Tag Archives: Stitzel-Weller

Old Rip Van Winkle 15 Year

Old Rip Van Winkle Handmade Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 15 Years
No. L7789

53.5% ABV
$43 originally (HIGHLY collectible now)
Website
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What the Bottler Says:
15 Year, 107 Proof A younger version of our famous 20-year-old Pappy Van Winkle’ Family Reserve, this bourbon was crafted according to our exclusive family wheated recipe. The smooth, oak flavor blends well with the barrel proof. Selected from barrels in the heart of our Kentucky warehouse, it has remained untouched for 15 years and unhurried by time.

What Richard Says:
Nose: As amazing of a bourbon as this is it is fickle on the nose. The nose is surprisingly delicate and the 107 proof can be overpowering. With a fair bit of air you get more notes of burnt caramel, vanilla cream filling for Boston Cream Pie, and polished leather.
Palate: Phenomenal! Dried peaches, cinnamon red hots, vanilla extract, dark cocoa powder, and aged tobacco.
Finish: A tad hot on the end.
Comments: Yes, I know. “Why are you reviewing whiskeys that are basically unobtainium, jackass?” Well, it’s not often you come across lauded whiskey like this. The last time I had a bottle was so long ago that I’m not sure I was even sufficiently experienced to fully appreciate it, which was shortly before they switched to the newer tall bottle and donned it with the “Pappy” moniker. So how does this old Stitzel-Weller juice stack up? It’s really damn good. Really, really good. Is it the best bourbon I’ve ever had? No but that’s a preference thing more than a comment on the passion for this whiskey. The whiskey is surprisingly delicate against the proof but exceptionally flavorful. A splash of water helps it open up a bit. In a heavier bourbon like a George Stagg or Four Roses the alcohol drinks much easier. In this bourbon it is a bit of a hindrance. If you are fortunate enough to come across this don’t be afraid of the water.
Rating: Must Buy (at sane prices)

Blade and Bow 22 Year

Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Aged 22 Years
46% ABV
$150
Website
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What the Bottler Says:
The award-winning Blade and Bow 22-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a limited-release whiskey inspired by the passion and craftsmanship of the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery.

Inclusive of whiskies distilled at both the distillery historically located at 17th and Breckinridge in Louisville, Ky. and the distillery historically located at 1001 Wilkinson Blvd. in Frankfort, Ky., this limited release offering was most recently aged and bottled at Stitzel-Weller.

Smooth and smoky, this limited-release bourbon’s taste is accented with notes of torched sugar and apples baked in honey and spices. Its aroma is one of toasted oak mixed with vanilla bean, fig and just a touch of caramel.

Blade and Bow 22-Year-Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey was named the “Best Straight Bourbon” and received the DOUBLE GOLD MEDAL at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Collect the five distinct keys – some rarer than others – that adorn every bottle.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Oaky – dominant sour wood, bit astringent, burnt toast, coffee grounds, cigar paper, subtle vanilla & cocoa.
Palate: Thin mouthfeel, heavy wood with a sharp bite of pepper spice, burnt caramel, crème brulee.
Finish: Surprisingly short and drying.
Comments: I’m not a fan of “oak bombs”, and there is far too much oak in this for my taste. If you like a lot of oak, this might be more in your wheelhouse – although setting the oak aside, I didn’t find anything exciting. Typically with age the mouthfeel and finish stand out – and for me both of these were uninspiring. As there isn’t a lot of 22 yr old bourbon on the market, I can’t say the price is out of line – but not something I’m searching out.
Rating: Probably Pass

What Richard Says:
Nose: An old men’s study – polished oak, old leather, aged tobacco, as well as…Boston Cream pie.
Palate: I agree with Gary that the mouthfeel is a little thin but it tastes very nice with notes of vanilla cream, dark chocolate, caramel, black pepper, and very woody.
Finish: Drying and very woody. Heavy oak and light pepper.
Comments: I like a good woody old bourbon that also provides layers of flavor. I really enjoyed this bourbon. It’s a bit pricey, mostly on the “Stitzel-Weller” name. That is just the warehouse though, not the bourbon. This is a blend of Buffalo Trace and Bernheim distillate. Both of which you can try in separate older Orphan Barrel bottlings. Even still, there is enjoyable substance here too. If you are a fan of older, oak forward bourbons then give this one a try. If you are a fan of a more youthful and vibrant bourbon then this may not be for you.
Rating: Stands Out

We would like to thank Diageo and their PR firm for sending us a sample for review.

Blade and Bow

Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
45.5% ABV
$50
Website
blade-and-bow
What the Bottler Says:
A homage to the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery, Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey uses a unique Solera System aging process to preserve some of the distillery’s oldest whiskey stocks, including some of the last bourbon produced there before it closed in 1992.

The solera liquid is mingled with other fine whiskies aged and bottled at Stitzel-Weller. Aged in new charred American white oak barrels, this bourbon has a subtle aroma of fresh fruit and a taste that includes hints of dried apricot, ripe pear and a sweet roasted grain. The finish has notes of charred oak and warm winter spices.

Blade and Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey received a GOLD MEDAL at the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.

Collect the five distinct keys – some rarer than others – that adorn every bottle.

What Gary Says:
Nose: Subtle butterscotch and vanilla, with a hint of corn bread.
Palate: Floral, nice silky mouthfeel, well balanced with the spice kicking up near the end.
Finish: Medium length and peppery.
Comments: The words “subtle” and “muted” resonate. On the nose, it reminds me of dusty bourbon (which is a compliment; if you haven’t had dusty bourbon – my sympathies), but on the palate it is less impressive. Quite easy to drink, but unless the price fell substantially – I’d pass it at retail.
Rating: Average

What Richard Says:
Nose: A little bland with just an alcohol tinged hint of Werther’s Originals.
Palate: Surprisingly sweet but a little thin. The sweetness is fruity like poached pears with a herbal, grassy, and spiced wood back layer.
Finish: Dry and woody.
Comments: This is a fine serviceable bourbon. My main complaint besides the price (and that is a bit of a them lately) is the marketing affiliation with Stitzel-Weller. I find that disingenuous at best and deceitful at worst.
Rating: Average

We would like to thank Travis and the folks over at Taylor Strategy for sending over a review sample.

Whisky On The Hudson ‘09

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you already know that Thursday night was the Whisky Guild’s annual Whisky On The Hudson booze cruise.  You also know that I forgot my ticket and had to wrangle a new one (which makes this the most expensive tasting event I’ve ever attended.  Not the Guild’s fault, but there it is). Despite my ineptitude, Thursday turned out to be a really great night.  I schmoozed with industry insiders, helped turn other attendees on to new things, and most importantly I learned a lot.  I was even surprised a couple of times.

The boat was bigger this year, but the number of presenters was about the same, which made for a more comfortable socializing experience.  The down side was that things looked a little sparse for a while.  I decided to get the lay of the land first and to seek out some friends.  First I headed to a part of the boat where Glenmorangie had set up a little jazz club, where you could taste the whole line (including many Ardbeg’s) and relax a bit.  Of course, there was a mob around the Signet.  Even though I love Glenmorangie, I was on a mission (I grabbed some of the new Ardbeg Supernova on the way out though).  I didn’t want to be sidetracked.  However, I am easily sidetracked.

I found a boat map to help look for the William Grant & Sons tables.  I know I will find Dr. Whisky there.  On my way, I get turned around and end up talking Rick Wasmund of Copper Fox Distillery in Virginia.  Wasmund’s Single Malt Whisky (hmm, he leaves out the ‘e’ even though it is an American Single Malt) is a pot stilled whisky that uses barley malted over apple and cherry wood.  I tried it last year and was not impressed, but a trusted source said that they have improved the product, so I was willing to give it a try.  I was pleasantly surprised.  You can taste the influence of the fruit woods, but it does not come off as overly fruity.  It’s bold, round and balanced.  To sweeten the deal, Rick was also pouring an aged rye (containing both rye and his proprietary malted barley) and white dog* of both whiskies.  I’ve tried a lot of white dog in the past couple of months (it seems to be the it whisk(e)y these days).  I have to say, these were my favorites.  The malting process really smoothes out the rough edges commonly associated with white whisky.  The most interesting thing Rick has to offer is a box set that contains two bottles of the white whisky and a miniature charred oak barrel.  You can age your own whisky!  He had a second fill barrel there with five month old whisky.  It was different from the bottled stuff.  The wood was really bold.  This is a must have for any whisky nerd (like myself).  Here’s the rub.  Wasmund’s is only available in the D.C. area right now.  They are working on getting New York distribution, but the rest of the country is still without fruit wood malted single malt.

Once again, I was off to find Dr. Whisky.  He’s always good for a laugh and some quality information.  In route, I caught a glimpse of a Jefferson’s Reserve bottle.  “I wonder if they brought the Presidential Select,” I think to myself.  It’s not on the table.  I ask and they deliver.  Trey Zoeller, V.P. of Bourbon Operations for Castle Brands, comes over and we start talking about this whisky from the now defunct Stitzel-Weller distillery.  This is one of Malt Advocate’s “Must Buy” bourbons (but you already knew that).  It’s every thing John Hansell says it is (we’ll have a formal review someday).  As Trey and I reminisce about dead distilleries (we agree that the Hirsch <Michter’s> 16yo is superior to the 20yo), he tells me that he has another batch of this Stitzel-Weller bourbon that he plans to release next year as Jefferson’s Presidential Select 18yo.  I can’t wait.

Finally, I make it back to the Balvenie table where I find a bearded(!) Dr. Whisky pouring the entire Balvenie line.  We have a chat and I try the new 17yo (Madeira cask).  This is a good one folks.  I was a little disappointed with the Rum cask 17yo from last year.  The palate did not deliver on what the nose promised.  The Madeira 17yo is just the opposite.  The nose is a little weak and uninteresting, but it really delivers on flavor.  Later, I came back and tried the 21yo.  A very fine dram indeed.

Much of the remainder of the night was a flurry of schmoozing and tasting (I even ran into Mark Gillespie of WhiskyCast).  I reacquainted myself with the Glenlivet 15yo (aged in virgin charred Limousin oak).  Limousin oak is used in Cognac barrels and is tricky to work with but it makes a damn fine whisky.  The 15yo is the only Glenlivet to use Limousin oak casks.  This specialty oak gives the whisky a richness and boldness that round out and compliment the sharp, fruity qualities common to Glenlivet.  This is smoother and richer than the standard expression.

I had the opportunity to try the PC6 and PC7 (both distilled at Bruichladdich).  These are both good drams with a fair amount of peat.  I prefer the PC6.

Dave Conroy of International Beverage Company, Inc., took me through his whiskies from Mull and Islay.  I don’t remember ever trying Bunnahabhain before and I think I would remember an unpeated Islay.  I liked it at every age.  There is a sweetness and complexity that I associate more with the mainland.  This is very approachable whisky.  Dave also introduced me to Tobermory and Ledaig (both from the Isle of Mull).  Really good stuff, the Ledaig especially is a must try for any peat lovers out there.

Other things that stood out for me that night were the Knappogue Castle 1995 Irish whisky, the Hibiki 12yo Blended Japanese whisky, Deanston 30yo, and Tuthilltown’s New York Whiskey.  However, the topper had to be the tasting lab led by Master Ambassador for Laphroaig, Simon Brooking.  We tasted peated barley, he lit a peat brick on fire, and each dram was accompanied by a song (or a joke) and a toast.  Simon is a real showman.  We tasted Ardmore 30yo (loved it), Laphroaig 10yo, Quarter Cask, 15yo, 18yo, and 25yo.  I really like the Quarter Cask (and the 25yo of course).  The 18yo is a new addition that will be replacing the 15yo.  They are very different whiskies, so if you are a fan of the 15yo, stock up.  Personally, I prefer the 15yo, but I seem to be among the minority in the critics’ circles.  Maybe I’ll have to give it another go in a less overwhelming setting.

So, that was my Whisky on the Hudson experience.  I’m already looking forward to next year.  The Whisky Guild does several of these events around the country each year.  You should check it out.

* “White dog” is a common term for whisky straight from the still (non-matured, no water added).  I’m not sure if Wasmund’s non-matured whisky is unwatered or not, but it is pretty high proof.

Drink well.  Drink responsibly.

-Matt