Old Tub

Maker: Jim Beam, Claremont/Boston, Kentucky, USA (Beam Suntory)

Style: Standard recipe, bonded bourbon.

Age: NAS (at least 4 y/o)

Proof: 100 (50% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: Not listed but available in the state. $30ish?

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: That mixed peanut butter and jelly stuff.

Palate: Alcohol, burnt peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Finish: burnt peanut brittle.

Mixed: Fine mixed, but plenty of better, cheaper, options for mixers.

Parting words: Beam was on a hot streak for a while but that streak seems to have ended here with Old Tub. The name was the original name of what’s now Jim Beam bourbon. It was first produced in 1880 by David Beam’s distillery, and became the flagship bourbon of the new Jim Beam distillery after prohibition. The name was changed to Jim Beam in 1943 to honor Jim, who passed away a few years later.

I think I get what they’re going for here, and I like the idea, but I don’t think it ends up being something worth buying, other than as an objet d’art. I like Bonded Beam, but I don’t like this. Old Tub is not recommended.

Old Ezra

Maker: Lux Row, Bardstown, Kentucky, USA(Luxcon)wp-1582340562351.jpg

Distiller: Undisclosed (tastes like Jim Beam, Claremont/Boston, Kentucky, USA)

Style: standard recipe bourbon

Age: 7 y/o

Proof: 117 (58.5% ABV)

Purchased for $50

Appearance: Bright copper.

Nose: Cayenne, corn chips, lavender.

Palate: Medium bodied. Sweet. Caramel, vanilla, oak, then big alcohol burn. Water makes it a little leathery.

Finish: Nutty and then burn. Same but more mild.

Parting words: For many years, Old Ezra 101 was one of my go-to bourbons. As I said in my previous review, it was maybe the best example of Heaven Hill’s distictive, minty, yeast-driven style despite having a Luxco label.

Alas, a few years ago Luxco turned this relatively obscure favorite into a barrel proof high-end release at more than twice the price. Before that, the source of the bourbon changed from Heaven Hill to Jim Beam (according to my tastebuds anyway). Beam does a lot of contract/bulk whiskey work these days, since it’s one of the few distillers in Kentucky that still has the ability to do so.

At any rate, this is no substitute for the good old HH Old Ezra 101, but it’s still pretty good. Old Ezra is recommended.

Old Forester 1910

Maker: Brown-Forman, Louisville, Kentucky, USAwp-1578702014650.jpg

Style: Barrel-finished straight bourbon whiskey.

Age: NAS

Proof: 93 (46.5% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $55

Appearance: Chestnut.

Nose: Light oak, ghost pepper, toasted pecan.

Palate: Full-bodied. Brown Sugar and then burn. With water: Pralines, plum, cocoa.

Finish: Long. Maple candy, then alcohol and bubble gum.

Parting words: This is the fourth and final entry in Old Forester’s superb Whiskey Row series of historically inspired bourbons. I’ve liked every single one and I like this one too. The first two, 1870 and 1897, were better (probably older) versions of their two standard expressions the 86 proof and 100 proof (fka Signature) Old Foresters. The third (my favorite) was the 114 proof 1920.

Brown-Forman went in a different direction for 1910, jumping backward ten years to replicate an alleged incident when a fire on the bottling line forced the distillery to store bourbon in a second barrel for some reason. The whole thing sounds a bit dubious to me, but, historicity aside, this is a very good bourbon. The second barrel (new I believe) rounds out OF’s usually sharp edges to give it decadent candy flavors without becoming overly sweet. Depite the relatively low (93) proof for serious bourbon people like you and me, OF 1910 benefits from a few drops of water.

1910 is cheaper than 1920, but much harder to find in my experience. $55 may seem like a lot for a 93 proof NAS bourbon from a big distillery, but it’s well worth it in this case. It’s an excellent capstone to the Whiskey Row series. Old Forester 1910 is highly recommended.

 

Wilderness Trail Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Bottled in Bond

Maker: Wilderness Trail, Danville, Kentucky, USA20191025_165431.jpg

Style: Single barrel, sweet mash, wheated, bonded bourbon

Age: NAS (at least 4 y/o)

Proof: 100 (50% ABV)

Barrel #15A23, Bottle 147/269

Price: $50 (Binny’s)

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Spicy. Cayenne, caramel, new oak, wintergreen.

Palate: Fruit punch, cherry, caramel, burn. Water brings out more wood and sweetness, but makes it less complex.

Finish: Hot but fruity with peppermint. Water shifts the finish away from peppermint and towards wintergreen.

Mixed: Excells in every cocktail I tried it in. I did not try it in cola or ginger ale because it’s $50.

Pating words: Wilderness Trail began operations in 2013 and has distinguished itself as one of the distilleries doing things the right way by distilling their whiskeys themselves, aging in standard 53 gallon barrels and letting them sit in those barrels for at least four years. WT’s stated goal is to get their regular releases up to 6-8 years old. That’s right in my bourbon sweet spot, so I’m really looking forward to that.

As for the bourbon itself, WTBiB doesn’t fit the profile of a standard wheater. There’s more fruit, mint and spice than I expected. If I had to compare it to another wheater, it would be Larceny or Rebel Yell, but I don’t think Wilderness Trail could be mistaken for either of those. It has a unique, but still bourbon-y profile.

I do wish it was closer to Larceny in price. Hopefully the price will come down as their stocks go up. Factoring in its unique character, unusual Sweet Mash process, and the standard micro-distillery inflation, Wilderness Trail Bottled in Bond is recommended.

Featherbone Bourbon Whiskey

Maker: Journeyman, Three Oaks, Berrien County, Michigan, USA.20190823_222646.jpg

Style: Wheat/Rye bourbon whiskey (not straight)

Age: NAS

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $50

Appearance: Orangy copper.

Nose: Wood shop, licorice.

Palate: Full-bodied and hot. Licorice, cinnamon gum, strawberry candy.

Finish: Hot and woody.

Parting words: Journeyman is a whiskey distillery located in the heart of Southwest Michigan wine country. They’re in the perfect place to capitalize on tourist traffic but they don’t content themselves cottage-dwellers wandering in, they make an effort to produce unique, high-quality spirits.

The flavors are largely good, but it could be better integrated and have less sawdust in the nose and on the palate. That comes with more time in a full-sized barrel. I’m hoping they are allowing the Featherbone to linger longer and longer with every batch, so that future editions will be less harsh and more velvety.

The hardest thing about rating micro-distilled whiskeys is factoring in the price. I would not pay $50 for something like this from a big bourbon producer, but is it acceptable from a small one? Maybe it would be if it were 100 proof or higher, but at 90 proof, Featherbone garners only a mild recommendation.

 

Peerless Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Maker: Peerless, Louisville, Kentucky, USA20190802_215134.jpg

Style: Sweet Mash standard recipe (?) bourbon

Age: 4 y/o

Proof: 109.8 (54.9% ABV)

Price: $70 (IIRC)

Big thanks to Mike Matsumoto for letting me borrow his bottle!

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Oak, leather, walnuts, pine resin, serrano pepper.

Palate: Dry, more pine resin, horehound, alcohol.

Finish: Oak, salted caramel, hot sauce.

Parting words: Peerless is a micro-distillery that has revived an old Henderson, Kentucky (west of Owensboro) bourbon brand. Founders Corky Taylor and his son Carson are descendents of the Kraver family who originally owned that brand and distillery. The orignal distillery shut down during World War I, never to reopen. When Corky and Carson decided to revive the brand, they acquired the name and the old DSP number (50) and an old building in Louisville to put their new distillery in.

The story is similar to many others and one might expect Peerless to be putting out sharp, small barrel whiskey or weird gin or “craft vodka” or whatnot. They’re not doing that. They’re doing it the right way. Their rye was released in 2017 and was delicious. Their first release of bourbon was earlier this month, July 2019. My pal Mike was on the guest list for the intial bourbon release and he graciously allowed me to borrow his bottle and take samples for blogging purposes.

I’m very glad he did. This is easily one of the best micro-distilled bourbon’s I’ve ever had. The down side to doing it the right way is that the product ends up being expensive. The rye has a Michigan state minimum price of $118 (it is barrel proof, though) and this bourbon is $70 at the distillery, which is less, but still high for a four year old, even at barrel strength. It is mature beyond its years, though, and if I had an opportunity to buy a full bottle myself, I probably would. The price alone is what keeps it out of highly recommended territory for me. As it is, Peerless Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is recommended.

Four Roses Small Batch Select

Maker: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA (Kirin)20190621_175819.jpg

Style: Mix of standard and high-rye bourbon.

Recipes: OBSV, OBSK, OBSF, OESV, OESK, OESF

Age: 6 y/o (per hang tag)

Proof: 104 (52% ABV)

Price: $58 (The Party Source)

Appearance: Dark copper.

Nose: Underwhelming. Charcoal smoke with lighter fluid, asparagus, canned green beans, toffee.

Palate: Mild. Brach’s caramels, field mint, burn.

Finish: A little amaretto, burn, fiddleheads.

Parting words: I can’t remember the last time I was disappointed with a Four Roses bourbon, but I’m disappointed with this. First, this is an uncharacteristicly unflavorful Four Roses. It’s strong enough in a Glencairn glass, but it gets totally lost in a tumbler with ice in a way that no 104 proof bourbon should. What flavor is there is unpleasant. I blame the F yeast with its weird minty, vegetal character. I’ve never cared for this strain, especially not the OESF which tastes like something Heaven Hill might dump on the bulk market. My favorite Four Roses expressions have featured or at least included the sexy, floral Q yeast. I understand that its a PITA to deal with for the distillers, but nothing says Four Roses to me than that aroma that was such a big part of the 2008 and 2009 Mariage releases and the 2009 Limited Edition Single Barrel.

It breaks my heart to say this, but Four Roses Small Batch Select is not recommended.

 

Midnight Oil

Maker: Motor City Gas, Royal Oak, Michigan

Style: Peated bourbon (made with peated malt)

Age: NAS (dumped March 31, 2018)

Proof: 105.8 (53.4% ABV)

Purchased for: I forget (at distillery)

Note: bottle is boring, so no picture, at least for now.

Appearance: Dark copper, almost chestnut.

Nose: Freshly refinished hardwood floor, cherry jam.

Palate: Black walnut, a little peat, some smoke, brown sugar.

Finish: More peat and smoke, oak, a little bite.

Mixed: Very good in strong cocktails like Manhattans or Boulevardiers.

Parting words: This is the second of two bottles I got at Motor City Gas a few months ago. I was very impressed with it at the distillery. It seemed smokier and peatier (?) there too, probably because I tasted it after their rum-finished bourbon. It was still enjoyable at home, though. The peat blends seamlessly into its young, woody character to the point where it’s nearly impossible to disentangle the two. It doesn’t drink like 105.8 proof, either, which is dangerous. It’s at its best in cocktails, though, where it can stand up to just about any mixer, even amaro and black vermouth.

The price is high (even though I can remember what it was), but it’s barrel proof and the best peated bourbon I’ve had, although there aren’t very many to be had. Available only at the distillery on the outskirts of downtown Royal Oak, Michigan. Midnight Oil is recommended.