Henry McKenna Single Barrel

Henry McKenna Single Barrel, also known as McKenna Bottled in Bond, McKenna 10, and Ascot Gold. Once an inexpensive and attainable bottle ($25 in 2015) … Good times, Minnick, good times. I’ve had great barrels and so-so barrels, but never one worth chasing. Let’s revisit.


Pour: Henry McKenna Single Barrel (b. 9105, 3-19-08)
Proof: 100
Age: 10 years
Color: rich honey
Nose: German chocolate cake, brown sugar, faint citrus
Taste: toasted caramel, English toffee, baked nutmeg
Finish: moderately long – dense oak, maple syrup, sweet tobacco


Overall: Well now, this is one beast of a pour. Henry McKenna Single Barrel is hitting all the right notes for me today. And German chocolate cake? Are you kidding me?! I don’t think I’ve ever sensed that note on a whiskey. Have to say, worth the $60 paid.

Rating: Fred’s Savage.

Three Chord Amplify Rye

Amplify Rye is a whiskey blend from Three Chord, an NDP founded by rock legend Neil Giraldo. The label states it’s a combination of Kentucky and Indiana distilled rye whiskey; however, it does not carry a straight designation or age statement. This could get noisy, folks.


Pour: Three Chord Amplify Rye Whiskey
Proof: 95
Age: not stated
Color: light amber
Nose: lemon peel, vanilla Tootsie Roll, watermelon rind
Taste: tangy cake frosting, honey syrup, hints of mint
Finish: moderate length – sweet grain, confectioners sugar, peppery dill


Overall: Believe it or not, it’s quite sippable. While Three Chord Amplify Rye is youthful, it maintains enough structure to appreciate neat. Also, at 95 proof I’d wager it’ll fashion a suitable cocktail. Too bad it’s $45. Too bad it’s not labeled straight.

Rating: B-side.

Willett Family Estate Small Batch Rye

Few bottles draw attention like Willett Family Estate. I suppose it’s because you rarely see them on retail shelves (at least in my area). When you do, they’re marked up significantly. You’d think a 4-year rye would be immune from this behavior. Unfortunately, not enough.


Pour: Willett Family Estate Small Batch Rye
Proof: 111.4
Age: 4 years
Color: honey
Nose: dried pear, graham cracker, pineapple candy
Taste: zesty apricot, sugar wafers, white pepper, tea
Finish: long – sharp vanilla, tangy ginger, hot peppermint


Overall: I’ll give this whiskey credit for being flavorful and unique. Outside of that, Willett Small Batch Rye (4 years) is burdened with youthful, underdeveloped character. Why they continue to bottle this expression at 4 years is beyond me.

Rating: Two more years! Two more years!

Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon

I first tasted Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon in 2019 on a trip to Kentucky. I had just wrapped up a barrel selection at Wild Turkey, so one could argue my palate wasn’t entirely fit for service. Now, it’s time to give this bottled-in-bond wheated bourbon a fair shot.


Pour: Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon (b. 16H29-8)
Proof: 100
Age: at least 4 years
Color: dense copper
Nose: cocoa-hazelnut, caramel popcorn, dark baking spice
Taste: boozy toffee, charred oak, toasted brown sugar
Finish: moderately long – vanilla extract, black licorice, leather


Overall: While there are some profile notes hovering youthful, there are just as many (or more) well-developed notes offsetting them. Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bourbon is impressive for its age; it’s just not ready for primetime. Not yet, but soon.

Rating: Almost there.

Single Cask Nation 24-Year Bourbon

If you’ve ever wondered how bourbon aged in Scotland might taste, Single Cask Nation has you covered. Of course, the real question is: Is it any good? Twelve years in Kentucky followed by twelve years in Scotland … that’s a long time for barreled cornwater. This could get oaky.


Pour: Single Cask Nation KSBW (undisclosed distillery)
Proof: 94.8
Age: 24 years
Color: mahogany
Nose: vanilla bean, heavily steeped herbal tea, blood orange
Taste: smoky caramel, pipe tobacco, cherry cordials
Finish: moderate length – sweet oak char, black licorice, leather 


Overall: Damn, that’s complex. Curiously easy on the palate too. For a rumored “pre-fire” bourbon, SCN’s 24-year rarity isn’t exactly dusty in profile. It isn’t modern either. It’s gracefully confounding: robust, delicate, dense, intelligent.

Rating: Heavenly hills of flavor.

Bardstown Bourbon Co. Discovery Series No. 2

Bardstown Bourbon Co.’s Discovery Series is an ultra-premium line featuring sourced whiskeys of various ages and mash bills. The second release is composed of 10-, 12-, and 14-year bourbons (undisclosed origins), each distilled in Kentucky with rye as the secondary grain.


Pour: Bardstown Bourbon Co. Discovery Series No. 2
Proof: 122.2
Age: 10 years
Color: rich copper
Nose: salted caramel, honey-roasted nuts, dark citrus
Taste: brown sugar, charred oak, baked cinnamon
Finish: moderately long – vanilla spice, cola, clove gum


Overall: A robust, well-rounded, satisfying pour. While not unlike other bourbons in its class, Bardstown’s Discovery No. 2 brings its share to the table. The sole negative is its $130 price. Quite an expense considering similarly aged options.

Rating: Hefty pour, hefty price.

Old Forester 1920

Old Forester’s Whiskey Row series cemented new interest in a heritage brand many enthusiasts largely ignored. One might argue Birthday Bourbon as an exception, though most rarely see that annual release. No biggie. Who needs Birthday Bourbon with Old Forester 1920 around?


Pour: Old Forester 1920
Proof: 115
Age: at least 4 years
Color: rosy copper
Nose: vanilla bean, charred banana, dense oak
Taste: toasted caramel, brown sugar, woody spice
Finish: long w/ waves of molasses, chocolate, and baked cinnamon


Overall: A deliciously bold bourbon with a robust profile all its own. If you’re looking for a whiskey with the style and character of a fancy limited edition, but don’t want to pay a fortune or waste time finding it, Old Forester 1920 damn sure delivers.

Rating: Ol’ Fo-Sure!

Elijah Craig Small Batch

Elijah Craig is one of the few bourbons I can think of that immediately improved after its age statement was dropped. Some may disagree, but that’s the way I see it. I was never a fan of the 12-year iteration – a rather woody, mildly tannic pour. As for its successor …


Pour: Elijah Craig Small Batch
Proof: 94
Age: at least 4 years (reportedly 8-12 years)
Color: amber
Nose: vanilla, honey-butter, orange peel
Taste: salted caramel, sweet oak, butter toffee
Finish: moderate length – buttered cornbread, peppery spice


Overall: Remarkably solid. I’m sure I’ve recommended other bottles as “starter bourbons,” but I’m beginning to think Elijah Craig is best suited for the task. Not that it should encompass a single role. It’s just damn good mellow whiskey for $27.

Rating: Butter than ever.

Jim Beam Devil’s Cut

Part innovation, part obligatory liquor store window wrap, it’s Jim Beam Devil’s Cut. But seriously, what is it? Essentially, whiskey extracted from staves of emptied barrels batched with standard Beam bourbon. (If it were good, wouldn’t everyone be doing it?) Moving along.


Pour: Jim Beam Devil’s Cut
Proof: 90
Age: at least 4 years
Color: dense copper
Nose: whole-grain bread, sharp vanilla, sappy oak
Taste: polished leather, black pepper, astringent spice
Finish: moderate length – Splenda, singed maple syrup, walnut shell


Overall: Imagine similar oak notes to Knob Creek, only sharp, astringent, and strangely bitter, that’s Jim Beam Devil’s Cut. Unpleasant, yet admittedly drinkable, it’s exactly as the name implies. But let’s give the devil his due – there’s worse for $20.

Rating: Tolerable Hell.

Larceny Bourbon

Riding the fringe of Old Fitzgerald folklore is Larceny, a non-age-stated wheated mash bill bourbon produced by Heaven Hill. It’s not as talked about as its barrel-proof namesake, but to its credit, the original 92-proof iteration is affordable ($25) and widely available.


Pour: Larceny Bourbon
Proof: 92
Age: at least 4 years
Color: amber
Nose: vanilla, fresh dough, maraschino cherry
Taste: silky caramel, mellow oak, honey-butter
Finish: moderately short – mild baking spice, faint leather 


Overall: Entry-level wheated recipe bourbons are a mixed bag. Maker’s Mark is sweet and lively; Weller Special Reserve is sweet and buttery. As for Larceny, the sweeter notes find suitable balance with the oak. It’s just overly mild and uninspiring.

Rating: Eye-roll smooth.

Four Roses Small Batch

Considering the popularity of Four Roses Single Barrel private selections, you’d think the Small Batch Bourbon would garner more attention. Unfortunately, the similarly specced Elijah Craig, Buffalo Trace, and the likely Four Roses sourced Bulleit steal its thunder. Go figure.


Pour: Four Roses Small Batch Bourbon
Proof: 90
Age: not stated (reportedly 6-7 years)
Color: amber
Nose: vanilla, citrus zest, herbal & floral spice
Taste: caramel drizzle, orange peel, nutmeg
Finish: moderate length – singed honey, oak, lemon-pepper


Overall: A well-balanced combination of citrus fruit, zesty spice, and classic vanilla and caramel. Four Roses Small Batch is a perfect bourbon for cocktails or casual sipping and remains a personal favorite from my early days of whiskey enthusiasm.

Rating: Damn solid.

Weller Special Reserve

Anyone dipping their toes into the bourbon enthusiasm pool will quickly learn that Weller is Pappy. Okay, maybe not Pappy, but kind of the same as Pappy. Okay, maybe not kind of the same as Pappy, but dammit they need it because it has something to do with Pappy.

Today, I’m tasting Weller Special Reserve. That’s right – the supposed-to-be-priced-at $25, 90-proof, wheated mash bill, Buffalo Trace distilled bourbon phenomenon. Unfortunately, thanks to Pappy hysteria, its price is often as inflated as its mythos.


Pour: Weller Special Reserve
Proof: 90
Age: at least 4 years
Color: amber
Nose: vanilla, honey-glazed apple, buttery rolls
Taste: caramel drizzle, sweet oak, hints of cherry
Finish: moderate length – confectioners sugar, light baking spice


Overall: A well-balanced, easy-sipping, sweet and buttery bourbon. I completely understand why folks love this stuff. All the same, I discourage anyone from paying a premium for Weller Special Reserve. It’s good whiskey, not great whiskey.

Rating: Weller Lite.