Category Archives: Bourbon

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Single Barrel Bourbon

Smooth Ambler Old Scout Single Barrel Bourbon
$40 to $70
Website
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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
OCPR
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

Colonel Taylor Barrel Proof

Colonel E. H. Taylor, Jr. Barrel Proof Straight Bourbon Whiskey
67.7% ABV
$75
Website
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What the Distillery Says:
Crafted from hand-selected barrels, this bourbon is bottled directly from the barrel; uncut and unfiltered at more than 125 proof. It reflects the way whiskey was produced in the days before Prohibition, when Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. was the owner of Buffalo Trace Distillery. Drawn from barrels aged in warehouses constructed over a century ago under Taylor’s watchful eye, the taste is smooth, yet powerful and uncompromising, just like its namesake.

TASTING NOTES: The aroma of cooked berries meets the nose, followed by a rich caramel and slightly floral smell. The taste is bold and full of spice that fills the mouth with a distinct flavor of toasty vanilla, dried oak and pepper. The finish is long and satisfying with a powerful rye character and lingering hints of fruit.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Hot but rich, dark chocolate over oak, vanilla, allspice, with subtle notes of anise and mincemeat pie (and a hint of BBQ sauce?).
Palate: Warm and intense, caramel apple with candied pecans, oak, honey, cinnamon and pepper spice.
Finish: Moderately long and drying.
Comments: I bought the first batch of this label, and wasn’t that impressed and hadn’t sought it out since. I wish I had some of that left for a side by side, as I really like this one. Not as sharp on the palate as I would have expected based on the heat from the nose. It takes water well, with the nose losing some of the heat without the chocolate, and the palate opens up further.
Rating: Stands Out / Must Try

What Richard Says:
Nose: Hot caramel over vanilla pudding and apricot jam.
Palate: Vanilla cookies, cracked black pepper, mint, and more fruity back notes.
Finish: Slightly bitter, cigar tobacco, wood forward…number 2 pencils?
Comments: For those that keep up with such things, this is Batch #2 for the barrel proof Taylor. This is a very robust and tasty bottle. However, I don’t know that I like it anymore than Stagg Jr (another Buffalo Trace barrel proofer in a similar age range) for the extra $20+ that this one costs.
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