Cask Strength

Review: Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

New to the Knob Creek limited edition family is this beauty – a cask strength, unfiltered, 9-year-old rye whiskey. In this case, cask strength means 119.6 proof. The one off (?) expression was barreled in 2009. Though there is no explicit age statement on the label, press materials stated this is 9-years-old.

A sharp eyed viewer mentioned not seeing the word “straight” on the label. I reached out to Beam, and they informed me this is in fact a straight rye whiskey, just not labeled as such.

On the nose, hints of dark caramel and toasted rye bread are joined by baking spice, orange peel, and leather notes. The palate sees more of the same. The rye grain isn’t as prominent as other high rye whiskies due to the seemingly smaller amount of rye in the mash bill, though it is at least 51%. It’s here in the form of a pleasing buttered rye toast, so no sharpness or dill note. Dark caramel and dark brown sugar add sweetness and richness, while the familiar Jim Beam roasted peanut is ever present, as is a generous sprinkling of baking spices. A touch of orange peel and some leather on the backend add more complexity. Finally some astringent old oak leads us into the finish, which is long, bittersweet and somewhat spicy. Compared to Knob Creek Small Batch Rye, this expression comes across as less sweet with a richer, more complex flavor.

The best part here is the price. In a world that sees a large percentage of limited edition releases introduced at the $100+ price point, Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye comes in at $69.99. Kudos to whoever made that decision. Older rye whiskies are becoming more and more expensive.

My conclusion – this is a no-brainer purchase. It’s that simple. 9/10

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

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Hochstadter’s Family Reserve 16-Year-Old Rye Whiskey Review

In this current whiskey craze we’re living through, it’s hard to find a well-aged straight rye whiskey. If you’re lucky enough to run into a bottle at a store, the price tag will most likely give you a heart attack. At the very least, your wallet will give you the cold shoulder for a while.

Enter The Cooper Spirits Company.

A couple of years back they released the 13-year-old Lock, Stock, and Barrel Rye for just over $100. A 16-year-old sibling of hit shelves last year at a slightly higher price. For 2017, Cooper Spirits Co. has unveiled Hochstadter’s Family Reserve, a cask-strength (123.8 proof), 16-year-old rye. All of it is sourced from Alberta Distillers Limited in Canada, and it’s distilled from a 100% rye mash bill. Like the other two ryes I mentioned earlier, Hochstadter’s Family Reserve is a limited edition. Only 7,500 bottles have hit the market for a suggested retail price of $199.

Don’t be turned off because this whiskey was distilled in Canada. The bold nose explodes with hints of dark caramel, nutmeg & cloves, buttered rye bread, and cigar box. Some burnt orange peel shows itself with some airtime. Air helps this whiskey. It’s a bit closed off at first. The all rye grain mash bill shows on the palate. An initial burst of rye spice hits and quickly calms, allowing other notes to shine – spice cake, dark caramel, and a touch of red fruit. Mid-palate is where aged tobacco leaf and some oak spice and tannin start to develop. The finish is long and warm with nice citrus and spiced honey notes.

What’s in the glass is really nice.  In fact it’s one of the better rye whiskies I’ve had in recent memory.  It is robust and shows off the complexities of the rye grain nicely without a big oak character normally found in older whiskies.  It’s priced about where it needs to be priced.  Those looking for better value should try to find last year’s Lock Stock & Barrel 16-year-old expression. It’s priced $50 cheaper and comes in at 107 proof.  9/10

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (Batch A117) Bourbon Review

Image courtesy of Heaven Hill

Barrel strength whiskey is something I always look forward to tasting.  Even though many are batched together (versus a single barrel release), it’s like tasting straight from the barrel.  No dilution is taking place before bottling.  The robust quality from these bottlings is something you don’t get from a standard whiskey release.

One of my favorites is Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (ECBP) from Heaven Hill Distillery.  This 12-year-old batched bourbon is offered several times a year.  Starting with this first batch of 2017, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is introducing batch numbers (sort of like Booker’s has been doing the past couple of years).  It was a fantastic idea for Booker’s, and I’m sure ECBP will experience some success from it.

The batch code breaks down like this: The first letter signifies the release batch of the year, while the numbers indicate the month and year of release.  So, A117 = the first batch of the year, released in January 2017.  The new batch numbering system will make it easier to track down which batch is which.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof batch A117 comes in at 127 proof.  While not the strongest batch I’ve seen by any stretch, 127 is still a high proof.  Let’s get to the tasting notes.

Dark brown sugar and molasses burst out of the glass, alongside touches of anise, vanilla and oak.  On the palate, this oily whiskey features hints of caramel corn, vanilla, tobacco leaf, and oak spices.  A splash of water brings out more oak.  The long finish warms the chest (perfect for winter), leaving behind lingering spiced caramel and slightly drying oak.

To this day, I haven’t run across a bad batch of ECBP.  I’m happy to report the streak continues.  Batch A117 might be a bit lower in proof than previous batches, but it’s just as complex and full of flavor as anything that’s come before it.  Nicely done.  8.5/10

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