Elijah Craig 18

Hyper-aged bourbon is a polarizing subject. One could say the same of whiskey in general, but when it comes to the $150 Elijah Craig 18, it’s generally love it or hate it. Sadly, once secondary market values are factored in, the divide seems moot. Oh well. Time to weigh in!


Pour: Elijah Craig 18-Year-Old Single Barrel
Proof: 90
Age: 18 years
Color: copper
Nose: fragrant oak, cedar, spiced apple
Taste: woody vanilla bean, savory caramel, antique leather
Finish: moderate length w/ charred oak, tobacco, earthy spice


Overall: Granted, it’s a single-barrel expression, so there will be variance, but damn if this Elijah Craig 18 isn’t tasty. It’s an oak bomb, however, and far from subtle. But in this case there’s just enough sweetness to balance out the woodiness.

Rating: Oaky dokie.

Barrell Seagrass

Unless you spent 2021 under a rock, you’ve surely heard of Barrell Seagrass. On paper, it appears as if the Swedish Chef decided to craft a whiskey. Get this. KY, IN, TN, and Canadian rye finished in Martinique Rhum, Madeira, and apricot brandy casks. Bork, bork, bork!


Pour: Barrell Seagrass
Proof: 119.12
Age: not stated
Color: amber
Nose: orchard fruit, almond pastry, floral honey
Taste: candied pear, spiked fruit cocktail, sweet spice
Finish: moderately long – vanilla creme, syrupy citrus, delicate oak


Overall: Well, I’ll be a Muppet’s uncle. This is delicious! “Whiskey of the Year?” Ehh. $80 well spent? Arguably. But no doubt delicious. If you’re looking for a uniquely sweet rye with loads of orchard fruit and elegant spice and oak, this is your jam.

Rating: Chef’s kiss.

Green River Bourbon

There’s been a lot of recent press about Green River Distillery. Formerly known as O.Z. Tyler, the distillery was once infamous for its use of “rapidly aged” whiskey. Now that their distillate has matured, we should see less of that. But is their naturally aged whiskey any good?


Pour: Green River Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Proof: 90
Age: at least 4 (reportedly 5) years
Color: copper
Nose: apple-cinnamon, French toast & syrup, maraschino cherry
Taste: chewy oak, brown sugar, chocolate chip cookie dough
Finish: moderate length w/ toasted caramel, toffee, faint pepper


Overall: What sorcery is this? Five years and 90 proof?! Did I read that correctly? Wow. You have my attention, Green River. Shooting straight here – for $35 this is a damn good buy. An impressive bourbon that’s strikingly complex for its no-frills specs.

Rating: Green magic.

Maker’s Mark FAE-02

I’ve grown quite fond of Maker’s Mark’s wood finishing series. While some releases are better than others, all have been of exceptional quality, and honestly, extremely underrated in the world of limited edition whiskeys. Will 2021’s FAE-02 prove me wrong? Let’s find out!


Pour: Maker’s Mark FAE-02
Proof: 109.1
Age: not stated
Color: dense honey
Nose: toasted caramel, sweet oak char, robust butterscotch
Taste: vanilla bean, baked brown sugar, chocolate almond
Finish: long & flavorful w/ molasses, velvety mocha, tobacco


Overall: Maker’s Mark has done it again, and in spectacular fashion to boot. Going into this tasting, I was confident 2020’s baking spice laden SE4 x PR5 would remain my favorite. Not so. FAE-02 is a well-balanced showcase of luxurious oak. Rich and lovely.

Rating: FAEnomenal.

Maker’s Mark

One of the most iconic brands in whiskey, Maker’s Mark garners a great deal of respect and praise from the general public. Bourbon enthusiasts are another crowd, however, and many fail to recognize what may be the single most true-to-the-past label in America.


Pour: Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky
Proof: 90
Age: at least 4 years
Color: amber
Nose: vanilla, honey butter, cotton candy
Taste: toffee popcorn, light oak, sweet pastry
Finish: moderately short – sugar cookie, caramel drizzle, nutmeg


Overall: The list of quality 4-year, 90-proof bourbons that can compete with Maker’s Mark is short. The low barrel-entry proof, absence of chill filtration, and “old school” barrel rotation, all result in a sweet and consistent easy sipper for under $30.

Rating: Simple staple.

Frey Ranch Bottled-in-Bond Rye

I’m a sucker for well-crafted rye whiskey. Unfortunately, the list of disappointing rye releases is endless. At least this Frey Ranch Straight Rye has a lot going for it – 100% ground-to-glass winter rye, aged 5 years, and bottled in bond. Sounds like quality, but is it? 


Pour: Frey Ranch Bottled-in-Bond Straight Rye Whiskey (b. 5)
Proof: 100
Age: 5 years
Color: copper
Nose: buttercream frosting, cherry candy, Fruit Stripe gum
Taste: lemon cookie, zesty oak, vibrantly sweet spice
Finish: moderately long – cinnamon, Snapple fruit tea, white pepper


Overall: Wowza! This is one helluva rye. And to think it’s a bottled-in-bond expression. I can’t imagine what Frey Ranch’s rye whiskey is like at barrel proof. But given a single-barrel rye TTB filing last October, I suppose we’ll soon find out. Count me in!

Rating: A-Frey-zing.


Bottle courtesy of Frey Ranch Distillery.

Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon

It’s time for a double header! Today, I’m tasting some of what Frey Ranch has to offer. Based out of Fallon, NV, Frey Ranch is a genuine ground-to-glass distillery. I have great respect for transparent whiskey producers, even greater respect for whiskey producers that till soil.


First up is Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey. This 90-proof, non-chill-filtered, non-age-stated bourbon is composed of a four-grain mash bill: 66.6% corn, 10% winter wheat, 11.4% winter rye, and 12% two-row malted barley. Oh, and it’s housed in a hefty, no bullshit bottle.


Pour: Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Whiskey (b. 5)
Proof: 90
Age: at least 4 years
Color: copper
Nose: apple peel, cinnamon-raisin bread, dried apricot
Taste: vanilla wafer, slightly “crafty” oak, baking spice
Finish: moderate length – corn pancakes, peppery char, holiday spice


Overall: Despite its assumed youth, I can’t find anything particularly wrong with Frey Ranch Bourbon. It holds up. That being said, with so much competition out there, $49.99 for a non-age-stated straight whiskey is a tough ask. Try before you buy (but try).

Rating: Frey-okay.


Bottle courtesy of Frey Ranch Distillery.

Mellow Corn

You don’t hear a lot about straight corn whiskey, but when you do, there’s a 99.9% chance Heaven Hill’s Mellow Corn comes up. But don’t let this bottom-shelf Kentucky mainstay fool you. What it lacks in style and specs, it surely makes up for in utility.


Pour: Mellow Corn (Bottled in Bond)
Proof: 100
Age: at least 4 years
Color: apple juice
Nose: vanilla, confectioners sugar, apple pastry
Taste: butter toffee, candy corn, spiked simple syrup
Finish: moderate length – caramel, light apple, faint oak char


Overall: I didn’t always think highly (or speak kindly) of Mellow Corn. What can I say? I was a jackass. Mellow Corn is a no-frills, sweet yet spartan, whiskey. It’s not complex. It’s not extraordinary. But that’s not the point. If you know, you know.

Rating: Hella Mella.

Booker’s Bourbon: “Noe Secret”

Price gripes aside, Booker’s is a whiskey I’ve long respected. Age-stated, uncut, and unfiltered, it’s a no-frills, unapologetic, full-flavored bourbon conceived by the late Booker Noe as a tribute to his grandfather, Jim Beam. This is my favorite batch, 2015’s “Noe Secret.”


Pour: Booker’s Bourbon b. 2015-06 “Noe Secret”
Proof: 128.1
Age: 6 years, 8 months
Color: dense copper
Nose: caramel, nutty toffee, cookie dough
Taste: brown sugar, molasses, semi-sweet chocolate
Finish: long & robust – black cherry, charred oak, tobacco


Overall: While all Booker’s batches share a kindred core profile, some, like “Noe Secret,” showcase extraordinary nuances. The dark fruit on the finish is alone worth the price of admission. Sadly, I’ve reached the end of this bottle. It will be missed.

Rating: Noe replacing.

Old Pogue Master’s Select

Outside of Kentucky, Old Pogue is nary a household name. Information regarding their whiskey is sparse, though it appears it was largely sourced until recently. This Master’s Select label states “distilled in KY, bottled by the Old Pogue Distillery.” And that’s all I’ve got.


Pour: Old Pogue Master’s Select (b. 6800)
Proof: 91
Age: not stated (at least 4 years)
Color: copper
Nose: vanilla creme, toasted banana, nutmeg
Taste: trail mix (more fruit, less nuts), savory oak, rum cake
Finish: moderately long – toasted bread, caramel, cinnamon, leather


Overall: While I can’t say it’s worth a triple-digit purchase, I can say that Old Pogue Master’s Select is surprisingly good. Gauging its maturity by profile is a challenge, however. I assume it’s a blend of younger and older bourbon. Regardless, I’m satisfied.

Rating: Fine.

Angel’s Envy

When I first ventured into whiskey, one of my early favorites was Angel’s Envy. The proof was approachable, the flavor was sweet, and the finish fared easy. But over time, I drifted away from Henderson’s neoclassic “bourbon finished in port wine casks.” A revisit is overdue.


Pour: Angel’s Envy
Proof: 86.8
Age: not stated
Color: rich amber
Nose: brown sugar glaze, baked pear, toffee
Taste: vanilla, honey butter, Golden Delicious apple
Finish: moderate w/ caramel drizzle, confectioners sugar, faint white pepper


Overall: Don’t let my notes fool you – this is tastier than I remember. And while Angel’s Envy isn’t complex whiskey, it’s enjoyable whiskey. The port cask influence is just right – enough to add character, yet keep that character undeniably Kentucky.

Rating: Angelically simple.

Jack Daniel’s Bottled in Bond

When you hear the words “bottled in bond,” do you think Jack Daniel’s? Didn’t think so. Believe it or not, Jack Daniel’s has a bottled-in-bond expression. It’s just exclusive to travel-retail outlets. Will it prove a notable step up from the 80-proof Old No. 7? Very likely.


Pour: Jack Daniel’s Bottled in Bond
Proof: 100
Age: not stated (at least 4 years)
Color: rich amber
Nose: toasted banana, creme brulee, faint spice
Taste: mild vanilla, honey-pear, nutmeg
Finish: moderately long w/ custard, barrel char, cinnamon toast


Overall: As predicted, a notch above your everyday Jack Daniel’s but that’s about it. Profile-wise, there’s very little in terms of uniqueness – not much of a boost in complexity either. Still, a decent pour, and for $38 a liter who’s complaining? 

Rating: Old No. 7.1