Review: Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey

A few years ago, I had the pleasure of visiting Frey Ranch to check out their grain-to-glass operation. The farm distillery, located just outside of Reno, Nevada, showed me the commitment to quality the owners hold dear.

Their four grain bourbon was recently released in the Nevada market. I sampled it during my trip, though it was only about two years old at that point. Back then I thought it was ready for bottling, but the Freys wanted to wait until at least the four year mark before they considered bottling it. Patience is definitely a virtue.

So here we are. Non-chill filtered and bottled at 90 proof, Frey Ranch bourbon ($49.99) is made of corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley. Every one of those grains are grown, harvested, and milled on the 160-year-old family farm.

The nose features wonderfully luscious honeyed fruit, maple, oak spice, and toasted grains. Taste-wise, the complex, viscous, syrupy bourbon kicks off with toffee, dark chocolate-covered nuts, some dark fruit, and sweet tobacco. The finish is medium-long, with honey, slight oak spice and espresso notes.

Frey Ranch’s bourbon might be the most impressive debut release I’ve tasted. I was impressed then, but am blown away now. It’s currently only available in Nevada, but the brand looks to expand to online sales very soon, which would increase availability across the country. Look for this one and thank me later.

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

Review: Knob Creek 9 year and 12 year Bourbon

A few years ago, Knob Creek ran into some inventory shortages with their bourbon aging in their warehouses. Seems we drank the hell out of Beam’s 9-year-old bourbon. Cheers to us! In response, Beam Suntory removed the 9 year age statement from Knob Creek. To their credit, the flavor profile of the NAS release was largely left unchanged, though there were slight differences.

Recently, Beam’s inventory is where it needs to be and, in turn, announced the return of the 9-year age statement back to Knob Creek. That’s not all, folks! A 12-year-old Knob Creek, released as a limited edition in 2019, has now become a permanent addition to the Knob Creek lineup. Both expressions remain 100 proof, which I find to be a very pleasant proof when I’m drinking neat.

Knob Creek 9-year-old ($34.99) brings me back to the first time I sipped this modern classic bourbon years back. The nose brings lovely honey roasted nuts, caramel, oak spice, dried apricot, and sweet tobacco leaf notes. Taste-wise, candied fruit and caramel kick things off. Orange peel, salted peanuts, and some oak spice soon develop. There’s not a lot of the slightly young-ish roasted corn, making this release a bit more refined. The finish is long and somewhat sweet.

The 12-year-old ($59.99), as expected, smells a bit darker than its younger sibling. Rich aromas of spiced caramel, slightly burnt orange peel, roasted nuts, and a lot of spice. Citrus notes are featured a bit more prominently, which complement the darker caramels, cigar box, and oak spice found on the palate. There’s a nice oak structure on the back palate. The dry, bittersweet finish is a little softer than expected, featuring a caramel-ish note.

Knob Creek has bucked the recent trend of removing age statements in the bourbon industry. Age isn’t everything, but I sure am glad to see that number return to the label. Knob Creek has always been a favorite in my household. It’s one of the few bourbons I reach for on a regular basis.

In essence, the “new” 9-year-old Knob Creek is as good or slightly better than it’s always been. I don’t have to tell you what you already know – this is a solid bourbon. The 12-year-old release peppers in darker, spicier notes, giving us a more complex drinking experience. I couldn’t be happier with both of these whiskies. Okay, enough writing. Time for another pour. ‘Til next time…

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

Review: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (Batch A120)

The first 2020 batch of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (ECBP), one of my favorite barrel proof bourbons, hit shelves back in January. Batch A120 arrived with a bruiser of a proof – 136.6. That’s a whopping 68.3% abv!

What I appreciate about ECBP is its consistency of flavor between batches. Sure, no two batches are exactly the same, but it seems to me that ECBP does a great job of keep its character between batches.

How’s it fare? Very well, even with a splash of water. I’d certainly advise a at least a few drops of H2O with a whiskey of such high proof. Remember, it’s about enjoying the whiskey, and not about destroying the lining of your palate.

The nose carries wonderful brown sugar and molasses, cinnamon stick, and freshly baked pastry. Dark cherries lead the palate alongside wave after wave of caramelized sugar and a sprinkling of baking spices. Tobacco and slightly astringent oak appear in the back palate, a sign of the bourbon’s age. The finish is long and rich.

I’m rarely if ever disappointed in a batch of ECBP. Batch A120 is a winner for sure, living up to the dark caramel-centered nature of the bourbon. Recommended!

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