Thanks to the generous hosting of Eskwar, seven of us were able to gather for an afternoon of sharing and tasting. I’d have to say that the highlight of the day was a tasting of some dusty (paper label) Weller 12 Year and Old Weller Antique and the subsequent blending into a 50/50 StraightBourbon Blend. We were also able to do a side-by-side comparison with current bottles of each as well as the blend. Unfortunately, this demonstrates how superior the old products were and how much better they blended. On the positive side, StraightBourbon Blend is quite competent with the current stock and I must put these on my list to buy and blend.
Here’s the list of what I tasted for the first time:
Four Roses Single Barrel Private Selection OESO Barrel Proof – woody with some mild heat
Four Roses Single Barrel Private Selection OESF Barrel Proof – more caramel and vanilla than OESF, still the same wood with mild heat
High West 21 Year Rocky Mountain Rye – mild spice, mild wood, mild flavor, not much here for a rye
Jefferson 10 Year Rye – not much flavor or spice for a rye, more dry than sweet
Yamasaki 12 Year – woody with honey, grass, bitter through to finish
Hookers House Bourbon – Pinot noir finished and its noticeable on the finish especially, tobacco, plum, raisin without sweetness, menthol, reminds me of wine finished ER10
Evan Williams Vintage Single Barrel 1998 – caramel, cherry, nice sweetness, tobacco, short finish but very good
Black Maple Hill Bourbon – sweet, menthol, tobacco, dark fruit, cocoa
StraightBourbon Blend – definitely better than either Weller 12 or Old Weller Antique, tends more to OWA
StraightBourbon Dusty (Paper Label) Blend – less sweet and bit more wood than the newer blend with a longer finish
Tom Moore Bottled-in-Bond – really solid bourbon at around $20 for a handle
My pick of the day was Hooker’s House Bourbon because of it’s unique flavor profile. The wine finishing really worked better than I expected it to. This is only available in California as far as I know, so I’ll have to be on the lookout on my travels. The other standouts were the StraightBourbon blends, Black Maple Hill and the old Evan Williams Single Barrel. I did come home with a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel OESF, thanks to a generous fellow StraightBourbon forum member, so that’s worth mentioning, too. Oh, I almost forgot about my final pour of the day, Tom Moore BIB, which was very good. I plan on looking for a bottle of this one so that I can study it a bit more, but I was very impressed with my quick introduction and the price makes it a bargain.
Today, I attended a Bourbon Essentials class offered by Total Wine & More in Dallas. After a brief presentation on the history of bourbon and some useful information about bourbon and whiskey in general, we set out to taste 13 bourbons (listed in order of tasting):
Jack Daniels Black
Weller Special Reserve
Knob Creek 100
Wathens Single Barrel
Angel’s Envy (TW selection)
For me, Angel’s Envy was easily the best of the bunch, while Buffalo Trace and Wathens Single Barrel were honorable mentions. Buffalo Trace was easily the best value. The really disappointing news was that most of these were not very good. The only other acceptable offerings for me were: Weller Special Reserve (fourth on my list), Old Bardstown, Watkins Select, Winchester and Maker’s Mark. I could not recommend any of the remaining whiskeys.
Prior to this class, I was only familiar with Angel’s Envy and Buffalo Trace and I still highly recommend both of them. Beyond those, I would still recommend Evan Williams Single Barrel, Weller 12 Special Reserve or Eagle Rare 10 over Wathens Single Barrel at about the same price (actually, all of them should be a few dollars less). Another great value, if you can find it, is Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond (White Label).
This is from barrel #58, bottle #53 of 192. I’ve had a 3 and 4 year old selection from Spec’s, but I picked up this bottle from Total Wine in Orlando for $30 (usually about $38-40 here).
This pour is a slightly cloudy golden amber. The nose is toffee, vanilla, grass, honey, straw, dark cherry, pear and a bit of charred wood. He taste is vanilla, caramel, apple, pear, cherry, lemon, ginger and black pepper. The spice and fruits are nicely balanced all the way through to the sweet, spicy and mildly oaked finish. A little water reveals a bit of tart cherry, bitter orange, Granny Smith apple… the flavor really comes alive! On the finish I now notice a bit of apple and honey, while the spice is turned up a bit as well. A little more water accentuates the ginger just a tad along with an appearance of clove. There’s still plenty of caramel and vanilla about midway through as the fruit and spice subside.
This is a great rye whiskey and you can’t go wrong here. I just hope the barrel you find is as good as this one. The three I’ve had have all been good, but this is probably the best one. You’re really missing out if you don’t add water to this one, since that’s when it really comes alive. You can also make a fantastic Sazerac with this one!
Single Barrel Bourbon (Barrel 1307, Bottle 140/192), 6 Years, 61.3% ABV, $40
This bottle was from a barrel selected by Spec’s Wine & Spirits, Houston, TX.
Nosing reveals straw, caramel, honey, vanilla, maple syrup, lemon drops and charred wood. With a good amount of water, the smell of grass becomes more prominent along with notes of candied cherries, overripe banana and tobacco.
Flavors of lemon, green apple, ginger, honey, cherries, caramel and grass arrive early. The finish is tart and slightly leathery with a good amount of burn. Adding water reveals a bit of cardboard, graham cracker and light tobacco and transforms the finish into a long, spicy experience with plenty of burn and a remaining leathery tart mixture.
This is a decent whiskey, but not great… especially for the price. The flavor is reminiscent of Eagle Rare 10 with more fruit and spice, but not as well executed.