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.

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.

Copper & Kings Crafted (ex Russell’s Reserve Barrel)

Special thanks to two internet friends for making this tasting possible. I’ve been wanting to try Copper & Kings American Brandy for some time now. After hearing about Kentucky brandy finished in an ex Russell’s Reserve barrel … Well, you know I had to get my hands on that!


Pour: Copper & Kings Crafted (ex Russell’s Reserve finish)
Proof: 120
Age: not stated
Color: light amber
Nose: medicinal grape, pear, canned peaches
Taste: fruit cocktail, frosted pastry w/ jam, apple butter
Finish: long w/ preserved fruit, fig, peppery spice, hints of oak


Overall: As is, Copper & Kings finished in a Turkey barrel is quite delicious. That being said, I do find it more enjoyable diluted to about 90 proof. It brings out the sweetness and rounds out the medicinal qualities. Whatever floats your boat, right?

Rating: Kentucky hugs.

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.

Castle & Key Restoration Rye

I couldn’t help but find myself impressed with Restoration Rye’s bottle. It’s hefty, well-designed, and sports a weapons-grade stopper. Unfortunately, the stated age of “3” looks deceptively like an “8” and it’s not labeled straight. Let’s hope these are simple oversights.


Pour: Castle & Key Restoration Rye (2020, b. 1)
Proof: 103
Age: 3 years
Color: light amber
Nose: grain, pie dough, ethanol
Taste: peppered pear, Pledge polish, salt
Finish: moderately sour – bitter toffee, astringent oak


Overall: Look, I accept that youthful whiskey seldom tastes like well-aged whiskey, but Restoration Rye suffers from more than immaturity. It’s thin, lacking in sweetness, and wholly unpleasant from nose to finish. Restoration … it’s what your palate will need.

Rating: Rough.

Peerless Small Batch Rye

This is my second venture into Peerless Distilling Co.’s offerings. Today, I’m tasting Peerless Small Batch Rye Whiskey. Like the small batch bourbon, it’s bottled NCF at barrel proof. I assume batches and profiles vary. Let’s hope this rye fares better than the bourbon.


Pour: Peerless Small Batch Rye
Proof: 109.6 (barrel proof)
Age: not stated
Color: rich amber
Nose: sugar cookie, maple, buttered cinnamon bread
Taste: caramel creme, lemon frosting, vanilla extract
Finish: long & rich – English toffee, charred oak, cola


Overall: An exceptional pour. There’s complexity, depth, and a striking richness (almost syrup-like) that’s rarely found in younger Kentucky rye whiskeys. Peerless Small Batch Rye may not be cheap, but damn if it doesn’t taste expensive.

Rating: Legitimately impressive.

Peerless Small Batch Bourbon

I’ve been aware of Peerless Small Batch for some time now. I simply didn’t feel the need to purchase an expensive bottle of young whiskey. After discovering mini bottles for sale, I reconsidered. Barrel-proof, NCF Kentucky straight bourbon – it should at least be decent, right?


Pour: Peerless Small Batch Bourbon
Proof: 110.0 (barrel proof)
Age: at least 4 years
Color: rich copper
Nose: buttered corn, stewed apples, chewing tobacco
Taste: dense caramel, black licorice, tilled soil
Finish: moderately long w/ black tea, oak char, earthy spice


Overall: Perhaps I set my expectations a little higher than warranted. Peerless Small Batch tastes as it arguably should – like craft whiskey with potential. That being said, if you love earthy, dirty “root-like” notes, give this bourbon a try.

Rating: Peers abound.