Bourbon Week – Day 7: Parker’s Heritage 1996/2007 (63.7%, OB, First Edition, 750 ml)

Sadly the Bourbon week is almost over. I had a lot of fun with it and (re)discovered some true gems of American Distilling. I’ll definitively do another Bourbon Week again. So, to close this week off, here is the first edition of the Parker’s Heritage Collection of Heaven Hill. Distilled in 1996 the year of the fire, so we can’t be sure where this is distilled. If it is from before the fire, than it’s from the original distillery in Bardstown. If it is from after the fire it can be sourced from anywhere or even distilled by Heaven Hill distilled in another distillery where they rented time to distill. It’s not from the new plant (the old Bernheim plant in Louisville), since they started to distill there from 2000 onwards.

Color: Brown

Nose: Very deep slow-moving smell, that has to be force-sniffed out of the glass (a Glencairn). I’ll give it some time. On paper this seems to be a brute, and brutes can be very shy. Gravy with toffee, still very closed. Overall the gravy plays a big part as a component for this nose. Almost like it’s a syrup, a sense of foreboding. Like a giant, waiting to erupt. For now its still quiet. It smells of a caramel cain, or something we Dutch call “Hopjes” a kind of caramel, coffee, toffee candy. Yeah, that’s it. Slowly the wood comes out. Plain oak, no elegant polished mahogany, but slow-moving unpainted oak and sawdust. Mind you, the oak smell and the sawdust are two different smells. Also a food-like sourness that seems to be partnered with the gravy and the Hopjes.

Taste: Wow, what a body. Again dry wood combined with a rum-like depth and virtual sweetness. Tarry and thick. Halfway through a short burst of wood and char, that moves away again, to leave room for the return of the rum. It’s maybe a tad unbalanced in the finish and the strength and the deep refined taste doesn’t make this for everybody, but if you’re into this, well it doesn’t get any better than this. For me this is a Bourbon that didn’t have a lot of rye in the mash bill.

This is one where the word savoring was invented for. Just give this a lot of time, and you’ll thoroughly enjoy this. Just drink this when you have a moment alone for some contemplation. Don’t let it be interrupted by noise or by the feeling you still have to do something. A bedtime dram, when you’re the last one to go to bed. Top, have fun with it!

Points: 87

P.S. Reading around a bit, some claim this is a Wheated Bourbon made by Bernheim meant for Old Fitzgerald. others claim that it is made in the Original Heaven Hill Distillery (Bardstown) in April 1996, before the fire that was in November 1996. You decide what it is…

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Bourbon Week – Day 6: Old Grand-Dad 114 (57%, OB, Lot No.1, 750 ml)

As I mentioned yesterday, Jim Beam is famous, but they’re also famous for having bought some brands and making essentially the same whiskey under all those brand names. More or less all Jim Beam products come from one recipe, one mash bill. Just variations in age and proof.

In 1987 Jim Beam bought themselves National Distillers, and by doing that, they also acquired Old Grand-Dad. For all the Bourbons that were kept in production, all original recipes were changed to the ‘Jim Beam’ recipe. All but Old Grand-Dad. This recipe survived due to its uniqueness, and is the only other recipe that Jim Beam uses. This Old-Grand-Dad recipe uses a lot more of the, so-called, flavour or small grains i.e. rye and barley.

Old Grand-Dad came in two versions. One ‘normal’ version at 43% ABV and a “bottled in bond” version at 50%. What Jim Beam did is adding two more versions. First, Old Grand-Dad 114, aimed at a younger public who would ‘dig’ the high-proof, and Basil Hayden’s, which is aimed at the connoisseur and therefore put in their Small Batch Collection. So there you have it, for those who didn’t know it yet. Basil Hayden’s is Old Grand-Dad at 40% ABV. By trying any Jim Beam and Old Grand-Dad, you can get acquainted with both recipes Jim Beam uses.

Color: Copper Orange.

Nose: Clean and a bit light, lots of typical rye scents. Wet forest. Powdery and dusty. Again a Rye Whiskey that smells a bit like a Single Malt. Although it seems a bit closed (this is not from a freshly opened bottle), this smells really good, almost like a good men’s cologne.

Taste: Sweet and tick, spicy wood. Tarry and some coconut. Cloying texture. Full bodied and stunning balance. Not the ping-pong mentioned earlier, but this time the rounded out balance between sweet and the bite of the rye. Hints of red fruits, are they cherries? Its sweet and has hints of sourness and dryness from the wood, but that only adds to the balance. Wow, instant favorite of mine.

Excellent! No wonder that they couldn’t replace this recipe. This is very, very good. At least I like it a lot at this strength. Recommended. I haven’t tasted all of the “Small Batch Collection” yet, but I can’t imagine Jim Beam making anything better than this.  Yeah I’m ‘younger public’ now! Another example of the water of life, that preserves youth.

Points: 86

Bourbon Week – Day 5: Baker’s 7yo (53.5%, OB, Batch B-90-001, 750 ml)

Now for a whisky from the stables of Jim Beam in Clermont or Boston Kentucky. Yes Jim Beam have two distilleries and use them interchangeably. As you might have read, Jim Beam White is what it all started for me, but that days have gone. No Jim Beam White on my lectern anymore, or is it? Jim Beam is famous, and Jim Beam is famous for using only two recipes, two mash bills for everything, mostly only varying in ageing and proof.

Jim Beam has the “Small Batch Collection” A collection of four Whiskeys aimed at the true connoisseur: Knob Creek (9yo, 50%ABV), Bookers (6yo to 8yo, Cask Strength), Basil Hayden’s (8yo, 40% ABV) and finally Baker’s (7yo, 53.5%). All made in small batches obviously. If you’re interested in Basil Hayden’s, than you have to check tomorrows review.

Baker’s it is for today. I said there’s no more Jim Beam White on my lectern anymore, but it turns out that this Baker’s is essentially Jim Beam White at a higher proof and aged for 7yo. So a well matured, higher strength Jim Beam White. By the way, Booker’s and Knob Creek are also from this ‘Jim Beam’ recipe.

Color: Copper

Nose: Meaty and yeasty. Saké. Hints of sweat and cigarette smoke. Fresh ánd musty, wild?Citrussy (lemon) and also some orange skin. Sometimes it noses like a single malt. Completely different from other Bourbons. Mushrooms and clay. Multiplex in the end. Let it stand for a while and it somehow homogenizes into a clean high rye-content Bourbon. Very interesting trait that is.

Taste: Rounded spice, and sweet, but in a sort of dirty gravy like way. Quite different from the Four Roses offering reviewed yesterday. This has some opposites too, because you can call this dirty on your first impression, but as with the nose, this gets cleaner when you wait a minute or five. Its a good Bourbon, but for me the sweetness is a bit tiresome in comparison to the Buffalo Trace and the Four Roses reviewed earlier, but that is marginal. Therefore only a marginal lower score.

Again a very decent Bourbon Whiskey. This bottle is almost finished, and I thoroughly enjoyed this.

Points: 81

Bourbon Week – Day 4: Four Roses “Single Barrel” (50%, OB, BS 38-3O, 70 cl)

And now we return to Bourbon. A Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky from Lawrenceburg Kentucky. First of all, when writing about Four Roses we have to look at their ten recipes. What? Ten recipes. Four Roses has ten different recipes for making Bourbon. They combine two different mash bills with five different yeast strains. The ten recipes are called OBSV, OBSK, OBSO, OBSQ, OBSF and OESV, OESK, OESO, OESQ, OESF.

The letters V, K, O, Q and F designate the yeast strain used. V is described as giving light fruitiness, light vanilla, caramel and creamy notes. K gives light spiciness, light caramel and a full body. O gives rich fruitiness, light vanilla, caramel and also a full body. Q gives essences of floral aroma’s and finally F gives essences of herbal aroma’s.

The letters B and E are used for the Mash Bill. B is 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley. E is 75% corn, 20% rye and 5% malted barley. You might wonder what the O and S stand for. O stands for Four Roses Lawrenceburg, and S means Straight Whiskey. If you want some more information about how a specific recipe might taste, have a look over here.

I think this is genius, because this scheme allows for a lot of variation (you hope) in the finished product. There are some people in the USA, that bought some single casks from those ten different recipes, if not all. I know for a fact that Binny’s just did that, but there are more. So if you’re interested in the differences between those recipes, you can have a go with those specific single barrel bottlings.

Now, we have here a Single Barrel (100 Proof), do we know which recipe it is? Yes we do! It’s OBSV (60% Corn mash bill, Rich in Spiciness, Full Body). I’m very curious. I love the concept, and the looks of it. I once had the previous version of the Single Barrel (43% ABV), which I didn’t like too much. Too weak, very light and too floral and girlie for my taste. OK, let’s have a look at this new one and see if its more masculine 😉

Color: Dark Gold Copper

Nose: Dusty, slightly woody, fern, not overly complex, or is it? Give it some time, creamy, vanilla ice-cream and an exotic sweetness you can smell in a good Gewürztraminer. It also had a meaty component, like gravy. All in all, a very intriguing nose. I like this.

Taste: Spicy, licorice. Hints of wood only, almost no toast. This rose has quite a firm body. Since it’s a “B” and not a “E” I’m surprised at its sweetness. But is definitively tastes as a Bourbon with a high rye content. It’s like a ping-pong match between the corn and the rye. It’s not balanced in a way that you have a ‘married’ taste, that tastes always the same, but it’s balanced. It goes to and fro, your palate never gets a rest, and is always surprised with each sip. There goes a coconut by the way…

For me this is a work of high quality and more than one step up from the old Single Barrel. It seems to me this is like a sponsored bottle: for the quality you get it’s really dirt cheap, even without the discount I got, so I bought me a case of this. 50%ABV is excellent too. Again kudos, this time for the people at Four Roses. Excellent.

Points: 83

Bourbon Week – Day 3: Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye 13yo (47.8%, OB, K0375, 70 cl)

Yeah, yeah, I know, this is not a Bourbon. But I did say I would throw in the odd Rye, didn’t I? And why wouldn’t I, since Rye is really America’s first whiskey. What is it precisely? This is a Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey. Technically a Bourbon is very close to a Rye Whisky. Just a shift in grains in the mash bill. By law its required to be made of a mash of at least 51% rye. The other grains of the mash are usually corn and some malted barley. Rye whiskey is called Straight, when it has been aged for at least two years. Now this 13yo Rye. Well first of all, this isn’t 13yo. Its called 13yo because Julian van Winkle bought the Rye’s in this whisky at 13yo. He nevertheless let the Whiskey age until its 18th year and at that age it was put in stainless steel tanks, to stop its ageing. Where does this come from? Van Winkle isn’t a distillery so they got their whisky from somewhere else. A lot of their Bourbons come form the sadly deceased Stitzel-Weller distillery, but this Rye is supposedly from Medley (Owensboro Kentucky) ánd Cream of Kentucky (Frankfort), and has an unusual high corn content for a straight rye.

Color: Copper

Nose: Fresh. Dusty coconut. Spicy and wood. This could have been a single malt. It’s not the spice from the wood but the spice comes first. Very nice nose, almost luxury. It’s almost like this had some cherry fruityness to it, but that has almost gone. Later on some honey in the nose

Taste: Wow, this is wood in the good way, and glue in the good way. What a fabulous aged Rye! Sometimes a whiff of soap passes by. Rye can give it a very distinct ‘hardness’ to the finished product, but this is about 38% corn. This corn sweetness (Paul McCartney) tames the Rye a bit (John Lennon) and together they create a fabulous harmony, balance, with a perfect bite in the finish. And that’s not all, the finish also has some honeyed caramel. Honeyed caramel with a bite. What else do you want…

This is an unbelievable fine ‘blend’ of Rye’s. Period.

Points: 88

Bourbon Week – Day 2: Buffalo Trace (45%, OB, Single Cask for Binny’s, 750 ml)

Day two of the Bourbon week on Master Quill. This time a bottle from Buffalo Trace simply called Buffalo Trace. Again a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey but this time from Frankfort, Kentucky. Buffalo Trace make a lot of different Whiskey’s. Bourbons, Ryes and Wheaters. Also a lot of different brands come from Buffalo Trace, and some are not the worst on the market. Just think of the Staggs and Sazeracs of this world. Wow!

For this review I’ll use and oddity of Buffalo Trace, well it’s definitively and oddity for us Europeans. They already bottle a lot of different whiskies that also taste quite different, lot of different mash bills. Here we have a single barrel version of the regular Buffalo Trace. A single cask picked by Binny’s (from the Chicago Bay Area). So the bottle is the same as the regular one, except for an elliptical golden sticker. Issued in 2010.

Color: Orange Gold

Nose: Honey, and a lot of it! Even the waxy part is there, honeyed furniture wax. Hints of toasted oak. Fresh sea air and meaty. Like sitting on the porch of your sea-side cabin, and the smell of  freshly made meatballs float by. Chocolaty and vaguely spicy. Very balanced. Nothing in this overpowers the rest.

Taste: More wood, and again a lot of honey. It tastes just less sweet than honey. It’s not overly complex, but very likeable. It’s not too sweet nor to dry. Texture is thin, even water seems thick. Just don’t confuse this with a thin taste, because that would be unfair. The people from Binny really did choose a nice cask. One that shows us what kind of whisky is (mass) produced for this ‘standard’ bottling, and it shows us what a damn good whiskey they make at Buffalo Trace. Kudos!

Yeah this is not bad, not bad at all. This will be no problem to finish, no problem whatsoever. Before finishing this piece, I already poured it four times. Very good standard bottling! Ok,ok, Single Barrel of a standard bottling. A shame really that I don’t have the standard version at hand…

Points: 82

Bourbon Week – Day 1: Labrot & Graham Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select (43.2%, OB, Batch #49, 70 cl)

Here at Master Quill I’ve explored some Scottish Whiskies and I think it’s time to expand a little. There is a lot more out there and I feel it’s time for me to look into what America is capable of. The journey started for me with a Bourbon, as can be read here. Since I don’t have any Tennesee Whiskies, or even bottles from micro distilleries, I will focus for the time being on Bourbon, with the odd Rye-Whiskey thrown in for good measure.

What is Bourbon you might ask. The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits state that Bourbon must be:

  1. made from a grain mixture that is at least 51% corn,
  2. aged in new, charred-oak barrels,
  3. distilled to no more than 80% ABV,
  4. entered into the barrel for aging at no more than 62.5% ABV,
  5. bottled at a minimum of 40% ABV.

It is clear that Bourbon has to be aged, but no one knows for how long. Also there are more rules for a Bourbon to be called Straight, but we’ll get to that another time.

Lets move on to the next candidate. The first Bourbon we will explore is the small batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Woodford Reserve. This bourbon is made by Brown-Forman, but marketed under the name of the previous owners from long long ago: Labrot & Graham. The Distillery was built near Versailles (Kentucky) in 1812, but distilling activities started as early as 1797. Brown-Forman owned this distillery previously from 1940-1960 and now owns it again from 1996 onwards. The first batches were distilled ‘elsewhere’. Whisky is distilled partly in Scottish Pot Stills and partly from Column Stills from their Early Times plant in Shively (Kentucky). Besides this there are also Woodford versions made for the Kentucky Derby at a slightly higher ABV (45.2%, I don’t know if there are more differences, besides the illustrations on the bottle). There is also a small Masters Collection series and now a new Double Oaked version.

Color: Copper/Orange

Nose: Very Nice. Sweet/creamy character with spicy oak. Candied yellow fruits. Apples (skin), raisins and again some wood. Honey, almonds and cinnamon. Distant smoke.

Taste: Dry, more like spicy rye and spicy wood. Acetone and toast. Toffee and popcorn. Very elegant and nothing is in excess here. First a solvent like and slightly bitter finish, but after that somewhat late; a creamy finish and mouthfeel. And even later than that the toast from the cask. This really unwinds slowly. Still its a bit unbalanced, and thin. I would have bottled this at a higher ABV.

Pretty decent bourbon. But be careful, because for me this isn’t always as nice. Some day I like it more than on others.

Points: 77