Evan Williams 9yo 2000/2010 (43.3%, OB, Single Barrel #379)

Sometimes Master Quill tends to repeat himself, well, not really this time. Yes, In the fall of 2015, The Master did do a review of an Evan Williams Single Barrel bottling, and now here is yet another, but not a repetition, because luckily this “new” one is from a different vintage. The former review was this spicy 2003 vintage and this time we’ll have a go at a 2000 vintage. Is older better? I understand that the mash-bill for Evan Williams Single Barrel looks something like this: 78% corn, 12% barley and 10% rye. Lots of corn and not a lot of rye in this mash-bill. The “vintage” range already saw the light of day in 1986, so with this 2000 expression, Heaven Hill already had some 15 years of experience bottling this. So without further ado: take it away Evan, ehhh Master, ehhh Quill. Nevermind. Go, just take it away…

Color: Light orange brown.

Nose: Wood, lots of fresh cut oak. Perfumy. Sweetish and even more floral. Wood driven, but with lots going for it. Balanced and likeable. Greener notes come next, some hay and grass, oak and latex wall paint. More cuttings from the garden and after a while some more fruity notes appear. Slightly acidic and fresh, only adding to the balance. Hints of toffee and caramel. Excellent nose if you ask me. One moment fresh and lively and the next, deeper and more brooding. Definitely some Rye in here, but less so than expected, even though I didn’t expect a lot. After some more breathing, honey notes come forward. Smelling this after some sipping only enhance the honey notes that were almost absent from the start. Interesting.

Taste: On first entry, a bit thin to be honest. I prefer Bourbons at high strength, because especially Bourbons release their intricate aroma’s better at a higher proof. That said, this Single barrel smells very good and is definitely interesting (there is that word again), even when you like your Scotch Whiskies. Another sip. Well, this does the trick, beyond the low proof, some nice aroma’s emerge. Wood, latex paint again. Honey, hints of toasted oak and a tiny hint of leather. Definitely not as sweet as I would imagine, even though this Bourbon saw lots of corn. A slightly bitter note comes next, oak, tree sap, wax. The finish has less length than the nose and is also less complex. medium at best (and it has paper notes). Today the bitterness has some staying power which was less so on other days, so it depends on the taster (as always), time of day and the moment trying it. Aftertaste somewhat indistinct, so it definitely suffers from reduction to 43.3% ABV. Nope, in the taste department, this turns out to be much simpler than the nose promised.

For a nice evening with some Bourbons this is the starter. Well priced, and interesting, but I prefer other, (higher strength) Bourbons more. Compared to the earlier review, this 2000 example is softer (weaker is maybe a better word this time around) and less spicy, and also is lacking the licorice and cherry notes of the 2003. The 2003 is definitely a step up from the 2000. So yes, the date makes a difference. So choose your single cask vintage Evan Williams wisely!

Points: 81

Dutch Jenever Week – Day 7: Rutte Single Barrel Bordeaux Graanjenever 14yo 1999 (38%, Limousin Oak Cask #239, 490 bottles

Jenever Week Logo

We already reached the end of our Dutch Jenever journey. It was a long journey for me, and writing the reviews and doing the research took me a whole lot longer than first expected. Lots of other things came in between, both already published and some not, like the next Master Quill week, which at this point in time is nearly finished as well. It’s a good thing I took my time, because in the mean time I somehow connected with Jenever and found out what it is and what its place is in the big scheme of things. I learned to appreciate it for the wonderful traditional liquor it is. I present to you the last review of the week and it is a 14yo Rutte, aged in a Bordeaux cask, in many ways similar to yesterdays 14yo Zuidam that was matured in two Oloroso Sherry casks. I expected both to be dominated by the Bordeaux Wine or Oloroso Sherry before setting off…

RUTTE_SINGLE_BARREL_BORDEAUX_14JR_lowresxxx300Color: Vibrant copper gold.

Nose: Very fruity. Berries, cherries and this definitely has some characteristics of wine, just not the wine itself. Very fresh and vibrant at first, but also a deep dull nutty undertone that evolves over time. Sweetish and grainy. The cask impaired a lot of aromas onto the Jenever. Waxy red apple skins. Vanilla, mocha and plywood. Small hint of licorice, some toasted cask and sometimes a light whiff of cigarette smoke. Still not a true red wine aroma, if you ask me. If someone would give me this Jenever blind and ask what kind of cask this came from, I would have been sure this was from a Calvados cask. The aroma is from apple, but also the typical acidity from Calvados. Very perfumy and fruity. Definitely floral as well. Cinnamon comes next and as we all know, cinnamon goes together well with the apple aroma this Jenever has. Nice stuff to smell. Soft.

Taste: Sweet, sweet, sweet. Apples in many (distilled) guises. First impression shows an enormous lack of complexity. Fruity, overpowering and warming, and yes, quite likeable as well. Liquid candy and although 38% ABV is not high, it seems way less than this. It drinks like a soft Sherry with corresponding ABV. Christmas pudding. More Calavados notes mixed together well with some soft and spicy notes from wood. I know this is from a cask that once held French Red Wine, but the spirit is Dutch. Having said that I can’t get rid of the French feeling this Jenever gives me. maybe this is because this hardly tastes like a Jenever at all? Am I biased by the statement on the label and the aroma’s of Calvados? I wish I had tasted this blind, not knowing what it was, would I call this a Calvados then? Even after 14 years we can safely say that the Bordeaux may have overpowered the Jenever a bit, but some nice synergy was achieved as well. It ís still recognizable as a Jenever. It has a great nose and tastes well. Big gulp now and damn, this has a lot to do with a semi-sweet Calvados (and nothing with Bordeaux or the other Rutte offerings I reviewed and tasted). Again a Jenever that has to breathe for a while, so don’t be hasty with it.

Whereas with Zuidam you get the feeling everything is intelligently planned and intended, with Rutte it sometimes is more random and spontaneous. Trial and error. Hit or miss.”Well lets not chuck out the cask, people. Rinse it out and put some spirit in it, I might like it in the end.” (And then forget about the cask altogether untill a cleaning-lady accidentally stumbles upon it…)

I hope Patrick van Zuidam doesn’t feel too comfortable now, to sit back on a beach somewhere, and just let things happen. Although the Rogge Genever was a bit sweet and simple, the rest of the offerings I reviewed here were top-notch. A clear winner. Rutte seems to be trying to find an identity for itself by concentrating on experimentation, marketing and far away markets. Everything was pretty decent though, especially this Dutch Calvados made from Jenever and Bordeaux casks. However, the bottle of the Rutte Twaalf Graanjenever started out as a disappointment by its lack of balance. Shockingly so, since I actually expected quite a lot of that one. When it got some extensive contact with air it got way better. I tasted some young expressions, maturing in American oak and they were pretty good. I should try another bottle of this 12yo, to see if the profile is just different. Knowing the Rutte 12yo, puts this Bordeaux Jenever more into perspective. The fruity acidity I expected to come from the Bordeaux cask is actually coming from the spirit itself, since it is also present in the 12yo.

In the end this Dutch Jenever Week only featured products from Rutte and Zuidam. Of course there are a lot more Dutch and other Jenevers around, as I mentioned yesterday, and I will absolutely source some more for future reviews., because Jenever is definitely worth your attention. Just let it be Jenever and don’t compare it to anything else. It’s not Whisky nor Gin and why should it? Proost!

Points: 79

Four Roses “Single Barrel” (43%, OB, H294D, 2003, 70 cl)

After the Four Roses in disguise, called Bulleit, let’s compare it to a true Four Roses (with a similar profile). In 2012 I reviewed the current 50% ABV version of the Four Roses Single Barrel and I refered to this discontinued 43% ABV. version, calling it: “Too weak, very light and too floral and girlie for my taste”. At the time of writing I thought I finished the bottle, but as luck would have it, I found a box of archive sample bottles filled with different Bourbons I used to have. I guess it pays to save something for later! So many years later, let’s find out if this 43% ABV version is as hideous as I seem to remember it! By the way, this one is said to be 8yo and was bottled on 12 April 2003.

Four Roses Single BarrelColor: Orange gold.

Nose: Yup it’s the floral rye again. Lilac and Lily of the valley. Easily recognizable and even more pronounced than the new 50% ABV version, the only bottle I had, I forgot to fill up an archive sample of, so no direct comparison is possible, only from memory and notes. Fruity and floral, it’s almost a perfume. Powdered vanilla and coffee creamer. Almonds and fresh cookie dough. With air dusty wood comes into the fold. Elegant and perfumy. Not a lot of wood actually. Well integrated. A lot of honey is starting to emerge too as well as some turkish Delight and licorice, and anise. Don’t like how the honey and floral aroma’s turn out together. Add to that a slightly acidic fruit note, and you’ve lost me a bit. No notes of toasted cask. It comes across as a designed Bourbon. A Four Roses for people who wear a bow-tie, not for rugged lumberjacks. It is actually a Bourbon for the metro man. Although it’s not quite clear what I am, this is my least favorite Four Roses expression to date, but wait, I still have to taste it again after all those years. The nose is something I don’t always like, although I do recognize the quality.

Taste: Paper and wood, pencils (cedar). Quite a lot of waxy notes. Lightly sweet, but the sweetness washes away with the added water to be replaced with some sour, and slightly bitter oak. Honey and creamy sweetness, but here these two do a better job at integrating with each other. A bit weak on entry and not so long a finish, built around the paper and weak woody note, especially when compared to its stronger brother. Good aftertaste though, nice aroma’s return and a great creaminess is added to the aftertaste. Nice delayed effect. The aftertaste even seems stronger than the finish itself, nicer too. The move to 50% ABV was a good move. Alright, this isn’t my least favorite Four Roses anymore. Now it is the “Yellow Label”…

Even though I prefer the 50% ABV “Single Barrel”over this one. Both are well made and do resemble each other. This 43% ABV has some exaggerated floral Rye and doesn’t combine all that good with the honey and fruity notes. The 50% ABV is the same, but for me is better balanced. Having said that, this may be a tad more special, more unique, so it is definitely worth seeking out.

Points: 83

Borgoe 15yo “Single Barrel” (40%, Suriname)

After the pride of the SAB company why not move on and have a look at their Grande Dame. Where the 8yo was released in 2006 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of SAB, this 15yo “Single Barrel” was released in 2011 to commemorate the 45th anniversary. Maybe next november we’ll see the next anniversary bottling, a 20yo maybe? The 8yo and the 15yo thus are specials, but there is also a more standard range Borgoe. The first one of those is called the Borgoe ’82 “The Jubilee Blend”, the second is called the Borgoe “Extra”  and the third and last one is the Borgoe 5yo “Vintage”. By the way, all White Rums made by SAB have different brand names, so Borgoe only exists as a Golden (or Dark) Rum, whichever word you prefer. Borgoe uses both simultaneously.

Borgoe 15yoColor: Orange gold.

Nose: Very funky smelling. Still caramel and toffee, but there is a lot more going on. Very nutty. Organic clay. After the fatty and creamy introduction, Wood and deep sugared fruits. Honey with dark brown banana skin. This is completely different from the 8yo, not just an older version of it. I’m not completely sure everything is as it should be , but whatever it is, I love it. Fresh cigar box wood. Pencil shavings and dust. Just like the 8yo, the aroma’s it started with take a back-seat and it turns more dry. Smells like a worthy super premium Rum to me.

Taste: It starts out with the simple sugary sweetness, like the 8yo, as well as the fresh woody bit. After that, everything changes and it becomes incomparable to the 8yo. Where the 8yo went down in a hurry, this 15yo sticks to your throat and takes a long time to get down, developing along the way. Perfect balance between the nose and the taste. Again the thick creamy and nutty aroma. Tiny hint of burnt wood bitterness, but that only aids the wonderful taste. Excellent length in the wonderful tasting finish and a good aftertaste. Some tiny acidic wood note appears in the aftertaste, but that is hardly a problem, when so much other aroma’s keep lingering on. This one is far from tasting “thin” even when it shares the low ABV of the 8yo: 40%.

One thing strikes me as odd. The website mentions: “Our own master blender created this special Rum along with the best Rum makers of the Caribbean” and on the back label it states: “The golden rum was selected from each single barrel by our master blender and blended to ultimate perfection”. So several Rum professionals created this Rum or only their master blender? How can this be from a single barrel and be blended? Did they blend the Rum, put it back into a barrel, marrying it and then bottling it from a single barrel? Strange…

Twice the age of the 8yo, twice the price of the 8yo but also twice the taste of the 8yo. Definitely worth the money, if you can find it, because it seems quite hard to get lately.

Points: 86

Four Roses 12yo “Single Barrel” (52.8%, OB, 2012 Limited Edition, SN 81-2R, 174 bottles)

Four Roses seems to be a very transparent producer of Bourbon. First of all they let you know everything about the ten recipes they make and how they are used in their expressions. For those of you who don’t know, There are 2 different mashbills and 5 different yeast strains, giving ten recipes. Apart from the ten recipes, the portfolio seems rather logical too. Starting off with the Four Roses “Yellow”. It is their entry-level Bourbon and is made in large quantities. Next comes a small batch and after that only single barrel expressions, the first of which is reduced to 50% ABV and the rest bottled at cask strength.

As I wrote in the last review of the “Yellow”, they can use all of the ten recipes to get the consistency you want for a bulk product, although most of it is OBSK and OESK, where B is 60% corn, 35% rye, and 5% malted barley and E is 75% corn, 20% rye and 5% malted barley. The “K” Yeast strain gives light spiciness, light caramel and a full body.

It gets really interesting when you have one of the Single Barrel expressions at hand since they can be made with only one of the ten recipes. Earlier I already reviewed the 50% ABV single barrel version which is a OBSV, where the “V” yeast strain gives light fruitiness, light vanilla, caramel and creamy notes, and “B” is the high Rye mashbill.

Today we’ll have a look at a limited edition single barrel expression bottled at cask strength and made with the OESK recipe. E is the low Rye mashbill, so I expect it to be sweeter than a “B” and the “K” yeast strain gives light spiciness, light caramel and a full body. So it should be a full-bodied, sweeter, more classic Bourbon than the 50% ABV expression.

Four Roses Single Barrel 2012Color: Dark gold copper, marginally darker than the 50% ABV expression.

Nose: Creamy and sweetish, already less woody and strict than the 50% ABV expression. It starts off with notes of hay and dry grass. Wax with a hint of leather. An old, well maintained saddle maybe? Hints of dried yellow fruits. Apricots I would say. Quite some honey after breathing, but soon after that more dry and dusty (and slightly acidic). Bad morning breath, wow.

Taste: Starts with toffee sweetness, but like the nose, the sweetness soon steps aside to let the wood through. Quite spicy and wood. The wood gives it spice, but also a more nutty and slightly acidic profile. At 12 years old this Bourbon had a lot of time to interact with the wood. The wood leaves, vanilla cinnamon and a hint of honey, but also a slightly soapy and slightly bitter finish. The finish itself starts as an attack, is long, but stays with the woody notes. Even the sweet mashbill can’t do nothing about that. Besides this, I also feel the end of the, somewhat simple, body, and the especially the finish lack a bit of balance. It’s not completely harmonious. I guess this one may have been in the cask too long. The wood won a battle with the sweetness and obviously won, where there shouldn’t have been a battle in the first place.

By the way, the picture here is of another, similar looking 2012 limited edition. The picture is for the 52.9% ABV version from barrel 81-2A, which is a sister cask of our 81-2R. Both come from the same warehouse: SN.

So what’s the verdict about our super premium limited edition? It’s a nice special edition, and a learning experience for the aficionado. I understand the pick and it most certainly is an interesting experience. So should you try it? Yes, should you buy a bottle and drink it by yourself, not really! This one is for sharing, discussion and comparing the other recipes of Four Roses.

Comparison to the 50% ABV expression is easy. That one is sweeter and more easily likeable. The difference in ABV is small, but the age probably made the difference, making the 12yo more about wood. Both are not very complex, but the 50% ABV is definitely more drinkable and better balanced, but also slightly weaker in taste. The limited edition also brings quite a lot of heat to the table. I’m trying both head to head but none is better than the other, although very different. It’s a tie!

Points: 83

Willett Family Pot Still Reserve (47%, OB, Single Barrel #82028, 283 bottles)

Just like the Noah’s Mill I reviewed earlier, Willett is a brand name of Kentucky Bourbon Distillers from Bardstown, Kentucky, or KBD for short. At first not really a distiller, but an independent bottler sourcing barrels of Bourbon from other parties and in some cases for other parties. In written media about the subject the name of Heaven Hill keeps popping up, especially since Heaven Hill is a few blocks down the road from KBD. However, on the 21th of January 2012 KBD started tests distilling at their Willett Distillery in Bardstown, so in the end KBD finally became a distiller again. I say again, since the Willett distillery was already founded in 1935 by A.L. Willett and the decommissioned distillery was already bought in 1984 by Even Kulsveen (the founder of KBD).

The Pot Still Reserve I’m about to review come from single barrels, said to be 8 to 10 years old and reduced to 47% ABV, so all are slightly different. Well, they might be from different distilleries altogether as far as I know. Remember that the Whiskey is older than the three years that have passed since starting up the distillery, so these Willetts are still made elsewhere.

Willett Pot Still ReserveColor: Orange gold.

Nose: Waxy, latex paint with lots of new wood influence. Honey. Very vegetal with hints of many plants, even lavas and dry grass. Heavy note of bad morning breath, but also dusty and smooth. Hints of old dried orange skins. The whole isn’t very “big”, although full of aroma.

Taste: Sweet entry, woody, and dry right after that and spicy. Big note of watered down honey (as to say that it is not too sweet). Again quite sappy new wood and very warming. Sawdust from wet wood. Chocolate. Great balance. The ABV works very well for this Whiskey. Slightly bitter and soapy finish, but I guess we have to live with that, since I feel the Bourbon has been designed for its entry and body. A Bourbon with a bite.

For some it may be a bit to raw, harsh and outspoken, like unsanded wood. If that’s the case I can steer you towards more polished Bourbon’s like Woodford Reserve and Bulleit. I really like this Bourbon. Sure, the finish let’s it down a bit, but the rest of the experience is a very nice one. For the time being I can live with it. It is what it is.

Since this is a single barrel product, it is very much possible, other bottles are (slightly) different and have another finish. We’ll see over time when I get to taste other Willett pot Still Reserves, because I’m already looking forward to the next one.

Points: 84

Evan Williams 10yo 2003/2013 (43.3%, OB, Single Barrel #654)

Whisk(e)y certainly is a very global thing. Just read back a few posts and we have already been in Speyside, Scotland, Bangalore, India, and for this review we’ll cross another big Pond to have a look at a Bourbon called Evan Williams Vintage 2003 from Kentucky. This is a single barrel bottling. The barrel was filled on the eleventh of february 2003 and bottled on the last day of July 2013. Evan Williams himself, was a character who at the time of choosing the name, was supposedly the first person to distil Whiskey in Louisville Kentucky. In the end we may never know who was the first since not a lot is known from that time. Evan Williams Straight Bourbon Whiskey is made by Heaven Hill Distillery in Louisville, Kentucky, but bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky. Today the range consists of a Black Label, a Bottled in Bond (White Label) a 1783 (small batch) and we will have a look at this 2003 vintage single barrel. In the past also a special 23yo was released.

Evan Williams Vintage 2003Color: Light orange gold.

Nose: Nicely sweet and toffeed. Good wood notes. Nutty and organic. Very spicy, balanced with quite some vanilla from the virgin oak. Pencil shavings, sawdust and quite a lot of honey and hot bees wax. It also carries hints of grass and cherries. Smells strict and modern.

Taste: Initially light and vegetal. Dry leaves, soft oak, but quickly followed by a nice mixture of wood and sweetness, with a hint of licorice. Very appetizing and likeable. Short finish, and the its way to light too. The watery finish drowns the plethora of aroma’s that are still there. Bummer. Luckily it does leave a pleasantly sweet, sawdust and honeyed aftertaste.

What baffles me the most is the strangely low ABV for a super premium bottling Bourbon, especially since there are quite a few other expressions of Evan Williams around that are also low proof. Maybe this is Heaven Hills low proof Bourbon brand? This is a very nice Bourbon, but still seems to be marketed as an easy drinking Bourbon for the masses despite its super premium status. I would like to see a single barrel bottling like this, (with this mashbill and ageing plan), to be bottled at barrel strength. Not necessarily replacing this reduced version though. I would like to see it as an addition.  I’m hoping that cask strength vintage Evan Williams can be really a stunner. Sure Heaven Hill has other brands, but I like the taste and the flavor profile of the Evan Williams and would like to try it at cask strength. Please?

Points: 84