When you think of Missouri, do you think, bourbon? Probably not, but you soon might. The Holladay Distillery has a history stretching back to 1856. Recently resurrected, this is the brand’s flagship expression, aged 6 years on the 1st and 5th floors of a 7-story clad rickhouse.
Pour: Ben Holladay Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon
Age: 6 years
Nose: caramel popcorn, brown sugar, cinnamon
Taste: toasted vanilla, English toffee, charred oak
Finish: moderately long w/ burnt sugar, clove, peppery spice
Overall: When I say Ben Holladay is good whiskey, I mean it’s really good whiskey. Not just “good for craft” or “good for cocktails,” but genuinely good. Frankly, I’m a bit taken aback. The level of complexity and sheer enjoyability is first-rate.
Rating: Showed-me bourbon.
Bottle courtesy of Holladay Distillery.
A few months back, I purchased a Frey Ranch Single Barrel Bourbon selected by the Bourbon Lens podcast. After reviewing the standard 90-proof Frey Ranch Bourbon, I’d been itching to try a barrel-strength version. Needless to say, I’m expecting a more robust and complex whiskey.
Pour: Frey Ranch Single Barrel Bourbon b. 979
Age: at least 4 years
Color: rich copper
Nose: caramel popcorn, cinnamon grahams, wintergreen
Taste: peppery vanilla, pancakes w/ maple syrup, spiced apple
Finish: long & spicy w/ cinnamon candy, clove, oak, pepper
Overall: As predicted, robust and complex – especially considering its age. And while high in proof, I wouldn’t classify this bourbon as hot; the ABV is actually quite comfortable. A unique and tasty pour with a wintergreen zing.
A few weeks ago, I received a whiskey sample from Company Distilling in Tennessee. It was accompanied by a note from Jeff Arnett, former master distiller at Jack Daniel. I must admit, it was a classy touch. This is their flagship wheated bourbon, distilled via contract in Ohio.
Pour: Company Distilling Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: 3 years
Nose: corn, vanilla, smoked apple
Taste: Cracker Jacks, caramel drizzle, woody malt
Finish: moderate length w/ grain, char, black pepper & cinnamon
Overall: As you might imagine, this bourbon tastes its age, which is to say, a bit youthful. Fortunately, the proprietary toasted maple process adds some sweetness and a pleasant woody complexity. But at $55, it’s a pricey whiskey for its specs.
Rating: Fledgling Co.
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 wasn’t an immediate fan of Woodinville, but after tasting multiple private barrel selections and (spoiler) their cask-strength rye, consider me converted. Thanks to generous friends, I received two samples of this distillery exclusive. This batch is my favorite of the pair.
Pour: Woodinville Cask Strength Straight Rye Whiskey
Age: 5 years
Color: rich amber
Nose: candied pear, dried apricot, sliced orange
Taste: fruit cocktail, vanilla cookie, tea, herbal spice
Finish: long w/ sweet cayenne, cinnamon, Altoid mints
Overall: There’s something about a 100% rye done right. Be it Alberta, Frey Ranch, or in this case, Woodinville Cask Strength Rye, there’s an unexpected fruitiness that cradles the rye’s grain-inherent spice. At $70 it’s not cheap, but it’s damn sure flavorful.
Rating: Ryet on.
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.