Distiller: Buffalo Trace for the Sazerac Co. 45% ABV. NAS. Mashbill: about 51% rye, with 39% corn and 10% barley.
For under $40, Sazerac Rye–a.k.a. “Baby Saz” (by contrast with the 18-year release and the cask strength Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye)–is my flat-out favorite in the category.
It’s like the Blanton’s of rye: you can find bolder, bigger, wilder, and older, but this is one I’m always happy to come back to. Low rye in the mashbill, interestingly, contributes to the balance.
Or the William Faulkner of rye: full of sweet damp wood, rich Southern soil, surprising spice, and an assertiveness that runs right up to the edge of self-importance, then settles in genuine depth.
Similes aside — nose: fresh cedar, coriander, rye grain, toasted tobacco. Faintly sweet. Taste: follows the nose, with perfect balance, dry spice, corn sweetness, and a medium finish.
You can use it in a knockout Sazerac cocktail or Old Fashioned, but it’s always a sipper for me. Cheers, friends! – BO
Buy Sazerac Rye online at Mash + Grape
Distiller: Bowmore. 59.1% ABV. Age: 13 years (distilled 2001, bottled 2014), refill sherry finish. Region: Islay.
Signatory/K&L picked a real winner here. Rich, unctuous, bewitching. Nose starts out smokey and oily with young Granny Smith apples and butterscotch. At full 59.1% it’s a hurricane in your mouth. Endless buttery richness with an overtone of…grapefruit?
Add a splash of water it’s fantastic: just a touch of smoke now, close to the Springbank 12 CS, with more butter, malt, sugar cookies, and a hint of mustard powder (odd, but great).
Bowmore’s had some rough years and some misfires like the Darkest, but this bottle is a claim to greatness. – BO
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Producer: Western Spirits. Distiller: Three Springs Bottling. 43% ABV. NAS. Price: $28.
A most recent random selection and one that has pleased immensely. Seemingly well regarded — they tout their 95-point rating from The Tasting Panel Magazine, which is affiliated with the San Francisco World Spirits Competition — though online reviews seem to be mixed.
A subtle nose of molasses. Notes of caramel and vanilla, if you get though the initial burn and let it sit on the tongue. A slowly enveloping warmth at the finish. It starts young and impudently and finishes as a friend. – TM
Distiller/producer: Unknown. ABV: 40%. NAS/ Price: $10 for a liter.
We in the Axis are all about the democratization of the world’s finest spirit. The more people know and try, the better the product, says I.
So thanks must be given to Trader Joes. The grocery chain carries a host of affordable spirits ranging from local delights like FEW to their own starter versions of classic whiskies, such as their very drinkable Islay Storm single malt.
However, I insist they can do better with their house blended scotch whisky. A nose of butter and last week’s unwashed fry pan give way to an initial note of dishwater and the glass you meant to rinse yesterday. Thick on the tongue and viscous on the way down, this is one you’ll want to save for the holiday party guest who fails to pick up on your hints as to how late it’s gotten.
You can’t know what’s good if you don’t know what’s bad. – TM
Distiller: Wild Turkey. ABV 55%, No age statement (estimated 8-9 years). Mashbill: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% barley. Price: $35-50.
The Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel Bourbon rounded out the night (bottle 9 out of 10) at our inaugural Axis of WhiskyFest in Chicago. Being a big Wild Turkey fan, I was glad the Russell’s was represented–seeing as it’s some of the best of what WT makes.
The Russell’s Reserve focuses on small batch releases like the excellent 10-year-old, and single barrels like these. Naturally there’s variation barrel to barrel, but you can count on them all for a quality pour.
This particular batch was extraordinarily close to the excellent Henry McKenna 10 from Heaven Hill. (Not such a surprise, perhaps, as the two share an identical mashbill.) Dark, leathery, and sweet, with burnt sugar and vanilla on the nose. The palate adds dark molasses–then the rye turns up as a spike of mint. The finish has dark oak and spice. It’s a pour that takes water well, given the relatively high bottling proof–a few drops will bring out more spice.
If you’re in the mood for a dense, dark, leathery bourbon from Wild Turkey, the Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel won’t let you down.
Cheers, friends! – BO
Buy Russell’s Reserve Bourbon online at Mash + Grape
2015 Axis of WhiskyFest Tasting no. 6. Dry Fly Washington bourbon. ABV 50.5, NAS.
Now this is an odd, tasty little number. Actually distilled in Washington State – no LDI/MGPI juice here. It’s hot and sharp at full strength, young but not raw, with oak and spice, a but dry. A splash of water brings more sweetness and depth.
Well done, Dry Fly! – BO