Maker’s Mark CommUNITY Batch (2021)

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)
Proof: 108.2
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.

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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Four Roses Single Barrel Select (OESF)

Four Roses Single Barrel private selections aren’t easily found in my neck of the woods. When I see one, I buy it, as was the case with this 10-year OESF barrel from “South Carolina Hospitality.” Based on the fact it hit multiple stores, it’s likely a distributor selection.


Pour: Four Roses Single Barrel Select (b. 79-6L)
Proof: 124.8
Age: 10 years, 2 months
Color: dense copper
Nose: heavy caramel, blood orange, toasted coconut
Taste: tart vanilla, oak char, tangy maple syrup
Finish: long, hot, and dry – cinnamon candy, raspberry tea, tobacco


Overall: While the nose sings with an enticing medley of caramel and dark fruit, the taste beats a tart & shaky rhythm. Any hopes for a rousing finale are swiftly shuffled off stage by its heat and drying finish. Not terrible; not great.

Rating: Every rose has its thorn.