What do you get when you take straight Tennessee Whiskey – filtered through maple charcoal and matured in charred white oak – and finish it with toasted apple wood? A perfect way to make young whiskey taste better. Or, Company Distilling’s Tennessee Three Wood ($55).
Pour: Company Distilling Tennessee Three Wood
Age: 42 months
Nose: apple cider, honey butter, Nilla wafer
Taste: smoked apple, raisin toast, woody spice
Finish: moderate length w/ cinnamon stick, oak char, pepper
Overall: A notable step up from Company Distilling’s bourbon, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find this Tennessee Three Wood fascinating. The secondary maturation is surprisingly well done – enhancing the character of the spirit, rather than simply masking youthful attributes.
After a thorough neat tasting, I had just enough of my 4oz sample left to craft an Old Fashioned. I felt the distinctive smoky apple flavor would really shine through, and I was right. The cocktail was excellent and paired remarkably well with a mild cigar.
Rating: 3 apples.
Media sample courtesy of Company Distilling, Townsend, TN.
When you think of Missouri, do you think, bourbon? Probably not, but you soon might. The Holladay Distillery has a history stretching back to 1856. Recently resurrected, this is the brand’s flagship expression, aged 6 years on the 1st and 5th floors of a 7-story clad rickhouse.
Pour: Ben Holladay Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon
Age: 6 years
Nose: caramel popcorn, brown sugar, cinnamon
Taste: toasted vanilla, English toffee, charred oak
Finish: moderately long w/ burnt sugar, clove, peppery spice
Overall: When I say Ben Holladay is good whiskey, I mean it’s really good whiskey. Not just “good for craft” or “good for cocktails,” but genuinely good. Frankly, I’m a bit taken aback. The level of complexity and sheer enjoyability is first-rate.
Rating: Showed-me bourbon.
Bottle courtesy of Holladay Distillery.
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
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.
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
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.
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
Age: 4 years
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!
Whisky Jewbilee (2012-2018) was a semiannual whisky festival organized by J&J Spirits, formerly known as the Jewish Whisky Company. Each gathering showcased a commemorative release, one of the last being a 25-year light whiskey distilled by Seagram’s (IN) in 1993. L’Chaim!
Pour: Whisky Jewbilee Light Whiskey
Age: 25 years
Color: metallic amber
Nose: fruity vanilla, orange Tic-Tacs, zesty citrus & spice
Taste: strawberry cheesecake, lemon creme, buttery oak
Finish: moderate length – iced animal cookies, caramel glaze, peppery jam
Overall: Unique is a word commonly used in spirits reviews. Hell, I’m guilty. Yet, that’s precisely what we have here. 2018’s Whisky Jewbilee Light Whiskey is an epic display of unique, beautifully offbeat character – a wild, intricate, elegant thrill ride.
Joseph Magnus Triple-Cask Finished Bourbon is the flagship expression of Jos. A. Magnus & Co., a DC-based brand resurrected by descendants of the historic Cincinnati whiskey wholesaler. The talented Nancy Fraley, master taster, is responsible for each blend. On deck, batch 96.
Pour: Joseph Magnus Triple-Cask Finished Bourbon no. 96
Age: NAS (reportedly 12 years)
Color: rosy amber
Nose: chocolate raisins, nutty vanilla, blood orange
Taste: toasted brown sugar, ripe plum, pipe tobacco
Finish: caramel-brandy, black walnut, lingering smoky leather
Overall: Delicious. For a finished whiskey, Joseph Magnus maintains enough bourbon character to brandish its 12-year (MGP) origin. Not “over-sherried,” and gentle on the cognac influence, it’s notably complex, harmonious and balanced. Well done, Nancy.
Rating: Fraley’s Comet.