Old Hickory Bourbon

Maker: R.S. Lipman, Nashville, Tennesee, USAwpid-oh-straight_thumb1.png

Distiller: MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA

Style: High rye bourbon

Age: NAS (4-7 y/o)

Proof: 86 (43% ABV)

MSRP: $40

Note: I received complementary bottles of this and the blended bourbon from Double Diamond Marketing & Communications.

Appearance: Ruddy copper.

Nose: Spearmint, potpourri, pine.

Palate: Hot on entry. Cinnamon, clove, butterscotch, oak, alcohol.

Finish: Herbal and hot. Lingers for a long time.

Mixed: This is a fantastic mixing bourbon. The strong rye notes complement vermouth perfectly and prevent the low proof from being problematic. Wonderful in a boulevardier and Manhattan. Also good in an old fashioned and in eggnog.

Parting words: Lipman is a small, Nashville-based Non-distiller producer (NDP) that has been around for a couple decades. They purchased the Old Hickory brand in 2013 (for many years the flagship bourbon of Publicker/Continental in Pennsylvania) and resurrected it with the help of our old friends at MGPI. It is currently only available in Tennessee, but is slowly being rolled out around the country. The label doesn’t make a connection with the old brand, other than featuring Old Hickory himself on the label. They are also very open about where they’re getting their stocks from. Good on them for not taking the Michter’s route.

According to Lipman’s promotional materials, this whiskey has a very high proportion of small grains (meaning malt and rye) and it certainly tastes like it. There seems to be an even higher percentage of rye than most high rye MGPI bourbon. Perhaps it was custom distilled. Lipman makes a big deal of how it owns its own stocks of bourbon and thus isn’t just buying this stuff on the bulk market. That should mean a consistent product going forward, more so than most NDP brands. They are planning some more expressions in the future, in addition to the straight and blended bourbons offered now.

This is a weird bourbon. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted one that was like this. It’s so rye heavy that if I were tasting it blind I would probably guess that it was Bulleit Rye, not a bourbon. It took me a while to figure out whether this was good weird or bad weird, but I finally settled on good. At this price, the proof should be higher, but it does ok at 86. Like I said above, the spice makes up for the low proof. Old Hickory Straight Bourbon is recommended, and highly so for cocktails.

A Midwinter Nights Dram

Maker: High West, Park City, Utah, USAwpid-2015-10-23-17.15.39.jpg.jpeg

Distillers: MGPI, some Kentucky distillery or distilleries.

Style: Blend of straight rye whiskeys finished in French oak and port barrels.

Age: NAS

Act 2.9, Scene 234

Proof: 98.6 (49.3% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $82

Appearance: Dark copper.

Nose: Alcohol, cut grass, prunes, dried figs, tawny Port.

Palate: Fruity and rich. Apple-mint jelly, cinnamon disks.

Finish: Hot and spicy, then shifts to big menthol and eucalyptus flavors.

Mixed: Makes for a good hot toddy and Manhattan.

Parting words: High West’s Rendezvous Rye is one of my favorite ryes, and this is a finished version of that. Port finished bourbons were all the rage a couple years ago when this product was introduced, ushered in by Angel’s Envy. I have liked the products generally, and I like this one. The minty character of the high rye MGPI tends to run roughshod over everything else here. There’s a little bit of Port that shines through, but not too much (and that’s not necessarily a bad thing).

A Midwinter Nights Dram is good by the fire and would probably be good with a cigar if I smoked. The sweetness complements smoky environs nicely. I can’t really say that I like it more than Rendezvous Rye but I should if I’m paying $30 more for it. A Midwinter Nights Dram is mildly recommended.

Old Forester 1870

Maker: Brown-Forman, Louisville, Kentucky, USAwpid-2015-10-09-17.57.32.jpg.jpeg

Style: High rye bourbon

Age: NAS

Proof: 90 (45% ABV)

Michigan state minimum: $45

Appearance: Medium copper with medium, evenly spaced legs.

Nose: Alcohol, caramel, old leather, squirt of wild blackberry juice.

Palate: Soft and medium bodied on the palate with nougat, caramel candies, and vanilla but then moving into cassia and burn. Water brings out some nice chocolatey flavors.

Finish: Oak, chocolate chews, amaretto, burn.

Parting words: Old Forester occupies a unique place among American bourbons. It is the only nineteenth century brand that is still owned by the company that founded it. It was Brown-Forman’s (Forman was a one-time partner) first brand. Who Forester actually was has never been satisfactorily answered. Early batches had an extra r in the name, so it has been asserted that it was named after a physician named William Forrester or even confederate general, early KKK leader and war criminal Nathan Bedford Forrest.  At any rate, over the years, Brown-Forman gobbled up Early Times (founded by a Beam) and then, of course, Jack Daniels. The company is publically owned, but the majority of shares are still owned by the Brown family.

Brown, like many of his peers, began as a broker or rectifier. He bought whiskey from various distilleries and sold it under the Old Forester name by the barrel to retailers and taverns. The concept of branding was taking off at the time and Brown wished to protect his brand’s reputation against unscrupulous retailers and bar owners, so he began selling his bourbon by the bottle instead, to insure that he had total control over what was being sold as Old Forester. The idea spread like wildfire, of course.

This iteration, Old Forester 1870 is inspired by those early batches. It is composed of barrels drawn from three different warehouses, from different barrel entry proofs and production dates, corresponding to the three different distilleries from which Brown sourced his first batches. I would not be surprised if some of those barrels were from the old Old Forester plant (DSP 414).

As for the bourbon itself, I was underwhelmed at first but it has grown on me. It has a subtle richness that is very satisfying after dinner or as sipper to accompany a book or good TV. 1870 also stands up very well against its little sibling, the 86 proof Old Forester. Where the 86 is thin, simple and slightly astringent, 1870 is creamy and multi-faceted. It lacks the fruitiness in the Old Forester Single Barrel selections I’ve had, but it more than makes up for it in rich candy flavors. Frankly, I wish the 86 proof would taste more like this.

It’s pricy at $45 but I do think it’s worth the money (although not much more). Old Forester 1870 is recommended.

Bulleit 10 y/o

Distiller: Four Roses, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA (For now. Brand owned by Diageo)wpid-2015-07-10-19.53.00.jpg.jpeg

Style: High rye bourbon.

Age: 10 y/o

Proof: 91.2 (45.6% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $47

Appearance: Burnt orange

Nose: Alcohol, red pepper flakes, charred oak.

Palate: Caramel, toffee, oak, serrano chiles, lavender, grape bubblegum.

Finish: Oak, alcohol, circus peanut.

Parting words: This is the latest installment in the “cleaning out my liquor cabinet” series. I bought this bottle at the distillery. Well, not at the distillery it was distilled at, but at the one that serves as home to the “Bulleit Experience”, Stizel-Weller.

This this bourbon is fine. No flaws, drinks well, etc. But Four Roses Single Barrel is $42, 100 proof and almost always more interesting than this. There’s no good reason to buy this bourbon instead of that one. Bulleit 10 y/o is mildly recommended.

Alberta Rye Dark Batch

Maker: Alberta Distillers Ltd., Calgary, Alberta, Canada (Beam Suntory)wpid-2015-06-12-20.59.58.jpg.jpeg

Style: Blended Canadian Rye

Age: NAS

ABV: 45%

Michigan State Minimum: $27

Appearance: Dark (not surprisingly), ruddy copper.

Nose: Big, high-toned rye. Lemongrass, tarragon, alcohol, coriander seed, ginger, butterscotch, toffee.

Palate: Full bodied and creamy. Toffee, caramel, coffee grounds. A bit of bite on the back end.

Finish: Big herbaceous finish. Cilantro, curry.

Parting words: This whisky is essentially a rebranding of the Canada-only Albert Rye Dark Horse whisky. Why they thought “batch” would sell better in the US than “horse” is anybody’s guess, especially since horses are all over many high end bourbon labels.

At any rate, it’s a blend of Alberta-distilled rye with high-rye bourbon (Old Grand Dad) and a little sherry. Many palates I respect have been able to taste the bourbon in the mix, but I confess that I cannot. Perhaps some of the butterscotch and toffee flavors are from the OGD, but it seems more likely that they hail from the sherry than the bourbon.

Whatever is coming from wherever, this is a wonderful whisky, one of the best Canadians readily available. It’s a great value at this proof and price. It mixes surprisingly well too, at least in the Manhattan I just finished! Alberta Rye Dark Batch is highly recommended.

Wiser’s Legacy

Maker: Corby, Corbyville, Ontario, Canadawpid-2014-10-16-18.21.08.jpg.jpeg

Distilled: Hiram Walker, Windsor, Ontario, Canada (Pernod-Ricard)

Age: NAS

ABV: 45%

Michigan State Minimum: $45

Appearance: Light copper with long thick legs.

Nose: Leather, spearmint, potpourri, coriander, green cardamom, woodruff, Habanero peppers.

Palate: Full bodied and medium dry. Butterscotch, white pepper, basil, cilantro, alcohol.

Finish: Eucalyptus cough drops, aged Alsatian Pinot Gris, hint of oak.

Parting words: Wiser’s Legacy is the legacy of now retired master blender David Doyle. Wiser’s Legacy is back in the U.S. after two year long absence. Named 2013 Canadian Whisky of the Year by Whisky Advocate, it’s a remarkable product.

It’s made from a blend of rye, malted rye and maltly barely and has loads of minty Canadian rye aromas (think early batches of Whistle Pig) that are elegantly balanced with candy sweetness and toasted barrel notes. It manages to be both unabashedly Canadian and a transcendent, world class-whisky on par with bourbons twice its price and single malt Scotches four times the price. I taste something new every time I pour myself a couple ounces.

Nobody knows how long it will be back on American shelves, so buy a bottle or two while you can. Wiser’s Legacy is highly recommended.

 

Lot No. 40, 2012 Release

Maker: Corby, Windsor, Ontario, Canada (Pernod-Ricard)Lot No. 40

Style: Canadian Rye

Age: NAS

ABV: 43%

Price: $60 (Binny’s)

Appearance: Auburn, with long thick legs.

Nose: Wintergreen, cotton candy, pine, leather.

Palate: Light mouthfeel, but spicy and hot. Butterscotch, oak, clove, curry powder, cayenne.

Finish: Hard candy, more evergreen and potpourri then heat. A little oak and tobacco rounds it off.

Parting words: This whisky is a reboot of a reboot, sort of. The original lot no. 40 was the farm plot of early Canadian and distiller Joshua Booth on the northeastern shore of Lake Ontario. His descendant Michael D. Booth created Lot No. 40 the whisky as a tribute to his ancestor as a part of Corby’s ill-fated Canadian Whisky Guild line in the 1990s. It was revived in 2012 and that’s the edition currently on store shelves.

If there’s a knock on Canadian whisky as a category, it’s that it’s dull. The overwhelming majority of them are blends built to provide lots of  “smoothness” for little money. As more flavorful styles of whisky like bourbon, rye and single malt Scotch have become more popular, Canadian distillers have begun to release bolder and even unblended whiskies to chase consumers who are tired of bland spirits.

Lot No. 40 is one of the greatest examples of these bolder offerings. It packs a wallop of flavor to rival ea bourbon or single malt Scotch. A lot of that is down to the 100% rye (10% malted and 90% unmalted)

recipe. Many Canadian distilleries make a whisky like this but it almost always gets blended away to add flavor to bland grain whisky in cheap blends. I’m very glad this made it into a bottle as is, and I can’t wait for the next edition.

The price is high for a Canadian whisky but it’s worth every penny. It may actually be cheaper in Canada, so make a run for the border if you can sometime soon. Lot No. 40 is highly recommended.

Angel’s Envy Rye

Maker: Angel’s Envy, Louisville, Kentucky, USAAE Rye

Distiller: Likely MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA

Style: High rye rye, finished in Caribbean rum casks.

Age: NAS

Batch: 1C

Proof: 100 (50% ABV)

Thanks to Oscar for help in obtaining this bottle and Amy for splitting it with me.

Appearance: Pale copper

Nose: Butter rum, carrot cake, almond brittle.

On the palate: Medium bodied, sweet and spicy. Fruitcake (the good, homemade kind), crystallized ginger, allspice, nutmeg, clove, mace, molasses.

Finish: More spice cake with a good bit of alcoholic burn. Clears out the sinuses and the sweetness lingers on the tongue and lips.

Parting words: This is another special release from this year that I have delayed reviewing in typical Sipology style. When it was announced that Angel’s Envy was releasing a rye, I was skeptical. When I heard the price, I was even more skeptical. When I tasted it, I was no longer skeptical.

This is a whiskey unlike any I have ever had and in a very good way. The rum flavors are very up front and they meld in an effortless way with the spice of the high-rye recipe rye to create a whiskey that is like drinking a 100 proof spice cake. It’s just an amazing product, albeit a very expensive one. It sold for $70 or more when it was to be found but it’s worth every penny and then some. There may be a few on shelves still, so if you see one, buy it. This is an amazing whiskey. Highly recommended.

Rendezvous Rye

Maker: High West, Park City, Utah, USArendezvous-bottle

Distillers: MGPI, Lawrenceburg, Indiana (6 y/o, 95% rye component) & Barton-1792, Bardstown, Kentucky (16 y/o, 80% Rye component)

Style: Indiana style rye whiskey (high rye)

Batch: 12A31

Age: 6 y/o (but blended with a 16 y/o)

Proof: 92 (46% ABV)

Appearance: Copper with a pinkish hue. Slightly cloudy.

Nose: Cedar, barbecue sauce, fresh cut grass.

On the palate: Medium bodied and soft. Dry with some spearmint. Water brings out a gentle sweetness to balance out the grassiness. Thyme, caramel, allspice, ginger.

Finish: Light, with a little sweetness but mostly tarragon and burn. Some char comes through and then softly fades. Much the same with water, but the burn has been transformed into a pleasant tingle.

Mixed: Very tasty in a Sazerac. Didn’t try it in anything else.

Parting Words: Rendezvous Rye was the first (or at least one of the first) products to be released by High West. The source material has shifted since that first bottling, but Rendezvous has been HW’s most consistant, and to me, most successful product. The tangy ketchup notes that plague Son of Bourye are here too, but they are kept firmly in the background by caramel and herbal flavors and aromas. Through prudent barrel selection and judicious mingling of ryes of two different styles, High West as created a rye that is very much worth seeking out. With rye supplies tightening, I hope they can continue to keep Rendezvous at an affordable price and at its current level of quality. Rendezvous Rye is recommended.