Review #133: Woodford Reserve Wheat Whiskey

Woodford Reserve recently released a four grain wheat whiskey which sounded pretty interesting as I haven’t tried a lot of wheat whiskies or four grain whiskies. As expected for Woodford this is NAS straight whiskey clocking in at their traditional 90.4 proof. Woodford Reserve tends to release solid products, they have been releasing a lot of nontraditional offerings over the last couple years and I have yet to review any of their whiskey so I’ll also be using this a jumping off point to do a small series on Woodford Reserve.

Woodford Reserve Wheat Whiskey

Age: NAS

Abv: 90.4 proof

Mashbill: 52% wheat, 20% malt, 20% corn and 8% rye

Price: $32.99

Neat

Nose: Sweet with butterscotch, apple and vanilla notes backed by some young grain, earthy notes and faint oak

Taste: Sweet but a little thin with apples, brown sugar, vanilla, more of the grain and earthy notes from the nose

Finish: Surprisingly long finish with apples, brown sugar, warm spice and faint oak

Conclusion

First off I really enjoyed the sweet brown sugar and fruity apple notes but overall this was a little too thin and had too many young grain notes for me to love it. I definitely think a more aged, higher proof version of this has the potential to be delicious. I’m chalking this up as another wheat whiskey alongside Bernheim that makes me want to find a truly great one in the category. Next up is going to be another nontraditional mashbill offering from Woodford Reserve with their Oat Grain Bourbon.

TL;DR: Sweet, fruity, a little thin. Decent change up whiskey for the price.

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

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

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Austin Bourbon Hunters Garrison Brothers Single Barrel Picks

Austin Bourbon Hunters and Oak Liquor Cabinet partnered to head out to Garrison Brothers Distillery and do 2 barrel picks. We assembled 10 folks who appreciate Texas bourbon, rallied 4 SOs/DDs and headed out to Hye Texas to drink, sweat, do some manual labor and hopefully bring home something great.

The Distillery

After a little over an hour drive out to the distillery we were greeted with a huge collection of Glencairn glasses and plenty of water. We to checkout a barn full of barrels, one of their rickhouses, the stills and their infamous hotboxes(shipping containers that I forgot to take a photo of). We got to the see barrels that had been selected to make the 2019 Balmorhea but no matter how much we pleaded they wouldn’t let us taste them.

First Pick - Barrel Proof

For our first pick we wanted to pick a 15 gallon barrel to bottle at barrel proof. So we got to work drilling barrels and tasting away. The barrels in the barn were between 2.5 and 3.5 years old and many had already been tasted. We didn’t want any sloppy seconds so we started off by tasting virgin 2.5, 3 and 3.5 year old barrels. The group was largely split between the first pick: a bold, brash and very flavorful 2.5 year old barrel and the second: a very smooth, sweet butterscotchy 3.5 year old barrel. I, of course, was a fan of the sweeter barrel especially since Garrison Brothers uses a wheated mashbill. We went ahead and pulled another 3.5 year old and another 2.5 year old barrel.

With such a large group we needed to have a system for picking the barrel so we took a page from the top tier pickers at Moonshine and had everyone pick their top two barrels. Only one barrel was in everyone’s top two which made it an easy call so we picked the 2nd 3.5 year old barrel which wasn’t quite as sweet as the 2nd barrel but had a lot more going on and much thicker mouthfeel. After picking the barrel we checked the proof and it clocked in at a solid 121.8 proof.

Second Pick - 94 Proof Single Barrel

We headed down to a bigger warehouse where they kept the 30 gallon barrels to pick our single barrel which would be proofed down to 94 proof. We only tasted 3 barrels down there and the group unanimously picked the 3rd barrel. It was a 5 year old barrel that was very complex with a very long finish.

Lunch

After finishing the picks we took a break to eat lunch and drink some water. Garrison Brothers has a chef onsite who smoked up some beef and chicken for a fajita bar. It was nice break before jumping into some manual labor.

Bottling

While we were eating they brought our 30 gallon barrel up but we got over to the bottling facility in time to see them bring in the the 15 gallon barrel. We got to watch them dump the barrel and then got to work bottling it, but I had time to sneak in a quick selfie. I ran the actual bottling station while some friends corked, labeled and dipped the bottles in wax. The end result was pretty awesome and we all had an awesome time. The bottle should hit the shop in 3-4 weeks and I’ll be sure to post tasting notes then.

The Other Group

We were also joined by another group the Probst Guild out of Pflugerville. They picked a super crazy barrel that only yielded ~2.5 bottles and was basically opaque and black. I did get to taste a little bit and it was very unique and still pretty much pitch black

Review #132: Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond 11 Year

After loving the Old Fitzgerald 9 Year I decided I wanted to track down the previous release, the 11 year. At that point the sip had sailed on finding it at retail and I’m not much of one for secondary so trading for it seemed like the best option. While I was in the UK I bought 3 bottles of Blanton’s Gold and this seemed like a good use for one of them (as of this writing 1 is 2/3 empty and one is waiting to be cracked). I’d read that the 11 year released was over oaked and not as good as the 9 but I tend to have more of a palate for sweet and oaky so I was still optimistic.

Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond 11 Year

Age: 11 years

Abv: 100 proof

Price: ~$120 (Traded a Blanton’s Gold I brought back from the UK)

Neat

Nose: Honey, vanilla, butterscotch and oak notes with some faint nuttiness

Taste: Butter scotch, peanut brittle, slightly bitter oak and vanilla notes with a thick and smooth mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length very oaky finish that is slightly bitter but has some warm butterscotch to balance it.

Conclusion

This was sweet, nutty and oaky which was great for me though that bitter note was a bit disappointing. I still really enjoyed this bottle and had no trouble killing it but it definitely wasn’t a great value and was just enough less impressive and more expensive to downgrade the value rating. That said I am still happy with the trade and still a fan of these releases and will continue trying to get a bottle of each release though I won’t be overpaying like I did for the 9 year again.

TL;DR: Not as impressive as the 9 year, still good, more expensive

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

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

If you want to spoil the review for the upcoming review for the Old Fitz 13 year, I posted a blind tasting of the 9, 11, 13 and 14 year expressions on Instagram.

I’m also going to hang onto the decanter to use for some Poor Man’s Pappy now that I’ve secured the ingredients.

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Review #131: Cream of Kentucky Batch 2

When Jim Rutledge left Four Roses to start his own distillery he kicked things off by sourcing some 11.5 year old barrels from Barton and resurrected the Cream of Kentucky brand. As a fan of 4 Roses, Barton and dick jokes I was excited. Unfortunately it wasn’t going to be distributed in Texas and had a somewhat prohibitive price point so I missed out on batch 1. Thankfully a fellow Austin Bourbon hunter is from Maryland and batch 2 of CoK didn’t exactly fly off the shelves there so he was willing to mule a few bottles back to trade. I’m always looking to trade up as I tend to have more of a shopping problem than a drinking problem.

Cream of Kentucky

Age: 11.5 years

Abv: 102 proof

Price: ~$130(Traded a Blanton’s and ECPB that were both purchased at retail)

Neat

Nose: Sweet, fruity and oaky with vanilla, caramel, banana rich oak and subtle spice notes.

Taste: More of the same from the nose with caramel and oak coming to the front and the banana taking a backseat. Decent mouthfeel but what I would expect for the proof.

Finish: Medium length and starts with a little vanilla and banana that fade to rye spice and oak.

Conclusion

This was like a good 1792 FP pick that was watered down a bit and marked way up with a little extra oak. If it wasn’t for the price I’d be interested in grabbing the next batch though I am still open minded about future offerings from Rutledge. I wrote up the tasting notes before having some folks over this weekend just in case people loved the CoK and killed the bottle but my fears were very unfounded

I’ll be doing a blind tasting video of this vs a couple of 1792 offerings on Instagram sometime soonish to verify my assertion about this bottle.

TL;DR: Good juice, too high a price, look for a good 1792 pick instead

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

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

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

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

Review #130: Wild Turkey Kentucky Legend

For a brief, glorious moment in the late 90s, well before my bourbon days, Wild Turkey released a single barrel, cask strength offering called Kentucky Legend. Nick named ‘Donut’ due to its unique bottle shape, Kentucky Legend truly lived up to its name is highly sought after by dusty Turkey fans. I had the good fortune of getting to try the Legend and take home a small sample to write this review thanks to a legendary Austin bourbon hunter. Let’s see how this lives up to the hype!

Wild Turkey Kentucky Legend

Age: NAS

Abv: 115.8 proof

Neat

Nose: Very rich and complex with caramel, leather, pipe tobacco, warm baking spices and faint floral notes

Taste: First off this had an amazing mouthfeel! It was thick and creamy with caramel and vanilla notes backed by warm baking spices, rich oak and that same faint floral note from the nose

Finish: Long and warm, bordering on hot, with more baking spices, cinnamon and rick oak with a bit of caramel

Conclusion

This was fantastic whiskey that blended a lot of the notes from dusty Turkey with the modern notes that I am more familiar with. I definitely preferred it to the sample of 1997 Wild Turkey 12 year that I tried. It had some similar floral and dusty leather notes but they were subtler and added complexity instead of making the whole thing taste like a perfumed couch. The only thing holding it back from a perfect 10 for me was that this finish was a little too hot even with a couple drops of water. I didn’t have enough to experiment with watering it down to 100-110 proof to see if it got it there.

I am very sad that I couldn’t side by side this with my reigning Turkey King, Moonshine RR CGF, and disappointed that I missed out on the Single Cask Nation Wild Turkey bottles.

This bottle lived up to the name and the hype though I doubt I will ever own a bottle.

TL;DR: Truly a legend, but the heat on finish was a touch much for me

9 - a favorite I’d like to keep on my shelf

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Review #129: W.B. Saffell

W.B. Saffell is the third release in Campari’s The Whiskey Baron’s series and as far as I can tell the first one that Eddie Russel was involved it. The first two releases, Old Ripy and Bond and Lillard were not big hits but this was one supposed to be different plus it was NCF, 107 proof and contained 12 year old Wild Turkey so I had to grab one, also it had a turkey on the label so that was cool.

W.B. Saffell

Age: Blend of 6, 8, 10 and 12 year

Abv: 107 proof

Color: Deep gold

Price: $40.99 for a 375ml

Neat

Nose: Spicy with oak and rich caramel notes with some faint vanilla

Taste: Warm baking and holiday spices, rich caramel and clear, but not bitter, oak notes. A very nice mouthfeel.

Finish: Long with baking and rye spices throughout balanced by sweet vanilla and more subtle oak.

Conclusion

This is very clearly Wild Turkey but also very good Turkey. I’d say it’s almost on par with Master’s Keep Decades but more on the spicy side of the Turkey profile. I really enjoyed that it had a lot of flavorful spice but wasn’t hot. I usually don’t love overly spicy whiskey but this bottle nailed it.

I probably won’t pick up another bottle of this one but I’ll definitely grab the next release in this collection assuming it also has decent specs.

On a side node this was a lot better than the last blend of 6-12 year old bourbon with a fancy label, bird and high price tag so it had that going for it.

TL;DR: Very good spicy turkey bourbon, a little pricey, glad it came in a 375

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

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

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Reviews #127-128: Knob Creek Rye and 2018 Cask Strength Rye

For the third and final entry in the Knob Creek series I’ll be tasting two of their rye options: the standard 100 proof Rye and the 2018 Knob Creek Cask Strength Rye, which was one of the Whiskey Advocate Top 20 for 2018 which I am vaguely trying to taste and review all of this year. To set expectations I traditionally haven’t been a fan of Knob Creek ryes and am definitely more of a bourbon guy overall.

Knob Creek Straight Rye Whiskey

Age: NAS

Abv: 100 proof

Color: Light amber

Price: $24.99

Neat

Nose: Slightly harsh with bold spices and herbal notes backed by a little bit of cherry

Taste: Spicy but balanced with some vanilla and a little oak. Nice mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length with rye spice and a touch of oak.

Knob Creek 2018 Limited Edition Cask Strength Rye

Age: NAS (barreled in 2009 so 8-9 years old)

Abv: 119.6 proof

Color: Dark amber

Price: $74.99

Other: Warehouse A

Neat

Nose: Sweet, especially for a rye, with honey and rye spice backed by faint herbal notes

Taste: Spicy, herbal and hot with rye spice, pepper and dill. Not nearly as balanced as the nose. Very nice and viscous mouthfeel though.

Finish: Long, hot and herbal with rye spice and dill notes.

Conclusion

The regular KC rye is fine, a little hot and a bit on the spicy but also had some good characteristics with the herbal notes and the mouthfeel. In a world with the great and cheaper Old Forester Rye and the power house Willet 4 Year for something nicer I can’t see myself buying this bottle again.

The 2018 Limited Edition Cask Strength Rye was way too hot and the dill note wasn’t for me. The nose and mouthfeel were great though. A little ice helped the heat but the spicy and dill notes were still a turnoff for me. Oddly the LE doesn’t say straight rye whiskey on the bottle. I’m not sure what’s up with that. I’m glad I was able to trade the rest of this away for a Barrell store pick instead from a fellow bourbon drinker who didn’t care for the Dickel notes in the Barrell. I’m really surprised that this was picked as one of the best ryes of the year by Whiskey Advocate.

Overall I am going to stick with Knob Creek’s excellent bourbon line up and leave their ryes for other folks!

Knob Creek Rye

Quality

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

Value

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

Knob Creek 2018 Limited Edition Cask Strength Rye

Quality

3 - Better than not drinking whiskey but just barely

Value

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

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Review #124-126: Knob Creek Single Barrel Store Picks

Following up on the r/bourbon community review of Knob Creek Small Batch this month I thought I’d finally get around to reviewing the trio of single barrel store picks I have on hand. Knob Creek Single Barrels come in at 120 proof and with a 9 year age statement on the label though many are significantly older than that. We had a few of these drop in Austin earlier this year and I picked up the picks from Twin Liquors, Oak Liquor Cabinet and Chris’s Liquor. I tasted these blind and picked a winner and then went back to pick out some of subtler notes after the blind tasting.

Oak Liquor Cabinet Pick

Age: 13 years 10 months

Abv: 120 proof

Color: a deep amber

Barrel Info: #7713

  • Barreled on 10/14/04
  • Selected on 8/23/18
  • Warehouse :
  • Floor 5
  • Rack 31
  • Tier 1

Neat

Nose: A balance of rich oak and sweet caramel with vanilla and spice in the background.

Taste: Well balanced sweet caramel, rich oak and rye spice with an excellent mouthfeel. Just a slight hint of tannic oak near the end.

Finish: Warm and long with loads of rye spice, sweet caramel and rich oak

Chris’s Pick

Age: 9+ years

Abv: 120 proof

Color: a deep amber

Barrel Info: #6763

Neat

Nose: Softer than I’d expect for a 120 proofer with soft, sweet brown sugar and subtle oak.

Taste: Rich and sweet with strong brown sugar and rich oak notes supported by hints of warm spice and smoke.

Finish: Medium length finish with brown sugar, peanut brittle and warm spices.

Twin’s Pick

Age: 9+ years

Abv: 120 proof

Color: A medium amber

Barrel Info: #5630

Neat

Nose: Bold nose with oak and spice notes and a bit of ethanol.

Taste: Strong oak notes that are slightly bitter with lots of baking spice, some black pepper and a nice viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and spicy finish with supporting oak notes.

Conclusion

First off all of these were great, the Oak Liquor Cabinet and Chris’s pick especially so. These Knob Creek Single Barrel picks are one of the best values in bourbon right now imo. It was super hard to pick a winner but in the end I went with the Chris’s pick for that brown sugar note. I picked up two of the OLC picks and I wish I’d grabbed another of the Chris’s. Another round of these will be hitting Austin soon and I can’t wait to taste them.

Also I am trying to track down the ages and other info for the Chris’s and Twins picks and will update this if I do get anything.

TL;DR: All 3 were great, Chris’s was the best if you have a sweet tooth, Oak otherwise, Twins was definitely in 3rd but still tasty.

Oak Liquor Cabinet pick

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

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

Chris’s Liquor pick

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

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

Twin Liquors pick

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

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

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The blind tasting video for this is up on Instagram(@atxbourbon)!

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Review #125: Knob Creek Small Batch

r/bourbon is doing a community review of Knob Creek this month so I figured why not get in on that and use it as a jumping off point for a review series on Knob Creek. The Knob Creek Small Batch is what I used to think of fancy bourbon back in my early drinking days so it’s a bit funny that I see it as on the lower end now. I’ve always liked it and can’t distinctly remember the old 9 year aged stated versions being better. I picked up a pint of this with the shiny new label for the community review and I’m super primed on 100 proof whiskey after my bottled in bond series so let’s see how this guy stacks up.

Knob Creek Small Batch

Age: NAS

Abv: 100 proof

Color: A medium gold

Price: $15 for a 375ml

Neat

Nose: Sweet with nutty notes, caramel and oak

Taste: The nutty note from the nose is more clearly peanut with more oak and caramel and some rye spice notes. Good mouthfeel which is expected at this proof.

Finish: Medium to long finish with rye spice, oak and a bit of caramel.

On a rock

Nose: Faint nutty sweetness

Taste: The ice quenches almost all the up front flavor though caramel and a bit of oak do surface later.

Finish: Short to medium finish with sweet caramel and peanut notes.

Conclusion

It’s good whiskey, it’s fairly priced and finish was more interesting than I expected. Other than the finish and Beam nutty note it doesn’t really stand out at all though. If I’m going Beam these days I’d rather spring for the Knob Creek Single Barrel which is rapidly making most other Beam juice redundant for me.

That said this is great step up from super budget drinkers like Evan Williams BiB or Early Times BiB. I’d even spend the extra $4 for this over Wild Turkey 101 if I want to drink it neat but sweet and nutty bourbons are my jam. That said I thought a 100 proofer would do better on the rocks than this does and if you want something versatile for neat, rocks and cocktails I’d look elsewhere.

TL;DR: Good stuff, nothing special, doesn’t hold up well to ice

Quality

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

Value based on what I paid

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

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Reviews #123-124: EHT Single Barrel vs Small Batch

After drinking my way through a number of sub $40 bottled in bond bourbon we’ll come to the end of the line with EH Taylor Small Batch and compare it side by side with it’s more expensive Single Barrel expression. As far as I know the EHT lineup are Buffalo Trace’s only bottled in bond offerings, other than the EHT barrel proof of course. In a world where Blanton’s and Eagle Rare are getting harder to find EHT Small Batch is still pretty reliably available at retailish prices here in Austin. But we’re not here to muse on the Buffalo Trace line up so let’s taste some whiskey and see how they stack up against the rest of the bottled in bond drinker lineup!

2018 Colonel EH Taylor Single Barrel

Age: NAS but 4+ years from Bottled in Bond

Abv: 100 proof

Color: A medium gold

Price: $59.99

Laser Code: L18187010722K

Nose:Sweet vanilla, caramel, a touch of citrus and hint of oak

Taste: Caramel and oak dominate with faint spice notes, and a very nice mouthfeel

Finish: Short to medium finish sweet with mostly caramel and a little oak and warm spice

2017 Colonel EH Taylor Small Batch

Age: NAS but 4+ years from Bottled in Bond

Abv: 100 proof

Color: A medium gold

Price: $39.99

Laser Code: L172830112097

Nose: Vanilla, caramel, cherry and oak

Taste: Oak, vanilla, caramel, cherry, slightly thinner mouthfeel than the SiB but still nice

Finish: Short to medium length sweet with cherry, oak and vanilla

Conclusion

These were both very good and handily beat out the rest of the bottled in bond bourbons in this series. I’m a fan of the Buffalo Trace profile and a higher quality, higher proof release at a good price is hard to argue with. After drinking the EHT Small Batch alongside the Dickel BiB I realized that the Dickel wasn’t going to have a long term place on my shelf as long as EHT was easy enough to find.

To compare the two this SiB was a bit better but not by much and definitely not by enough to justify the price increase. Somewhat oddly this SiB did not have nearly as much vanilla as I usually get from EHT. I prefer my current bottle of Blanton’s to both of these and they are on par to slightly better than the bottle of Eagle Rare I have right now. I’ve had some amazing EHT SiB but unfortunately this barrel was just ‘good’. Given the price, scarcity and variance on the Single Barrels I don’t think they are a good value proposition and I’d recommend grabbing the Small Batch over it to most folks. All that said I’ll probably pick another one up at some point chasing those honey barrels.

TL;DR: Great whiskey, go with the Small Batch.

SiB

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

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

SmB

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

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

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

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