Reviews

Review: Booker’s 2019-03 “Booker’s Country Ham”

A while back during a local Knob Creek tasting here in New Orleans, the local Beam Suntory team brought out one of Fred Noe’s country hams for the group to enjoy. I eat ham all the time, but this one still sticks out in my memories.

Country Ham is the name for the third batch of Booker’s bourbon in 2019. Booker Noe loved his ham. In fact, there’s a story in Jim Kokoris’s book, “The Big Man of Jim Beam,” in which Booker brought one of his smoked hams to a fine restaurant in Chicago. You know, to show them how real ham was supposed to taste!

This batch is 6 years, 4 months, and 2 days old, and has been bottled at 62.35% ABV (124.7 proof). The nose is typical Booker’s – lots of vanilla and caramel alongside hints of honey-roasted nuts and oak. At just over 124 proof, Booker’s Country Ham drinks fine neat. Taste-wise, it’s more of what you’ve come to expect: lots of vanilla, roasted sweet corn, caramel-covered cinnamon rolls, and some oak spice. The long finish wraps you in a sweet, warming Kentucky hug.

Booker’s Country Ham is another solid batch of Jim Beam’s cask strength bourbon. It’s a great one to introduce people curious about the brand as it solidly represents the Booker’s standard flavor profile. Recommended! Now, if I could just get my hands on more of that country ham…

Bookersbourbon.com

Thanks to Booker’s bourbon for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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REVIEW: WhistlePig “NOBF 2020: The Deuce” Single Barrel Rye

We’re a few short months away from the 2020 New Orleans Bourbon Festival (NOBF), but that hasn’t stopped founders Barbara Hirsch-Napolitano and Tracy Napolitano from visiting the country’s distilleries to pick barrels. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s gotta do it.

I’ve had the pleasure of joining Barbara and Tracy for NOBF barrel picks before, and was actually scheduled to visit WhistlePig distillery for this one. However, my clumsy ass badly sprained my ankle just two weeks before the visit, tearing a ligament in the process. Talk about bad timing. So it was with great anticipation I awaited this release – the fruits of their labors.

WhistlePig “The Deuce” is about 12 and a half years old, bottled at 119.6 proof. It’s 100% rye distilled in Canada and aged in Vermont. I’m a big fan of WhistlePig’s standard 10-year-old bottling. It’s a big, satisfying rye whiskey. “The Deuce” takes that standard profile and cranks it up a notch or two.

The nose carries lots of butterscotch alongside hints of rye spice, vanilla, and cardamom. Sweet cane syrup hits the palate first, soon followed by waves of spiced caramel and juicy red fruit. Rye spice slowly ramps up and makes headway in the mid-to-back palate. A touch of toasted oak appears just before the long, warming finish. Vermont hugs are just as warming and welcoming as Kentucky hugs.

Not only is WhistlePig my favorite release from the brand, it’s also my favorite New Orleans Bourbon Festival barrel pick. The rye whiskey is big and bold, sweet and spicy, and has just enough flavor components in-between. It’s complex, but more importantly it’s tasty as hell. You can pick up this bottle for about $75 in high-end New Orleans-area retail shops. I think I’d better grab a second bottle. Totally worth it.

Review: Starward Nova and Two Fold

And now for something a little different – Australian whisky from Starward. The Melbourne-based distillery is influenced by the culinary innovations from Australia’s foodie capital. Add to that the vast amount of wineries nearby and climate ripe for quick maturation and you end up with a distillery that’s uniquely Australian. Let’s take a look at two of their expressions.

NOVA

Starward Nova is a 2-year-old single malt whisky that matured in Australian red wine casks. Because of the continent’s climate, whisky maturation in Australia is more akin to that of Kentucky than Scotland. The wine casks used here were not charred. The brand says they were instead steamed, retaining the penetration of wine into the barrels. Nova is bottled at 41% ABV.

The nose is bright and full of lush red fruit, sweet malt, vanilla, and a hint of caramel. Rich and mouth-coating, Nova is impressive on the palate. Stewed red fruit and wine notes meet creamy vanilla. The influence from the wine cask maturation really comes through. A touch of wood spice on the back palate leads to a clean, medium-length finish with hints of strawberry jam and cardamom.

I love the red wine cask maturation here, and how it does not overly sweeten the whisky. Nova drinks heavier than its low ABV suggests, but maintains a brightness that makes it a great whisky to bust out at a picnic. It’s fruity, malt, and quite tasty.

TWO FOLD

Two Fold from Starward is also a 2-year-old whisky matured in Australian red wine casks. That’s where the similarities end. Two Fold starts with malted barley and wheat in its mash bill.

The nose is at a delicate balance between fruit and grain, with buttered wheat toast, red berries, vanilla and some spice. Two Fold’s palate is a touch sweeter than Nova. Sweet wheat, red apples and raspberries are met with a soft caramel undertone. Hints of spice and slightly astringent oak lead to a short, fruity finish.

Two Fold is more grain-forward compared to Nova. It feels more rounded in flavor, but tastes younger (think vibrant and sweet, not ‘green’) thanks to the inclusion of wheat. Two Fold might appeal to American whiskey drinkers looking to expand their palates. All in all, Two Fold is a flavorful, fruity whisky that shines a little light on its grain notes.

Good on you, Starward. The unique approach to maturation exudes terroir, as only an Australian distillery can pull this off. I’m truly excited to see where Starward has in store for the future.

Starward.com.au

Thanks to Starward for the samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.