Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Ezra B 12 Year Old Bourbon

OK, two things:

1) As this summer has gotten busier and busier, I have not been good about posting regularly.  I’m still sampling new bourbons, still reading about developments in the whiskey world and what not, but I’m not writing about it enough.

2) Despite the name “Baseball and Bourbon,” I hardly ever write about baseball! I named the blog Baseball and Bourbon because I planned on reviewing two of the things I enjoy the most: baseball parks and bourbons.  However, I discovered two key facts early on – it’s difficult to visit new parks regularly, and it’s way more fun (and easy) to try new bourbons.  This year alone, I have been able to visit one new park (Nationals Park), but will have gone on three separate trips to Kentucky for bourbon related events.

Both of these things will change now.

Not going to more baseball parks – time and money can prohibit that pretty severely.  But introducing more baseball content.  Reviews of baseball books, baseball movies, write-ups of parks I’ve visited in the past and just more baseball chatter will be a priority.  My hometown Detroit Tigers are (again) serious contenders for the title, and I keep pretty well plugged in to baseball.  Time to put it to type.

Secondly, I will include more bourbon reviews, but also, talk more at length about whiskey bars I visit, industry trends, and other whiskeys, especially ryes,

So let the fun begin!

Last night, after what has proven to be a particularly trying week in many regards, my wife and I sat down and opened a bottle that she had picked up a few weeks back out of curiosity.

Ezra B 12 Year Old Bourbon

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Ezra B 12 Year Old Bourbon
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Ezra B 12 Year Old Bourbon

OK, call this a spoiler alert, but I LOVED this bourbon.  Ezra B (Brooks) 12 Year is a Heaven Hill distillery product, and while Heaven Hill makes some bourbons I have liked (Evan Williams, Elijah Craig) and some I haven’t, none have ever tasted quite like this.

While the Ezra B 12 Year is the classier bottle of the Ezra Brooks line, with its wax cap and ribboned label, it’s not obscenely priced.  A little harder to find here in Detroit, it was still available at a store, and not only through third party sellers.  We opened the bottle and poured a healthy amount into our glasses…

…wow, what a fantastic nose.  Ezra B is 99 proof, but the nose didn’t burn of alcohol at all.  Amazingly, it was a sweet, rich nose, with notes of vanilla, caramel, raisin, rum, pecans and wood.  Not charred wood, mind you, but soft wood, like a new baseball bat.  It was warm and inviting.

The taste was outstanding.  First of all, Ezra B 12 Year is a thick mouth feel – like a melting butter.  But unlike most thicker tasting bourbons, Ezra B isn’t full of those mouth-puckering tannins some people (not I) love.  Instead, it’s incredibly smooth with a layered taste.  It opens with a rich sweetness – raisin and ripe banana, toffee and caramel, before giving way to a warming but not overpowering spice.

The finish is soft and medium, and almost seems to come in waves, but not of spice or rye, but rather, that wonderful citrus taste.

This just became a favorite.

Dan’s rating: 9.3

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Russell’s Reserve 10 Year

After a slight sabbatical consisting of a trip to Baltimore (where my hotel overlooked Oriole Park at Camden Yards, and I was able to watch the closing innings of the Toronto Blue Jays at the Baltimore Orioles from the comfort of my hotel room) and, of course, Easter, I am back to review a bourbon that is neither rare nor indie, but that I found absolutely outstanding: Russell’s Reserve 10 Year.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Russell's Reserve 10 Year
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Russell’s Reserve 10 Year

Now, the Russell’s Reserve 10 Year came highly recommended by my co-worker, friend and fellow bourbon enthusiast Josh McAllister, who mentioned how he had sampled it not too long ago and it immediately became one of his favorites.  I know Josh to have good taste, so it made my short list as well, and soon enough, an opportunity to sample it came up.  The company I work for often has a few international interns at any given time, and we were lucky enough to have Cecile, who came to us from France, in our department.  On her last day a few weeks ago, we decided to have a toast to bid her Bon Voyage at our weekly meeting.  Spies were dispatched to find her drink of choice, and it was reported back that she was a fan of Wild Turkey.  Perfect.

The Russell alluded to in the name Russell’s Reserve is none other than legendary Master Distiller Jimmy Russell (as well as his son, Associate Distiller Eddie Russell), the man behind Wild Turkey. Jimmy Russell is a legend, and I was fortunate enough to hear him speak at the Bourbon Classic this year in January.  So Russell’s Reserve, which claims to be Jimmy’s hand picked small batch, should truly be the representation of his son and his combined 85 years of experience.  The website also mentions that they cut it with water less than other bourbons before barreling, and that “Russell’s Reserve is matured in barrels with the deepest #4 char, or “alligator” char, ensuring the maximum flavor and colour is developed during aging.”

So I bought a bottle and, as our weekly meeting wrapped up, poured glasses for those hearty souls to toast the outgoing Cecile, off to new adventures!

Russell's Reserve 10 day at Dan's work
Russell’s Reserve 10 day at Dan’s work

My take: Wow.  There is everything to love about this bourbon.  The availability (here in Michigan, I’ve seen RR at local Meijer stores – I’ve seen Blanton’s and Elmer T Lee there too – so it’s not too hard to find), the price point (between $28-$33 here in Michigan), the bottle (classy) and cetainly not the taste.

The nose was warm and inviting, with notes of caramel and vanilla.  Enough sweet cinnamon showed through to make me anticipate a ‘popping’ taste (more on that in a second), and the age and char showed through with a deep, distinct air of toasted oak.

The taste was also warm, but I didn’t get the jarring taste of burned wood that I anticipated, nor a spicy ‘bite,’ but rather, a smooth soft woodiness mixed with a slight sweet vanilla and caramel taste.  I will reinforce the word ‘smooth,’ because I was taken aback with just how smooth this was, not too thick a mouth feel, but not thin in anyway.  Alongside the oak and vanilla, there were the sparkles of cinnamon, but minus the roughness that sometimes follows it.

The finish was clean and soft, if a little short.  I was impressed all the way around and, if Wild Turkey or Mr. Russell ever put out a barrel strength, I would sincerely love to try it.  It’s not a perfect 10, but for what it is it’s an A in my book.

Dan’s Rating: 9.1

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Stagg Jr.

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Stagg Jr.

It’s been a rough week over here at Baseball and Bourbon: I had my wisdom teeth out.  I won’t embellish, it didn’t go as poorly – or painfully – as some people had warned me.  But it wasn’t exactly fun either.  Most saddening was the fact that I was advised not to drink bourbon while my jaw recovered.  The one saving grace was that it gave me the perfect excuse to rest and watch the NCAA tournament all weekend.  So with a congrats to the Dayton Flyers, as well as Michigan and Michigan State, this week’s review is of a new favorite of mine.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Stagg Jr.
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Stagg Jr.

Now, I have no been lucky enough yet to get my hands (and taste buds) on a pour of George T. Stagg, try as I may.  I’ve been able to hunt down glasses, if not bottles, of almost all of the other Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, but the GTS eludes me.

That said, I was fortunate enough, when in Kentucky, to get my hands on a bottle of Stagg Jr, the newer offering from the BTAC.  Aged 8-9 years (unlike the 15+ GTS is bottled at), but coming from the exact same mash bill, ‘unfiltered’ and ‘uncut,’ it pours at a barrel strength. My bottle shows a 136.6 proof, or 68.3% alcohol.  Potent.

What I really note about the Stagg Jr was how my opinion changed over three months, and three different tastings.  I first had the Stagg Jr. in December at a bourbon event at the Wine Garden in St. Clair Shores.  There I found it too brash and even harsh.  Two months later I tried it again at a local whiskey bar, and found that I enjoyed it much more, and found it much more complex.  Last week, for review purposes, I tried it again, and came to trust my second, rather than first impression.

The nose: Make no mistake, like any barrel proof, that first sniff will be a burn.  Give it a minute to breathe, and you will note a burned-sugar-toffee, vanilla, charred oak and some spiciness.  The sweet notes – vanilla and toffee – strengthen as it site, too.

The taste: Again, let’s not kid – that barrel proof is a kicker.  It has a thicker mouth taste than I expected, but I could taste very strong influence of charred oak and rye spiciness.  A hint of brown sugar, but the sweetness gave way to the spicier hints of cinnamon, pepper and oak.  It didn’t knock me back, but I found it smoother than anticipated, without ice.

The finish: It has a burn, a good solid one.  Notes of spice hold out along with the taste of wood and subtle sugar sweetness. A little dry, as though there were tannins, on the throat.

My take: Personally, I like Stagg Jr.  Looking around online, it seems the biggest drawback Stagg Jr has is not being George T Stagg.  Maybe I will feel that way when I’ve had the GTS, but for now, I find this to be a nice, strong drink.

Dan’s Rating: 8.4

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: John B. Stetson Bourbon

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: John B. Stetson Bourbon

I’ve been spoiled a bit lately with the bourbons I’ve been sampling.  Pappy Van Winkle, Eagle Rare 17, even the local spirits have been impressive. And I have plenty more quality beverages to sample in the near future.  But today I turn my attention to a bit of an odd one: The John B. Stetson Bourbon.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: John B. Stetson Bourbon
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: John B. Stetson Bourbon

Now, I appreciate a good Stetson hat.  Growing up with a love for country music, how couldn’t I?  But a Bourbon produced for a company famous for hats and western clothes – color me skeptical.

I purchased the bottle in Kentucky, unaware that it was available here in Michigan.  It’s certainly an attractive enough bottle, with it’s leather tie and old style label.

My take: On pour, this bourbon is light.  Very light.  Not at all the darker hues I’m used to, it has an amber clearness to it.  Looking online, the belief is that it is a four-year-old bourbon, and there is much speculation as to where the juice is sourced from, before being labeled and bottled for the Stetson company.

The nose reflects this – it is light and airy at first, and slowly opens up to reveal a corn syrup smell, with a sharp alcohol bite.  It’s a rye/wheat blend (in addition to the usual barley and, of course, corn), but has only the lightest spiciness (baking spices, not pepper) in the smell.

To me it tasted very much as I suspected it would: very light and almost watery with a corn sugar opening.  It never really heats up too much, and while very light hints of allspice, and a trace of butterscotch are present, it tastes…young.  The finish is quite smooth, but very short, and didn’t burn at all (which is fine with me).

If you gave me the choice between this and a Stetson hat, I’d probably take the hat.  But it’s not a bad bourbon, just a little young and a little light for my tastes.

Dan’s rating: 7.3

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Eagle Rare 17 Year-Old

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Eagle Rare 17 Year-Old

The explosion of bourbon popularity has led to many things: one one hand, there is a massive array of new, innovative and exciting brands and makers growing larger by the day. On the other hand, many products are harder and harder to find.

Another one of the advantages is the number of bourbon, or whiskey, themed bars popping up.  Here in Detroit, where the bourbon does not flow as freely as in Kentucky, this can mean a connoisseur (or at least a well read poseur) has a possibility of trying a spirit that would otherwise remain unavailable to them.

Last week, my fellow musician/bourbon-loving friend Jeremy Porter mentioned a bar that had opened in my neck of the woods and had a particularly noteworthy collection of whiskeys:  The Butter Run Saloon is St. Clair Shores, Michigan.  A quick look at the website caught me off guard – 84 different bourbons.  An amazing selection, even more surprising that it happened to be in the relatively sleepy burb I grew up in.

Butter Run Saloon: 84 different bourbons
A bourbon list of note – Butter Run Saloon: 84 different bourbons

Partially, my surprise was in my notion of what kind of bar would host such an elaborate selection – at least here in Detroit.  I shuddered while images of skinny-jeaned, ironic t-shirted hipsters gleefully threw down this week’s leftover vintage bicycle money on glasses of Pappy Van Winkle while discussing the day’s English Premier League scores and the latest London Grammar release.  This was not the case, in fact, it was almost the polar opposite.

The bar is a quiet, working class pub style restaurant/bar, that just also happens to have an amazing selection of bourbons (as well as over 100 scotches).  It serves good burgers, good onion rings, and Angels Envy Cask Strength (?!?).

Since there were a good number of drinks on this list I have not had the ability to hunt down for myself, I decided to try one that has been on my list for some time.  A big fan of the Eagle Rare 10 year, it seemed a good idea to try the Eagle Rare 17 Year-Old.  I was not disappointed.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Eagle Rare 17 Year-Old
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Eagle Rare 17 Year-Old

I love Eagle Rare – partially because I love the variations that I have gotten from this straight bourbon, but have not been able to get my hands on a bottle of the 17 Year, hard as I have tried (and I have tried, believe me).  With a glass in my hand, it was everything I love about the 10 year, but even more.

My take: The nose of this glass was deep, and incredibly complex and varied.  At first, I could make out fruits and a bit of spiciness. Baking apples and cinnamon, raisins and orange peel.  A charming array that slowly, as the glass opened, turned into warm leather and oak.

The first sip surprised me – it had a silkiness to it, and the smoky oak taste, but it wasn’t harsh at all.  Rather, it was gentle despite the tannin, and not bitter at all.  Raisins and almond were there before a soft leather presented itself upon the long finish.

To me. this was a magnificent drink.  Full of character and flavor, but not too harsh or biting.  Smooth, but not weak.  A top five, to be sure!

Dan’s Rating: 9.3

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: New Holland Artisan Spirits Black River Bourbon Brewers Whiskey

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: New Holland Artisan Spirits Black River Bourbon Brewers Whiskey

Some days, you can’t wait to get home and pour a nice glass of bourbon to celebrate a job well done. Other days, it’s a nice relaxing way to end a hard days work. But sometimes, sometimes you need that drink, to help you remember that the working day is over and to remind your self that your toils are not for naught.

Now, dear reader, I hope that most of your days fall into the first category, with a few in the second. But when those third kind of days arise, that may well be why God gave us bourbon in the first place.

Now Monday and Tuesday weren’t so bad, not really. Just the kind of days where little fires sprung up all day, and there never seems to be enough water to put them all out. Luckily for me, at days end I was in luck: I had brought a new bottle of bourbon into work to ask our staff photographer (and my good friend) Mike Tesh to take a picture of it for this website. Seeing as how it was days end, after all, I certainly saw no harm in sharing some of this new drink.

I’m also lucky to work at a place with a few like minded individuals. So without further ado, I also grabbed fellow bourbon enthusiast Josh McAllister and Katie Gleason to join us.  Today’s bourbon of choice came to us from the New Holland Artisan Collection, a collection of which I have tried several different brandings already. Just a few weeks back I spoke to the fun of their Beer Barrel Bourbon, and I’m hoping to get a review posted in the next couple of weeks about one of my favorite whiskeys made by them, the Zeppelin Bend.

Today we tried the smaller batch Brewers Whiskey they have named Black River Bourbon.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: New Holland Artisan Spirits Black River Bourbon Brewers Whiskey. Photo by Mike Tesh
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: New Holland Artisan Spirits Black River Bourbon Brewers Whiskey. Photo by Mike Tesh

The Black River bourbon bottle states it was pot distilled and aged in new American oak, as all bourbon should be. From what I have read, it is my understanding that they barrel this whiskey in smaller barrels to accelerate the aging process. I may have my doubts about the successfulness of aging a bourbon more quickly by changing the barrel size. That said, we all poured a small glass, and went to work, albeit in a more utilitarian setting then I am accustomed to.

Josh, myself and Katie try a little bourbon
Josh, myself and Katie try a little bourbon

Our take: if you have read this blog before, you know I have a pretty simple way of judging and rating Bourbons by my palate. First, I try all Bourbons straight. No ice, no mixing, just straight from the bottle to the glass. If a bourbon is impressive in a glass by itself, then it needs no mixing. My favorite Bourbons are all ones that could be had in a glass, neat.

It needs proves to be harsh, or unimpressive, then I will add in a few chips of ice. There are certainly wonderful Bourbons that really don’t become themselves until there is a little ice added. Woodford Reserve, for instance, never tastes right to me without a few rocks in the glass. Woodford may not be my favorite bourbon, but it is certainly a good bourbon and a very nice pour.

If those two methods haven’t given me enough to impress, I will try a bourbon in a mixed drink. A Manhattan, a whiskey sour, etc. Personally I rarely like mixed drinks, so that really is a last method of finding something I like about any particular bourbon. Again, there are fine Bourbons that go well in Manhattans that I wouldn’t necessarily drink straight or on the rocks. But if I had to mix you too enjoy you, you aren’t going to rate very high with me.

Unfortunately, the Black River Bourbon falls somewhere between that second and third category. It’s nose was relatively unimpressive.  There was the strong scent of corn, with an undercurrent of oak. I could pick out raisins, and some earthy tones, but mostly it was the corn and wood.

The taste could only be described as young. The mouth feel was very thin, and as Josh had pointed out to me quickly, there was an emptiness of body. The predominant taste was that of Oakwood. There was a subtle hint of cigar box, some light nuttiness and a general burnt sugar that never grew into something greater, like molasses for brown sugar, but rather, stayed with a slight singed taste.

The finish was mellow, and again the wood returned. There was nothing disagreeable, or unpleasant about this bourbon. Just unremarkable. As we drank our second set, we all agreed: there wasn’t much to say negative about this bourbon, there just wasn’t anything that positive to say either.

Not all efforts are winners. Buffalo trace, four instance, takes big risks with their Single Oak Project, and their experimental bourbon line. If this is an effort that New Holland is using to refine their process, the good news is they’ve made a quality bourbon. It just isn’t anything special. Not yet anyway.

As for us, well, as Josh and I joked, the worst day drinking bourbon at work beats the best day not!”

Dan’s Rating: 6.9

Bourbon Classic Day One: Cocktails for two

Bourbon Classic Day One: Cocktails for two

After a month of anticipation, I am here in Louisville Kentucky for the Bourbon Classic, and so far it has been tremendous fun. We got in late afternoon yesterday, with enough time to check into the beautiful and unique 21c Museum hotel, and get ready for the event itself starting at 7:00.

Welcome to the Bourbon Classic
Welcome to the Bourbon Classic

This is the Bourbon Classic’s second year, and the presentation last evening was fantastic. For last night’s sampling and competition, several different bourbon brands pared up with some fantastic chefs and mixologists to prepare small plate tastings and cocktails.

Each distillery/chef had a table serving area, and visitors were free to walk up to each one and try the dish, cocktail, or ideally, the pairing of both. The bourbons represented some of the best and most well known in the industry: Angels Envy, Jim Beam, Woodford Reserve, Buffalo Trace, Michters, Blantons and Wild Turkey. We started out on the far side of the convention hall, with Angels Envy, who served up a beef satay with green chili grits, a deviled egg, and paired it with a Boulevardier cocktail. A delicious pairing for, A.E. and Chef Terry French (winner of the Food Network’s “Extreme Chef” contest in 2012).

Chef Terry French at the Angel's Envy table
Chef Terry French at the Angel’s Envy table

The treats kept coming – Highlights included the Sable Manhattan mixed by Issac Fox of Volare using Jim Beam black (delish!), Woodford Reserve and Chef Bobby Benjamin paired up for a chicken and waffles that was truly breathtakingly good, and the work of Blantons and Proof on Main Chef Levon Wallace.

Chef Levon Wallace of Proof on Main pairs with Blanton's
Chef Levon Wallace of Proof on Main pairs with Blanton’s

Now, my love of Blanton’s is known to readers, so it’s hardly shocking I would find this to be my favorite pairing. But the taste of Chef Wallace’s Lamb scrapple with red eye hollandaise and cornbread fried in duck fat, paired with a Blantons based Fancy Free was the highlight for Jen and I. Both were delicious, and went together so nicely, that we had to give Chef Wallace our compliments – and it was our great pleasure to find him to be a fantastic guy to boot! Suffice to say, we look forward to eating at Proof on Main next time we are in Louisville, and enjoying the fantastic foods.

Chef Levon Wallace talks with Jen and I
Chef Levon Wallace talks with Jen and I

After the first pass through, many of the brands and chefs started rolling out second options, and dear reader, that’s where my notes fall off. We met some wonderful people, like the aforementioned Issac Fox and Chef Wallace, and made some new friends. We spent a good portion of the evening chatting with Gregory and Chris, two very nice gentlemen from Virginia who headed here for a bit of a college reunion. We also met a pair of ladies who are are close to launch on a Bourbon-lifestyle centered website, and who kindly directed us to some other local cuisine to try.

Today is day two, with some learning sessions and more tastings this afternoon and evening. We drove around Louisville a bit today, procured some future bourbon of the week bottles, and ate lunch at the fantastic Garage Bar. We’ve met some wonderful people – from knowledgeable collectors who have helped me augment my own, to the chefs, restaurant managers and people here at the hotel, so far everyone has been fantastic. On to day two!

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon

10 days and counting until the Bourbon Classic, and the excitement continues to build, in spite of a second round of Polar Vortex weather here in frozen Michigan.  I received some great feedback on last weeks DBotW (Traverse City Whiskey Co. American Cherry Edition), so this week I continue on with Michigan based bourbons: the New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon

New Holland Brewing is responsible for many of the fantastic, Michigan-based brands of beer.  I’ll be the first to admit, I am not a great connoisseur of beer, but even I am aware of their qualities.  The Hatter series are renowned in the area, and one of their most unique and popular labels is the “Dragon’s Milk,” a stout beer aged in Oak bourbon barrels.  It is a tasty and satisfying beer, and it’s with this product in mind that New Holland – who extended their beverage creation to the New Holland Artisan Spirits a few years back – created the Beer Barrel Bourbon.

Just as Dragon’s Milk is aged in oak bourbon barrels, New Holland created their Beer Barrel Bourbon by finishing a pre-aged bourbon (sourced from a distiller in Indiana) in former Dragon’s Milk barrels.  There is, of course, an irony to this – the bourbon is being finished in actual bourbon barrels that had been ‘borrowed’ to age beer.  But it promises a unique finish – taking a bourbon and introducing it to the barrel flavor of a rich, creamy, vanilla-strong stout beer.

Like last week, I should admit here that I have serious reservations about bourbons where the juice itself was prepared offsite and the label company was responsible only for finishing and bottling.  You can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear, they say (who says that?  I don’t know – i suppose either the purse or bacon industries).  So the idea that you can take a less-than bourbon and make it something worthwhile by disguising its real taste is upsetting to me.  Allow me to say that the New Holland Bourbon is from neither the best nor worst stock. It’s unfinished taste is straightforward and young.  I feel pretty confident that, without the beer finishing, I would not be overly fond of this beverage. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with it, rather, its mellow, young and not impressively unique.  However, I’m not judging it without the finish.

My take:

From the cool New Holland bottle, Beer Barrel Bourbon is a nice pour.  It has a rich amber color, and looks nice enough in the glass.  It’s nose, I couldn’t help but notice, changed with a bit of time.  At first blush it has a nice blend of vanilla, toffee and oak, but with a few minutes in the glass, it opens up some malt and hop scents.  A faint smell of the beer finish is introduced, and becomes stronger the longer it is in the glass.

It has a thicker mouth feel – not necessarily creamy, but not too light, It has caramel, and corn (a bit more corn than I like), and it delicately smooth on sip.  There are oak flavors, but I didn’t get tannins, and it was a pleasant drink.

The finish is where it gets the most interesting.  While the sip is easy on the throat,  it is really then that the Dragon’s Milk influence comes out – you taste the stout beer presence on the finish – almost like it had it’s own chaser.  Given the good pour that Dragon’s Milk is, this was a wholly welcome development.

Also worth noting is the finishing kick this bourbon has – my wife and I both noticed that this one left that warm from-the-stomach-headed-up feeling other liquors do.  On such a cold winters night, it was kind of appreciated, and it certainly sets it apart.  The finish actually had more kick than the drink!

Lastly, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention this: One of my favorite parts of being a bourbon nut are the scents that are left in a glass after finishing it.  I revel in the magical sweet smells you can find in a glass minutes or even hours after a drink has been finished.  This one was no exception, but one thing was significantly different: the glass smelled like beer.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

Dan’s rating: 7.8 (higher if you are a micro-brew aficionado)

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Traverse City Whiskey Company American Cherry Edition Bourbon

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Traverse City Whiskey Company American Cherry Edition Bourbon

Today I start the two week countdown: two weeks from tomorrow I will be traveling to Louisville Kentucky to take part in the Bourbon Classic. The Classic is a newer event where distillers, enthusiasts, master chefs, distilleries and fans will gather in Louisville to learn about, taste and truly revel in the spirit we enjoy so much.  This will be my first time at the Classic, a Christmas gift courtesy of my wonderful wife Jen, and I am counting down the minutes.

In The meantime, life goes on. And today it went on with an unexpected snowfall, and a painfully slow commute home from work. Such a day almost requires a glass of fine bourbon at the end of it to calm one’s nerves. Luckily for me, I had several new ones to choose from, so this evening I sampled one of he newer offerings from the Traverse City Whiskey Co., a Cherry infused Bourbon they refer to as their “American Cherry Edition!”

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Traverse City Whiskey Company American Cherry Edition Bourbon
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Traverse City Whiskey Company American Cherry Edition Bourbon

 
For those familiar with it, the Traverse City Whiskey Co. has been making small batch Michigan-based bourbon for a a while now. I say making, but in actuality they, as a newer distillery, have been purchasing their bourbon from a Midwest distributor who has created it to the taste profile they requested. This can get tricky, as we discussed in the past. Sometimes that means that smaller distilleries are basically slapping a label on a second rate product, and selling it under a “local” banner.

Now, if you read this blog regularly you know there are two particular things that can get my goat when talking about bourbon. I really hate when I believe a second rate offering hits the market at a premium price simply to be part of the current bourbon craze, and I have a personal vendetta against Bourbons that have been tarnished with too much finishing, flavor adding, or just shenanigans that confuse a flavor profile. So it would be a fair assumption that I would not be fond of a bourbon whiskey, from a newer outsourced brand, that has been infused with cherries. But that assumption would be wrong.

At least tonight. Maybe it was a refreshing drink after a long day. Maybe it was my home state pride. Likely, it was both with a strong dose of the mere fact I love cherries. But I actually enjoyed this, even more then I would have guessed.

My take:

The bottle I purchased was hand labeled Batch 001. Now I don’t know if that means it came from their first batch ever, as the product was just introduced in the fall, or the first batch of this year. But it was number one all the same. The nose was exactly what you would expect from a cherry infused bourbon. The scent of cherries, so integral a part of Traverse City tradition, was certainly the most noticeable element. There was also a strong scent of burned sugar, so common in younger Bourbons. After the glass sat a while, you could pick out notes of vanilla giving way to a baking spice elements. Cherries, vanilla and baking spices…made me hungry for a slice of pie to go with it.

The taste was more bourbon than cherry, and I’d say, for the market they seek, it’s a well measured mix. I could still get strong vanilla tastes, and although it was a rye, the spiciness was very low and tempered. That was probably due in no small part to the cherries, which blended well. There was a nice oakiness to it as well. It’s a thin mouth feel, and goes down easy with very little burn at the finish. I like a mellowed finish myself, so those looking for that finishing warmth may be disappointed, but then again, if you’re looking to get your ass kicked, you probably aren’t drinking cherry infused bourbon.

The price point for this juice is not bad – I picked it up for $25 and it seems about right. I would be more likely to mix it in an Old Fashioned or Manhattan where the cherry flavor would be a better touch.

According to their website, the Traverse City Whiskey Co. is currently working to set it self up as a fully in house bourbon distillery. They are going so far as to plant the crops that they will use in the process. Personally, I encourage this kind of growth. There is something special about a distillery that grows, distills and markets its own unique beverages. I look forward to seeing how the TCWC grows.

I feel strange about giving a rating to a bourbon that is so different then the others I typically try. But I will do it anyway.

Dan’s rating: 8.3 as a mixer bourbon; 7.5 as a sipper

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Angel’s Envy

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Angel’s Envy

It’s cold here in Detroit. Damn cold. A “polar vortex!” The kind of brutal cold that makes you want to curl up by the fire with a good book or, in the case of my wife, all six seasons of Breaking Bad.  At once.  Yikes.

Personally, I prefer the warmth that comes from sipping a great bourbon.  So with that in mind, with the snow shoveling done and the wind howling, I perused my bourbon cabinet, and decided to try the unique looking bottle of Angel’s Envy.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Angel's Envy
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Angel’s Envy

I will admit I had a bit of a grudge against Angel’s Envy.  When I first started making myself a nuisance around liquor stores, seeking out new bourbons to try and review, store keeper after store keeper would push Angel’s Envy on me.  It started to get obnoxious – I’m looking on the backs of shelves for a forgotten single barrel, a neglected micro distillery bottle or a dusty bottle of Pappy or Stagg, and aggressive sales people kept telling me “try Angel’s Envy.”  So I began to rebel against the thought of it, and didn’t pick up a bottle.

Well, this Christmas, I received a bottle as a gift, so there was no need to boycott it anymore.  So while the gales blew outside, I popped the cork and poured a glass.

Angel’s Envy has been on the scene for a couple years, a unique bourbon with two claims to fame – one that it was created by the Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, the taste buds behind Woodford Reserve’s introduction in the mid-90s, as well as the creation of Gentleman Jack Tennessee Whiskey; and two that it is a bourbon finished in Port Wine ‘pipes’ or barrels.  Angel’s Envy hit the shelves in 2011, and didn’t take long to make a big splash.

Mr. Henderson passed away this last year, but the spirit he created in Angel’s Envy continues to live on.

My take:  It has a distinctive bottle and it a sharp looking product.  In the glass is is a lighter amber color than most of the bourbons I’ve sampled, more transparent and less thick looking.

But my goodness the nose – Angel’s Envy has a fantastic nose. There is a sweetness, like maple syrup and brown sugar. I also noted something reminiscent of raisins. With eyes closed, the sweetness came with each sniff – slight caramel, hints of vanilla.  This had one of my favorite noses of all time.

After such a spectacular nose, I had a hunch the taste may let me down, and it did, if only a bit.  Not that it was bad – far from.  It was smooth and there were no unreasonable tastes.  Mainly I noted soft corn, a hint of cinnamon and clove, and a very light vanilla.  It didn’t burn, and no particular flavor jumped to the forefront.  It was a fine, pleasant, and rather thin mouth-feeling bourbon.  The finish was long and warm, and only then did you get a hint of the port wine that it was finished in.

When we were done, my wife Jen and I looked for the right words to describe it and struggled a bit.  It was smooth, clean, almost too pure.  I would not hesitate offering a glass to a non-bourbon drinker as something they might well enjoy.  It was like…

…Gentleman Jack.  It hit me that it’s smooth, tasteful but ultimately safe pour reminded me of Gentleman Jack, the smooth, tasteful but ultimately safe pour Tennessee Whiskey I enjoy when I’m not feeling like a bourbon.  The fact that both are recipes from the same man only encouraged this feeling.

I love GJ, and I like AE.  It might not be the bourbon I would pour for the adventurous bourbon palette, and it doesn’t have the aged taste of a great bourbon.  But it is a also a drink you could have anytime without concern it would be the wrong taste for the moment either.  If it was a plain whiskey, I would give it something in the mid or high 8’s, but as it is a bourbon…

Dan’s scale (1-10): 7.8

*there is a cask strength Angel’s Envy, which I am looking to score a bottle of.  I have a hunch in a higher proof, I would like this bourbon even more and note certain flavors much more.