Old Medley 12 Years Old

What do you get when you combine an Elmer T. Lee style bottle and a 12-year age statement? A bourbon no one brags about. I suppose it makes sense. I mean, Old Medley’s label isn’t exactly a work of art. It’s also whiskey from an undisclosed Kentucky source … for $65.


Pour: Old Medley 12 Years Old
Proof: 86.8
Age: 12 years
Color: amber
Nose: sugary cereal, apple jelly, buttered corn
Taste: vanilla-orange candy, seared pear, sweet oak char
Finish: moderately short – smoky caramel & citrus, faint pepper


Overall: Well, it’s bourbon. Unfortunately, even with a respectable 12-year maturation, Old Medley lacks a premium vibe. Vanilla, light fruit, oak char – you get all of that. Just don’t expect layers of complexity. Easy on the palate, hard on the wallet.

Rating: Oh, Meh-dley.

Woodinville Single Barrel Select

In December of last year, I purchased a Woodinville Straight Bourbon Whiskey (90 proof). I wasn’t impressed. While not unpleasant, it came across a bit too “crafty,” for lack of a better word. Since then, I’ve been encouraged to try a Woodinville Single Barrel Select. Here goes!


Pour: Woodinville Single Barrel Select (Bourbon Pursuit)
Proof: 122.4
Age: 5 years
Color: copper
Nose: maple syrup, blueberry pancakes, caramel popcorn
Taste: toasted vanilla, English toffee, boozy butterscotch
Finish: long & notably warm – molasses, cream soda, sweet sassafras


Overall: I’m not sure if it’s the absence of dilution or just an exceptional barrel, but this Woodinville selection is no joke. Hell, it’s excellent. There’s so much flavor, in a blind tasting I’m doubtful I’d pin its age as 5 years. Well done, Woodinville. 

Rating: Flavorville.

Knob Creek 12 Year Cask Strength

The cask-strength edition of Knob Creek 12 has lingered on my must-try list for months now. Thanks to the generosity of a friend, I finally have the opportunity to taste it. I’ll admit, I’m a little giddy. Knob Creek 12 is a personal favorite. I’m counting on great things.


Pour: Knob Creek 12 Year Cask Strength
Proof: 120.5
Age: 12 years
Color: dense rust
Nose: molasses, maple syrup, baked brown sugar
Taste: chewy caramel, rich charred oak, antique leather
Finish: long & flavorful – chocolate brownie, coffee, clove, licorice


Overall: Knob Creek 12 at 100 proof is wonderful, but uncut at 120.5 (and only $90) … truly remarkable. It’s bourbon done right – bold complexity with an indulgent sweetness atypical of its maturity and strength. Such a shame it’s limited to select markets.

Rating: Impressive.

Johnnie Walker Blue Label

At last, the final entry in my Johnnie Walker series, the oft-gifted Johnnie Walker Blue Label. Like it or not, it’s the one recognizable luxury whisky that’s effortlessly found. This is my first time tasting the Blue Label and expectations are high. But should they be?


Pour: Johnnie Walker Blue Label
Proof: 80
Age: not stated
Color: light amber
Nose: white grape, floral essence, smoky melon
Taste: savory honey, graham cracker, faint earthy spice
Finish: moderately long w/ charred golden apple, white pepper, leather


Overall: Taking price out of the equation, Johnnie Walker Blue Label is a respectable pour – flavorful and well balanced. Unfortunately, I’m having a difficult time justifying $225. For me, the 18-year is superior, followed closely by the Green Label.

Rating: Mild blues.

Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years

And now, the penultimate review in my Johnnie Walker series, Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years. I’ve passed over this whisky countless times – always curious, but never biting until recently. I have a hard time believing it will best the Green Label, but one never knows. Sláinte!


Pour: Johnnie Walker Aged 18 Years
Proof: 80
Age: 18 years
Color: amber
Nose: apple juice, boozy pear, maraschino cherry
Taste: smoky white fruit, frosted animal cracker, Necco wafer
Finish: moderately short w/ light char, savory vanilla, white pepper


Overall: A well-crafted blend with a nose, taste, and texture that sets it apart from other expressions in the core Johnnie Walker lineup. At $90 it’s not exactly cheap, but for an 18-year whisky from a longstanding brand, you’re paying for what you get.

Rating: Pleasant.

Johnnie Walker Green Label

Moving along with my Johnnie Walker series, we have the fan-favorite Green Label. Most notable, it’s labeled as a blended malt, as opposed to a blended Scotch containing grain whisky. Is the $55 Johnnie Walker Green worth the small premium over Black? We shall see.


Pour: Johnnie Walker Green Label
Proof: 86
Age: 15 years
Color: light amber
Nose: glazed apple, smoky citrus, hints of floral spice
Taste: charred melon, classic vanilla syrup, baked pear
Finish: moderate length w/ toasted caramel, oak, sweet earthy spice


Overall: While I’m uncertain any Johnnie Walker expression could dethrone Black as my personal favorite, the Green definitely warrants cause for pause. Ultimately, Green is an elegant whisky, rich in flavor and surprising complexity to boot. Quite satisfactory.

Rating: Go green.

Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve

Next up in my Johnnie Walker series is the Gold Label Reserve. Priced at a significant premium over Johnnie Walker Black ($85 vs. $35) and labeled without an age statement, I’m eager to weigh in on this commonly found, yet infrequently discussed whisky.


Pour: Johnnie Walker Gold Label Reserve
Proof: 80
Age: not stated
Color: amber
Nose: smoked pear, glazed apple, honey
Taste: savory vanilla, graham cracker, dried apricot
Finish: moderate length w/ smoky caramel, singed sugar, faint leather


Overall: Maybe it’s an oversimplification, but I can’t help but describe the Gold Label as a sweeter, slightly elegant version of JW Black. There’s a white fruit quality about it, but with enough smokiness to add complexity. I’m just not tasting the premium.

Rating: Gold-plated.

Johnnie Walker Black Label

The first in my Johnnie Walker series … Over the next few days, weeks, however the time rolls, you’ll get my take on various offerings of this iconic brand. Please note, my preference lies with American whiskey. As such, you won’t find any snooty Scotch elitism here.


Johnnie Walker Black, or as the late Hitchens affectionately called it, “Mr. Walker’s Amber Restorative.” It was my first Scotch, and I’ve appreciated it since. It’s been a while since I purchased a bottle, but a recent trip to the liquor store cured that. Sláinte!


Pour: Johnnie Walker Black Label
Proof: 80
Age: 12 years
Color: rich amber
Nose: smoky caramel, honey, orange jam
Taste: salty vanilla, mild oak, boozy honeydew
Finish: moderately short w/ charred apple, leather, pepper


Overall: Cigar. Whisky. Leather chair: This is Johnnie Walker Black. Spare me your high-class single-malt diatribe. If you want to spend $35 on a whisky that’s smoky, sweet, slightly fruity and undeniably balanced, this may be all you’ll ever need.

Rating: Surefire staple.

Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye

Who could forget 2016’s “Whisky of the Year?” A lot of folks, apparently. In an age when people are hoarding 4-year sourced bourbon bottled by Costco, Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye literally collects dust. What gives–actually, who cares? It was a $25, no-hassle purchase.


Pour: Crown Royal Northern Harvest Rye
Proof: 90
Age: not stated
Color: amber
Nose: honey-lemon, vanilla frosting, fruit salad
Taste: sugar wafer, citrus & floral notes, lightly toasted coconut
Finish: moderate length w/ baking spice, Necco wafer, faint oak & pepper


Overall: I wouldn’t consider Northern Harvest Rye an awards contender, but damn if it ain’t half bad. Seriously, I could see myself buying this whisky again. It’s well-balanced, pleasantly sweet, and sprinkled with a fair dollop of spice. Works for me.

Rating: Royal Ryet.

McBrayer Legacy Spirits Bourbon

There was a time when W. H. McBrayer’s Cedar Brook was arguably the most popular Kentucky bourbon whiskey in the world. The McBrayer legacy was recently revived by his descendants using a recipe authored by “The Judge” himself and distilled via contract with Wilderness Trail.


Pour: McBrayer Legacy Spirits Kentucky Straight Bourbon
Proof: 103.1
Age: at least 4 years
Color: honey
Nose: toasted vanilla wafer, grain, barrel char
Taste: smoky toffee, Cracker Jacks, dry baking spice
Finish: moderate length – singed molasses, clove, licorice


Overall: Despite employing a custom recipe, the Wilderness Trail DNA is prominent. McBrayer Legacy Spirits Bourbon is a well-enough sipper, though I’d prefer it had more time in the barrel. At $100 a bottle, it’s a tough spend for the non-history buff.

Rating: Court in recess.


50ml sample courtesy of McBrayer Legacy Spirits.

Copper & Kings Crafted (ex Russell’s Reserve Barrel)

Special thanks to two internet friends for making this tasting possible. I’ve been wanting to try Copper & Kings American Brandy for some time now. After hearing about Kentucky brandy finished in an ex Russell’s Reserve barrel … Well, you know I had to get my hands on that!


Pour: Copper & Kings Crafted (ex Russell’s Reserve finish)
Proof: 120
Age: not stated
Color: light amber
Nose: medicinal grape, pear, canned peaches
Taste: fruit cocktail, frosted pastry w/ jam, apple butter
Finish: long w/ preserved fruit, fig, peppery spice, hints of oak


Overall: As is, Copper & Kings finished in a Turkey barrel is quite delicious. That being said, I do find it more enjoyable diluted to about 90 proof. It brings out the sweetness and rounds out the medicinal qualities. Whatever floats your boat, right?

Rating: Kentucky hugs.

Grosperrin 1996 Bas-Armagnac (Aficionados)

I’ve heard great things about the Aficionados’ 1996 Grosperrin Bas-Armagnac for months now. Thanks to a generous sample from a friend – curiously timed perfectly for my brandy series – I can finally see what the fuss is about. (I have a feeling I’ll be spending some money soon.)


Pour: Grosperrin Bas-Armagnac 1996 (Aficionados)
Poof: 106.2
Age: 24 years
Color: dense rosy copper
Nose: blueberry pancakes, maple syrup, grape jam
Taste: ripe plum, fruity molasses, caramel/candy apple
Finish: long w/ robust sweet oak, textured spice, leather


Overall: Ridiculously delicious. There’s more character in this 24-year brandy than most whiskeys double its $88 retail price (yes, that includes “the good stuff”). Complexity, depth, layered fruit and spice with an outstanding finish … Well done, Aficionados.

Rating: 1996/100