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

Scale

 

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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

Scale

 

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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.

Scale

 

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Sample Mountain Week 17: Rare Turkey

Week 17 of Sample Mountain is rare Turkey week featuring a 1996 101, the legendary Russell’s Reserve 2002 and Master’s Keep Revival. I’ve had the Russell’s and Revival before as bar pours at Moonshine but this will be my first taste of ‘96 101.

 

Wild Turkey 101 1996

Age: NAS

Proof: 101

Neat

Nose: Sweet with heavy caramel notes backed by vanilla and faint spice.

Taste: Caramel, salted nuts, faintly perfumey floral notes and hints of spice and oak. Enjoyable but unremarkable mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length, slightly dry finish with a fading salted caramel and lingering oak.

Buy a bottle? No - dusty Turkey is too crazy

Russell’s Reserve 2002

Age: 15 year

Proof: 114.6

Neat

Nose: Caramel, leather, dark cherry and baking spice with subtler vanilla and oak.

Taste: More caramel and leather, more oak and spice than on the nose. Great proof integration bu unremarkable mouthfeel.

Finish: Long, slightly bitter, dry and oaky with some vanilla extract balancing the oak.

Buy a bottle? Anywhere near retail buy, pass at secondary

Wild Turkey Revival

Age: NAS

Proof: 101

Neat

Nose: Dark fruit and heavy oak notes dominate. Simple but nice.

Taste: Dark fruit and vanilla give way to bitter oak. Oddly thin mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium to long with lingering dried fruit, baking spice and too much bitter oak.

Buy a bottle? No - glad I passed on this back when it dropped

Conclusion

Honestly I didn’t love any of these samples. The Russell’s 2002 is very good and almost there but the finish just isn’t quite right for me and I was hoping for a little more given the price and scarcity. If I am going to chase down a big Turkey bottle I’d rather go after a SCN bottling or just grab a hyped Russell’s Reserve pick. The ‘96 101 is better than the modern stuff but not by enough to justify the wild markup on dusty Turkey. As for the Revival I tend to enjoy finished bourbon but this one was a miss for me with too much bitterness and not enough classic bourbon notes. Decades still reigns as my favorite Master’s Keep release.

 

TL;DR: The ‘96 101 and RR2002 were tasty but these are all going to be a pass from me

 

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Four Roses Single Barrel

In the precovid times one of the last non work trips I went on was to Charleston South Carolina where I picked up a Four Roses I hadn’t seen before: a pick that wasn’t barrel strength. I’ve been meaning to blind it against an off the shelf Four Roses Single Barrel for quite some time and today is the day! I tasted these blind and then sat down to write more detailed tasting notes.

 

Four Roses Single Barrel

Age: NAS on the bottle (7-9 years according to their website)

Proof: 100

Price: $43

Barrel: 69-1O

Neat

Nose: Dried fruit, rich oak and a strong vanilla note.

Taste: Simple but enjoyable with caramel, fruit and warm spice notes. Pleasant but unremarkable mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length finish with fading dried fruit and lingering oak, spice and vanilla notes.

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

Four Roses Single Barrel South Carolina

Age: 7 years 4 months

Proof: 100

Price: $40-50 range

Barrel: 19-6R

Neat

Nose: More spice and more oak than the non-pick with the same dried fruit but less vanilla.

Taste: Fruitcake with dried fruit and holiday spice alongside a nice oak note. Couldn’t really tell a difference in mouthfeel from the non pick.

Finish: Shorter, cleaner finish than the non pick with fading fruit and vanilla and bit of spice.

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

Conclusion

I think Four Roses Single Barrel is an good whiskey and better than most shelf offerings at that price point but it’s not something I am regularly going to pick up a bottle of anymore, especially with the Small Batch Select being readily available here and my deep bench of their barrel strength picks. The South Carolina pick was a little better but not enough to bump it up, especially since the finish was a step back. I’d probably grab a different Single Barrel pick if I came across one but wouldn’t go out of my way to find one and don’t feel like I needed a back up here.

 

TL;DR: The pick was slightly better, both great shelf bottles but not worth hunting/hoarding

Scale

 

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Sample Mountain Week 16: Bygone Ryes

Week 16 of Sample Mountain is bygone ryes week featuring 3 ryes that they don’t make like they used to anymore. First up is 2012 Michter’s 10 Rye, then High West A Mid Winter Night’s Dram Act 1 and wrapping up with Smooth Ambler Old Scout 12 Year.

 

Michter’s 10 Rye 2012

Age: 10 years

Proof: 92.8

Barrel No: 2337

Neat

Nose: Rich and dark with oak, leather, herbs, vanilla and warm spice. No proof sting.

Taste: Surprisingly sweet with more oak and vanilla cream, leather, chocolate, warm spice and caramel. Excellent mouthfeel for the proof.

Finish: Very long slightly hot finish with linger oak, spice and caramel.

Better than the modern stuff? Yes - I hope I didn’t ruin my taste for modern M10 Rye

Worth tracking down? Please no, I don’t want to go on an old Michter’s rabbit hole…

A Midwinter Night’s Dram Act 1 Scene 1021

Age: A blend of 6 and 16 year

Proof: 98.6

Neat

Nose: Not as much port influence as the new ones but inviting with rich herbal and spicy notes back by subtler oak and red fruit.

Taste: Warm and sweet with holiday spice and herbal notes balanced by sweet fruit. Very pleasant mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and sweet with dark fruit, vanilla and warm spice.

Better than the modern stuff? Maybe? It’s different and I like the modern MWND quite a bit. This was great though.

Worth tracking down? No - these are super rare, super pricey and not worth it.

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 12 Year Rye

Age: 12 years

Proof: 110.4 proof

Barrel No: 15334

Neat

Nose: Tobacco, baking spice, caramel and faint herbal notes.

Taste: Rich oak, leather, caramel, baking spices and herbal notes(including a bit of dill) toward the end. Excellent, viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and warm with lingering oak, caramel and warm spice.

Better than the modern stuff? Yes, definitely.

Worth tracking down? Maybe, this was amazing but they are single barrels so finding this specific one would be hard and expensive.

Conclusion

The Michter’s and SAOS were unquestionably better for me than their modern counter parts. The new M10 ryes are great but they don’t stack up to this bottle. It seems a little unfair to compare a 12 year MGP to a 4 year in the case of the SAOS 🤷‍♂️ When I compared it to modern well aged ryes like Kentucky Owl, Redemption 18 or Rocky Mountain Rye I am not as impressed. I saved half the sample for a blind with some modern ryes to see how it stacks up. The MWND the older one is different the carries a lot more of the old Barton rye profile than modern MWND. That said I really like the heavy port influence on the modern ones, especially Act 6, so this older one wasn’t better for me though it was quite good and I can understand why folks who really loved the early Acts were disappointed with the more recent releases.

In general I try not to go too deep on older releases but that M10 rye is a tempting rabbit hole.

 

TL;DR: These old ryes were great especially the SAOS and M10.

 

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Sample Mountain Week 15: Four Roses O

Week 15 of Sample Mountain is Four Roses O week with 3 samples of O yeast strain recipes 2 OESO and 1 OBSO. Unfortunately on one of the samples I wasn’t able to find out where it was from or what the proof was. Going in I expect to like all of these as I tend to be a Four Roses fan and particularly like the O yeast.

 

Mystery OESO

Age: 13 years 10 months

Proof: ??

Neat

Nose: Bright and fruity with cherry and plum notes backed by sweet vanilla cream and subtler oak.

Taste: Fruit and spice notes at the front followed by vanilla and oak. Like a fruit cake with some tannic red wine splashed in. Pleasant but unremarkable mouthfeel.

Finish: Long dry finish with prominent oak and subtler vanilla extract and warm spice notes.

Buy a bottle? Yes at the ~90-150 Four Roses picks can go for from shops, No at the insane secondary.

Bourbon Street OESO

Age: 10 years 11 months

Proof: 105

Neat

Nose: Darker fruit notes than the first one with a richer caramel sweetness.

Taste: Floral and fruity with sticky caramel and warm spice notes. Thick, luscious mouthfeel.

Finish: Big, warm finish with spice, oak and fruit leather notes.

Buy a bottle? Yes and more open minded on the price than the first one.

East Bay Members OBSO

Age: 9 years

Proof: 110 proof

Neat

Nose: Similar to the Bourbon Street but with more vanilla than caramel.

Taste: Rich oak, dark fruit, warm spice and sweet vanilla. Very nice mouthfeel that coats the tongue and roof of my mouth.

Finish: Long and slightly dry with dried fruit and oak notes.

Buy a bottle? Yes and OBSO secondary is more reasonable than OESO AFAIK

Conclusion

From the nose the 13 year seemed a lot younger than it was but the age (and oak) showed up big for the finish. I had a lot of hype for the 13 year age but I actually preferred the other two.

With its floral notes the Bourbon Street pick was almost like a cross of an O and a Q which was fantastic. It was my favorite of the bunch.

The East Bay OBSO was also great but didn’t stand out quite as much as the Bourbon Street pick. Based on my previous experience tasting through all 10 recipes I had thought the OBSO would win, it was the youngest of the 3 though so that may have hurt it.

At or near retail prices Four Roses picks are pretty much an auto buy for me so no surprises here. I do like to keep one of each recipe open so if I needed to track down a backup OBSO that East Bay Members would be a good one.

 

TL;DR: Bourbon Street OESO was the champ. No losers here. Buy at retail, secondary on OESO is crazy

 

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