Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof

Maker: Jack Daniel’s, Lynchburg, Tennessee, USA. (Brown-Forman)

Style: Tennessee Whiskey.

Age: NAS

Barrel information: 19-02550, rick L-27.

Proof: 127.9 (63.95% ABV)

Michigan state minimum: $65

Appearance: Reddish copper.

Nose: Roasted corn, maple sugar, leather, anise.

Palate: Full bodied and hot. Some sweetness, then evaporates off the tongue. With water, less heat but more caramel and dry oak.

Finish: Big peppermint. Still hot with water, but more dry oak.

Parting words: Long time readers will know that I, generally, hate Jack Daniel’s whiskeys. Out of the three JDs I’ve reviewed over the years, I’ve only given one a positive review. That was the rye. The most disappointing was the Single Barrel Select, which was expensive trash. The standard JD was just regular trash.

So why did I buy this? I don’t know. Maybe optimism, maybe self-loathing, maybe both. Surprisingly, though, I don’t regret this purchase too much. It’s not too expensive for a big distillery single barrel barrel proof offering, and it doesn’t taste terrible. Its only real flaw is that it’s a little boring compared to its high proof single barrel competitors like those from Four Roses, and Wild Turkey.

It’s a low bar to be sure, but Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof is the best JD expression on the market right now. So I do in fact have to hand it to them in this instance. This whiskey is recommended.

Russell’s Reserve Private Barrel Selection: Holiday Market 2021.

Maker: Wild Turkey, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky, USA

Style: Standard recipe single barrel Kentucky straight bourbon.

Selection from: Holiday Market, Royal Oak, Michigan, USA

Age: 8.75 y/o (Distilled 12/26/12, dumped 10/12/21)

Proof: 110 (55% ABV)

Michigan state minimum: $70

Appearance: Dark copper.

Nose: New oak, char, cherry pits, anise. Fruitier with water. Peach, leather.

Palate: Full bodied and creamy. Caramel, black pepper, red pepper, burn. Water brings out similar notes to the nose, but retains the spice.

Finish: Hot with eucalyptus. Lingers longer with water. Fades into French brandy fruitiness.

Parting words: Russell’s Reserve is Wild Turkey’s premium line, named after its long time distiller and current mascot Jimmy Russell. His son Eddie has taken over almost all of his venerable father’s dutie at this point, but the back of the label still reads Approved by: Jimmy Russell.

This is a well-balanced bourbon. It has the fruit typical of RR expressions, but it is well integrated into the typically aggressive Wild Turkey style. It is similar to the old “Small Batch Single Barrel” but much better integrated and much better all around. Holiday Market selections rarely awe, but they are usually good examples of house style.

$70 ain’t cheap for a bourbon, but factoring in the high proof and an age right in the bourbon sweet spot, it’s well worth the money for a weekend or special occasion bourbon. Russell’s Reserve Private Barrel Selection: Holiday Market 2021 is recommended.

Signatory Vintage Glenlossie 2009, Un-Chillfiltered Collection. Vine & Table selection.

Bottler: Signatory, Pitlochry, Perthshire, Scotland, UK (Symington)

Distiller: Glenlossie, Elgin, Moray, Scotland, UK (Diageo)

Region: Speyside.

Style: Single Cask, cask strength, unpeated, single malt Scotch whisky.

Cask: 3376

Age: 11 y/o (distilled April 2009, bottled July 2020).

ABV: 53.2%

Purchased for $100.

Appearance: Medium pale straw.

Nose: Dusty oak, apricot, orange cream hard candy.

Palate: Medium full body. Creamy with mandarin orange, then big burn. Milder with water, but still creamy and fruity.

Finish: Malty and fresh with a little stone fruit.

Parting words: Glenlossie is one of the few twin distilleries left in Scotland. Its sibling is Mannochmore, which flies even farther under the Radar than ‘Lossie does. Both are owned by Diageo and are used more for blending than bottling as single malts, though the occasional independent bottling, like this one, does crop up from time to time.

I’m very glad this one did crop up. I wouldn’t characterize it as complex, but what it does, it does very well. Even at eleven years old, this is an elegant example of unpeated Speyside malt. Once the high ABV is tamed, there’s no rough edges to be found anywhere. Just highly polished sweet malt and fruit.

$100 is above my usual price range, but I don’t regret the purchase at all. When one factors in the cask strength, and skill that went into selecting this whisky, $100 is a fair price. Not a bargain, mind you, but fair. I’m really glad I picked this bottle up. Signatory Vintage Glenlossie 2009, Un-Chillfiltered Collection. (Vine & Table selection) is recommended.

Baker’s Single Barrel

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

Style: Single barrel, standard recipe rye Bourbon.

Serial number: 000228504

Warehouse: CL-J, Floor 4, rack 43

Age: 7 y/o (and 4 mos.)

Proof: 107 (53.5% ABV)

Michigan State Minimum: $60

Appearance: Medium dark copper.

Nose: Caramel, roasted corn, cut oak, cayenne.

Palate: Full bodied. Chocolate caramel brownies.

Finish: Hot, with some caramel and a touch of oak.

Parting words: This is the second time I’ve reviewed Baker’s, but the first time was back in 2014 when it wasn’t a single barrel and it had an irritating wax top.

Back then it was spicy but with an odd smell of rotten vegetables in the nose when water was added. I should have read that review a few weeks ago because in it I recommended that it be consumed neat, or with very little water. I didn’t do that with this bottle, and I was very disappointed with it.

All ready to give a scathing review, I poured some into my favorite Glencairn glass and started taking down notes tonight. When I was done, I looked back over them and thought, “These are the tasting notes of a very good bourbon.” Once again, I played myself.

Baker’s Single Barrel is recommended.

Before we go our separate ways, dear reader, I want to take a moment to applaud Beam for the Single Barrel Journey feature on the Baker’s website. It’s very cool. All you do is enter the serial number for your bottle of Baker’s and the website gives you all sorts of information on the barrel including location in the warehouse and even the high and low temperatures for the barrel’s time in that warehouse. Really neato stuff. Feel free to use the serial number above to try it out!

Rye World

Maker: Krogman’s, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

Distiller: Ross & Squibb (formerly MGPI), Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA

Style: Single Barrel Indiana High Rye Rye Whiskey.

Age: 4 y/o

Proof: 112 (56% ABV)

Notes: 95% Rye, 5% malt, #4 barrel char.

Price: $25 (Vine & Table)

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Bold. Tarragon and leather.

Palate: Full-bodied and semi-sweet. Wintergreen, burn. More bitter with water. Char and peppermint.

Finish: Extra-minty toothpaste, apricot. With water, a little fruit but mostly faded starlight mint.

Parting words: As you may have guessed, Rye World is the Rye equivalent of the Bourbon World Vine & Table single barrel selections. That said, it’s a little less distinct than those two, since it’s basically just the standard high rye rye whiskey recipe from Ross & Squibb. That’s fine, though, since it’s a good example of that recipe, high proof, and cheap. If you like Bulleit Rye (apparently the best selling rye in the US at the moment!), you’ll love this. It’s aggressively herbaceous and minty, but take it easy with the water. It wasn’t able to withstand as much as I thought it would.

If you like Indiana Rye, Bourbon World is recommended.

Head to head tasting: Bourbon World vs Bourbon World.

Sourced by: Krogman’s, Bloomington, Indiana, USA. For Vine & Table, Carmel, Indiana.

Distilled by Ross & Squibb (MGPI), Lawrenceburg, Indiana, USA

Pi= Pink label, Pu= Purple label

Style

Pi: High rye bourbon (60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malt)

Pu: Single barrel, standard recipe bourbon (75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malt)

Age: 5 y/o

Proof: 112 (56% ABV)

Purchased for $40 (Vine & Table)

Appearance

Pi: Light copper.

Pu: Slightly darker.

Nose

Pi: Bubble gum, alcohol.

Pu: Grape juice, spiced plum.

Palate

Pi: Full-bodied and fruity, with nutmeg and burn. Spicier and dryer with water.

Pu: Lighter with caramel and char. Water brings out cherry pie.

Finish

Pi: Allspice, clove

Pu: plums and burn.

Parting words: Bourbon World is the relatively new line of V & T selections of Ross & Squib (formerly MGPI), single barrel, barrel proof (or close to it) bourbons. The person I talked to at the store said they were “very similar” mash bills, but as you can see, they are not. The Pink Label is high rye, and the purple is lower in rye and higher in corn, though it doesn’t quite qualify as high corn, like the Buffalo Trace rye bourbon recipes. Interestingly (but not surprisingly given R & S’s and Four Roses’ shared Seagram’s heritage), Pink Label is very close to the mash bill of Four Roses’ B recipe bourbons and Purple is very close to the E recipe.

Vine & Table is one of the retailers that I will always buy a selection from. They very rarely, if ever, miss. One of the reasons for that is their spirits buyer, Dave Helt. I don’t know Dave especially well, but I was friends with his father, Tom (and I’m still friends with his mother Barb). Tom Helt was the embodiment of the spirit of the pre-boom bourbon enthusiast community. He was relatively tall, had a bushy beard before it was cool, and was legendarily generous. His palate was amazing, and his basement was a magical land of bourbons and Scotches that most people can only dream about now. In these days of the still-overheated bourbon secondary market, the value of his collection would be easily in the millions of dollars, maybe even higher. He, of course didn’t PAY millions of dollars for it, given when he started collecting. Tom was also well known for dry sense of humor and for making George T. Stagg Bananas Foster for the bourbon pilgrims who used to gather at the General Nelson motel in Bardstown, Kentucky twice a year. Sadly, Tom died of cancer in 2018.

Like I said, Tom’s palate and generosity were legendary and those qualities were passed down to his son Dave. These bourbons are both excellent examples of the R & S style , one that is very similar to that of my beloved Four Roses. If you don’t believe me, you can always try a little at V & T’s in-store tasting bar. You could even do your own head to head. I know Tom would be very proud of the bourbons Dave is bringing to V & T. At $40, these are easy buys. Bourbon World Purple label is recommended and the Pink label is highly recommended.

Eastern Kille Toasted Barrel Finish Barrel Strength, Holiday Market selection

Maker: Eastern Kille, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA

Selected by: Holiday Market, Royal Oak, Michigan, USA

Style: Toasted barrel finished Michigan straight, rye recipe, bourbon

Age: 3 y/o (Barreled 10/31/17, bottled 11/4/20)

Batch: 70139 (or TOB9)

Barrel: TOB62420-9

Proof: 125.2 (62.6% ABV)

Purchased for $45.

Note: Tasted with a splash of water.

Appearance: Dark copper.

Nose: Oak, sawdust, wood varnish, ash, whiff of amaretto.

Palate: More sawdust and toasted oak, with some sweet dessert flavors lurking somewhere in the background.

Finish: Sawdust, then burn.

Parting words: Eastern Kille (Gray Skies until dumb Campari threatened them with a lawsuit over the word sky, which they apparently own now), is a distillery and bar in Grand Rapids, Michigan. Like many other businesses of the type, Eastern Kille also gets distribution around the state. I thought I had reviewed one of their products before, but it turns out I hadn’t.

They seem to be one of the distilleries that is trying to do things “the right way” so I jumped at the chance to try a single barrel selection from one of my favorite places to buy spirits. The toasted barrel appealed to me because rebarreling can sometimes be a good way to give young whiskeys a little more depth and oak character. The downside is that if the whiskey is left in the second barrel too long or the finishing barrel is too small (or both) the wood can overwhelm the spirit, and turn it into what I call “beaver bourbon.”

Sadly, the latter is what has happened here. Eastern Kille Toasted Barrel Finish is an overly woody, unbalanced whiskey. There are some interesting things going on under all that oak, but they fade as soon as that finish hits like a 2×4. I tried mixing it with some success in a boulevadier, but that was all it was good in. The oak quickly overwhelms everything else, even a Manhattan made with a bold vermouth.

Eastern Kille Toasted Barrel Finish is not recommended. That said, I’m not giving up on this distillery. There’s a good, solid base here so I’m eager to try their standard bourbon. Watch this space for that review!

Laird’s Single Cask, Comrade Brandy selection #2, Shelter in Place

Maker: Laird’s, Scobeyville, New Jersey/North Garden, Virginia, USA.

Age: 7 y/o (84 mos)

Barrel: 13J24-30

Notes: Bottled Oct 29, 2020, bottle 81(80?)/144.

ABV: 65%

Purchased for $65 (Comrade Brandy selection).

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Big dessert apple aroma. Apple sauce, cut crimson crisp. Water brings out vanilla.

Palate: Medium bodied and sweet. Cider, then burn. With water: White chocolate candy apple.

Finish: Long. Hot apple pie. With water: cleaner with a little heat.

Parting words: Comrade Brandy is one of two private barrel selection groups I’m a part of. I joined for the inaugural selection (reviewed here) back in 2019. Coming right at the beginning of the COVID19 pandemic, this second selection took a while to come out, but it finally arrived in members’ hands early this spring. It’s not quite as good as the first edition, but it’s close and still a very strong selection that I have no complaints about. It’s made in a classic American apple brandy style, but it does start to take on some Calvados characteristics when watered down.

$65 is a fair price for a cask strength private selection, so no complaints there either! Want to get in on the next selection? Hop onto Facebook and join the club! Laird’s Single Cask, Comrade Brandy selection #2, Shelter in Place is recommended.

Wyoming Whiskey Private Stock, Red Wagon selection

Maker: Wyoming Whiskey, Kirby, Wyoming, USA.

Style: Wheat recipe bourbon.

Age: 5 y/o (according to paragraph on back label)

Proof: 107.72 (53.86% ABV)

Selected for Red Wagon stores, Troy & Rochester, Michigan, USA.

Barrel #4743

Michigan state minimum: $60

Appearance: Medium copper.

Nose: Oak, alcohol, custard.

Palate: Medium bodied and sweet. Caramel, brown sugar, candy cake decorations, then burn. With water: Even sweeter with more oak, but with less burn, obviously.

Finish: Clean and hot. With water: blondies, oak.

Mixed: Outstanding in classic cocktails, Kentucky mule, and even with cola or ginger ale.

Parting words: During the first wave of micro-distillers there were a lot of distilleries making bourbon who were trying to find shortcuts to get product on the market as soon as possible. They resorted to gimmicks like weird grains, small barrels, magical cave water, historical fiction, overpowering finishes, ill-conceived technologies (eg TerrePure®) and flat-out lies to try to ride the bourbon wave to profitability. I grew very tired of these cheesy “craft” distilleries very quickly.

There were a few micro-distilleries that seemed to be committed to doing things the “right” way, though. They used full-sized barrels, planned on aging the whiskey properly, used unique but not gimmicky recipes, and, most importantly, they hired people who knew that they were doing. It was clear from the beginning that Wyoming Whiskey is in that second category, so I made a mental note to watch for their bourbon on shelves. A few months ago, I was perusing Red Wagon’s Rochester location and to my delight I saw a Wyoming Whiskey selection in an in-store display! I grabbed it and brought it home.

I have to admit that I was disappointed at first sip. There was a strong wood varnish note that was very off-putting neat, so I laid off the bottle for a while after that. The next time I poured from it I used it in a Manhattan and it was great. Next I tried an Old Fashioned and it was even better. By the time I tried it neat again, it had blossomed into a beautiful, classic, but still distinctive, wheater. Now I can’t wait to try some more selections and I’m fantasizing about possible future releases with ages in the double digits.

Anyway, I like this bourbon a lot, obviously. I’m less of a fan of the price, but factoring in the high proof, wheat recipe, age and the usual micro-mark-up, I think $60 is a fair, though more than that might be pushing it. Wyoming Whiskey Private Stock, Red Wagon selection is recommended.

Jean-Luc Pasquet Cognac, Lot 62, Serious Brandy selection, cask #2

Maker: Sarl Domaine Pasquet, Bellevigne, Cognac, Charente, France.

Distiller: Undisclosed small distiller in Petite Champagne.

Region: Petite Champagne, Cognac, Charente, France.

Grape: Ugni Blanc (100%)

Vintage: 1962

Age: 58 y/o (100% in oak)

Note: No chill filtering or additives.

Purchased for $244/700 ml (200€) via Cognatheque.

Appearance: Bright oxblood.

Nose: Dried figs, dates, old oak, lavender, chamomile.

Palate: Full-bodied and dry, but with a little fruit. Dried cherry, oak, walnut.

Finish: Big. Anise candy, horehound, oak.

Parting words: I think is bottle is both the most expensive and oldest (longest time in oak) spirit I’ve ever purchased. I’ve tasted bourbons distilled in the 1960s and earlier (I even tried one from the 1860s once), and 30+ y/o Scotch, but never a brandy this old. Truth be told, I’m not generally not a fan of ultra-aged spirits. I find most of them unbalanced and overpriced. Why should I pay three or four figures for a whiskey that is so woody, only a beaver would enjoy it.

Despite all that, I was very excited when the administrator of a Facebook group I’m a member of, Serious Brandy, decided to do a group buy of two casks of Cognac from the cellars of Jean-Luc Pasquet. Domaine Pasquet is currently owned by Jean-Luc’s son Jean and his wife Amy, who is a frequent poster in the group. Serious Brandy’s founder, Steve (aka retired whiskey blogger Sku) is someone whose palate and knowledge of brandy I trust, and in the grand scheme of things $244 is not a huge sum for a 58 year old spirit. Single Malt Scotch in that age range sells for 5 figures or more. Be that as it may, I only bought one bottle from the second cask selected due to budgetary constraints (i.e. my wife’s strong desire to pay off all our student loans at the end of this year).

So when I opened it for the first time, I was a little disappointed. It was very intense, and the experience of drinking it was like having old fashioned licorice shoved up every orifice. I was a little sad after that so I let it sit in my cabinet for a couple weeks. Then I tried it again, and it was better. Then a tried it again after another week or two and it was even better. Now, a few months after I opened it, it’s become very good.

The finish is still intense, but the nose and palate are much more balanced. It’s still clearly an old spirit, but it’s now more spry than senile. After a few months of enjoying it I’m putting it back into my cellar and I will put it back into rotation after I finish the next French brandy I have waiting in the wings, as it were.

Anyway, big thanks to Steve and the Pasquets for giving me the opportunity to own such a rare and interesting Cognac! Jean-Luc Pasquet Cognac, Lot 62, First Serious Brandy selection, cask #2 is recommended.