Barterhouse Bourbon

Ah, orphan barrels – the great oxymoron of American whiskey. Yet they exist, or so Diageo would have you believe. As for 2014’s Barterhouse, a 20-year $75 bourbon (reportedly distilled at Bernheim) isn’t exactly something to shake a stave at. Hell, it was a steal.


Pour: Barterhouse Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
Proof: 90.2
Age: 20 years
Color: copper
Nose: dark cherry, fragrant oak, honey-maple, leather
Taste: chocolate-covered plum, vanilla bean, charred oak
Finish: moderate length w/ cola, licorice, sweet clove & sassafras


Overall: Delicious. While I wouldn’t classify Barterhouse as complex or layered, it’s rare to find 20-year bourbon so damn palatable. I particularly enjoy the contrast between its woodiness and dark cherry/plum sweetness. A noteworthy study in mature whiskey.

Rating: Memorable.

Maker’s Mark 101

Formerly known as Maker’s Gold and limited to non-domestic markets and distillery-only occasions, 101-proof Maker’s Mark was once a rare acquisition for Americans. It can now be found at your local liquor store for $40 (nearly twice the price of a certain legendary 101).


Pour: Maker’s Mark 101
Proof: 101
Age: At least 4 years
Color: rich copper
Nose: vanilla, cherry preserves, butter cookies
Taste: creamy caramel, orange-honey, frosted pastry
Finish: moderate length w/ vanilla spice, sweet oak, cinnamon


Overall: The Wild Turkey fan in me wants to call out Maker’s marketing for coattail riding. Point aside, Maker’s 101 is incredibly delicious. It truly is. Why people continue to pay stupid money for mediocre wheated bourbons with this in abundance is puzzling.

Rating: 102

Jim Beam White Label (1977)

You don’t hear much about dusty Jim Beam Bourbon. Perhaps it’s because the label has changed very little. Perhaps it’s because people see so much of the modern iteration, a vintage bottling conjures little excitement. I know I felt that way, until a generous friend stepped in.


Pour: 1977 Jim Beam Bourbon a/k/a “White Label”
Proof: 80
Age: 5 years
Color: dense rosy copper
Nose: butterscotch, maple syrup, heavily steeped tea
Taste: funky molasses, blood orange, blackberry jam
Finish: moderately long – brown sugar, burnt caramel, oak char, dark citrus


Overall: To say I’m stunned is an understatement. It’s virtually everything I seek in a vintage whiskey profile, packing it all in at a “whopping” 80 proof to boot. Curiously, this ‘77 Beam has a finish akin to today’s Knob Creek Single Barrel. Noe kidding.

Rating: An awakening.

Jim Beam White Label

Here’s one we all know – Jim Beam “White Label.” In my pre-enthusiast days, this was bourbon (as in the only bourbon that existed). I’ve come a long way since, but I must admit, I carry a strange fondness for this classic label. Memories … good and bad in the very best way.


Pour: Jim Beam Bourbon a/k/a “White Label”
Proof: 80
Age: at least 4 years
Color: amber
Nose: nutty vanilla, caramel popcorn, nutmeg
Taste: vanilla, buttered corn, lightly roasted nuts
Finish: moderately short – toffee, mild oak char, faint spice


Overall: Look, I’m not going to try to convince you that you should buy this whiskey. It is what it is, but what it ain’t, is awful. The early bourbon snob in me would’ve snarked. That early bourbon snob was an ass. Jim Beam does the job it was made to do.

Rating: Party bourbon.

Baker’s Single Barrel Bourbon

Once labeled “small batch,” Baker’s Bourbon was rebranded as a single-barrel expression in 2019. Thankfully, it maintained its 7-year minimum age and signature 107 proof. But what of its flavor profile? Does it occupy similar territory? I suppose that now depends on the barrel.


Pour: Baker’s Single Barrel Bourbon b. CL-D-186433
Proof: 107
Age: 8 years, 6 months
Color: copper
Nose: English toffee, nutty caramel, orange peel
Taste: vanilla extract, sweet oak char, maple-citrus
Finish: long w/ molasses, brown sugar, dense baking spice


Overall: An ideal combination of age and proof, not to mention a profile that stands out among its Knob Creek cousins. For $60, Baker’s Single Barrel has far more to offer than its specs suggest – richness, depth, and well-balanced bourbon character.

Rating: Dark horse.

Maker’s Mark RC6

Being a fan of Maker’s Mark SE4 x PR5 and FAE-01, it felt only right to review the inaugural wood finishing series release. I sampled RC6 back in 2019, and while impressed, I failed to purchase a bottle. Thanks to the recent generosity of a friend, I have RC6 in hand.


Pour: Maker’s Mark RC6
Proof: 108.2
Age: not stated
Color: rich copper
Nose: hazelnut, vanilla potpourri, maple syrup
Taste: toasted caramel, brown sugar, Roman nougat
Finish: moderately long w/ dark chocolate, coffee, woody spice


Overall: A robust, full-bodied whiskey with a rich dessert-like sweetness. In comparison to the two subsequent wood finishing iterations, Maker’s Mark RC6 is most similar to FAE-01, sans fruity notes. A lovely pour, though my least favorite of the three.

Rating: Sweet start.

Pendleton 1910

For years, Pendleton 1910 was a bottle often seen but never purchased. After tasting a generous sample, I enjoyed it enough to acquire a bottle for myself. $40 for a 12-year Canadian rye whisky … not bad. Sure, it’s only 80 proof, but ABV alone hardly defines quality.


Pour: Pendleton 1910 Canadian Rye Whisky
Proof: 80
Age: 12 years
Color: rich amber
Nose: woody honey, Necco wafers, cream soda
Taste: vanilla syrup, gentle oak, mild baking spice
Finish: moderately short – maraschino cherry, brown sugar, rye bread


Overall: Quite satisfying. In many ways, a darker, woodier, creamier Crown Royal Reserve. I wouldn’t call 1910 Rye a bourbon substitute, but the sweet oak character is certainly relative. If WhistlePig’s rye isn’t your jam, Pendleton is a worthy alternative.

Rating: Alryet.

Chattanooga Whiskey 111 Proof

I’ve been hearing great things about Chattanooga Whiskey 111 Proof over the last year. Looking over its label, I can see why. There’s loads of transparency. Bottom line – it’s a “high malt” straight bourbon bottled at a notable ABV (NCF, no less). Boxes checked, glass poured.


Pour: Chattanooga Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Proof: 111
Age: two years
Color: dense honey
Nose: s’mores, boozy nougat, baked apples & pears
Taste: creamy caramel, chocolate raisins, hints of “crafty” oak
Finish: moderately long w/ English toffee, oak char, grain cereal


Overall: There’s a part of me that wants to dish out serious praise, but the know-better part just smacked it in the face. Chattanooga 111 is a decent pour – impressive for craft, no doubt. Is it worth your next $45? Maybe once. After that, give it time.

Rating: 111 > Old No. 7.

Eagle Rare

When you see Eagle Rare, you probably don’t think “Wild Turkey.” Yet, it’s generally accepted the 101-proof bourbon was created by Seagram’s in 1975 to compete with Wild Turkey 101. The brand was sold to Sazerac in 1989, its proof lowered in 2005, and the rest is hooch history.


Pour: Eagle Rare Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Proof: 90
Age: 10 years
Color: rich amber
Nose: cherry-vanilla, sweet oak, hints of ripe orange
Taste: buttery caramel, honey-glazed apple, mild spice
Finish: moderate length – toasted sugar, charred oak, leather


Overall: I find it a bit funny that my favorite Buffalo Trace distilled whiskey started as a Wild Turkey knockoff. Nevertheless, Eagle Rare is a quality pour – an excellent representation of what well-aged bourbon should be. Sweet, balanced oak for $40.

Rating: Recommended.

Maker’s Mark FAE-01

Thanks to SE4 x PR5, Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series has my attention. I was genuinely impressed with the 2020 release – so much so, that I purchased the latest edition, FAE-01, the week it hit my local liquor store. Here’s to the hope for a comparable whiskey. Cheers!


Pour: Maker’s Mark FAE-01
Proof: 110.3
Age: not stated
Color: dense honey
Nose: pancakes w/ syrup, chocolate raspberry, English toffee
Taste: chocolate fondue & fruit, cinnamon honey buns, woody spice
Finish: long w/ toasted caramel, baked spiced apples, gingerbread


Overall: When I first popped the cork on Maker’s FAE-01 I was struck by its intensity, particularly in comparison to SE4 x PR5. It’s since grown on me. I don’t love FAE-01 as much as its ambrosial predecessor, but for $60 it gets my approval.

Rating: Great; not my FAE-vorite.

New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon: Minnick vs. Rehwoldt

Today, I’m placing two heavyweights of the bourbon arena head to head: the incomparable Fred Minnick vs. Matt “Drama King” Rehwoldt a/k/a Wrestling with Whiskey. Each have 2021 New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon selections. Let’s find out who deserves the champion’s belt (ascot?).


Pour 1: New Riff SiB Bourbon 17-0126 (Minnick)
Proof: 104.3
Age: 4 years
Color: rich amber
Nose: honey-apple, caramelized peaches, boozy bread
Taste: seared caramel, brown sugar, charred maple
Finish: sweet & savory licorice, oak char, applewood


Pour 2: New Riff SiB Bourbon 16-2899 (Rehwoldt) 
Proof: 105.7
Age: 4 years
Color: amber
Nose: butter toffee, bright citrus fruit, cake frosting
Taste: cream soda, caramel candy, singed honey
Finish: well-balanced oak, toasted vanilla, pepper


Overall: Such interesting profile differences. Fred’s selection is darker, showcasing orchard fruit, boozy dessert, and a heavier oak presence (slightly reminiscent of mature Barton). Matt’s is primarily toffee, citrus fruit, and candy, with a gentler oak vibe (very much reminiscent of 8-year Wild Turkey). Fred’s barrel is arguably more unique, but Matt’s is … well, I think y’all know how this match ends.

Victor: Drama King.

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask

This is my first venture into The Balvenie (yes, the “the” is important). Stirred by the encouragement of brand ambassador Jamie Johnson, I decided to give the so-called “bourbon friendly” 14-year Caribbean Cask a whirl. A Scotsman and a pirate walk into a bar …


Pour: The Balvenie Caribbean Cask
Proof: 86
Age: 14 years
Color: light amber
Nose: apple, toast & honey, ambrosia
Taste: whipped custard, pear, faint white pepper
Finish: moderate length – vanilla, sugary oak, hints of exotic spice


Overall: Well I’ll be Jackie MacSparrow, this is a damn fine whisky. Though a bit shy on complexity, The Balvenie Caribbean Cask delivers a whimsically sweet, romantically spicy sipping experience that whisks you away then calls for your return. Avast, ye!

Rating: Swashbuckling.