Review #211: Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Batch 8

Part 3 of the finished whiskey series takes us to my current favorite line of finished whiskey: Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend. I know u/prepreludesh would be disappointed if I didn’t have a Cigar Blend early on in this series (and maybe one or two more later on) so here we are with the oldest batch I have #8.

Cigar Blend is a blend of middling to old MGP bourbon, including some that is finished in Cognac and Sherry casks, which is then finished in an Armagnac cask to give it a robust finish that holds up to a cigar pairing.

 

Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Batch 8

Age: NAS

Abv: 112.82 proof

Price: $225 ($169.99 MSRP)

Neat

Nose: Rich and sweet with leather, vanilla and brown sugar notes backed by a subtler spice.

Taste: Deeply complex with layers of sweet, rich and spicy notes including butterscotch, vanilla, leather, charred oak and baking spices as well as rye spice. Thick and velvety mouthfeel.

Finish: Extremely long slightly dry finish with warm spices, sweet vanilla and faint leather and oak

With a Cigar

Cigar: Alec Bradley Magic Toast

Nose: Strong enough that I can still smell the leather and sweetness over the cigar smoke

Taste: Definitely muted by the cigar but the sweet and spicy combo is still there as is the mouthfeel.

Finish: This is the best part as you keep tasting the long finish as you draw on the cigar

Conclusion

This wasn’t my favorite batch of Cigar Blend but it was still excellent and very much fulfilled the goal of pairing with a cigar. It has all the upside of well aged MGP with some additional notes from the Armagnac and a much longer finish than I get with a lot of 10-12 year MGP. It was a little spicy and dry for my taste especially compared to batches 12, 14 and 18. I paid over retail for this batch and wouldn’t do it again though.

 

TL;DR: Weakest Cigar Blend of the batches I have, still fantastic. One of the longest finishes I’ve had on a bourbon.

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

 

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Review #210: Blood Oath Pact 4

Our second bottle on the finished whiskey series is Lux Row’s Blood Oath Pact 4, another NDP who is blending and finishing but this time from an unknown Kentucky distillery that is almost assuredly Heaven Hill instead of from MGP.

From my review of Pact 5:

Blood Oath is a divisive series of sourced bourbons from Luxco. Between the unknown sourcing, inclusion of finished whiskeys and fancy packaging these bottles have been subject to a lot of hate and a lot of tatering(full disclosure: I am on the tatering side here).

Pact 4 is a blend of 12 year old and 10 year old straight bourbon blended with a 9 year old bourbon that has been finished in toasted barrels. All bourbon barrels are charred which basically means exposing them to a very hot flame for 10 to 60 or so seconds which creates a layer of charred wood on the inside of the barrel. Some barrels are toasted before they are charred which typically involves a longer, slower heating process and causes different chemical changes in the barrel. Woodford Double Oaked and Michter’s various toasted barrel finished whiskies are other examples of tasted barrel finishes whiskies.

Enough about barrels, onto the review!

 

Blood Oath Pact 4

Age: blend of 9, 10 and 12 years

Abv: 98.6 proof (human body temp lol)

Price: $99

Neat

Nose: Lots of oak notes balanced with sweet vanilla and subtle smoky notes

Taste: Sweet and oaky with caramel, vanilla, rich oak and just a hint of nuttiness. Solid mouthfeel for the proof.

Finish: Medium length finish with rye spice, vanilla and more oak.

Conclusion

This is quite okay, which shouldn’t be a surprise, and very sweet. Coincidentally those are two flavor categories I enjoy which made this a pleasant dram. I found the 98.6 proof to be close enough to 100 or to not mind it being proofed down.

This was a noticeable step up from Woodford Double Oaked and a store pick of that for me though it is also significantly more expensive and harder to find. I won’t be rushing out trying to hunt down a back up bottle of this specific Pact as I thought 5 was better.

 

TL;DR: Oaky and sweet, I liked it

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

 

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Review #209: Redemption Rye Rum Cask Finish Batch 1

Finished Series Kick Off

Today I’m kicking off a series on finished whiskies which tend to be a polarizing topic in the online bourbon world (for example just do a quick search for Angel’s Envy on r/bourbon). Some folks claim finishing is just a trick to cover up mediocre bourbon, others think it adds complexity similar to scotch and still others get bent out of shape on TTB labeling for finished whiskies. Personally I’ve enjoyed a lot of them and not cared for others with an overall positive opinion.

For this series we’ll cover mostly finished whiskies I like(since I don’t tend to buy bottles I don’t), hit on as many of the ones I don’t care for as I can and then dip our toes in some home blending and mini barrel finishing.

Review

Last year Redemption submitted a rum finished label to the TTB. I remember thinking “That could be interesting” and then completely forgot about it. Well the day has come and it has been released so I picked up a bottle. I really enjoyed a High West Rendezvous Rye finished in rum casks so I was optimistic for Redemption’s take.

 

Redemption Rye Rum Cask Finish Batch 1

Age: NAS

Abv: 94 proof

Price: $45

Neat

Nose: Sweet herbal notes with a hint of banana.

Taste: Herbaceous notes typical of MGP with a sugary sweetness, a bit of banana and an unusual mouthfeel.

Finish: Short with a mild sweetness and faint herbs.

Conclusion

This was interesting. I tend to like finished MGP rye and rum finishes so I had high hopes. This was a bit of a letdown because of the high hopes but not too much of one because it is still a good whiskey. It’s exactly what I would expect mixing classic MGP rye notes and basic rum notes. It’s herbal and sweet with a bit of banana throughout. It was a little too sweet for me though.

I wish I could do a better job explaining the mouthfeel. It isn’t thin or oily but it has this dryness at the same time as being sweet. It’s unusual but not unpleasant.

All in all I will enjoy this bottle as a nice after dinner dram which is great since my MWND is nearly empty but I won’t be going back for another bottle. I tend to think Redemption’s regular rye offering is just so so and in this case the rum cask finished made it more interesting.

 

TL;DR: Sweet, solid, nothing special

6 - a good whiskey I’m still happy to drink

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

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Review #208: Booker's 30th

After uneven Booker’s release quality in 2018 I mostly sat 2019 out and didn’t hunt a Booker’s 30th overly hard. I tried a pour from a freshly cracked bottle at Moonshine and found it tasty but a little too hot for me at the time. A few months later I tried it again at a meetup from a bottle that had been open for some time and I really enjoyed it; unfortunately it seemed like it was too late to get a bottle for close to retail. Fast forward to the start of year and my local shop owner pulled out a Booker’s 30th when I went by to grab a bottle for my birthday. Don’t tell my wife but it was my favorite birthday gift that year. Exercising my usual lack of patience I cracked it first thing when I got home and found it was a bit too hot but I was ready to let it open up a bit and try again. Even just two week later I found it much improved.

s 30th

 

Booker’s 30th Anniversary

Age: Blend of 9 and 16 year

Abv: 125.8 proof

Price: $200

Neat

Nose: Powerful with a combination of bold spices, rich oak, sweet brown sugar and a faint nuttiness.

Taste: Hot and heavy with oak and spice notes balanced by fainter brown sugar and nutty notes. Excellent, viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium to long dry finish with a fading sweetness and lingering, slightly bitter oak.

Conclusion

About a month of opening up and a good 5-10 minute rest really did wonders here. The heat was still very present but was at an enjoyable level. I really enjoy the profile of older Beam releases(too bad Baker’s 13 year appears to have skipped Austin) and this is no exception.

While it was a little on the hot side and the finish was just good overall I was a big fan of the intensity of the flavors, the specific notes and the excellent mouthfeel. This is a little too pricey and intense for an everyday sipper but it’s a great bottle to pull down when I want something powerful.

 

TL;DR: Intense, delicious bourbon that is borderline too hot with a mildly disappointing finish

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

 

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You can also follow me on Instagram(@atxbourbon) or reddit to keep up with these reviews and my other whiskey-centric adventures.

Quality

10 - an all time favorite, must buy/hunt - Old Rip Van Winkle 2018

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf - EH Taylor Barrel Proof 2019

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home - Blanton’s

7 - a great whiskey I’d order at a bar - Rare Breed

6 - a good whiskey I’m still happy to drink - 1792 Small Batch

5 - a whiskey with notable strengths but also held back by some flaws - High West Campfire

4 - a fine whiskey that does not standout in either direction - Evan Williams Black Label

3 - Better than not drinking whiskey but just barely - Crown Royal Deluxe

2 - Mixer only - Basil Hayden’s Dark Rye

1 - Pouring out the bottle, Coke Zero deserves better - Hazmat MGP Light Whiskey

Value

Great - A great deal, I’d buy it again - Eagle Rare, 1792 Small Batch

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase - Rare Breed, A Mid Winter Night’s Dram

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money - Kentucky Owl Confiscated, Heaven’s Door 10 year

Tasting Notes: Larceny Single Barrel Oak Liquor Cabinet Pick

Last July we did a barrel pick on Larceny for Oak Liquor Cabinet here in Austin. In the fall Glazers, a distributor, moved into a new warehouse and all sorts of bottles went MIA. A couple weeks ago these bottles finally landed!

When we did the pick we had 4 samples to choose from and we wanted to pick something accessible with broad appeal. The first sample was surprisingly spicy especially for a wheated bourbon, the 3rd tasted very similar to regular Larceny, the 4th had a unique musty leather note that one picker fell in love with but wasn’t the profile we were targeting. We ended up picking the second sample which is described below.

 

Larceny Single Barrel Oak Liquor Cabinet Pick

Age: 6 years (almost 7)

Abv: 92 proof

Price: $22

Barrel: Rickhouse E Floor 2 Barreled on 3/16/2012

Neat

Nose: Sweet and simple with butterscotch and grain notes

Taste: More butterscotch, cream and wheat notes. Decent mouthfeel for the proof.

Finish: Medium to short with a touch of sweetness and a bit of wheat grain.

Conclusion

Overall I am enjoying this as a casual sipper. The sweet and grain notes are simple and pleasant. This is much more a bourbon to sip on during a movie or something and less of something to sit down a really look around for complexity.

On a side note I was an idiot and held onto the little sample bottle to see how it compared to the bottled product. But it was a 1/3 full plastic bottle so when I opened it back up last week it tasted like plastic and regret.

 

TL;DR: Sweet, grain, easy drinking

No score: I was one of the main people involved in the pick

 

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Four Roses Finale and Series Wrap Up

For the final entry in the series I omitted the ‘K’ yeast strain and selected my favorite based on the series results and all the other Four Roses drinking I’ve been doing to compete with the 2019 Limited Edition.

There was a small hitch with the Q yeast strain though; I had inadvertently polished off the 10 year old Binny’s OBSQ at some point. Thankfully I had secured a 10 year gift shop bottle that was also fantastic.

For this tasting I did another blind tasting video to pick a favorite and then sat down to write some more detailed notes.

Four Roses OBSO Country Lane “End of Watch”

Age: 10 years 3 months

Abv: 116.4

Barrel: LW 47-2Q

Neat

Quick thoughts: Fruity, sweet, oaky

Ranking: #1

Four Roses OBSQ Brent Elliot Select

Age: 10 years 6 months

Abv: 114.8

Barrel: KW 41-2P

Neat

Quick thoughts: Less fruity, floral

Ranking: #2

Four Roses OBSV Moonshine Bar and Grill

Age: 12 years

Abv: 105

Barrel: GE 34-3H

Neat

Quick thoughts: rich, oaky, caramel, long spicy finish

Ranking: #4

Four Roses OBSF Beastmasters “Crude Oil”

Age: 9 years 5 months

Abv: 113.4

Barrel: UN 47-2T

Neat

Quick thoughts: Less fruity, caramel

Ranking: #5

Four Roses 2019 Small Batch Limited Edition

Age: 11 - 21 years

Abv: 112.6

Neat

Quick thoughts: really good (by the fifth sample in a video I was trailing off hard)

Ranking: #3

Conclusions

These bottles

Well that was surprising; I really thought the 2019 LE was going to win. All 5 of these ended up being fantastic bottles. I’d gladly buy each of them again given the chance though I don’t think that will be an option.

Mashbills

I set out believing I preferred the E mashbill to the B and by the end it was clear that wasn’t the case. For the top end of the range the B mashbill dominated though the middle and bottom were relatively balanced but 2 of the bottom 3 were B and the other was a really off profile OESV. I think when that extra rye lands it is really awesome but the lower rye is a ‘safer recipe’

Yeast Strains

The O and Q yeasts definitely shown through as my favorites with the V and F in 3rd and 4th though only by a nose. The K was easily my least favorite of the lot but it tends to be in every Limited Edition and both K recipes are in the Small Batch Select which leads me to believe it is better as a blending agent. The fruity and floral notes from O and Q make Four Roses standout compared to other distilleries which was a big part of what I liked about them. Those notes also helped balance the spice from the high rye B mashbill.

Rickhouse Tiers

I need to go back and update the old review with rickhouse information where I can(not all the samples have it on them) but I didn’t see a strong correlation between tier and quality. 3 of the top 4 where tier 2 though I also have more tier 2 picks overall. I had two tiers 6s and they were both good but didn’t stand out. I have several 1s, 3s and 4s and only a few 5s.

Blind Tastings

I think blind tastings are super valuable when it comes to bourbon but not the end all be all, especially one round tastings. There’s a lot that can impact them from your palate that day, to proof differences, sweet vs spicy and the order you taste them in. For example in this tasting I think I anchored on the first one as it was very good and I had it first. Mentally I was comparing each other bottle to it more than I should have been. I think the Moonshine pick was hurt by it’s lower proof in the blind where when I drink it on it’s own it is outstanding.

TL;DR: O > Q > LE > V > F > K

Next up I’m going to do a few 1 off reviews and then get started on the finished whiskey series!

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Review #207: Old Weller Antique 2019 Texas Pick

This Old Weller Antique with a Texas sticker was popping up at independent liquor stores in Austin this summer and since OWA is one of my favorite daily drinkers, even after the price increase, I’m always happy to score a bottle of a store pick.

This particular Harlen Wheatley selection for Texas is a bit of a mystery. It hit a variety of independent retailers last year but no one was sure who it was originally for or why it was being split between shops. Thankfully my usual spot got some in and hooked me up with a bottle.

 

Old Weller Antique 107 Texas Spring 2019 Barrel 22

Age: NAS years

Abv: 107 proof

Price: $55

Neat

Nose: Cherry, caramel, vanilla and cinnamon notes

Taste: Simpler than the nose with mostly caramel and cherry notes. Great mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length finish with caramel, vanilla, baking spice and cinnamon notes.

Conclusion

It was very on profile for OWA with cherry, caramel and cinnamon notes throughout. It wasn’t my favorite pick and I actually put it narrowly behind a standard bottle in a blind. It was still quite tasty though and worth the retail price.

I’m running perilously low on Weller picks after finishing this one. Hopefully more picks hit Austin soon!

TL;DR: Weaker OWA pick, very on profile, still good though

7 - a great whiskey I’d order at a bar

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

 

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Reviews #205-206: Four Roses 130th and Four Roses 2019 Limited Edition

I reviewed the 2017 a long time ago but I am rereviewing it here alongside the 130th Anniversary and 2019 Limited Edition for the second to last part of my Four Roses series.

I was a big fan of the 2017 the first time I had it so I am hoping it lives up compared to these two. I’d also heard a lot of good things about the 2019 LE and my first taste was great. The 130th was strong too but I don’t think it was quite as good as the other two.

For this tasting I did another blind tasting video to pick a favorite and then sat down to write some more detailed notes.

 

Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2017

Age: 12-15 years

Abv: 108 proof

Neat

Nose: Sweet dark fruit, brown sugar, rich baking spice and oak notes.

Taste: More sweet fruit with cherry and something else(plum maybe? I need to eat more fruits…), more warm baking spice, brown sugar and a bit of oak that’s slightly tannic. Great mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and warm with more well balanced sweet, spice and oak notes.

Ranking: #3

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 130th Anniversary

Age: 10-16 years

Abv: 108.4 proof

Neat

Nose: Sweet vanilla, grape or plum or some dark fruit that isn’t a cherry, rye spice and subtler oak notes

Taste: Sweet fruit, the same one from the nose, rich oak and baking spice. Also a great mouthfeel.

Finish: Long warm finish with vanilla, oak and warm spice

Ranking: #2

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Four Roses Small Batch Limited Edition 2019

Age: 11-21 years

Abv: 112.6 proof

Neat

Nose: Potent but inviting with caramel, dark cherry and rich oak.

Taste: A medley of sweet fruit, che and warm spice notes with some oak and vanilla as well. The best mouthfeel of the bunch

Finish: Medium to long with more sweet fruit, vanilla and warm spice.

Ranking: #1

10 - an all time favorite, must buy/hunt

Conclusion

These were all fantastic but the 2019 was a cut above. I managed to come up with some minor grips with each one. The oak was a touch too tannic on the ‘17, the finish was just ‘good’ on the ‘19 and I couldn’t figure out what the fruit was on the ‘18. That said those were all minor and I really had to reach to get there.

Unfortunately I didn’t get my hands on the ‘19 until I was already mostly done writing my 2019 Whiskey Awards as it would have been a serious contender for the top spot. I am working on getting a backup bottle so here’s hoping.

I am very excited for the final round doing a blind with the 2019 LE and some of my favorite picks from the series!

TL;DR: I need to eat more fruits, the 2019 stands out but they are all fantastic

 

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Reviews #202-204: Four Roses OBSO v OESO

This is the fifth and final yeast strain tasting in my Four Roses series with a blind tasting of the O yeast strain. I have 3 picks that are all over 10 years old and from 106 to 121 proof. I was not able to track down either of these recipes locally unfortunately. Before starting this series I’d only tried the O yeast strain once before with the Angel’s Share OBSO and it quickly became one of my favorite picks so I am very excited for the O tasting.

Also shoutout to u/prepreludesh over at Bourbon Culture for the lead on the OESO.

For this tasting I did another blind tasting video to pick a favorite and then sat down to write some more detailed notes.

Four Roses OBSO Country Lane “End of Watch”

Age: 10 years 3 months

Abv: 116.4

Neat

Nose: Rich and sweet with dark fruit, oak and warm spice notes and just a hint of leather

Taste: Dark sweet cherry, more warm spices, leather, fainter oak notes and little caramel. Excellent mouthfeel

Finish: Very long finish with more cherry and rye spice.

Ranking: #1

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Four Roses OESO Crown Liquors “Betsy”

Age: 11 years 9 months

Abv: 121 proof

Neat

Nose: Bright and sweet with cherry, caramel and faint oak notes.

Taste: Cherry and caramel with a bit of spice and oak. Good mouthfeel but was hoping for more from this high a proof.

Finish: Medium to long with a lingering fruity sweetness.

Ranking: #2

9 - a favorite I always try to keep on my shelf

Four Roses OBSO Crown Liquors

Age: 10 years 11 months

Abv: 106.8

Neat

Nose: Still sweet and fruity but more of a grape or wine than a cherry note.

Taste: Fell a little flat on the palate. More of that wine note but not much else. Good but not great mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium to long finish with more sweet and fruit notes and touch of something odd that I couldn’t place

Ranking: #3

8 - an excellent bottle I’d like to have at home

Conclusion

I nearly gave the “End of Watch” pick a 10/10 but it wasn’t quite there. The Betsy was also fantastic on the nose and palate but the finish was just good. The Crown Liquors OBSO was also very good but the nose was softer, the palate was tasty but simple and the finish had that slightly odd note to it; it likely suffered from being tasted next to two higher proof similar offerings.

The O yeast strain did not disappoint and I am actively hunting down some replacement bottles as these two have become perilously low.

TL;DR: I’m a big fan of the O yeast strain.

Next up is a blind on 3 Small Batch Limited Editions and then the grand finale!

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Review #201: Hancock's Reserve

Hancock’s Reserve is a lower proof offering from Buffalo Trace’s fabled mashbill 2. I feel like it’s a little bit the odd man out of the line up with people hunting Elmer T Lee, Blanton’s and Rock Hill Farms much more than this guy but it doesn’t just sit on shelves like Ancient Age.

s Reserve

 

Hancock’s Reserve

Age: NAS

Abv: 88.9 proof

Price: $55

Neat

Nose: Sweet and gentle with caramel and vanilla notes.

Taste: Smooth and sweet with more caramel and vanilla. Thin mouthfeel.

Finish: Short to medium finish with hints of baking spice but mostly sweet vanilla.

Conclusion

This is simple, sweet and easy to drink. There’s nothing bad about it but there’s nothing great about it either. I like the sweet caramel and vanilla notes but I’d much rather have one of the other mashbill #2 bottles like Blanton’s, Elmer T Lee or Rockhill Farms. I’m glad I got this bottle but I won’t be looking for another one.

TL;DR: Simple, sweet, smooth

6 - a good whiskey I’m still happy to drink

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

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