Four Roses 2017 Small Batch Limited Edition Al Young’s 50th Anniversary, 54.49%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $150
A caramel-laden fruit bouquet, followed by unending vanilla, leather, tobacco, cotton candy, marshmallow, quince, cinnamon, hints of juniper, and wildflowers. Then, brown sugar butter and maple syrup over buttermilk pancakes, Cracker Jack, raw honey, bittersweet chocolate, and hints of pecan shell. Extremely long finish with a fried apple pie note. An incredibly complex and intense, must-have sipper. Perfection.
This is High West Rendezvous Rye finished in port and French oak barrels. It is a campfire pour. An arsenal of smoke, spice, and sweet, alternating back and forth. Just when you think the nuance ends, pronouncements of chocolate, cinnamon, plum, pepper spice, and barbecue. Its complexity hits a homerun, offering honey, red fruits, and citrus to a lingering, tickling, spicy finish. A must have. Sourced whiskey.
Just beautiful. Long, rounded notes of caramel, cinnamon roll, taffy, butterscotch, brisket burnt ends, nutmeg, Jamaican jerk, plum pudding, ginger, light sassafras, root beer, roasted marshmallow, cotton candy, orange peel, raw honey, and pie crust. If it sounds complex, it’s because it is, and the finish just doesn’t quit, giving you a lingering taste of every note.
William Larue Weller (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2017), 64.1%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $90
This is a work of art. It begins by revealing vanilla, from custard to cake icing. Then it speaks caramel with a dark chew, crème brûlée, and Werther’s Original hard candy. From here, complexity takes over, with candied popcorn, butterscotch, chocolate ganache, French toast, maple, honey, pumpkin pie, fried pie dough, blueberries, and cinnamon, with hints of molasses and pecan. The long finish seems to offer a concentration of all the flavors. Delicious. Editor's Choice.
A blend of three rye and three bourbon barrels ranging from 10 to 33 years old. Powerful and mouth-coating. Initially, a French bakery, with caramel, vanilla, and torched brown sugar dominating. Then, more complex notes, such as cinnamon roll, coconut, chocolate, slight hints of oak, allspice, hints of smoked paprika, chipotle, roasted almond, and Polish sweet bread. A long finish offers fruit and nutmeg. Tasty sipper at the perfect proof.
This is the Wild Turkey limited edition bourbon we’ve been waiting for. Only 2,070 bottles exist. Deep amber hues and non-chill filtered, it opens up to straight-from-the-woods campfire smoke, caramel, vanilla, fresh-baked macaroon, leather, woodworking shop, and cigar box. But it’s not a smoke bomb or saturated in sweet; its delicate baking spices meet hatch chile, cinnamon, hints of mint and citrus. It finishes strong and long with a lingering caramel chew.
Simply beautiful. It’s so complex, with notes of molasses, apple butter, toffee, salt water taffy, hazelnut, burnt brown sugar, crème brûlée, caramel flan, butterscotch, crystallized ginger, nutmeg, cardamom, fenugreek, roasted almonds, and marshmallow. With a drop of water, another complex layer forms with cotton candy and burnt pie crust. In both cases, it finishes extremely long.
Four Roses 2017 Limited Edition Small Batch, 53.95%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $130
This is an ode to this bourbon’s old-school style that, post-caramel and cinnamon, is balanced with dried blueberries, sweet cornbread, nutmeg, saffron, citrus, and slight hints of chipotle, ginger, and clove. Under the beautiful spice come vanilla cake batter, almond butter, and salt water taffy that walk it to a finish that just doesn’t quit. It’s the vanilla-forward finish that makes this an upper-echelon whiskey. (13,800 bottles for the U.S.)
George T. Stagg (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2017), 64.6%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $90
Caramel. Caramel. Caramel. It comes early and remains to the finish. In between this caramel sandwich, it’s nutmeg, cinnamon, jasmine, rose petals, baked apples, fudge, pecan pie, peanut brittle, and roasted peanuts. Over a mouth-coating palate, its complexity tingles and every note plays just under the rich and layered caramel that presents itself as a chew on the extremely long finish. This is a must-have sipper.
Here, a perfect harmony delivers crème brûlée, butterscotch, fruit, cinnamon, and rising cornbread. Right away complexity sets in, delivering salted baked almonds, cashews, dried apricot, pistachio gelato, Nutter Butters, salted caramel popcorn, rye toast with brown sugar butter, and sugarcane. Somehow, a drop of water makes it even more complex, amplifying the butterscotch and presenting cinnamon-soaked roasted pecans and almonds. Pure bliss; a must-sip.
This sings a tune of balance, with caramel, coconut, chocolate, barrel char, and campfire smoke harmonizing at the opening. Next comes an amazingly complex series of herbal notes: dill, oregano, and thyme. That’s when cinnamon bread, coffee, and crème brûlée take over; each note super concentrated and rounded. The long finish presents a hint of cinnamon. This is a must-have sipper. (450 bottles)
A 7 year old single barrel. Fruit and flowers jump out of the glass, with caramel popcorn and dried apricot not far behind. Caramel, berry fruit, and baking spices develop into complex and rounded notes of crème brûlée, blackberries, blueberry pie, burnt brown sugar, coconut, and pumpkin pie with extra nutmeg. Long finish delivers a hint of peach cobbler crust. The perfect example of a below 90-proof whiskey with complexity. (Liquor Barn Springhurst exclusive)
Fruit bliss. Filled with apple, pear, dried apricot, and peaches, it then offers floral and rich caramel notes. Chocolate fried pie, pumpkin pie, and vanilla custard follow over a creamy mouthfeel. Then nuts set in, including roasted almonds, salted walnuts, and pecans. Honey and malt appear toward the end for a long and wonderful finish with a light hint of cinnamon. Editor’s Choice
When earth meets sweet in whiskey, it’s a beautiful thing. Here, soil tilled deep, fresh-cut grass, and mushrooms meet leather and dark chocolate, followed by dill, oregano, and oak. Caramel and vanilla explode over a heavy dose of cinnamon. There’s more: apple fritters, spice, and saltwater taffy tingle the palate until the long finish introduces, for the first time, a hint of doughy pie crust. A must-have.
When complex spice meets complex caramel, it makes for a wonderful American whiskey experience. That’s exactly what happens here with a cadre of baking spices over fruit, such as cinnamon baked apples, nutmeg sprinkled over pears, and peaches dusted with clove, followed by butterscotch, vanilla custard, and crème brûlée. The balanced and brilliant finish stays true to its complexity.
It packs a beautiful nose, with arcs of chocolate, vanilla wafer, cherry, caramelized brown sugar, baked pears, crème brûlée being torched, and coconut. These notes become concentrated and are complemented by cola, tobacco, spice, toffee, and pepper. Then hazelnut and vanilla coat the mouth, sitting there for a couple of minutes until the end—a supremely long finish. What complexity!
Whoa...this sherry-finished bourbon offers an up front impression you don’t find in American whiskey: marzipan meets ground-up raw almonds sprinkled over pistachio gelato. Then caramel, nuanced cinnamon, delicate vanilla, and a slight hint of campfire smoke. It’s supremely complex, with the third layer being honey, dried apricot, dried pear, figs, and prunes over a sublime nuttiness and rich caramel. The finish lingers with salted-caramel cashew. If this is the future of barrel-finished American whiskey, let there be more. (Jack Rose Dining Saloon private selection)
From rickhouse G, floor 5, barrel 136 is a study in caramel. Layered in crème brûlée, salted-caramel cupcake, caramel brownie, caramel apple fritters, caramel popcorn, and the classic caramel chew. Then, complexity: chocolate truffles, nutmeg-dusted hot bananas, ginger ice cream, cinnamon-candied almonds, and warm povitica. It’s so creamy, so rich, and so unrelenting with masterful flavor that the powerfully long and caramel-forward finish is expected. Splendid, must-have sipper. (Lincoln Road Package Store exclusive)
Think caramel bomb. Once you pass the crème brûlée, caramel chew, and other variations of the confectionary, vanilla custard, pumpkin, toasted pecan, raisins, light German chocolate cake, praline, tobacco, cigar box, sandalwood, and earth surface. It’s mouth-coating, covering every inch, tingling from the palate’s roof to the back of the neck. The incredibly long finish sits there with caramel. The only knock here is that caramel can be overwhelming, but it’s also bourbon’s staple note. (New Hampshire only)
Think of walking in a prairie meadow at a state fair, the wind curving slight hints of grain, and then an explosion of cotton candy, marshmallow, and florals. Initial earth turns to powerful notes of smoked paprika, maple, salted caramel, and fried bread. Every note is pronounced and beautiful. A strong and long finish follows with an amalgamation of everything tasted, and then cinnamon appears out of nowhere. (Kentucky only)
Bright and pronounced caramel in many forms, from rich caramel chews to caramel pudding. Then a spice backbone jumps out, followed by butterscotch, brown sugar, vanilla wafers, jalapeño cornbread, mustard seeds, and peach cobbler. A drop of water makes it even more complex with savory spices—sage, dried parsley, and a hint of rosemary, meeting sweet: more vanilla and butterscotch. With or without water, it finishes long and strong with a hint of pepper.
Absolutely stellar opening, with blueberries, black currants, and mashed cherries complementing vanilla icing, cornbread, and chocolate-hazelnut wafers. Then it’s salt water taffy, bread pudding, honey, jalapeño poppers, and snickerdoodles. But it does not stop there: baking spices develop toward the end, with bright cinnamon notes coating the long finish. (Barrel No. 5083254 reviewed; 12,000 bottles)
Parker’s Heritage Collection 2017 11 year old, 66%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $130
A wonderful beginning of floral, fruit, leather, and oak notes; the start to a truly sensational whiskey. Its round caramel meets florals, stone fruit, honeysuckle, and dried apricot, with hints of dark chocolate, pear, and raw almonds not far behind. But this whiskey is about the spice, from pepper to baking spices; they wander the palate and walk you down a long and lovely finish with a hint of cinnamon apple.
Sazerac Rye 18 year old (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2017), 45%
Rye Whiskey | $90
Ah, the pleasant aroma of warm rye rolls nails its opening, but so much more awaits. Balsam, peppercorn, almond butter, arrowroot pie crust, pine nuts, pumpkin pie, brown sugar, and savory toasted rye bread tingle, as slight hints of pear, tobacco, and citrus develop. Then, it’s earth, from sautéed mushrooms to soil. The long, strong finish presents baking spices. Lovely sipping rye!
Little Book The Easy Blended Straight Whiskey, 60.2%
Miscellaneous | $80
It opens with dark chocolate, coffee, hazelnut, leather, earth, cornbread, and maple syrup. Then it pops with brown-sugar butter melting over grits, but the iron skillet cornbread reappears with a dominating and pleasing malt note. Hints of dill, parsley, and roasted almonds come next. Toward the end, a burst of vanilla hits before a long finish with a hint of honey. As American blends go, this is a fantastic pour. (Individual reviewer rating: 91)
Is this perfect? From the look and nose, yes. Rich caramel and campfire smoke early on; it’s robust, but balanced. Crème brûlée with a sultry smokiness, raw honey with a dusting of nutmeg and a Scotch ale malt profile that’s creamy and mouth-coating. Alas, a heavy bite hides much, needing water to open up. A drop adds complexity, spice, vanilla, chocolate, and licorice.
A combination of 7 to 12 year old ryed bourbons finished in cabernet sauvignon barrels, it’s a caramel lover’s delight. You’ll find fruit in several forms: cherry, blackberry, black currant juice, and strawberry-rhubarb jam. Vanilla lurks throughout, followed by buttered cinnamon popcorn, apple pie filling, nutmeg, and caramel-drizzled bread pudding. Each pronounced note combines for a savory ride to a long, lasting, and delightful finish. A necessity for barrel-finish fans.
At 6 years, 4 months, and 6 days, this is beautiful. Honey, cinnamon, and marzipan are the opening trifecta, preparing you for roasted-nut wonders: almond, walnut, and pecan. Then it’s complex crème brûlée, balsamic vinaigrette, salted caramel, molasses, maple syrup, and hints of toasted pine nuts, leather, and anise. With an eyedropper of water, it becomes a caramel bomb. In both cases, long finishes await, with hints of caramel.
Oh boy! Rising rolls, cakes baking in the oven, whipped cream, icing, citrus, and chocolate fill the nose. Then the palate confirms this tapestry of goodness with vanilla cake batter, brown-sugar butter over yeast rolls, caramel icing, and cinnamon sprinkles. If not for a backbone of beautiful spices layered in between, this whiskey stands as a confectionery delight. As it is, the velvety structure, concentrated notes, and long spicy finish make it a must-have sipper.
Rosewater, almond extract, dark cherries, roasted almonds, and caramelized sugar start this truly splendid aromatic whiskey. Marzipan, pecan pie, chocolate Moon Pie, Bavarian cream, butterscotch, and fried dough with powdered sugar follow. This remarkable whiskey finishes long and strong with more fried dough.
Jefferson’s Presidential Select 16 year old Twin Oak, 47%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $200
Honeysuckle, dandelions, and roses start this floral superhighway that takes a brief turn toward grain in many forms, from baked breads to boiling oats. Then earth and fruit meet for a delightful combination that walks toward the sweeter side, with hints of caramel chew, vanilla cake batter, pecan pie, chocolate-covered raisins, cassis, black currant, and povitica. Its long finish introduces a lovely roasted walnut note. (Less than 10,000 bottles)
There’s a lot going on here, and it starts in an unusual place—corn, specifically corn husk, followed by caramel, vanilla, oak, banana, pineapple, crème brûlée, vanilla, a hint of cedar, cherrywood, sautéed porcini mushroom, and cinnamon. Over a mouth coating texture, the velvety structure drips down the jawline, offering butterscotch, paprika, nutmeg, baked apple pie, bread pudding, caramel chew, roasted walnuts, and baking spice, which lingers over a long finish. Must-have Tennessee whiskey. Price is per liter.
Wonderful opening of cigar humidor and tack room, it presents vibrant caramel and vanilla, but really shines with complex fruit, spice, and nuts. Baked apples, canned pears, blackberries, and strawberry jam meet white pepper, followed by roasted walnuts and honey. Then resounding nutmeg appears, with slight hints of smoke, chipotle, and earth. The long finish rekindles the caramel note from the beginning. Must-have sipper.
Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 year old (barrel 5043515), 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $60
With the quintessential traditional bourbon bouquet, it’s caramel and vanilla all day, with honey, oak, brown sugar, and freshly baked corn muffins following. Then pure bliss, striking powerful mouth-coating notes of crème brûlée, fried dough with powdered sugar, raspberry tarts, and maple syrup. The long finish offers a beautiful pecan pie note. Delightful to sip.
This is a 9 year old from the OBSF recipe. Brings to mind intense cinnamon over fruit, sprinkled on pumpkin bread, cooked in kettle popcorn, with a scone. Then there’s an explosion of caramel: crème brûlée, salted German chocolate cake, glazed doughnut holes, and caramel-drizzled baked peaches. Hints of smoke, ginger, tobacco, and clove. A delightfully long finish carries a hint of cinnamon for a must-have quaff. (Maisano’s Fine Wine and Spirits exclusive)
The dance begins in the open barley fields, with a gust of wind catching grain’s natural aromatic presence. Then cherry blossoms and roasted pine nuts tango for dominance, just before the core notes kick in: caramel chew, malt, cornbread, brown sugar, and chocolate, followed by hints of molasses, cardamom, and gingersnaps. As the finish lingers, it’s clear that this is sippin’ whiskey.
At 6 years old it’s hard to believe this could get any better with more time in the barrel. It begins with an explosion of honey, warm graham crackers, cinnamon, nutmeg, and marzipan. Then it’s saddle leather, pumice, caramel-covered popcorn, and jalapeño-and-peach jam spread over a flat tamale. More baking spices develop as the whiskey finishes long with a lovely salted-caramel note.
If Picasso sketched bourbon, it would look like Booker’s, with deep golden and auburn hues. But higher-proof color can deceive. Not here. Think bourbon warehouse: oak, caramel, tobacco leaf, cinnamon, vanilla; floral with hints of honey and blueberry. And then it really comes alive. Oh, baby! Candy corn, crème brûlée, maple syrup, nutmeg, and traces of chipotle and cayenne. The proof strength doesn’t show. I recommend this batch neat for full, unrelenting flavor.
Michter’s 10 year old Single Barrel Straight Bourbon (No. 16B233), 47.2%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $120
Released in the spring of 2016. True balance and consistency from nose to finish, showing toffee, saltwater taffy, cinnamon Jolly Rancher, crème brûlée, nutmeg, toasted pecan, chocolate, fruit, delicate spice. Hints of pear, peach, and apple. I love the coffee and hazelnut on the long finish. I wonder if the taste would improve in the 107 to 111 proof range. As it is now, this is a must-have sipper.
Think the holidays: nutmeg, butterscotch, cinnamon, gingerbread cookies, and saltwater taffy. Mouth-coating sensations down the jawline and palate roof. Caramel and vanilla follow it home to the finish, where out-of-nowhere black currant and blackberry jam linger to the very end. This is a fun sipper for those who love the barrel-finished style. (375 ml.)
This straight bourbon is a race of notes trying to outrun each other. Out of the gate, it’s caramel and vanilla, with a bevy of fruit, soft florals, and chocolate slightly trailing. Oak and smoke take the lead on the first turn, then an explosion of butterscotch and Spanish flan setting the pace. Then graham crackers, marshmallow, and melted chocolate eye the prize, with rich, rounded caramel custard taking the long route to the finish line. Definite contender!
Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Style Whiskey Row Series, 57.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $60
The perfect proof. Rich in color, aroma, and flavor. It begins with powerful caramel, baking spice, chocolate, cherries, cinnamon, and toffee. Then nuance and complexity. Honey, jalapeño, rosemary, crème brûlée, malt, and fruit, from the spicy citrus of grapefruit to prunes and dried apricots. Hard to believe this is over 100 proof, as you never sense the strength challenging you to find what’s next amidst the subtlety. Extremely long finish with cherry, cinnamon, and caramel. Value Pick.
Cotton candy, oak, leather, tobacco, and clove open this unique whiskey. Then, strong aromas of earth—trees, dirt, mushrooms, and pine—are followed by quick blasts of baking spices, plum pudding, yams, and malt. These notes coalesce into chocolate, coconut, and caramel. For a long finish, both pepper and baking spices rest on the palate. Lovely fireplace sipper.
Redemption Barrel Proof High Rye 9 year old, 54.6%
Rye Whiskey | $100
First impression: spice and herbs completely own the moment. Then caramel, vanilla, and the cadre of baking spices develops into identifiable clove, cardamom, ginger, crushed poppy seeds, and cinnamon. Then the spice turns to another style: pepper, with hints of earthy black pepper and habañero jelly. Slight hints of vanilla, powdered sugar, and marshmallow appear just before a medium-to-long finish with a spicy caramel chew.
Four Roses 2016 Limited Edition Single Barrel Elliott’s Select, 58.4%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $125
There’s a certain complexity here that you just come to expect in limited edition Four Roses. This one doesn’t disappoint. Rose petals, honeysuckle, caramel, roasted pine nuts, cotton candy, dark coffee, and vanilla. The creamy mouthfeel delightfully brings in warm cinnamon roll, chocolate truffle, and honey taffy, balanced by herbs and subtle earthiness that settle with a long-lasting cinnamon-forward finish.
Delightful opening of fruit, praline, caramel, maraschino cherries, and spice, with a burst of smoked paprika and a hint of leather. It’s soft on the palate, easily gliding down the jawline, filling with flavors of caramel chew, saltwater taffy, coffee, and a rich, toasted pumpernickel rye with just a sprinkle of cinnamon. Based on the taste, I’d think this flavorful beauty would offer a long finish, but misses the mark. Thankfully, spice over the medium finish is quite pleasant.
Rich and rounded vanilla, baking spices, caramel, and cast iron-baked cornbread straight from the oven. Hints of smoke, dried apricot, fresh-cut grass, and tilled earth. Then, raw honey, marzipan, raisins, and sweet oats, followed by baking spices for a medium to long finish. It’s very nice and needs no dilution to open up. Think of this as a high-proof sipper.
Gorgeous dried apricot, peach cobbler, vanilla custard, plus a hint of cherry-flavored pipe tobacco. Rich, layered, and rounded caramel, with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and allspice. Then earth, and lots of it, over a slightly chewy mouthfeel of caramel chew and Red Hots cinnamon candy. Medium finish counters wonderful bouquet and palate notes, but still lovely for sipping.
George Dickel Distillery Reserve 17 year old, 43.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $75
Tennessee whiskey shall not be undersold in this flavorful version. Rich notes of caramel and vanilla developing in yellow cake batter with dark caramel, brown sugar, leather, toasted pecans, and hints of walnut, smoked apple, and honey. Then red fruit, baking spice, and complex butterscotch over a palate-coating mouthfeel that’s perfectly warm and balanced all over. As good as it is, it could be better with ten more proof points. Its light proof shows in a shorter-than-desired finish. (Tennessee only) 375ml
The Angel’s Envy Cask Strength port cask finished bourbon has developed a cult following, and it’s easy to see why. Jumping out are marshmallow, caramel, vanilla, roasted nuts, with a hint of cardamom, coffee, and nutmeg, but true beauty lies in the pronounced pumpkin pie, dark chocolate, raw pine nut, caramel, and sweet maltiness. I’d love for this whiskey to finish longer, but it does give a hint of nutmeg toward the end. Sourced whiskey.
From Kentucky, the journey begins with generous at-the-fair candy corn and subtle hints of vanilla, caramel, and smoke. I find the caramelized grains and spice just as appealing. While the hint of maple syrup is nice, this is simple goodness with every taste. Sourced whiskey.
Initially it’s a nut-filled experience with toasted walnuts, pecans, and Brazil nuts, but an atypical spice appears that’s just lovely. Smoked hatch chiles mingle with rounded notes of cinnamon, créme brûlée, Bananas Foster, orange, canned peaches, caramel chew, and toffee. The pepper spices reappear for a grand finish.
It opens with a crust of salt and Flintstones vitamins in honey, almond paste, and caramel. Then pumice, pear, canned peaches, and baked apples jump into the mix, followed by Nutella, Cheerios, candied pecans, and chocolate. As the medium to long finish sets in, slight hints of smoke appear and suggest it would pair great with a bold cigar. A drop of water only makes it better.
With smoke and oak, this starts off so intense with pepper spices, peat, dried apricot, hard candies, caramel-covered apples, salted butter, pecan shell, and strawberry jam. Leather, tobacco, and baking spices begin the descent toward a medium, slightly bitter finish. If you like trying new things, this is an American cadre of flavors unlike anything out there. (Bottled on February 12, 2018)
Initially, it’s extremely perfume-like, with floral notes often found in fragrances. Then the fruit completely takes over: banana, blueberry, plums, cherry, apple, pear, and quince. Of these, the banana lingers until chocolate and vanilla enter the picture, followed by hints of green pepper and graham cracker. Then, boom, baking spices launch into a lovely medium to long finish.
Knob Creek 25th Anniversary Single Barrel (barreled 2/11/2004), 60.9%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $130
When the caramel train comes, it rarely returns after such strong earthy notes of roots, hay, and soil. It’s the same story in the next round: first, pan-fried sweet potatoes and parsnips dominate; caramel returns with vanilla, allspice, and white pepper. Then the odd but welcomed combo of campfire-smoked marshmallows and gingersnaps just before a long caramel finish. Very unique.
Michter’s 10 year old Single Barrel Rye (no. 17A34), 46.4%
Rye Whiskey | $150
On the nose, a tapestry of candied fruit, dark caramel, and molasses. Then it’s herbs, ocean air, oak, fruit, roasted peanuts, pecan pie, and pie crust in the oven. Nuanced vanilla appears, but prominent black licorice, leather, burnt pumpkin bread, and tobacco dominate toward the end. A decently long finish gives a strong hint of bread pudding. This is definitely not your typical rye, but it sure is tasty.
Barrell 11 year old American Whiskey (Batch 004), 60.3%
Miscellaneous | $65
A blend of whiskeys finished in rum and rye barrels, it’s molasses-forward with quick introductions of clove, vanilla, flowers, and strawberry. Green apple and ginger cookies appear before a burst of caramel chew, herbs, and chewing tobacco. At times fascinating for its rye, bourbon, and rum qualities, albeit a little hot, it’s a must-pour for a spirits lover.
Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bottled in Bond 10 year old, 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $33
One of the few remaining age-stated bourbons. Henry McKenna’s color is beautiful. You can hold it up in sunset light and just enjoy the russet and amber hues reflecting. Sweetness, savory, and floral fragrances followed by brown sugar, fresh-baked rye bread, and malt. Caramel and vanilla, with roasted pine nuts and spice, and a slight hint of strawberry lead to a long and savory finish. Balance is the point of this sipper.
Think carnival aromas—the good ones, anyway—meeting the campfire. Cracker Jacks, cinnamon-covered almonds, popcorn, cotton candy, marshmallows melting over graham crackers, and hints of smoldering oak. Next, coconut, caramel, and cocoa over a buttery mouthfeel with hints of toffee, banana, baked apple, and pumpkin pie appear. Toward the end, hints of black pepper and raspberry strudel surface in a medium to long finish.
With a mashbill of 70% rye, 18% corn, and 12% malted barley, this rye doesn’t disappoint. Butter-toasted rye bread and vanilla, with hints of herbs and campfire smoke. Then fruit…a lot of fruit: pear, banana, pineapple, followed by a bevy of sweets—caramel, butterscotch, and toffee, mainly—with a delightful cinnamon bread finish. This skews more toward bourbon than the Indiana ryes, and that’s a good thing.
Think of an Almond Joy candy bar: coconut, almond, and milk chocolate, followed by the candy bar’s rival flavors: caramel, vanilla, and butterscotch. Then oak, leather, cigar box, marmalade, grape jelly, a plethora of baking spices, and toffee. This beautiful study of barrel strength bourbon needs no water. Caramel in all forms, from candied to syrup, follows this home for a long and delightful finish.
This is a re-release of the 2015 bottling. A tapestry of confectionery delights begins this journey, followed by fruit, cigar box, saddle leather, cotton candy, roasted pecans, caramel, and marshmallow. Then, it’s smoked paprika, fig, cinnamon, strawberry, and dark cherries. In the form of walnut shells, a powerful and somewhat pleasant bitterness finds the finish, with a hint of chocolate. But that bitterness does supersede the more pleasant notes, making it slightly unbalanced.
Michter’s 10 year old Single Barrel Straight Rye (Barrel No. 16A113), 46.4%
Rye Whiskey | $150
This rye has a lot going on. The palate ranges from herbs, caramel, cotton candy, honeysuckle, and rose petals, to chocolate, malt, black pepper, honey, and slightly burnt pizza crust. The whiskey sits on the palate, richly giving red fruit and pepper spice with a slight hint of banana on the end. The taste is magnificent. If the medium finish was just a little longer, this would venture into greatness.
Complexity right off. Cherry candied nuance, smoke, caramel, French toast, vanilla, and apricot, but then an explosion of marzipan coats the palate with vanilla, freshly baked rye bread, and hints of brown sugar, nutmeg, toasted almond, and bittersweet chocolate. Finally, cherry cola and herbs walk you to a lovely, long, bitter finish with warm undertones. This is a year-round front porch sipper.
At first, it’s truly American candy: melted chocolate-covered almonds and coconut. Then, it’s cinnamon, toffee, butterscotch, gingersnap cookies, red pepper, and Rice Krispies. This mouth-coating offers lingering baking spices throughout. A drop of water offers even more complexity, with pronounced caramel chew notes developing. With or without water, a complex and long finish awaits with hints of jalapeño chocolate.
Rich and bold, it’s loaded with caramel notes that range from macchiato to salted caramel chews. Then complexity sets in, with brown sugar, vanilla cake batter, cinnamon-dusted molasses cookies, candied pecans, brown-sugar butter, and cornbread. The key here is that each note appears with that initial caramel richness and follows this to the long, warm, and satisfying finish with a hint of spice.
Cotton candy, marshmallows roasting over an open campfire, baked apples, and cornbread batter start a whiskey that then offers hints of caramel apples, pumpkin pie, and roasted pecans. Water opens it up to more nuanced fruit, spice, and sweetness. Without water, brown-sugar butter dominates about mid-palate and leads to a long finish. Dilution makes this a completely different whiskey experience.
High rye is evident, with rounded baking spices up front, leather, muted caramel, vanilla, and a hint of tobacco. This ABV beast coasts with the warmth and richness of crème brûlée, toffee, cinnamon rock candy, fruit, and nutmeg. Oh wait, there’s more. Smoke kicks in toward the end with marshmallow undertones and more cinnamon, finishing strong with lasting spice. This is a cask strength sipper or a lovely bourbon on the rocks.
An 8 year old from Wild Turkey’s Warehouse G, it’s classic Turkey on the nose, with a little spice, caramel, nutmeg, oak, and slight hints of lavender. Then sautéed barley, pecan shell, brown sugar, chewing tobacco, and bittersweet chocolate. An earthy oak note blossoms, with a layered caramel chew following this whiskey home to a medium finish. (Maisano’s Fine Wine and Spirits exclusive)
This is a batch of 100 barrels of MGP light whiskey, an American whiskey using higher distillation proofs and used cooperage. It reminds me of 1980s Crown Royal, with floral vibrancy, honey, and a slight hint of chocolate, followed by licorice, allspice, and vanilla. Its spice hits early and often with balanced black licorice. Blackberry, blueberry, and ginger come down the final stretch for a nice medium-length finish. Sourced whiskey. (Distillery only)
A composite of Tennessee and Kentucky whiskeys, finished in sherry butts and port pipes. It’s sherry-forward, but rich and layered in roasted nuts, caramel, dried caramel, vanilla cake batter, chocolate, chamomile, and roasted apple. Marzipan and honey flash with hints of hazelnut, pear, and molasses cookie over a slightly chewy mouthfeel. The medium to long finish gives a slight hint of citrus.
The original Maker’s Mark, tried and true, and the same since the 1950s. The nose is consistent with a flare on the floral, toffee and caramel, roasted almonds, and loads of vanilla. Just when you think you’ve tasted this a million times, it offers candied fruit and pie crust with the final touches of praline and a hint of pecan shell.
The same mashbill as its sister brand Old Forester, Woodford Reserve is an unknown combination from Brown-Forman’s Louisville and Versailles distilleries. There’s no age statement, but Woodford is around 7 years old. The key here is balance. One note never overtakes the other; nutmeg, mango, baked apples, cinnamon, blueberry pie, and vanilla seem to walk in perfect harmony. Then we find the gingerbread, caramel, and vanilla jumping into layers of smoke and spice.
It starts out with several forms of wood—split, toasted, charred, and smoldering—and develops baking spices, baked apple, caramel, popcorn, and earth. A tingle hits throughout the palate, as rounded notes of chocolate, cabernet, roasted marshmallow, and white pepper develop over lingering vanilla. Candied corn and cinnamon butter develop into a medium to long finish. (36,000 bottles)
Chocolate, vanilla cream fried pie, and herbs offer insight into this opening round of a fabulous whiskey. Cornbread, pecan pie, roasted walnuts, and chocolate-flavored coffee hit mid-palate, followed by cinnamon roll, pumpkin spice, and mint. But the finish falls slightly short, only offering a hint of caramel.
Toasted oak, coffee, cola, molasses, and campfire smoke linger over a French bakery and baking spices that are both interesting and appealing. Then chocolate, hazelnut, and nutmeg dominate in a dessert-style treat that later introduces custard, banana cream pie, and candy corn. Almond butter appears for the long finish.(Bottled in winter 2017; Kentucky only)
A bourbon made with cherrywood-smoked barley in the mash. When chocolate and cherries meet, instant joy can only be improved with roasted nuts sprinkled on top. That’s what happens here. It’s all there in the opening round, followed by toasted oak, tangerine, pumpkin latte, caramel-covered popcorn, and more cherries, from jam to pitted dark cherries and maraschino to cherry fried pie. If you love cherries, this is a must-have.
Eagle Rare 17 year old (2017 Buffalo Trace Antique Collection), 45%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $90
At first it’s a confectionery delight, with notes of cotton candy, caramel, burnt brown sugar, and praline. Then a spice explosion hits as the caramel becomes more defined. We’re talking pumpkin pie spice with hints of allspice, cardamom, and clove. Tobacco and stone fruit develop toward the end. Alas, its medium finish, with a hint of oak, doesn’t continue the complexity found on the palate.
A beautiful opening of oak, butterscotch, and fruit quickly becomes more pronounced in banana and pineapple. Then baked apple, Bananas Foster, caramel pudding, and salt water taffy. Hints of smoke and paprika lurk, but marzipan and orange blossom honey nail the landing. The finish doesn’t hold up to the palate, only offering a hint of caramel. Very good, but not quite outstanding.
Think southern kitchen: cornbread, sorghum, and brown sugar. Then it blossoms into a more traditional spice-forward American whiskey, with caramel, vanilla, baking spices, black pepper, habañero, and jalapeño honey. Toward the end, subtle herbs appear just before a long and spicy finish.
Boone County Distilling Eighteen 33 10 year old, 45.4%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $53
First it’s oak and leather, then spices of a different sort dominate, such as anise, fennel, and caraway. Then, the usual suspects in a bourbon of this age: caramel, vanilla, leather, oak, nutmeg, and slight hints of off-the-beaten-path notes: black pepper and sage. After a lovely medium-to-long finish with a strong note of toasted pecan, this is, for sure, a good, though not great sipping whiskey.
Quince, coconut, raspberry, and chocolate walk into an array of breads—sourdough, cornbread, Lebanese pita, and pumpernickel rye. Soon a sweetness develops over earthiness. Think hazelnut latte paired with rich lentil soup, followed by jalapeño cornbread and honey. Its strength never shows, but that promise in the taste is not followed in the finish, which is shorter than expected. If the finish held up, it would be a much stronger whiskey.
Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 year old (barrel 4744359), 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $50
Caramel and earth on the nose, with freshly tilled soil, flowers, and oak just before an explosion of caramel, vanilla, allspice, and fruit. It really grows on you, with a buttery mouthfeel that presents cinnamon, honey, cornbread, marzipan, pecan pie, granola, nutmeg-dusted pumpkin pie, and a slight hint of candied ginger. Finishes long, with rich caramel. Quite tasty.
One of the first non-Kentucky bonded bourbons since the 1950s. There’s trepidation in this glass. Floral, pear, peach, and chocolate tickle the nose, leading to relief that its aroma isn’t over-oaked like some smaller distillers’ bourbons. Apricot meets dark chocolate, mint, and smoked corn, with hints of caramel, walnut shell, and a long, chicory-coffee finish. The taste is definitely not Kentucky but is convincingly delicious, especially the bitter notes toward the end. Taste this lineage; something special is starting.
When spice meets fruit in whiskey, it’s a beautiful thing. Here, chili pepper melds with banana and pear, then baking spices tumble into passion fruit. Next, it’s cornbread, vanilla ice cream, hazelnut, and brown sugar. Finally, a touch of caramel appears toward the end, where a medium but lovely finish takes it home. This will make a fine table whiskey for easy sipping.
Hochstadter’s Family Reserve 16 year old Straight Rye, 61.9%
Rye Whiskey | $200
When bakers knead dough there’s a distinct aroma that drifts upward as the flour and water combine. That doughy goodness is found here, with root vegetable cellar and funky leather notes. Then powerful flavors drive this whiskey home: black licorice, caramel-flavored rice cakes, rye bread, paprika, cumin, and sugar cookies over a richly coating mouthfeel. Its greatest flaw is a shorter than desired medium finish with a hint of toasted pecan.
A combination of 7 year old year rye finished in port barrels and 11 year old wheated and rye bourbons. It presents exceptionally fruity aromas, with prominent plum and floral hints, fresh-cut grass, toasted pecan, burnt butter, brown sugar, and a touch of chocolate. On the palate there are warm cinnamon apples, fried donut with caramel icing, and a hint of dry popcorn. The medium finish offers lovely toffee. Sourced whiskey.
This is 3 years old, Indiana distilled, and has a “ladle” of Maryland spring water added. It includes two rye mashbills—one high, one low—breaking the mold from similar Indiana-distilled ryes. For its youth and strength, it immediately and amazingly feels mature, showing rich caramel, spearmint, and earth. The momentum slows with subtle blueberry rye muffin, black pepper, and cardamom. It finishes medium with a hint of cornbread.
The nose tickles with caramel, spice, vanilla, and earthiness, with just a hint of balsamic vinegar. Warming. Coated with spices, ranging from cinnamon to allspice and from coffee to nutmeg. Eventually, patented caramel and vanilla, with a fun hint of cardamom. The long, enjoyable finish is earthy, but there’s an unwanted bitterness at the end that cannot be denied. If not for the bitter end, this would rate much higher.
Effervescent, tingly mouthfeel, but the flavor begins after the initial warmth, with hints of caramel apple, pumpkin pie, apricot, and a slight hint of caramel popcorn. Then it’s pumice, apricot, and marmalade, followed by salt water taffy, cinnamon, and a big burst of nutmeg. A long finish offers a hint of peach pie.
Michter’s 10 year old Single Barrel (No. 17B302), 47.2%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $120
Initially there’s a lot going on. Bakery confectionary meets spice rack, followed by dried oak, toasted oak, covered baked apples, canned peaches, and dried apricot. Then tobacco and leather strike before mouth-coating butterscotch and vanilla icing. Once these notes dissipate, lighter baked fruits and jams walk this into a medium finish. While good, this whiskey could have been great if it maintained its initial complexity.
Launched in 2015, this is a solid pick for the under-$30 club. Think butterscotch and caramel dripping over popcorn: the cooked sugars first, then corn kernels. Dulled spices, oak, vanilla, hints of saddle leather and earth. This isn’t complex or complicated, but the medium-to-long candy corn finish leaves me wondering about its status with two more years in the barrel. Of course, that would mean the price would go up, too.
Barely legal at 51% rye, Rittenhouse packs lots of corn, offering a different profile than those higher-rye whiskeys from Indiana. Straight from the glass burst caramel, campfire smoke, and vanilla, with hints of dill weed and Herbs de Provence. Ripe in flavor, it shows slight mint from the rye and a complex voyage of herbs with a touch of chocolate here and walnut shell there. There’s a reason bartenders love mixing with this; it’s good neat or on the rocks.
It begins with corn pudding, savory and sweet, developing into cornbread, cookie dough, and tapioca pudding. This is followed by cinnamon bread, raw walnut, and malt. Around mid-palate, a dominating spice kicks in. This spice remains toward the finish, where the cinnamon just pleasantly sits there. Fun sipper.
Right up front, there’s really rich caramel with a lovely vanilla undertone. Then fruit, and lots of it: blackberries, blueberries, baked apples, and canned peaches, followed by wood, nutmeg, and maple syrup. It’s borderline complex, with a seamless balance and transition to the flavors. Extraordinarily rich caramel reappears over a medium, buttery, and satisfying finish.
Think cherries—they dominate the nose over earth, oak, and blueberries. Then it’s leather, tobacco, cigar box, and burnt pie crust edges. Finally, two notes become one, as cherry pie, with hints of rhubarb and cola. It sets itself up to be a prime whiskey, but the notes just fall off on a short finish. If only the backbone held up, this could be remarkable stuff.
There’s a lot going on here: rich caramel, soft vanilla, gingerbread cookies straight from the oven, cinnamon, marzipan, honey, and peach. Then it’s a dance of the caramel/vanilla-combo richness with brown sugar, butter, and toffee. The thing is, you need to appreciate barrel strength whiskey to capture its essence, as the beasty alcohol overpowers. Even barrel strength lovers will find a splash of water opens it up, giving more caramel, walnut, and whoopie pie. Long caramel finish.
Oh, that rickhouse smell: charred oak, leather, vanilla, and a slight hint of coconut. Then it’s caramel, toasted walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, and moon pie, with hints of black licorice and cumin. Strong tobacco and ginger notes present themselves just before a delightful finish with hints of crème brûlée and vanilla custard. This is a regular sipper in my house.
This whiskey is bananas. Is it banana pudding atop vanilla wafers or warm Bananas Foster melting into vanilla ice cream? It’s hard to say, but the lovely banana-vanilla combination dominates until baked pears, pumpkin bread, rye, and baking spices appear. A medium to long finish brings a bright cherry note. Price is per 375 ml.
Barrell Bourbon Cask Strength 5 year old (Batch 007), 61.2%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $85
5 years is when bourbon really starts developing complexity, and you find the beginnings of greatness here, with saltwater taffy, vanilla custard, citrus, corn pudding, and a healthy dose of cinnamon. Its proof offers satisfying warmth that quickly turns to spice. Medium finish gracefully gives a hint of warm vanilla icing. In an age of barrel strength bourbons, this is a good one, but lacks complexity for higher praise. Sourced whiskey.
There’s a marriage here, one of perfect harmony; fruit, floral, spice, sweet, and expressive toasted oak. Then the broad genres become specific: the fruit is cherries; the floral, a hint of lavender; the sweet, an array of toffee, caramel, and vanilla, until its spice complexity kicks in, showing allspice, white pepper, Spanish anise, and nutmeg. Its proof never shows, but the medium finish is just a touch short to make this truly special. (New Hampshire only)
Think of sitting on the front porch swing, legs up, a good song playing, and this smooth barrel strength rye. It’s an easy sipper, from the allspice and old-style licorice to the cadre of caramel and vanilla expressions that intertwine custard and German chocolate cake. You don’t expect sweetness, but it’s here, and lasting. If it has a weakness, it loses its intensity about mid-palate, but rebounds with a healthy medium-length finish.
High West Double Rye is transferred into vermouth and Syrah barrels, making for an interesting limited release. Herbs, blackberries, black currant, and black pepper are vibrant, followed by a medicinal hint of mint. The vermouth comes alive, with earthy notes meeting the rye’s traditional spices, a welcome back and forth with hints of black fruits. The warm, medium-length finish offers another hint of mint. If you like vermouth, you’ll love this.
Lovely cinnamon candies offer an entrancing first taste, with lemon drop and orange sherbet close behind. Baking spices come on strong mid-palate, with undertones of caramel and vanilla. But what makes this special is its mouthfeel: tingly and warming the palate throughout. Cinnamon is ever-present.
Initially, floral and fruit meet oak and a cadre of baking spices. Then it’s a plethora of vanilla in several forms, from icing to pudding, followed by notes of butterscotch, fudge, Oreo cookies, and pecan shell. Sweet cigar tobacco and honey follow this home to a short to medium finish with a hint of peach cobbler. Ideal for cocktails.
Sweet and smoke open this interesting whiskey that bounces from sweet to savory throughout. Vanilla and caramel meet burnt oak and charcoal smoke, followed by cinnamon, nutmeg, and a lot of coffee. Hazelnut and salt water taffy jump in for a quick note just before a medium finish with a hint of smoke.
A blend of 11, 5, and 4 year old bourbons blended with 2 and 3 year old ryes. Pine, cedar, and cigar box offer a pleasant botanical and masculine nose that has slight hints of dill and roasted corn. It’s bright and extremely interesting, with notes of Mexican chocolate, strawberry and orange Marmajam, rye toast, and peanut butter. The medium finish offers a hint of wintergreen
Knob Creek 25th Anniversary Single Barrel (barreled 2/11/2004), 62.5%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $130
At first it’s a smorgasbord of cotton candy, vanilla, caramel, tapioca pudding, honey, and salted caramel. Then spice-bomb reality sets in with nutmeg, cinnamon, anise, and ginger. Finally, the spice gives way to caramel over cornbread, malt, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch. The medium finish ends what was developing into a great whiskey; alas, much is to be desired.
Starting with floral, fruit, and perfume notes, its prominent bouquet barely allows the undertones of honeysuckle, spice, and oak to shine through. On the palate, honey, canned peaches, tobacco, and crème brûlée lead the way just before an explosion of vanilla layers the palate in the form of cake batter, icing, and a white fudge-dipped Oreo. However, bitterness sets in, causing a slight unbalance and lingers toward the medium finish.
No two Angels Envy Cask Strengths offer the same aromas. Here, cotton candy, honey, roasted pecan, and chocolate malt. Then a strange turn on the palate; roasted corn, dark chocolate, honey syrup, mashed cherry, caramel, Scotch ale, and cinnamon. Smoked cherrywood, hickory, milk chocolate, strawberry preserves, orange peel, and peach cobbler. What were once multiple fruit flavors now become a single cherry turnover with a sprinkle of cinnamon. It finishes medium with cherry.
Confectionary goodies all around. Vanilla, caramel with milk and chocolates: dark, Mexican, sweet, and white. Lots of chocolate. It’s soft and gentle, with zero spice, only rich chocolate and caramel with hints of grain and fruit, but this richness cannot be overstated. If you love chocolate and caramel, this is your dream bourbon. It finishes long and strong with a hint of—you guessed it—chocolate. Price is per 375ml
Slow-roasted corn, marzipan, cinnamon, nutmeg, and kettle corn start this experience and slowly fade to corn on the cob with butter, salt, and pepper. Then, it’s apple cider vinegar, deep-fried mushrooms, and Nutella. Fried pie dough and hints of chocolate appear before a medium finish that has a hint of toffee.
Bone Snapper X-Ray Straight Rye 4 year old (Batch 1), 55%
Rye Whiskey | $50
At first, fruit and charred oak own the moment, only to be interrupted by petrol, florals, and earth. Spice sets in with an abundance of sweetness following. Then, a lovely explosion of fresh-baked rye rolls with hints of pomegranate, orange peel, banana, and apple. Pepper spices remain to the end where a medium finish, with hints of cinnamon await.
Based in the village of Baarle-Nassau in the Netherlands, the Zuidam distillery was built by genever distiller Fred Van Zuidam in 2002 and is now run by his son Patrick, who started distilling at the age of 14. His single malt is made from windmill-ground barley, given temperature-controlled fermentation, distilled in Holstein stills, and aged in new oak for a period before being racked into older casks. A rich amber color, this expression is ripe and fruity with plenty of red cherry, a little hint of fig, and a little sweet spice. Balanced and rich with a fresh citric farewell this is a classy arrival on the world scene. £59
Blend of 5 and 9 year old whiskeys aged in American oak and finished in Papillion (a French oak-aged red wine) barrels. There’s something to this, with orange zest, rose petals, honey, vanilla, and cotton candy. Then, a contradictory array of flavors abruptly changes the conversation. Think smoke: charcoal, campfire marshmallows, cinnamon, with hints of white pepper and tobacco plug. Its medium-spicy finish captivates me, even though palate and nose seem to be two different whiskeys. Very interesting. Sourced whiskey.
From the folks at Willett distillery, Noah’s Mill has less than 20 barrels in a batch and will include 15 year old barrels in the dump. The deep amber color prepares the nose for what promises to be an exciting ride. Aromas of ginger, plums, cinnamon, fresh-baked cornbread, and fresh-squeezed cherries. The warm palate packs caramel, nutmeg, and vanilla with lovely cinnamon on the finish. Sourced whiskey.
Quite an unusual start: melted butter poured over brown rice followed by caramel, vanilla, and fried sweet potatoes. Although the ABV suggests it’s light, the body actually holds up quite well with notes of banana, quince, marzipan, bread pudding, and vanilla. Alas, the short finish doesn’t follow suit, only offering a hint of caramel.
It begins with notes of brown sugar, Nutter Butter, hazelnut, nutmeg, and vanilla, with hints of roasted nuts. They’re pronounced and rounded, with secondary and tertiary notes introducing malt, cornbread, and salt water taffy. The medium finish offers a hint of bacon bits.
Think corn: roasted, canned, creamed, mashed, pan-fried, in salsa, and in bread. The corn pops early and often. This complements hazelnut, caramel pudding, and baking spices. A drop of water really opens this up, softening the corn-heavy notes and bringing forth fruits and spices. Even the finish is better with water. Perhaps this whiskey was meant to have a lower proof.
Straw color and extremely light in aromatics, this whiskey starts earthy and goes spicy, with Hatch chili, allspice, and jalapeño cornbread leading the way. Then the sweeter side kicks in, with powdered sugar donuts, caramel chew, and vanilla latte coming through. Spice takes over toward the finish line in a hefty, medium finish. Perfect for cocktails. Price is per 375 ml.
The mix: 38.5% Bernheim-distilled 17 year old Kentucky straight bourbon, 51% 4 year old bourbon, and 10.5% 4 year old corn whiskey. Kudos for the full disclosure. This whiskey doesn’t fit in a typical American box. Hard to assess color with used cooperage from corn whiskey, so stick to aroma and flavor here. Impressive beginning of fruits, roasted nuts, citrus, vanilla, cherry, spice, and undercooked cornbread, followed by a quick caramel burst. Tasty, even better with a splash of water.
When you close your eyes and think of an American whiskey, this is what it smells like: leather, caramel, vanilla, oak, and a hint of smoke. It becomes ever more interesting with introductions of citrus, baked fruit, and a hint of oregano; and then the baking spice and pepper follow the finish home.
Cotton candy, caramel, baked apples, roasted pecans, freshly baked rye rolls, and herbs start a truly approachable pour. Its story opens in a spice race: cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, and smoked paprika and a slight hint of coffee. A burst of dill hits, just before vanilla walks it home to a lovely, medium finish. An interesting sipper, but remarkable in cocktails.
Cornbread and toffee start this alluring whiskey, followed by hints of paprika, fruits, flowers, and caramel. Afterward, it opens up into a bakery with cinnamon rolls, caramel chews, vanilla cupcakes, and ginger. Baking spices and earth appear over a medium finish that offers black licorice. It’s well-suited for mixing.
This blend of 6 to 8 year old bourbon is finished for 3 to 4 months in casks that aged Cognac for 12 years. There’s fruit, especially dried apricot, pear, passion fruit, grapefruit, and cherry. Then caramel, oak, leather, tobacco, vanilla, and a slight hint of cinnamon. Honestly, there’s a textural brandy-and-bourbon struggle, but beautiful vanilla and nutmeg surface, ensuring it is indeed bourbon. A muted spice comes toward the end with rich caramel. Solid sipper.
Four Roses 2016 Limited Edition Small Batch, 55.9%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $99
A batch of OESO 12 year old, OBSV 12 year old, and OESK 16 year old. Normally, Four Roses expresses a near-patented cinnamon note up front with fruity undertones. Not this time. Earth, oak, powerfully rich caramel, nutmeg, vanilla, barrel char, with slight hints of grain, corn syrup, and cardamom. Finally, the quintessential cinnamon shows over a slightly disappointing medium finish.
This is unique in that it seems to be malt-forward, specifically floor malt, with oak and cinnamon following. But caramel enters the dance and does so in a big way. Nuances of crème brûlée, caramel popcorn, maple syrup, and caramelized corn with hints of cola, raspberry, and apple tart. While the flavor is here, the finish is just a touch short to put this in elite company. Nonetheless, it’s a decent sipper.
Some bourbons are balanced or complex; this is an all-around versatile pour with initial notes of lightly toasted oak, brown sugar, and butterscotch. A fun maltiness, concentrated caramel, and slight hints of cinnamon and watermelon Juicy Fruit hammer home its sipping potential, but its short to medium finish suggests that it’s more suited for cocktails. But hey, why not both?
Caramel and cigar box lead the way, but leather comes in strong, followed by oak, earth, and mushrooms. On the palate, Nutella and roasted almonds resonate over crème brûlée, salt water taffy, vanilla icing, and nutmeg, with slight hints of apple and pineapple, at which point I think it really starts to pick up and take on some complexity. Alas, the short finish hurts what was a delightful experience.
Cotton candy, campfire smoke, cinnamon, pilsner beer, butterscotch, and vanilla start a whiskey conversation that’s about balance, easy sipping, and the pursuit of spice. Around mid-palate, a plethora of baking spices—clove, nutmeg, vanilla, cinnamon, and allspice—charms the senses. It’s set up to be a great run, but the approach softens toward the finish with muted brown sugar appearing. Still, the flavor and balance make for a fun sipper and great cocktail mixer.
An 8 year old Kentucky straight bourbon finished in Oregon oak that apparently brings about vanilla cake batter, caramel, hints of coffee, and citrus. Soft and delicate to the taste, with exploding French toast notes, cinnamon, allspice, and a hint of blueberry jam. The finish comes and goes, but leaves an impressive watermelon Jolly Rancher-cinnamon combo at the end. This one is meant to be sipped without the addition of water or ice. Sourced whiskey.
This non-chill filtered rye is bold and ready for a spice-hungry palate. At first the aroma gently introduces herbs, pepper spice, cinnamon, and vanilla; preparing for a hopeful taste of the same. Instead, there’s a surprise: toasted rye bread at the beginning followed by cinnamon and caramel, with a medium-length finish.
Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Straight Rye (Buffalo Trace Antique Collection 2017), 63.6%
Rye Whiskey | $90
Initially, an unwanted mustiness is present, but it quickly turns into a damp cellar note, followed by dill, eucalyptus, fresh oak, and mint. Hints of smoke emerge over pecan shell and chewing tobacco. Then a cherry cough syrup note appears, with baking spices gaining steam, but the whiskey never truly finds a desired dominant note or balance. The finish gives it hope: it lingers with a hint of brown sugar.
Delicate and flavorful chocolate, caramel, and dried fruit begin a delightful sipper that really becomes easy drinking, with hints of cola, cherry, and maple syrup. Then it’s the spice, specifically cinnamon and allspice, over a slight bitterness, like grapefruit rind, that suggests complexity awaits. But no, the short finish hurts its next-level consideration. Price is per 375 ml
Think of an herb garden. It’s pronounced with herbs such as parsley, dill, and hints of basil and mint. Fruits develop (canned peaches and pears), followed by earth, floral, and oak. Then a medicinal note sets in, forming as cherry cough syrup, striking an unbalanced, astringent mouthfeel with hints of mint and salted chocolate. A drop of water softens the medicinal approach and returns the herbal, fruity, and earthy richness. Finishes medium with a hint of dill.
This is a non-chill filtered bottling. Initially, it’s perfume-centric with highly floral notes until a grain neutralizer sets in, with hints of caramel and vanilla. Cornbread, honey, and slight hints of pepper, herbs, and tobacco. Finishes short with a mouthful of lovely sweet corn pudding.
Two things show almost immediately: alcohol level and sherry cask. Heat and salty nuttiness really express themselves early on, eventually followed by flavors of caramel chew, graham cracker, nutmeg, and cinnamon, with an unwanted bitterness. Walnut shell and smoked meat come along too, for a medium finish that tingles. With a drop of water, its bitterness turns to oak, making it the preferred way to sip its hefty proof. Sourced whiskey.
When one imagines the Indiana ryes, this maximizes every note on the nose, warming up with mint, dill, oak, macerated cherries, and a ton of baking spices. There’s a bit of a medicinal palate property in cherry throat lozenge form, followed by oak and chocolate. Its best attribute is an unexpected long finish with a big bite of candied ginger.
Mosswood Barrel Aged American Whiskey 9 year old, 46%
Miscellaneous | $50
Finished in barrels that once held nocino, a walnut liqueur. This whiskey immediately offers chocolate, oak, leather, vanilla, roasted pecans, and smoke-fired marshmallow. Then port, oatmeal stout, cherry cola, nutmeg, applesauce, roasted nuts, and caramel. The final notes are soft, but an extremely short finish erodes the palate’s promise.
Commonly referred to as Black Label, the color is noticeably dark for a younger, less than 8 year old product like this. The nose takes it a step forward with burnt brown sugar, fruit, and cinnamon. But the palate reveals its youth with a mouthful of grains and acidity. However, it’s saved by final notes of honey, vanilla, caramel, soft oak, and coconut. A short finish disappoints, but this is a cocktail or cola contender.
Florals and fruit begin a soft and delicate journey. For such a light whiskey, it’s certainly heavy on cherries, stone fruit, apples, and marmalade, followed by toffee, coffee, bananas, and chocolate. A drop of water shows how delicate it is, and the short finish suggests this whiskey would be leaps and bounds better with ten more degrees of proof.
Distilled and aged in Indiana, it’s herbal, floral, and slightly fruity, with a hint of cherry syrup. Resounding dried apricot and peach cobbler are followed by concentrated caramel and vanilla, creating a very pleasing and easy-drinking whiskey. Although not complex nor with a strong finish, it’s perfectly balanced by intense notes. Perfect for cocktails or table whiskey.
At 95% rye and 5% malted barley, it’s initially an herbal and floral bomb, with slight hints of earth and rising bread dough. Then cinnamon, and lots of it, over nutmeg, baked apples, clove, ginger, and molasses. An explosion of cracked black pepper dominates toward the medium finish with a slight hint of baked pear. Tasty as a summer sipper or cocktail base.
It begins with flowers, cardamom, fresh-cut walnut wood, and mint. Notes of fruit, pomace, applesauce, pineapple, and vanilla-iced strawberries take over, but smoke, pear, and apple dominate thereafter. A shorter than expected finish presents hints of chocolate, candied corn, and more smoke. Very nice for punches.
At 3 years, 6 months, this whiskey shows so much promise. As most young bourbons do, this one starts with hints of oak and a mouthful of corn that develops into cornbread and corn pudding over subtle hints of pralines and chocolate. Then out of nowhere, raw almonds and pecan shell. The medium finish ends with a touch of cinnamon. High hopes for this one. In another year or two, we could be talking about something really special. Price is per 375 ml.
What begins as a banana, oat, and Malt-O-Meal delight turns into honey and potato chips. This is followed by cookie dough, dark cherries, sweet-potato chips, beets, dehydrated pineapple, pine nuts, and oak. Its medium finish offers a mouthful of banana. If you love banana, you’ll love this whiskey.
Light straw color, but its rich aroma contradicts its youthful color. Marshmallow and cotton candy really come out strong, quickly followed by decadent bakery aromas. Fresh-baked muffins, heavy whipping cream, and vanilla icing, with hints of caramelized barley and nutmeg. Its weaknesses are a slightly adhesive mouthfeel and short finish, but the pronounced flavors still make it a borderline sipper or a just-add-water whiskey. Sourced whiskey.
In the pantheon of rye whiskey, Breakout sits at a coveted 8 years old. The nose offers its age with a hint of oak over the delicate, savory herbal aromas that range from dill to oregano. There’s a slight vanilla note on the second whiff. The palate offers smoke, coffee, smoked paprika, vanilla wafers, and a hint of chocolate, followed by a medium-length finish, making me wish this was just 10 proof points higher. Sourced whiskey.
Warmth. Bakery flavors set in right away, illustrating both sweet and spice: cinnamon bread, vanilla, yellow cake batter, gingersnaps, no-bake oatmeal cookies. Then, hints of smoke, dark cherries, chipotle pepper, and a slight hint of butterscotch. As is, it disappointingly finishes short, with a hint of cardamom. Water adds caramel complexity to the previously short finish.
You can actually smell the cooper toasting oak here, so the name carries real meaning. Then cotton candy, fresh-baked rye, vanilla, apple, and caramel come to life. A slight hint of grain becomes more expressive on the tongue, offering bread-like flavors with hints of brown sugar and honey. Short finish with a hint of grain. If you like light-bodied bourbons, this is right up your alley.
Highly anticipated, this release offers freshly-popped kettle corn, cinnamon, nutmeg, oak, hints of fruit and floral. Then it feels unbalanced, a bitter woodiness hiding hopeful flavors. Once the wood disappears there’s caramel, vanilla, and baking spice over heat. A drop of water corrects the dominant oak and gives this a sipper’s chance.
Chocolate, honey, vanilla, cotton candy, smoke from barbecue coals, and a big whiff of brown sugar cooking in butter. Then oak shows, softening to vanilla and an explosion of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice. You’re thinking this is a nice mid-range rye, but a short finish really disappoints. Its finish is saved by a nice hint of dill. Sourced whiskey.
The new packaging of Old Grand-Dad doesn’t say bottled in bond, but only “bonded.” At first look, the impression is not good. The straw color makes me think it’s young. Then grains burst out of the glass with a hint of mint. Is this repackaged young whiskey? Then, to my surprise, an explosion. Baking spices, freshly baked bread, and cinnamon roll bring this whiskey home. I’d love to taste it after a few more years in the barrel, but it’s mighty tasty as it is now.
Once a 7 year old product, W.L. Weller Special Reserve no longer carries an age statement, but the wheated bourbon still brings caramel-forward joy and hints of watermelon and fresh-baked bread. Enjoy the short bursts of crème brulee, praline, honey, Jolly Rancher watermelon candy, and a hint of nutmeg, because it’s not there long. You can see the potential.
Somewhat forgotten, this table bourbon is ripe with fired-corn salsa, citrus zest, and a hint of butterscotch. It could use another year or two in the barrel, but the grains, caramel, and fruit (with a hint of spice) are delicious on their own. Want a house bourbon for cocktails? This is a fine pick.
At 6 years, 4 months, and 4 days old, there’s a bit of an old-school bourbon nose, with caramel and butterscotch leading. Chocolate, cinnamon, and nutmeg follow. What starts out promising turns to grain, opening up to cornbread, freshly baked rye bread, and vanilla cupcake batter. Once the chewy-to-dry mouthfeel is established, there’s walnut bread, rice pudding, and buttered toast over heat. With water, the grain disappears and malty caramel dominates. This needs water or ice to maximize potential.
With its straw color, this looks nothing like a 6 year old, but its aroma and taste justify the age statement. Caramel-covered popcorn, cooked grains, Nutella, honey, and toasted rye bread. No one flavor overpowers another as an assortment of sweet and spice project over a chewy mouthfeel. The medium finish shows decent caramel. This is nice, but doesn’t wow the palate. Sourced whiskey.
Brown-Forman has made Old Forester since 1870. It sure is easy on the eyes: beautiful tawny hues against the light of sunset. Think Southern bakery. Lots of caramel, vanilla, freshly baked cornbread, nutmeg, cherry pie, and cocoa. Then add the spiciness. These delicious flavors don’t last long, making me wonder how it would fare with just a couple more years in the barrel.
High West American Prairie Bourbon (Batch No. 16B16), 46%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $35
A blend of straight bourbons. Light straw color. An expressive dark cherry, cooked grains, and wood nose opens up to a bevy of custard, roasted pine nuts, and herbs, with hints of tobacco and smoked hazelnuts. A grain-forward approach leaves it slightly unbalanced, until roasted nuts save the day with a tinge of vanilla and caramel-flavored popcorn. Sourced whiskey.
Grain in several forms begin this experience. First it’s raw corn kernels, freshly buttered popcorn, boiled oats, rye toast, and cornbread. Then oak, raisins, and slight hints of vanilla develop, but the concentrated cornbread dominates after its appearance. However, though at a low proof, water is needed to cut the heat. Recommended with ice, water, and/or cola.
Initially, it’s earth and fruit. This develops into sawdust, more earth, and bananas. From here, it’s green pepper, banana nut bread, and warm corn tortillas over a soft mouthfeel with little complexity. This will work in a pinch and it’s great in ginger ale, Coca-Cola, or lighter cocktails, but it’s probably best over ice.
Beginning with charcoal smoke, oak, herbs, and vanilla, grains set in, in the form of cornbread, rye muffin, and spelt pasta. This 3 year old lacks the mouthfeel or richness one hopes for in a rye. The finish is flat and short. This is an okay cocktail mixer, but lacks the oomph for a sipper.
With a mashbill of 72/18/10% (corn/rye/malted barley), Old Forester offers a traditional recipe in a contemporary proof. Ponder the basics: caramel and vanilla with hints of herbs and baking spices. Promise shows in pumpkin spice, custard, and burnt caramel, but there’s an unwanted high-alcohol note that dulls much of the sweeter taste. Its final moments are saved with hints of cinnamon. Good value bourbon.
Straw to light tawny. This blend of straight American whiskeys comes alive with wood, floral, citrus, and cola. The taste presents a heftier body than the 40% ABV suggests, with hints of coffee, nutmeg, and cornbread. This has a warm, astringent finish that gives cinnamon, caramel, and grain. Leaves me wanting more from the experience. Sourced whiskey.
What happens when 8 year old bourbon rests in a bourbon barrel-turned-rum barrel for 14 months? This is it. Muted caramel, vanilla, and spice meet salt, dried fruit, and almond extract, with a short cereal grain finish. An open mind will find this interesting. But for the traditionalist, this isn’t bourbon. I applaud the rum cask use, but this barrel appears not to be the perfect marriage for my glass.
Wood. From the lumberyard to the charred barrels, wood powers over grain, caramel, vanilla, and earth. A nuttiness comes through, turning the wood into almond, pine nut, and pecan, but a resounding bitterness stays in the form of nut shells. It lacks balance and complementary flavors to the oak, but caramel finds itself on a short finish. Decent first release, but I wanted to find more nuance from the second barrel.
An odd combo of cornbread and pine trees starts this whiskey just before the grains develop. Think rye bread, oatmeal, and barley. Then it’s caramel and vanilla before a blast of cinnamon. This whiskey is far too soft and short to hold up as a sipper. It’s best in batched cocktails.
A composite of 5, 7, and 8 year old Kentucky and Tennessee bourbons. It offers exceptional color at this ABV, but the grain and oak-forward nose suggests youth, with hints of medicinal boiling oatmeal and cinnamon. Slightly dry to adhesive mouthfeel is followed by menthol, heavy smoke, cinnamon-custard pie, licorice, caramel, and a hint of cherry cough syrup. With the stocks selected for this batch, I’d hoped for more, but it tastes unlike traditional bourbon. Sourced whiskey.
This composite includes 28 year old barrels that yielded a flavor profile similar to pre-Prohibition blends. Smoke, mint, herbs, dandelion, chamomile, and horehound. Earthiness warms the palate with a slight hint of whole-grain toast. A medium finish shows a bit of black licorice. This style is so reminiscent of early 1900s whiskeys that it’s a must-pour for a palate history lesson. You just don’t taste these notes elsewhere.
Parker’s Heritage (distilled Spring 1991) 24 year old, 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $250
Take just a moment to admire the color; it’s nearly red after 24 years. Then admire the fragrance, with florals, fruit, caramel, and vanilla bargaining for their time over prominent oak. Complexity of earth, caramel, cinnamon, vanilla, bitter chocolate, light cinnamon, sautéed mushrooms, watermelon Jolly Rancher, and a hint of tobacco. Eventually, woodiness and bitterness set in and dominate the palate. Too much wood.
Oak comes out strong and dominates. Its astringency appears to mask everything else for a moment, just before tobacco, dark chocolate, peanut butter, and sesame seeds set in. Unfortunately, these notes surface only briefly before the oak barrage reappears. It’s simply over-oaked.
There’s promise here, with peach, dried apricot, baking spice, and vanilla delighting the olfactory, and a slight hint of coffee just in case you needed it. But the intense heat shows itself and grain covers subtle sweetness and spice. The best high-proof whiskeys are actually quite smooth; this needs water to find its sweet spot. Sourced whiskey.
Used cooperage and higher corn content make corn whiskey its own category, and Mellow Corn is its leader. As expected, corn dominates throughout as salty chip, tortilla, and my favorite, a thick corn pudding. Burnt brown sugar, vanilla, and black pepper spice tingle the senses, too. This is a sipper if you really like corn, but you can’t drink this and think bourbon.
Parker’s Heritage (distilled Fall 1990) 24 year old, 50%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $250
Non-chill filtered plus a lot of age equals oak meeting caramel, vanilla, earth, nuttiness, and mildew. Slight hints of anise, rose petals, tree bark, and overcooked rice, before over-oaked flavor dominates with medicinal notes and soap. Bitterness, earth, and a saving grace of herbs follow for a decent, albeit woody finish. This is simply over-oaked. I’d love to have tasted this bottled three to seven years ago.
It’s 68% corn, 18% wheat, and 14% malted barley finished in a sherry barrel. First there’s an assortment of wood, from tree to toasted oak, followed by roasted walnuts, leather, and marshmallow. Grapefruit rind and a bitterness appear, followed by more woody notes and hints of vanilla. It never strikes the desired balance, finishing short with a hint of hazelnut.
Amador Ten Barrels Straight Hop-Flavored Whiskey, 48%
Flavored Whisky & Liqueurs | $$130
This literally tastes like pan-fried mushrooms and roots. It’s earthy; you don’t really expect such intensity from a flavored whiskey. After earth, hops, chocolate, and root beer, I finally taste the whiskey; a nearly absent sensation toward the end. But I guess that’s the point: if they wanted you to taste whiskey, they wouldn’t flavor it. Still, there are no chemically-imbalanced flavors here. This is worth trying, even for us curmudgeon purists.
Youth and rawness offer the first impression, with fresh-cut oak and grains leading the way. The raw grains develop into cooked-oat notes followed by rye toast, tobacco, oak, smoke, and an unwanted bitterness that lingers. The short finish offers a hint of caramel and citrus. Price is per 375 ml.
Named after the Charter Oak tree from the 1800s, this brand offers decent value. Sweetness and grain come and go, with hints of baking soda and dandelions. Think cooked grains, in presentations like cornbread and fresh-baked rye bread. Unfortunately, this is too much of a one-trick pony, falling into those pronounced grains that don’t offer much more. But there’s no doubt about it: it’s worth the money. Remember, value.
With a mashbill of 70% corn, 10% malted wheat, 10% malted barley, and 10% honey malted barley, youth is evident, as ripe grains and wood initially dominate. Pepper, cherry, and raw clover honey appear mid-palate over wheat bread and creamed corn. A surprisingly medium-to-long finish gives a hint of caramel, suggesting more time in the barrel would create a better pour.
Raw oak, drywall, campfire, and glue open the sinuses. Then, an antiseptic/medicinal property sets in with tobacco, burnt wood, and smoked paprika. Toward the end, a generous helping of vanilla kicks in over a decent finish to save it.
Freshly cut oak and chewing tobacco to start, followed by hints of green apple, wood chips, and a warm, wet sharpening stone. On the palate, the wood heightens and becomes extremely bitter. This whiskey’s saving grace is that it’s extremely palatable in cocktails.
Up front it is extremely off-putting, with overwhelming medicinal, musk, and anise notes, but herbs, candied fruit, and shrubs offer a semblance of hope. Finally, caramel and vanilla appear, though short, overtaken by raw sweet corn and oats. Grain doesn’t go away; it almost masks specks of brown sugar and citrus before a short finish with an unrelenting bitterness.
Sourced whiskey from MGP, it’s fairly muted with hints of dill, oregano, basil, sawdust, hay, and mint. Then vegetal, cherry cough syrup, and candy corn notes over cola, maple, and oak. Traces of baking spices appear just before sweet syrup over an extremely short finish. Although many notes appeared, none were particularly pronounced.
For rye whiskey drinkers, Jim Beam isn’t the name you’re usually looking for, but there’s a distinct rye nose: menthol, dill, herbs, and boiling oats. The palate is dull, lacking the up-front spice typically found in ryes, and only shows hints of vanilla, caramel, and eventually cinnamon. The extremely short finish leaves me wondering if it would fare better at a higher proof.
Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Five Malt, 45.2%
American Blended Whiskey | $50
Four barley types—two row, pale chocolate, kiln coffee, and Carafa—and malted wheat; aged 6 months in used Woodford Reserve Double Oaked barrels. Initial pungency and varnish. Then freshly-cut grass, petrol, wood shavings, and a slight hint of chocolate. New make mouthfeel. A hint of honey and milk chocolate is quickly overtaken by an astringent finish. In another few years, maybe this will become more palatable, but this is far from ready, and bourbon remains this distiller’s strong suit. 375ml
Although it’s not on the label, Cavalry uses the TerrePURE technology on 4 month old MGP whiskey. Its short time in wood shows. No traditional notes of bourbon sweetness, not even an earthy hint of wood found in many younger bourbons. This is more reminiscent of a neutral grain spirit than bourbon, but masked in the alcohol-centric flavor is a slight sweetness likely representing oak and a hint of grain. Sourced whiskey.