Barrel Strength

Review: Old Ezra Barrel Strength Bourbon

When this bottle of Old Ezra came across my sample table, the idea of a 7-year-old barrel strength bourbon excited me. The fact that it’s available for less than $40 is icing on the cake.

From a value standpoint, Old Ezra Barrel Strength checks off all the boxes on paper. But most important of all – is it any good?

It is, friends. In spades.

The nose is bold and full of rich caramel, spice, and some nuttiness. Taste-wise, Old Ezra Barrel Strength is full-bodied and robust, featuring hints of salted caramel, toasted oak, and black pepper. The finish is warm, with lingering cinnamon and toffee notes.

Luxco has another hit on their hands with this one. I hope Old Ezra Barrel Strength is a whiskey we can easily find on shelves. Luxco hasn’t made any mention of this being a limited release in press materials.

I can’t say it enough – this bourbon is fantastic! It’s on my shortlist as one of my favorite bourbons released in 2018. I know the flavor profiles are different and all, but this gives Booker’s a run for its money. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know how huge a Booker’s fan I am.

Highly recommended. 8.5/10

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


Michter’s US*1 Toasted Barrel Finish Rye Whiskey Review

Oh boy!  

Michter’s US*1 Barrel Strength Rye is one of my favorite uncut whiskies.  It’s not the most complex rye I’ve tasted from Michter’s.  Their 10-year-old rye holds that honor.  However, the barrel strength rye is an extremely enjoyable pour full of rye spice and brown sugar richness.

With this new release, Michter’s takes that rye whiskey and lets it rest in toasted barrels for a short amount of time, just like their previous releases of Toasted Barrel Bourbon.  This is the first time they’ve barrel finished a rye.  The barrels used for the finishing process, as the name implies, have been toasted and not charred.  The wood used for the barrels was air dried for 24 months.

What does this toasted barrel do to the base rye whiskey?  In short, it intensifies the flavors.

The nose is ripe with dark brown sugar, vanilla and a cornucopia of baking spices.  The latter is more pronounced here than in Michter’s Barrel Proof Rye.  On the palate, this toasted barrel-finished rye comes across as rich and bittersweet.  Dark caramel and burnt sugar kick things off, followed by lovely toasted rye bread and a cabinet full of baking spices like allspice, cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon.  A layer of vanilla cream acts as a counterbalance against all the spice.  The medium-length finish features spiced caramel and a touch of smoke.

Wow.  The barrel finishing added a different dimension to Michter’s rye whiskey character.  To add even more uniqueness, this release is a single barrel whiskey, which means each barrel could be slightly different.  My 110 proof sample came from barrel 17C570.  It’s simply fantastically rich and flavorful.  The price is right, too.  $75 for a 750ml bottle.  Now the bad news – this is a limited release and not a regular offering.  Fans of Michter’s rye whiskies should rush to pick this one up.  9/10

Booker’s Bourbon Batch 2016-05 “Off Your Rocker” Review

Photo credit: Booker’s Bourbon

As autumn hits us, so does a new batch of Booker’s bourbon.  The fifth batch of 2016, “Off Your Rocker,” references both late Jim Beam Master Distiller Booker Noe’s favorite chair and his lively personality.  A statue of Booker sitting in a rocking chair can be found on the grounds of the Jim Beam distillery.  As for the man himself, he was known as a straight shooter and a funny guy.  I just started reading a new book about Booker’s life – “The Big Man of Jim Beam” by Jim Kokoris.  So far, it’s a great read about an interesting, larger-than-life man.  I’ll share some thoughts on the book soon.  In the meantime, let’s talk about the whiskey.

Booker’s bourbon is always bottled at barrel strength.  This batch comes in at a high 129.7 proof.  The youngest barrels in this batch are 6 years, 7 months, 23 days old, and all barrels come from four different rack houses.

One thing that’s common among all batches of Booker’s is a big vanilla note.  “Off Your Rocker” is no exception.  Buttered corn grits, vanilla and molasses play big on the nose.  That high proof is evident on entry at first, ever so slightly numbing the tongue.   Your sense of taste quickly recovers and experiences big vanilla, cornbread, and cinnamon & allspice notes alongside some oak, roasted peanuts and a touch of leather.  I’ve never detected leather as a tasting note in Booker’s until now.   (After several tastings it’s still there.) The finish is long and warm, as expected, and carries caramel corn and oak notes.

I’ve said before that I’ve never encountered a batch of Booker’s I didn’t like.  Sure, on the surface they all have that Booker’s flavor profile.  Dig a little deeper and you can find some nuances that differ from batch to batch.  Most batches I like, and some batches I really like.  Batch 2016-05 falls in the latter category.  The subtleties here make it slightly more intriguing than previous batches.  Pick up a bottle and let me know what you think.  Highly recommend.  9/10

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