Merrimack Valley Whiskey Review (homepage)
Old Weller Antique Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
Today I am pleased to review Old Weller Antique, distilled at the Buffalo Trace Distillery, in Kentucky, this is perhaps the oldest continuously operating distillery in the United States. Owned by the Sazerac Company. Aged for 7 years, sold at 107 proof, this bourbon comes from the same distillery, barrels, warehouse, and mash bill as the famed and elusive Pappy Old Rip Van Winkle, which sells for hundreds of dollars on the secondary market! Thus, Old Weller Antique is a great value as it is commonly sold for under $25. I picked up mine at Kappy’s, in Medford, MA, which was noted as a store chosen, single barrel selection.
Appearance: dark auburn color. Nose – caramel, perhaps a hint of orange?
Palate – this is one full and rich bourbon. Almost fruity, perhaps a hint of vanilla. You can taste the oak. Smooth & easy to drink, with very little burn. And I am sensing a sweetness that I don’t get with a lot of whiskeys, which I am attributing this to being a wheater (a bourbon where wheat is the second largest grain in the mash bill, after corn.) Definitely going to pick up another bottle of this fine product.
The following spirits are produced by Buffalo Trace Distillery. Old Weller Antique – known to bourbon aficionados simply as OWA – is included under W. L. Weller , all of which are wheated Bourbons. The four versions of W. L. Weller are
W. L. Weller Special Reserve, 90 proof.
Old Weller Antique, 107 proof, which is what I am reviewing today.
W. L. Weller 12 Year, 90 proof.
William LaRue Weller (proof varies year-to-year)
Spirit of Boston New World Tripel
Spirit of Boston Thirteenth Hour
Spirit of Boston Merry Maker Gingerbread Stout
I was fortunate to have a tasting at Kappy’s Fine Wine & Spirits – Route 1 (Malden, Mass.) They offered me a chance to sample three new whiskeys… well, whiskey-related spirits, from Boston Harbor Distillery. This is the Spirit of Boston – Limited Release, a set of three whiskey-related spirits based on the mash bill of ” distilled from three distinct Samuel Adams beers – New World Tripel, Thirteenth Hour, and Merry Maker Gingerbread Stout.” This set of three 375 ml whiskies has a list price of $120. To reveal my bias, I’m not a fan of beer – never found one that I enjoyed. A bit ironic, since I am a whiskey drinker, and whiskey may be considered a highly distilled (and then aged) beer. So although none of these three whiskies struck me as terrific, a fan of these styles of beer may enjoy them very much.
“It’s not whiskey because it’s flavored, but it’s not a flavored whiskey…we don’t even know what to call it,” says Couchot of the holiday spirits that have been distilled from three Sam Adams craft brews. Hence the name “whiskies” in quotation marks.”Bevspot: Holiday Gift Spotlight: Boston Harbor Distillery
13th Hour Stout, the one that tasted most like a traditional whiskey, has a wheat, beer-like finish. Based on the mashbill of Samuel Adams’s “Latitude 48 Deconstructed IPA – Hallertau Mittelfrueh” You can read here more about Hallertauer Mittelfrüh Hops.
New World Belgian Tripel, too spicy for my tastes, perhaps from the hops. The mash bill includes what Samuel Adams calls “Kosmic Mother Funk”, which means that it is “fermented with multiple micro-organisms including Brettanomyces, Lactobacillus and other wild critters found in the environment of our Barrel Room.” Samuel Adams: Kosmic Mother Funk, Grand Cru.
Merrymaker Gingerbread Stout, floral, gingerbread notes. Interesting, and I would like to try this again. The mash bill includes oats, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and ginger, and East Kent Golding Hops.
The backs of the bottles provide details.
What is Scotch whisky?
By law, any whiskey made in Scotland – usually spelled whiksy– must follow certain rules; these rules demand that the product be labeled as “Scotch”; it is illegal to produce whiskey made in Scotland that doesn’t conform to the definition of Scotch. Scotch must be made and labelled according to the rules stated below. It must be aged in oak casks for no less than three years, and have an ABV less than 94.8%. No whiskey may be labeled Scotch unless it was completely made in Scotland.
Single, Malt Scotch Whisky
A Scotch whisky distilled at a single distillery (i) from water and malted barley without the addition of any other cereals, and (ii) by batch distillation in pot stills. From 23 November 2012, Single Malt Scotch Whisky must be bottled in Scotland.
100% malted barley only. Many people think of this as the classic Scotch.
Single, Grain Scotch Whisky
A Scotch Whisky distilled at a single distillery (i) from water and malted barley with or without whole grains of other malted or unmalted cereals, and (ii) which does not comply with the definition of Single Malt Scotch Whisky.
So this is not just malted barley! The mash bill may include any of the following: un-malted barley, wheat (this is the most common non-barley grain used in Scotch), and it could even include corn, rye, triticale or spelt. However, this would generally contain at least 5% malted barley, to begin the chemical process of saccharification [producing fermentable sugars.] One could also use malted corn or rye, but process is more complicated.
Blended Scotch Whisky
A blend of one or more Single Malt Scotch Whiskies WITH one or more Single Grain Scotch Whiskies.
So this would have to include a whiskey with a mash bill of something other than malted barley.
Blended Malt Scotch Whisky
A blend of Single Malt Scotch Whiskies, which have been distilled at more than one distillery.
The mash bill thus would consist of malted barley only.
Blended Grain Scotch Whisky
A blend of Single Grain Scotch Whiskies, which have been distilled at more than one distillery.
In this case, all of the source scotches had ingredients other than just barley. In fact, the sources could contain almost no barley, and be an almost pure rye, corn or wheat base scotch, although that would be rare indeed to find.
New Year’s eve 2016/17
Macallan 12, Double Cask
Dewar’s White Label, Blended Scotch Whisky
Bushmill’s Black Bush Irish Whisky
Dewar’s: Pale yellow color. 80 proof. I have no idea how this has become the number one selling Scotch in the USA. This is the third time I’ve tried Dewar’s blended Scotch whiskey, White Label. Just doesn’t appeal to my tastes. I’m not getting much in the way of pleasant flavor. It’s just shockingly sweet. Whatever complexity others may taste, I’m not getting it after this acrid sugary blast.
Black Bush, a blend of whiskies from 7 to 11 years old. 80 proof. Aged in Oloroso Sherry casks, and in ex-bourbon casks. Distilled in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. The Old Bushmills Distillery is now owned by Jose Cuervo. A far better drink that Dewar’s, and it has an audience, but I’m not a fan. Gentle sherry nose. A thin palate, although you can definitely taste the sherry influence.
The Macallan 12 Year. 86 proof. Mash bill 100% malted barley. The distillery is in Craigellachie, Moray, northeast Scotland. Macallan Distillers L is owned by the Edrington Group. Aged in oak sherry casks from Jerez, Spain. Color: Copper/Amber. Nose: Sherry, amaretto. Palate: Sweet, sherry, plums, has a round mouthfeel. Definitely some smokiness, although this isn’t a peated whiskey. By far, my favorite of the three whiskies that I tried this evening.
Blanton’s single barrel bourbon whiskey
From the Buffalo Trace Distillery, Frankfort, Kentucky. Launched in 1984 by distiller Elmer T. Lee. Perhaps the first single barrel bourbon product. Thanks for introducing me to this, Albert. This is the real deal!
Color: Reddish amber.
Palate: Full and smooth, sweet, with tones of caramel and orange.
Mash bill: Corn, rye and malted barley.
Aged approximately 9 years, no age statement, in American white oak barrels, #4 char.
Blanton’s is a single barrel bourbon, which means each bottle has spirit from only one particular aging barrel – no mixing. Update December 2016 – I just tried Blanton’s again for the first time in almost a year. I was impressed at how much more I liked it this time. I did enjoy it last time, but this time it almost seemed to have a series of honey-like notes. It wasn’t the gold, or the straight from the barrel, or anything special. Just your standard Blanton’s. Amazed at how smooth it was. I guess that’s what a year of tasting various types of whiskeys can do to you. Really open your palate to the amazing array of flavors that can be discovered within.
Chanukah Sameakh! חנוכה שמח
I built a whiskey-bottle-menorah 🙂
Chanukah is a Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt against the Seleucid Empire. Hanukkah is observed for eight nights and days, starting on the 25th day of Kislev according to the Hebrew calendar. Known as the Festival of Lights, it is observed by the kindling of a nine-branched menorah (called a Chanukiah), one additional light on each night of the holiday, progressing to eight on the final night. The extra light, with which the others are lit, is called a shamash (שמש, “attendant”). The ancient menorahs were made with wicks in olive oil; today some menorahs are still oil based, but most use candles. Other Hanukkah festivities include playing dreidel and eating oil-based foods such as doughnuts and latkes. (- adapted from the Wikipedia article.)
Old Forester Signature 100
This is a hell of a good straight bourbon whiskey- and a steal at just $22. Old Forester Signature 100 was recommended to me by one of the guys who works at one of the New Hampshire state liquor stores. Some history:
It is officially the longest running Bourbon on the market today (approximately 144 years as of 2015), and was the first bourbon sold exclusively in sealed bottles. It was first bottled and marketed in 1870 by the former pharmaceutical salesman turned bourbon-merchant George Garvin Brown – the founder of the Brown-Forman Corporation (whose descendants still manage the company). During the Prohibition period from 1920 to 1933, it was one of only 10 brands authorized for lawful production (for medicinal purposes).
Old Forester. (2016, November 6). In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia
Mash Bill: 72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Barley Malt. No age statement; as a straight bourbon it’s been aged at least 2 years in new charred oak barrels, but likely four or more years older. Warm, powerful, at 100 proof it packs a wallop, so I prefer to have it with a few ice cubes. After it sits for a minute, the ice melts, the proof lowers, and then the flavors come out. Has some decadent chocolate or coffee notes, oak and vanilla notes to it.
Would be great to get a chance to compare this with the recent special release, Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, 2015 – but that runs well over $200, and the reviews for it don’t appear spectacularly better than this $22 bottle. I wonder if bourbons that cost ten times as much are truly three times better? Or perhaps they are just slightly different, and I’m quite happy with this one!
My bar this December 2016
Winchester bourbon whiskey
Winchester rye whiskey
Black Powder Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Jim Beam Black Extra Aged
Sitting down to compare these samples I picked up at Total Wine. Two come from Terressentia Corporation, a distillery in North Charleston, South Carolina. They have created a buzz with their so-called TerrePURE technology. According to their website they specialize “in contract production of distilled spirits. We produce spirits for large retail chains, individual brand owners, and other distilleries or exporters.” Instead of aging whiskey, they use chemistry to accelerate chemical reactions, would normally would in whiskey over a period of years.
The Winchester bourbon whiskey tastes young, but not terrible. The label says aged a minimum of 6 months in New Oak. Produced and bottled by TerrePURE Spirits. For something so young it’s surprisingly not terrible. The Winchester rye whiskey has the same description, and a completely different flavor. It tastes young, thin, and is markedly inferior to its bourbon whiskey cousin. Compared to a good rye whiskey like Pendleton 1910 or Knob Creek Rye, I’m afraid that the Winchester Rye isn’t very good. In fact, if I may be so blunt, it’s absolutely terrible.
Black Powder Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey – There were some decent reviews of this on the TotalWines website, and often I agree with crowd-sourced reviews more than professional ones, so I took a chance on this. But who makes it? The bottle says LeVecke, but their website vaguely says that it “develops, bottles and markets products in each spirit segment for any corporate brand product line-up.” Translation: They buy generic whiskey, and bottle it under other names. The result, for this label? No great nose, no great impression on the front or rear palate. Utterly forgettable. I sipped it slowly over ten minutes, and dumped the other half of the 50 ml bottle down the drain.
Jim Beam Black Extra Aged – 86 proof, aged in white oak charred barrels. A step-up in product from Jim Beam base product, white label. No age statement. I believe that their original black label was aged 8 years, but this product has since dropped it’s age statement. Chuck Cowdery estimates that the product, which has now lost its age statement, is still likely to be between 4 to 9 years old.
When tasting this, I compared it to Knob Creek, aged 9 years, and Weller Special Reserve. This Jim Beam Black Extra Aged had far less of a nose than the other two bourbons, and it wasn’t especially appealing. Nothing wrong, just not much there. The taste was thin and easy on the front palate, but on the back palate it was rougher, less pleasant. In contrast, Knob Creek (also a Jim Beam product) was a completely different animal! A full, rich sweet nose, fuller on the front palate, and far more pleasantly flavorful on the back palate. Better than both was Weller Special Reserve (reviewed earlier in this blog.)
Is it even possible to make good whiskey quickly, without aging, though chemistry? The idea is anathema to most of the whiskey-drinking world, but I did find some good articles on the topic:
Four Roses Small Batch
Four Roses Yellow Label
A friend and I traveled to Codex, a 1920’s style speakeasy in Nashua, NH, to enjoy the city’s annual Winter Holiday Stroll and cocktails in style. Here I tried Four Roses Small batch. The origin of Four Roses is unclear. Some accounts credit Rufus Mathewson Rose, post Civil War, but the Four Roses web
site now credits a Paul Jones, Jr, who trademarked the name in 1888. In 1910 Four Roses was produced at the distillery in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Seagram purchased this brand in 1943. The brand went through a period of highs and lows, with dramatically changing mash bills and recipes. A series of ownership changes in the 2000’s led to the distillery being purchased by the Kirin Brewery Company of Japan. Under their leadership, Four Roses began producing a variety of highly regarded, straight bourbon whiskeys, one of which we’re reviewing today.
So what is in Four Roses Small Batch? The mashbill is a mix of four recipes used by Four Roses: OBSO, OBSK, OESK, OESO. The OB batches have 60% Corn, 35% Rye, 5% Malted Barley, and the OE batches have 75% Corn, 20% Rye, 5% Malted Barley. They’re aged in new charred oak casks. 90 proof. No age statement – I looked at other reviews, and some stated that Four Roses Small Batch is about 8 years old. Details on the Four Roses recipes may be found here.
Nose: A light fruit sensation, almost flowery. Palate: Much greater than one might expect from the nose! Light the front palate, a hint of citrus, an almost apple-like tartness. Refreshing. A bit of caramel and oak develops on the back palate. A delicious, lingering finish. Now I definitely want to compare this to the “bottom shelf” version, Four Roses Yellow Label Straight Bourbon, as well as to the more upscale single barrel selections.
Here’s another informative review on this fine whiskey (sure, I link to other blogs, why not?) The Casks.com Four-roses-yellow-label
Four Roses Yellow Label
Much more affordable than the Small Batch, Yellow Label is the base version of the Four Roses bourbon family, and it’s surprisingly excellent. My 750 ml bottle was just $15! It’s not quite as refined as the small batch, perhaps a tad less smooth, and a bit lower in proof – but this is a fine drink that I have shared with friends, all of whom enjoyed it very much. Very glad I purchased this bottle. I enjoyed this even more than other somewhat more expensive whiskeys, like Knob Creek (which in of itself is a good product.)
Age: No age statement, but other reviewers, based on their research peg it as being around 6 years old. The mashbill is a mix of 8 to 10 recipes used by Four Roses, with corn, rye, and malted barley. They’re aged in new charred oak casks. 80 proof.
So where did we do this evening’s tasting? At the Codex BAR, a 1920s-Inspired Speakeasy Bar in Nashua, New Hampshire.
[During the Prohibition] Speakeasies popped up in every city across America…. Codex isn’t an ordinary bar, it’s a speakeasy. Inspired by the Prohibition Era, this bar is hidden. And by hidden I mean it’s disguised as a used bookstore on Elm Street… This storefront, however, is not the actual entrance… To get in, you’ll have to go down the side alley and find the unmarked door… Once you enter the “bookstore” you’re presented with a large bookcase and an apparent dead end…. take another look at the books. One of them is actually a secret lever! Pull the right book on the shelf, and you’ll be granted entrance through a secret door into the bar…. Read on: New England Today: Codex speakeasy
Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery is Austin-Niochols in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. Age: A blend of 6 to 8 year old bourbons. I’ve read that the mash bill is 75/13/12 corn/rye/barley. 50 Proof. Appearance – Light maple syrup color. Palate: Much better than the Canadian Club that I had previously; this bourbon has a toasty kind of quality, black peppery and rye spices. Rougher around the edges than the Knob Creek or Woodford Reserve. A bit strong for me to drink straight, I’d use this as a mixer or in cooking (heresy, I know!)
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