Tasting Notes: Doc Swinson's Exploratory Cask Releases 7-9

The folks from Doc Swinson’s generously sent me a sample kit with 3 of their new 15 year bourbon releases and their new rye. I couldn’t wait to crack into the bourbons and the rye was proofed down to 90 so I haven’t sampled it yet. I was a big fan of their previous 15 year Kentucky Straight Bourbon so I went into this with high hopes. Since I got these samples for free I won’t be assigning a score.

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Doc Swinson’s Exploratory Cask Series Tasting Notes

Release #7

Age: 15 years

Abv: 109.8 proof

Neat

Nose: Sweet and nutty with vanilla and caramel notes. Very slight spice.

Taste: Rich oak, sweet caramel, roasted nuts and warm baking spice. Slightly dry on the back of palate.

Finish: Long dry finish that combines strong oak and spice notes with subtler caramel.

Thoughts: This was a very classic bourbon profile. It reminds me a lot of the better Knob Creek 15 year picks out there but easier to drink without losing any flavor.

Release #8

Age: 15 years

Abv: 114.2 proof

Neat

Nose: Lots of oak with some vanilla in the background.

Taste: Earthier than batch 7 with more prominent spice notes as well. The sweet caramel is there but toned down.

Finish: Very long slightly hot finish with plenty of spice and oak.

Thoughts: The age and barrel notes come through a lot stronger on this batch. 7 was more to my taste but if you want something where you taste the age this batch does that! This dram also has one of the longest finishes I’ve had on a bourbon.

Release #9

Age: 15 years

Abv: 113.8 proof

Neat

Nose: Roasted nuts, baking spice and oak.

Taste: Starts sweet with a nice caramel note before the baking spice and oak kick in. Very viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium finish with fading baking spice and caramel.

Thoughts: This batch had the sweet to spicy flavor journey I enjoy and the palate was particularly good. The finish was a bit disappointing but that was possibly because the finish on the other two was fantastic.

 

TL;DR: Tasty samples, good bit of variance between releases. I think they are Beam now. 7 was my favorite of the bunch

Home Barrel Finishing

For part 28 of the finished whiskey series I’m finally tackling home finishing. I’ve got 5 different home finished options with 2 from me and 3 from other folks. For a bit of background my wife knows I am a fan of finished whiskies so she got me minibarrel last year so I could try my hand at it.

 

Grand Old Funk

What is it?: Old Granddad 114 finished in a mini barrel that previously held Rum Fire, an overproof white rum.

Neat

Nose: Funky Jamaican rum notes of banana and pineapple with ethanol and oak in the background.

Taste: Bitter oak, lots of funk, warm spices, faint nuts and vanilla.

Finish: Long oaky and funky.

Thoughts

The rum influence definitely makes the OGD114 more interesting and overall this is an improvement even if the added bitterness detracts a bit. I think this spent a little too long in the small barrel with the bitter oak notes on the palate. It’s definitely promising and another crack at it using either a more depleted mini barrel or a shorter finishing could be nice.

Belle Meade Reserve Rum Finish

What is it?: Belle Meade Cask Strength finished in a mini barrel that previously held whatever the cheapest overproof rum Spec’s had that week for 2 weeks.

Neat

Nose: A hint of ethanol then lots of oak with some caramel and vanilla.

Taste: Oak, caramel, warm spices and a sort of out of place banana note.

Finish: Medium length finish bananas and caramel.

Thoughts

This answered the question: what if I used a better base bourbon and cheaper rum but finished it for less time? Well it definitely made the Belle Meade worse. I can’t describe it particularly well but the rum and bourbon notes seemed to be clashing as opposed to being integrated with one another. I think it is marginally better than the Grand Old Funk but that was purely from the Belle Meade being better not from the barrel finish, which again made this bourbon worse.

Weller Special Reserve Boulevardier Finish

What is it?: Weller Special Reserve finished in a mini barrel that held rum, then Belle Meade, then two rounds of Bouldevardier cocktails made with 1792 Full Proof for 6 weeks.

Neat

Nose: Sweet, almost cloying but not quite, with red fruit, butterscotch, vanilla and cinnamon

Taste: Primarily a sort of muted caramel and oak with bits of red fruit and something bitter. Thin mouthfeel though.

Finish: Longer finish than I expected from WSR that pretty much tastes like a Boulevardier cocktail

Thoughts

I had a handle of WSR for some reason and after doing a couple barrel aged cocktails I decided to pour this in there and see what happened. I tasted it every couple days until it stopped improving and this was the result. Overall I am pretty happy with this iteration and I think depleting the oak in a minibarrel first is a good call. Overall I think this added some interesting notes to the WSR and is a nice substitute for an after dinner cocktail. That said it’s nothing special and I would certainly take a High West Double Rye Barrel Select over this any day.

XV Black Edition

What is it?: A super secret blend of Stagg Jr and a wheated bourbon finished in a French Oak mini barrel.

Neat

Nose: Rich oak and strong spice notes with something sweet I can’t place underneath

Taste: Lots of oak and lots of spice, definitely not Maker’s Mark notes and some cherry. Great mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length finish with more oak and spice as well as some of the same sweet notes from the nose.

Thoughts

Overall this was an enjoyable pour but much like the Belle Meade I would of rather had a glass of Stagg Jr. This also suffers from the oak domination that tends to occur with a new mini barrel.

XV Red Edition

What is it?: A super secret blend of Stagg Jr and a wheated bourbon finished in a cherry wood mini barrel.

Neat

Nose: Sweet and inviting with dark fruit and vanilla notes.

Taste: Cherry cola, warm spices, sweet caramel and vanilla cream. Great mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and sweet with cherry and caramel notes.

Thoughts

This was the best of the bunch for me. Perhaps a different kind of wood makes a big difference for mini barrel finishing?

Conclusion

That was an experience. Overall I think home finishing spirits is a hit or miss affair but can certainly be a fun thing to do with bottles you aren’t excited to drink. I’m not going to be finishing anything like Belle Meade Cask Strength again but I’ll definitely pour a random bottle that I didn’t care for in there and see what happens. The barrels do tend to get better as they get more use.

On the other hand barrel finishing cocktails at home has been awesome and will certainly stay the primary function of my mini barrel.

 

TL;DR: Mini barrel finishing is more fun than function for bourbon. It’s great for cocktails.

Jack Daniels Barrel Proof Maple Old Fashioned

Thanks to u/PucksNPlucks over on Reddit for suggesting this recipe. In a thread about Stagg Jr someone suggested using it to make an Old Fashioned to which u/PucksNPlucks suggested using Jack Daniel’s Barrel Proof. I have a 375ml bottle of the stuff that’s been chilling for a while as well as the other ingredients so it seemed like a good time to mix 1 or 2 up and try writing about a cocktail!

 

Jack Daniels Barrel Proof Maple Old Fashioned

Recipe

  • 2oz JD BP
  • 2 dashes Angostura Bitters
  • 3 dashes Orange bitters
  • 1 teaspoon dark maple syrup

On a rock

Nose: Strong banana and maple notes with subtler citrus

Taste: Bananas foster but with maple instead of caramel and some vanilla towards the end

Finish: Maple, citrus and vanilla ice cream

Conclusion

I quite liked this. Apart from the 2019 Heritage Barrel release I tend to only drinks JD when I’m in the mood for the banana notes but it was excellent in a cocktail. The high proof and strong base spirit
flavors really cut through the cocktail so that the bitters and maple syrup felt very much like they were adding to the flavor of the whiskey instead of masking it.

 

TL;DR: The strong banana notes in Jack Daniel’s Barrel Proof make for an excellent rendition of a classic cocktail.

Review #269: Stagg Jr Batch 12

Stagg Jr is the younger brother to the legendary George T Stagg and become increasingly hard to find. Batch 12 is particular got a lot of hype as potentially being better than the low proof GTs release that year. Personally I preferred the ‘19 GTS but Jr is no slouch so let’s get to the review.

 

Review #269: Stagg Jr Batch 12

Age: NAS

Abv: 132.3 proof

Price: $55

Neat - rested ~5 minutes

Nose: Bold with cherries and heat with baking spice and cola notes under the heat.

Taste: Big rye spice and caramel with cherries, vanilla, oak and a hint of citrus coming in as it goes. Excellent mouthfeel.

Finish: Long slightly dry finish with cherry syrup, holiday spice and lightly tannic oak notes.

Conclusion

The flavors are great here even it’s a little hot especially on the nose. I usually add a few drops of water to Stagg JR and honestly might prefer this out of a rocks glass to mellow the nose out a bit. Stagg Jr is still a got to for me on barrel proof bourbon and this batch was no exception. I am not in a hurry to grab another bottle of this specific batch but I’ll be keeping an eye out for a new one.

Also I am uncertain on the citrus note but there was something a little tart or maybe acidic toward the end and that was the closest thing I could come up with.

 

TL;DR: I love Stagg Jr and this was a great batch!

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

Great - A great deal, I’d buy it again

I also blinded this with ‘19 GTS and ‘19 EHT BP on Instagram.

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Reviews #267-268: Single Cask Nation Whistle Pigs

For part 27 of the finished whiskey series we are taking a look at the new Single Cask Nation Whistle Pig bottles! Single Cask Nation has had some legendary releases over the years so when they announced they were releasing not one, but two, MGP sourced Whistle Pigs and that they would both have sweet finishes I knew I needed to include at least one of them in this series. Thankfully I got lucky in their raffle and was able to get both bottles.

 

SCN Whistle Pig Tokaji Finish

Age: 12 years

Abv: 115.4 proof

Price: $

Neat

Nose: Rich oak, rye spice, strong herbs and a little sweet vanilla.

Taste: Warm baking and rye spices are well balanced with oak and sweet herbal notes. Oily mouthfeel that coats your tongue.

Finish: Long and lingering with herbal notes including a hint of MGP dill and more oak.

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

SCN Whistle Pig Rum and Vermouth Cask Finish

Age: 12 years

Abv: 100 proof

Price: $

Neat

Nose: Sweet red fruit, herbs and rye spice.

Taste: Sweet fruit and wine notes followed by an herbal medley with a bit of oak and spice toward the end. Excellent, viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Very long finish with red fruit fading to oak, herbs and rye spice.

10 - an all time favorite, must buy/hunt

Conclusion

The Rum and Vermouth finished bottle is right up there with the High West Rendezvous Rye Barrel Select finished in Port Casks for 4 years and 7 months for my favorite rye whiskey of all time. It has everything I like about an MGP rye perfectly balanced by everything I like about a sweet finish. The herbal notes aren’t on the dill end, the sweetness is just right, the rich fruits are delicious and there is enough spice and oak to lend complexity without it being too spicy or dry. The Tokaji finish was very much an MGP rye whiskey and the barrel finish had a lot less influence for me. That said it did lend a little extra sweetness is pleasant way.

Overall I am super happy with these releases and I wish I could have gotten a backup on the Rum and Vermouth. Shipping was a slow, as is tradition with SCN, but I really wanted to include these in this series as it approaches its end.

I also tasted these blind on Instagram.

 

TL;DR: Great bottle, the rum and vermouth is an all time favorite rye

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Reviews #264-266: SMWS Global Gathering 2020

The Scotch Malt Whiskey Society moved their Global Gather to a virtual event this year and sold the bottles that would have been released there online instead. That worked for me and I went ahead and grabbed all 3. I’m a fan of most IB Longmorn and Highland Park bottlings I’ve had and I’d never had an IB Clynelish before so I was curious.

 

Reviews #264-266 SMWS Global Gathering 2020

SMWS Cask 7.244 Abracadabra

Distillery: Longmorn

Age: 15 years

Abv: 118.8 proof

Neat

Nose: The PX influence is very clear with sticky sweet dark fruit and a little spice.

Taste: Butterscotch, dark cherries, holiday spices, nutty notes toward the end. Very viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and lingering with warm spice and sticky sweet notes. Almost like a figgy pudding.

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

SMWS Cask 26.144 Herbal Reveries

Distillery: Clynelish

Age: 16 years

Abv: 108.6 proof

Neat

Nose: Vanilla, baking spices, malt

Taste: Honey then clove then spices. A bit of ethanol burn despite the reasonable proof.

Finish: Long and hot with black pepper and cinnamon notes.

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

SMWS Cask 4.255 When Pineapple Met Pigeon

Distillery: Highland Park

Age: 17 years

Abv: 113.6 proof

Neat

Nose: Charred oak, slight brine, something almost cloyingly sweet cotton candy maybe?

Taste: Smoke, oak, caramel, warm spices and a bit of funky rum notes. Great mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and lingering with smoke and oak notes balanced by sweet vanilla and caramel.

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

Conclusion

Overall I enjoyed all 3 of these though the Clynelish was easily the most mundane of the bunch. The PX Longmorn was delicious and would be a great dessert dram while the Highland Park was also tasty and very unique, at least for my experiences with that distillery. The PX Longmorn was the definite highlight for me.

As far the the SMWS tasting notes go I can see where they were coming from on the Herbal Reveries and the Abracadabra but the only thing I got in common with them on the When Pineapple Met Pigeon was the smoke!

Overall while I enjoyed these I was hoping for a bit more from a sort of special release by SMWS at the price point of $450 for all 3. Some of that is certainly the tariffs’ fault and while I am aware that SMWS has made some tradeoffs on quality for quantity I was hoping this release would hold a higher bar.

 

TL;DR: The Longmorn and Highland Park were great and had something unique about them compared to OB offerings. The Clynelish not so much. All 3 were good whiskies and I’ll certainly enjoy them

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Review #263: Willett Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Bourbon 'Highway Kind'

In the last few years Willett has moved from primarily sourcing whiskey to mostly bottling their own distillate. This has a naturally led to folks bemoaning the loss of the older sourced whiskies and to others becoming fans of the new releases despite their high price points. I definitely fall into the latter category especially when it comes to the wheated bourbons and ryes.

 

Review #263: Willett Family Estate Bottled Single Barrel Bourbon ‘Highway Kind’

Age: 6 years

Abv: 117.2 proof

Price: $130

Neat

Nose: Sweet with brown sugar and dark fruit notes with hints of spice.

Taste: Four Roses style sweet dark fruit notes with brown sugar, warm spices and a bit of oak. Great mouthfeel.

Finish: Long but sort of softer finish with a lingering sweetness.

Conclusion

That was fantastic. It fell just short of a perfect score for me and I think and 8-10 year old version that had a little more complexity especially on the finish would put it over the top. I’ve blinded this against other wheated Willetts) and other tater wheaters) multiple times and it always come out on top for me. The dark fruit and brown sugar notes are some of my favorite in the bourbon world though so it’s not surprising I’m a fan here.

Overall the ~$20 a year is a little tough on the price point front but for me this one was worth it and I’m very glad I bought 2.

 

TL;DR: I’m a fan of these wheaters from Willett and this is the best one I’ve had

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

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

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RTD Cocktail Review #1: Whistle Pig Ginger Fashioned

I recently received a bottle of Whistle Pig’s Barrel Aged Ginger Old Fashioned. This is a 70 proof ready to drink cocktail made with Whistle Pig Piggyback Rye, their Runamok maple syrup and infused with raw ginger. In my experience these premixed cocktails have a lot of variance and are often too sweet for me so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. I drank it over my last @realsonaice ice sphere.

 

RTD Cocktail Review #1: Whistle Pig Ginger Fashioned

Abv: 70 proof

Price: Received for free

Neat

Nose: Herbal and ginger notes with a faint sweetness

Taste: Rich maple, herbs, present but not overwhelming ginger, subtle spices

Finish: Medium length with sweet maple and ginger notes

Conclusion

The nose was not nearly as sweet as I feared instead having a nice balance of herbal and ginger notes with fainter maple sweetness. The taste starts with rich maple, more herbs and a present but not overwhelming ginger. The finish was medium length with sweet maple and ginger notes.

Overall I was very pleasantly surprised by this cocktail. I think the ginger and real maple syrup go a long way in making it taste great without making it too sweet. If I was hosting and didn’t want to make all the cocktails by hand I’d definitely grab a bottle of this to help out.

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

 

TL;DR: Well balanced, the maple and ginger compliment the herbal notes from the rye

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Reviews #261-262: High West American Prairie Bourbon Barrel Select NASA and Distillery

For part 26 of the finished whiskey series we are back in Utah with High West tasting two of their American Prairie Bourbon Barrel Selects. This first is from NASA Liquor in Houston and is finished in a Madeira cask and the second is from the distillery and is finished in Muscat. I’m not a huge fan of American Prairie Bourbon but I’m hoping a good barrel select will overcome the weaker base spirit.

High West American Prairie Bourbon Barrel Select NASA Liquor

Age: NAS finished for 1 year

Abv: 99.4 proof

Price: $45.99

Barrel: #9613

Finish: Madeira

Neat

Nose: Rich red fruits, oak, warm spice, floral honey

Taste: Syrupy mouthfeel with strong caramel and cherry notes

Finish: Long sweet and warm finish as caramel and cherry give way to baking spices and oak

8 - an excellent bottle I’ll buy from time to time

Great - A great deal, I’d buy it again

High West American Prairie Bourbon Barrel Select Distillery

Age: NAS finished for 1 year 2 months

Abv: 100.8 proof

Price: $49.99

Barrel: #12852

Finish: Muscat

Neat

Nose: Chocolate, mineral notes, white sugar, faint fruit.

Taste: Vanilla icing, minerality, chocolate, faint oak. Decent mouthfeel.

Finish: Short to medium finish with lingering mineral and vaguely sweet notes

3 - Better than not drinking whiskey but just barely

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

Conclusion

With a lot of these High West Barrel Selects I don’t feel like I need to track down another one but I definitely want to try the next one. The NASA pick fell neatly into that category. On the other hand the distillery bottle is the worst High West Barrel Select I’ve tasted. We know High West started blending Dickel into APB a few years back and some folks, my self included, suspect the ratio is only going up. This bottle tasted like younger Dickel finished in Muscat which didn’t do it any favors. Well I guess I didn’t try the unfinished version but I doubt this helped.

Overall I think sticking with the ryes from High West is the way to go. I’ve tasted through a number of their barrel selects now and none of the ryes disappointed were the bourbons were very hit of miss.

TL;DR: NASA pick was great, the distillery one was very Dickely

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Reviews #258-260: Old Fitz 13, 15 and 16 year

I’ve had a sample of Old Fitz 16 year sitting in an empty Blood Oath Pact 3 box on my desk for some time now so it’s time for a review. I’d also been wanting to review the 13 and 15 year for at least as long so here we are with a triple Old Fitz decanter tasting. I tasted these blind, the video is on Instagram, and then sat down to write more detailed tasting notes.

 

Reviews #258-260: Old Fitzgerald 13, 15 and 16

Old Fitzgerald 13

Age: 13 years

Abv: 100 proof

Neat

Nose: Soft nose with peanut butter, oak and vanilla frosting

Taste: Creamy peanut butter, vanilla, rich oak, faint spice especially toward the end.

Finish: Long warm finish with slightly dry oak and spices with a touch of sweetness for balance.

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

Old Fitzgerald 15

Age: 15 years

Abv: 100 proof

Neat

Nose: Rich oak, peanut, vanilla.

Taste: Peanut brittle, caramel, slightly bitter oak.

Finish:

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

Old Fitzgerald 16

Age: 16 years

Abv: 100 proof

Neat

Nose: Vanilla, peanut brittle, rich oak, faint spice.

Taste: Rich oak, butterscotch, fainter nuttiness.

Finish: Long dry finish with oak and a quickly fading sweetness.

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

Conclusion

I’ve really enjoyed all of these Old Fitz decanters. The 11 and now the 16 were a bit of a step down from the others but not too much. I really enjoy the sweet, nutty and oaky combination. I can only hope we will one day get Larceny BP that is close to the age of these decanters once the Old Fitz BiB run is done. I’m definitely going to need another one as my 13 is getting perilously low.

 

TL;DR: The 13 and 15 are awesome, the 16 is very good but a step down for me

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