Sample Mountain Week 8: Old Forester

I went to grab Glencairns for Week 8 of Sample Mountain and the first one I grabbed happened to be branded by Old Forester so naturally it had to be Old Forester Week. These were tasted from lowest to highest proof starting with 2019 Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, the 150th Anniversary Batch 2 and lastly The Austin Shaker’s 2021 pick.

 

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2019

Age: 11 years

Proof: 105

Neat

Nose: Candy bar nose with caramel, chocolate and vanilla notes and almost no proof sting. There was a touch of spice if I looked for it.

Taste: Caramel and spice backed up by oak and vanilla with a slightly bitter note toward the end. Middling mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length finish with some bitterness balanced with more caramel.

Buy a bottle? No

Old Forester 150th Anniversary Batch 2

Age: NAS

Proof: 126.4

Neat

Nose: Bigger and bolder than the Birthday with rye spice, caramel, vanilla and rich oak. The proof is present but well integrated.

Taste: Complex and intense with rye and baking spices, caramel and chocolate, smoky oak, vanilla and something else I couldn’t place. Nice and viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and slightly dry but in a pleasant way like fine wine with a fading caramel then lingering oak, spice and vanilla.

Buy a bottle? Yes

Old Forester Single Barrel Barrel String The Austin Shaker 2021

Age: NAS

Proof: 127.2

Neat

Nose: Intense nose with a good bit of proof sting and notes of caramel, rye spice and chocolate.

Taste: Great vanilla and caramel burst up front with the baking and rye spice picking up toward the end. Excellent mouthfeel that really hits the front of my mouth. The proof comes through stronger than it did on the 150th.

Finish: Medium to short finish with a flash of sweetness then spice.

Buy a bottle? Yes

Conclusion

The nose was great on the BB, went downhill from there. It’s enjoyable but nothing special and I’m not sure it’s even worth the retail price to me. I definitely wouldn’t hunt this one.

OF Anniversary was 🔥. It’s right up there with the President’s Choice I tried as the best Old Forester that I’ve had. Definitely sad I missed this one and would gladly pick it up nearish to retail. This was hands down better than the ‘19 Birthday Bourbon for me.

I feel like these Old Forester Barrel Proof picks are young, high proof bruisers that are enjoyable buy not worth $80 like many craft releases. On the other I definitely would have bought this had I been able to make it down to Shaker that day and after tasting it I only feel that more. It’s certainly no unicorn bottle, no OFBP pick I’ve had it, but think it goes to show that with sufficient volume a distiller can produce some young barrels that come close to Stagg Jr and ECBP especially when you are cranking out the volume that Brown Forman is.

I’m not the biggest Old Forester fan and I typically don’t think their special releases are worth it but the 150th is an exception but the ‘19 BB is not. Even so if I had to pick a rare bottle from last year to grab it would not be the Old Forester 150th over something like GTS, 4 Roses LE or even a great Willett single barrel. I am a barrel proof barrel pick tater and the Shaker pick is no exception, I’d happily have bought one.

 

TL;DR: 150th was surprisingly great, Shaker pick was enjoyable but pricey for the age, Birthday Bourbon was a let down.

 

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Sample Mountain Week 7: Heaven Hill Barrel Proof Bourbon

Week 7 of Sample Mountain is Heaven Hill Barrel Proof Bourbon Week! I needed some strong bourbons to recover from the ice apocalypse this week here in Austin and these definitely fit the bill. I tasted these in order of proof starting with the 2020 Parker’s Heritage Heavy Char, then an Elijah Craig Barrel Proof before wrapping up with William Heaven Hill.

 

Parker’s Heritage Heavy Char 10 Year Bourbon

Age: 10 years

Proof: 120

Neat

Nose: Caramel, oak, fainter nuttiness than I expected, subtle spices and smoke plus a touch of burn.

Taste: Predominantly vanilla and a lightly salted caramel with smokey oak and baking spice towards the end.

Finish: Long slightly dry finish with lingering spice, vanilla and oak.

Buy a bottle? At retail probably because 🥔 but not worth hunting

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof B519

Age: 12 years

Proof: 122.2

Neat

Nose: Very similar to the PH10

Taste: Vanilla cream, caramel, rich oak and baking spice. No Heaven Hill nuts. Great mouthfeel

Finish: Long and balanced with sweet vanilla and baking spice and subtle oak.

Buy a bottle? Yes, honestly preferred it to the PH10

William Heaven Hill 12 Year

Age: 12 years

Proof: 134.4 proof

Neat

Nose: Very strong compared to the first two with the baking spice notes taking the top billing

Taste: More complex than the first two with baking and rye spices, caramel, lots of oak but no bitterness, vanilla, subtler smoke and an almost leathery note. Very viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and strong with complex spices, oak, smoke and vanilla.

Buy a bottle? Yes

Conclusion

The Parker’s was like a great batch of ECPB. The slight saltiness to it was very pleasant and not something I usually get with Heaven Hill. That said given the price and scarcity this one is not worth the hunt or paying a markup vs just grabbing a new batch of ECBP.

B517 and B519 are my favorite batches of Elijah Craig Barrel proof so far so I wasn’t surprised when this was a winner. Great execution of the classic bourbon profile. No surprises but everything came together great. It edged out the Parker’s and at half the price. This also made me realize that I am running low on ECBP so looking forward to B521 this summer!

The William Heaven Hill was definitely the winner here. The spice notes were more complex, the flavors were more intense on the nose and finish and the mouthfeel was easily the best of the bunch. I actually based on this at the Heaven Hill gift shop the day before we did the r/bourbon New Riff pick and now I regret it. Apart from the leather at the end it didn’t have new flavors compared to the other two but the spices tasted like someone went from using like 2 spices to 7, the oak had no dryness or bitterness and the caramel was sweeter at the same time. Sure the price is crazy but this is the pinnacle of that ECBP profile for me.

 

TL;DR: Enjoyed all 3, WHH was the easy winner, can’t be the value on ECBP, PH10 was borderline not worth it.

 

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Single Cask Nation 24 Year Old Prefire Bourbon

I haven’t had much experience with prefire Heaven Hill so when Single Cask Nation announced they were releasing a 24 year old pre fire Heaven Hill bourbon that had been aged in Scotland I knew I had to have one. I had really enjoyed another old, aged in Scotland Heaven Hill bottle and SCN has only rarely let me down (cough Pap’pi Nansens.. cough). Naturally I bought 2 just to be safe.

 

Single Cask Nation 24 Year Old Prefire Bourbon

Age: 24 years

Proof: 94.8

Price: $295

Neat

Nose: Surprisingly powerful for the proof with rich oak, buttery caramel and cola notes.

Taste: More oak, leather, brown sugar, lightly salted caramel and cola notes. Great mouthfeel for the proof with a nice texture but average viscosity..

Finish: Long finish with plenty of oak balanced by subtler salted caramel and faint spice notes.

Conclusion

That was fantastic. It’s everything something like Michter’s 10 wants to be. Tons of flavor, lots of oak without being bitter or astringent and somehow low proof. It’s rich and almost sticky with just enough spice at the end that I want the next sip. From the nose to finish it was a treat.

If I had to nit pick I’d say it’s really heavy on the oak and caramel compared to the other notes and that the mouthfeel was just good.

The elephant in the room is, of course, the price. When I compare this to another old, low proof release like Russell’s 2003 I’d gladly pay the extra ~$40 for the SCN or compared to shelfie ~300 bottles like Kentucky Owl this is the clear winner. Even compared with Heaven Hill’s own Elijah Craig 23 this is cheaper and has an edge. That said none of these bottles are a good value compared to some of the great workhorse 50-80 bottles we all love but to me this delicious and unique bottle was worth the price of admission. I’m very glad I got two because the first one isn’t going to last long.

 

TL;DR: Fantastic bottle, potentially the last of the prefire Heaven Hill, worth the price to me

4 Stars - Extraordinary whiskey: An all time favorite

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Sample Mountain Week 6: Rye week

Week 6 of Sample Mountain is Rye week! I barely avoided including any Willet or High West ryes but I did manage. I am starting off with Jack Daniel’s Barrel Proof, then hitting a Mayor Pingree pick before finishing with Redemption 18!

 

Jack Daniel’s Barrel Proof Rye

Age: NAS

Proof: 132.8

Neat

Nose: Dark, sweet and a little spicy with vanilla, rye spice and a touch of ethanol.

Taste: Some proof burn, rye spice, cinnamon, baking spice, vanilla cream, fainter oak and herbal notes. Very viscous.

Finish: Medium length very spicy finish with cinnamon, rye spice and some herbal notes.

Buy a bottle? Yes

Mayor Pingree Rye Plum Market Pick

Age: NAS

Proof: 122.6

Neat

Nose: Very basic rye some vanilla, some rye spice and some dill.

Taste: The flavors ramp up as they go with herbs(including dill) and baking spices.

Finish: Medium length finish with lingering vanilla and dill.

Buy a bottle? No

Redemption 18

Age: 18 years

Proof: 109.9

Neat

Nose: The age is obvious with the rich oak, minty herbs, sweet vanilla and subtle leather notes. This was borderline too complex with so much going on it was hard to pick out specific notes.

Taste: Cinnamon sugar, oak, rye spice, vanilla, faint herbal notes. Really great mouthfeel. It’s not too oily or viscous but has a unique texture.

Finish: Very long with lingering oak, mint and cinnamon sugar.

Buy a bottle? Yes, but it would have to be for a special occasion

Conclusion

The Jack Daniel’s rye reminds me a bit of New Riff Rye or Rare Breed Rye. It’s dark and spicy especially as it gets to the finish. I see why folks snatched this one up and while it’s not my favorite I did enjoy it and would have liked to grab one at retail.

On the other hand the Mayor Pingree was just fine with a bit too much dill for me and nothing particularly exciting. There are plenty of easier to find and better ryes out there that I wouldn’t bother picking this up. To be fair it probably suffered being in the lineup with the big and bold JD rye and the ultra aged Redemption 18.

The Redemption 18 was crazy good. I wasn’t sure what to expect but now I want one. That said the price is crazy so I’d have to be celebrating something. I definitely need to blind this with the High West Rocky Mountain Rye and something else old.

 

TL;DR: JD rye was big and spicy but good. Mayor Pingree was meh. The Redemption 18 was fantastic but that price tag is intense.

 

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Wyoming Whiskey Outryder 2019

Wyoming Whiskey has been up in Wyoming making whiskey for a long time now with relatively little fan fair. They initially only had a wheated mashbill but eventually they started a line of Straight American Whiskey using rye. The Outryder is a series of releases all using whiskey distilled in 2011 from two mashbills. The first is a pretty stand high bourbon of 68/20/12 corn/rye/malted barley while the second is an unusual mashbill with no majority grain of 48/40/12 rye/corn/malted barley.

 

Wyoming Whiskey Outryder 2019

Age: 7 years

Proof: 100

Price: $75

Neat

Nose: Rye forward with strong herbal and spice notes backed by subtler caramel, oak and dried fruit.

Taste: Dark fruit, warm baking spice, clove and caramel notes. The mouthfeel is nice and about what I would expect from a 100 proofer.

Finish: Medium length spicy finish balanced by oak and leather notes.

Conclusion

Overall this was an enjoyable whiskey. It sits somewhere between a rye and bourbon without being overly sweet, spicy or herbal. On the other hand it doesn’t particularly stand out in any way.

I would readily choose this over a number of other craft distilleries. So in that sense it is a success. Craft distilleries that actually distill all their own whiskey are rarely competitive with the big guys on price and Wyoming Outryder is no exception.

Also I initially hated that Outryder was spelled with a Y then I realized it was because of Wyoming and felt better.

There are supposed to be 3 more Outryder releases with each one being older than the last. Hopefully another year or two and maybe a barrel proof instead of 100 would push this for good to great.

 

TL;DR: Good stuff especially for a craft distillery.

1 Star - Good whiskey: I would choose to drink this over readily available whiskies

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Sample Mountain Week 5: 15 year KSBW

For Week 5 of sample mountain I am tackling three 15 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskies. From lowest proof to highest we’ve got Old Soul 15 year which is the same mystery mashbill that Doc Swinson’s and Old Bones used, the 2019 release of Pappy Van Winkle 15 year and the most recent Willett distillery release.

 

Old Soul 15 year

Age: 15 years

Proof: 102

Neat

Nose: Familiar with roasted nuts, vanilla extract and faint spices.

Taste: Lots of vanilla with some fainter buts and caramel then oak and spice towards the end. Oddly thin mouthfeel.

Finish: Very dry finish with lingering oak and spice.

Buy a bottle? No

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year 2019

Age: 15 years

Proof: 107

Neat

Nose: Big butterscotch and oak notes and some faintly perfumey floral notes.

Taste: Butterscotch, rich oak, vanilla cream, very subtle spices. Velvety mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium to long with butterscotch, oak, baking spice, cinnamon and a touch of the perfume from the nose

Buy a bottle? Yes if magically found at ~300 or less/no otherwise

Willett 15 Year Gift Shop Release

Age: 15 years

Proof: 122.4

Barrel Number: 807

Neat

Nose: Peanut brittle and oak dominates with vanilla and spice in the background.

Taste: Oak, vanilla, rye spice, rich leather, caramel, faint smoke and a familiar sweet note I couldn’t put my finger on.

Finish: Extremely long with lingering caramel, nuts and oak

Buy a bottle? No, lol. It was 750 at the giftshop

Conclusion

To start things off the Old Soul was a letdown. Doc Swinson’s 15 year Release 6 and Old Bones were notably better than the Old Soul and have the same mashbill. The same sorts of flavors were present but the expression of those flavors and balance just wasn’t there. Add in the thin mouthfeel(maybe they proofed it down or go a really low proof batch?) and really dry finish and this bottle was not a winner. Easy pass when similar and better things are available at the same price point.

The Pappy was awesome, no way around it, but it’s not head and shoulders above more reasonable offerings and I’ll never hunt one or pay secondary. The most I’ve paid for a bottle of whiskey is around 300 and I’d do that for a bottle of PVW15 Year.

The Willett was almost assuredly Heaven Hill. The nose was underwhelming which made me a little nervous but the palate was awesome and the finish was insanely long with very good flavors. The retail price was 750 at the distillery and it does not justify that price point even though it was top tier bourbon.

 

TL;DR: Realistically I am not going to buy any of these. The Pappy and Willett were great, the Old Soul was a miss.

 

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Michter's 10 Bourbon 2020

I was very fortunately able to grab both the Michter’s 10 bourbon and rye last year and as the bottles start to dwindle it’s time to review them starting with the bourbon.

s 10 Bourbon 2020

 

Michter’s 10 Bourbon 2020

Age: 10 years

Proof: 94.4

Price: $160

Barrel #: 20G1433

Neat

Nose: Inviting with almost no burn with strong caramel and nutty notes with some oak and vanilla notes underneath.

Taste: The nutty and caramel notes come in strong with vanilla extract ramping up as it goes and faint spice toward the end. Very much not ‘over oaked’ especially for the age. Surprisingly good mouthfeel as well.

Finish: Long and soft with a bit of oak and vanilla that quickly fades to caramel with a touch of spice.

Conclusion

What I love about Michter’s 10 bourbon and rye is how they are able to pack so much flavor into a lower proof. This barrel does not disappoint on that front and while it is incredibly drinkable with pretty much no ethanol it still has a lot of flavor and good complexity with a long finish and nice mouthfeel. The profile isn’t particularly unique but it is an excellent execution of a nutty Kentucky bourbon.

I wasn’t able to get this at exactly retail pricing but even if I had at $130 this is a bit of a hard sell on the value side of things with older, higher proof options such as Doc Swinson’s 15 and Old Bones 15 at a similar price point. On the other end of the range there are some great 11-12+ year old Elijah Craig store picks out there for a lot less money.

That said I loved the bottle and don’t regret buying it. If you aren’t particularly value sensitive and want an awesome lower proof bottle(say for working late) you can’t go wrong with Michter’s 10 Bourbon.

2 Stars - Very good whiskey: I would want to have a bottle

 

TL;DR: Great bottle. Tricky value proposition.

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Sample Mountain Week 4: Semidusty

For Week 4 of Sample Mountain I am going to a take taste of 3 semi-dusty samples starting off with a Michter’s 10 Rye from 2014, then Stagg Jr Batch 4 and finishing off with a hazmat George T Stagg from 2009. For these samples the “Buy a Bottle?” is really in comparison to their modern releases. Obviously, had I known, I would have purchased any of these at their retail price back in the day.

 

Michter’s 10 Rye 2014

Age: 10 years

Proof: 92.8

Barrel C175

Neat

Nose: Rich and dark with oak, vanilla and baking spice notes.

Taste: Vanilla cream, oak, cinnamon, hints of leather and more heat than I expected for the low proof. Unremarkable mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and dry with lingering vanilla, spice and oak.

Buy a bottle? No

Stagg Jr Batch 4

Age: NAS

Proof: 132.2

Neat

Nose: Cherries and ethanol!

Taste: Cherry syrup, baking spice, ethanol and oak. Very viscous.

Finish: Long and hot with fading cherry then lingering spice and oak

Buy a bottle? No

George T Stagg 2014

Age: 15 years

Proof: 141.4

Neat

Nose: Oak, cherry and heat! with some spice and vanilla under the heat.

Taste: Intense flavor with notes of oak, baking spice, cherry, caramel, vanilla extract, cinnamon, pepper and bit of leather. Great mouthfeel that isn’t too oily but has a very nice texture.

Finish: Long and warm and wonderful with a balance of oak, pepper, vanilla and caramel notes that doesn’t quit.

Buy a bottle? Yes

Conclusion

The 2014 Michter’s 10 Rye was the first release after their 3 year hiatus and supposedly the first release from their new source. Overall it was enjoyable but nothing special especially compared to the 2020 M10 rye which I thought was pretty great.

The batch 4 Stagg Jr was honestly a little too hot for me to really enjoy it neat. After this I added a bit of water and it helped quite a bit. Compared to Batches 9-13(I haven’t had 14 or 15 yet) this was a bit of a let down. I think Buffalo Trace has definitely started to dial in Stagg Jr over the last couple years.

I went into the hazmat Stagg thinking it was going to be overpowered with ethanol and while the nose was intense it really wasn’t too much. The flavors were big and bold and everytime I went back to the glass I felt like I tasted something new. The finish was delightful as was the mouthfeel. If I could buy a bottle of this for even a semi sane price I would pull the trigger.

 

TL;DR: ‘09 GTS was awesome, the other two didn’t stand up to their more recent releases.

 

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Sample Mountain Week 3: Rare and Low Proof

For Week 3 of sample mountain I am tasting 3 limited releases with relatively high price points and low proofs to see if any of them hold up. I tasted from lowest proof to highest starting with the new Woodford Very Fine Rare then the 2020 releases Blade and Bow 22 and Yellowstone Limited Edition

 

Woodford Very Fine Rare

Age: NAS

Proof: 90.4

Price $130

Neat

Nose: Sweet and inviting with vanilla cream, rich oak and fainter spices.

Taste: Very similar to the nose but with a bit of youthful grain. Middling mouthfeel.

Finish: Long finish with warm spice and rich oak. Certainly the highlight of the dram.

Buy a bottle? No

Blade and Bow 22 2020

Age: 22 years

Proof: 92

Price $450

Neat

Nose: Floral and almost perfumey with a note I associate with dusty Turkey and old Stizel Weller but struggle to describe.

Taste: Funky, dusty, sweet, floral and a bit of spice. Great mouthfeel for the proof.

Finish: Long sweet and sticky finish with hints of floral notes and some oak.

Buy a bottle? No

Yellowstone Limited Edition 2020

Age: 7 years

Proof: 101

Price $100

Neat

Nose: Nuts, grape jam, hints of grain and spice.

Taste: Roasted nuts, rich oak, red fruit and that same hint of grain.

Finish: A bitter note hits at the start of the finish but fades to lingering nuts, grain and fruit.

Buy a bottle? No

Conclusion

The Woodford was tasty and reminded me a bit of another expensive 2020 special release with an unfortunately low proof and thin mouthfeel(Russell’s 2002). If this was cheaper or higher proof it would be a more appealing option. I’d gladly pick it up at the 70-80 that something like Remus Repeal goes for but the 130-150 and with the scarcity I’d rather grab a Doc’s or Bardstown.

The Blade and Bow was excellent but the insane retail price of 450 and the scarcity make it an easy pass from me. If you want to really try some tasty Stitzel Weller this is probably the cheapest way to do it though. For such old bourbon it was very far from over oaked.

The Yellowstone Limited Edition reminded me a good amount of Blood Oath Pact 6, which I really enjoyed, but it wasn’t quite at the same level, the finish was a little disappointing and I already grabbed a backup BO6.

 

TL;DR: None of these live up to their price/scarcity for me. They were all enjoyable though.

 

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Review #246: Eage Rare Tejas Single Barrel Select

Something like 12 Eagle Rare picks hit Austin last year and I managed to snag most of them. We also did a big Eagle Rare blind bracket with the Austin Dead Liver Society that I’ve been meaning to write about. In the meantime here is one of the many tasty picks.

 

Eagle Rare Tejas Liquors pick 2020

Age: 10 years

Abv: 90 proof

Price: 49.99

Neat

Nose: Sweet with cherry and caramel with faint spices.

Taste: More cherry, vanilla, baking spice and a sweet note I can’t place but that is almost like artificial sweetener. Slightly thin mouthfeel but reasonable for 90 proof

Finish: That same sweet note linger with vanilla and the first oak of the dram coming in towards the end of the long finish.

Conclusion

This was a lot of folks favorite ER pick in Austin last year and it won our Austin Dead Liver Society Eagle Rare blind bracket(but didn’t make the top 4 for me…). It’s off profile for Eagle Rare and has a weird sweet note that reminds me of EHT Grain of the Gods which I didn’t love. That said it was still enjoyable and I’m glad I grabbed one. I really like the usual Eagle Rare profile and may have enjoyed this more if I didn’t go in expecting Eagle Rare.

 

TL;DR: Off profile Eagle Rare. Good but not my favorite.

1 Star - Good whiskey: I would choose to drink this over readily available whiskies

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