Category Archives: Taste of the…

Four Roses Yellow Label

Four Roses Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
40% ABV
Available in Asia, Europe, & USA

What The Distillery Says:
A worldwide favorite, especially when creating mixed drinks with a sophisticated, contemporary flair. Hints of pear and apple compliment floral aromas and mix with a taste of honey and spice. Smooth and mellow with a unique, long and soft finish.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Vanilla caramel sweetness overlaying rich oak.
Palate: Less sweet on the palate but very mellow. There’s a slight kick at the end of the palate. Hints of orchard fruit and oak dominate the flavor profile.
Finish: Very smooth and short. A little spice is left at the tongue and middle warmth fills the stomach.
Comments: It’s not Buffalo Trace but it’s a solid inexpensive bourbon. Versatile enough to work well in cocktails but I could still drink it neat.
Rating: Average (or slightly above)

What Matt Says:
Nose: Honeysuckle, orange shellac, dry grain and cherry lollipops
Palate: Cherry caramels and toasted oak, round and full bodied without being oily
Finish: Very smooth with just a slight burn that hits the tip of the tongue like a love bite.  Leaves the tongue with a taste of cherry lollipops and an oaky fuzziness.
Comments: The palate of this reminds me of Cheerwine, a cherry flavored cola sold in the Deep South.  I’m glad they started selling Four Roses in the US again.  I have several friends who cut their teeth on this while growing up in Europe.  Yellow Label is a solid entry level bourbon that will give you a much better taste profile than say, Old Crow, Rebel Yell, or Jim Beam.  Richard and I agree that Buffalo Trace is a bit better.  Still, there are places where you can only get one or the other.  Either way, you’ll have any enjoyable and affordable dram.
Rating:  Average

Overall Rating:  Average
In the grand scheme of all bourbon, Yellow Label falls squarely in the “average” range.  If you just put it up against other whiskeys in this price range, it surely stands out.

Eagle Rare 10 Year Old

Eagle Rare 10 Year Old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
45% ABV
Widely available
$25 to $30

What The Distillery Says:
Eagle Rare 10 Year Old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey has a sweet, oaky nose and full, complex body. Reminiscent of a fine port wine, this rare whiskey is best served neat, or over ice. Of Course, feel free to drink Eagle Rare in such classic cocktails as the Manhattan or Whiskey Sour.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Straight from the bottle the nose seems a little more dominated by alcohol than I would expect at this strength. Water opens up a lot of ripe citrus and hints of chocolate.
Palate: The palate dances between pepper and mild oak. With water the palate mellows showing oranges and honeysuckle sweetness.
Finish: Very spicy on the finish. It doesn’t burn but it leaves you with heat and oak. With water it goes down like silk.
Comments: I wanted to like this bourbon more than I do. I think it’s very muscular bourbon and it stands out in the category as a whole, especially at a sub-$30 price point. That said, up against other single barrel bourbons in the 10 year range it seem s a little lacking.
Rating: Stands out

What Matt Says:
Nose: Orange shellac, bubblegum, juicy fruit fluoride treatment, corn syrup and oak resin.
Palate: A little hot (alcoholic) with notes of cinnamon, mint, toasted oak and burnt sugar.
Finish: Cinnamon and oak
Comments: This one is hotter than I remember.  Maybe I’m thinking of the older expression.  I like each elemental aspect but I want a little more roundness.  This is an angular dram that unfolds more like a steel trap than a flower in bloom.  Overall, I tend to agree with Richard’s assessment except I’m going to give it an average rating.
Rating:  Average

Overall Rating:  Average

Parker’s Heritage Collection First Edition

Parker’s Heritage Collection Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 1996 vintage
64.8% ABV
Limited Release
$80 to $90

What The Distillery Says:
Parker’s Heritage Collection is a tribute to sixth generation Master Distiller, Parker Beam, for his 45+ years of service to the distilling industry. Hand-selected by Park himself, this first edition has been aging in oak barrels since 1996 and has been drawn from the barrel at cask strength proof. This distinctive style of American Whiskey offers a truly extraordinary bourbon experience. – Best enjoyed with a splash of water.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Wild berry sweetness and caramel come through more than I would expect at this proof. With water I get coconut oil and melon fruit rind with a subtle hint of citrus.
Palate: It opens up with water to a lighter floral bourbon with hints of ripe fruit and licorice.
Finish: Water is a must, at which point this goes down nice and long. It’s very mellow with traces of polished oak and citrus.
Comments: This is not Stagg and at this proof this bourbon really needs a sizeable does of water. There were three different bourbons bottled in this collection for the first release and all are indistinguishable from the packaging except for the different proofs. This one was generally considered the less of the three. I haven’t had the others but this does stand out. However, I would expect more at this price point.
Rating: Stands Out

What Matt Says:
Nose: At first there are the standard notes you would expect from a bourbon (vanilla, caramel, oak).  Just under the standard fare, there is a strong note of apple cider sediment.
Palate: Warming and oily with notes of charred oak, caramel, vanilla and cloves.
Finish: Oak, oak, and more oak.
Comments: Maybe it’s because this was my second dram of the night, but I did not require the amount of water Richard suggests.  I found this one to be much more enjoyable at full strength.  There is a warming velvet complexity that collapses quite a bit with water.  He is right about one thing.  George T. Stagg this is not.  I’ve tried a few of the Heritage Collection bottlings and this is not my favorite.  A little above average, but only a little.
Rating:  Stands Out

Overall Rating:  Stands Out

Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond

Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond Straight Rye Whiskey
50% ABV
$15 to $20
Widely availble in the U.S.

What the Distillery Says:
Produced in the tradition of the classic Pennsylvania or Monongahela rye whiskies, Rittenhouse is a much acclaimed rye now enjoying a renaissance in the major metro markets of the country. Available in the standard 80° bottling or in a special Bottled In Bond expression, Rittenhouse is a tribute to the classic rye whiskies that were once the preeminent American whiskey style, kept alive through the many lean years by Heaven Hill and two other Kentucky distilleries.

What Richard Says:
Nose:Caramel, wood, and something meaty.
Palate:Very smooth in the mouth for a 100 proof whiskey. Much more luscious than the 80 proof expression. Spicy rye notes with a cinnamon under current stand out.
Finish:The finish is all spice but again smoother than I would’ve expected of this proof.
Comments: There are so few remaining “secret” drams out there of great whiskeys at great prices. I fear that by telling all of you about it this one will become less secret still. A great value dram that all rye and cocktail drinkers should have in their bar.
Rating:Must Buy/Best Buy

What Matt Says:
Nose: Oak, honeydew, and caramel dominate.
Palate: Slightly oily, though not as much as the 80 proof.  The oak is a lot more prevalent in this expression.  Bitter and resinous oak notes skip about with deeper toasted notes (some char too),  There is a dry, pungent tobacco note nestled in there.  Caramel, mint, anise (clove reveals itself with a little water).
Finish: Minty and numbing (even more so than the 80 proof expression).
Comments: I would like to amend my statement from our review on the standard Rittenhouse expression.  It’s not that the Bottled In Bond version is better, but that it’s more versatile.  Without water, you get a high test rye that tastes great.  If you water to 80-90 proof, you get all the complexity of flavor we found in the standard expression.  Even a small amount of water makes this puppy blossom like honeysuckle in Spring.  I really cannot recommend this more highly.  It’s dirt cheap and really great.  I’ve been told that it’s becoming hard to find in some markets because of the rye lust that hit the country a little while back.  Be patient though, after the hipsters and mixologists move on to tiki drinks or some other thing, you can stock up on this again.  It’s always on my shelf.  So if all else fails, have a dram with me.  My wife even likes it!
Rating:  Must Buy/Best Buy

Overall Rating:Must Buy/Best Buy

Yamazaki 18 Year Old

Yamazaki 18 Year Old Single Malt Japanese Whisky
43% ABV
Available in Asia, Europe, and the U.S.

What the Distillery Says:
This is a full-bodied whisky with spicy cherry-like tones. The toffee aromatics of this copper-gold colored whisky offer a pleasant, long, dry finish.

What Richard Says:Nose: Honey, caramel, orchard fruits, honeysuckle, and a very cognac-like note that plays over a foundation of light oak and cherry blossoms.
Palate: The lighter notes of the palate dance around and play with the wood in a great way. TA candied sweetness that is balanced with the oak rather than cloying. Water dampens the sweetness and pulls out more hints of smoke.
Finish: The finish is oaky yet refreshing in a manly sort of way. It is slow to develop and lingers a good while.
Comments: The extra sherry casks give this whisky a nice extra umf compared to the 12 year old. This is one of my all around favorite whiskies at the moment. This is a dram to make you respect and fall in love with Japanese malt.
Rating: Must Try

What Matt Says:
Nose: Sherried, crisp green apples, star fruit, dark berries and a myriad of other things that ebb and flow in a dance too fluid to measure.
Palate: Warm and velvet soft. Chocolate covered blackberries, slight tannic bitterness, bananas, and apples.
Finish: Cloves and allspice.
Comments: A really stellar whisky.  At a lower price point, I could drink this everyday and never get tired.  It’s complex enough to have something to offer at every dram, and smooth enough that you don’t have to think too much about what you’re drinking.  If you could taste a classical symphony, it might taste like this.
Rating: Must Try

Overall Rating: Must Try