Reviews

Review: Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel 2020 Special Release Barrel Proof Rye

Photo courtesy of Jack Daniel’s

Jack Daniel’s has been killing it with their end-of-the-year limited edition releases the last couple of years. It started two years ago with the release of Heritage Barrel Tennessee Whiskey. For 2020, Jack Daniel’s is going in a different direction with a single barrel rye. This barrel proof bottling is aged on the highest floors of their barrel houses, just like Heritage Barrel.

The mash bill is their latest, and first since Prohibition – 70% rye, 12% malt, and 18% corn. It’s a rye-heavy mashbill that provides lots of spice while keeping a little of the sweetness normally associated with Jack Daniel’s. This is also the first release for new Master Distiller Chris Fletcher.

The nose is ripe with rich caramel, rye spice, fruit, and oak. A touch of smoke rounds out the nose. Taste-wise, this Jack Daniel’s expression lands in the sweet and peppery area. Rich smoked caramel is soon joined by waves of baking spice and fruit. A sharp black pepper note hits the mid palate, thanks to the hearty amount of rye in the mash bill. The finish is slightly oaky, with lingering brown sugar, pepper, and oak notes.

For an SRP of $64.99, this is a must have. It highlights Jack Daniel’s ability to craft an exceptional rye whiskey and shine past the famous Black Label so many drinkers are familiar with. Big, bold, and spicy – that’s a winning combination. Highly recommended.

Thanks to Jack Daniel’s for the sample. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Thomas S. Moore Extended Cask Finish Bourbons

Photo courtesy of Barton 1792 Distillery

The Barton 1792 Distillery isn’t sitting on its laurels.  Starting this December, the Sazerac-owned distillery is turning cask finishing on its head.  Welcome Thomas S. Moore, a new brand of cask finished bourbon whiskey named after the distiller who built the distillery known as Barton 1792.  

Cask finishing is nothing new in the whiskey world.  You take a matured whiskey and let it age for a few months in a second cask, be it ex-wine casks, toasted barrels, etc., to impart some flavors of the spirit from those casks to the original whiskey.  Where the Thomas S. Moore range differs is its extended cask finishing. They start with their high-rye bourbon aged between 5 and 7 years and move it to different casks to further mature for a period of 2 to 5 years.  You read that right – years, not months.  The reason for the extended finishing period is to not only impart those fruity wine notes, but to provide additional cask aging.  Master Distiller Danny Kahn says the finishing barrels are toasted and add more baking spice and vanilla notes akin to aging.

This annual release will kick things with three expressions – a Port finish, Chardonnay finish, and a Cabernet Sauvignon finish.  The cab and Chardonnay casks come from Napa and Sonoma, and ruby port casks are utilized. 

PORT CASK FINISH

Coming in at 98.9 proof, the Port Cask finished Thomas Moore is ripe with dark fruit and spice. The nose features hints of blackberry jam, sandlewood, and toffee. The sweet, juicy fruit notes play well against the bourbon’s traditional caramel sweetness. Wood spice and orange peel break up the slightly saccharine entry, giving the whiskey a touch more depth. The medium finish leaves behind hints of plums, cardamon, and a touch of oak. This one’s my favorite of the bunch.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON CASK FINISH

The Cabernet Sauvignon cask finish expression is bottled a little lower at 95.3 proof. Still fruity, though we’re looking at berries instead of more concentrated jams of its port cask-finished sibling. Raspberries and vanilla make up a large portion of the nose, with an additional citrus and herbal characteristic. On the palate, a spicy start gives way to syrupy caramel and juicy raspberries. The mid-palate introduces vanilla and some baking spice. The finish here is longer with a lingering fruity sweetness. The sweetest of the bunch.

CHARDONNAY CASK FINISH

Proof-wise, this expression sits in the middle at 97.9 proof. Let me start by saying I’m not the biggest Chardonnay fan, but I find the expression interesting. Buttery caramel and orchard fruit meet a slightly mineral note on the nose. The fruit character here is more rounded. Taste-wise, this is a nice balance of caramel, spice, and baked apples. There’s a slightly buttery or oily character on the mouthfeel that coats the palate. A bit of toasted oak leads into the finish, which features lingering notes of buttery toffee and stewed apricot. Again, it’s pleasant and interesting, but again… I’m not a Chardonnay drinker.


Overall, I kind of dig the extended cask finishes. They certainly add more to the traditional bourbon notes than a much shorter cask finish. Whether or not that’s your thing is up to you. Personally, I’m a fan of experimentation in the whiskey industry. Sometimes these experiments land and sometimes they don’t. In this case, the drinker must accept the heavy-handed finish and not expect a “regular’ bourbon or one with a light finish. Chances are if the announcement of this new line immediately peaked your interest, you’ll probably enjoy these. If you’re a traditionalist, stay away. Me – I’ll be looking for the Port Cask finished bottle.

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

Review: The GlenDronach Port Wood

Photo courtesy of The GlenDronach

Readers of this blog know I’m a fan of The GlenDronach distillery, with its rich, luscious sherried profile. How can not be a fan? The distillery’s latest is Port Wood, which sees primary maturation in a combination of Pedro Ximénez and Oloroso sherry casks followed by a secondary maturation in Port pipes from Portugal’s Douro Valley. If this doesn’t read like Christmas in a bottle, I don’t know what does.

Bottled at 46%, the aromas pour out of the glass. The maturation in all those different casks gives the nose a touch more aromatic character. Lots of ripe dark fruit add a freshness to an undercurrent of sweeter blackberry jam. There’s also a bit of wood spice and toffee found here. Taste-wise, strawberry jam provides a fruity backbone. The dried fruit underneath are balanced by wood spice, toasted almonds, and a feint hint of orange peel. Port Wood has a nice mouthfeel – not too thin, not too syrupy. The finish is lifted by a sprinkling of baking spices and black cherry.

Master Blender Rachel Barrie has crafted a beautiful whisky here. It’s fruity but not too sweet, which can sometimes be difficult to pull off. Add the aromatic spices and GlenDronach Port Wood is a winner and an easy recommendation, especially at its SRP of $89.99.

Whatever’s left of this sample is going to be my Christmas pour. Hopefully I have enough to last until then. Jeff, I know you’re reading this – would you be so kind as to hold a bottle for me?

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