Category Archives: Bourbon

Knob Creek Single Barrel

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve
Selected by the Georgia Bourbon Society

60% ABV

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

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.

1792 Full Proof

1792 Full Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
(Georgia Bourbon Society private selection)
62.5% ABV
What the Distillery Says:
Bourbon insiders have long acknowledged that full proof bourbon has a distinctively rich flavor. This bourbon underwent a distinct filtering process, forgoing the typical chill filtration, and only passing through a plate and frame filter. This allowed the bourbon to maintain a robust proof for bottling, as well as a full rich and bold flavor. Bottled at its original 125 barrel entry proof, just as it was years ago when the barrels were first filled, 1792 Full Proof Bourbon is exceptionally distinct.

TASTING NOTES: Strong and full of flavor, this bold bourbon boasts an incredible deep and smoky taste, superbly balanced with sweet vanilla and notes of caramel.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Hot, musty sour oak with rich sweetness (burnt caramel, toffee, cinnamon). Water tamps down the heat, and opens it up nicely (bringing a subtle citrus note).
Palate: Warm and sweet, caramel creams, vanilla, oak; spice is a tad sour with cinnamon, cocoa, clove, and a hint of burnt popcorn. Water softens the rough edges, and improves the mouthfeel and emphasizes the caramel sweetness (but still keeps a spice kick).
Finish: Moderate in length and drying (although water extends it nicely).
Comments: This particular barrel was aged way up there (top rick of the rickhouse) for 8 yrs and 5 months (no age statement on the bottle, but we know when it was dumped and when it was filled – and when sober can do math). It is a bit oak heavy for the age, but a bit of water really brings it into balance. While I’m a big fan of barrel proof bourbon, this is a fine example where some water can really improve a pour (at least for my palate). The non-chill filtering really shines as it doesn’t lose that viscous mouthfeel when gently diluted. And while I’m biased, I continue to think those Georgia Bourbon Society guys (and gals) do a fine job selecting whiskey.
Rating: Must Try

What Richard Says:
Nose: Caramel, toffee, poached apricots, and golden raisins.
Palate: There is heat there but not as much as you would expect for a 60+ ABV bourbon. more caramel and vanilla sweetness comes forward against a oak forward back.
Finish: It finishes with a side coating of red pepper flakes dusted with cocoa powder and lingering notes of Big Red chewing gum.
Comments: A full, robust bourbon that you can find under $50? Yeah, a unicorn right. Well this is some damn good bourbon and as much as I like 1792, the Full Proof really kicks it up in flavor even more than the proof.
Rating: Must Buy

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Single Barrel Bourbon

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Single Barrel Bourbon
$40 to $70
What the Distillery Says:
Old Scout Single Barrel Cask Strength Straight Bourbon Whiskey is just what it says; a single barrel that has been bottled at cask strength, usually between 109 and 118 proof. We pick barrels that are different from our stock selection to create unique experiences with each purchase.
Mashbill: 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malt – a ‘high rye’ bourbon

What Gary Says:
(Dekalb Bottle Shop, Barrel # 666, 8 yrs old – bottled at 53.9% ABV)
Nose: Salted caramel, charred oak with cinnamon, vanilla, allspice, and subtle hints of raisins.
Palate: Delicious, sweet caramel, chocolate covered pralines, toffee, vanilla waffle cone, subtle spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice), wood not hiding (but not dominant either – not bitter); mouthfeel starts on the creamy side and then sharpens.
Finish: Moderately long and drying, with a bit of pepper spice at the end.
Comments: Any single barrel program like this is going to have a lot of variety – which I’m a big fan of – but it comes at a price. I’ve had some that were highly ordinary (I can’t recall a Smooth Ambler that I thought was sub-standard), and some that were really delicious. This is one of those – a lovely low proof bourbon – right in my sweet spot at 8 yrs old. Doesn’t need any water, but it stands up well to a bit of it (and I get more brown sugar on the nose with a few drops). If I were trying this blind, I’d have guessed this was Wild Turkey (don’t believe it is, but if that helps!) , although it lacks the characteristic “bite” you get from Turkey. Unfortunately I picked only one of these up at the time. Honestly, I bought it because a friend highly recommended it (thanks Bruce!), and also I thought the barrel # was cool (like you haven’t done that before). I had a lot of bottles open at the time, and my only regret is waiting a few months to open and try it – as I would have bought several more if I had the chance.
Rating: Must Try

What Richard Says:
(Dekalb Bottle House, Barrel # 3510, 10 yrs old – bottled at 59.6% ABV)
Nose: Big and aggressive with cinnamon, vanilla extract, and polished wood.
Palate: Viscous and mouth coating in an almost chewy way. The proof leaves this one a bit hot but a few drops of water tame it nicely. Heavy wood notes poured over with caramel and french vanilla coffee beans. Dutch cocoa powder is sprinkled all throughout the taste profile.
Finish: Black pepper, more cocoa powder, a well aged oak heavy finish.
Comments: So I know the guys that picked this and I know that they have pretty damn good taste. This is a stellar bourbon. As a single barrel this particular one is long gone but Smooth Ambler has put out some very nice barrels. If you see one of these locally and you have the chance to taste it first definitely go for it. If you don’t get to try before you buy then I think it would be a fairly safe buy in the sub $70 price range.
Rating: Must Buy

Old Charter Proprietor’s Reserve

Old Charter Proprietor’s Reserve 13 Year Old
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey (slope shoulder bottling)

45% ABV
$25 originally/highly collectible now
What Gary Says:
Nose: Rich, vanilla crème brulee, toffee, soft oak, subtle anise and a hint of sherry; very nice balance.
Palate: Creamy/silky mouthfeel, rich vanilla, raisins, oak, subtle sherry, slight rye spice that builds up with hint of cinnamon.
Finish: Moderately long, nice and lingering.
Comments: This is a dusty bourbon, part of the Bourbon Heritage Collection released in the mid-1990s. I found this bottle in 2014, and paid $30 for it (when initially released, it was a few bucks cheaper – probably part of the reason it sat on the shelf where I picked it up for so long). Likely not to find again (unless you want to spend around $250), but if I saw it on a shelf – it would be a no brainer pick up for me. This is a delicious bourbon. I’m not a fan of Old Charter’s other products necessarily, but this is probably in my Top 10 of favorite pours. More often than not with a 90 proof bourbon, I think “If only this was at a higher proof”, but I think this is perfect the way it is.
Rating: Must Buy (at retail . . . )

What Richard Says:
Nose: This one starts off with a bit of a musty nose that makes me think of bourbons much older than 13 years like some of the Orphan Barrel releases. As it opens up a bit it comes through more as apple danishes, Boston Cream filling, and candied ginger but there is still quite a lot of wood and tobacco driven “oldness” to it.
Palate: Rich and delicate don’t often go together but they really jam here. Creamy, syrupy vanilla that rolls out seriously dry.
Finish: This finishes very dry and heavy on the wood.
Comments: Two of my best drinking buddy’s really love this bourbon. I really value their opinions (yes Gary is one of them) but this isn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse. This comes across too old and dry. It’s also one dimensional too. Intense in that dimension but one dimensional all the same. I find this interesting as a study in bourbon history and at the price that Gary found this one I would recommend picking it up but I wouldn’t pay collector prices for it.
Rating: Stands Out