Sample Mountain Week 24: Father's Day MGP Tasting

For Week 24 of Sample Mountain I am back to older MGP bourbons specifically with some Smoke Wagon for Father’s Day. I got most of my early Smoke Wagon bottles and almost all of my Desert Jewel from my dad running it back from work trips to Las Vegas so this felt fitting. For this week’s “Buy a bottle?” we’ll be assuming you are in the market for older MGP and aren’t paying retail price. I tasted these blind to pick a winner then poured the rest of the samples and sat down to write more detailed tasting notes.

 

Old Pepper 11 Year Single Barrel

Age: 11 years

Proof: 112 proof

Neat

Nose: Big and bold with rich oak and sweet brown sugar but enough spice to balance it.

Taste: More brown sugar and more oak with vanilla and rye spice underneath. Nice mouthfeel but I was expecting more for the proof.

Finish: Long and slightly bitter with lots of oak and a little warm spice.

Buy a bottle? No - dubious at retail even given Redemption 10 Year High Rye

Smoke Wagon Private Barrel New Jersey Bourbon and Yacht Club

Age: 13 years

Proof: 108.4

Barrel: #5636

Neat

Nose: Softer than the Old Pepper with brown sugar, rye spice and oak.

Taste: Brown sugar and rich oak take the lead with some barrel char, rye spice, vanilla extract and a bit of mint. Excellent, oily mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and slightly dry but in a good way with lots of oak and a good amount of baking spice and a bit of sweetness.

Buy a bottle? Yes

Conclusion

The NJBYC Smoke Wagon was great. I don’t think it stood out compared to the other 2 13 year Private Barrels I’ve had (Austin Dead Liver Society and one from Dallas) but it’s still top tier older MGP. The Old Pepper was very good but definitely not worth tracking down vs grabbing a Redemption 10 Year High Rye or even a Remus Repeal.

 

TL;DR: The Smoke Wagon is a winner. The Old Pepper is good but so is most older MGP.

 

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Sample Mountain Week 23: Michter's Legacy Series

Week 23 of sample mountain is Michter’s Legacy Series week. In addition to their Michter’s named lineup Michter’s also releases two whiskies named after the previous names of the distiller: Bomberger’s and Shenk’s.

Unlike the other weeks so far in the series I did not taste these together. I had tasted and written the notes for the Bomberger’s earlier this year and did the Shenk’s this week so they aren’t in the same photo. This isn’t the plan going forward but when I realized I had samples of both I decided I wanted to put the write ups together.

 

Shenk’s 2019

Age: NAS

Proof: 91.2

Neat

Nose: Simple and sweet with caramel, grain and faint spice notes.

Taste: Start with sweet caramel with a wood note that’s not quite oak and some spice toward the end. Decent but unremarkable mouthfeel.

Finish: Short to medium length finish with caramel and baking spice.

Buy a bottle? No - it was fine but nothing special

Bomberger’s Declaration 2019

Age: NAS years

Abv: 108

Neat

Nose: Rich and sweet with caramel, oak and faint spice notes along with something fruity I couldn’t place.

Taste: Big oak notes balanced by vanilla, caramel, cherry and baking spice. Viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length finish with more of the same especially the oak.

Buy a bottle? Yes - I’ll be trying to grab this year’s release

Conclusion

I really enjoyed the Bomberger’s it was like a better, higher proof version of Michter’s bourbon and it nails the classic KY bourbon profile. The Shenk’s was enjoyable but nothing special and I wouldn’t buy one.

TL;DR: The Bomberger’s nails the classic bourbon profile, the Shenk’s was a thinner, more boring take

Russell's Reserve 13 Year

I managed to snag a Russell’s Reserve 13 Year yesterday and immediately got a fellow Turkey fan to agree to come to a blind that evening. We pit this against Moonshine’s Cheesy Gold Russell’s Reserve pick, the Single Cask Nation Wild Turkey 10 Year and as a sort of wild card Russell’s 2003. After the Turkey blind I sat down to write some more detailed tasting notes.

 

Russell’s Reserve 13 Year

Age: 13 years

Proof: 114.8

Price: 75

Neat

Nose: Vanilla extract, oak, baking spice, and cherry notes with a very slight proof sting.

Taste: Vanilla cream, caramel, warm spice, rich oak and subtler cherry. Very nice, very viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Long balanced finish with lingering warm spice and sweet caramel.

Conclusion

This was amazing. Every note hit just right, the proof was present but in a good way, the sweet notes took the lead but didn’t overwhelm the spice and oak notes. If I had to nitpick the mouthfeel was only very nice and didn’t wow me like everything else did.

It reminded me a bit of the Master’s Keep 17 Year Bottled in Bond with the sweet and cherry notes but lack of proofing down and chill filtration elevated this above the 17 easily. It was more refined than the Single Cask Nation Wild Turkey 10 and had a much better nose though the brown sugar notes on the palate of the SCN are hard to beat. I gave this the edge in the blind but it was close.

This release was really impressive especially after the Russell’s 2003 let me down a little bit. I’m already hunting for a backup and won’t stop there. I hope we continue to see age stated, barrel proof, ncf releases from Wild Turkey because this was a winner.

 

TL;DR: Possibly my favorite modern Wild Turkey

4 Stars - Extraordinary whiskey: An all time favorite

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New Riff Taste Select Repeat 'Dad Life' Single Barrel

I recently got to go on a trip to do a few barrel picks with Taste Select Repeat and while the highlight of the trip was getting to pick one of the first 10 Elijah Craig Barrel Proof picks the first thing to arrive was our New Riff barrel! It’s a 4 year old pick from Floor 2 of their Central KY rickhouse that was aged in a Char 4 Kelvin Cooperage Char 4 barrel. I recently learned that New Riff uses both heavily and lightly charred barrels for their bourbons which does help explain how different their single barrels can be. When we tasted the sample kit the consensus tasting note was bacon so let’s see how it holds up now that it’s been bottled.

 

New Riff Taste Select Repeat ‘Dad Life’ Single Barrel

Age: 4 years 3 months 14 days

Proof: 105.8

Price: 62

Barrel: 17-0537

Mashbill 65/30/5 Corn/Rye/Malted Barley

Neat

Nose: Sweet and smoky BBQ, hints of rye and vanilla.

Taste: Smoke, meaty notes, sweet BBQ sauce, rye spice and subtler vanilla extract. Nice mouthfeel that is what I would expect from the proof.

Finish: Medium length with more sweet and smoky BBQ notes.

Conclusion

This was one of the smokier and meatier bourbons I’ve ever had. It almost reminds me of a peated scotch but much sweeter. It’s definitely got smoked meat vibes but tasting it by itself at home I am more on a sweet BBQ than a bacon. Otherwise this was a great barrel that was very different from the last New Riff pick I helped with (the og Diamond in the Riff). I’m glad I got a back up bottle.

 

TL;DR: The smokiest, most BBQ bourbon I’ve had

No score: I was part of the pick team

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Sample Mountain Week 22: Tri-state Proof Monsters

Week 22 of Sample Mountain is tri-state high proof week featuring a Jack Daniel’s Barrel Proof pick, Parker’s Heritage Blend of Mashbills and Garrison Brothers’ Cowboy Bourbon! I’m not usually the biggest fan of super high proof stuff so we’ll see if any of these can win me over and I might splash some water in there to be safe. I tasted these blind to rank them then wrote more detailed tasting notes.

 

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof “Sharedpour” pick

Age: NAS

Proof: 131

Neat

Nose: Banana, caramel and heat!

Taste: Less proof sting than the nose with more banana, lots of spice and a good amount of caramel. Very nice mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length, hot dry finish with oak and spice and a bit of dried banana.

Adding a splash of water tames the heat and brings out more of the spice and wood notes though the banana stays strong.

Buy a bottle? Yes if it was local or you can’t get it local, not worth it over a replacement pick

Parker’s Heritage Blend of Mashbills

Age: 11 years

Proof: 131.6 proof

Neat

Nose: Sweet and hot with butterscotch, cinnamon, nuts and ethanol.

Taste: Hotter and oakier than the nose with a good amount butterscotch and nuts (boozy cinnamon nut bar maybe?). Good mouthfeel but I preferred the JD

Finish: Long and hot with oak and cinnamon.

Water maybe helps? I kept adding it until it didn’t sting but it wasn’t any better than Larceny Barrel Proof by then.

Buy a bottle? No - there are many other Heaven Hill special releases I’d chase over this

Garrison Brother’s Cowboy Bourbon 2017

Age: 4.5 years

Proof: 137

Neat

Nose: I’m going to get weird here: Oak smoked cornbread with caramel and a lot of spice.

Taste: Ethanol, oak, corn and caramel. Very thick mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length hot finish with oak and caramel. Thankfully the youthful grain note is gone here.

Buy a bottle? No, there are better years of Cowboy if you really want Cowboy

Water helps a lot with the heat but not the youthful grain.

Conclusion

I’m not surprised that none of these wowed me but I am surprised the Jack came out on top. I definitely thought the Parker’s would win but the proof integration was a lot better on the JD and it took water better. Also I love making Old Fashioned with JD Barrel proof so I know I crush a bottle of that pick. The Parker’s was too intense for me but I can definitely see folks that love that kind of stuff thinking this bottle was a winner. Lastly, the home team came solidly in last. I’m no Garrison hater but I tend to think the Cowboy isn’t anything special and 2017 isn’t the best year imo (2019 was). Plus if I am buying Garrison it’s either a 6+ year old pick or Balmorhea.

Next week will definitely be back to lower proof!

 

TL;DR: The Jack was the winner!

 

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Parker's Heritage Orange Curacao Finish

I first had Paker’s Heritage Orange Curacao Finish at drink.well here in Austin and immediately enjoyed it. It was almost like a cocktail that was heavy on the bourbon and easy on the sugar which is very much to my taste. But by then it was too late to get a bottle from a store so I contented myself to slowly killing the bottle there. Of course COVID happened and this dram slipped my mind but when drink.well reopened my wife and I each had a pour to cap off the evening which reignited my desire to get a bottle. Fortuitously when I was in Kentucky for a barrel pick this April I was able to grab a bottle from the distillery gift shop.

s Heritage

 

Parker’s Heritage Orange Curacao Finish

Age: 7-8 years plus 4 months of finishing

Proof: 110

Neat

Nose: Strong notes of caramel and citrus with fainter oak. No proof sting.

Taste: Sticky and sweet with more caramel, creamsavers notes with some bitterness both from citrus and oak toward the end. Great mouthfeel and proof integration.

Finish: The orange fades leaving a medium length finish with vanilla, oak and warm spice notes.

Conclusion

This was like a unique, dry but still syrupy high proof citrus peel heavy old fashioned and I love it. I can certainly see why this isn’t for everyone and I do understand that the price seems high for something so cocktail-like but it works for me. This really nails the balance of having clear notes from the finish without overwhelming the bourbon and the orange curaco paired really well with the Heaven Hill notes.

I will definitely be trying to replace this bottle when it’s gone and I hope we see more finished releases from Heaven Hill in the future(not just toasted barrels please…)

 

TL;DR: The orange curaco finish probably isn’t for everyone but it was for me.

3 Stars - Excellent whiskey: I would be willing to hunt down a bottle

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Sample Mountain Week 21: Russell's Reserve

Week 21 of sample moutain is Russell’s Reserve week! Featuring a warehouse E pick(one of my favorite warehouses) and two picks that got a lot of social media attention down here in Texas. So let’s see ho this ‘random’ E sample stack up against the hype bottles. For my “would I buy this?” question this week I am comparing trying to get one of these picks vs just grabbing an arbitary Russell’s pick from a local big box store ie Total Wine.

 

J Squared Barrel #1

Warehouse: E

Floor: 4

Neat

Nose: Rich caramel, nuts, warm spices

Taste: Starts with more caramel and nuts(Cracker Jacks?) with spice and oak building toward the end. Great mouthfeel on par with what I’d expect from a Russell’s pick.

Finish: Long spicy finish.

Buy this bottle over a random big box Russell’s “pick”? Yes

PIE 314 ‘Raiders’

Warehouse: T

Floor: 6

Neat

Nose: Turkey funk, something sweet and fruity(jam? jelly?), warm spice and oak.

Taste: More classic Turkey with caramel, baking spice, funk and oak. Similar mouthfeel to the first one.

Finish: Medium length finish with a nice balance of caramel, oak and spice.

Buy this bottle over a random big box Russell’s “pick”? Yes

The OG’s The Green Jacket

Warehouse: F

Floor: 6

Neat

Nose: Subtler and oakier than the first two with rich oak, rye spice and fainter vanilla extract.

Taste: Rich oak, lightly salted caramel, vanilla, baking spice and more oak. Very nice mouthfeel, best of the bunch there.

Finish: Long with fading caramel and lingering spice.

Buy this bottle over a random big box Russell’s “pick”? Yes

Conclusion

The J2 pick was 🔥 and the only complaint I have was that the finish was a little one note and spicier than my preference. I really like the nutty notes that I am getting from some of these warehouse E picks. For me this was the winner but I can see some folks not wanting the Beam/Heaven Hill style notes cropping up in their Russell’s.

The PIE 314 pick had a really nice fruity note on the nose that reminded me of Four Roses. Otherwise it was a solid Russell’s pick and in line with what I want from Turkey.

The Green Jacket was good as well. It had a little bit of salinity which I usually don’t get from Turkey(I’m not sure it added much here though) and a really nice mouthfeel. The finish was long and well balanced. Is it the best Russell’s pick I’ve had? Definitely not. Was it about the mid point? Probably yes.

 

TL;DR: Warehouse E wins again for me but the Raider’s pick was a close second. The Green Jacket was solid too but I prefered the first two.

 

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Sixth Street Rye Whiskey ADLS Single Barrel

Dime Box Distillery out of Giddings, Texas has been releasing a lot of well aged MGP recently. I am pretty unclear on who they are or how they got all these barrels so I might head down there and see what’s up but in the meantime I’ll just drink them. One of my local groups, the Austin Dead Liver Society, picked this 9 year barrel. I was on the pick group but this barrel was my second choice. Let’s see how it holds up now that it’s bottled.

 

Sixth Street Rye Whiskey

Age: 9 years

Proof: 119

Price: 115

Neat

Nose: Sweet and spicy with vanilla frosting, rich oak and baking spice notes

Taste: Starts sweet with caramel and vanilla then spicier with baking and rye spice with some oak notes toward the end. Very viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Long dry finish with fading vanilla then all oak and baking spice/

Conclusion

Overall I am a fan of this rye and most of the older stuff Sixth Street has been putting out. Hopefully they have plenty of barrels and keep it up! That said, these picks are about the same quality as the 7 and 8 year MGP ryes coming out of Nashville Barrel Company.

On another note I am not a fan of these guitar shaped bottles. It’s harder to pour and doesn’t fit well on my shelves. It’s unclear if the guitar pick medallion can actually be used as a guitar pick.

 

No score - I was on the pick group

TL;DR: Another great MGP rye but didn’t stand out vs the various 7-8 year NBCs ryes I have

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Sample Mountain Week 20: Tater Single Barrels

I missed two weeks (18 and 19) and will be posting make up Sample Mountains but here we are in week 20 and I am finally going to try Weller Single Barrel! Also a Baby Saz pick. I’ve not had either of these before so I am pretty excited to see if the Weller SiB lives up to the hype and surprisingly high review scores I’ve seen for it!

 

Sazerac Rye Washington Spirit pick

Age: NAS

Proof: 90

Neat

Nose: Sweet and herbal with vanilla and herbal liqueur notes with subtler oak and rye spice.

Taste: Caramel and rye spice notes followed by herbal and oak notes. Nice mouthfeel for the proof

Finish: Short, clean finish with quickly fading caramel and herbs.

Buy a bottle? Yes at something near retail + shipping, not worth hunting/overpaying

Weller Single Barrel

Age: NAS

Proof: 97

Neat

Nose: Fainter than I expected with honey wheat bread and cinnamon notes.

Taste: Wheat bread and baking spice with subtler cinnamon, dark fruit and butterscotch.

Finish: Medium length with cherry syrup and faint cinnamon.

Buy a bottle? Maybe? I mean it’s a 🥔 so I’d pick it up at retail but it’s not worth it.

Conclusion

The Baby Saz pick was surprisingly nice. I haven’t had Baby Saz is a while so maybe it is better than I remember or this pick is just particularly good. Either way for a cheap low proof rye this is hard to beat. If I see a pick in the future I’ll definitely grab one.

These are all single barrels so maybe I just didn’t get one as good as some of the big review sites but I am shocked that folks gave this such positive reviews. Is it a unicorn? Definitely not. Is it a solid $50 bottle? Sure. Does it make sense in the Weller line up? Not to me. I’d drink Weller Full Proof over this all day. Still I was very happy to get a sample and cure the fomo!

 

TL;DR: The Baby Saz pick was surprisingly good. Weller SiB was enjoyable but I’d rather have Weller Full Proof, 107 or even Weller 12.

 

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Blood Oath Pact 7

I got vaccinated, went out of town, got a sinus infection and then started a new job so bourbon social media has taken a back seat but now I am back and can smell things again! I picked up Blood Oath Pact 7 a few days ago and I’ve had a few(small) pours so let’s see how it holds up.

 

Blood Oath Pact 7

Age: Blend of 8-14 years

Proof: 98.6 (human blood temperature)

Price: $130

Neat

Nose: Rich oak, sweet white grape jelly, caramel and subtle spice notes.

Taste: A rush of caramel and grape sweetness followed by oak, more caramel and warm spice. Good mouthfeel for the proof.

Finish: Long with fading sweet vanilla and fruit notes then lingering slightly dry oak and warm spice.

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

Conclusion

I am enjoying this bottle but the finished bourbon and rye market is getting more competitive and Blood Oath is just holding course. With things like Magnus Cigar Blend and Bardstown Bourbon Company Collaborations like Chateau de Laubade out doing Blood Oath on the high end and new releases from Thomas S Moore’s, Peerless and Nulu on the other end it it’s harder for me to justify the higher price, lower proof and lack of transparency from Blood Oath. If this was cheaper or it was higher proof and told us where the whiskies and finishing barrels were from it that would be a good step towards staying competitive in the finished bourbon market. This is the 4th time they have used a wine or wine distilled spirit finish and doesn’t offer much that Pacts 2, 3 and 6 don’t. If I had to choose between this bottle and a Bardstown collab I’d be grabbing the Bardstown or if I was price sensitive I’d be reaching for the Thomas S Moore instead. That said if you are a fan of the series, like I am, this one lives up to the bar set by those releases and when I compare it to some of the ‘shelfie’ finished bottles like Whistle Pig 12 year or the weird Barrell releases I am definitely picking the Blood Oath.

 

TL;DR: Another good release from Blood Oath but it’s starting to struggle with increasing competition in the finished bourbon market.

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