review

Review: Barrell Bourbon Batch 016

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Since my first sip of Batch 005, I’ve enjoyed following the whiskey journey that Barrell takes me on.  They aren’t concerned with consistency of flavors between batches.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  Every batch is different.  Flavor profile, age, proof… it changes with every release.

For Batch 016, straight bourbon whiskies from Tennessee, Indiana, and Kentucky were batched together, with the youngest being 9 years 9 months old.  Barrels that were 11 and 15-years-old were also used in the blend.  As always, Barrell bourbon releases are bottled at cask strength.  Here it’s 105.8 proof.

This batch is very fruit forward.  It’s quite evident on the nose, with hints of orange peel, fresh apricots, and apple jam.  A sprinkling of spice and oak add a little oomph.  Even though this is cask strength, there is no need to add water.  I find the 105.8 proof perfectly drinkable.  Taste-wise, hints of key lime pie and orange marmalade paint a picture of sweet and sour.  Toffee, oak spice, and dark roasted coffee (reminds me of Starbucks Cafe Verona blend) round things out.  The finish is warm and sticks around a while, with lingering notes of macerated berries and mineral water.

Thumbs up here.  I really like the roundness of the whiskey as much as I enjoy the big fruit notes showcased.  I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this is another beautiful blend by Barrell founder Joe Beatrice and Head Distiller Tripp Stimson.  Keep it going, fellas.  Recommended! 8.5/10

barrellbourbon.com

Thanks to Barrell Craft Spirits for the sample, which is a production bottle.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

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Review: Michter’s US*1 Toasted Barrel Finish Bourbon (2018)

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Three years can seemingly fly by, especially as we get older.  Other times, that same amount of time can seem like an eternity.  That second description is certainly the case with Michter’s US*1 Toasted Barrel Finish bourbon, which hasn’t been released since 2015.

Why the long wait?  The answer is simple: Michter’s is experiencing whiskey shortages.  That’s according to Michter’s President Joe Magliocco, who also said the distillery doesn’t make enough whiskey to meet demand.  Though they aren’t by any means a small craft distillery, Michter’s is a much smaller operation than a giant like Jim Beam.  Their limited releases aren’t too easy to find on shelves.

When Toasted Barrel Finish bourbon was last released in 2015, I didn’t get around to tasting it.  Locally, the only place that had any bottles left charged an arm and a leg.  I don’t buy into price gouging.  Fast forward three years, a package containing a bottle of the 2018 release showed up at my door.  Joy!

For this expression, Michter’s aged its fully-matured bourbon in a second barrel that was  toasted but not charred.  The whisky is bottled at 91.4 proof, or 45.7% abv.  Suggested retail price for a bottle is $60.

I absolutely love the nose here.  It has hints of smores, ground cinnamon & nutmeg, roasted hazelnuts and vanilla.  The palate is equally inviting.  On entry, rich caramel is the initial note, followed quickly by an explosion of baking spices and espresso.  Waves of creamy vanilla and some mint keep the whiskey from getting too spicy.  Oak spice and dark chocolate develop on the back palate.  The finish is long, with lingering notes of cola and nutmeg.

This release was well worth the long wait.  That toasted barrel finish accentuates those spice notes, imparts slightly darker and more complex notes to their standard bourbon.  My only gripe?  I would have liked to have seen a barrel proof version of this.  Michter’s did it with their Toasted Barrel Finish rye whiskey.  Why not here?  But focusing on what we have in the bottle, I have to say it’s a beautiful, rich bourbon.  This one’s an easy recommendation! 8.5/10

michters.com

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

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Review: Johnnie Walker Blue Label Ghost and Rare Port Ellen

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Last year, Johnnie Walker launched what turned out to be one of my favorite whiskies of 2017 – the Blue Label Ghost and Rare series. The introductory blend was built around Brora, a distillery that closed in the early 1980s.  I loved the whisky so much that, upon tasting and writing my review, immediately bought a bottle.  I probably should have bought two…

For the second edition of Ghost and Rare, Johnnie Walker Master Blender Dr. Jim Beveridge started this blend with malt from another classic distillery – Port Ellen. Beveridge also used grain whiskies from the closed distilleries Caledonian and Carsebridge.  The three whiskies comprise the “ghost” portion here.  Additionally, rare malts from Mortlach, Dailuanie, Cragganmore, Blair Athol, and Oban are included.

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Though there’s no age statement on the label, press materials state all whiskies used in this blend are at least 20 years old.  The whole thing’s bottled at 43% abv and available for a suggested retail price of $349.99, which is less expensive than the first release.

The nose is rich and full of stewed orchard fruit, tropical fruit, and brine alongside some salted caramel and fresh herbs. This whiskey is velvety and a bit oily on the tongue. More salted caramel on entry, with sweet smoke and spice building. Fresh and candied fruit give way to a sprinkling of herbs, minerals, and tobacco leaf. The long finish sees grilled pineapples and seaweed.IMG_4014-2.jpgTalk about an enjoyable pour! Johnnie Walker Ghost and Rare Port Ellen sort of reminds me of a fruitier version of John Walker King George V. It starts off sweet and becomes less so as the whisky swirls around the palate. Great development of flavors and complexity. The Port Ellen in the blend stands, adding its signature smoke and maritime notes. The old grain whiskies add a sturdy background, allowing the malt whiskies to shine.  Again, a delicious and intriguing blend from the House of Walker. Highly recommended! 9/10

Johnniewalker.com

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

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