Reviews #223-224: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A120 and B517

I recently got a sample of Heaven Hill’s latest Elijah Craig Barrel Proof batch A120 and meant to blind it against my favorite recent batch B519 but realized that I had killed that bottle a while back without saving a sample or reviewing it. So I dug around and found an old B517(another batch I really enjoyed) and used that instead. The blind tasting video is on Instagram here. After that I sat down to write more detailed tasting notes.

 

Review #223 Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A120

Age: 12 years

Abv: 136.6 proof

Price: $60

Neat

Nose: Nose hair singeing heat with clear ethanol then subtler caramel and oak notes.

Taste: Hot with rye spice, cinnamon, caramel and oak notes.

Finish: Medium length hot finish with some cinnamon notes.

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

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

Review #223 Elijah Craig Barrel Proof B517

Age: 12 years

Abv: 124.2 proof

Price: $60

Neat

Nose: Slightly harsh with a bit of ethanol but with nicer vanilla and oak notes too.

Taste: Bold with rich oak, nuts, caramel and spices. Great mouthfeel.

Finish: Long and warm with baking spices, vanilla and subtler oak notes.

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

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

Conclusion

The A120 was just too hot for me to really enjoy neat and while it was good on a rock the tasting notes would have been even more generic than these were. This review also made me realize I’ve also gotten to the point where I am not impressed if something is good on the rock anymore, especially if it is more than ~$30 since something WT101 is delicious on ice and I can buy that whenever I want and for something higher proof, age stated and nuttier then Knob Creek Single Barrel fits the bill without any of the hassle of getting an ECBP while saving a few bucks too.

C919 and A120 have cemented ECBP as a try before you buy for me and thankfully finding it at a bar around here or getting a sample is pretty easy. I’ll continue to love the more drinkable batches and let the heat monsters stay on the shelf for someone else who will appreciate them.

 

TL;DR: B517 > A120. A120 was too hot neat; it was quite good on a rock though.

 

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Review #222: Treaty Oak Redhanded Bourbon Whiskey Madeira Finish

For part 11 of the finished whiskey series we’re coming to Texas for some sourced whiskey aged and finished in Texas. Treaty Oak is a distillery in Dripping Springs with a great venue, delicious BBQ and a solid cocktail bar. They also produce whiskey and gin as well as sourcing. Their Red Handed series is their sourced whiskey and this particular release is sourced from Heaven Hill and a distillery in Virginia, in my opinion it’s most likely Bowman Brothers, and aged for some time then finished in a Madeira barrel here in Texas. On one of my visits to the distillery I had a bit too much to drink and came home with a handful of bottles. So let’s see what some Texas heat and a Madeira finish can do.

 

Review 222: Treaty Oak Bourbon Whiskey Madeira Finish

Age: NAS - 2 years for the regular Red Handed Bourbon according to their website

Abv: 95 proof

Price: $65ish? I can’t remember

Neat

Nose: Strong oak notes with sweet dark fruit, young corn grain and faint spices.

Taste: Rich dark fruit, corn, heavy oak and a touch of salt. The oak becomes slightly bitter toward the end. The mouthfeel is a little on the thin side.

Finish: Long hot finish with baking spice and cinnamon backed by oak and something sweet I couldn’t place.

Conclusion

Well that was a wild ride. I enjoyed the dark fruit notes from the Madeira and the heavy oak notes from the time aging in Texas but it was clear that the base spirit was very young and the whiskey finishes really hot. I do think the idea of sourcing and then aging for a bit here in Texas, like what Smoke Wagon is doing in Nevada, is a solid concept and a wine finish can definitely help a younger spirit but 2 years is just too young and these tricks couldn’t overcome that. Throwing in the missing ‘straight’ designation from the label and I’m definitely not going to be looking for another one.

 

TL;DR: The Madeira influence is nice but the base spirit is too young.

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

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

 

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Review #221: Single Cask Nation Pap'pi Nansens

Single Cask Nation recently had a raffle for their new Tennessee bourbon and someone in a local group won. They could buy two bottles but only wanted one so they pawned the second one off on me to save on shipping. Single Cask Nation claimed that their Dickel pick was not the usual Dickel flavor profile but I was pretty skeptical of that claim so let’s see how this tastes!

I blind tasted this against George Dickel Bottled in Bond, a Barrell pick and an SAOS Dickel pick on Instagram and then sat down to write up the tasting notes.

pi Nansens

 

Single Cask Nation Pap’pi Nansens

Age: 12 years

Abv: 103.1 proof

Price: $100 shipped

Neat

Nose: Chocolate and Dickel mineral/vitamin notes dominate the nose.

Taste: More chocolate and minerality from the nose joined by vanilla, rich oak and faint spice notes. Decent mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length finish with more oak, vanilla and Dickel.

Conclusion

Well that was underwhelming. Honestly I thought it was pretty on par with Dickel BiB and at 3 times the price that’s going to be a no from me. I think the Barrell and SAOS picks were noticeably better and they are cheaper! I’ll enjoy the rest of this bottle but it’s further evidence that there aren’t these magical unicorn Dickel barrels that command a premium price.

 

TL;DR: Mmm Dickel

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

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

 

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Review #220: Elijah Craig 18 Year

When I went to Kentucky for the r/bourbon New Riff pick last fall I also did a mad dash around various distilleries and snagged a few goodies along the way including a bottle of Elijah Craig 18. There was some sort of running event going on in the Bardstown area that day and it either finished or had a checkpoint or something at the Heaven Hill Bourbon Heritage Center so the parking lot was full of sweaty fit people but I persevered, made my way through the dank crowd and went inside anyway. I was rewarded with a lonesome bottle of Elijah Craig 18 in a glass case behind the counter so I sheepishly asked if it was for sale and it was! They also had William Heaven Hill 12 and Elijah Craig Barrel proof but the WHH was ludicrously expensive even by my standards and I don’t have trouble getting ECBP at home so I happily went with the 18 year.

 

Elijah Craig 18

Age: 18 years

Abv: 90 proof

Price: $150

Bottled On: 6/13/19

Barrel Number: 4636

Neat

Nose: Rich and balanced with sweet vanilla, oak and allspice notes.

Taste: Less sweet than the nose with that classic nutty Heaven Hill note backed by more oak, spice and vanilla. Surprisingly good mouthfeel for the proof.

Finish: Long lingering finish with vanilla, oak, a different type of spice and one of my favorite notes: leather.

Conclusion

This was a great pour especially when I am in the mood for something easier to drink but still very flavorful. I really enjoy how well balanced this is between the oak, spice and sweetness and the finish is outstanding. That said it doesn’t make sense to me to release a rare, expensive single barrel at such a low proof though especially when William Heaven Hill and Elijah Craig Barrel Proof tend to be quite high proof. When I compare this to another pricey Heaven Hill special release, Old Fitzgerald BiB, it doesn’t hold up. I’ve enjoyed every pour and I’m glad I got this bottle but it’s not something I love and I definitely won’t be looking to replace it based on the cost and scarcity.

It’s expensive, hard to find, lower proof and a single barrel so a bit of a gamble. What’s not to love?

 

TL;DR: Expensive for what it is, also inexplicably low proof

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

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

 

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Broken Barrel Single Oak Series

For part 10 of the finished whiskey series I am going to take a look at 4 offerings from Broken Barrel out of LA. The folks there were kind enough to send me 4 120ml samples of their whiskies. Broken Barrel takes various whiskies, dump them into a steel tank where they are finished with different types of barrel staves.

Since I received these for free I will not be reviewing them but will just offer some tasting notes and thoughts.

 

Broken Barrel Mizunara

Age: Blend of 4 and 5 year

Abv: 100 proof

Neat

Nose: Cornbread, vanilla, nutty notes, faint oak and honey

Taste: More of the same from the nose with cornbread, vanilla, honey and nutty notes but with some nice spice notes kicking in toward the end

Finish: Long finish with warm spice balanced by sweet vanilla and honey.

Broken Barrel The Cask of Amontillado

Age: Blend of 5 and 12 year

Abv: 110 proof

Neat

Nose: Very unusual with big dark fruit notes, maybe cherries and plums?

Taste: Leather, earthy notes, dark grapes and warm spices with just a little bit of cornbread. Very nice mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium length with rich chocolate, dark fruit and warm spice notes

Broken Barrel Bourbon Barrel Select California Oak

Age: 1 year

Abv: 116 proof

Mashbill 70/21/4 Corn/Rye/Malted Barley

‘Oak Bill’: 80% Cabernet cask, 20% French oak

Neat

Nose: Young and harsh notes with subtler red wine notes underneath.

Taste: Rich dark fruit notes, clear wine influence, warm baking spices and subtler sweet vanilla and caramel notes. Thick mouthfeel.

Finish: Medium to short and slightly harsh finish but with more of the nice red wine notes from the taste.

Broken Barrel Isle of Peat

Age: 1 year

Abv: 110 proof

Neat

Nose: Very unusual nose with wheat bread, malt and faintly smoky notes.

Taste: Starts with butterscotch and wheat bread then jumps to smoke and young malt notes. Viscous mouthfeel.

Finish: Long, lingering with smoke, baking spice and just a hint of sweetness to balance them.

Conclusion

Mizunara

The Mizunara starts out tasting like you would expect from a good corn whiskey but it gets more interesting as it goes with a very nice finish, presumably from the Mizunara finish. I would guess this is a blend of MGP and Heaven Hill sourced corn whiskies. It’s definitely a step up from Mellow Corn though. Overall I enjoyed this one even if it did taste a little grain forward. I think a version of this that was just a few years older or maybe just finished longer would be a step up in terms of reducing the youthful corn notes and adding more of the complexity from the Mizunara oak.

Amontillado

The nose was nothing I would expect from American whiskey. Overall this was super heavily influenced by the finish in a very good way. The leather notes make me suspect the 12 Light Whiskey portion is from MGP. I really enjoyed this one with the big fruit and leather notes as well as the finish which had a chocolate note for me.

Broken Barrel Barrel Select California Oak

The nose really revealed the youth but the taste was a big step up unfortunately the finish was young and a little hot again. I think the flavors other than the young grain were solid though and an older version of this could be quite nice.

Isle of Peat

I was pretty skeptical going in on this one with a blend of young wheat and malt whiskies finished with peat staves but I was very pleasantly surprised. Flavor notes I associate with all 3 things came through clearly with wheat bread and butterscotch from the wheat whiskey, distinct malt characteristics and a smokiness throughout that did not overpower the other flavors. I do think a little more age would have helped but this is definitely a very interesting dram.

Overall

I enjoyed all 4 of these samples though to different degrees :) I’m definitely curious to try more finished corn whiskies after this and I think the finishing does a lot for them. I hope the folks over at Broken Barrel have some stocks aging and I look forward to seeing what they can do with some older whiskey.

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Review #219: Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Batch 13

For part 9 of the finished whiskey series we’re back to Joseph Magnus with another batch of Cigar Blend. Batch 13 came from the same master blend as batches 11, 12 and 14. Each batch was then finished in a different Armagnac cask. I was lucky enough to get 3 of the batch, 12-14, and it was pretty surprising how much different they were.

Joseph Magnus Cigar Blend Batch 13

Age: NAS but all the bourbons are 10+ years

Abv: 103.6 proof

Price: $170

Neat

Nose: Very rich with leather, brown sugar and baking spice notes.

Taste: More leather and more baking spice with tobacco, oak and herbal notes as well as a fainter brown sugar. Thick, viscous mouthfeel

Finish: Very long, dry and warm with predominantly baking spice notes though there is a touch of oak and sweetness.

Conclusion

I love me some Cigar Blend and batch 13 is no exception. It’s significantly spicier than 12 and 14 but not so spicy as to detract from the enjoyment especially if you are pairing it with a cigar. The leather and tobacco notes in these are something I don’t usually get anywhere else and they pair really with the brown sugar and herbal notes my favorite MGP bourbons tend to have. I’m a little concerned that between Magnus getting bought out, changing distributors in Texas and the semi debacle of them sourcing at least some of their single barrels from Dickel that the golden age of Cigar Blend is coming to an end. Hopefully not though!

Update 4/3/20: I have been assured by the Magnus Master Blender Nancy Fraley on Instagram that Cigar Blend has never contained Dickel and that there is nothing to worry about with Cigar Blend as long as she is the Master Blender. That’s good enough for me.

TL;DR: Not quite batch 12 but still delicious

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

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

I also tasted this as part of a blind tasting with batch 8, 12, 13 a single barrel and regular Magnus though it ended up being somewhat long and rambling. As an added bonus the master blender from Joseph Magnus, Nancy Fraley, decided to show up and shame me in the comments just to be safe.

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Review #218: Jack Daniel's Tennessee Taster Barrel Reunion 1

For part 8 of the finished whiskey series we’re looking at our first Tennessee whiskey with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Tasters’ Selection Barrel Reunion #1, a Straight Tennessee Whiskey finished in red wine barrels. The shtick behind the Tennessee Tasters’ Selection series is that Jack Daniel’s master tasters pick some of their favorite expressions to release. In today’s bourbon market who knows if that’s true? Either way after getting into the JD Single Barrel series when I saw this little flask on the shelves I had to pick it up. I tend to like finished whiskies and red wine always seems to compliment bourbon bringing out more fruit notes without making it too sweet.

Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Tasters’ Selection Barrel Reunion #1

Age: NAS with a 228 day finish

Abv: 90 proof

Price: $35 for a 375

Neat

Nose: Sweet bananas and red jam with vanilla and warm spice in the background.

Taste: Cherries, bananas and vanilla with hints of oak and smoke. Decent mouthfeel.

Finish: Short to medium length, sweet finish with caramel, banana and vanilla notes.

Conclusion

This was super easy drinking with great fruit notes. It was a little light for me at only 90 proof though. I think a little more age and a little more proof would have given this some more complexity and improved the mouthfeel. It was a little pricey for what it is but given that it was a special release and came in a 375ml I don’t feel bad about the price. It definitely met my expectations of taking the classic JD banana and vanilla profile and bringing out some nice red fruit notes. While it didn’t hit the highs of the JD Heritage Barrel I’ll probably pick up a future release to see what else they can do.

TL;DR: Surprisingly good; wish it was a little higher proof and a little older.

6 - a good whiskey I’m still happy to drink - 1792 Small Batch

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

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Review #217: Rare Perfection 14 Year

To set the scene I don’t particularly care for Canadian whiskey apart from some ryes such as whatever Whistle Pig and Treaty Oak are sourcing. So when these Canadian Rare Perfections and Old St Nicks hit I initially trusted my instincts and ignored them. Then I got curious with all the drama and wildly varying reviews so when I got the chance to get a bottle for below retail I figured it was a 14 year old whiskey, it can’t be bad even if I do end up overpaying for the quality. So I bought one and let’s find out how wrong I was…

 

Rare Perfection 14 year 2020 release

Age: 14 years

Abv: 100.7 proof

Price: $125

Neat

Nose: Off putting with notes of plastic, maple and vanilla with hints of oak

Taste: Still slightly plastic tasting but with some solid caramel, maple and warm spice notes.

Finish: Long and lingering with warm spice, vanilla and maple notes.

Conclusion

Well that was bad. I added some Coke Zero and it got worse somehow. I don’t have much to say here. I took the tater bait and lost.

 

TL;DR: I liked the finish but nothing else

1 - Pouring out the bottle, Coke Zero deserves better

Poor - Overpriced, not worth the money

 

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Review #216: Blood Oath Pact 3

Part 7 of the finished whiskey series is back to Blood Oath with my favorite Pact. Pact 3 is a blend of two rye bourbons, one finished in Cabernet Sauvignon barrels from Swanson Vineyard in Napa Valley. When I lived in California I developed a taste for their red wine so adding a few of those notes to bourbon sounds pretty appealing to me.

 

Blood Oath Pact 3

Age: NAS

Abv: 98.6 proof

Price: $99

Neat

Nose: Rich and sweet with red wine, nutty, vanilla and oak notes,

Taste: Oak, caramel, red fruit, vanilla, faint nuttiness. Solid mouthfeel.

Finish: Long, warm and sweet with more caramel, red fruit and oak notes.

Conclusion

I’ll start by saying I’m glad I have a 3rd bottle of this since I killed the second one writing this review. This is definitely the high water mark for Blood Oath for me though the Pact 5 was getting close. I really enjoyed the red wine notes that the finish added to the nuttiness of the Heaven Hill profile. The mouthfeel was solid for the proof, the finish was great. I do wish this was higher proof but I can’t blame them for their little body temperature gimmick.

The price on these is a bit high but it’s the same as High West’s A Midwinter Night’s Dram and is also an NAS, sourced, 98.6 proof, finished whiskey so I guess it makes sense. I don’t feel bad about buying MWND each year and the same applies here. I think Pact 3 is on par with the my favorite recent batch of MWND, Act 6.

At this point it’s probably not worth tracking down another bottle of the dwindling supply of this release but I’ll definitely be on the look out for Pact 6 which should hit in the next couple months.

 

TL;DR: Great whiskey, the red wine and nutty notes pair brilliantly

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

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

 

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Review #215: Sagamore Spirit Cognac Finish

For part 6 of the finished whiskey we’ll be tasting a second Cognac finished rye. Sagamore Spirits is a distillery out of Maryland who is sourcing MGP while their own stocks come to age. Each year they release a finished variation and the 2019 release was a Cognac Finish. I first tried it at Whiskies of the World in Austin and went and grabbed a bottle the next week.

I also have a blind tasting video for this vs a High West Barrel Select vs a homemade cognac and rye blend.

 

Sagamore Spirit Cognac Finish

Age: NAS

Abv: 101 proof

Price: $62

Neat

Nose: Sweet and herbaceous with faint rye spice and hints of oak.

Taste: Very similar to the nose with MGP herbal notes and a nice fruity sweetness. Solid mouthfeel for the proof.

Finish: Medium length finish with rye spice, herbal notes and oak

Conclusion

The Cognac comes through much stronger on this bottle than the High West Barrel Select we looked at last time. That I said I preferred the High West but it was close. With how much more available this bottle is it’s an easy recommendation for folks wanting to try a good Cognac finished rye. Needless to say the home blend of cognac and rye whiskey was not as good as the actual finished ones.

 

TL;DR: More cognac than the HW, almost as good

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

Fair - Worth the money, happy with my purchase

 

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