Small batch bourbon

Michter’s US*1 Bourbon Whiskey Review

Michters Bourbon

Going into this review, I was under the impression that Michter’s simply sourced their whiskey.  For clarification, I reached out to Joe Magliocco, Michter’s president, earlier this week.  Here’s what he had to say about the subject:

“…you have been tasting our distillate. We have been producing our own whiskey (our mashbills, our yeast selection, our barreling strength, etc.) for over a decade at a Kentucky distillery that had excess capacity. Effectively we were a chef cooking in someone else’s restaurant kitchen before he could afford his own. Now that we have our own distillery in the Shively section of Louisville, we are continuing to use the same recipes to make the same distillate.”

Michter’s has recently filled their first barrel with distillate produced at their new distillery.  Theoretically, we shouldn’t see much, if any, change between what’s being bottled now and whiskey distilled at their distillery in Shively.

My sample bottle is from batch #15F545.  This expression is bottled at 91.4 proof, which is stronger than all the whiskies in their standard lineup.  There’s no age statement provided, so it’s at least four years old.  The label also states this whisky is a small batch.  That’s a term with no real definition.  However, according to their website, Michter’s states their batches of bourbon are comprised of no more than 24 barrels.  

An initial blast of burnt caramel starts things off here.  Beyond is a dab of rye spice and a very slight herbal note.  The entry is sweet, with creamy caramel and vanilla icing taking charge, while some rye and cinnamon play underneath.  The filtration Michter’s utilizes does keep this bourbon on the mellow side of things, all the while maintaining a medium body.  Slight barrel char and sweet grain finish things off, with a little spice on the finish.

All things considered, Michter’s bourbon is probably my favorite of their standard lineup.  This is a solid pour, especially at the $40 asking price.  It’s not overly sweet, not too spicy and, dare I say it, a pretty balanced whiskey.  A tip of the hat to Michter’s for this release.

8/10
(Note: A review sample was provided by Michter’s.)

Colonel E. H. Taylor Small Batch Bourbon Review

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I’ve always noticed the tall, attractive cardboard tube on the top shelf of the whiskey aisle.  It had E. H. Taylor Jr’s fancy signature written across the front.  An image of Taylor on the side.  It looks like a throwback to the old days.  Okay, the really old days… after all, I’m only in my thirties.

The other thing that stands out is “Bottled In Bond” on the bottom of the label.  What the heck does that mean?  Back in the late 1800s, a lot of whiskey that sold wasn’t “pure.”  People were adding artificial coloring and sweeteners and passing it off as straight bourbon.  Here’s where Edmund Haynes Taylor steps in.  He fought to pass the Bottled-In-Bond Act of 1897.  If a bourbon was labeled “bottled in bond,” it meant that bourbon followed compliances and regulations laid out in the Bottled-In-Bond Act.  I’ll get to the specifics of that in a future post.  You’re not here for a history lesson.  You came here for to find out how this bourbon tastes.

In the glass, Col. Taylor Small Batch has a really nice flavor.  I get lots of butterscotch and caramel, but it’s not too sweet.  It’s also a bit spicy.  When I taste this bourbon, I know it’s high proof spirit.  It’s a bit rough around the edges…mainly in the finish.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a “I’m drinking pure ethanol” burn.  It’s a slow, slightly unrefined burn in the back of the mouth and throat.  That’s not necessarily a turn-off.  My buddy Hank finds most of Buffalo Trace’s products rough.  I mostly disagree.

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What’s this whiskey gonna run you?  Most places have it for around $40…a little overpriced in my opinion.  Luckily, I found this bottle of Col. Taylor Small Batch at Costco for $32.  That’s more like it.

Pick it up if you can find it cheap, and sip while watching “Boardwalk Empire”.   8/10

Booker’s 25th Anniversary Bourbon Review

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I don’t see a lot of reviews online for this monster of a bourbon, so here goes.  Booker’s is produced by Jim Beam.  It’s part of their Small Batch collection, which also includes Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, & Baker’s.  Booker’s is named after Booker Noe, Jim Beam’s grandson and former Master Distiller at Jim Beam.  Booker, like many of the older generations of master distillers, used to bottle “the good stuff” and give it out as gifts to friends and family.  In the late 1980s, he decided to release it for the general public.  Booker’s label says it’s bottled uncut and straight from the barrel.

To celebrate the 25th anniversary of the first release of Booker’s, Fred Noe (Booker’s son and current Master Distiller at Jim Beam) decided to release this bourbon in very limited numbers.  The bourbon inside this release is said to be among the last barrels of whiskey distilled by Booker Noe before he died.

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This release is 10 years 3 months old.  Normally Booker’s is 6 to 8 years old.  Does the extra time in the barrel make a difference?  Yes.  The normal release of Booker’s is an intense experience – a concentration of wood, spice, and sweetness.  This special release gives a similar experience.  Even at 130.8 proof I find the extra couple of years in the aging warehouse mellow this beast out a little.  That is, it’s a little smoother (if you want to use that word for whiskey) than the regular Booker’s.

This magnificent bourbon is intense when you drink it neat.  A little splash of water might be recommended.  I find it a little sweeter when I dilute it.  I get a lot of vanilla and caramel here, whether I drink it neat or diluted.

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I’ve said before I’m a sucker for great packaging.  This one comes in a stained wooden box that’ll look impressive on your shelf.  The bottle is dipped in a copper colored wax and has gold embossed writing.  Booker’s 25th anniversary is my favorite packaging in a bourbon.

So cost…  $99 a bottle.   Because this is a special limited release, it’s going to be pricey.   There are only 1,000 cases of this available, which means only 6,000 bottles total, period.  It’s supposed to hit shelves later this month.  I bet it will be pretty tough to find.  Is it worth $99?  Short answer:  yes, if you like barrel-strength bourbon.  Booker’s regular release is about $50.  This one’s older and a bit more rounded in flavor.  If you like Booker’s, you’ll love this release.  If you’re new to barrel strength whiskey, sample Booker’s regular release first.

This is easily the best bourbon I’ve tasted from folks at Jim Beam.

Pick this one up while you can.  9.5/10