Russell’s Reserve 10 Year old Bourbon

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Tonight I wanted to do two things, write a post and eat a cookie. I like these coconut/walnut ones I get at Harris Teeter. They smell wonderful and taste quite good. When I went to the cabinet I remembered that I had picked up a new bourbon a couple of weeks back and I really enjoyed it.

I typically drink scotch whisky but every now and then I need a little bourbon. Typically I go for Woodford’s Reserve, it never fails! So how did I end up with this one? I was actually picking up some scotch for Christmas time, like I needed an excuse, and happened to spy this shapely little bottle of Russell’s Reserve parked next to the Woodford on the top shelf. I’ll admit it, I’m a fool for good packaging and graphic design, and this one hit me just right. I think it cost around $30 USD so going with the principle that the price often dictates quality, I bought it.

So this product is out of the good folks who produce Wild Turkey bourbon in Lawrenceburg, KY where James Russell is the Master Distiller there. This product is a special offering from them that they have had since early 2000′s but it has seen some variation in packaging over the past decade. I’d like to say they nailed it on this one!

It is 90 proof or 45%ABV and is classified as a “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.” I poured it neat, per usual and dove in. The color of it is beautiful and rich. The nose is very candied with vanilla and caramel coming forth and this is why I pulled it out tonight with this cookie!

The first time I tasted this (prior to tonight) I was really impressed with the flavor, mouth-feel and finish. It is wonderfully refined and what you smell is what delivers on the palate. I don’t drink a lot of bourbon but if I did I’d be running through this stuff with no abandon! The finish is refined, gentle, and stays with you. I have to admit, this is a damn fine whiskey! And it goes really well with cookies!

Cheers!

Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon

Well the first tasting/writing of the new year is a Bourbon, not a Scotch. Occasionally I like to try a bourbon. I don’t usually buy bourbon but when I do I buy Woodford Reserve, so I rely on the mini sized ones at the liqour store which limits my choices. Somehow I caught the attention of Four Roses’ marketing company in NYC and was offered a sample of the single barrel, so I took it! I have to say, receiving a 100ml sample is a hell of a lot nicer than the small stuff you get at the store. It’s really enough to have two separate tastings. I like this option because sometimes, you’re “just not feeling it” when trying a product for the first time and I like to have a solid opinion about something before I write about it. Not because I have some massive readership, which I don’t, but I think it’s the responsible thing to do.

First Tasting – I decided to nose this against Markers Mark, a very popular bourbon, for some comparison. The nose on the two are very different! The MM has that distinctive traditional bourbon smell but with a lot of sweet, syrupy vanilla smell. The Four Roses has a much deeper and complex nose. I like the nose better right off.

I’m tasting this neat, no ice, water, etc….. Wow! Such a nice mouth feel and wonderful tangy spice. Not overly vanilla, more balanced and complex. I really like this! I don’t need to taste this twice to know I like this bourbon!

On the second sip I get more of the traditional bourbon flavors, but they are still subdued and more complex. This would make a great sipping whisky. I don’t think I’d waste this on a mixed drink, its made to be enjoyed “as is” in my opinion.

Well, there you go, I officially “like” Four Roses Single Barrel bourbon and think serious malt folks would enjoy this also! Such a nice way to kick off the new year!

Cheers!

The below came with the press kit:

Four Roses Single Barrel (100 proof)
A premium Single Barrel Bourbon with a taste that begs to be savored again and again. Its
taste is complex, full bodied and surprisingly smooth with a delicate long finish that is
unbelievably mellow. Contains hints of ripe plum and cherry tastes with fruity, spicy
aromas including maple syrup and cocoa. Drink straight up or on the rocks.
Nose: Fruity, spicy, floral, cocoa, maple syrup, moderately woody.
Palate: Hints of ripe plum & cherries, robust, full body, mellow.
Finish: Smooth & delicately long.
Size: 750ml
SRP: $35.99- $39.99

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fighting cock

WARLOCK Cigar and Fighting Cock Bourbon – More about good craftsmanship than angst.

Tonight, on the day the world celebrated the demise of the world’s most hated man since Hitler, I tried out a cigar and a bourbon with very masculine and brash names. The Cigar was a sample that I had received months ago at the Cigar Africinado smoke event in New York, Warlock. The bourbon was a miniature of Heaven Hill’s Fighting Cock.

I do admire good marketing, to me this is a bit over the top but it defintitely gets your attention. Now tasting a whiskey that refers to an angry rooster is reason enough for me to think that this product may be a bit rough. I was surprised. Not only is this a pretty nice bourbon but I think its more dignified than the name. It delivers a classic bourbon palate that almost, especially with a bit of water added, becomes creamy. I have to admit, this may find a place in my cabinet one day and would not hesitate to recommend it. Bottom line, if you find the marketing a bit silly, I understand, but it is a good bourbon.

I kind of wonder if Charlie smokes Warlock cigars? He obviously is a cigarette smoker but I think he would be much more dignified smoking a Warlock cigar. And like the fighting cock, the bourbon not Charlie, this also was a silly named cigar that turned out to be very nice. I was surprised at how smooth and tasty this cigar was. It was very smooth to me and delivered a consistent taste and burn. The blend of Nicaraguan and Dominican leafs to me are a winning combination and the Ecuadorian Cubano wrapper is a perfect wrap. The draw was a bit restrictive but not annoying. I recently had a cigar, memory blank right now, that was lauded as a great cigar but its overly restrictive draw turned me completely off.

So I don’t know what’s up with the overly machismo marketing but don’t let it turn you off of these two products, I think I’d classify them both as smooth and more docile than angry.

Edradour Natural Cask Strength, Bourbon Cask, a challenging dram

In coming up with some tasting notes and thoughts on this single malt that was bottled at full strength I found myself struggling. My struggle was two parts, first I paid extra for an unknown whisky to be shipped to me from the UK so I expected it to be interesting. Secondly, I found this whisky to be very challenging to categorize. I like to be able to taste a whisky and say, this is what I would do with this whisky (drink with meat, seafood, and I’d smoke it with this or that cigar or type of cigar). After tasting this single malt that was aged solely in a bourbon cask from Kentucky I’m not sure that what I tasted lived up to what I thought it would taste like.
Having tasted a Bushmills Malt 10 that was aged in some Kentucky bourbon casks I probably had more of that feel in mind and what I actually got from the Edradour was not even close. Nosing the whisky is a bit familiar, soft vanilla notes etc… I did not pick up any Highland notes and thought that most of the nose was coming from Kentucky.
I previously said I ordered this product hoping it would be interesting, well, when I tasted it I got what I paid for, only the interesting led to some confusion. This was not a product my palate found familiar. I was actually at a loss, the best I can say is that it has a lot of heat (alcohol burn) and a bourbon mixed with scotch sort of finish. Not what you’d call stellar notes! Like other whiskies or cigars that have left me confused I thought I’d wait, try it again and see what happens.
Well, tonight I poured myself another generous dram and nosed, sipped, same reaction, then it occurred to me, the ABV(alcohol by volume) is fairly high, I might put some water in it. So I did, and then thought, maybe just a little more (I don’t think I’ve ever done this). Bingo. All of a sudden with the alcohol content knocked down I could really start to see the flavors. It all made sense to me and I found myself pleasantly pleased that I had found a fix for this whisky.
By the way, the whisky is a bit viscous or oily. I think this would be a great whisky with pork. I did rather enjoy this alongside a CAO La Traviata maduro and think that it would mate well with full-bodied cigars at the full strength. To me, and I’m not sure I will ever say this again, but I’d knock down the alcohol content with some fresh water and enjoy it with a variety of foods and even some medium bodied cigars. That is, if you are in the UK. I don’t think you will find this one washing up on American soil any day soon.

Woodford Reserve & Bushmills Malt 10yr., how a Kentucky Bourbon produces an Irish Whiskey

If you read my account of going to the Woodford Reserve Distillery in Kentucky then you know where this story gets its influence. Our tour guide told us of a recent vacation he took to Ireland. I believe he also toured Scotland but he imparted a story about seeing his familiar Woodford Reserve barrels being re-purposed at the Old Bushmills Distillery. He knew that the barrels that Woodford emptied were resold to Ireland and Scotland distilleries to mature whiskies and now he had seen with his own eyes! Well his experience stuck in my head, and I thought, why not try some Bushmills product that is aged in bourbon casks and see if I can taste some similarities. The Bushmills Malt 10yr. is a product of two barrels, first a sherry cask and then most of the time is spent in a previously used cask from a bourbon distillery.

Ok, so after shoveling down some Sushi I picked up at Harris Teeter I set out my tasting table. Into two glasses went about an ounce of each whiskey, one of Woodford Reserve Bourbon and one of Bushmills Malt 10yr. At the onset you can see that Woodford has a deep amber appearance and the Bushmills has a much lighter amber appearance. I then nosed the Woodford and my nose exploded with flavors! I wrote down vanilla, leather, and butterscotch. Then I wrote down Yummy!!! Yes I realize that yummy is not something a professional reviewer would write down in a review but then I have the luxury of not holding that title. But seriously, the aroma alone of Woodford is something special! Then I nosed the Bushmills, and then again, and again, come on!! Unlike the Woodford, I had to seriously NOSE this glass. It was almost like it didn’t want to play. The best I could get out of it was some hints of liquorice. Which confused me.

Before tasting I added a very small amount of amount of VOSS water to each one and nosed them again. I was beginning to think this was going to be a failed experiment, but then it happened. The stubborn Bushmills came alive with the introduction of water and suddenly the same butterscotch I smelled in the Woodford was present in the Bushmills along with some honey. The Woodford on the other hand dropped a couple of aromas after the water was introduced but some wood flavor came through. All of a sudden I was taken back to the moment I walked into the warehouse at Woodford Reserve. That, as I wrote earlier, was an amazing olfactory event.

Now I have tasted Woodford many times before but I tried to pay closer attention to this tasting. The flavors were incredibly complex, and wonderful. I wrote down, full butterscotch! I could not help but write, “this is a gentleman’s drink.”

I looked at the Bushmills and said, you got a lot to live up to! Knowing that the Bushmills would not approach the Woodford I lowered my expectations. Fortunately I was very pleased to have the same butterscotch, though somewhat reduced, come across my palette. I found this ten year malt to be very well mannered and smooth. You could almost call the ten year malt, Woodford “light.”

Alas! I have found what I was looking for! These two whiskies have amazing similarities thanks to a very well fashioned and prepared barrel from Woodford Reserve Distillery.

But this story doesn’t end, well for now it does. I tasted another Bushmills product after these two called “Black Bush.” Would it taste different?

Cheers!

Woodford Reserve Distillery

Recently I spent some time in Bourbon Country, USA. That would be Lexington, KY. Unfortunately I did not have much free time but did get to one distillery that I truly admire. The trip to Labrot & Graham’s Woodford Distillery in itself is a delight. The winding hills and roads back through horse farms (yep, Lexington is the horse capital of the USA also) was enjoyable. As my motorola Droid was guiding me, I started to wonder if there really was a distillery on this road? Yep, there it was! I pulled in hoping to catch the last tour of the day and was surprised when I was actually in time to the second to last tour. The people working at the visitors center were very cordial and relaxed (and sober I think). We had a wonderful guide who had been working there since he retired a few years back. The first thing he wanted to make perfectly clear was a) we make one product here only, Woodford Reserve Bourbon, and b) there will be NO flash cameras allowed in the distillery (BOOM!). We got the point.

So if you did not know, all bourbon is whiskey but not all whiskey is bourbon. There are only five ingredients allowed in bourbon (at least 51% Corn, Rye, malted Barley, Water and Yeast). No flavorings, no colors added, nothing can be added (period!) “.”
The first building we went into was where all the ingredients went into a massive vat where the “mash” begins to brew or ferment, and grow (its living!). The room has a distinct, overwhelming, smell to it due to the air is highly concentrated with carbon dioxide. Next it is pumped into the copper still pots (they are massive) that are made in Scotland. Here the distillation begins, Woodford is the only current distillery that uses a three copper pot system to distill their product. After it has moved through each of them then it is off to a newly charred wood barrel made at a company owned by Woodford’s parent company that has been exposed to heat and then fire. The insides are charred quite well which seems to be the secret to making good bourbon.
After filling, these barrels are rolled, by hand, into a very rustic warehouse next door. Walking through the door of this facility was an olfactory event. I can’t describe it but lets just say it was magical. It was there we met Elijah the cat. He was the rodent control officer and perhaps the happiest cat I’ve ever seen. So after a 7 to 9 year period, these barrels are ready for bottling. As part of the tour a barrel was open and some product was poured out of the cask into a glass which was a magical event also. As the tour guide explained, the alcohol content was much too high and would have to be cut with water to satisfy Federal requirements (them revenuers!).
So me being the opportunistic person (and son of a bootlegger no less), I was the closest person to the tour guide and just happened to notice he spilled quite a bit on the glass as he poured it. If I could have yanked that glass out of that gentleman’s hand without any witnesses, well, you know…. Anyhow, he passed the glass to me first to “smell only” and pass around. This I did obligingly. The next thing I know, I was surreptitiously moving my hands with the freshly spilled product on them towards my mouth! I had a grin on me like a raccoon on friday night! Anyhow, I really enjoyed that part.
So then our fun came to an end as we made our way back up the hill towards the visitors center for our “free” tasting. I was setting at a table with a few people who weren’t exactly appreciative of whiskey “straight” so they passed me their samples. I’m sure God has reserved a special place in heaven for them. Anyhow, I got to keep their shot glasses (acrylic) also, small pleasures.
And yes, they do have a gift shop! I hope to go back, I will take my film camera with no flash next time. And I will set out for the other distillers also.