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: Wheated Bourbon

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.

 

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.

My beverage biases

I want to acknowledge upfront that the tastings of spirits, beer, wine and coffee that I write about will be skewed by my own judgments and biases about different beverages. Like anyone else, these judgments and biases are formed out out my own life experiences and the physical limits of my ability to taste and smell. For example, I tend to enjoy drinking rye based whiskeys over wheated whiskeys, or I tend to like coffee made from lightly roasted beans more than dark roasted coffee. While drink writers very rarely write about their own biases, my hope is that by reflecting on them from time to time I may be able to improve my ability to think objectively about what I'm drinking and allow the reader to think critically about my or any other drink writer's work.

One of the primary judgments I make about beverages is that, if it isn't good on its own it's not worth drinking. While I do enjoy a good cocktail or cappuccino from time to time my first instinct is to drink the spirit or coffee on its own without adulteration. Which often means, given the choice between drinking something with a poor tasting base, gussied up to become palatable, and water, I'll chose water. One caveat to this is that, during graduate school I became willing to drink bad coffee with cream and or sugar, simply as a caffeine delivery device.