I recently stumbled upon a bottle of Wild Turkey Rare Breed bourbon at a friend’s house and had to ask for a sample. Rare Breed is a limited run made from a combination of 6, 8, and 12 year Wild Turkey batches. It’s dubbed ‘barrel proof’ meaning it goes straight from the barrel to the bottle without being watered down. That said, it packs quite a punch at 108 proof.
First off, I have to admire how Rare Breed is so meaty that it sticks to the inside of my tumbler. The nose was mostly alcohol, but I managed to pull out some subtle scents of tobacco and leather.
On the tongue, Rare Breed is bold and peppery. There is a dryness with subtle flavors of nutmeg and oak from the start. As it mellows, I get some decent orangey sweetness combined with brown sugar on my palette. It finishes crisp, with a warm and comforting burn lingering in my belly for several minutes. Even with a few ice cubes, I was quite impressed with how well it holds up.
I like the complexity and totally respect the product, but have to admit that Rare Breed is a bit bold for my taste. Enthusiasts of a lot of burn will really appreciate this one.
Verdict: Unique, spicy, and flavorful. A nice treat.
Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey has a uniqueness and complexity that makes it distinct. This is probably due to its relatively high rye content (at about 28% of the mash). Distilled in Kentucky limestone-filtered water and aged in charred American oak barrels, Bulleit (90 proof) claims it ages the bourbon “until it is ready” and obvious swipe at the pretentious “how-old-is-this” crowd. The brand added a straight-up rye whiskey to its arsenal in 2011.
The bottle itself is fairly unique itself compared to many others on the shelf. I love the way the old medicine bottle and raised lettering conveys a nostalgic note which is punctuated with an understated label placed slightly askew. It’s so understated that if you were not familiar with Bulleit, you may have to ask the guy behind the counter where they keep it.
Bulleit has a rich amber color in the glass and a warming, smokey scent. Without ice, I experienced a good burn from the front to the back. It starts out strong and spicy giving way to flavors of brown sugar, wild flowers, and vanilla with very long flavorful finish waiting at the end. I added a few ice cubes which mellowed the burn slightly without dulling the richness of the flavors.
There is a depth and complexity in Bulleit that I find appealing. I think this is one to keep around for when you’re in the mood for something slightly different.
Jim Beam’s latest, known as “Jacob’s Ghost White Whiskey” began shipping this week so we should see it popping up on store shelves soon. Beam named it in honor of Jacob Beam, the founding distiller of Jim Beam.
Jacob’s Ghost is an 80-proof whiskey that is aged for one year in a charred, white oak barrels. Because of the short aging process the whiskey does not pick up the caramel color of the wood, so it has a white/yellow hue like moonshine. While Beam insists that it is not moonshine, both the labeling and pale color are clear references the rich history of white lightning.
Stay tuned for a review as soon as I can find a bottle.
Verdict: Excellent Mid-bodied Small Batch
I picked up a bottle of 1792 Ridgemont Reserve Bourbon (named for the year Kentucky became a state) on a recent trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The airlines frown upon traveling with liquid these days, so I was happy to see that stores that far west of Kentucky had bourbon on the shelves. 1792 is aged eight years and is 93.7 proof, making it slightly milder than some more prolific bourbons. I couldn’t resist taking the photo (above) with the Grand Tetons as the backdrop.
First off, the bottle is great – the thick glass reveals the rich, dark color of the contents with a cork and burlap wrap around the neck. A nice presentation for a small batch bourbon.
A whiff gave me good nose, but it wasn’t overpowering. I had to work pretty hard to get an oaky smell, but it was adequate. My first sample, neat, was very pleasurable – Caramels, vanillas, with a hint of oak – all well balanced. A decent burn with a flavorable finish. Not overly harsh or overly mild – I would put this one somewhere in the mid-range for drinkability.
I think this is a good bourbon to have in stock. Newcomers may enjoy the milder body as well. I tend to put this one in a similar category with like Eagle Rare or Jefferson’s.
Wow. Just got this email from Makers Mark. Glad to hear that they are listening to their fans!
“… Since we announced our decision last week to reduce the alcohol content (ABV) of Maker’s Mark in response to supply constraints, we have heard many concerns and questions from our ambassadors and brand fans. We’re humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker’s Mark. While we thought we were doing what’s right, this is your brand – and you told us in large numbers to change our decision.
You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.
So effective immediately, we are reversing our decision to lower the ABV of Maker’s Mark, and resuming production at 45% alcohol by volume (90 proof). Just like we’ve made it since the very beginning. …”
Great turnaround from a company that produces some of the best bourbon around.
Understanding the difference between whiskey and bourbon is probably confusing for many people because all bourbon is whiskey, but not all whiskey is bourbon. So you are not wrong by calling Jim Beam white label “whiskey” or “bourbon.” However, you wouldn’t want to call Crown Royal “bourbon” because it doesn’t meet the criteria designated by international law.
The three criteria for whiskey to qualify as bourbon are as follows:
- it must be made in the United States
- it must be made from at least 51% and no more than 79% corn
- it must aged for at least two years
Whiskey (also spelled “whisky”) can be made anywhere and can be made from a variety of mash ingredients with a higher or lower corn ratio. For example, rye whiskey uses more rye than corn, scotch is made with malt and grain, Canadian whiskey is often made with a fermented mash of cereal grain, and so on.
Also, although a lot of bourbon is made in Kentucky, bourbon can be made anywhere in the U.S. However, only bourbon made in Kentucky can be designated with a “Kentucky Bourbon” label. The name “bourbon” actually comes from a county in Kentucky called Bourbon County.
I’m seeing rye whiskey pop up all over the place lately. A friend recently fixed me a Sazerac cocktail which uses rye as the base, so I’m adding the recipe below. This is a tasty drink that was popular in New Orleans in the 1850s. It was the signature drink of the Sazerac Coffee House which is how it got it’s name.
- 1/2 teaspoon absinthe
- 1 sugar cube
- 3 dashes of bitters
- 3 ounces rye whiskey
- Strip of lemon peel
- Fill old-fashioned glass with 1 cup ice and set aside.
- In a second glass, stir together the sugar cube, bitters, and ½ teaspoon water until sugar is completely dissolved, about 30 seconds.
- Add rye whiskey and remaining ½ cup ice, and stir well, at least 15 seconds.
- From first glass, discard ice, then add absinthe.
- Roll the glass so that the absinthe completely coats the interior.
- Strain the rye whiskey mixture into the chilled, absinthe-coated glass.
- Squeeze the lemon peel over drink, then drop peel into drink.
If you try this, shoot me a comment and let me know what you think.
I wouldn’t think twice about recommending Eagle Rare Single Barrel as a gift this holiday season. The casual bourbon lover will definitely appreciate flavors while the bourbon aficionados will dig the complexity.
A little back story – Eagle was introduced in 1975 by Charles Beam for Seagram’s and was apparently meant to compete with Wild Turkey at the time. It was one of the last bourbons introduced prior to the current focus on small batch bourbons which began late 80s. The brand has changed hands several times over the years and is now part of the Buffalo Trace family.
The two currently available varieties are the 10 year Single Barrel (90-proof) and the 17 year ‘Antique Collection’ (also 90-proof). What makes the 10 year unique is that the whiskey is not blended, but bottled individually from each charred barrel. This creates a unique tasting experience which is probably why it has won a nice stable of awards over the last several years.
Eagle Rare Single Barrel is a very nice bourbon. The amber color is rich and enticing. The aromas, while not overwhelming, are adequate. I get a hint of orange peel there and maybe some wildflower.
Eagle starts mild then explodes with bold flavors of honey, oak, tobacco, and leather with a distinct sweetness. It finishes very, very long with lingering flavors of toasted almond. This is the kind of finish that really suits me. I give it much-deserved high marks.
Verdict: Warming, flavorful
It’s hard to drink Jim Beam Black without comparing it to Jim Beam original which is probably what most of us cut our teeth on. Black is aged 8 years whereas white is aged 4 years (thus the “double aged” moniker on the label). Black carries a higher price, but carries more complex flavors and I found it much more drinkable than white.
The bottle reveals a rich, dark amber color with a nice body. The barrels are charred new white oak, but I’m not getting the smokey smell that I was expecting. I do get some a nice vanilla aroma even well after the glass is empty.
After a few pleasant sips neat, I added a few ice cubes which helped it opening up, although it held up fairly well without. I found mild flavors of caramel and orange on the tongue. Probably the most dominant characteristic is that starts strong and stays strong (at only 86 proof). So if you’re into a good long burn, you will think this is great.
Just like the original, I think Jim Beam Black is an excellent value for the money. The bottom line is that black is more palatable without a mixer than white, so its advantage is versatility.
Verdict: Will not disappoint
Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select has always been one of my favorites. This is straight-up good bourbon and worth every penny. I know the price is not completely outrageous, but a lot of folks opt for a more economical bourbon like Jack or Jim as an every day drink. I suggest to go ahead and splurge on this one every now and again. It doesn’t stray off the path too much, but it’s a good bit smoother so I don’t think you will be disappointed.
The smell of Woodford is fairly sweet with a good oaky bouquet and a bit of barrel char. It’s not overly sweet, but maybe comes in a little syrupy for some. It has a good balance of honey and brown sugar flavors. I don’t get a big burn, but it does have a nice soft, long finish.
It may be noted that the age is not listed on the bottle and every bottle is numbered with a batch/bottle number. Based on US law any bourbon that is aged less than four years has to have an age statement, so any Woodford bottle that you may get is at least four years old.
For me Woodford has a very drinkable quality. It’s fairly easy to find and I often choose it as my default. It may be a bit pricey as a highball, but a great treat over ice or neat. Enjoy!