Abraham Bowman Limited Edition Barrel-Strength Rye

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

Age: 9 y/o

Proof: 136.4 (68.2% ABV)

Notes: Lot 01-C-14, The Party Source barrel #1

Appearance: Dark, ruddy copper with thick, slow legs.

Nose: Surprisingly mellow, leather, caramel, mango, a little copper.

On the palate: Medium-bodied, sweet and hot. Cotton candy, butterscotch. When a splash of water goes in, more spice comes out. Jalapeno, paprika, and cassia join the party.

Parting words: This is an exclusive offering from The Party Source (TPS) in Bellvue, Kentucky. TPS is one of the only retailers outside of Virginia to carry the Bowman line of spirits. The whiskey is first distilled in Frankfort at Buffalo Trace, trucked to Fredericksburg where it is redistilled and then aged there in Virginia. This is good whiskey, much better than its barrel-proof sibling Thomas Handy, and rye of this age is very hard to come by. That said, it’s expensive at $73 and while it’s good, it’s not great, in spite of all the internet gushing over this stuff. Nevertheless, it’s worth a recommendation. Makes a pretty good Sazerac cocktail too (on the rocks or with a little water added).

Four Roses 2010 Limited Edition Small Batch

More catching up…

Maker: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky (Kirin)

Age: 10 y/o (mix of 15 y/o, 11 y/o, and 10 y/o bourbons).

Proof: 110.2 (55.1% ABV)

Style: High-Rye Bourbon

Appearance: Light copper, with long, thick legs.

Nose: Wood, big spice and big alcohol, spicy nacho chips,
jalapeno.

On the palate: Good body, a little sweetness, then dry
woodiness and tannins, then cassia, then burn. Water balances it out quite a
bit. There are still plenty of the aggressive flavors above, but they are
balanced by brown sugar and vanilla, flavors not usually associated with Four Roses.

Finish: Hot at first, then dry and tannic, then a tingling sweetness. Water doesn’t slow down the finish much.

Parting Words: This bourbon, as noted above, is a mix (“blend” is a dirty word in the world of American Whiskey) of three of the ten bourbon recipes made by Four Roses: 15 y/o OBSV, 11 y/o OBSK and 10 y/o OESK. In 2008 and 2009 Four Roses put out something it called the Mariage Collection. The concept (and the bottle) was very similar to the Limited Edition Small Batch. It was also a special annual release, but only two of them were “married” together (it was produced in Kentucky, not Utah, after all), and the constituent bourbons were older. The 2008 Mariage was very good, and the 2009 was the best bourbon whiskey I have ever tasted, and I’ve tasted a lot of them.

So the 2010 Limited Edition Small Batch had very big shoes to fill. If measured against the 2009 Mariage, it falls short. But if it is measured up against most annual releases from most distilleries, it more than holds its own. It is not as subtle or multi-layered as its predecessor was but it is a well-crafted assertive whiskey that announces its presence boldly, but never wears out its welcome. Spice, corn, and wood all jockey for position throughout and the winner is always the drinker. Highly recommended!

Review: Abelour A’bunadh

Batch: 29
Maker: Abelour, Abelour, Banffshire, Scotland (Pernod-Ricard)
Region: Highland- Speyside
Age: NAS
ABV: 59.9%

Appearance: Auburn. Matches the wax on the bottle neck. Artificial coloring or just the sherry cask? At any rate, not very much in the way of legs, although there is a thin “necklace” around the inside of my Glencairn.

Nose: rich, creamy sherry, caramel, marzipan, spice, flowers, with an undertone of burning car tire.

On the palate: Nice heavy mouthfeel, burn, evaporates after a second on the tongue, a bit of a chewy rubbery taste. With a healthy dollop of water, it is much more pleasant. The rubbery taste is still there, but it is slowly transforming itself into a sweet, floral note on top of the caramel, marzipan, sherry and toffee.

Finish: Burn, caramel, chocolate –covered toffee bars, long and hot. With water, it is shorter and thinner but still very, very nice.

Parting Words: Abelour is said to be one of the most heavily “sherried” single malts on the market. A’bunadh is supposedly a recreation of an old whisky discovered during a remodel of the distillery. The more I think about that story, the less I like it, but the more I think about this whisky, the more I do like it. It is very much a dessert Scotch, as should be obvious by the nose. I’m not sure if I’ll be buying it again soon, but it was fun getting to know this whisky. I’m sure I’ll explore more from Abelour in the future, but for now, I’ll just have pleasant memories of sharing it with friends. If you like sherried Scotches, this comes recommended. If not, it’s worth finding a friend with a bottle, for the experience if for no other reason.

Now Drinking

Four Roses Single Barrel Barrel Strength KSBW

Age: NAS, ca. 9 y/o

Proof: 112.8 (56.4% ABV)

Recipe: OBSO (For a breakdown of the 10 recipes, click here)

Barrel: GE 553C (bottle 1/172)

This whiskey is not available at your friendly neighborhood grab & go.  This is what is called a “private bottling”.  Where the law permits, certain liquor stores, clubs or even individuals will buy an entire barrel of whiskey (or brandy, rum, tequila, etc) and have it bottled for them by the producer.  The producer will usually pour samples of the contents of a few different barrels, then the purchasers will try them and decide which barrel(s) to purchase.  Binny’s Beverage Depot in Chicago is well known for its private bottlings of bourbon, rye and Scotch, for instance.  The Bourbon Society of Louisville, KY is also known for its private bottlings for members.  Two friends of mine even got together and bought a barrel of Four Roses single barrel that is very well regarded and very tasty.  I know because I’ve had some.

Not all distilleries do private bottlings though.  Four Roses, Willet (not really a distiller, but a producer of excellent whiskeys nevertheless) and Buffalo Trace are well known for their private offerings, but Heaven Hill has started doing them with their single barrel whiskeys too, and one will even find a private bottling of Wild Turkey’s Kentucky Spirit on occasion.

At any rate, in 2009, Four Roses decided to release some of their 10 recipes at barrel strengthas private bottlings to select liquor stores across the country.  Binny’s, as usual, got some of the best barrels.  This one, OBSO, is one of the constituent whiskeys in Four Roses Small Batch.

When sipped at barrel strength, it does that magical thing that high proof spirits do.  The moment a drop hits your tongue, it vaporizes.  This trick is amusing the first few times it happens.  After that, you decide you would like to actually taste it, and you decide you don’t want to have heartburn all night.  So you add a splash or two of water.

The whiskey itself is a dark amber, the proverbial copper penny color.  The nose has a lot of caramel, but a sharp edge to it, too, as the barrel char punches through.  Even with a splash of water, it’s still a hot whiskey.  But it’s a mature heat, more Kim Cattrall than Megan Fox.  The caramel is still there and even stronger on the palate.  The char has retreated a bit, but adds depth to the sweetness and keeps this whiskey from becoming one dimensional.  Not the best one of these Binny’s Four Roses bottlings I’ve had, but still worth the price of admission.