All posts by Richard

Founding Apostle

Willett Family Estate Rye 25 Years

Willett Family Estate Rye – 25 yr (barrel # 1776)
50% ABV
$250
Website
WFE 25yr
What the Distillery Says:
Willett doesn’t say anything about their estate bottlings on their website.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Big oak, molasses, burnt fruitcake, raisins, prunes, cigar paper.
Palate: Very oaky, sharp dry spices (allspice?) and bitter chocolate, sour raisins.
Finish: Long but quite dry.
Comments: This was the most expensive bottle of whiskey I had ever purchased at the time (which I purchased from their gift shop in September 2012). And it will go down as “lessons learned” in my book, that age doesn’t equate to quality, and if I’m laying down that much money – I need to get a sample first. I think this whiskey was past its prime, and probably would have been amazing at 15 – 20 yrs. For my taste, this is just too oak dominant. I have to really work to pick flavors out from beneath the oak, and I don’t like to work that hard to enjoy my whiskey. I have been blessed with the opportunity to try some amazing older Willett ryes, and I made the mistake of assuming they were a representation of most ryes of that nature (rather than the rare-exceptional barrels that they were). For the retail I paid 4 years ago (which it would be double or more than that today I’m sure), I wouldn’t buy it again – so knowing the current market, I can’t recommend this.
Rating: Probably Pass

What Richard Says:
Nose: Light mint, peach cobbler, black strap molasses, and polished leather.
Palate: NyQuil, heavy on the wood, cocoa powder, spearmint, and cinnamon.
Finish: Dry, minty, and long on the oak.
Comments: This is a thick, almost gooey whiskey that coats the inside of the glass. Some people tend to prefer bourbons no older than 10 to 15 years old. Some don’t even go that far. The warm Kentucky summers and new oak can quickly over power a whiskey with heavy notes of wood. I usually like “woody” or “oaky” whiskeys. It’s not as much of a turn off for me. But that said, this rye from Willett is exceptionally far on the woody spectrum. There is a great nose to it but the taste and finish are just in your face with the oak. This probably should’ve come out of the barrel about four years sooner.
Rating: Probably Pass

Willett Family Estate Rye 5 Years

Willett Family Estate Rye – 5 yr (barrel # 78)
55% ABV
$40
Website
willett 5 year
What the Distillery Says:
Willett doesn’t really say a damn thing about their “Estate” bottles.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Bright, crisp Christmas spice (nutmeg, cinnamon), orange marmalade over oak.
Palate: Sharp citrus spice with tangerines and craisins, subtle vanilla sweetness under pepper spice and cinnamon notes.
Finish: Moderately long and dry.
Comments: The line of Willett Family Estate Ryes has been mostly from the same distillery (MGP), although they started distilling their own rye a few years ago. This was a waxed-top bottle bought a few years ago, and gifted to me from a friend who knows I love rye. This bottle is no exception. I appreciate the high proof bottling, and while it is a single barrel – I’ve tried a dozen or so in this age range (4 – 5 yr) and found them pretty consistent. More oak than you might expect for a 5 yr, but not too much (probably aged high in the rickhouse). I really wish I would have picked up more of their 4 and 5 yr rye whiskey when it was laying around at $35-$40. It isn’t as widely available these days, and when it is – the price has gone up quite a bit.
Rating: Stands Out

What Richard Says:
Nose: Fresh mint, nutmeg, Big Red cinnamon chewing gum, and lemon preserves.
Palate: This youngish rye is very flavorful but it also wears the proof on its sleeve. You feel everyone of those 110 proof points. Citrus, ginger, cinnamon, sharp mint, and red pepper.
Finish: Mild and woody. The heat comes more on the palate than the finish. It leaves black pepper notes around the edges of the tongue for some time.
Comments: This is a bit of a monster of a young rye. It’s very tasty and back when you could get this rye for $40 it was very versatile. Now Willett whiskeys are getting a bit too big for their britches in the pricing. Regardless, it is a good whiskey and worth trying.
Rating: Stands Out

Heaven Hill 6 Year Old

Heaven Hill Old Style Bourbon
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 6 Years Old

45% ABV
$10
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What the Distillery Says:
Heaven Hill Old Style Bourbon is unexcelled in quality resulting from unwavering adherence to a time honored formula, finest ingredients, limestone water, master craftsmen, and patient aging to create its distinctive character.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Bright & crisp, vanilla, sweet oak, subtle mint with a hint of lemongrass.
Palate: Vanilla, caramel pralines, corn flakes, subtle oak with a hint of dried fruit; starts thin and then warms up w/ a bit of a bite.
Finish: Short, wet and sweet – but forgettable.
Comments: If you like Heaven Hill’s house style, this is a fair representation of that at the low end of the price point scale. While a bottom shelf bourbon that you won’t mistaken for a premium pour, it is a very serviceable bourbon. I prefer Heaven Hill 6 yr Bottled in Bond for $2-3 more, but for about $10 – there aren’t many out there I’d pick over it.
Rating: Stands Out

What Richard Says:
Nose: Wet and kind of syrupy…yes it “smells” syrupy. Sweet corn forward with bits of vanilla and cinnamon wrapped up in wet wood smell.
Palate: Vanilla, sweet corn muffins, more wet wood, and toffee crisps. Gary’s right, this one bites back a bit at the end.
Finish: Wood polish, vanilla extract, and burnt cornbread.
Comments: Everyone out there doing craft bourbon please take note…You have to be at least this tall to ride my ride. In other words, this is a very fine serviceable bourbon for $10 a bottle. Why the hell would I pay you $50 for your “craft” bottle if you aren’t at least this good, preferably better? If you are stuttering for an answer then damn it you need to figure that shit out before putting your product on the shelf.
Rating: Stands Out

Cooper’s Craft

Cooper’s Craft
41.1% ABV
$30
Website
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What the Distillery Says:
Cooper’s Craft takes its distinctive flavor directly from our barrels as one could only expect of a real cooper’s bourbon. Our barrel staves are toasted ahead of charring and our bourbon is finished with a unique beech and birch charcoal filtering process. This allows the bourbon’s soft oak character to be featured more prominently. Coopers’ Craft is bottled at 82.2 proof at the Brown-Forman Distillery —just a few miles down the road from our cooperage.
COLOR: Light Amber
THE NOSE: Light toasted and fresh oak character mingle with baked apple sweetness and a creamy citrus custard
THE TASTE: A true sipping bourbon with soft lemon custard and baked apple notes layered over a bed of toasted and fresh oak character seasoned with a light dusting of spice
THE FINISH: Rich and smooth with lingering hints of fruit

What Gary Says:
Nose: Young, buttered corn muffins, subtle oak with a hint of vanilla, and a bit astringent.
Palate: Thin mouthfeel, young, subtle sweet caramel with a wisp of sour oak.
Finish: Quite short (don’t blink).
Comments: I picked up a 50 mL of this, as the low proof and lack of age statement didn’t leave me wanting to drop $30 on a bottle. That was $1.50 well spent. I found this whiskey quite uninspiring, and a disappointment. It reminded me of craft whiskey, although not over-oaked. On the palate it was very bland. I don’t know how much of the character (or lack thereof) is attributed to the beech/birch charcoal filtering process versus the toasting of the barrel before charring it. It left me wanting something else to purge the memory, and deliver on the empty promise. If you like really subtle whiskey, maybe this is up your alley, but I would highly recommend trying it on premise or picking up a 50 mL first. While $30 isn’t a huge investment, that isn’t bottom shelf area either – and I would rather have most straight bourbon from the bottom shelf over this.
Rating: Definitely Pass

What Richard Says:
Nose: Thin and light on the nose. It’s slightly astringent very mild notes of vanilla and wood.
Palate: Not…bad really. Woody with a little bit of vanilla sweetness.
Finish: Bitter and chalky with black pepper and wood peaking around the edges. Not terribly satisfying but it’s brief so that’s a plus.
Comments: Meh. This isn’t a shelf turd or anything but it brings nothing to the table to make you want another pour. At $30 Brown Forman is really reaching. Skip this one and pick up some Brown Forman made Old Forester instead.
Rating: Probably Pass

Compass Box Eleuthera

Compass Box Eleuthera Vatted Scotch Whisky
46% ABV
$60
Website
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What the Blender Says:
Originally available in all our markets, “Eleuthera” was our very first vatted malt. Typically it combined 15 year-old malt whisky from the village of Brora, aged in re-charred hogsheads, with 12 year-old malt from the village of Port Askaig. Jim Murray said of our first release: “Quite simply, one of the most complex and truly magnificent vatted malts of all time. A collector’s piece.” Sadly, when the 15 year-old malt we needed was no longer available aged in re-charred casks, we decided to retire “Eleuthera” rather than overhaul the recipe.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Smokey sea mist with peat, earthy floral notes along with citrus and vanilla.
Palate: Rich/silky mouthfeel, fruity with subtle spice notes (nutmeg) along with peat.
Finish: Moderately long and pleasantly lingering.
Comments: Damn John Glasser and the folks at Compass Box for making such a delicious whisky, and then stopping. Ok – maybe it’s my fault for only discovering this gem 10 yrs after they stopped producing it. And I must say that I do respect their choice to not mess with the recipe when they couldn’t get the components. I’ll count my blessings that I did find a bottle so long after. In case it isn’t clear, I really love this whisky. This reminds me of Scotland – the sea air, wisps of floral, peaty earthiness. The first time I nosed this whisky, it transported me to the motherland. I’m a big fan of Compass Box Flaming Heart, and this reminds me a lot of that – a more subdued/tamed version, but with a truly masterful balance of smoke/sweet/peat/spice. This is the kind of whisky I could pour and ponder in any season. If I had a Delorean . . . ok, I guess I’d fill it up with whisky from either further back than 2005 – but I’d definitely make a pitstop there to pick some of these up!
Rating: Must Buy

What Richard Says:
Nose: Heavy notes of grass and campfire ash. Benton’s smoked bacon with a citrus zest.
Palate: Rich and fruity sweet with a well rounded peaty backbone. Sea salt sprinkled vanilla cream.
Finish: The finish is heavier on the than the rest. It is incredibly balanced and lingers for a while.
Comments: Damn I miss this whisky. I was fortunate enough to drink my share way back when. I think this was the second bottle of Compass Box that I ever owned after Hedonism. It is really good and I’m glad that I got to revisit it thanks to Gary finding a dusty bottle in Florida. This hasn’t been made for 12 years so if you see one then definitely buy it. If you don’t like then invite us over and we will help you finish it. But I have a hard time thinking that you won’t like it.
Rating: Must Buy