Category Archives: Bourbon

Angel’s Envy 2017 Cask Strength

Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Bourbon whiskey Finished in Port Barrels
2017 Release

62.25% ABV
$180
Website

What the Bottler Says
Ranked the “Best Spirit in the World” by Spirit Journal, Angel’s Envy Cask Strength Bourbon Finished in Port Barrels is unlike any whiskey you’ve ever tried. Angel’s Envy is releasing fewer than 8,000 bottles of our award-winning Cask Strength this year, so don’t miss your chance to pick up a bottle or two of this rare and delicious spirit.

Perfection is a patient man’s game. So we waited until Angel’s Envy reached the perfect level of maturity. We judge only a handful of barrels exceptional enough for our lengthy finishing process. The result? Even at 124.6 proof, every sip is worth savoring.

A remarkably complex and unfiltered spirit, we suggest you enjoy it neat or with just a splash of water to release the flavor nuances, and perhaps with a few friends who appreciate outstanding whiskey. Angel’s Envy Cask Strength was worth waiting for, now it’s worth sharing.

APPEARANCE Rich gold with an amber depth
NOSE Rose petals, dense fruitcake, fresh strawberries, cracked black peppercorns, clove
PALATE Caramel coffee, dried fig, aged tobacco, toasted sourdough bread
FINISH Rich and buttery, add water to soothe the burn and let the finish linger

What Gary Says
Pending

What Richard Says
Nose: Burnt caramel, fig pudding, and a wisp of campfire smoke. Water opens up more spices like clove, allspice, cinnamon, and a pinch of anise.
Palate: Light roasted coffee beans, Dominican cigars, and dulce de leche. Water opens up a slightly bitter note and some pleasant canned cherry pie filling flavors.
Finish: The finish is heavy on oak and very drying.
Comments: Over the last several years I haven’t seen much movement in the spirit released each year as Angel’s Envy’s cask strength bottles. It was consistently a very good but very expensive bottle of whiskey. This year’s release seems off to me. The wood dominates much more heavily than previous releases and you have to work to pull out the subtle aspects of the whiskey. It is not nearly as well balanced. Also, given the every growing price point I’m finding it difficult to recommend this year’s release. Without any insight into the cask strength composition, this feels like stocks getting released at progressively older ages and then this year it has gone a year too far.
Rating: Average

We would like to thank Angel’s Envy for sending us a sample to review.

Traverse City XXX Bourbon

Traverse City XXX Straight Bourbon Whiskey
43% ABV
$35
Website

What the Distillery Says
MASH: CORN, RYE, MALTED BARLEY

Amber and elegant, our XXX Straight Bourbon Whiskey has been aged at least four years in new American white oak barrels. With warm vanilla and a little heat, this is your go-to whiskey for all occasions. Perfect for sipping, it still holds its own in your much deserved craft cocktail.

What Gary Says
Nose: Vanilla pudding with a hint of cinnamon and a layer of corn with musty/soft oak; a slight edge/bite; on the young side.
Palate: Thin mouthfeel with sweet corn, cinnamon, vanilla custard with some caramel; a touch of sour oak with a slight pepper note at the end.
Finish: Short to moderate in length and mellow while drying.
Comments: Growing up in Michigan, I was really excited to try this. While I found nothing off-putting about this straight bourbon (which is at least 4 yrs old), I also didn’t find anything exciting or special. Each time I tried it, I walked away uninspired and reminded of young, craft whiskey. I didn’t pass the “would I prefer this over Evan Williams Black Label” test – even if priced the same (which they’re far from). Don’t get me wrong – this hits all the right notes for a straight bourbon with the vanilla and caramel. I suspect that the impression of being “young” is a function of being aged in northern Michigan compared to Kentucky.
Rating: Average

What Richard Says
Nose: The nose is predominated by malty corn notes. Not dissimilar from younger (4-6 year old) Heaven Hill bourbons.
Palate: Corn pudding and vanilla cream sweetness. The youth of the taste comes from it being more corn forward as a bourbon than any deficiency or harshness in the product. Nice for a young bourbon.
Finish: The finish is mellow and clean.
Comments: [A quick note on the bottle that we reviewed. The current release featured on Traverse City’s website is a four or more year old XXX Bourbon but the bottle we got and reviewed is labeled as a two or more year old XXX Bourbon.] I’m a bit gun shy on new “craft” bourbons because they are always overpriced and typically pretty awful. In opposition to that, Traverse City seems to be doing it right. It’s still pricey at $35 for a young bourbon but that is much more reasonable than like products. The quality of the product is pretty top notch too. It’s young but in a corn forward way. It’s not harsh or rough at all. I hope they are laying down stocks for older versions because I would really like to try this again in a 6 or preferably 8 year old version.
Rating: Stands Out

We would like to thank Traverse City Whiskey Company for sending us a bottle to review.

Blood Oath Pact 3

Blood Oath Pact No. 3 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Finished in Cabernet Sauvignon Barrels

49.3% ABV
$100
Website

What the Blender Says
A masterful union of well-bred bourbons. Taking the lead is a far-from-shy, sharp and floral rye, finished in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels for a dry, blackberry and espresso complexity. This, coupled with a well-seasoned, rye bourbon, rich with fragrant vanilla, toasted caramel, oranges and oak. Be grateful for this fateful affair between Kentucky and California.

APPEARANCE Deep dark amber with long legs.
AROMA Caramel, vanilla, stone fruit, cocoa, oak.
PALATE Caramel, vanilla, creamy smooth from the barrel finish, toasted oak, apricots, higher spice than the previous pacts but still ultra-smooth for the proof.
FINISH Long lingering spice, balanced and surprisingly-smooth at this high proof, with lasting caramel and oak.
BARREL DETAILS Cabernet Sauvignon Barrel Finish: For the third chapter in the Blood Oath epic, we’ve conspired with like-minded craftsmen in the heart of California wine country. Nestled in the Oakville region of Napa Valley—famous for its fertile, alluvial soil—Swanson Vineyard has been making nationally known and limited, small batch Bordeaux style wines for over three decades. These prized Cabernet barrels add an unforgettable layer of complexity to the whiskey.

What Gary Says
Nose: Thick, rich dark fruit with chocolate, allspice, oak, cinnamon, and a touch of smoke (maybe cigar paper); together reminds me of a toasted marshmallow.
Palate: Creamy mouthfeel with intense sweetness (but not cloyingly sweet), salted caramel, dark fruit preserves, brown sugar with a spicy bite (but not overly sharp); solid balance with an oak undertone.
Finish: Moderately long, drying with pepper and cinnamon notes.
Comments: I haven’t had any previous releases (or “pacts”) in this series, but this is a very tasty bourbon. Solid balance between the sweet and spice without losing the oak, and none of those were overpowering. It is a bit brash/sharp, but not overly so – and a bit of water doesn’t hurt it (although I didn’t find it needed it – delicious neat). Sure – I’m not crazy about spending this kind of money on a non-age stated whiskey (to be honest, I’ve passed this on the shelves for that reason). But it is pretty solidly in my wheelhouse – and with pricing on most limited releases these days – I’d pick one up now that I’ve tried it.
Rating: Must Try

What Richard Says
Nose: Luxardo cherries, vanilla extract, roasted fruits, and a sharp bitterness. This whiskey wears its alcohol heavy on the nose. It’s a bit challenging to pull the pieces out. You would think that this ran about 20% higher in alcohol with the nose.
Palate: Caramel apples, Tabasco, wet pulp, more vanilla extract, and cherry pie filling.
Finish: The finish is a bit hot with heavy wood, black pepper, and tannic influences.
Comments: This is a very nice and enjoyable whiskey but it wears the alcohol hard. A couple of splashes of water settle this bad boy down to a nice enjoyable experience. I am admittedly not a fan of wine finished, or really any finished bourbons. The exceptions are far fewer than the ones that come up short. However, this is definitely one of the better ones. I’ve heard that Pact 3 is the best yet and far superior to the first version of Blood Oath. I’ve only had this one and cannot opine of such things but it is very nice none the less. The hardest thing for me to swallow about this bourbon is the price tag. It’s a solid $50 bourbon. It’s an interesting $75 bourbon. At $100+ I would let this one pass. If you are lover of wine finished bourbons (Jefferson’s Groth, etc.) then you may find this one pretty stellar. For fans of good old fashioned middle of the road bourbon, you may want to keep that Benjamin in your wallet. I highly recommend trying before you buy if at all possible.
Rating: Stands Out

Knob Creek Single Barrel

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve
Selected by the Georgia Bourbon Society

60% ABV
$35-$45
Website

What the Distillery Says
Our distillers handpick exceptional barrels to be enjoyed in their full, unblended glory.
COLOR: Our darkest and deepest amber and henna color.
TASTE: Deep and complex flavors of vanilla, nuts and oak.
AROMA: Robust vanilla and caramel notes; slightly smoky.
FINISH: Long and full, perfect for easygoing sipping.

What Gary Says
Nose: Hot and thick, sweet vanilla, brown sugar, nutty caramel and cinnamon with pepper spice undertones and oak; with water the heat is tamped down and spice notes pop (cinnamon, anise, allspice) as well as the oak; reminds me of a breeze through a rickhouse.
Palate: Warm and sharp, viscous sweet honey with vanilla, cinnamon, caramel, hints of gingersnap cookies and brown sugar, bits of chocolate; with water the mouthfeel thins a bit but the flavor remains intense, nutty cinnamon with honey and sugar-cookies.
Finish: Moderately long and honeyed before drying out.
Comments: I generally like high proof pours, but this one out of the gate is a bit on the hot side for me (but only a bit). Luckily it takes water like a champ without losing the intensity of flavor. This barrel was 10 yrs, 10 months, and 15 days old when we dumped it (one of the great things about doing a Knob Creek barrel pick was we literally got to help dump the barrel and see it bottled, rather than having to wait months for the bottles to arrive), and the proof out of the barrel was 138.4. It was stored on the 7th floor of a 9 story rickhouse, so up there a ways – although I would have expected this to be more oaky with that information. There is oak for sure, but the sweetness and spice really stand out, and the oak is more of a background player – which is right up my alley. As a private selection, you won’t find this on the shelves, but the couple of other store picks I’ve tried were quite nice – so if priced favorably, I’d recommend grabbing one.
Rating: Must Try

What Richard Says
Nose: Toffee, furniture varnish, leather oil, vanilla extract, and a bit of that classic Beam peanut funk.
Palate: Caramel, black pepper, empty cigar boxes, cinnamon Red Hots, dark cocoa powder, and burnt brown sugar.
Finish: Surprisingly dry for such a luscious whiskey.
Comments: This is a private selection but I’ve had several and I have yet to taste a bad one. These say 9 years on the bottle but the ones being privately picked by liquor stores tend to be a fair bit older. Usually in the 10 to 12 year range. So for $40 you can get an 11 year old, near barrel strength straight bourbon from a large prominent distiller. Uh, this is probably one of the best bourbon deals out there right now.
Rating: Must Buy

Rabbit Hole Bourbon

Rabbit Hole Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
47.5% ABV
$50
Website

What the Distiller Says
Bourbon is an act of faith. The barrel builds a strong foundation of vanilla and wood. Atop that, we bet on an unorthodox, four-grain mash promising spice and honey and a fresh apple breeze. When we first poked the thief into the darkness of the barrel, our faith was rewarded: a whiskey of remarkable maturity and self-possession, with spice on the front and custard in the finish.

Mash Bill:
70% Corn
10% Malted Wheat
10% Honey Malted Barley
10% Malted Barley

What Gary Says
Nose: Young, corn sweet with sour oak and a hint of cinnamon.
Palate: Sweet entry – caramel, vanilla, corn syrup – with a bit of a spike kick at the end.
Finish: Short and drying.
Comments: I wasn’t familiar with Rabbit Hole when I first tasted it. On my initial nosing, I have to admit I wrote it off as another craft whiskey producer using small barrels – as it smelled young, but more oak influence than you’d expect (a combination I often find as a tell-tale sign that small barrels were used). That isn’t the case – they verified that they are using 53 gallon barrels (although they are done to a lower char than some others, and are wood fired). On the palate, it hits me much better delivering the quintessential “bourbon” highlights of caramel, vanilla and a bit of a kick. While still young, it fares better on the palate than on the nose. When I’m evaluating a new, typically young (craft) bourbon – I ask myself “Do I like this better than Evan Williams Black Label?” (and yes, I talk to myself – the whiskey is strictly medicinal). For almost all new/craft bourbon, I find the answer is “Nope”. Rabbit Hole is definitely a step up, as I’m not quite sure the answer is no (although not a clear “Yes!” either). While better than most new stuff in that regards, I couldn’t justify shelling out the money for this. I do think this has the potential to be really tasty down the road, and will keep an eye out on future releases. But for $50 – I’d be pretty disappointed, and don’t expect offerings with more age to be priced more reasonably. Although I would love to be disappointed on that note in the future!
Rating: Probably Pass

What Richard Says
Nose: There is a general lightness to the nose more reminiscent of grain alcohol than a bourbon.
Palate: It comes forward very aggressively with black pepper, cinnamon, corn pudding, and malted milk balls.
Finish: Hot. More pepper, oak, and general heat.
Comments: The youth of the spirit shows in the aggressiveness of it. However, hot and peppery flavors and finishes are not exclusive to the young. The lack of depth in the nose really shows that this needs more time in the barrel.
Rating: Average

We would like to thank Rabbit Hole for providing us with a sample for review.