Reviews

Last Minute Gift Guide 2017 Edition

If you’re reading this, you’re probably in the same situation as me: Christmas is about a week away and still have some gifts to buy! No worries, loyal reader. Here are a few whisk(e)y and whisk(e)y-related gift ideas in several price ranges you should still be able to find in online or in stores.

FOR THE OFFICE GIFT-SWAP

Evan Williams Bottled-In-Bond bourbon. ($20) Office gift swaps usually have a low price limit for gifts. At about $20 a bottle, you can’t go wrong with Evan Williams BiB. Great flavor for even greater value.

FOR THE FAMILY HOLIDAY DINNER

Macallan Double Cask 12-year-old. ($65) The Macallan’s entry-level single malt should please the masses, including that picky relative everybody has. It’s made using European and American oak sherry-seasoned casks.

FOR A STOCKING STUFFER

Duke Cannon Big American Bourbon Soap ($9.50) Made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, this huge bar of soap does not smell like bourbon, so you don’t have to start thinking of excuses when your boss asks why you smell of whisky at 9am on a Monday.  Instead, the soap has a sweet oak and vanilla scent and “bits of ground corn” to help with exfoliation.

FOR THE NEW YEAR’S PARTY

High West Midwinter Nights Dram ($90) This rye whiskey is finished in port and French oak barrels, essentially making this the taste like the holidays.  Of all the whiskies on this list, Midwinter Nights Dram might be the hardest to find on shelves.  You’ll probably have to ask for it in stores.

FOR THE CIGAR FAN

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Pappy Van Winkle Tradition – The new cigar release from Drew Estate Cigars is simply flawless.  My favorite cigar of 2017!

FOR THE WHISKEY FAN THAT HAS EVERYTHING

Jackson Wayne Bourbon Bag

Jackson Wayne Bourbon Bag ($475) For those with deep pockets, this beautiful leather bag is perfect to travel with your favorite bottles of whiskey.

IF YOU’RE LOOKING FOR A HIGH-END WHISKY ($200+)

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare_Bottle Image_3

Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Blended Whisky ($399) I haven’t fully reviewed it here on the blog, but my first impressions are this is a must buy if you can fork over $400 for a whisky.  It’s comprised of whiskies from closed distilleries alongside rare malt and grain whiskies.  The first in the series is built around the long-shuttered but soon to reopen Brora.  Wonderful stuff!

Chivas Regal Ultis ($200) I reviewed this blended malt on the site more than a year ago, and it’s still one I often go back to.  A gorgeous new blend from Chivas Regal.

IF YOU’RE ON A GENEROUS BUDGET ($100 – $150)

Orphan Barrel Entrapment ($150) This 25-year-old Canadian whisky was originally made to be blended into Crown Royal, but was set aside to further age.  A quarter century has turned this mostly corn-driven whiskey into something special.  It’s a rather divine experience.

Glenmorangie Astar ($100) This high proof (52.5% ABV) release from Glenmorangie ensures a robust tasting experience, delivering those beautiful vanilla and floral flavors Glenmorangie is famous for.

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Highland Park Full Volume ($110) This limited edition single malt from Highland Park is a bit of a departure for the distillery, utilizing ex-bourbon barrels instead of the usual ex-sherry casks.  The result – an extremely tasty whisky that combines the distillery’s heathery peat character with the qualities of a bourbon barrel.

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Hennessy Master Blender’s Selection No. 2 ($100) This one-time blend from the Cognac giant is gorgeous, stimulating the palate with lots of spice and dried fruits.  Drink by itself or pair with a nice cigar.

IF YOU’RE ON A MODERATE BUDGET ($50 TO $100)

Jameson Blender’s Dog ($70) Jameson hit it out of the park with this new blend by Head Blender Billy Leighton.  It’s beautifully balanced.

Booker’s “Sip Awhile” Batch 2017-04 ($70) The last batch of Booker’s for 2017 is a doozy.  An easily found yet very solid barrel-proof bourbon.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (B517) ($60) Another barrel-strength monster of a bourbon.  This one’s firing on all cylinders.  Fair warning:  Elijah Craig Barrel Proof might require a bit of searching.  That said, they’re still on store shelves in my neck of the woods.

IF YOU’RE ON A TIGHTER BUDGET ($25 – $50)

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Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye ($40) This mix of Kentucky rye, Canadian rye and port wine is a winner.  Though it’s not a traditional whiskey, Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye has tons of fruit and spice notes that might even win over people who claim not to like whiskey.  Another nice one to reach for during a holiday meal.

Henry McKenna 10-year-old Bottled-In-Bond bourbon ($25) I’ll continue to say it – this is the best value in bourbon today.  You won’t find more age and flavor in a bottle for this price.

 

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Barrell Bourbon Batch 014 Review

I get excited when a new batch of Barrell Bourbon arrives at my doorstep. The folks making this aren’t looking for consistency between batches like most big time labels. Contrarily, each batch is unique in flavor profile. That allows the blender a nearly unlimited playground to play with when creating a new batch. That, to me, is exciting.

Barrel Bourbon Batch 014 started life with some 9-year-old barrels from Batch 012. A parcel of 9-year-old bourbon barrels were added and topped off with some 14-year-old bourbon. Like all of the company’s releases, Barrell Bourbon Batch 014 is bottled at cask strength. In this case we’re talking 109.4 proof. All the whiskies in this batch were distilled in Tennessee and Kentucky.

The rich nose features hints of caramel corn, vanilla extract, sweet oak, and a touch of herbs and some floral notes. Taste-wise, there is lots going on here. Cinnamon sticks and cardamon kick things off, leading to waves of toffee, butterscotch, rye spice and fruit. Tobacco and leather develop in the mid-palate along with toasted oak and a small blast of refreshing spearmint. The finish is long with hints of caramelized fruit, spice, and oak.

I’ve gotta say this has hit a sweet spot for my palate. It’s built upon classic bourbon flavors with the fruit and spice notes dialed up a notch. Barrell Bourbon’s winning streak continues. Highly recommended! 8.5/10

Barrellbourbon.com

Thanks to Barrell Bourbon for the sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Booker’s Bourbon “Sip Awhile” Batch 2017-04 Review

Making its way to shelves in time for the holiday season, Booker’s “Sip Awhile” marks the brand’s last batch of 2017. “Sip Awhile” refers to the Noe family’s insistence of having a good time while sipping on a glass of bourbon. The late Booker Noe started bottling honey barrels from the center floors of his favorite warehouses and gifting bottles to friends during the holidays. Eventually, this barrel proof bourbon became known as Booker’s bourbon.

“Sip Awhile” is bottled at a cask strength of 64.05% ABV, or 128.1 proof. The youngest barrels in the batch are 6 years, 8 months, and 14 days old. Barrels from four different production dates and three different warehouses comprise the batch.

I look at my glass of Booker’s and think, “Look at those legs!” The nose carries hints of cinnamon rolls, cedar plank, vanilla and roasted almonds. It carries with it a slightly oily and full-bodied mouthfeel. More than I remember for the last couple of batches. The palate is where Booker’s really comes to life. Initial waves of caramel and spice give way to big vanilla and barrel char. There’s a mild oak grip on the back of the palate. The long, chest-warming finish features spiced caramel, dark chocolate and sun-cured tobacco.

I haven’t enjoyed a batch of Booker’s like this since the beginning of the year with Batch 2017-01 (Tommy’s Batch). I got less of that roasted sweet corn and a bit more complexity than the last couple of releases, giving “Sip Awhile” a very slight shift in the Booker’s flavor profile. What a wonderful way to end the year. Recommended! 8.5/10

Bookersbourbon.com

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