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.
Unless you spent 2021 under a rock, you’ve surely heard of Barrell Seagrass. On paper, it appears as if the Swedish Chef decided to craft a whiskey. Get this. KY, IN, TN, and Canadian rye finished in Martinique Rhum, Madeira, and apricot brandy casks. Bork, bork, bork!
Pour: Barrell Seagrass
Age: not stated
Nose: orchard fruit, almond pastry, floral honey
Taste: candied pear, spiked fruit cocktail, sweet spice
Finish: moderately long – vanilla creme, syrupy citrus, delicate oak
Overall: Well, I’ll be a Muppet’s uncle. This is delicious! “Whiskey of the Year?” Ehh. $80 well spent? Arguably. But no doubt delicious. If you’re looking for a uniquely sweet rye with loads of orchard fruit and elegant spice and oak, this is your jam.
Rating: Chef’s kiss.
When you hear the words “bottled in bond,” do you think Jack Daniel’s? Didn’t think so. Believe it or not, Jack Daniel’s has a bottled-in-bond expression. It’s just exclusive to travel-retail outlets. Will it prove a notable step up from the 80-proof Old No. 7? Very likely.
Pour: Jack Daniel’s Bottled in Bond
Age: not stated (at least 4 years)
Color: rich amber
Nose: toasted banana, creme brulee, faint spice
Taste: mild vanilla, honey-pear, nutmeg
Finish: moderately long w/ custard, barrel char, cinnamon toast
Overall: As predicted, a notch above your everyday Jack Daniel’s but that’s about it. Profile-wise, there’s very little in terms of uniqueness – not much of a boost in complexity either. Still, a decent pour, and for $38 a liter who’s complaining?
Rating: Old No. 7.1
I’ve been hearing great things about Chattanooga Whiskey 111 Proof over the last year. Looking over its label, I can see why. There’s loads of transparency. Bottom line – it’s a “high malt” straight bourbon bottled at a notable ABV (NCF, no less). Boxes checked, glass poured.
Pour: Chattanooga Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Age: two years
Color: dense honey
Nose: s’mores, boozy nougat, baked apples & pears
Taste: creamy caramel, chocolate raisins, hints of “crafty” oak
Finish: moderately long w/ English toffee, oak char, grain cereal
Overall: There’s a part of me that wants to dish out serious praise, but the know-better part just smacked it in the face. Chattanooga 111 is a decent pour – impressive for craft, no doubt. Is it worth your next $45? Maybe once. After that, give it time.
Rating: 111 > Old No. 7.
Years before Geo. Dickel sourced celebrity bourbon was hawked at $200 a bottle, Barrell Craft Spirits was offering Tullahoma’s finest at a reasonable price. They still do, though not always whiskey from Tennessee. Here’s an oldie but goodie, Barrell Bourbon Batch 009.
Pour: Barrell Bourbon Batch 009
Age: 13 years
Color: rich copper
Nose: Ruby Red grapefruit, vanilla-orange candy, heady spice
Taste: toasted caramel, zesty dark citrus, fruity charred oak
Finish: long & robust – orange-grape soda, sweet mineral notes, black pepper
Overall: Not a whiskey for crybabies. We’re talking dense, layered, robust Dickel at its peak. And surprisingly, it’s not the Flintstone Vitamin bomb one might expect. Barrell Bourbon Batch 009 is blending done right – an in-your-face, full-flavored powerhouse.
Ryan Cecil and Kenny Coleman have bottled numerous barrels under their Pursuit Spirits brand, but until recently, never crafted a blend. But Pursuit United is more than your average straight whiskey blend. It’s a brave combination of three bourbons from three states.
Pour: Cecil + Coleman: Pursuit United
Age: at least 4 years
Color: metallic amber
Nose: candy apple, lemon frosting, maple syrup
Taste: vibrant vanilla, sweet zesty oak, crisp apple-cinnamon
Finish: moderately long – peppery caramel, holiday citrus, diminishing spice
Overall: If there’s any doubt – thanks to Ryan and Kenny – Kentucky, Tennessee, and New York whiskeys work harmoniously together. Pursuit United is undeniably bourbon, though bearing that classification with a flavorful profile all its own. Unique and noteworthy.
Rating: Pursue this.
Several days ago, I reviewed Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Barrel Proof, an excellent TN Whiskey (BOURBON). Today, I’m giving Jack Daniel’s “Special Release” Barrel Proof Rye a go. I’ve heard nothing but good things – different levels of good, but good nonetheless. Let’s pour!
Pour: Jack Daniel’s SiB Barrel Proof Rye 20-06941
Age: not stated
Color: deep rosy copper
Nose: hummingbird cake, vanilla pudding, blood orange
Taste: rye pancakes, thick molasses, boozy citrus
Finish: long & intense – dark-fruity caramel, lemon-pepper, holiday spice
Overall: Folks, this is a grand slam. The viscosity, the depth, the complexity, the balance … it carries it effortlessly at a remarkably palatable 131.9 proof. It’s a single-barrel release, so there’s always that; but, if you see this rye don’t sleep on it.
However familiar your palate may be with Jack Daniel’s, it’s wildly incomplete until you’ve tasted Jack at barrel strength. I probably shouldn’t spoil this review so early, but preconceived notions be damned. This Tennessee whiskey will knock your bourbon snob socks off.
Pour: Jack Daniel’s SiB Barrel Proof 18-8417
Age: not stated
Color: dense copper
Nose: toasted vanilla bean, English toffee, buttery oak char
Taste: caramel chews, creme brulee, thick sweet molasses
Finish: long & sticky – brown sugar, rich honey-maple, baked cinnamon
Overall: This ain’t your daddy’s Jack. Ain’t Sinatra’s either. This is intense, in-your-face, full-flavored BOURBON from the last place you might expect it. Debate classifications all you’d like, but this whiskey sports a gold label for a reason.
Rating: Michael Anthony’s bass.