Category Archives: Bourbon

Rowan’s Creek Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey

To celebrate America’s independence from British rule, we are reviewing Rowan’s Creek.  I mean, what better way to celebrate than with a dram of America’s native hooch?

Rowan’s Creek Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
(Batch QBC No o9-21)
50.05% ABV, 100.1 Proof
Around $35

What the Distillery Says:
Rowan’s Creek is stored in charred oak barrels. It is hand bottled at 50.05% alc./vol. (100.1 proof).

Rowan’s Creek is made and bottled by hand, in small lots, one batch at a time.

This Bourbon takes its namesake from the creek that still runs through our distillery. Back in the late 1700’s when John Rowan first settled around Bardstown , whiskey makin’ was the order of the day. John went on and made a name for himself as a well respected judge and statesmen. The judge is long since gone, but the creek that still bears his name is still carrying the best limestone spring water there ever was for making good Bourbon, so you know the whiskey makin’ is still going on. Try a sip of it, straight up in a snifter, or add a dab of branch water if you like. Either way, it’s the very best there is. (Rowan’s Creek is distilled and bottled by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd.)

-This is a small batch bourbon therefore your bottle of Rowan’s Creek may taste slightly different depending on bottling year. – Matt

What Richard Says:
Nose: This nose is sweetly floral but hard to get at due to the alcohol strength.  With water fruity notes come out.  Citrus and apricot I believe.  It’s kind of odd but I get absolutely no wood or grain on the nose.
Palate: Not nearly as sweet on the palate as the nose.  Pepper and spice and oh so nice.  This isn’t really a smooth bourbon. Not one for the Basil Hayden fans.  But what is does have is mountains of flavor.  A very robust experience.  It’s like candied Mexican chilies.  With water the pepper is tamed and a lovely honeysuckle flavor develops.
Finish: For such a fiery palate it doesn’t go down to rough…as long as you take it slow.  Lot’s of pepper left on the palate.  The sides of the tongue are almost left numb.  This finish with water is smooth, mellow, but not bland.
Comments: A real man’s bourbon!  I’m not trying to sound sexist or imply that women shouldn’t drink it. I just mean that Rowan’s Creek is one fierce hombre.  It has the classic bourbon character but it wears it better than most.
Rating: Stands Out

What Matt Says:
Nose: Burnt sugar (like dark rum), caramel, vanilla, cereal notes (corn).  With water, it opens up to bold floral and honey suckle notes that remind me of my childhood.
Palate: Oak, char, smoke, caramel, karo syrup, cereal notes (this time malted barley and rye).  Enough body to withstand copious amounts of water.  Sweet but not cloying, spicy but not overly so, Rowan’s Creek is vaguely reminiscent of tamarind candy.
Finish: The finish goes on for a bit.  The malt and rye notes hang around with a little spice.  Just when I think it’s over and I’m ready for another sip, I get hit with flavors of evergreen and mint.
Comments: This is one of my new favorites.  It’s full-bodied and complex at a reasonable price point.  It also makes the best Mint Julep ever.  Knocking down the proof with some cool spring water makes this a perfect summer dram while drinking it straight will warm you to your toes in the dead of winter.  Rowan’s Creek is great anytime of the year.  Between my personal love for this whiskey and the price, I’m going to have to go with a “Must Buy” rating.  However, Richard makes an excellent point.  This whiskey is not for everyone.  If you are a beginner or looking for something simple to enjoy casually, this is probably not the dram for you.  The high proof alone makes it less approachable to a novice.
Rating:  Must Buy

Overall Rating:  Must Try.

Stands out among other bourbons (especially at this price), but may not be the best dram to start your whiskey education.  Not for the faint of heart.

Summer Whiskey?

As June draws to an end we find ourselves in the midst of summer.  At least in Atlanta anyway.   I don’t think there’s been a high below 90 in the last two to three weeks.  With the change in climate has your whiskey drink of choice changed?  Now if you’re like me you have more than one bottle or favorite in the local bar so it’s not like you have to be exclusive to just one.  What I’m really asking is, does your desired beverage profile change in the warmer months?  Do you gravitate away from peaty Islay malts in favor of  whiskey sours? 

Personally, I tend to be a mood drinker.  I drink whatever strikes my fancy at the particular moment.  That said, I’ve noticed lately that I do tend to gravitate toward or away from certain whiskeys depending on the time of year.  Peaty scotches just seem to go with cold weather for me.  Maybe I secretly picture myself blasted by cold scottish winds on the coast of Islay.  Who knows?  Fiery bourbons also seem to fit well.  I guess I’m keeping out the cold from the inside out.

When it’s warmer I’m still not much of a cocktail drinker but my tastes do change.  Sweeter bourbons, Irish whiskeys,  and lighter Scotch tend to be the drams I reach for more often than not.  But again, all this is more of a general trend.  There are plenty of whiskeys of all types that I’d be more than happy to drink anytime of the year.  What about you?

– Richard

Bourbon: America’s Sweetheart

Organized proselytizing efforts took a sophomore voyage this weekend.  This time, the topic of discussion was bourbon.  If rye whiskey puts a fire in a man’s belly, it is bourbon whiskey that sets his heart and soul ablaze.

This time, everyone had at least a little experience with the style of whiskey at hand.  Whether it was Jim Beam or something on our panel, everyone had sampled Kentucky’s native spirit.  Once again, I chose six whiskeys based on heritage, current producer, availability, and mash bill as well as more subjective criteria revolving around my concept of “good” whiskey.  I provided a short history of bourbon and some information on each whiskey/distillery on the menu.  The tasting menu included:  Four Roses Yellow Label, Buffalo Trace, Woodford Reserve, Elijah Craig 12yo (distilled at Heaven Hill), Pritchard’s Double Barreled Bourbon (distilled at Heaven Hill, partially aged at Pritchard’s Distillery in Tennessee), and Old Weller Antique 107 (distilled at Buffalo Trace).

Each whiskey sampled had unique character that extended beyond the mash bill.  Four Roses boasts multiple yeast strains.  Buffalo Trace is twice distilled using a traditional continuous still and a small doubler for the second distillation.  Woodford Reserve is the only distillery in Kentucky to make bourbon in copper pot stills.  The Elijah Craig 12yo is made in small batches and was the oldest whiskey on the menu.  Pritchard’s takes 6yo whiskey distilled at Heaven Hill, cuts it, re-barrels it and ages it for 3 more years in a Tennessee warehouse to “restore and enhance” the character of the whiskey that may have been lost with the addition of water.  Lastly, the Old Weller Antique 107, other than being our highest proof dram, was also the only wheated bourbon of the bunch (wheat is used instead of rye in the mash bill).

Unlike the rye tasting, there was no clear favorite.  If you recall, Sazerac Rye (another bottle from Buffalo Trace Distillery) was unanimously the favorite among the available rye whiskeys.  Maybe it was the greater number of attendees or perhaps a greater diversity among them, but it seemed that each whiskey had it’s supporters and each had it’s detractors (spread pretty evenly across the field).  The only exception was the Four Roses, which placed second on many lists but was no one’s number one.  I’m pretty confident that would have changed if we had tasted the Small Batch or the Single Barrel instead of the Yellow Label.

Each whiskey sampled had unique character that extended beyond the mash bill.  Four Roses boasts multiple yeast strains.  Buffalo Trace is twice distilled using a traditional continuous still and a small doubler for the second distillation.  Woodford Reserve is the only distillery in Kentucky to make bourbon in copper pot stills.  The Elijah Craig 12yo is made in small batches and was the oldest whiskey on the menu.  Pritchard’s takes 6yo whiskey distilled at Heaven Hill, cuts it, re-barrels it and ages it for 3 more years in a Tennessee warehouse to “restore and enhance” the character of the whiskey that may have been lost with the addition of water.  Lastly, the Old Weller Antique 107, other than being our highest proof dram, was also the only wheated bourbon of the bunch (wheat is used instead of rye in the mash bill).

We had some interesting tasting notes.  One attendee said that the Woodford smelled of the sea, while another swore that it tasted of peat.  Maybe it was the power of suggestion, but I could see where they were coming from.  My favorite quote of the night came from Carly, who commented that the Elijah Craig was “the first whiskey we’ve tried that didn’t make me want to start a fight.”  I guess that means it’s a “gentleman’s whiskey.”  There was even contention over the addition of water.  One drinker even preferred the 107 proof Weller neat (without water).  There were a few folks who loved the Pritchard’s until they found out how much it costs (around $50).  Still a dram they enjoyed, but they might forego buying a bottle.  The other drams we tasted were much more reasonably priced and offered just as much.

If I had to pick a favorite, I’m not sure I could.  For flat out good bourbon, I really enjoyed the Elijah Craig (thanks to Sam Simmons for turning me on to this one at a Balvenie tasting).  I always keep a bottle of Buffalo Trace in my cupboard and I might start stocking the Weller.

Thanks to everyone who attended and a very special thanks to Jim and Katie who opened their home to us and provided a nice nosh of delicious cheeses and meats.  And thanks to my lovely wife for providing two-bite bourbon pecan pies for dessert.

If you would like my notes from our tasting (which include a short history of bourbon and of each dram along with tasting notes), just drop me a line.

Drink well, drink responsibly.

-Matt

Atlanta whiskey tastings?

Just so we’re clear, I want everyone who visits our site to know that I really hate Matt.  Yes, of course we’re friends and all that but I still hate him.  Why?  Because New York is soooooooooo much more of whiskey town than Atlanta.  More bars, better selections, more niche liquor stores, need I go on?  And now the S.O.B. is doing wonderfully successful whiskey tastings to boot!

So in an effort to liven up the Atlanta whiskey scene and help me hate Matt a little less I’m putting a question/invitation out there.  Is there interest in whiskey tastings in the metro Atlanta area?  If so then shoot me an email.  Bourbon, Scotch, Rye, Irish, or whatever you fancy, it doesn’t matter.  Let’s work to bring more whiskey to the ATL.

– Richard

Two More Reasons To Love Buffalo Trace

Here at Whisk(e)y Apostle, it is no secret that we love Buffalo Trace.  Not only do they make some really excellent whiskies (Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare, George T. Stagg, and Sazerac Rye to name a few), but they approach whiskey making with an almost religious fervor and a sense of experimentation rarely seen in such a large scale operation.  This week, the folks at Buffalo Trace announced two more reasons to get excited.  Here’s the press release:

What’s next? After more than twenty years of experimentation, Buffalo Trace Distillery is rolling out the latest release of the prized Experimental Collection. This round of tinkering was conducted to find out how barrels with different wood grains affect bourbon aging. In particular, what impact do barrels made from fast-growth oak trees with coarse grain patterns have on bourbon aging, versus barrels made with slow-growth trees with fine grain?

Here are some answers to that question:

1. FINE GRAIN OAK: These barrels were filled July13, 1994 and bottled May 7, 2009. Buffalo Trace Mash Bill #2 was used and the product entered the barrel at 125 proof. After more than 14 years of aging, the slow-growth of fine grain wood concentrated the sugars and imparted extra doses of caramel and vanilla.  The bourbon is rich and exceedingly sweet with an almost syrupy character.  It also has a nice balance of flavors and complexity.

2. COARSE GRAIN OAK: The filling and aging time on these barrels is the same as with the fine grain. After nearly 15 years in the barrel, this whiskey is dry with a balance of smokiness and wood with herbal qualities. The finish is quick and woody and it is slightly heavy with a powerful complexity.

“We continue to learn new and interesting information from these experiments. We never know how they are going to turn out,” said Harlen Wheatley, master distiller. “It’s also great to see the excitement that surrounds these releases. The customer feedback is great.”

There are more than 1,500 experimental barrels of whiskey now aging in the warehouses of Buffalo Trace. Each of the barrels has unique characteristics making it different from all others. Some examples of these experiments include unique mash bills, types of wood and barrel toasts.  In order to further increase the scope, flexibility and range of the experimental program an entire micro distillery complete with cookers, fermenting tanks and a state of the art micro still has been constructed within the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

The Experimental Collection will be packaged in 375ml bottles. Each label will include all the pertinent information unique to that barrel of whiskey. These whiskies will be released in late May of 2009 and retail for approximately $46.35 each. Each experiment is rare and very limited. For more information on the Experimental Collection or the other products of Buffalo Trace Distillery,