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: Kentucky Bourbon

Review: Russell's Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon

Owned By Gruppo Campari, Russell's Reserve Small Batch 10 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is distilled at the WIld Turkey Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky and bottled at 45% ABV.

Price: $28-$44

In 1942, Austin Nichols, a wine and spirits importer began buying bulk bourbon from the Old Hickory Distillery in Tyrone, Kentucky. For about 30 years Nichols bought and bottled this bourbon under the Wild Turkey brand. Then in 1971, Nichols purchased the Old Hickory Distillery from the Ripy family and renamed it the Wild Turkey Distillery. At the time Nichols bought the distillery a native Kentuckian, Jimmy Russell, served as the Master Distiller overseeing the distillation and aging of all their whiskey. Russell began working working at the distillery sweeping floors and worked his way up, learning the tradition and practice of making bourbon from Bill Hughes and Ernest W. Ripy, Jr. 

Fast forward to 2000, Jimmy Russell and his son Eddie worked together to create Russell's Reserve Small Batch 10 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Russell's Reserve stands as a testament to the dedication and skill the Russell family has demonstrated in making some of the finest American whiskey over the past 60 years. One bourbon (75/13/12 corn/rye/barley)

Lastly, Russell's Reserve 10 Year Old Bourbon  was one of nine bourbons I selected in a blind tasting of bourbons less than $50. Out of a group of 25 non-professional tasters Russell's Reserve received the highest average score making it our highest ranked bourbon of the night.

Tasting Notes

Nose: The nose has notes of butterscotch with soft warm aromas of oak logs burning, ripe pears, and light tannins.

Palate: The palate is silky smooth with very light heat and notes of sweet vanilla are balanced with oak and tobacco. The bourbon has a slightly fruity character similar to some brandies.

Finish: The bourbon has a long finish with notes of oak and bright Chardonnay.

Conclusion: Russell's Reserve is an excellent bourbon that is a delight to drink. This is the epitome of a well balanced bourbon and very impressive for a 10 year old 90 proof bourbon. Most bourbons of this age I find are over oaked but this is a great testiment to the Russell legacy. 

Review: Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon

Owned by Kirin Company based in Japan, Four Roses Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is distilled at the Four Roses Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky and bottled at 45% ABV.

Price: $28-$45

Four Roses Small Batch is made from vatting four different bourbons made at the distillery. Two of the bourbons are made from mash bill "E" which consists of 75% corn, 20% rye, add 5% malted barley, one of which is fermented with a yeast strain "K" which is meant to emphasise light spice and caramel flavors; and, the second is fermented with yeast strain "O" which is meant to emphasise rich fruitiness as well as light caramel and vanilla notes. The second set of bourbons are made from mash bill "B" which consists of 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley. And, once again each is fermented with yeast strains "K" and "O." Each of these mash bill/yeast strain combinations are distilled and aged separately. For the Small Batch bourbon, these four whiskeys are aged less than 7 years, vatted together and then proofed down before bottling. While many distilleries credit their yeast for making their spirits unique, Four Roses is one of the only major bourbon distillery that goes through the added work of propagating five different yeast strains to further control the flavor profiles of their bourbons.

Lastly, Four Roses Small Batch 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: Immediately on the nose are fruity notes and acetone. Underneath these initial aromas are notes of burnt oak and a strong presence of vanilla.

Palate: On the palate the first flavor is a sightly astringent green note that is then followed by light heat on the tongue. After the heat dissipates, you notice both a sweetness and a big wallop of spice.

Finish: After swallowing the bourbon lingers for a long time with clear notes of oak and vanilla.

Conclusion: Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon is a nice bourbon, though not my favorite. That said, Four Roses Small Batch is well balanced and easy to drink bourbon well worth its price tag.

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. 

Review: Larceny Bourbon

Owned and Distilled by Heaven Hill Distilleries and bottled at 46% ABV.

Price: $19-$30

Larceny Bourbon is a small batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon made by Heaven Hill. According to HH, each batch of Larceny come from less than 200 barrels that have aged between 6 and 12 years. Larceny is a wheated bourbon in the line of Old Fitzgerald Bourbon and according to Bill Straub of Modern Thirst it has a mash bill of 68% Corn, 20% Wheat and 12% Malted Barley. 

Thanks to  Sally Van Winkle Campbell and Sam Thomas we now know that John E. Fitzgerald whom the bourbon is named after was a U.S. Treasury Agent who had a knack for picking good barrels of whiskey. Pre-Prohibition whiskey man, Charles Herbst created the Old Fitzgerald brand, which was a bourbon made at the now defunct Old Judge distillery outside Frankfort, Kentucky. In 1999, Heaven Hill acquired the Old Fitzgerald brand and began bottling it from wheated bourbon made at their Bernheim distillery. Heaven Hill introduced Larceny around 2013.

Lastly, Larceny was one of nine bourbons I selected for a blind tasting of bourbons under $50.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Larceny has a strong woody aroma of oak and cedar, with notes of tobacco, leather and sweet cherries carried up on the alcohol.

Palate: The flavor has lots of spicy nutmeg and cove notes, with hints of candy orange and milk chocolate. This is a very woody bourbon with strong bitter tannins and a warmth starts in the mouth and travels down your chest.

Finish: The finish is long and dominated by wood and spice notes with a slight tinge of heat from the alcohol.

Conclusion: Larceny is not what I would call a soft or sweet bourbon. However, it does work well in a Manhattan that emphasizes the baking spice and wood notes over sweet cherry. While this is not my favorite bourbon, I think someone who likes their whiskeys more on the woody side of the spectrum this would be a solid purchase.

Review: Old Weller Antique Straight Bourbon

Owned by Sazerac Company, Old Weller Antique Kentucky Straight Bourbon is distilled at the Buffalo Trace Distillery and bottled at 53.5% ABV.

Price Range: Normally $20-$25 however, limited allocation has caused retail prices to skyrocket to $48 for a bottle.

Old Weller Antique is a "wheated" Kentucky Straight Bourbon which means it uses wheat as its secondary flavoring grain as appose to rye. While neither Sazerac nor Buffalo Trace disclose their mashbills it is thought the wheat portion ranges between 10-20%. 

In 2009 Old Weller Antique dropped its 7 Year ages statement which did not seem to hurt the quality of the juice in the bottle. However, as the craze for Pappy Van Winkle reached a fever pitch, word began to spread that Pappy shared the same exact mashbill as the Weller line of bourbons and that they were considerably less expensive. Three years ago when I organized a blind tasting of whiskey's $20 and under, you could still find Weller Special Reserve and Old Weller Antique even though the Weller 12 Year Old had virtually disappear from retails shelves and stores were put on a strict allocation. Not so any more. While one is more likely to find a bottle of Weller Special Reserve, Old Weller Antique had become increasingly harder to find and as a result the retailers who do carry it have started charging a lot more. The day after I finished the last drops of my bottle of Old Weller Antique I was elated to see a local grocery store had two bottles for sale. Now however, instead of costing around $20, the store was charging $48 per bottler. That's more than a 200% price increase in just three years!

My hope is that in a few more years when the increased kentucky bourbon production begins to age out and be bottled that both prices and supply will stabilize. But, in the near term it seems likely that scarcity and price increases will continue.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: In the glass Weller Antique smells of caramel, sweet cherries, candied apple, vanilla, cinnamon, and varnished wood. While the alcohol is noticeable (at 107 proof one would expect that) on the nose it isn't over powering.

Palate: The palate is rich and smooth with no heat on the tongue but it does warms up your chest. The bourbon is sweet up front with notes of caramel and vanilla which are balanced with oak. Mid palate is full of baking spice and dried cherries with a slight bitterness from the oak tannins on the back end.

Finish: The finish is long. Oak tannins and dryness linger with notes of cigar tobacco and sweet corn.

Conclusion: Old Weller Antique is a very well balanced wheated bourbon and a great value at $20. From the first time I drank this bourbon quickly became my favorite wheated bourbon beating out both Makers Mark and Larceny. That being said the for my tastes, the bitterness that comes through from the oak makes it hard for me plunk down $50 to get a new bottle in the current environment. However, if and when Weller Antique returns to a more sane price, I will definitely grab a bottle.