Belle Meade Honey Cask Bourbon

I’ll just kick in the door – Belle Meade Honey Cask isn’t worth the insane secondary prices folks are paying for it. It’s just not. It’s well-aged MGP bourbon finished in a barrel that once held honey, and that’s precisely what it tastes like. On with the show!


Pour: Belle Meade Honey Cask Finished Bourbon
Proof: 105.3
Age: not stated
Color: dense amber
Nose: boozy glazed danish, caramel apple, dried orange
Taste: exotic honey, creamy butter toffee, sweet citrus
Finish: long w/ honeyed oak, baked apple & pear, faint cinnamon


Overall: With my spoiler out of the way, I can say that Belle Meade Honey Cask is a fantastic finished bourbon. It truly is. Were it reasonably priced on a retail shelf, I’d buy it. Complex, flavorful, and unique, no doubt about it. Just hyped to stupid.

Rating: H(not M)oney

Four Roses Elliott’s Select

Ever have bottles that get lost in the back of your cabinet? Well, here’s one of mine, Four Roses Elliott’s Select. To date, it’s the only Four Roses limited edition I’ve ever found locally (and I happily paid retail price for it on sight). Will it taste as great as I recall? 


Pour: Four Roses “Elliott’s Select” (2016)
Proof: 118
Age: 14 years
Color: dense copper
Nose: stovetop vanilla pudding, brown sugar, fragrant oak
Taste: toasted caramel, blood orange, fruity herbal spice
Finish: long w/ chewy molasses, sweet tobacco, antique leather


Overall: I’ll be damned if Elliott’s Select isn’t better than I remember it. Just a powerhouse bourbon – loaded with hearty caramel and oak, yet layered gracefully with complex citrus and herbal spice. I only wish I had another bottle.

Rating: Fantastic.

Michter’s 25-Year Straight Rye Whiskey

Every so often, you’re granted an opportunity to try something genuinely special. Such was the case when a friend sent me a Michter’s 25-Year Rye sample. But regardless of rarity or value, what matters most is taste, and I’m guessing this will go pretty damn well.


Pour: Michter’s 25-Year Straight Rye #14L715
Proof: 117.3
Age: 25 years
Color: rosy copper
Nose: fruity molasses, blackberry jam, dense sweet oak
Taste: boozy pear, tangy vanilla bean, chocolate strawberry
Finish: long & flavorful – tart & earthy citrus, spiced apple, tobacco


Overall: At this point in my whiskey journey, I’m rarely impressed. With Michter’s 25-Year Rye, I’m not only impressed, I’m mesmerized. The layers of complexity are truly stunning. Dare I say it’s the ultimate combination of oak and fruit notes? (It is.)

Rating: Magnificent.

Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength

I must admit, I’ve had fun exploring the Maker’s Mark catalog in the last year. But I’m not done yet! When I saw Maker’s 46 Cask Strength at my local bottle shop, I figured I’d give it a go. Can’t say I’m the biggest 46 fan, but maybe this uncut version will change my mind.


Pour: Maker’s Mark 46 Cask Strength
Proof: 110.3
Age: not stated
Color: dense copper
Nose: brown sugar, maple syrup, leather
Taste: bittersweet molasses, stout vanilla, gingerbread
Finish: medium-long w/ boozy English toffee, tannic oak, dry spice


Overall: Such a perplexing pour. There are things I like about Maker’s 46 Cask Strength, and things I don’t. I appreciate its robust, layered character; I just find the tannins and dry spice accompanying it a bit overpowering. Bold, yet unbalanced.

Rating: Mood 46.

Thomas H. Handy (2021)

Of the annual Buffalo Trace Antique Collection expressions, Thomas H. Handy rye is the undisputed underdog. One could even say it maintains a cult-like appreciation, with some veteran enthusiasts claiming it’s the best of the lineup. But is 2021’s release up to snuff?


Pour: Thomas H. Handy Straight Rye Whiskey (2021)
Proof: 129.5
Age: not stated (reportedly 6 years)
Color: copper
Nose: ripe pear, dried pineapple, vanilla frosting
Taste: lemon cookie, boozy fruit rollup, sweet herbs
Finish: long w/ zesty citrus, vibrant oak, cayenne pepper


Overall: A fantastic example of what a six-year, barrel-proof rye should taste like – vibrant, complex, and dynamically spicy. If found at its $99 retail price, Handy is worth a purchase. Outside of that, there’s considerably better options.

Rating: It’s good, but settle down.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Maker’s Mark SE4 x PR5

Fall 2020 saw the second entry in the Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series, SE4 x PR5. Curiously, it didn’t receive the level of hype typically associated with annual limited-edition bourbons. A great thing for Maker’s fans, as perception in the bourbon world is seldom 20/20.


Pour: Maker’s Mark SE4 x PR5
Proof: 110.8
Age: not stated
Color: honey
Nose: maple syrup, semisweet chocolate, holiday citrus
Taste: creamy caramel, heavily toasted oak, orange cola
Finish: long & flavorful – vanilla extract, cinnamon, hazelnut coffee


Overall: An ambrosial delight of subtly exotic complexity. For $60, it doesn’t get much better than Maker’s Mark SE4 x PR5. To those that passed this impressive whiskey by, I leave you with the immortal words of Ms. Vivian Ward, “Big mistake. Big. Huge.”

Rating: Slept-on hit.

Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel Bourbon

My experience with toasted-oak whiskey is rather limited, but generally speaking I’m not the biggest fan. I am, however, a fan of staying open minded. So, when I saw Elijah Craig’s latest special release, a straight bourbon touting a toasted-barrel finish, I rolled the dice.


Pour: Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel Bourbon
Proof: 94
Age: at least 4 years
Color: rosy copper
Nose: French toast, densely sweet oak, ripe plum
Taste: roasted marshmallow, brown sugar, caramel chews
Finish: moderate length – vanilla bean, tobacco, black licorice


Overall: Look, I’ll admit, this bourbon isn’t for everyone. But, for those seeking a uniquely sweet and dessert-like whiskey without a cloying or artificial quality, Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel Bourbon is right up your alley. For $50, I’m satisfied.

Rating: Sweet success.