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: Penny Packer 80 proof Bourbon

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Penny Packer 80 proof Bourbon

It’s great times.  The Tigers are in the ALCS, the Lions have a winning record, and my main men Joe and Giovanni from Kakos Liquor have advised me of a few new bourbons to give a taste to.  The first one, which I took for a test drive this week, is Penny Packer 80 Proof.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Penny Packer 80 proof Bourbon
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Penny Packer 80 proof Bourbon

Produced in Kentucky, bottled in Germany. I’m not sure how that is remotely close to a good business model, but the amazing thing here is the price point: $18.  That means a fifth is cheaper than Beam or Jack.  But is it as good?  Sort of.

Smooth, vaguely sweet. Sips well, with hints of caramel and vanilla. No overpowering elements. Very clean finish. Not on par with the greats (a little bland) but no shame in it either, and I would think it would be great for bourbon mix drinks.

Dan scale (1-10): 7.3

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 year

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 year

And so it was that I found myself on the highway for a weekend of travel to the our-burbs of Philadelphia and back, to venture to that most strange of environments: my wife’s high school class reunion.  Not just any reunion either, but her sixteenth class reunion (her class did not have the more traditional ten or even fifteen year event).  A night of merriment with strangers whose sole connection is the tenuous relationship they have had with my spouse so long ago that had a child been born on the day of their last commiseration, said kid would be preparing for college themselves.  And atop that, it was on the night of game two of the ALDS is which the Tigers were playing the perpetually underdog Oakland A’s.  If ever there was cause for bourbon, this may be it.

Much to my surprise, this is not how events went down.  The reunion itself was quite pleasant and low-key, and I was introduced to several wonderful people I may not otherwise have met.  I found myself engaged in conversation with some truly interesting individuals, whose acquaintance I am pleased to have made.  Most importantly, my wife enjoyed herself thoroughly, and got to see many old friends.  And as a bonus,the event was at a sports bar, so I still got to see the game, even though a 1-0 loss was hardly what I wished for.

On the way back on Sunday, we stopped at a Pennsylvania liquor store, to pick up some new spirits.  One that caught my eye was the Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year, from West Virginia. A quick bit of research online told me that initial reviews were good, and that it would make a good Sunday drinker.  I picked up a bottle, and rambled on.

We headed west to visit with my mother-in-law in southern Pennsylvania, bottle in tow, and took a scenic drive through the Pennsylvania countryside.  The sky was blue and the day was a beaut.  When we finally arrived at her house, we gathered with more family in anticipation of a well-cooked meal, and broke open the bourbon.  Myself, Jen, her mother, her aunt and her grandmother (!) all poured a glass of the Smooth Ambler.  We were pleased.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 year
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 year

My take: The Smooth Ambler 7 year has a punch right out of the bottle.  At 99 proof, that is to be expected – the nose has some serious first-take burn.  Then, the alcohol gave way to earth tones, particularly rye, as well as cinnamon, nuts, oak and even a bit of mint.

The taste was loud and proud.  It starts with sweet spots of honey, charred sugar and caramel, and transitions to a pepper and apple rye.  And there’s that mint again.

The finish is long and hinted of coffee and more pepper.  Finally, a cinnamon and oak wash come over, as the finish dissipates.

This is a nice bourbon.  I enjoyed the rye characteristics, but I’ll admit it had a bit too much spice for my taste profile.  My wife, however, really liked it, as did my in-laws.  Therefore, my rating…

Dan scale (1-10): 8.4