Booker’s Bourbon “Front Porch Batch” 2017-03 Review

After a hard day’s work, sometimes there’s nothing better than sipping a glass of whiskey on your porch. That’s exactly what Booker’s “Front Porch Batch” celebrates. The third of four 2017 releases is already on shelves. This batch of Jim Beam’s cask strength bourbon is bottled at 62.95%, or 125.9 proof. For the whiskey geek, here’s a breakdown of which 9-story warehouses barrels for Front Porch Batch were pulled from:

  • 8% from 5th floor of warehouse D
  • 14% from 7th floor of warehouse D
  • 37% from 4th floor of warehouse E
  • 5% from the 5th floor of warehouse E
  • 16% from the 6th floor of warehouse E
  • 20% from the 4th floor of warehouse F

On the nose, this batch of Booker’s is full of charred corn, peanut brittle, vanilla and the lightest touch of fresh tobacco. The palate bursts with hints of buttered cornbread, caramel chews, nougat, roasted peanuts and some oak. The entry is a bit hotter than usual, but that burn goes away rather quickly. The body is still pretty chewy, as expected with Booker’s. Compared to other batches, the finish slightly disappoints. It carries a vanilla-tinged sweet corn and oak flavor, which is normal. However, and this is confirmed with the batch’s official tasting notes, the finish is a bit shorter than usual. Nothing necessarily wrong with that, but I expect a long finish from my glass of Booker’s.

At the end of the day, most batches of Booker’s taste pretty similar. Though they follow a specific flavor profile, each batch can be slightly different. Front Porch Batch is still an enjoyable glass of bourbon, but not the best Booker’s can offer. 8/10


Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye Review

Basil Hayden’s bourbon is a part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection. Its spicy, dry character along with its low 80 proof help it stand out. In early 2017, the brand released a rye whiskey, but that was a one-time release. Just a few months later, it was announced that Dark Rye would be the first permanent extension to the Basil Hayden lineup. It was a unique move.

Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye is a blend of Kentucky straight rye whiskey, Canadian rye whiskey, and port wine. In keeping with the Basil Hayden tradition, Dark Rye is bottled at 80 proof and is available for around $40.

So how is it? Damn drinkable. The rye from the two whiskies provides some nice aromatics that play against the fruitiness of the port wine, along with a hint of freshly squeezed citrus. Taste-wise, Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye presents hints of rye spice (though it’s not as potent as I thought it would be) and port wine, as well as pecan pie and a touch of oak. At 80 proof, Dark Rye is as easy-drinking as its siblings. The medium finish features allspice, sangria, and oak notes.

Adding a whiskey like Dark Rye to the Basil Hayden lineup is a bold move, considering it’s not a straight rye whiskey, mainly because of the addition of port wine. That might turn away some people. However, Dark Rye is highly enjoyable. Its smooth character and combination of spice and dark fruit work beautifully. I wouldn’t recommend it to a someone looking to try rye whiskey for the first time as it isn’t a great representation of that kind of spirit. For those looking for something a little different, Dark Rye is worth a shot. Recommended. 8/10

Pappy Van Winkle Tradition Cigar Review

Drew Estate has once again teamed with the Van Winkles for a new cigar blend – Pappy Van Winkle Tradition.  The cigar features an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper, Indonesian Binder and aged fillers from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.  As its name implies, the cigar is traditionally made, especially when compared to the previously released Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented cigar.  Where that cigar is available only through Pappy & Company, the new Tradition has a limited availability at Drew Diplomat retailers.  

Tradition wasn’t initially blended for this collaboration.  Years ago when blender Willy Herrera was in talks to join the Drew Estate Family, he put together three cigar blends.  One of those blends was especially loved by everyone within the company who smoked it.  In 2016, when Jonathan Drew handed Julian Van Winkle a box of cigars featuring this blend, Van Winkle was mesmerized with the blend. With that, Pappy Van Winkle Tradition was born.

The Pappy Van Winkle “Tradition” comes in the following sizes:

  • Coronita (4 x 46) MSRP $146.00/10ct Box
  • Robusto Grande (5.5 x 54) MSRP $216.00/10ct Box
  • Toro (6 x 50) MSRP $236.00/10ct Box
  • Belicoso Fino (5 x 50) MSRP $246.00/10ct Box
  • Churchill (7 x 48) MSRP $236.00 / 10ct Box Exclusively available at Drew Diplomat Spirits Retailers
  • Lonsdale (6.5 x 44) (Not for Sale) / 10ct Box Exclusively at Drew Diplomat Rewards Events in October, November and December 2017
  • Corona (5.5 x 44) MSRP (Not for Sale) / 10ct Box Exclusively available from Jonathan Drew and Julian Van Winkle

As I took the Belicoso Fino from its wrapper, aromas of aged tobacco, vanilla and molasses hit me.  It has a great draw and features hints of cedar, molasses, raisin and vanilla, as well as a bit of spice and slight earthiness.  There wasn’t a great deal of further development the more I smoked, which was okay by me.  The flavors presented were delightful.  I generally lean towards medium-bodied cigars, and Pappy Van Winkle Tradition hit my sweet spot.  The well-constructed cigar lasted about 45 minutes or so.  The cigar is a little bit on the pricey side, but offers a superb smoke.  I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed with your purchase.

Once I had a good idea of how Tradition smoked, I was off to find a great whiskey pairing.  I first reached for a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20-year-old bourbon.  The dark, rich, and refined character that defines the famous whiskey played nice with the medium flavored cigar.  The stick’s spicy quality elevated the pairing’s overall experience while not feeling overpowering.  I especially liked that the dried fruit notes of the bourbon were enhanced as well.  Again, a beautiful pairing.

Since PVW 20-year is impossible to find, I also paired the cigar with the slightly easier to obtain Michter’s 10-year-old bourbon.  Michter’s sweet cinnamon notes complemented the cigar’s sweeter molasses and vanilla notes.  Overall, it was a nice pairing as well.
Thanks to Drew Estate for the cigar samples.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.