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Barrell Bourbon Batch 9 Review

Producer: Barrell Bourbon. Distiller: undisclosed. ABV: 56.05%. Age: 13 years. Mash bill: 75% corn, 18% rye, 7% malted barley. Price: $70-80.

I’d love to know what Joe Beatrice’s secret is to picking barrels, because this Barrell Bourbon Batch 009 is absolutely stunning. I’ve enjoyed most of Barrell’s prior bourbon batches, but this one is my favorite thus far.

Joe is the founder and president of Barrell Bourbon, which we’ve been pleased to follow almost from the beginning. Barrell has released a series of very impressive sourced bourbons, whiskies, and even a rum under his brand. Joe’s also getting into the distilling game, about which more here.

Batch 9 of the bourbon is a 13-year-old bourbon that was distilled in Tennessee, matured in Tennessee and Kentucky, and bottled at a cask strength 56.05% ABV.

On the nose are warm caramel and deep oak. The palate adds butterscotch, vanilla, baking spices, and buttered toast with jam. The beautiful finish reminds me of Brach’s butterscotch candy. Overall, BB 009 has an excellent balance of rich oak and candied sweetness.

I strongly recommend seeking out this batch while it’s still available. Joe, whatever you’re doing to pick these, please keep it up! – JTR

Barrell Bourbon graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Buy Barrell Bourbon online at Mash + Grape

Booker’s Noe Hard Times Review

Distiller: Jim Beam. ABV: 63.9%. Age: 6 years, 10 months, 1 day. Price: $60 (and rising).

Got the 2016 Booker’s Noe Hard Times for Christmas and I’ve been ever so slowly savoring it.

It’s a monster at 63.90% ABV, aged a bit short of 7 years. The nose is a vanilla blast, with a subtle corn foundation, along with hints of ballgame peanuts, cooked sugar, and heavy wood smoke. The palate, once some water is added, is a thrilling combination of vanilla, corn, drying wood, and dark fruit. The finish, in true Booker’s fashion, goes on and on.

Beam ruffled a lot of feathers with the December 2016 announcement that they were hiking the price of Booker’s from $60 to $100. They claimed supply constraints, which convinced roughly no one. (Booker’s is one of the few bourbons of its quality and popularity that’s been consistently available in most parts of the country.) Some doomsayers blamed the success of the recent Booker’s Rye. After that (very limited) bottling flew off the shelves at $300 a pop, they said, it was natural that Beam would try to squeeze more profit out of the bourbon.

As of January 2017, at least, Beam had dialed back its plans, saying the price would creep up from $60 to $75 this year, and toward $100 after that. Even so, no one’s celebrating the move. But if the product is gonna remain like good, I’ll keep seeking it out.

Cheers, friends, and happy sipping! – TM

Redemption Rye Review

Producer: Redemption. Distiller: MGP. ABV: 46%. No age statement. Grain bill: undisclosed (likely 95% rye, 5% malted barley). Price: $30.

The holidays tend to jam me up a bit. One second, it’s Halloween and I’m growing my holiday beard, the next it’s February 3, the beard is gone, and I’m realizing that I’ve got a logjam of photos and reviews with which to bless the whisk(e)y world.

So today, we’re discussing Redemption Rye. Now, I’ve made little secret that I think Redemption’s plunge into the world of barrel proof whiskies left much to be desired. All heat, no heart. But I truly dig their flagship whiskies.

The rye, which comes in a nifty new bottle (as do all their classics), is distilled by Midwest Grain Products (MGP) in Indiana, the spirits giant that also sources rye to Bulleit, Dickel, High West, and many small non-distiller producers.

It has a nice floral nose that isn’t afraid to allow the spice to show a little leg. On the palate, there’s a touch of mint that I have always dug, which dances ever so nicely with that carnival caramel corn and baked orange that I’ve come to associate with Redemption. And I do love the finish. It swirls and leaps at the front, before settling in for a taste that at the very end reminds me that maybe it’s time for another dram.

It’s not a fancy whiskey, and my general love for it goes against my overall mixed feelings of the MGP factory products, but what can I say. The heart wants what it wants.

So here’s to an evening sipping an old friend and being quite happy to do so. – TM

Redemption kindly provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Black Grouse Review

Producer: Famous Grouse/Edrington Group. Distiller: various. ABV: 40%. No age statement. Price: $25-30.

Over the holidays I needed a blended whisky to serve as a cocktail base, and it was the perfect occasion to assess the Black Grouse. It’s a mix of the Famous Grouse blend and unspecified peated single malts–Josh at The Whiskey Jug suspects Caol Ila, Famous Grouse’s website mentions “a rare version of Glenturret”…it’s a bit of a mystery.

On to the notes. The nose is malty and a bit waxy, with a core of tree fruit and tropical overtones. No hint of peat I could detect. The tropical fruit comes to the fore on the palate: mango and lychee. It’s only 40% ABV, so it’s a mild affair overall, but it’s sufficiently rich to hold a cocktail together. The peat comes through on the finish, warming though still quite soft, and lightly spicy.

The Black Grouse has recently been repackaged as “Famous Grouse Smoky Black,” with mixed reviews at places like Master of Malt, though some buyers unhelpfully compare it to Laphroaig or Ardbeg. That’s a mistake. It’s a mid-range blend, and isn’t meant to stand up to single malt peat monsters. But as a standby mixer that a single malt drinker can respect, I’d give it a solid recommendation.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Boondocks American Whiskey & Cask Strength American Whiskey Review

Boondocks American Whiskey – Producer: Boondocks. Distiller: undisclosed. ABV: 47.5%. Age: 11 years. Mashbill: undisclosed (high corn, rye, malted barley). Price: $38.

Boondocks Cask Strength American Whiskey – Producer: Boondocks. Distiller: undisclosed. ABV: 63.5%. Age: 11 years. Mashbill: undisclosed (high corn, rye, malted barley). Price: $60.

One of the welcome side effects of the American craft whiskey boom is that veterans from the big distilleries can have exciting second careers consulting for start-ups or launching their own. Makers Mark veteran Dave Pickerell has done great work with Hillrock and Whistlepig. His former Makers’ colleague Steve Nally helped launch Wyoming Whiskey, which also drew on the expertise of Lincoln Henderson, previously at Angel’s Envy.

Which brings us to David Scheurich. As his Whisky Advocate Lifetime Achievement Award profile details, Scheurich got his start with Seagram’s in 1969. He worked at Wild Turkey, among other places, before moving to Brown-Forman in 1989. He launched the Labrot & Graham brand in 1994, which later became Woodford Reserve. He retired in 2011…but was lured back into business to run the Boondocks whiskey brand.

By a happy coincidence, Thane and I wound up with a chance to try Boondocks’ first releases almost simultaneously. He grabbed a bottle of the American Whiskey for his birthday just as I received samples of that and the Cask Strength direct from Boondocks.

The producers’ first offerings left us both equally pleased. They’re sourced from an undisclosed distillery, and use an unspecified “bourbon-like” mashbill of corn, rye, and malted barley. They’re aged a healthy 11 years old in refill bourbon casks–hence the designation “American whiskey” rather than bourbon, which would require maturation in new American oak. (The use of refill casks, along with several references on Boondocks’ FAQ page to “light whiskey,” made me wonder whether this is actually a light whiskey by the TTB definition, but I haven’t been able to get confirmation from company reps yet.)

They’re none the less delicious for it. The nose on the American Whiskey is pure S’mores. All the elements are there: graham crackers, marshmallow, milk chocolate, and a warm, toasty note. Delicate and robust at once. Later on, banana chips–a reminder of the Woodford-related provenance. (The actual source isn’t disclosed.) There’s sweet wood on the nose too, right between pine and oak. The palate is creamy, with honey and roasted nuts: pine and pistachio. Baklava! The finish is buttery and bright at once, without a hint of burn. Maraschino cherries toward the end.

The Cask Strength has all this, but the added strength brings out more tobacco and leather throughout. At 63.5% ABV, there’s lots of room for adding water to find your sweet spot.

Immensely drinkable whiskies from a truly distinguished industry veteran at a reasonable price. Well worth a try.

Cheers, friends! – BO & TM

Boondocks graciously provided samples for review (at the same time Thane bought his own bottle). As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Glencadam 15 Review

Distillery: Glencadam. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. Age: 15 years. Price: $80-85.

Interesting to get a taste over the holidays of this lesser-known Highland single malt: Glencadam. Once a major component in Ballantine’s and Teacher’s, it is now mixed into the blended whiskies of current owner Angus Dundee. Their single malt lineup includes a 10, a 15, and a 21-year-old. I tried the middle of the pack.

The nose has a nice balance of freshness and maturity, with strong apple, vanilla, caramel, and raisin. The sherry influence is clear but balanced. Recalls the Aberlour 12 Non-Chill Filtered. The sherry fruits are strong and sweet on the palate, offset by some mild oak spice. Strawberry syrup, caramel toward the end. The spice grows and diffuses on the medium-long finish, with a hint of golden raisin and barrel char.

Overall, a very pleasant Highland that fans of the milder Aberlours should enjoy. Won’t knock you out with power or complexity, and the price is a bit steeper than I’d like, but I’d welcome a dram any night of the week.

Slàinte, friends! – BO