Category Archives: Bourbon

Clyde May’s Bourbon

Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Batch No. CM-079, Recipe No. 2

46% ABV
$40
Website
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What the Bottler Says:
Clyde May was moonshiner by trade but a craftsman by heart. He made his famous whiskey in hand-built copper stills, with fresh Alabama spring water and the finest local ingredients. The man was locked up for his passion — eight months in the federal penitentiary — yet he started up those copper stills the day he got out.

This straight bourbon honers Clyde’s dedication to the craft. We use simple ingredients and a patient aging process to produce a fine, easy-drinking spirit. Like Clyde’s own moonshine, it’s a whiskey with integrity. Straightforward, porch-siting, rocking chair bourbon — and this time, it’s perfectly legal.

On the nose its soft with aromas of brown sugar, baked apricot, wild strawberry & nutmeg. Palate is wonderfully soft with complex aromas of barrel spice, fruit and oiled leather. Finish is long & complete. Best sipped neat, on the rocks or in a carefully crafted cocktail with integrity.

What Richard Says:
Nose: It smells, well…like bourbon. Toffee, vanilla, and cinnamon.
Palate: The extra proof gives it a bit of a creamy, chewy feel that I like. It’s more spice and wood forward with notes of more cinnamon, vanilla, barrel char, and a bit of old leather.
Finish: The finish is dry and woody with black peppercorns around the edges.
Comments: There is no disclosure on how old this Kentucky sourced bourbon is but it is surprisingly woody for what I would otherwise think is a middle aged (6ish years) bourbon. It doesn’t particularly stand out. It’s in the vein of an Elijah Craig small batch, Old Forester, or Jim Beam Black. Not offensive in anyway but not particularly notable. A solid utility bourbon (featured in my chocolate pecan pie this year). The cute backstory is really the only thing propping up the extra $15 to $20 you would pay for similar bourbons.
Rating: Average

We would like to thank Clyde May for sending us a bottle to review.

Rebel Yell Single Barrel

Rebel Yell Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Aged Ten Years since 9/2015, Barrel #4744359

50% ABV
$50
Website
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What the Bottler Says:
Handcrafted according to our original, time-honored recipe since 1849, Rebel Yell Single Barrel is aged a full ten years to provide a rich and rebellious flavor. The single-barrel process creates a flavor profile unique to each bottle. The end result is an extra smooth-sipping whiskey that honors the rebel in all of us.

Tasting Notes: Initial traces of caramel and citrus, wiht a velvety smooth finish and just a hint of spice.
Ingredients: Wheat, corn, malt.
Nose: Vanilla, dark fruits, citrus and oak.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Mild oak, caramel, peach cobbler, subtle spice (nutmeg and hints of anise), rice pudding and buttered popcorn.
Palate: Sharp with pepper spice, caramel drizzled pumpkin pie with hints of smoke and oak.
Finish: Moderately long and a bit sharp.
Comments: If I had tried this blind, I would not have guessed this was a wheater (wheated mashbill bourbon). This has more bite and a sharp edge more reminiscent of a rye bourbon. Good for me, since I tend to prefer rye over wheaters! This is a delicious bourbon, with a lot of sweet spice going on, but balanced well with the oak. I’m really glad that they didn’t bring this out at the 80 proof that standard Rebel Yell is bottled at. I will caution that if you’re a big wheater fan (and prefer wheaters over rye mashbill bourbons), this might be hit or miss. If you appreciate both of those, I would absolutely give this a try. With this proof and age, regardless of mashbill, it is fairly priced (now when is the last time I thought THAT about a bourbon?)
Rating: Must Try

What Richard Says:
Nose: This one comes charging out of the glass as soon as it leaves the bottle with big notes of vanilla cream, caramel fried peach pies, and allspice.
Palate: The palate is a bit more muted than the nose. A few sips rolled around with a splash of water open cinnamon icing drizzled over warm cornbread.
Finish: The oak is very dominant on the lingering finish.
Comments: More wheated mashbill bourbons is not a bad thing. Even better is a higher proofed aged wheater at a sane price. Kudos to Luxco on this addition to the Rebel Yell brand. It drinks closer to a higher proof Fitzgerald as you would expect with the sourcing from Heaven Hill. It doesn’t drink like a Sazerac wheated bourbon (Van Winkle, Weller, etc.). It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but it’s definitely something you should try.
Rating: Must Try

We would like to thank Luxco for sending over a bottle to review.

Distillery Tour: Maker’s Mark

Meet me at Maker’s? That is the current Twitter and Instagram hashtag. Social media campaigns aside, a meeting at Maker’s isn’t such a bad idea. It’s really a gorgeous place. Now, if you are heading to Maker’s then most likely you are coming from Bardstown. If you aren’t, then you should. Bardstown is a lovely little slice of Kentucky and the spiritual home of bourbon.

Getting to Maker’s Mark from Bardstown is relatively simple. Head south out of Bardstown on KY 49 until you hit Loretto. Just so you know, saying Maker’s Mark is in Loretto is a bit of a misnomer. That’s the postal address and closest town but the distillery feels like it is in the middle of nowhere. From KY 49 head east on KY 52 and then left on Burks Spring Road. By the time you’ve gotten this far there are plenty of signs to lead you in.

My recent trip to Maker’s was my first in many years. A lot had changed as the brand, and bourbon in general grew in prominence. Arriving today, you park in the main parking lot up hill from the distillery and then walk to the entrance to the visitor’s center. It is a pretty glass fronted white building with “TOURS” written large so all can see.

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This was added to the old home on premise and the two connect. You can wait in some of the rooms of the old home, which are beautifully maintained, pending your tour.

After a brief wait your tour number will be called. There is usually coffee and sometimes snacks to enjoy while you wait. From the main house you head down a trail and stop outside the main distillery building. You will get the usual tour guide instructions pertaining to safety, photography, and history of the distillery. You will get a nice rendition of family history going all the way back to T.W. Samuels and his cousins Frank and Jesse James, yes that Frank and Jesse. Current ownership by Beam and then Suntory is downplayed a bit but they don’t hide it. Regardless of your opinion of the owners, the distillery facilities and tour is much improved over the days before they were bought.

Going into the distillery you see things in a bit of reverse order. First, you encounter the gleaming spirit stills img_1080

before going past one of the three 11,421.5 gallon mash tubs. img_1082

Maker’s does the first distillation (low wines) to a proof of about 120 proof (60% ABV) and then second distillation (high wines/white dog) come off at around 130 proof (65% ABV). This is cut to 110 proof before entering the barrel. After the distillation talk you move on to the fermenting tanks. Maker’s has 62 make from Douglas fir. img_1087

Here you are inviting to sample from several of the washes under fermentation to taste the flavor developing over time. Average fermentation is about three days and it’s neat to taste the differences over that fermentation period.

After see fermentation it is on to see where the original labels were printed and cut along with a collection of commemorative bottles. From there you head over to the warehouse for the most wonderful smell in the world…aging whiskey.

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After a brief overview of how bourbon aging work courtesy of your guide then you can take a look at the extra stave process that goes into turning Maker’s Mark into Maker’s 46. From here you head over to the bottling facility to see where they still bottle onsite and hand dip each one of those red wax (plastic now) tops.

By this point an experienced (or novice) whiskey tourist is getting a bit thirsty. Luckily for you the next stop is the tasting room. As you sit on stools at long wooden tables a tasting is already set out for you.

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You are led through Maker’s White (distillery only white dog), Maker’s Mark, Maker’s 46, and finally the new-ish Maker’s Mark Cask Strength. All of these were fine drinks but the Cask Strength did it for me.

After the tasting you are led out through a corridor surrounded by slumbering Ambassador barrels on all sides and an amazing ceiling of colored blown glass by artist Dale Chihuly that is pretty awe inspiring.

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Conveniently you come out into the gift shop. I’ve been in my fair share of distillery and other tour gift shops but I have to say that Maker’s is pretty impressive. You have damn near anything you can imagine made out of barrels and assorted whiskey paraphernalia. If you want, you can dip your own bottles to take home. Also, the distillery just released a cask strength Maker’s 46 that as of right now you can only get in the gift shop.

The tour at Maker’s is one of the best in Kentucky. It really is worth a stop regardless if you are a new bourbon drinker or an old hand. It offers something for even the most experienced distillery tourist. Just don’t worry if you are only halfway there and you are wondering “where the hell am I”. Hold the course and meet someone at Maker’s.

Location: Maker’s Mark Distillery, 3350 Burks Spring Rd, Loretto, KY 40037.
Tour Cost: $9 for the basic one hour tour, additional experiences are available for $25 with pre-booking.
Mashbills: 1 Mashbill: 70% Corn, 16% Wheat, 14% Barley
Barrels: Independent Stave New Oak Char #3
Retail Whiskey: Maker’s Mark, Maker’s 46, Maker’s Mark Cask Strength
Distillery Exclusive Whiskey: Maker’s 46 Cask Strength, Maker’s Mark White

Maker’s 46 Cask Strength

Maker’s 46 Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
55.4% ABV
$40 (per 375ml)
Website
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What the Distillery Says:
Right now they don’t. Not a peep. This bottling is a distillery gift shop exclusive at this time. This was a similar distribution pattern to Maker’s Mark Cask Strength. Let’s hope this one goes on to larger distribution too.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Sweet oak, vanilla, lovely baking spices (cloves, cinnamon) over butterscotch.
Palate: Nice rich mouthfeel, warm and sweet caramel with nutmeg and cinnamon, with a hint of fruitcake.
Finish: Moderately long and wet.
Comments: Wow – this is really tasty stuff. I’m not a huge fan of Maker’s 46, but this really shines at cask strength. At one sitting while nosing it reminded me of dusty bourbon (that butterscotch note). Much more robust on the nose and palate, and pleasantly spicy without being “sharp”. My only complaint is the price. I get that there aren’t many cask strength wheated bourbons out there (and one of my favorites – Old Weller Antique 107 – has gotten harder to come by these days), but if this was $50 for a 750 mL – I’d be all over it. At nearly that for half a bottle, I’ll absolutely enjoy it when someone else is offering, but not rushing out to pick one up.
Rating: Stands Out / Must Try

What Richard Says:
Nose: Wow this one wears the proof on its sleeve. Water brings out a more woody, vanilla forward nose.
Palate: This is great in the mouth. It’s warm and spicy with a dry back sweetness. Dusted with cinnamon and sweetened cocoa powder.
Finish: This finishes a little hot and peppery.
Comments: Yes this is a bit pricey for the half bottle. However, when Maker’s Mark Cask Strength first came out it was priced high for a half too. As distribution and demand grew the bottles became full size and the price normalized a bit. Regarding the actual bourbon in the bottle I will say that it is good. I’m always glad to see more wheated and cask strength bourbon on the market. This checks off both of those. However, I do like the regular Maker’s Mark Cask Strength more. In a lower proof I prefer the 46 but at cask strength this is more wood dominated. A nice extension of the line but I prefer the other cask strength option.
Rating: Stands Out

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength

Maker’s Mark Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
55.65% ABV
$50 to $60
Website
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What the Distillery Says:
From the barrel to bottle at 108 to 114 proof, Maker’s Mark Cask Strength retains the signature front-of-the-palate flavors of Maker’s Mark – while amping up the oak, caramel, vanilla and spice to create a remarkable new bourbon.

Though it’s bottled at a higher proof than either Maker’s Mark or Maker’s 46 bourbons, Maker’s Mark Cask Strength has a lower proof than most cask strength whiskies. To us, a higher proof can overwhelm a bourbon with a heavy alcohol taste. And at Maker’s Mark, we’ve always been about creating whiskies that taste “yummy.”

Although Maker’s Mark goes into barrels at a consistent entry proof of 110, the proof of Maker’s Mark Cask Strength will vary. As water evaporates from the barrels as our whisky slumbers, the proof increases. But if you’ve ever lived in Kentucky, you know our summer temperatures can fluctuate wildly so the rate at which our bourbon becomes the “angel’s share” also differs. As a result, we’re never 100% sure what the proof will be till we open the barrels.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Light, sweet oak, vanilla wafers w/ a hint of licorice.
Palate: Warm, soft sweet vanilla with honey, caramel crèmes with undertones of cinnamon creeping in.
Finish: Moderate, with more bite than the start.
Comments: The first time I tried this, I was underwhelmed – especially for the price (it was $50 for a 375 mL bottle initially). Thankfully the price has come down quite a bit, although still on the high side for me. This is what I expected Maker’s Mark to be at cask strength. Still sweet/smooth, but a bit more of a bite that kicks in near the end and carries through the finish.
Rating: Stands Out

What Richard Says:
Nose: Much heavier on the wood than regular Maker’s with big doses of vanilla.
Palate: The barrel strength pushes this one out of the gate like it’s on fire. The oily rich mouthfeel bursts with caramel sweets, dark cocoa powder, vanilla cream, and one single Red Hot candy dissolved in the mix.
Finish: Woody but much spicier.
Comments: This reminds me of the first time I tried Maker’s Mark. Back then it was an impressive step up from Jack and Jim. It seemed to be bursting with flavor compared to bourbon’s I had up to that point. I get the same thing from the Cask Strength version. It’s sort of what I’ve hoped Maker’s would be for a long time. As pricing has come down to near $50 for a full 750 ml bottle it’s something you really should try.
Rating: Must Try