Review: Woodford Reserve Batch Proof 2020

Photo courtesy of Woodford Reserve

In my very early whiskey drinking days, Woodford Reserve was my first “premium” bourbon. This came after a while of drinking Jack Daniel’s and Evan Williams. Spending close to $30 for a bottle required some thought. Would I like it? Is it worth it? After all, good bourbon shouldn’t cost more than $25. Oh, to be in that mindset again. As expected, I fell in love with Woodford Reserve. It’s been a staple in my household since.

Years later, the brand expanded its offerings with a Double Oaked bourbon, rye whiskey, wheat whiskey, and malt whiskey. Then there’s their Master’s Collection and Distillery Series where the brand’s whiskey makers experiment with the whiskey making process. Notably missing from the lineup was a cask strength whiskey. Enter Woodford Reserve Batch Proof.

The 2020 edition of Woodford Reserve Batch Proof comes in at 123.6 proof, a far cry from the 90.4 proof of the standard expression. The extra proof amplifies the vanilla and sweet caramel notes, especially in the nose. Additional hints of buttered cornbread, oak spice, and dark chocolate round out the nose. The palate – wow. Juicy red fruit, toasted oak, and orange peel complement layers of brown sugar and vanilla. A feint cognac-like raisiny note sits on the back palate. The medium finish features refreshing spearmint.

Again – wow.

Woodford Reserve Batch Proof isn’t just a more intense version of their standard Distiller’s Select bourbon. Sure, the flavors are bolder, but the higher proof helps accentuate certain notes and downplay others. Oddly enough, the lack of spicy rye punch comes as a bit of surprise. It’s in there, but you really have to search for it. Minor criticism aside, Woodford Reserve Batch Proof is high proof bourbon worthy of its $130 price tag. A little on the expensive side, but highly recommended for those in search of a complex whiskey with a great depth of flavor.

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

Review: Michter’s 10-year-old Rye (2020)

We all know that whiskey tasting is very subjective. After all, we all have our preferences of flavor profiles. When it comes to rye whiskey, I tend to reach for ryes that have a little more age as opposed to young 2-3 year old expressions. Not that I don’t care for younger rye, I simply prefer a little more barrel influence. Just like with bourbon, I like my ryes in the 8-10 year old range.

Michter’s 10-year-old rye checks all the boxes for me. It’s got just the right amount of barrel influence and bottled at a nice sipping proof – 92.8 proof, or 46.6% abv.

As you may or may not know, this whiskey isn’t from Michter’s Distillery in Shively, KY. Instead, it was contract distilled at least 10 years ago with Michter’s mashbill, a closely guarded secret. According to Michter’s Master Distiller Dan McKee, there’s “a fair amount of corn and malted barley I the mashbill.”

On the nose, Michter’s 10-year-old Rye sees notes of dark caramelized sugars, buttered rye toast, baking spices, and a touch of aromatic vanilla. Like other Michter’s expressions, this one has a rich mouthfeel. Waves of spiced dark caramel hit the palate first, closely followed by a nice amount of baking spices. There’s a hint of orange peel and slightly sharp rye grain followed by some tobacco and toasted oak appearing on the back palate. The finish is medium-long and warming.

My oh my. Michter’s has certainly keep the bar high with their 10-year-old releases as of late, and this 2020 release is no exception. The SRP is $160, and if you can find it for close to that amount, you should certainly buy it. This release is certainly among my favorite ryes I’ve tasted this year. Enough typing – I’m going to have another glass…

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

Review: Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel

Elijah Craig has seen lots of movement in 2020. Back in February (which seems like about 7 years ago), Heaven Hill extended the Elijah Craig lineup with the addition of a straight rye whiskey. Now, the Elijah Craig line grows larger with its new Toasted Barrel straight bourbon whiskey.

Toasted barrel finishing has seem some notable releases the last few years, with Michter’s Toasted Barrel bottlings being the most prominent. Essentially, an aged whiskey sees a short secondary maturation, or finishing, in a new toasted oak barrel. In the case of Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel, the custom toasted barrels come courtesy of Independent Stave Company. According to press materials, the toast profile includes “a smooth and steady increase in both time and temperature at moderate intensity levels during the toasting phase.” The toasted barrel then sees a level one flash char. The standard Elijah Craig Small Batch ages in barrels utilizing Char #3.

In the bourbon world, there’s a debate on whether a bourbon with a barrel finish can be called straight bourbon. In broad strokes, the thinking is the typical secondary barrel used for finishing (sherry, port, rum, etc) 1) adds flavoring and coloring to the whiskey; and 2) is not a new, charred oak container. None of this is an issue for EC Toasted Barrel as it only touches new, charred oak barrels therefore maintaining the straight bourbon standards of identity.

Elijah Craig Barrel staves, from left to right: Char #3 used to mature Elijah Craig Small Batch; Custom toasted barrel stave only; and Custom toasted stave with #1 Char used to finish Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel

Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel comes in at 94 proof, keeping it in line with the rest of its siblings in the range. The $49.99 bourbon will be available on an allocated basis starting in September.

The toasted barrel finish is quite apparent on the nose, kicking up the baking spices, aromatic vanilla, and dark caramelized sugars of the standard Elijah Craig Small Batch profile. Oak spice is also ramped up. Taste-wise, the toasted barrel finish adds a subtle layer of smokiness to the dark caramel, fruit, and oak spice notes that make up the DNA of the whiskey. Baking spices season the bourbon, bringing a bit more balance to the sweet entry. The short-medium finish is a touch uneven with sweet notes fighting against bitter, charred notes.

Not bad, but not the revelatory bourbon I’d hoped for. The nose seems a bit hotter than expected, though a bit of airtime tames it. Compared to Elijah Craig Small Batch, EC Toasted barrel comes across a bit darker, sweeter, and spicier. It also adds more oakiness and bitterness, especially in the shorter-than-desired finish. Maybe letting the bottle of EC Toasted Barrel “breathe” for a bit will help things, but at the moment I prefer Elijah Craig Small Batch.

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