EZdrinking

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Filtering by Tag: Jim Beam

Review: Jim Beam Pre-prohibition Style Rye

Owned by Beam Suntory, Jim Beam Pre-prohibition Style Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey is distilled at the one of the Jim Beam distilleries in Kentucky and bottled at 45% ABV.

Price: $16-$25

In early 2015, Jim Beam launched a reformation of their straight rye whiskey. But, as far as anyone can tell, the only difference between the old Jim Beam Rye (with a yellow label) and the new Pre-Prohibition Style Rye is that the label is now green and the whiskey is bottled at 45% ABV rather than 40% ABV. However, we do know that because there is no age statement on the bottle the whiskey inside must be at least 4 years old. This is one of the odd quirks of US labeling laws in that any whiskey aged less than four years must say how old it is but, no age statement is required at 4 or more years. We also know that since this is a straight rye whiskey it was aged in new charred oak barrels and that it has at least 51% rye grain in its mash bill. The rest of the mash bill isn't public but a reasonable guess puts it at 51% rye, 44-39% corn and 5-10% malted barley.

Jim Beam Rye has been around for decades and it is likely that this so-called reformulation, upping the proof to 90, is an attempt to say relevant in the booming rye whiskey category.  Rye whiskey has enjoyed renewed popularity these past few years, in part due to MGP and Whistle Pig. MGP based in Lawrenceburg, Indiana was once owned by Seagrams and made their easily identifiable 95% rye, 5% barley mash bill to blend into Seagrams 7 and other whiskeys. However, MGP now sells their spirits (rye whiskey, bourbon and even gin) to other companies that bottle it and sell it. Some of the most well know customers of MGP Rye are Bulleit, George Dickel, Templeton and High West. Whistle Pig on the other hand is buying a 100% rye whiskey from Alberta, Canada and bottling it in Vermont. Both of these whiskeys demonstrated the boldness and potential of rye whiskey and as a result, bartenders and whiskey drinkers were inspired to re-embrace a type of whiskey that mostly fallen out of favor.

Tasting Notes

Nose:  Immediately notes of vanilla and oak are carried up on a blast of alcohol, followed by baked apple, cinnamon and nutmeg. Once the whiskey has had some time to breathe a little, light fruity notes like blueberries or black currants comes through.

Palate:  The palate is sweet with a medium to full body and very harsh. After your palate adjusts to the alcohol, slightly spicy grain notes come through with strong oak flavor.

Finish:  The finish is short, slightly sweet and slightly spicy. Pleasant flavors of iced black tea are overshadowed by an odd note of raw dough.

Conclusion:  This is not a whiskey to drink neat. Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Style Rye has lots of oak flavor and lots of heat from the alcohol, underlaid with only the faintest hints of rye spice. It makes an OK Manhattan that seems to plays up more of the herbal character of the Vermouth. All in all, I will not be buying another bottle. 

Review: Maker's 46

Owned by Beam Suntory, Maker's 46 Kentucky Bourbon Whisky Barrel Finished with Oak Staves is distilled at the Maker's Mark Distillery in Loretto, KY,  and bottled at 47% ABV.

Price: $27-$40

Launched in July 2010, Maker's 46 was the first regularly produced variation of Maker's Mark Bourbon in 52 years. The original Maker's Mark was sold for the first time in 1958 and was the creation of Bill and Margie Samuels. Maker's Mark is reported to have a mash bill of 70% corn, 16% Red Winter Wheat, 14% Barley and aged about six years. Maker's 46 takes mature casks of Maker's Mark, empties them out adds in 10 "seared" French oak staves, refills the barrels with the mature bourbon and lets them rest for another ten weeks or so. Neither Beam Suntory or Maker's Mark really explains what seared oak staves means but I'm guessing that the staves are heated somewhere between toasted and charred. As for the name, when Samuels was working on the formula for this iteration of Maker's, he did a quite a few test batches and apparently number 46 was the winner, hence Maker's 46. 

Like Maker's Mark, Maker's 46 is one of a small handful of American Whiskeys that spells whisky without an 'e' on its label. If you'd like to know the significance of spelling whiskey with or without an 'e,' the short answer is just convention but if you'd like the long answer, check out my series Whiskey vs. Whisky. Maker's 46 also shares the same iconic Maker's Mark stamp and dipped wax bottle neck. According to the Samuels' family, Margie came up with the idea for both of these elements. The stamp which has a image of a star refers to Star Hill Farm where the distillery is locate, the "S" stands for Samuels and "IV" symbolizes that Bill Samuels Sr. was a fourth generation distiller.

Lastly, Maker's 46 was one of nine bourbons I selected in a blind tasting of bourbons less than $50. You can read how it did here.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose is very nice. At 47% ABV the alcohol is clearly present and carries strong notes of vanilla and oak with lighter sweet aromas of caramel and burnt wood with a hint of grain or baked bread in the background. As the whiskey sits in the glass, the nose opens up with notes of oily tobacco, cedar and clove. With water more aromas of green oak open up. 

Palate: At first sip my reaction was "wow it is hot". To my taste this whisky is very astringent and taste like green wood. With water the astringency lightens  up a bit but doesn't go away. However, more flavors of cinnamon and clove come forward with a very light sweetness.

Finish: Neat, the finish has notes of tobacco, leather, corn and oak with the faintest hint of caramel. The finish is intense and bitter. With a little water the finish softens and some sweetness hangs on to the tip of the tongue.

Conclusion: Maker's 46 is not for me. I don't like the regular Maker's Mark so it's no surprise to me that adding more wood would not make my experience of it better. That being said, of you like Maker's Mark and you like extra aged bourbon with mower oak character at a higher proof they this might appeal to you. Also, I could see Maker's 46 working well mixed with soda or cola. The intensity of the spirit would probably stand up well to the dilution and some added sugar. 

Blind Tasting Bourbon Less Than $50

A while ago I organized a blind tasting of bourbons that cost less than $50. I was inspired to put this together after a small group of friends and I did a blind tasting of whiskeys under $20. That tasting was both a lot of fun and introduced me to a couple of bourbons that I really love. Wanting to repeat this process I put together a game plan. First, I wanted to focus the tasting only on bourbons between $20 and $50. I picked this price point for two reasons: one, my expectation was the overall quality would be a little higher than the under $20 bracket; and two, because it falls in the range that I and many of my friends would feel comfortable spending on a bottle to drink at home from time to time without feeling like its so expensive or exceptional we'd have to save it for some sort of special occasion. Second,  I only wanted bourbons that I knew were sold by the distillery i.e. no Non-Distiller Producer bourbons like Bulleit or Black Maple Hill. Third, I didn't want any single barrel products because by nature their flavor profile can change from barrel to barrel and I wanted to help people find a bourbon that they would like and be able to return to and have it taste the same as it was at the party.  With these criteria in mind I went about finding bourbons that fit.

I found over dozen bourbons that matched my criteria however, 12 samples of bourbons even at 1/4 oz each starts to add up. I wanted to be sure that people could get home safely so I limited the field to nine. As I spread the word among my friends I was able to find about 25 people who committed to coming and who were willing to chip in to cover the costs of the whiskey.

Now, because I also wanted to participate in the tasting, the trick was figuring out how to set things up so the tasting was blind for me as well. The solution I settled on was I would mark nine brown paper lunch bags with the planetary symbols, Mars ♂, Venus ♀ etc. and then my wife bagged the bottles. For a couple of the bottles that were more easy to identify we decanted the bourbon into clean wine bottles.

The tasting was hosted at a friend's house and I placed three bottles of bourbon in the kitchen, the living room and a spare bedroom. The reason for this was that it forced people to move around and not just all congregate in one room of the house. I wasn't concerned about the order in which people tasted the bourbons so it worked fine. In a more formal tasting, flight order is important but for our purposes it was an easy sacrifice.

After a few hours or tasting and eating snacks, I collected the score sheets that I handed out the to tasters. They rated each bourbon from 1-10 based on what they liked. When I tallied the results, one of the first things that stood out was there were no bad bourbons in the batch.  While people liked some bourbons more than others there were no clear winners or losers. In the tasting under $20 it was very obvious that there were a couple of whiskeys that everyone liked and a couple that everyone didn't like, but not this time. This was an encouraging result because what it said to me was if you are going to buy a bourbon in the $20-$50 price range, you can be sure that it is a quality product though you can't guarantee the it will be your favorite.

After tallying the scores here were the results from our group of tasters:

  1. Russel's Reserve 10 Year Old 90 Proof (45% ABV) Distilled by the Wild Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, KY.

  2. Henry DuYore's Straight Bourbon 91.3 Proof (45.65% ABV) Distilled by Ransom Spirits in Sheridan, OR. (This was the only craft bourbon and the only bourbon not from Kentucky in the tasting.)

  3. John E. Fitzgerald Larceny 92 Proof (46% ABV) Distilled at the Bernheim distillery in Louisville, KY and owned by Heaven Hill.

  4. Colonel E.H. Taylor Small Batch Bottled in Bond 100 Proof (50% ABV) Distilled at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, KY.

  5. Woodford Reserve Distiller's Select, 90.4 Proof (45.2% ABV) Distilled at the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Versailles, KY and owned by Brown-Forman.

  6. Elijah Craig 12 Year Old 94 Proof (47% ABV) Distilled at the Bernheim distillery in Louisville, KY and owned by Heaven Hill.

  7. Four Roses Small Batch 90 Proof (45% ABV) Distilled at Four Roses in Lawrenceburg, KY.

  8. Basil Hayden 80 Proof (40% ABV) Distilled at Jim Beam's Clermont and Frankfort distilleries in KY.

  9. Maker's 46 94 Proof (47% ABV) Distilled at the Maker's Mark Distillery in Loretto, KY.

From my personal score sheet my highest rating went to Colonel Taylor which was something I had never tried before and I was happy to find a new bourbon  that I really enjoyed. The other interesting thing was I gave my lowest rating to Maker's 46 which didn't surprise me since I'm not a huge fan of Makers Mark. It was reassuring to see that my taste buds are pretty reliable both when I know what I'm drinking and when I tasting things blind. In the end, this was a really fun event to organize and it was a blast getting a house full of people drinking and discovering some really good bourbon.

Exploring Bottled in Bond Whiskey

Not that long ago I read Bernie Lubbers' book Bourbon Whiskey - Our Native Spirit.  In the book he wrote fondly of bonded bourbon whiskey.  For those unfamiliar with the term bonded whiskey, also labeled as bottled in bond, refers to whiskey that has been: aged for at least 4 years, bottled at exactly 100 proof (50% alcohol), the product of one single distillery, and the product of one distilling season. To be honest, before reading his book, I hadn't thought much of bonded whiskeys. Most of what I saw seemed to occupy the bottom shelf in the liquor store or back bar of my local watering holes so I assumed they weren't as good as the whiskeys higher up on the shelf.  But, as I discovered in my blind tasting of inexpensive whiskies, price and enjoyment are not always correlated.

Inspired by Bernie's passion for bottled in bond whiskeys I've decided to search them out and allow myself to have an open mind.  According to Bernie's website there are now 17 commercially available bonded whiskeys, up from 13 just three years ago, and two others only available at the Jim Beam Visitor Center and the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center.

To the best of my knowledge all of these Bottled in Bond Whiskeys are available for retail purchase somewhere in the US. Updated: 7/3/16, 12/30/17, 06/12/19

OhiO

Tom's Foolery Distillery

  1. Ohio Straight Bourbon B.I.B.

Oregon

Oregon Spirit Distillers

  1. B.I.B. Bourbon Whiskey

  2. B.I.B. Wheat Whiskey

  3. J. Becher Straight American Rye Whiskey B.I.B.

Pennsylvania

Mountain Laurel Spirits

  1. Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Straight Rye Whiskey B.I.B.

Wigle Whiskey

  1. Deep Cut B.I.B. Organic Straight Rye Whiskey

Tennessee

Brown-Forman

  1. Jack Daniels B.I.B. (Travel Retail Only)

Diageo: Cascade Hollow Distillery

  1. George Dickel TN Whisky B.I.B.

H Clark Distillery

  1. Tennessee Bourbon B.I.B.

Virginia

Catoctin Creek Distilling Company

  1. Rabble Rouser® Bottled In Bond Rye Whisky

California

Spirit Works Distillery

  1. Wheat Whiskey B.I.B.

Colorado

Laws Whiskey House

  1. A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon B.I.B.

  2. A.D. Laws Secale Straight Rye B.I.B.

Spirit Hound Distillers

  1. Straight Malt Whiskey B.I.B.

Georgia

Old Fourth Distillery

  1. B.I.B. Straight Bourbon Whiskey

New York

Coppersea Spirits

  1. Bonticou Crag Straight Malt Rye Whiskey B.I.B.

Breuckelen Distilling

  1. 77 Whiskey Bonded Rye

  2. 77 Whiskey Bonded Rye & Corn

Finger Lakes Distilling

  1. McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey B.I.B.

Kings County Distillery

  1. B.I.B Straight Bourbon Whiskey

New York Distilling Company

  1. Ragtime Rye B.I.B.

Kentucky

Brown-Forman

  1. Old Forester 1897 B.I.B.

  2. Early Times B.I.B.

Heaven Hill Distilleries

  1. Old Heaven Hill B.I.B.

  2. Heaven Hill 6 Year Old B.I.B.

  3. Evan Williams B.I.B

  4. Rittenhouse Rye B.I.B.

  5. Mellow Corn B.I.B.

  6. Old Fitzgerald B.I.B. (Discontinued)

  7. Old Fitzgerald B.I.B (Decanter Spring)

  8. Old Fitzgerald B.I.B (Decanter Fall)

  9. J.W. Dant B.I.B.

  10. J.T.S. Brown B.I.B.

  11. T.W. Samuels B.I.B.

  12. Henry McKenna 10yr Single Barrel B.I.B.

  13. William Heavenhill B.I.B. (Bourbon Heritage Center Only)

Jim Beam

  1. Jim Beam Bonded B.I.B.

  2. Old Grand Dad B.I.B.

  3. Old Tub B.I.B (only at Beam Visitor Center)

Luxco (NDP)

  1. David Nicholson 1843 B.I.B.

New Rift Distilling

  1. Bourbon B.I.B.

  2. Rye Whiskey B.I.B.

Sazerac Company: Buffalo Trace Distillery

  1. Very Old Barton 6 Year Old B.I.B.

  2. Colonel E. H. Taylor Small Batch B.I.B.

  3. Colonel E.H. Taylor Straight Rye B.I.B.

  4. Colonel E.H. Taylor Single Barrel B.I.B.

  5. 1792 B.I.B. Bourbon

The Old Pogue Distillery

  1. Old Maysville Club B.I.B. Kentucky Straight Rye Malt Whisky

Wilderness Trail Distillery

  1. Small Batch Bourbon B.I.B.

  2. Bourbon Single Barrel B.I.B.

Willett Distillery

  1. Old Bardstown B.I.B.

Two New Spirit Book Reviews

I had two new spirit book reviews published in the 2013 Fall/Winter issue of Distiller Magazine.

Art in Fermented Form

Brett Vanderkamp is the president and co-founder of New Holland Brewing & Artisan Spirits. Vanderkamp and Greg Smith have written an engaging and thought provoking essays on importance and artistry of beer and spirits. My full review can be read in the online version of Distiller Magazine.

The book can be purchased online through amazon.

 

Bourbon Whiskey: Our Native Spirit

Bernie Lubbers is currently a brand ambassador for Jim Beam's Knob Creek. His book Bourbon Whiskey is part memoir and part bourbon folk history. Despite some of its flaws the book is interesting and easy to read. My full review can be read in the online version of Distiller Magazine.

The book can be purchased online through amazon.