Review: Old Ezra 101

Maker: Luxco (likely distilled at Heaven Hill, Bardstown/Louisville, Kentucky)
Age: 7 y/o
Proof: 101 (50.5% ABV)
Color: New penny
Nose: Caramel, grassy, eucalyptus, peppermint, bit of spice. Classic Heaven Hill profile.
On the palate: caramel, burn, then spearmint, then peppermint, then more burn.
Finish: long and assertive, tingles all over the mouth for a real long time. A slight hint of oak and char.

Parting Words: . It’s ironic that in Michigan one of the best expressions of Heaven Hill’s style of bourbon comes in a brand they don’t own.
The Ezra Brooks brand has a long history. It was made at the now closed but now refurbished Medley distillery in Owensboro, Kentucky for many years, and some of those old bottles and decanters are floating around. The current product is in the hands of Luxco, a company that buys its whiskey from other distilleries, as far as I can tell Heaven Hill almost exclusively, and bottles it under their own brand names. Currently Luxco’s bourbons are the Yellowstone, Ezra Brooks, and Rebel Yell lines. The EB line includes Ezra Brooks (90 proof), Old Ezra 101, and Ezra B. single barrel, originally a 15 y/o, but now a 12 y/o.

At any rate, in spite of being labeled a “sippin’ whiskey”, Old Ezra works just as well in mixed drinks. The high proof and moderate age make it a good match for more assertive mixers like cola, sours and ginger ale. This is one of my favorite bourbons in its price range. It’s good for just about anything. I always try to have some around.

Review: Smith & Wilson Estate Viognier

Maker: Smith & Wilson, Blenheim, Ontario

Region:  Lake Erie North Shore QVA

Vintage: 2008

ABV: 12.3%

Color: golden straw

Nose: slightly herbal, sweet, apples and pears, floral.

On the palate: Good body, sweet, mellow, slightly tart, almond, fresh apricot.

Finish: Oranges, apricots. Fairly quick, but the sweetness lingers for a while.

Parting Words: Smith & Wilson produces a fairly wide variety of wines for such a small producer. Their wines can only, to my knowledge, be purchased at their tasting room in Blenheim. They have a nice variety of reds and whites, and many of the reds are quite good, especially with age. They’re not chicken, either. Viogner is a fickle grape, especially in a fickle climate like the North Shore of Lake Erie. They also make a double barrel-aged Cab Franc/Merlot/Syrah blend that is very good as well. It’s worth stopping if you are driving between Detroit and London, Ontario.

Review: Very Old Barton, Bottled-in-Bond

Maker: Tom Moore Distillery, Bardstown, Kentucky (Sazerac)

Age: 6 y/o

Proof: 100 (50% ABV)

Color: surprisingly dark given the stated age.  Caramel.

Nose: Oak, alcohol, caramel corn, brown sugar.  With a splash of water, the wood comes on even more strongly.  This edition is certainly woodier than I remember.

On the palate: Corn, sweet caramel, turbinado sugar, tiny tang of maraschino cherry.  Like in the nose, water brings out the wood, and even some spice that was submerged before. The cherry is also easier to pick out.

Finish: sweet and hot like a teenage summer fling. I am also getting the faintest hint of graham crackers out of the finish, but I’m not sure what to do with that. Let’s ignore it and stick with the teenagers.

Review: Trader Joe’s 2010 Vintage Ale

Maker: Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec

Style: Dark Belgian (?) ale with spices

ABV: 9%

Tasted: February 16, 2011

Color:  Dark Brown, like French roast coffee with a big pillowy head

Nose: Sweet, raisins, allspice, mace, ginger.

On the palate: Very sweet, lush, thick almost syrupy.  A tiny bit of bitterness comes through and is a welcome counterpoint to the fruitcake- sweet spice.

Finish: Surprisingly light, but still quite sweet and spicey.  The slightly soapy taste of the ginger lingers for a while before reatreating into the back of the throat to become the ghost of a mincemeat pie.

Parting Words: This year’s Vintage Ale from TJ’s is a departure from past years. Although the bottle says that it can be enjoyed for years to come, it also says “best before 9/10/2013”. I always buy three of them.  One to drink immediately, one to drink in the summer, and one to drink in December or January.  That said, in my experience, these TJ’s vintage ales peak around June or July of the year after the vintage year. This one is very different, more “desserty” than I remember past vintages being, so maybe this one could peak at a different time. At any rate, this is a tasty, if not terribly complex, after-dinner ale. Watch this space this summer for another review!

My Two Ounces: My Sample Policy

My Two Ounces is a new occasional feature of this blog.  It’s basically me vomiting my opinion regarding something booze-related onto the internet.

This first one is more of a policy statement. I never thought this diary of my alcohol use would get enough attention to be worth anyone’s attention, but I have already gotten an offer or two of free (I’m assuming) samples. I rejected the first offer simply because I realized I hadn’t thought the issue through. But I have now.

So here it is: I will accept samples. When I do, two things will happen and one thing won’t.

1) I will disclose, when reviewing that product, that I have received a free sample or otherwise gotten special treatment.

2) I will do my best to review that product promptly.

3) I will not guarantee a positive review.

So there it is.

Head to Head : The Last Laph, Laphroaigs 15 & 18

1)   15

2) 18


1) Golden yellow

2) Seems slightly darker, but it could be my imagination.


1) Mildly peaty, a bit of dry smoke, like smoldering embers.

2) Sweetness, spice, peaty freshness

On the palate

1) Full bodied, a little sweetness, peat, smoke, ash

2) Equally full-bodied, luscious sweetness balanced with a tang of peat and a whiff of smoke


1) Lingering smoke and peat tempered by a delicate sweetness.  Like smoky Mexican hot chocolate.

2) Sweet caramel chocolate toffee, lingering burn, with a touch of smoke that goes right down my throat and then back up and out of my nose.

Parting Words

Both of these malts are really wonderful. The conventional wisdom in the Scotch world, as in the bourbon world, is that old, discontinued expressions (Laphroaig 15 in this case) are superior to the current offerings. But I liked the 18 better. The shocking thing about it is that, here anyway, the 18 y/o is under $80, something that is unheard of for a single malt of this age and quality. So if you see Laphroaig 15, by all means buy it.  Then buy the 18, and by all means drink it!

Review: Ancient Age Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Maker: Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Kentucky (Sazerac)

Age: NAS

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

With a bourbon this young and this cheap, I don’t think it’s fair to compare it to a more upscale sipping-quality brand.  So I’m reviewing it like I review a vodka or a gin, neat and in a couple classic mixed drinks.

Bourbon & Coke

Ancient Age is passable in Coke, but there’s an unpleasant bitter note that comes through.  Fine in a pinch, I suppose, but there are much better alternatives, like Evan Williams, Old Ezra 101 and even Beam White Label.


AA fairs better in a Manhattan.  It is a little overwhelmed by the sweet vermouth, but does the job.  The bitter note fades into the background and maybe even complements the vermouth.  The bitterness comes back a little bit in the finish, but overall, it makes a drinkable manhattan.


The nose is light and sweet. There’s a hint of wood, probably the origin of the bitter note above.  Not much on the palate, delicately sweet and watery.  Maybe some
raw corn taste, but that fades as it sits in a glass.  The finish is a little hot, but quick and a little elusive touch of wood.  The light sweetness lingers for a while before vanishing entirely.

Parting Words

Even for the price, there’s not a lot going on here.  You’d be better off spending a bit more money for the older Ancient Ancient Age 10 star or ever better yet, the Ancient
Ancient Age 10 year old bourbon (primarily available in Kentucky).  The 10 y/o is, in my opinion, the second best bargain in the world of bourbon.  Other bourbons made with the same recipe include Rock Hill Farms, Blanton’s and Elmer T. Lee.

Review: 2000 Rödelseer Küchenmeister Scheurebe

Region: Franken, Germany

Vineyard: Rödelseer Küchenmeister

Ripeness: Spätlese

Maker: GebietsWinzergenossenschaft Franken eG (GWF Co-op), Kitzingen, Germany

Grape: Scheurbe a.k.a Sämling 88 (Riesling x an unknown, probably wild, vine)

Vintage: 2000

ABV: 12%

Color: light amber

Nose: relatively dry, slightly musty, but fruity

Palate: mildly fruity, ripe Bosc pears, ripe golden delicious apples.  The strong grapefruit flavor in mentioned by some reviewers, typical of underripe Scheurebe was completely absent here.  This is a delicious, elegant, complex, Riesling-esque wine.

Finish: light and sweet, but not cloying, a lingering taste of pear in the cheeks.

Parting Words: This bottle was my first taste of Franken or of Scheurbe.  Scheurbe is not widely grown in Franken, and much of the Franken in this (fairly low) price range is made from the almost always dull Müller-Thurgau grape,not the Silvaner, Kerner or other grapes that comprise the finer Frankens.  At under $10 in my neck of the woods, this wine is a great option for German wine dilettantes like myself who are looking to mix it up once in a while.

Review: Corsair Gin

Maker: Corsair, Bowling Green, Kentucky

ABV: 44% (label shown is a different edition)

Neat: Crystal clear in the glass, on the nose, alcohol as expected, but I get a lot of old-fashioned candy flavors in the nose.  I can’t quite pick it out, but I’m getting licorice, anise and especially horehound. Yes, horehound.  Look it up.  The herbal candy notes really come into their
own on the palate.  The finish is short, but this gin is very drinkable neat.

G & T (w/Canada Dry Tonic)

On the nose and on the palate, as one might expect the tonic is leading the way, perhaps because I added a little too much.  Where Corsair gin makes its presence known is in the finish.  It’s long for a G & T (especially a drowned one) and the bitterness of the quinine in the tonic is seamlessly intergrated into the horehound and licorice flavors of the gin.  This is a thinking person’s G & T.

Dry Martini (w/Noilly Pratt Vermouth)

The herbal aroma of the vermouth dominates on the nose, but the aromatics from the gin are discernable and complementary.  On the palate, the gin is the star.  Big sweetness, followed by the wonderful botanicals: anise, horehound, maybe some clove. The finish is long and sweet with those wonderful botanicals lingering as the drink keeps tingling on my lips

Parting Words

It’s a rare gin that tastes as good (or maybe even better) neat than mixed.  But this is an exceptional product, one that epitomizes what successful micro-distilling looks like.  Even with unaged spirits like gin, micros cannot hope to go head to head with the big boys.  What they can and should do is offer products like Corsair Gin that are different from anything that is being offered from the macro-distillers.  For a change of pace, Corsair gin really hits the spot.

Review: Penfold’s Koonunga Hill Cabernet Merlot

Maker: Penfold’s, Melbourne, Australia

Grapes: Cabernet Sauvignon (2/3)/Merlot (1/3)

Region: South Australia

Vintage: 2007

ABV: 13.5%

Color: Dark Maroon

Nose: Fruit, a little smoke, bitter chocolate, a bit of wood and tannin

Palate: bitter chocolate, smoke, wood, a little acid, spice

Finish: fairly short, slightly bitter, but not unpleasantly so.

Parting Words

No one would mistake this wine for a 1990 Lafite-Rothschild, but it’s a fine, tasty supermarket wine, one of the best, most consistent Aussies.  It represents what Australian reds do best, offer up big, beefy flavors to pair with well with grilled meats and BBQ.  What I look for in a supermarket wine is consistency and bang for the buck.  Penfold’s Koonunga Hill range delivers flavor-wise with plenty of punch.