Friday, July 31, 2020

Knob Creek, Willett, Woodinville; It’s fRYEday evening

Another day, another review in the works. So many things that have not been reviewed on my shelves and I need to get through them. Such is my hard knock life.
Rye whiskey is not historically my forte. I’ve been enjoying single malt scotch for years, recently got into bourbons and been getting a solid exposure to those, but rye whiskey… it’s a mystery still that I’m working to peek in-between the curtains. My palate isn’t that great for it so I’ll be mostly working on the basis whether I like it or not.

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown

Knob Creek Rye Single Barrel Hi-Time Store Pick 114.4 proof
(Mash unknown)
Nose: Beam characteristics shine through. Strong cinnamon and baking spices interplay here.
Palate: More Beam (Knob Creek) character shining through here. Much better balance between cinnamon and baking spices when compared to their bourbon for example. Woody but not overwhelmingly so and it meshes well with the rest of the palate.
Aftertaste: More of the typical Knob/Booker’s fare here: Cola, spices, and wood galore rolling downhill in a big beautiful ball of flavor. Great stuff.
Overall: Fantastic, but may be too much of the same thing with the beam character. It’s basically more rye-forward knob creek/bookers. If you like those, you’ll like this one. If I didn’t know its a rye, I’d say it’s some sort of Booker’s batch.
Score: B+

Willett Small Batch Rye 107.6 proof
(Straight Rye)
Nose: Extremely pleasant and complex. Some sort of red fruit compote is going on in there.
Palate: This one starts great. Sweet, complex, spicy, chocolatey, yet light. There’s so much going on inside the glass. With time more wood comes out and it may get a little too tannic for some.
Aftertaste: Continuation of the palate, but yet again, there’s something not quite pleasant here either, and I think those are wood tannins that finally win the battle and overwhelm the long-lasting aftertaste.
Overall: This one is a conundrum… On one hand it’s not punchy enough to be a great mixer, nor it is a treat for me on the aftertaste… So it straddles that neither territory. Great to try, but this batch isn’t a doorbuster. Probably lightest rye I have tried so far in terms of flavor complexity and concentration at that proof.
Score: B-

Willett Small Batch 126 proof (sample):
Adding this about a month later. I’ve tried the above Willett 107 side-by-side with a different batch that was 126 proof. While the sample I was given mostly drinks like a concentrated version of a 107 the balance is different and it’s much sweeter without alcohol overload. By their nature, the batches differ and my bottle has a different profile in comparison to 126. Still, most of the above comments apply, and it tastes like a generally pleasant american whiskey. Solid drink for the night and solid pickup at MSRP.
Score: B

Woodinville Straight Rye 90 proof
(Straight, 100% Rye)
Nose: Sadly, but not unexpectedly the weakest of the three here. Woodinville rye being proofed down is its downfall. Smells somewhat like a diluted fruit compote from the Willett glass but also reminds me of a glue/soap or maybe sanitizer smell, which is quite unfortunate. It’s not unpleasant by any means, but not exciting either.
Palate: Sweet and spicy with somewhat watery middle notes. Again, proof works against it here. Quite strong wood influence that’s noticeable, despite its youthful age.
Aftertaste: Wonderful spicy and rye-full finish that’s not overwhelming and about medium long. No real downsides and I’d be quite happy with this aftertaste in just about anything.
Overall: I really wish this was older and higher proof. With so many great rye whiskeys out there this is a widely available great mixer and somewhat functional neat drink, but it should not be anywhere near top priority to buy.
Score: C

(Unfair) Conclusions:
The Hi-Time single barrel pick is an overall winner here but it’s also an unfair comparison to the rest of the lineup here. One is a limited release small batch and the other one is widely available. Of the three, I’d mix the Woodinville, drink Knob Creek myself and share Willett with friends in a more casual setting where conversation complements and smoothes out alcohol imperfections.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Showdown (MGP 5)

MPG is one of the largest US distillers doing all sorts of spirits, from vodka to rye to bourbon. https://en.wikipedia … /wiki/MGP_of_Indiana. Today we’ll look at a trio of 5 year old single cask picks from their stock bottled under Smooth Ambler Old Scout label.

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown

Smooth Ambler Old Scout K&L Pick #23786
Nose: Perfume, light wood and burnt sugar. The nose leans towards lighter cologne notes on this one. The usual slightly sour note that’s typical of bourbons is there in pleasant form. In this case… I’ll say plum jam with these bottles.
Taste: Light, sweet, woody, spicy, fading into savory. Really delicious and balanced to the razor’s edge of perfection. A slightly tannic bitterness sets in after some time in the glass that sticks around.
Aftertaste: Very much in-line with the palate flavors. Nothing overwhelms and all those flavors last for a while.
Overall: Fantastic, easy drinking. This is a well-concentrated bourbon that at the same time feels light and full of perfume. It is extremely balanced and enjoyable anytime.
Score: A-

Smooth Ambler Old Scout PlumpJack Pick
https://plumpjackwin … gth-high-rye-bourbon
Nose: Cologne and wood galore. Nosing it side by side with KnL’s sample… I’d almost describe the above as delicate and this one as bold. Less sugar, more wood and spice. Darker, more caramel forward, still some plum jam in there.
Taste: Tons of wood and leather, still sugar and spices of course, it wouldn’t be a bourbon otherwise. Still pleasant, but this one is much punchier in comparison, as expected from the nose. There’s much more wood on this one.
Aftertaste: Wood and spices; wood and spices. Long and pleasant… Very even across the entire time, nothing fades of overwhelms… of that wood and spice notes and toasted sugary caramel.
Overall: Another fantastic barrel pick. Both of these are great examples of high rye excellent stock picks. This one is woodier and has more cologne on the nose and mouth vs the K&L example while still maintaining most of the same base notes. The balance is quite different here and it focuses on different note dominance which is perfectly fine as it would fare quite well depending on the pairing, in the same way that different types of pinot pair up with different foods.
Score: A-

Final word:
It’s a TIE! Let’s be honest, these are fantastic. Both barrels are from the same MGP 5 year stock and yet they both have their own unique character. I initially gave both an A- score and then I kept on wondering on why give them a minus and honestly, I have no reasons to grade them so. Both are great. In many ways I judge bottles on whether or not I’d want to get another bottle of it and the answer here, I already did and that’s for me the highest compliment that I can provide. You may wonder, which one is better? Well the answer is ‘neither’… they’re both good in their own subtle way. PlumpJack pick has that heavy wood and spice punchiness that’s great with colder weather, campfires, BBQ and steaks. KnL pick is providing that razor’s edge of flavor balance that’s somewhat different experience that is also fantastic on its own and neither one is lacking in anything that I can judge against them. If these are the only two bourbons I’d get to drink ever again… I’d be mostly satisfied as neither have any flaws that I can detect.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

Heaven Hill Tasting Rapid Fire

For today’s post it’s going to be something different. I’ll be tasting and rating 5 easily available bottles from Heaven Hill distillery. None of these are hard to find and none of these are very expensive. These are the samples for a recent tasting I did that was a great introduction to Heaven Hill range of flavors and bottlings. The bottle notes are copied from the sample labels that were provided for me. They are written down and read after I’ve made up my mind on the spirit. Also whoever wrote these, I love your use of Oxford comma!

Scoring Breakdown: https://www.aerin.or … age=scores_breakdown

Evan Williams Single Barrel
Bottle Notes
Color: Delicate amber gold
Aroma: Dark caramel, sweet oak, and charred wood
Taste: Lush and spicy, oak with honey apple, and orange notes
Finish: Long, graceful, and relaxed
My Thoughts:
Only single barrel of the evening, this will vary slightly year to year. Sweet, mentholy and not overcomplicated, yet enjoyable with nice finish. A quintessential Heaven Hill bourbon without any gimmicks.
Score: B-

Bottle Notes
Color: Bright new copper
Aroma: Fresh bread and toffee, with notes of butterscotch
Taste: Buttery caramel and honey, with a rich mouthfeel
Finish: Long, gently sweet, and savory
My Thoughts:
Surprisingly tastier than the single barrel Larceny I have. Very delicate sweet spirit with somewhat bitter finish. The finish does thankfully fade into wheat sweetness and lingers for a long time. Does get better while drinking it. Not a fan of the beginning but really enjoying the tail end of this one.
Score: C+

Fighting Cock Bourbon
Bottle Notes
Color: Deep Amber
Aroma: Caramel with hints of oak, vanilla, and barley
Taste: Hints of hazelnut, honey and black licorice
Finish: Long and sweet with a trace of heat
My Thoughts:
Somewhat silly brand name, but I digress. Oooooh… This one I like. Sweet and robust, this drinks like a better version of Evan Williams from above… This is actually really good and worth trying. The slight menthol note still seems to be there but balances quite well into the overall spirit. I expect the menthol is something that’s a signature style of the distillery/yeast/mash. Some googling later… THIS COSTS $15!!!??? Buy it, buy it now!
Score: B+ (B)
Update after getting a bottle: I’ve moved the grade up to B+. This is extremely and dangerously drinkable as it almost perfectly aligns with what I want out of a bourbon palate. I paid $20 for the bottle. No regrets!

Rittenhouse 100 Rye
Bottle Notes
Color: Mahogany
Aroma: Dried fruits, toffee, and sweet peppers
Taste: Clean, rich, cocoa, citrus, cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla
Finish: Lingering maple-like spiciness
My Thoughts:
Overall, not a fan. Mashbill is only 51% rye grain and it shows. This may as well be a generic high rye bourbon from the flavor. Sticky, long, and enjoyable aftertaste with rye notes finally asserting dominance. Somewhat drinkable, but not something I’d choose straight. I’m aware it’s great for mixing, don’t drink it neat, kids, mix this one away!
Score: D

Pikesville Rye
Bottle Notes
Color: Pale Copper
Aroma: Dusty cocoa notes with oaky smoke underneath
Taste: Dry and spicy, with honeyed rye and cloves
Finish: Soft vanilla and baking spices
My Thoughts:
Definitely proper rye flavors vs Rittenhouse. The floor varnish is strong with one. Very dark and brooding rye. It’s quite drinkable solo, but I’d still prefer this in a mixed drink.
Score: B-

Winners of the lineup: Pikesville Rye and Fighting Cock Bourbon!

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Oola, Moylan’s, New Riff; Catching up starts now

Time to get back into the swing of things. It’s been almost a month since my last review posted. COVID is still outside. I keep on buying and opening bourbon bottles… yet no reviews are forthcoming? What gives? Well, it’s simple: I’m LAZY!

Lets get few of the easier ones out of the way though, especially now that I got my new grading system.

Oola Waitsburg Bourbon Cask Strength Total Wine Single Barrel (what a mouth-full)
This gets the distinction of my first ever grade score. On the nose, pure vanilla extract and same on the palate. Very little wood influence and if someone told me this was a vanilla flavored whiskey, I’d not be surprised. Very sweet and high sugar content with little else to back it up even at 116 proof. Its borderline undrinkable straight and I wish I didn’t buy it. Darn you pretty bottle! This is going directly its awful bottles cabinet. You’ll love it if you love vanilla flavor. May be okay in some sort of bourbon glaze, but we’re not here to judge alcohol on their cooking ability.
Score: D-

Moylan’s Cask Strength Bourbon
No age statement but the worlds “Finished, Blended & Bottled in Petaluma, CA” (Local to me) got my attention. The label is actually confusing, as it talks about Stillwater Spirits and Moylan’s Distilling company… Also there’s a mention of toasted coconuts… and I like those. Well, maybe a hidden gem? The good news: the nose does have that toasted coconut covered in caramel and so does the palate. Bad news: unfortunately everything is ruined by somewhat dill-like soapy aftertaste. I really wanted to love this one. It’s from local Californian distiller, 112.6 proof, though drinks hotter than that, and nose and palate are good-to-great… But the aftertaste just ruins it for me and it all falls apart. Certainly an interesting one to nose and maybe worth trying, but this is going to be my mixed-drink fodder. I can keep sniffing the glass all day and I’m sure some may like drinking it, but I’m finding myself doing anything I can to avoid that aftertaste. Very good after some bitters or a touch of amaro.
Score: C

New Riff Bourbon K&L Store Pick Cask Strength #15-5848
Lets get few things out of the way: I love their bottle design! It screams ‘awesome’ at reasonable price. Specs on my bottle: 111.6 proof, aged at least 4 years. Young-ish, high rye recipe, sour mash bourbon. Nose: rye spice and toasted coconuts (again? yes I did rinse the glass after Moylan’s!). This one leans towards woody coconuts that are consistent from nose to palate to a decently long aftertaste. Ever licked a fresh bourbon barrel? I can see why it was bottled. The wood is starting to take over as an influence on the spirit, thankfully bourbon has enough of a backbone to mostly carry it. One of those bottles for wood lovers and the spirit’s age is a somewhat unfortunate trade off. Few more years while maintaining the fine balance would make these single cask bottles the stuff of legend! As mine stands, it’s a really good coconut/vanilla/wood/age profile that is reasonable but not perfect. I’d still drink this all night, no problem!
Score: B+