Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye Review

Basil Hayden’s bourbon is a part of the Jim Beam Small Batch Collection. Its spicy, dry character along with its low 80 proof help it stand out. In early 2017, the brand released a rye whiskey, but that was a one-time release. Just a few months later, it was announced that Dark Rye would be the first permanent extension to the Basil Hayden lineup. It was a unique move.

Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye is a blend of Kentucky straight rye whiskey, Canadian rye whiskey, and port wine. In keeping with the Basil Hayden tradition, Dark Rye is bottled at 80 proof and is available for around $40.

So how is it? Damn drinkable. The rye from the two whiskies provides some nice aromatics that play against the fruitiness of the port wine, along with a hint of freshly squeezed citrus. Taste-wise, Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye presents hints of rye spice (though it’s not as potent as I thought it would be) and port wine, as well as pecan pie and a touch of oak. At 80 proof, Dark Rye is as easy-drinking as its siblings. The medium finish features allspice, sangria, and oak notes.

Adding a whiskey like Dark Rye to the Basil Hayden lineup is a bold move, considering it’s not a straight rye whiskey, mainly because of the addition of port wine. That might turn away some people. However, Dark Rye is highly enjoyable. Its smooth character and combination of spice and dark fruit work beautifully. I wouldn’t recommend it to a someone looking to try rye whiskey for the first time as it isn’t a great representation of that kind of spirit. For those looking for something a little different, Dark Rye is worth a shot. Recommended. 8/10


Pappy Van Winkle Tradition Cigar Review

Drew Estate has once again teamed with the Van Winkles for a new cigar blend – Pappy Van Winkle Tradition.  The cigar features an Ecuadorian Habano Oscuro wrapper, Indonesian Binder and aged fillers from Nicaragua and the Dominican Republic.  As its name implies, the cigar is traditionally made, especially when compared to the previously released Pappy Van Winkle Barrel Fermented cigar.  Where that cigar is available only through Pappy & Company, the new Tradition has a limited availability at Drew Diplomat retailers.  

Tradition wasn’t initially blended for this collaboration.  Years ago when blender Willy Herrera was in talks to join the Drew Estate Family, he put together three cigar blends.  One of those blends was especially loved by everyone within the company who smoked it.  In 2016, when Jonathan Drew handed Julian Van Winkle a box of cigars featuring this blend, Van Winkle was mesmerized with the blend. With that, Pappy Van Winkle Tradition was born.

The Pappy Van Winkle “Tradition” comes in the following sizes:

  • Coronita (4 x 46) MSRP $146.00/10ct Box
  • Robusto Grande (5.5 x 54) MSRP $216.00/10ct Box
  • Toro (6 x 50) MSRP $236.00/10ct Box
  • Belicoso Fino (5 x 50) MSRP $246.00/10ct Box
  • Churchill (7 x 48) MSRP $236.00 / 10ct Box Exclusively available at Drew Diplomat Spirits Retailers
  • Lonsdale (6.5 x 44) (Not for Sale) / 10ct Box Exclusively at Drew Diplomat Rewards Events in October, November and December 2017
  • Corona (5.5 x 44) MSRP (Not for Sale) / 10ct Box Exclusively available from Jonathan Drew and Julian Van Winkle

As I took the Belicoso Fino from its wrapper, aromas of aged tobacco, vanilla and molasses hit me.  It has a great draw and features hints of cedar, molasses, raisin and vanilla, as well as a bit of spice and slight earthiness.  There wasn’t a great deal of further development the more I smoked, which was okay by me.  The flavors presented were delightful.  I generally lean towards medium-bodied cigars, and Pappy Van Winkle Tradition hit my sweet spot.  The well-constructed cigar lasted about 45 minutes or so.  The cigar is a little bit on the pricey side, but offers a superb smoke.  I highly doubt you’ll be disappointed with your purchase.

Once I had a good idea of how Tradition smoked, I was off to find a great whiskey pairing.  I first reached for a bottle of Pappy Van Winkle Family Reserve 20-year-old bourbon.  The dark, rich, and refined character that defines the famous whiskey played nice with the medium flavored cigar.  The stick’s spicy quality elevated the pairing’s overall experience while not feeling overpowering.  I especially liked that the dried fruit notes of the bourbon were enhanced as well.  Again, a beautiful pairing.

Since PVW 20-year is impossible to find, I also paired the cigar with the slightly easier to obtain Michter’s 10-year-old bourbon.  Michter’s sweet cinnamon notes complemented the cigar’s sweeter molasses and vanilla notes.  Overall, it was a nice pairing as well.
Thanks to Drew Estate for the cigar samples.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Collabor&tion Review

Photo credit Bardstown Bourbon Company

The Bardstown Bourbon Company joined forces with Copper & Kings for Collabor&tion, a limited release of two different whiskies.  Started in 2015, Collabor&tion is a project two years in the making.  Both products start with a 10-year-old bourbon from MGP.  One spends more than 18 months being finished in ex-American brandy casks from Copper & Kings and bottled at a cask strength of 113 proof.  The other release sees a similarly extended secondary maturation period in Muscat mistelle barrels bottled at a lower 94 proof.  Both whiskies are non-chill filtered.  

I’m a big fan of Copper & Kings, and MGP can produce some wonderful whiskey.  Bardstown Bourbon Company selected the barrels used for this release, and both companies worked together on the blend.

So, how are they?  In a word – fruity.  I should elaborate.

Let’s start with the whiskey finished in Muscat mistelle casks.  First, what’s mistelle?  It is unfermented grape juice fortified with unaged brandy.  The nose is full of caramelized fruit, plums, and a slightly musty quality.  On the palate, Muscat grapes permeate the bourbon’s DNA.  The whiskey’s dark caramel gives way to the dark fruits, citrus zest, and some oak.  The long finish leaves some spice, fruit and slight floral notes.

The other release, finished in ex-American brandy casks, starts with a more robust nose showcasing hints of mulled wine, brown sugar, lemon oil, and oak.  Tastewise, spice and citrus are layered on top of velvety caramel and fruit jam.  Some oak tannins make their appearance going into the finish, which brings to the forefont the whiskey’s concentrated spiced fruit character, soon becoming dry.

Here’s the thing: I don’t smell or taste anything that resembles bourbon.  The spirit’s character is completely overtaken by the barrel finishing, thus my aforementioned use of the adjective ‘fruity’.  In other words, these releases are more brandy/mistelle and less bourbon.  As they stand, however, Collabor&tion is quite delicious.  I would happily buy a bottle of the brandy cask-finished whiskey, but I would struggle to call it bourbon.  

Muscat mistelle cask-finished bourbon – 8/10

American brandy cask-finished bourbon – 8.5/10

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