Maker: Barton-1792, Bardstown, Kentucky, USA (Sazerac)
Age: 6 y/o
Proof: 100 (50% ABV)
Appearance: bright copper with long, thick legs.
Nose: Alcohol, jalapeno, charred corn on the cob, caramel, a hint of tropical fruit. Water brings out more tannic oak.
On the palate: Medium bodied. Spicy but sweet, like pepper jelly. Jerk sauce, grilled polenta, old oak, alcohol.
Finish: Hot, but sweet. Caramel corn and oak. Lingers for a very long time, tingling all over the mouth.
Parting words: I love this bourbon so much, baby, that it tears me up inside. It’s perfectly balanced between fruit, spice and oak. In Kentucky its popularity is on par with Jim Beam white label and Evan Williams. That should tell you something.
It is perhaps the best bargain in American whiskey. For around $12, VOB BiB (for short) is better than most bourbons that sell for twice the price. It mixes very well, but I love drinking it neat or with a splash of water so much that I don’t mix it much. Try the 90 (crimson) or 86 proof (green) versions if you’re looking for a mixer. Older bottlings before Sazerac took over have a prominent banana flavor and aroma that I enjoyed but some others didn’t so if you come across an older bottle, be aware. But either bottling is fantastic and highly recommended.
A good friend works for a beer distributor that handles this brewery’s products. They wanted to know what he thought of these beers and he was gracious enough to share his sample cans with me. These are my notes slightly amplified.
Style: Amber lager (“German Style”)
ABV: 5% (or somewhere in there)
Notes: Made with Munich malt and German hops. Sessionable, malty and only slightly sweet. Hops balance it out nicely. Fairly dry. Pleasantly bitter finish. Octoberfest-ish. Recommended
Michigan Maple Brown Ale
Style: Brown Ale (with maple flavor? Or maybe not.)
ABV: 6-7% (?)
Notes: The label says this beer was inspired by and intended for people out collecting tree sap for making maple syrup. Alrighty then. Nose is slightly sweet and malty. In the mouth, a bit of maple, but mostly reminded my friend and me of Honey Brown. Slightly toasty. Finish was very mild and a bit underwhelming. Good enough, but not especially interesting. Mild recommendation.
Thanks again to Oscar for sharing!
Maker: Castle Brands, New York, New York, USA
Distiller: Unknown (Bushmills?)
Style: Single Malt Irish
Age: 12 y/o
Appearance: Medium gold
Nose: Green apple, oak, malt, tangerine, oriental lily, alcohol
On the palate: Lush and floral. Sweetness, butterscotch candy, French lavender, oak, caramel.
Finish: Malty and honeyed. Alcohol, oak, butterscotch, a bit of vanilla.
Parting words: I was pleasantly surprised by this whiskey. Knappogue Castle is not something that I hear a lot of praise for or even chatter about. For most of the history of this brand, it was released in vintages sourced from various distilleries, but in 2010 a switch was made to simply bottling at twelve years old. The current one is likely from Bushmills, but its floral character makes me think of Jameson a little. It also has a sweetness and depth of flavor I don’t get from Bushmills.
The fruit, flowers and citrus are exquisitely balanced by the bourbon cask oak and the result is an elegant Single Malt Irish whiskey that is never boring. My only quibble is the low proof. I would love to be able to taste this at cask strength, or at least 46% ABV. Knappogue Castle 12 y/o is highly recommended.
Maker: New Holland, Holland, Michigan, USA
Style: Spiced ale
Appearance: Cloudy chocolate brown
Nose: Chocolate milk, tiny bit of red pepper.
On the palate: Sweet and medium-bodied. Hot chocolate, chipotle, roasted malt.
Finish: Fairly dry, all things considered. Tabasco sauce, chocolate syrup.
Parting words: This was an enjoyable beer. Not anything close to a go-to, but oddly refreshing and enjoyable after supper on a cold winter night. I haven’t had any other beers spiced like this so I can’t speak to how it compares to others like it, but it is recommended. Probably best to drink at no older than 1 year old, though.
Maker: Buffalo Trace, Frankfort, Kentucky, USA
Style: High Rye Rye (Bottled-in-Bond)
Proof: 100 (50% ABV)
Appearance: Burnt orange.
Nose: Caramel, alcohol, potpourri, pine.
On the palate: Medium bodied and a little hot. Caramel, tarragon, Thai basil, cumin, coriander.
Finish: Oak, alcohol, leather, dried flowers.
Parting words: This is Buffalo Trace’s stab at a high rye rye whiskey. It is made using rye and a small amount of malted barley, but no corn. The result is something spicier and with more rye character than their Sazerac line of rye whiskeys, but not as far over the line as the 100% rye whiskeys being sourced from Canada like Whistlepig, Jefferson’s, etc. It’s more elegant than those or the MGPI ryes like Bulleit and Willett. The caramel flavors (a bit surprising given the absence of corn) and oak keep the rye from overrunning things.
As with the rest of the Col. Taylor line, price is a problem. Even accounting for the relative scarcity of straight rye, $70 is too much for this. At $10-$20 less Taylor rye would be a sure-fire recommendation, but as it is, it’s only mildly recommended.
Maker: Black Star Farms, Traverse City, Michigan, USA
Grape: Pinot Gris/Pinto Grigio
Place of origin: Montague, Capella and Montaña Rusa vineyards, Old Mission AVA, Michigan, USA
Appearance: Golden straw.
Nose: Peach, pear, Golden Delicious apples, paper white narcissus.
On the palate: Crisp and medium dry. More Golden Delicious, stone, apricot, smoke.
Finish: Fairly dry. White grapefruit, smoke, a lingering background sweetness.
Parting words: I’m a big fan of Alsatian Pinot Gris, and I’ve had some good Michigan ones too, so I was eager to get into this bottle. It did not disappoint. It has a great balance of varietal character with some citrus notes, but they are well in check by smoke and minerality. This is firmly in the Alsatian, not Italian, style of making wine with this grape. It’s very food friendly (buttery fish or light vegetarian fare work best) and is affordable for a wine of this quality. The 2011 Arcturos Pinot Gris is recommended.
Maker: Glenmorangie, Tain, Scotland, UK (LVMH)
Region: Highlands- Northern.
Age: 10 y/o
Appearance: Pale gold
Nose: Malt, alcohol, wildflower honey, dried flowers, hint of oak.
On the palate: full bodied, sweet and a little hot. Sugar cookies, orange blossom honey (yes, I can taste the difference), alomond extract, vanilla.
Finish: Strong malt notes followed by an assertive sweetness. Even with water, the finish is still pretty hot.
Parting words: At ten years of age, most bourbons are hitting their peak or at least are close to it. At ten most single malt Scotches, especially those made on the mainland, are barely out of diapers. The Original is a good example of that. Not to say it’s not tasty, it definitely is, it just lacks depth. It’s all sweetness and malt and not much else. The Original is priced reasonably for a single malt at $40 Michigan State Minimum and I would take it over some of its 12 y/o competition like Glennfiddich, Glenlivet, Macallan and Dalmore. Glenmorangie The Original is recommended.