatty says:

    Thanks for the heads up John. I was going there tomorrow to buy a 20 Year EC. I had a bunch from that 96 barrel and it was unheard of good.

    • John Hansell says:

      The new 20 is still good. I don’t think you will be disappointed. It’s just not great like the first bottling was.

      • Jason Beatty says:

        Heaven Hill is still number one on my list so I am going to wait a month and then buy a bottle of the William Heaven Hill: a donation to the good whiskey party.

      • sam k says:

        It amazes me how a few numbers can scare somebody away from trying something new. My experience has proven that I’m not always on the same page as a given reviewer. I’ve had highly rated whiskeys that I felt were overrated, and vice versa.

        Live large and give it a shot, Jason. Don’t worry…be happy!

        • John Hansell says:

          I agree with Sam. You might love this as much as the first bottling.

          • Red_Arremer says:

            Secretly, a lot of folks just can’t imagine the juice in a bottle being worth, say, a 100$. Subconsciously they drift towards the belief that that kind of price-tag can only be rationalized by some auratic quality, such as prestige, luxury, specialness– Whatever it is, it’s the quality that nudges a simple distilled grain spirit towards being “priceless,” towards the sense that if one can afford it, then one should buy it. And when it comes to a bottle’s aura, a few points can make all the difference.

          • sam k says:

            Baaaa, baaa! True if we’re nothing but sheep, Red. Otherwise, I’m not afraid to give something a fair shake on my own terms if I can afford it, unless it’s been roundly panned.

          • Red_Arremer says:

            I just said “a lot of folks.” Of course, we’re not among them. Most of the regulars *here* aren’t. But there are those folks– And there are a lot of them. I dare say that, unfortunately, that there are more of them than there are of us, Sam…

            But anything can change with time…

        • Jason Beatty says:

          I will try this barrel in a month and Heaven Hill is still getting my money. I generally agree with John’s reviews but others I differ from.

  6. NP says:

    @ Sylvan Thanks. Would love to find tec doc on the differences between the two though.
    When i google either term, articles and videos seem to show the same process for both.

    I was indeed under the impression that toasting = using a flame lightly on the wood (which would then darken it & break down polymers of the wood etc…) when charring = using a flame heavily – or for a longer period of time (decomposition of the polymers composing the wood –> alligator style etc…).

    From what I can remember (it was years ago) applying heat on wood modify structure of the molecules of wood that are exposed to said heat (pyrolisis);
    “Charring” would be associate with a char-forming reaction in which cellulose becomes active (charcoal).
    If the wood is heated for a longer period of time (or at a superior temperature), it’s more of a “tarring” process where the wood simply burns.
    So to me “toasting” was be the step before “charing”: same process but at a lower temperature (and/or shorter period of time).

    Therefore, I was thinking, being no cooper: if I lightly toast my bagel then “charr” it, not sure it will make it anything else than a “charred” bagel.
    Same for my “charred” bagel that i would subsequently put back on the grill for a light toast.

    Not trying to be right here, just trying to understand.

    Thanks for the input

    • Chris says:

      As I understand it, toasting is heating the barrel at a lower temperature, low enough to darken the wood and carmelize sugars, but not hot enough to actually cause charring. So I imagine that they flamed the barrels at a lower temperature for a longer time, and then quickly applied enough flame to lightly char the staves, but not much more. To continue the bagel analogy, it’s like toasting a bagel on low for a longer time, and then briefly toasting it on high, rather than just toasting on high. Rachel Barrie discussed toasting barrels in the “Good Wood”article in the Winter 2010 Malt Advocate. That helps clarify the process a bit.

  7. lawschooldrunk says:

    After a nearby tornado dissipates, imagine finding a barrel of bourbon in your backyard next to the swings.


  8. Steve says:

    Woodford is by far one of my favorite bourbons. I’ll be looking forward to picking up this new release. And as for the different barrels they use? It all comes down to that first sip! Thanks for the info.

    • Jason Beatty says:

      There we go. A Woodford follower. The bourbon does get some bad rap but for $27 a bottle, it’s a good buy. Speaking of mystique: this one has it! There were fashionable women walking out of the distillery on my first visit there.

  9. Red_Arremer says:

    In your opinion then, Woodford specifically has “The Feminine Mystique,” huh Jason? 😉

  10. Jason Beatty says:

    KBD is up and running y’all!!! The first batch of Willett bourbon was distilled on Wednesday with the second batch fermenting in their tanks right now. There is also a rye as well so no more LDI for the new made.

    • M Lange says:

      Is this true? Willett bourbon and rye will now be made at KBD in Bardstown? Where did you get this information?
      This opens up a ton of questions. Will the mash bills remain the same? I personally love the current Willet 4 year rye, which is (I think) a 95% rye from LDI. Did LDI’s recent acquisition push them to start distilling again? Inquiring minds want to know.

      • Ryan Murphy says:

        I do believe it’s true. I’ve read about it a couple places online, most notably, there’s a discussion about it going on in the forums.

      • Jason Beatty says:

        Got the info first hand from everyone there. I cannot tell you if it’s the same rye mashbill but when I asked him if he would be using LDI, he said he does not have to. I saw the three tanks filled and I think there were 2 more yet to be filled. The sell of LDI did not push them to distill their own as they have been working on restoring the distillery to keep it as close as possible to when it was last used. There is no way they are going to mess with the bourbon recipe as it is a family tradition. They are working hard to build a nice place for tours ASAP!

  11. K D Kearney says:

    Henry McKenna 10YO Bottled in Bond was rated by Malt Advocate in the Fall 2010 issue as one of America’s 10 great unknown whiskies. Is this bourbon normally non-chill filtered or did Julio’s get a special bottling?

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