Ichabod Pumpkin Ale

Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USA

Style: Ale with Pumpkin and spices

ABV: 5.2%

Appearance: Dark Amber with a frothy head

Nose: A bit of spice, pumpkin pie.

On the palate: medium bodied. Pumpkin, allspice, nutmeg, bit of ginger.

Finish: Fizzy, slightly bitter with more spice. Ginger, specifically.

Parting words: Ichabod was one of the first pumpkin beers on the market, and still one of the very best. It’s not overly sweet or overly spiced. One can actually taste pumpkin not just pumpkin pie spice or sweetness. It’s very food friendly, especially when compared to the competition and does not have too much alcohol. Ichabod comes highly recommended.

Bowman Brothers Small Batch

Maker: A. Smith Bowman, Fredericksburg, Virginia, USA (Sazerac)

Age: NAS

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Note: First distilled at Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, Kentucky, then redistilled in a pot still and aged in Fredericksburg.

Appearance: Bright shiny copper with a thick, voluptuous robe.

Nose: Oak, heirloom apple, alcohol, charred sweet corn.

On the palate: Full-bodied. Caramel apple upon entry, sweet cinnamon, leather.

Finish: Light, but still apple-y. Caramel, then fading into a ticklish tingle all over the mouth and lips. Lingers for a very long tim.

Parting words: For many years, Bowman was a one-brand distillery. Virginia Gentleman was that brand and it came in 80 proof and 90 proof versions. There were other brands here and there, Bowman, Fairfax County  and others but in the years before Sazerac bought the distillery, VG was about it.

I was a pretty big fan of “The Fox” as the 90 proofer was called. The label was a scene of a fox hunt and the logo for that version had a little fox head on it. I didn’t love it because it was great bourbon. I loved it because it seemed to be the perfect summertime sipping whiskey. It was light and refreshing with some nice cinnamon notes but otherwise unassuming. When it was announced that the Fox was being discontinued (the 80 proof version is still made) and replaced with a 100 proof single barrel John J. Bowman Bourbon and a 90 proof Bowman Brothers Small Batch Bourbon, I had mixed feelings. It was great that Bowman was doing new things, but my beloved Fox would be gone!

After finishing a bottle of Bowman Brothers Small Batch, I don’t miss The Fox anymore. This has the same refreshing qualities of its ancestor, but with much more depth and weight. The sweetness, spice and fruitiness of Bowman Brothers makes it the perfect autumn sipper. Refreshing but complex enough to keep things interesting. I actually prefer it to the single barrel, at least the bottle I had of it. And in fantastic news, Bowman Brothers is now on the Michigan state liquor list which means we should be seeing it on shelves in a few months. Saints be praised! At any rate, enough fanboy gushing. Bowman Brothers Small Batch Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey is highly recommended.

Pontius Road Pilsner

Maker: Short’s, Elk Rapids, Michigan, USA

ABV: 4.5%

Appearance: Pale gold with a foamy head.

Nose: Standard pilsner. Creamy malt, sweetness, coriander, hops.

On the palate: Light bodied, aggressive hops and bitterness.

Finish: Bitter. slightly sweet, then big hop notes.

Parting words:  Pontius Road Pilsner is drinkable, but out of balance. The best pilsners are crisp and clean but also with enough bitterness and spice to make it interesting. This one is fairly crisp, but too heavily hopped for my taste. Not bad, but could be better. Mildly recommended.

Head to Head: Bourye vs. Son of Bourye

Maker: High West, Park City, Utah, USA

Distilleries: Four Roses, Barton-1792, LDI

Style: Blended whiskeys (bourbon +rye, no GNS)

1. Bouryre

2. Son of Bouryre


1. 1 (thanks Amy!)

2. 3

Age (youngest whiskey in the mix)

1. 10 y/o

2. 3 y/o


1. 92

2. 92


1. Dark copper, long, thick legs.

2. Burt orange, long, fairly thin legs.


1. Alcohol, oak, caramel, cumin, crushed red pepper.

2. Peppermint, lemongrass, tomatoes, ginger.

On the palate

1. Thick, soft mouthfeel. Creamy soft caramels, nougat, a bit of fennel, alcohol

2. A little thin. Mild, some mint and orange.


1. Hot, but fading to sweet caramel with a hint of oak.

2. Warm, but not too hot. Some light vegetal notes as it fades slowly.

Parting words

The Bourye is from a bottle I split with a friend, but  I failed to record the batch information. At any rate, the differences between these two whiskeys are pretty stark. The Bourye is well-balanced and an enjoyable sipper. It has plenty of spice, but balanced out by caramel (presumably from the bourbon) and oak (presumably from the 16 y/o rye in the mix). I have seen it on shelves recently, but in most places it has long since sold out. It was pricey, and the remaining bottles will be even pricier now, but it is very well done and there’s nothing not to like. Bourye is recommended.

Son of Bourye was really awful when I first opened it. It was like drinking tomato ketchup. It has settled down in the bottle since then, but it is still mediocre. Some apparently enjoy sour, citric notes in their bourbon. I don’t. The whiskeys in the mix are very young and it shows. The young high rye rye, overwhelms everything else. If this whiskey were $20 cheaper, it might earn a mild recommendation as a change of pace and a decent mixer. Its price, around $40, puts it into the sipper category. As a casual sipping whiskey, it fails. I find it hard to recommend Son of Bourye compared to its competition in that range such as Elijah Craig, Knob Creek, or Wild Turkey Rare Breed. Not recommended.

2 Lads Rosé of Cabernet Franc

Maker: 2 Lads, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Place of origin: Old Mission AVA, Traverse City, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2011 (different vintage pictured)

ABV: 13%

Appearance: Pomegranate-colored

Nose: Dry, grapey, bit of toasted oak, bit of tobacco.

On the palate: Dry with some underlying sweetness, ripe plum, red raspberry jam, wild blackberry, oak.

Finish: Dry with lots of wood, but not unpleasant. Paired with food, the finish is more balanced.

Parting words: This is another “serious” rosé from a serious (but not stuffy) winery on Old Mission. 2 Lads is a relative newcomer, but they have quickly become one of the best. It’s great with food and on its own with plenty of varietal and terroir character. The 2011 vintage was very good all through Michigan. If this is any indication of what the rest of that vintage has in store, I am very excited. 2 Lads Rosé is recommended.

Founder’s Porter

Maker: Founder’s, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

ABV: 6.5%

Appearance: Dark chocolate brown, nearly black, with a frothy brown head, like espresso crema.

Nose: Rich and slightly boozy. Bitter dark chocolate, coffee liqueur (you know the one), espresso.

On the palate: Full-bodied. Slightly bitter, but not overly bitter. Dry. French roast coffee, dark toast.

Finish: Long and bitter. Like gargling with coffee. Long-lingering.

Parting words: Founder’s is a textbook porter. It’s all roasted coffee deliciousness. Nothing not to like. That said, it could use a little more sweetness for balance. Good but one-dimensional.  Still, Founder’s Porter is recommended.

Evan Williams Single Barrel, 2000 vintage

Maker: Heaven Hill, Bardstown/Louisville, Kentucky, USA

Barrel: 440

Barreled/Bottled: 8-14-00/3-9-10

Age: 9 y/o

Proof: 86 (43% ABV)

Appearance: Dark copper with thin sticky legs.

Nose: Oak, toffee, allspice, crystallized ginger, lavender, tarragon.

On the palate: A little thin, but silky like those boxers your girlfriend got you for Christmas. Caramel, oak, sugarplum, mace, peppermint.

Finish: Dry. Oak, mint and alcohol fading into a sweet tingle.

Parting Words: The 2000 vintage of Evan Williams Single Barrel was the first to be distilled at the newly revamped Bernheim distillery in Louisville. Heaven Hill’s original distillery (and several warehouses) burnt down in 1996. The label was redesigned for the 2000 vintage so it’s very easy to distinguish between pre-Bernheim and Bernheim vintages.

Since this is a single barrel product, there will be some variation between different barrels. Heaven Hill does a very good job of picking barrels with similar profiles in a given “vintage”. Judging by barrel 440, 2000 is one of the best, on par with the pre-fire vintages 1994 & 1995 and the “in exile” vintages 1997-1999. It is perfectly balanced between oak, caramel, spice and herbal tastes and aromas. This a very enjoyable whiskey. The only knock on it is the usual knock on this series: the proof is too low. In spite of that handicap, this is still top notch.  Evan Williams Single Barrel, 2000 vintage is highly recommended.

Note: Since this is a single barrel product, there will be some variation between different barrels. That said, Heaven Hill does a very good job of picking barrels with similar profiles in a given “vintage”.

Arcturos Pinot Noir

Maker: Black Star Farms, Sutton’s Bay, Michigan, USA

Grape: Pinot Noir

Place of Origin: 53% Grand Traverse County, 47% Leelanau County, Michigan, USA

Vintage: 2010

ABV: 12%

Appearance: Reddish burgundy.

Nose: Cherry preserves, oak, clove, glazed ham. Gets drier as it breathes.

On the palate: Medium bodied. Subtle but fairly complex. Slightly tangy, with more cherry and oak. Black pepper, leather, hint of cedar.

Finish: Oak with stronger cedar notes. Fades to a slightly tannic fruity tang.

Parting words: This is a very well-executed Pinot. It’s well-balanced but interesting. The oak and spice balances out the fruitiness of the grape. It also avoids the cedar notes that can overwhelm some Michigan reds. The blend of Grand Traverse and Leelanau grapes strikes an excellent balance. According to the BSF website this wine would benefit from up to ten years in the cellar, but I couldn’t wait. Goes well with food, but the spice and oak may be lost in the shuffle. It is perfect for a contemplative autumn afternoon. Recommended.