Review #160-163: High West A Midwinter Nights Dram Acts 2, 5, 6, and 7

As is tradition I got a bottle of this year’s A Midwinter Nights Dram, specifically Act 7 Scene 4. I liked the new act though it seemed to be getting mixed feedback online with a fair number of folks pining for the older releases. I tend to that it’s about 50-50 when folks complain about how older whiskey was better. Sometimes the whiskey has gotten younger and worse for it but other times I think they are just looking back with rose colored glasses.

Anyways I set out to do a blind tasting of some newer and older MWNDs and was able to scrounge up samples of Acts 2, 5 and 6 to blind taste against Act 7. I recorded it and posted it to Instagram before sitting down the next day(yesterday) to write this version and spend a bit more time with each sample.

s Dram

Act 2.4 Scene 1048

Age: 6 year MGP and 16 year Barton

Abv: 98.6 proof

Mashbill:

  • 95/5 rye/malted barley (MGP)
  • 80/10/10 rye/corn/malted barley (Barton)

Neat

Nose: Rye spice, rich herbal and subtler dark fruit notes

Taste: Spicy and herbal with rye spice, herbs including a distinct but not overwhelming dill note and a bit of sweetness. Great mouthfeel for the proof.

Finish: Very long, warm and sweet with a clear port influence and rich dark fruit and holiday spice notes that gets a little too spicy at the end for me.

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

Act 5 Scene 8

Age: NAS

Abv: 98.6 proof

Mashbill:

  • 95/5 rye/malted barley (MGP)
  • 53/37/10 rye/corn/malted barley (Barton)
  • 80/10/10 rye/corn/malted barley (Barton)

Neat

Nose: Warm spice, rye bread, cherry and vanilla notes.

Taste: Sweet dark fruit, herbal(no clear dill note but maybe a hint?) and warm spice notes with a hint of something else sweet. The mouthfeel is solid but not as nice as the Act 2.

Finish: Medium to long finish with more cherry and warm spice. Also gets a little too hot right at the end like the Act 2.

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

Act 6 Scene 4

Age: NAS years

Abv: 98.6 proof

Mashbill:

  • 95/5 rye/malted barley (MGP)
  • 80/20 rye/malted rye (High West)
  • 53/37/10 rye/corn/malted barley (Barton)
  • 80/10/10 rye/corn/malted barley (Barton)

Neat

Nose: Warm and sweet with cherry, vanilla, warm spice and herbal notes

Taste: Herbaceous then sweet with herbal notes, sweet cherry and a touch spice. Great mouthfeel but still not quite Act 2 level though a step up from Act 5.

Finish: Very long, sweet and lightly spicy with more cherry and baking spice notes. No heat flare from 2 or 5.

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

Act 7 Scene 4

Age: NAS years

Abv: 98.6 proof

Mashbill:

  • 95/5 rye/malted barley (MGP)
  • 80/20 rye/malted rye from (High West)

Neat

Nose: Rye spice, dark fruit and vanilla notes

Taste: Warm and fruity with rye spice, cherry and vanilla notes. The mouthfeel is on par with Act 6.

Finish: Warm, sticky and sweet with cherry syrup and warm spice notes.

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

Conclusion

These were all great! I feel pretty justified in my old reviews of Act 6 and Act 5 now as well. The older Acts(2 and 5) were much more traditional MGP/Barton ye with a lot of herbal notes and a little more heat. The more recent releases were definitely sweeter and fruitier which was great for me. Overall 6 was the clear winner and 2 was the clear loser with 5 getting a slight nod over 7.

I am going to keep buying these for the foreseeable future since they are trending up on average for me. I do hope they nail down a great ratio of their distillate to sourced stuff instead of radically changing it each year and lean in a little more on the port finishing time to hopefully get closer to replicating my favorite High West of all time.

TL;DR: MWND is good; 6>5>7>2 for me; more port finish is more my style

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Review #159: Bardstown Bourbon Company Copper & Kings Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Copper & Kings Apple Brandy Barrels

Bardstown Bourbon Company is a relatively new distillery out of Bardstown, Kentucky, hence the name. Unfortunately they don’t distribute to Texas so I wasn’t able to get a bottle until I went to Kentucky for the r/bourbon pick. Right now they have 3 main ‘series’ of whiskey: their discovery series which is sourced and blended, their fusion series which is a blend of their own distillate and sourced whiskey and their collaborative series which is sourced whiskey finished in collaboration with other local companies. So far they’ve released some interesting products and I like that they took route of doing more than just sourcing and bottling instead doing some interesting blending or finishing with plenty of transparency. I hope more craft distilleries take this route instead of just releasing a sourced product or releasing their own quite young young whiskey.

Back to the matter at hand while I was visiting Bardstown Bourbon Company did a tasting of several of their offerings and the one that stood out to me the most was the Collaborative series Copper & Kings Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Copper & Kings Apple Brandy Barrels. They were kind enough to give me a bottle to take back to Texas to hopefully tide me over until distribution makes it here!

Since I didn’t pay for this bottle I will not be giving it a ‘Value’ rating but I’m more than happy to taste it and give my thoughts there.

Bardstown Bourbon Company Copper and Kings

Age: 11 years (20 month finishing time)

Abv: 120.4 proof

Price: $124.99 (I received this for free)

Mashbill: 75/21/4 Corn/Rye/Malted Barley

Neat

Nose: Rich and sweet with brown sugar, leather, tobacco and dark fruit notes

Taste: The brown sugar and dark fruit from the nose a briefly present but give way to more leather and tobacco as well as a pleasantly warm baking spice note. The mouthfeel is viscous and excellent and about what I would expect for an 11 year old 120 proof bourbon.

Finish: Incredibly long spicy finish with warm baking spice, tobacco, rich oak and just the barest hints of something sweet.

Conclusion

The finish on this was the best part and reminds me a fair amount of one of my all time favorites Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Batch 12 though it is a little spicier. Overall this was an amazing bourbon and I hope we see some more barrel finished MGP collaborations coming out of Bardstown! The nose was sweet, rich and complex, the finish was amazing and the taste was delicious if just a bit on the spicy side. The proof is in the fill level though as I’ve been back from Kentucky for just about 3 weeks and this is already ~2/3s gone making it easily the lowest level of the bottles I brought back from Kentucky.

Since this reminded me of Cigar Blend I went ahead and tried this paired with a cigar and the long, powerful finish made it an excellent bourbon for that pairing. I obviously didn’t take tasting notes during the cigar pairing haha.

Given that this bottle is nearing the end of it’s life and the current situation with Joseph Magnus changing distributors in Texas which may be impacting my supply of Cigar Blend I’m looking for pretty much any 9+ year old, 100+ proof MGP finished in some sort of brandy cask so let please let me know if you have something you think I should try!

TL;DR: Cask strength 11 year old MGP finished in brandy casks; of course I love it.

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

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Reviews #157-158: EH Taylor Barrel Proof and Single Barrel

I got super lucky and managed to score this year’s EHT Barrel Proof on a little lunchtime hunt. I’d had two of the previous releases and liked them well enough but I’d heard good things about this batch so I decided to crack it straight away. It was a little high octane for a lunch pour but half a bottle later I’m a huge fan. In another crazy turn of events EHT Single Barrel hit Austin last week and wasn’t on allocation at some of the bigger shops so I couldn’t resist picking one up. I’ve previously written a side by side of an EHT Single Barrel and Small Batch so I decided to keep the tradition alive and do these side by side!

Colonel EH Taylor Barrel Proof 2019

Age: NAS

Abv: 129.3 proof

Price: $89.99

NCF: Yes

Neat

Nose: A powerful but inviting nose with sweet caramel, vanilla, rich oak and subtler baking spice and cherry notes.

Taste: Very strong flavor with cherry, caramel, vanilla, baking spice and softer oak notes. One of the best mouthfeels I’ve had on a bourbon, thick and sticky in all the right ways.

Finish: Very long and dry with a sweet cherry start then lingering spice with just enough oak and caramel to balance it.

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

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

Colonel EH Taylor Single Barrel 2019

Age: NAS

Abv: 100 proof

Price: $69.99

Laser Code: L192180123-30L

Neat

Nose: Solid but basic nose with sweet vanilla and caramel notes.

Taste: Oak notes dominate with some sweet caramel and vanilla. A little thin for 100 proof but still decently viscous.

Finish: Long oaky finish with sweet vanilla notes balancing the oak.

Conclusion

Wow, this year’s Barrel Proof was outstanding. I’ve had the ‘17 and ‘18 at bars and liked them but didn’t love them like I do this bottle. This was very nearly a 10/10 but the finish was a little to dry and hot to be perfect for me. I’m very glad I was able to get a bottle this year at a good price and will definitely be trying to track down another one next year!

This Single Barrel was the most oaky and least spicy EHT I’ve had yet which I really enjoyed. I definitely prefer it to my last EHT SiB bottle. It’s still a gamble buying the SiBs vs the SmB for EHT though and not one I would recommend for most folks. I’ll probably still bite from time to time if I can get one without any hassle.

TL;DR: This years EHT BP is outstanding. The Single Barrel still ranges from good to great.

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Review #156: High West Rendezvous Rye Barrel Select Rum Finish

The main advantage to having family in Utah is somewhat reliable access to High West special releases including this year’s distillery only release of a Rendezvous Rye finished for 8 months in Jamaican Rum barrels. I am usually a fan of sweet finishes for rye whiskey and of High West’s barrel selects so I was very excited to get a bottle of this release! After having Blood Oath 5 and Dovetail earlier this year I am also pretty hyped on rum finishes in general. Let’s see if this lives up to all that hype.

High West Rendezvous Rye Barrel Select Rum Finish

Age: NAS

Abv: 103.6 proof

Price: $79.99

NCF: Yes

Neat

Nose: Rich and inviting with an herbal medley and sweet notes of vanilla and something fruity.

Taste: Warm herbs and spices are balanced with subtle oak and sweet vanilla notes backed by a nice, viscous mouthfeel

Finish: Long, warm and sweet with fading herbal notes and lingering sweet fruit, oak and warm spice.

Conclusion

Well that was delicious. I often find that MGP ryes can have a bit too much dill for me but a sweet barrel finish on a well selected barrel tends to clear that right up. The 8 month rum finish here added some nice oak and sweet fruit notes compared to the regular offering but didn’t overwhelm the signature MGP herbal notes. The higher proof and extra time in a barrel definitely help add some more complexity to the taste and viscosity to the mouthfeel which is what Rendezvous Rye is lacking imo. I poured a glass of regular Rendezvous Rye to taste side by side with this release and it was a big step up.

After drinking this, I’m definitely looking forward to the next Rendezvous Rye barrel select and this years MWND!

TL;DR: Awesome release, sweet finishes on Rendezvous Rye tend to be my thing, not quite at the level of the 4 year port finished release

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

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

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Reviews #155: Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 2

Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club is a blend of older bourbon ranging from 11-20 years depending on the batch and a younger light whiskey ranging from 9-11 years. So far both special releases were finished in Pineau des Charentes casks which I had not heard of before this bottle. Apparently it is a wine fortified with Cognac eau de vie. As I enjoyed the regular Murray Hill Club quite a bit and tend to enjoy wine and brandy finished whiskies I was very excited to get a bottle of this! So let’s see how this finish either adds to or takes away from the regular MHC.

Joseph Magnus Murray Hill Club Special Release Batch 2

Age: NAS

Abv: 112 proof

Price: $149.99

Neat

Nose: Bright red wine and sweet cognac notes with more traditional bourbon notes of caramel, vanilla and rich oak.

Taste: Cognac forward with more caramel and vanilla as well as oak and leather with a thick, luscious mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and lingering with sweet cognac and warm, rich oak notes

Conclusion

All in all this was a small step up from the regular Murray Hill Club. The finish did add a bit of sweetness and fruit notes but all in all didn’t make the whiskey much better. It started and ended as excellent whiskey and for me it was fun to try a new type of finish and continue to explore blends of bourbon and light whiskey.

It can be hard to give a value rating to a whiskey like this. I really enjoyed it but it was significantly more expensive than it’s already pricey shelfie counter part and probably not enough better to justify the price increase. All of that said I did got back and buy another bottle haha.

I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for the third batch and sipping on Cigar Blend in the meantime.

TL;DR: A great whiskey, the finish is nice but doesn’t add all that much

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

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

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Reviews #152-154: New Riff Vertical

I’d tried New Riff a couple times at meetups shortly it came out and I found it to be decent but overhyped. Then things started to calm down a bit and I was able to pick up a Bottled in Bond and Single Barrel while I was in Minneapolis for work and just recently got a store pick from The Party Source and a few samples from other picks from a friend who went to Kentucky. The store picks definitely changed my mind on how good New Riff could be.

In preparation for this month’s r/bourbon pick at New Riff I decided I should probably get a review up of some of their bourbon so here’s a 3 in 1 vertical of the bottled in bond, single barrel and store pick.

New Riff Bottled in Bond Spring 2015

Age: 4 years

Abv: 100 proof

Price: $40

Neat

Nose: A little weak with faint caramel sweetness and a hint of grain.

Taste: Vanilla, caramel and corn notes with a little bit of baking spice and ethanol. Nice, viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Short to medium finish that starts with a vanilla sweetness and fades to baking spice.

4 - a fine whiskey that does not standout in either direction

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

New Riff Single Barrel Fall 2014

Age: 4 years

Abv: 112.2 proof

Price: $50

Barrel: 14867

Neat

Nose: Oak, spice and vanilla in a nice balance

Taste: Very similar to the nose with a touch more baking spice, especially clove, with a nice thick mouthfeel

Finish: Medium length spicy finish with just enough vanilla to balance the spice.

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

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

New Riff Single Barrel The Party Source Pick

Age: 4 years and 5 days

Abv: 111.2 proof

Price: $60

Barrel: 15-3153

Neat

Nose: Softer nose with sweet vanilla and oak notes.

Taste: Butterscotch, vanilla, rich oak, rye spice and subtler baking spices alongside a viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length, warm, dry and balanced finish with sweet vanilla, warm spice and faint oak

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

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

Conclusion

The Bottled in Bond was honestly pretty disappointing. There was nothing wrong with it but I was really hoping for more. I’d take something like a 1792 Bottled in Bond over this and if you factor in price something like an Early Times BiB.

The single barrel was significantly better and while it is clearly still young it has great flavors, a very nice mouthfeel and shows a lot of potential. I’m happy I bought this but won’t be getting a backup until they get a little older.

The Party Source pick was excellent. I really enjoyed it and it even stood out against a Cork and Barrel pick.

This isn’t exactly surprising given my understanding of how New Riff does things. I’ve heard they taste each barrel and set aside the good ones for single barrels, the best ones for picks and the rest get batched into the bottled in bond product. Hopefully we’ll be able to learn a lot more about how they do things on the pick trip.

TL;DR: Skip the BiB, the SiBs are solid but keep an eye out for a good store pick.

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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 #151: 1792 12 Year

I’m still a fan of 1792 even though my initial 1792 craze has subsided now that I’ve tried them all so when I heard they were releasing a 12 year I was excited then I heard it was only going to be 96.6 proof which seemed like an odd choice but it was close enough to 100 that I was still game to try it.

1792 12 Year

Age: 12 years

Abv: 96.6 proof

Price: $50

Neat

Nose: Oaky with some of that classic 1792 caramel and vanilla sweetness lurking beneath the oak.

Taste: The palate starts somewhat sweet with vanilla and chocolate notes then transitions into a heavy, dry oak.

Finish: Dry and oaky finish with mere hints of vanilla.

Conclusion

As expected for the first high age statement product released under the 1792 label this was very oaky. I still enjoyed it and this made me understand why Barton 1792 tends to release younger bourbon. I’m still glad I picked this up but I won’t be getting another. There are too many good 1792 Full Proof and Bottled in Bond picks out there to justify hunting this down and if I am going to hunt 1792 I am looking for Sweet Wheat over this guy.

I’m surprised how well balanced Cream of Kentucky is in comparison and I can sort of see why the price point on that bottle is so high now. Barton must have parted with some of their best well aged bottles.

TL;DR: Oaky but good, stick with store picks or Sweet Wheat for 1792

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

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

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Poor Man's Recipe #1: Poor Man's Pappy

For my first attempt at a Poor Man’s Whiskey I’m going with the classic recipe of Poor Man’s Pappy. This is a blend of 40% Weller 12 and 60% Old Weller Antique which is supposed to tone down the rough edges of OWA and add more complexity to it while upping the proof and punch of the somewhat mellow Weller 12. There are a number of spinoff recipes that add all sorts of other things to the blend but let’s start with the classic.

s Pappy

Poor Man’s Pappy

Recipe

60% OWA; 40% W12

Neat Tasting Notes

Nose: Strong with sweet butterscotch, cherry and oak notes

Taste: More cherries, slightly tannic oak and some warm spices

Finish: Lingering butterscotch and slightly tannic oak with hints of baking spices

Results

Accuracy: Vague

Value: Fair

Conclusion

This was fun but I’m honestly not convinced this recipe is even better than OWA and definitely not better than a decent OWA pick. I do prefer it to Weller 12 but that doesn’t really surprise as I think W12 is just ‘good’ but not particularly great. This didn’t taste anywhere near Old Rip Van Winkle which was the closest thing to Pappy I had on hand.

TL;DR: Fun, relatively good, not exactly worth it

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Accuracy

Perfect: effectively could not tell them apart

Close: good enough for a Poor Man’s Whiskey approximation

Vague: it sort of tastes similar?

Not at all: what?

Value

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

Fair - I don’t feel like I wasted the components

Poor- Regrets

Review #150: Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Batch 12

Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend was a bourbon that eluded me for a long time and then in a matter of a few months I ended up with 3 bottles ranging from a dusty find in Granbury Texas to a retail hookup from my local spot to a friend finding one in Chicago. Batch 12 clearly stood out among the even in a blind tasting.

Joseph Magnus is a somewhat controversial label out of Washington DC that primarily sources MGP bourbon and finishes it sherry and Cognac casks either enhancing the flavor or ruining it depending on who you ask. I tend to be a fan of finished bourbon and to enjoy their products. The Cigar Blend varies from batch to batch but uses the same basic approach. It is a blend of regular Joseph Magnus finished bourbon and older MGP that is then finished in vintage Armagnac casks. For this specific batch is approximately 20% regular Magnus, mostly a 13 year old MGP bourbon and ‘some’ 20 year old MGP as well.

Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Batch 12

Age: NAS on the label but this batch is a blend of 12, 13 and 20 year old MGP

Abv: 104.2 proof

Price: $169.99

Neat

Nose: Rich and complex with dark fruit, brown sugar, tobacco, leather and baking spice notes

Taste: More brown sugar and dark fruit alongside rich oak and more pronounced spice notes than the nose. The mouthfeel is nice and viscous.

Finish: This finish goes on forever with rich oak, tobacco, sweet dark fruit notes and just enough spice to make you want the next sip.

Conclusion

Damn that was good. It had everything I like from well aged MGP and more including one of my favorite finishes of all time. I’ve also had this bourbon with cigars several times and the bold flavors, sweet start to the taste and the very long finish make it an excellent pairing. I don’t smoke all that regularly though (1-2 a month) so I mostly just drink this neat.

For long time readers I previously reviewed an old Smooth Ambler Old Scout SiB from MGP and gave it a 9/10 citing the slightly unpleasant cinnamon heat on the finish as the only thing holding it back from a perfect 10 and this bourbon has everything I liked from that with more complexity and an amazing finish.

To be clear the 10/10 rating is for specifically batch 12 of Cigar Blend. I’ve had other batches and they’ve all been in the 8-9 range other than this one. The 8/10 ones feel a little bad at this price point so don’t go splurge on a batch 8! I did end up getting a second bottle of the batch 12(pictured) after killing the first one I got way too fast.

TL;DR: Amazing bourbon, legendary finish, great with or without a cigar

10 - an all time favorite, must buy/hunt

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

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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 #149:Boone County 12 year SiB Cork and Barrel Pick

I recently drank a fair amount of this Boone County Single Barrel at an ABH meetup and even got to take home a sample to review! Boone County primarily sources from MGP and has picked some excellent single barrels such as this one. It’s hard to go wrong with 10+ year age stated, cask strength MGP but I feel like these folks have been doing an especially good job picking barrels.

Boone County 12 Year Single Barrel Cork and Barrel Pick

Age: 12 years

Abv: 118.8 proof

Neat

Nose: A potent herbal medley with strong vanilla and sweet caramel notes behind the herbs

Taste: Caramel and vanilla notes backed by cherries, herbs and baking spices, especially clove, alongside a rich velvety mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length with rye spice, herbal and faint caramel notes.

Conclusion

This is one of the best unfinished MGP bourbons I’ve had. I broke out my remaining SAOS SiB and my Joseph Magnus SiB from OLC. This was just generally a bit better than my current low proof SAOS and had a better nose and mouthfeel than the OLC Magnus but not as good of a finish.

I very nearly gave this a 10/10 but the finish left me a little on the fence so I got down my trusty, sadly low, bottle of Old Rip Van Winkle to remind myself of a 10 and the Boone County fell just short due to the finish. I would love to try a 14 year old version of this or couple other 12 years and see if one can hit that 10/10 bar.

TL;DR: Phenomenal MGP bourbon, excellent

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

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

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