Truth be told, I had little interest in Blue Run Spirits when they first hit the whiskey scene. Things changed. I could easily write a few paragraphs explaining why, but you’ll have to settle for a few sentences.
I purchased this whiskey because Jim Rutledge distilled it. And Jim knows bourbon. At $100, it’s double the price of similar (barrel-strength) offerings from craft producers. But I’m good with a one-off gamble from a distiller I trust.
Pour: Blue Run High Rye Bourbon (Spring 2022)
Age: at least 4 years
Nose: orchard fruit, frosted animal cookie, herbal tea
Taste: zesty vanilla, apple butter, grilled sweet corn
Finish: moderately long w/ toffee, bubblegum, white pepper
Overall: This may be the “cleanest” 4-year bourbon I’ve ever tasted. While its lack of maturity is apparent, it’s arguably flawless. If placed in a blind, I could see this Blue Run dealing serious damage to whiskeys twice its age. Damn fine job, Jim.
I must admit, I’ve had fun exploring the Maker’s Mark catalog in the last year. But I’m not done yet! When I saw Maker’s 46 Cask Strength at my local bottle shop, I figured I’d give it a go. Can’t say I’m the biggest 46 fan, but maybe this uncut version will change my mind.
Pour: Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength
Age: not stated
Color: dense copper
Nose: brown sugar, maple syrup, leather
Taste: bittersweet molasses, stout vanilla, gingerbread
Finish: medium-long w/ boozy English toffee, tannic oak, dry spice
Overall: Such a perplexing pour. There are things I like about Maker’s 46 Cask Strength, and things I don’t. I appreciate its robust, layered character; I just find the tannins and dry spice accompanying it a bit overpowering. Bold, yet unbalanced.
Rating: Mood 46.
Believe it or not, I just crossed 100 reviews for TweetDrams.com. How time flies! So what’s in my glass for the 101st? Wild Turkey 101, of course. Sure, I have another website dedicated entirely to Lawrenceburg’s Finest, but I wouldn’t have this moment any other way.
Pour: Wild Turkey 101
Age: at least 4 years (reportedly 6-8 years)
Color: rich amber
Nose: vanilla, toffee, hints of orange peel
Taste: caramel, toasted honey, sweet charred oak
Finish: long w/ brown sugar, honey-roasted nuts, baking spice
Overall: There’s a wide variety of quality bourbon in the $20-$30 range, but only one I could never live without. Wild Turkey 101: the perfect combination of versatile, affordable, and remarkable. In other words, bourbon done right. Cheers to Jimmy!
Having recently visited Maker’s Mark, I felt a review of a special wax-dipped bottle was in order. Thanks to the generosity of a bourbon friend, I have a sample of the 2021 CommUNITY Batch to explore. Will it prove as extraordinary as its exclusivity? Let’s pour and find out!
Pour: Maker’s Mark CommUNITY Batch (Oct 2021)
Age: not stated
Color: rosy copper
Nose: caramel apple, brandied cherry, butterscotch
Taste: buttery vanilla, syrupy oak, warm baking spice
Finish: long w/ brown sugar, sweet char, toasted molasses
Overall: This may be my favorite Maker’s Mark expression to date. While not unlike some Maker’s private selections, there’s a surprising hint of dusty-esque butterscotch from nose to finish. It’s not a vintage profile per se, but damn if it isn’t delicious.
Rating: High marks.
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
Age: 18 years
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.
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
Age: at least 4 (reportedly 5) years
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.
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
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.
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
Age: at least 4 years
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.
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)
Age: at least 4 years
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).
Bottle courtesy of Frey Ranch Distillery.
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”
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.
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)
Age: not stated (at least 4 years)
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.
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
Age: 12 years
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.