Category Archives: Taste of the…

Basil Hayden’s Rye

Basil Hayden’s Rye Whiskey
40% ABV

What the Distillery Says
To produce this very special batch of Basil Hayden’s Rye we employed a long known but rarely used “re-barreling” technique.

We start by aging a traditional rye four years, then transfer it to newly charred quarter cask barrels to age an additional seven years. The smaller barrels create more contact with the oak and allows more air to breathe into the cask. The result is an incredibly deep flavor.

It’s not easy or quick, but blending just a small amount of this “re-barreled” liquid into our Rye Whiskey amplifies its natural characteristics and creates a profile that shines in any serve. Find a few friends and try it for yourself. Then be sure to let us know what you think.

AROMA Warm baking spices, caramel, hints of wood and rye spice
TASTE Charred oak complimented by sweet brown sugar, touch of black pepper and dried fruit
FINISH Smoke and char notes wrapped in caramel

What Gary Says
Nose: Soft lemongrass with muted fruit and spice; bright along with some vegetal notes I can’t quite nail down; hint of pickles. All quite subtle – nothing aggressive about this nose.
Palate: Sweet entry that builds to an edge – but never quite sharp; slight spice kick near the end; crème brulee w/ orange zest toasted on top, hints of cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon and clove.
Finish: Moderately long and lingering, with pepper notes as it trails off.
Comments: Stop me if you’ve heard this one before . . . “Nice, but I wish it were higher proof . . . “ I’ll work on a different way to say that, but it holds true here. This is incredibly drinkable right from the bottle (and I was surprised that a couple drops of water opened it up further). It is softer and more refined than most rye, which makes it interesting in my book. While nothing off about this dram, it lacks anything that inspires me enough to go buy one. Basil Hayden has always been an oddity to me, as it is uncharacteristically soft in my opinion for a high-rye bourbon. This very much fits the brand profile. If you’re a big Basil Hayden bourbon fan, this might be right up your alley. If you’ve found Basil Hayden bourbon to be “too refined/smooth/soft” and are a rye whiskey fan – I’d definitely try this before buying a bottle.
Rating: Stands Out

What Richard Says
Nose: A very delicate fruitiness and orange blossom honey peek around the corners but the nose is almost not there.
Palate: More of a honey sweetness with a pinch of cinnamon but overall it is extremely bland.
Finish: The finish has just a bit peppery spice kicking in.
Comments: I can’t say that this impressed me. For a rye, especially a $50 rye, it is very uninspiring. As Gary said, fans of Basil Hayden’s Bourbon might like it but I can’t really recommend it to the masses.
Rating: Average

We would like to thank Jim Beam for sending us a sample to review.

James E. Pepper Barrel Proof Rye

James E. Pepper 1776 Straight Rye Barrel Proof
57.3% ABV

What the Bottler Says
* 114.6 Proof – Not Chill-Filtered – Over 90% Rye in the Mash Bill
* Full Flavored; deep notes of mint, spice, cloves, eucalyptus, chocolate, & honey
* The same exact whiskey as in the standard award winning 100 proof version, only straight from the barrel

What Gary Says
Nose: Hit of alcohol, sharp, bright, crisp, brash; unmistakably young rye with notes of citrus (lemon, orange; a hint of pineapple) and pickle juice.
Palate: Sharp entry, fresh orange zest and pepper spice, subtle sweetness with a hint of caramel.
Finish: Short and drying, with pepper notes lingering.
Comments: I was/am a fan of the James E. Pepper Straight Rye offering, which is this same whiskey but at 100 proof (and $10 or more less a bottle). For the extra dough, this adds 14 proof points – which normally I would celebrate, but I was underwhelmed. As a no-age-statement straight rye, I assume it is at least 2 yrs old, and likely not many days beyond that. I try to align my expectations accordingly, and wasn’t expecting complexity. I did find that with some water, I enjoyed this more – which left me thinking “Why not just by the 100 proof offering?” The water tamps down the rough edges a bit and lets the sweetness shine through on the palate, and the pickle juice become more prominent on the nose. Nothing off-putting about this for me, but nothing motivating me to buy another bottle either. If you’ve never had either of their ryes, I’d recommend trying the 100 proof bottling first – and only if you’re really happy with that, look to give this a spin.
Rating: Average

What Richard Says
Nose: Lemon zest, orange peel, grassy, and a bit of vanilla.
Palate: Orange blossom honey, vanilla cream, and a big blast of spearmint.
Finish: The mint lingers a bit but everything else is gone quick leaving a mildly unpleasant bitterness.
Comments: Meh. There is really nothing about this rye that makes it stand out. It’s not bad but it’s pretty plain. Try this at a bar if you are interested but I would grab a bottle of Rittenhouse bottled in bond for ten bucks less.
Rating: Average

Traverse City American Cherry

Traverse City American Cherry Edition
35% ABV

What the Distiller Says

When you live in the “Cherry Capital of the World” and come from a multi-generational cherry farming family, a cherry whiskey is a bit of a must. Our American Cherry Edition is different than most cherry whiskies on the market today and is steeped with Montmorency cherries grown on our family’s farm. We like to say that its flavor profile resembles “whiskey with a hint of cherry, not the other way around.”

What Gary Says
Nose: Cherry cough medicine.
Palate: Less heavy cherry than the nose, but still a LOT of cherry; barely “whiskey” essence.
Finish: Short and sweet.
Comments: I’m not a huge fan of flavored whiskey, but this one to me is less a flavored whiskey, then a cherry liqueur with a hint of whiskey. The cherry is really overpowering. If you like cherry, this might be a great thing. If you’re looking for whiskey with some cherry – I’d recommend checking elsewhere.
Rating: Probably Pass

What Richard Says
Nose: A mix of Luden’s cough drops and cherry flavor Popsicles.
Palate: All cherry. Cherry Fanta maybe.
Finish: Basically not even there.
Comments: I agree with Gary. This really seems like more of a liqueur instead of flavored whiskey. I don’t think I would drink this straight but maybe as a substitute for cherry herring or Luxardo liqueur in your favorite cocktail.
Rating: Probably Pass

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

Traverse City XXX Bourbon

Traverse City XXX Straight Bourbon Whiskey
43% ABV

What the Distillery Says

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

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