Metze’s Select, 2015 Medley

Maker: MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA20160401_170206-1.jpg

Age: 7 y/o

Composition: Medley of two mashbills: 38% 21% rye bourbon distilled in 2006 + 3% 36% rye bourbon distilled in 2006 + 59% 21% rye bourbon disilled in 2008.

Proof: 93% (46.5% ABV)

Purchased for $75 (Vine & Table. $70 at Binny’s).

Appearance: Medium dark copper.

Nose: Spicy. Hot thai peppers, pink peppercorn then malt, butterscotch.

Palate: Medium bodied and surprisingly hot. Habanero hot sauce with some background amaretto, oak and vanilla notes.

Finish: Aggressive. Refuses to stop burning your mouth even after a minute or two. A fleeting taste of chocolate ice cream on the front end, though.

Parting words: I have tasted some really great whiskeys distilled at MGPI in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. Just about every bottle I’ve had from Smooth Ambler’s Old Scout line, for starters. Metze’s Select is unique because it’s the first distillery bottling from MGPI that I am aware of. Only 6,000 bottles were released so it truly is a limited edition. It’s named for Greg Metze, MGPI’s long time master distiller.

When I paid $75 for this bottle, I realized that I was probably paying too much. I was right. This “medley” isn’t undrinkable but it’s unbalanced and shows no integration whatsoever. There is some of the soft fruity sweetness that one associates with its former sibling-distillery Four Roses, but that’s overwhelmed by brash, immature chili pepper and alcohol flavors. Water doesn’t seem to help this at all. It only washes any flavor out entirely.

I’m not sure what happened but I’m guessing that the seven-year-old bourbon component (59%) is what’s dragging this down. Seven years of age is an uncertain time for a bourbon. Some are already world beaters at that age and others taste like they just came off the still. Metze’s Select has way too much of the latter to come close to being worth the money. This is the most disappointing bourbon I’ve tasted in a while. Metze’s Select, 2015 Medley is not recommended.

Advertisements

Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale Triple-Triple Head to Head: 2013, 2014, 2015

Brewer: Unibroue, Chambly, Quebec, Canada2015-12-21-15.33.33.jpg.jpeg

Style: Spiced dark ale

ABV: 9%

Price: $6

Me= Me

Jessica= J

Brian= B

Served in snifters.

Appearance: Coffee brown with a big, but short-lived head (all).

2013

Me: Orange, ginger and malt on the nose. Light on the palate with a little gingerbread. Mild finish.

J: Smells fruity but doesn’t taste fruity.

B: Nose and palate are very different. Much less flavor on the palate than there is aroma in the nose. Mild. Watery.

2014

Me: Mild nose, mildly effervescent on the palate. Spicy and stronger on the palate than 2013. Booze more obvious. Favorite of the three.

J: Not as spicy. More malty. Palate is more consistent with the nose. Finish lingers in the tongue. Elusive whiff of chocolate.

B: “ooh!” Much better on the palate. Agree with J. Malt is prominent but there’s underlying clove and nutmeg. Favorite of the three.

2015

Me: Stronger on the nose and in the palate but less balanced than 2014. Orange peel and potpourri nose, malty on the palate.

J: Stronger “beer” flavor. Lager-like. Smells younger, a little grassy. Favorite of the three.

B: Spices are barely there, except for some clove and nutmeg at the end. Least subtle of the three. Strong tasting.

Parting words: Every year around this time, I buy at least three bottles of that year’s Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale. I always plan to drink them six months to a year apart but sometimes I forget they’re in my cellar or I get thirsty and drink one early. I forgot about my last 2011 and I drank it at about three years old and I drank my last 2012 shortly after that. I decided to get serious this year and do a three way head to head tasting. Normally I would enlist my wife to help, but she’s pregnant, so I enlisted the help of a beer-loving couple we’re friends with, Brian and Jessica.

We tasted over dinner (all three were OK with food) and I tried to take notes as best as I could. 2013 was the least favorite for all of us. It wasn’t bad, it was just bland on the palate. Jessica preferred the stronger taste of the 2015, but Brian and I liked the 2014. That said, we all agreed that 2014 and 2015 were both enjoyable pours. One remaining question is whether this beer rebounds after an apparent dip after two years in the bottle, like wines sometimes do. Maybe next year we can answer this question! Trader Joe’s Vintage Ale is recommended new and at a year old.

Parker’s Heritage Straight Wheat Whiskey (2014 edition)

Maker: Heaven Hill, Bardstown/Louisville, Kentucky, USAwpid-2014-10-03-14.49.22.jpg.jpeg

Age: 13 y/o

Proof: 127.4 (63.7% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $100

Purchased for $85

Appearance: Dark auburn with long thin legs.

Nose: Alcohol, old oak, caramel, wheat bread in the oven.

Palate: Full bodied and sweet on entry. Butterscotch, toffee hard candy, chewy taffy, cocoa powder. Water brings out more of that trademark Bernheim “biscuity” flavor, but still plenty of candy.

Finish: Pretty hot with lots of oak and a touch of sweetness. Lingers for a very long time.

Parting words: Heaven Hill’s Bernheim Original is the world’s best selling straight wheat whiskey. I can say that with confidence because it’s also the only straight wheat whiskey produced by a major American distiller. To almost everyone’s surprise, they added an age statement recently and those bottles are now hitting the shelves.

An even bigger surprise was when it was announced that the 2014 edition of the PHC was going to be a wheat whiskey. Many mistakenly assumed that it was going to be another wheat bourbon, but that’s not what this is. It’s a wheat whiskey, meaning that it is made from a mashbill containing at least 51% wheat, the rest being corn and malted barley. It is required to meet all the legal requirements for straight ryes or bourbons, only with wheat in the place of rye or corn.

I came in expecting a very dry, subtle whiskey along the lines of Bernheim Original but oakier. I didn’t expect such a lush, sexy whiskey. It has a round voluptuousness that I associate more with Four Roses or older Van Winkle bottles than I do with Heaven Hill (as much as I love HH). Bottling at barrel proof and not chill filtering were the right choices to make for this one, but when aren’t they the right choices? It’s hard to compare this to anything else, but I think it’s the best in the Parker’s Heritage Series since 2010’s Wheat Bourbon edition. It also fits easily into my personal top twenty list.

I got a good deal on mine, but even at $100-$120 Parker’s Heritage Original Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey (full name) is highly recommended.

If you want a second opinion, consider this: I brought a full bottle of this to the table at a recent gathering of some of the most obsessive and discerning American whiskey enthusiasts in the country. It shared the table with dusties from Wild Turkey’s golden age, Four Roses limited editions, Stitzel-Weller products and dozens of bottles of that caliber. After an hour or so I had to hide it under a chair because it was already half empty. That says it all.

Four Roses 125th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch (2013)

Maker: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA (Kirin)4R Ltd Ed Small Batch 2013

Age: 13 y/o

Recipes: OBSV (18 y/o), OBSK & OESK (both 13 y/o)

Proof: 103.2 (51.6% ABV)

Appearance: Medium Copper with thick persistent legs.

Nose: Alcohol, leather, pomegranate juice, habanero chili. After a while in the glass it settles into a more conventional high-rye bourbon profile. Caramel, jalapeno, and leather continues.

On the palate: Surprisingly easy to drink at barrel/bottle proof, but then again it’s a surprisingly low proof out of a barrel. Cherry juice, oak, sweet corn, blackberry, white mulberry, burn. Water brings out sweetness and fruity notes.

Finish: Alcohol, caramel, leather. As on the palate, water brings out the fruity sweetness in the finish and tones down the alcohol.

Parting words: For the second year in a row, the Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch has won Whisky Advocate’s American Whiskey of the Year, and with very good reason. Last year’s was very very good, the best since 2009, but this one is even better. It’s a very similar mix of recipes, but with a higher (probably) proportion of bourbon made with the K yeast. It’s older too, which makes its balance of barrel and fruit even more remarkable. As bourbons get into the double digits, they usually get dry and oaky. This one has all the fruit of a young bourbon like Very Old Barton at close to three times the age. It’s a neat trick. It’s balanced, complex, sophisticated and bold all at the same time and it’s one of the best bourbons I’ve ever tasted.

These limited edition Four Roses releases are the 21st Century’s answer to Very Very Old Fitzgerald. Four Roses is the Stitzel-Weller of now. Unfortunately for those of us who have loved them for a long time, they are starting to be snatched up like S-W. I was able to get several bottles of last year’s release fairly easily, but this year the prices are much higher and the bottles are harder to find, even though they are more widely distributed. If you see one, buy one. If you can get more, get more. If you break your budget buying them, I’d be happy to take a few off your hands. I paid around $90 for mine which is a lot, but worth every penny. Four Roses 125th Anniversary Limited Edition Small Batch is highly recommended.

Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel, 2013

Maker: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA. (Kirin)4R SB 2013

Style: High rye bourbon

Recipe: OBSK

Age: 13 y/o

Warehouse/Barrel No.: BS/3-3Q

Proof: 121 (60.5% ABV)

Appearance: Dark copper with some necklacing.

Nose: Alcohol, bubble gum, leather, rose petals, lavender. Not too different with water, a bit clearer. On the palate: Medium bodied. Burn, candy, caramel, roses. With water it becomes big and sweet. Cotton candy, rose hips, oak, grape soda.

Finish: Evaporates quickly off the tongue leaving a soft leathery flavor, some fruit punch and a lot of burn. Fruitier and more delicate with water.

Parting Words: About twelve hours after writing up these notes (right after I opened the bottle) I did a comparison tasting against the 2012, of which I have several bottles. The 2012 was a different mashbill but the same yeast strain and a year or so younger. There are clear similarities, but big differences as well. The 2012 I tasted (52.6% ABV, SN/81-3i) was much more balanced and desserty (if that’s a word) with loads of caramel and similar flavors. The comparison also brought out a capsaicin note in the 2013, similar to ghost peppers or habaneros. I didn’t think the 2013 fares well in comparison to the 2012, but I do like it better than the 2011 I had and the 2010 100th anniversary bottling (cue Whiskey Wonka). The 120th Anniversary Single Barrel (2008) is also OBSK but it’s been so long since I’ve had it that I don’t feel comfortable comparing the two.

In summary, the 2013 Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel is a very good bourbon but not as good as some of its predecessors. Not counting the 40th (2007) and 120th anniversary for reasons of memory (see above), I would rank 2013 squarely in the middle of the pack of Four Roses limited edition single barrel releases. Being in the middle of that pack is better than being at the top of any other pack, though. The Michigan state minimum of $80 is high for a bourbon of its age but given the high proof, unchillfiltering and the unmatched quality of Four Roses across the board, it’s worth it. Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel, 2013 is recommended.

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2012

Maker: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA (Kirin)

Age: 11 y/o

Composition: OBSV- 17 y/o & 11 y/o, OBSK 12 y/o, OESK 12 y/o

Proof: 111.4 (55.7% ABV)

Appearance: Dark copper.

Nose: Oak, caramel, toffee, tarragon clove, jalapeno. With a splash of water, bubblegum, leather, fennel, nutmeg.

On the palate: Dark caramel, taffy, aniseed candy. With water, soft and fluffy mouth feel. Caramel, oak, toffee again, allspice, table grapes.

Finish: Heat, then fruit, then oak, then a long tingle.

Parting words: If you’re expecting me to rave about how great this is, like I do with all the Four Roses annual releases, then you obviously read this blog and know me very well. Continuing the symphonic metaphor from the review of the 2011 release, this is Beethoven’s seventh symphony. If you’re not familiar with Beethoven’s 7th, it may be his best after the 9th. It has the power of the fifth symphony and the richness and texture of the sixth. The 2012 Ltd Ed Small Batch has the power of the 2010 release and the complexity and elegance of the 2011 release. The result is a flawless whiskey, like the seventh is a flawless symphony. Mariage 2009 is still the ninth, though. It transcended the genre and broke new ground that still hasn’t been completely mined.

At any rate, this is one of the best bourbons I have ever had. It’s as good as the 2012 single barrel, and is an improvement on the 2010 and 2011 Ltd Ed Small Batches. Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch, 2012 is highly 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”.

Evan Williams Single Barrel, 1998 Vintage

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

Distilled: Early Times, Louisville, Ketucky, USA (Brown-Forman)

Barreled: 9/28/1998

Bottled: 4/2/2008

Age: 9 yrs, 5 mos

Barrel: 374

Proof: 86.6 (43.3% ABV)

Appearance: Auburn with thin clingy legs.

Nose: Oak, pecan, alcohol, raw almonds, hint of cocoa, touch of wild blackberry.

On the palate: Amaretto, caramel, toffee, burn, much less tannic on the palate than in the nose.

Finish: Pretty hot and aggressive, but not unpleasant. Caramel, vanilla, dark chocolate, a kiss of oak. Lasts a very long time.

Parting words: The Evan Williams Single Barrel series has been going on for quite a while now. While all are single barrel (duh), all the barrels picked are very close to each other in flavor profile so there is usually little variation between bottles from the same “vintage”.

This one, the 1998, is one of my favorites. It has a big, woody nose but turns to soft caramel in the mouth, reminiscent of Elijah Craig 12 y/o or some of the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon offerings. There’s a reason for the latter resemblence. In 1996, the old Heaven Hill distillery in Bardstown burnt to the ground in the biggest distillery fire on record in the US. In the spirit of collegiality that Kentucky distillers have for each other, Beam and Brown-Forman helped out Heaven Hill and contract distilled for them while Heaven Hill got its current distillery in Louisville (purchased from Diageo) up to speed. The 1997 vintage was produced by Jim Beam, and the 1998 and 1999 ones were produced by Brown-Forman.

This series is easily collectable and very drinkable, especially in the summer time. Not all vintages are particularly interesting, but always good. One of the few drawbacks to them is the low proof. In keeping with other Evan Williams expressions, the single barrel edition is 86 proof (and some change), pretty low for a product like this. Despite the low proof, this vintage still shines as one of the best. Evan Williams Single Barrel, 1998 Vintage is a very good whiskey and is highly recommended.

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2011

Maker: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA

Age: 11 y/o (mean age 12.25 y/o)

Recipes: OBSK, OESK, OESV, OESQ

Proof: 110.2 (55.1% ABV)

Appearance: Coppery auburn

Nose: Oak, alcohol, caramel, butterscotch, raw almonds, antique roses.

On the palate: Full-bodied and hot. With water, cassia, caramel, vanilla toffees, oak, amaretto.

Finish: Hot, rosewater, roasted almonds, oak and christmas spice at the end. Tingles all over for an obscenely long time.

Parting words: As always, Four Roses delivered a remarkable bourbon for its Ltd Ed Small Batch in 2011. The 2010 was an agressive, brash, punk rock sort of whiskey. 2011 is much more Classical, as in Haydn, Mozart and early Beethoven. It’s a leather armchair, sipping bourbon.

2011 is beautiful and has its complexity, but it’s not the breathtaking masterpiece that Mariage (the predecessor to Ltd Ed Small Batch) 2009 was. It’s Hayn’s 100th Symphony, not Beethoven’s ninth. But that doesn’t mean it’s not great in its own right. It is. It is one of the best bourbons I’ve had. It is probably the second best bourbon in this Ltd Ed Small Batch/Mariage series. Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch 2011 is highly recommended.