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Archives for : December2014

Al Capone’s drink….(Review of Templeton Rye)

During a recent family dinner my 8-year old daughter asked me if I had tried Templeton Rye.  I don’t even know where she got that from.  I had seen it in stores, but I have never bought it, never ordered it, and never spoken of it at home.  That question, along with the email from my son’s kindergarten teacher that mentioned my son’s persistent need to discuss my bourbon selection with his buddies, made me realize how much my kids had become involved in my new hobby.  One look from my wife was enough for me to decide they could no longer go on hunts with me.  It was fun while it lasted, and it was cute to hear them discuss my favorite bourbons, but it had gone too far.  Especially when the Kindergarten teacher sent home the picture my son had drawn during creative time that day….. a picture of my bourbon shelves.  Damn those kids and their memories.

Yet despite the cutoff, my daughter would still occasionally ask me if I had tried Templeton Rye.  She must have seen a bottle in one of our store searches and committed it to memory.  On a recent out of town family trip, I came up to the hotel bar to see a bottle of Templeton Rye staring at me.  I had no choice, I tried it for my kid.  I had a single the first night, and followed it with a double the next night.

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Templeton Rye is made by…what appears to be…a company called Templeton Rye Spirits, LLC in Templeton, Iowa.  From what I gather on their website, this is their only product and replicates the Templeton Rye that was made back in the Prohibition Era in Templeton.  Al Capone was a regular drinker or Templeton Rye, and smuggled it into Alcatraz, both of which make this kind of a badass spirit.  Production on this rye stopped sometime mid-century, but it was replicated last decade by two guys who were from families that had bootlegged and distilled Templeton Rye back in the 20’s.  They started their own distillery in Templeton, and from what I can tell are distilling some, of it not all, of their product.

On to the tasting:

The nose of the Templeton Rye is very pleasant.  It smells like caramel and butter.  Or better yet, caramel butter.  I don’t know if they make caramel butter, but they should, and this is what it should smell like.  The nose is so pleasant my wife even smelled it and thought it smelled nice.  Normally she hates the smell of bourbon.  She agreed with caramel butter.  She also smelled honey.  The color is the same color as every other rye and bourbon I drink……amber.

The palate is incredibly smooth with TR.  There is no burn, just a very pleasant taste of rye bread, caramel, and butterscotch with a very light spice from the rye.  It’s so smooth and pleasant, and the finish is nice and smooth as well.  5 minutes after finishing my double, I still had a pleasant sweet taste in my throat.  It’s truly a soft and sweet spirit, almost like a dessert wine.  The only annoying part was that I had no buzz at all.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t drink to get drunk.  But after a double, I would have enjoyed a more relaxed feeling than I had.

Overall I am really impressed with this rye whiskey.  It’s smells wonderful, and is incredibly drinkable neat.  My only complaint is the low proof (80).  I have started to like stronger ryes, and I feel like this one could really open up with a depth of flavor if they could cut it down a little less.  A little less sweetness and a little more spice would definitely improve this rye.

Overall, it’s an excellent dessert rye, easily sippable, but probably not going to be added to my every day rye selection just due to the ‘just enough proof to be labeled a rye whiskey’ characteristic.

Score – 86/100

A spicy delight.. (First Impression of Willett Family Estate 6 Year Rye)

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The world of sample swapping is alive and well on Reddit.  Post what you want, and post what you got.  Sooner or later, you hear from a few follks, conversations start, and the next thing you know you are sending samples in the mail and receiving them.  I love it.  I love being able to try stuff I haven’t opened or things I can’t get very often in my area.  A recent trade netted me a few samples I didn’t have, one of them being a Willet Family Estate 6 Year Rye.  Coming in at 114.6 proof, this fine smelling specimen met my belly tonight.  How did it stack up against baby Saz (6 year Sazerac Rye)?  Very well in my opinion.

The nose on the Willett Family Estate 6 Year Rye is nice and smooth, and reminds me of a caramel cake.  Deep inhales burn a little, like spearmint.  Further whiffs make me think of butterscotch, grass clippings, and the smell of freshly fallen leaves in the Fall just after a rainstorm.  I know that smell very well because every time I go for a run in the fall after a rainstorm, I smell bourbon and rye whiskey the entire time and it ruins my run.

My first two sips were not nice to me.  A pleasant taste of honey and caramel hit me initially, and the familiar rye taste.  But it quickly was replaced by a very spicy flavor.  I told my wife it reminded me of those little red hot candies.  It burned for about 30 seconds, the second time, almost a minute.  It wasn’t totally unpleasant, but the finishing spice lingered more than I wanted it too.  I added a few drops of water and that dropped it down very nicely to an almost perfect level for me.

After a little bit of water, I really enjoyed it.   Vanilla and honey on the sip, cinnamon candy and caramel cake on the finish, with that beautiful rye taste lingering for awhile.  It doesn’t have a lot of age in the flavor, not much wood or leather or tobacco, but it has more spice and depth than baby Saz.  It was just a 2oz sample, but I enjoyed it enough to seek out more of the WFE ryes.  Maybe one of their really old ryes will take down my current king, Sazerac 18.

Chasing the rye unicorn… (Review of Sazerac 18)

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Ok so first off, this review does not matter.  It does not matter than I am deeply, madly in love with this aged rye.  It does not matter that of the all of the strong southern-named men on my shelves like Rip Van Winkle, George T. Stagg, Elmer T. Lee, are not my baby.   Saz 18 is my baby.  But it doesn’t matter, you won’t find a bottle, not by walking into a liquor store.  Oh you may be a professional hunter; perhaps a Craig’s List seeker, or perhaps you got one by trading away your left kidney, but you still probably had to sweeten the deal.  Right now, if you happened across one in the secondary market, you will pay about $375.  In May, you may be paying a lot more.  Part of me feels bad for reviewing such unattainable goodness, but I just need to declare my love for this stuff and then I can move on to stuff you can actually find.

So how did I find this nectar of the gods?  Through absolute sheer luck.  I found my way into a liquor store in Atlanta during a lunch break from work one afternoon.  I was looking for plain Sazerac Rye (called baby Saz).  It’s also rare, but still findable as it gets released several times over the year.  I walked over to the rye whiskey section and ask a nice man if he had any Sazerac Rye.  In his hands was a bottle of Sazerac 18.  He told me he was looking for a place on the shelf to place this item.  Realizing what I was seeing, I squeezed my buttcheeks together to prevent sudden accidental leakage and asked if I could purchase the bottle.  He handed it to me and I quickly and prompty paid and left the store before he or anyone else could change their mind.  I sat in my car for awhile and looked at this beauty.  I had fallen in love.

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As most of you know, or some of you may not, Buffalo Traces releases a limited collection of 5 Bourbons every fall called the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection.  With names like George T. Stagg, William Larue Weller, and Thomas H. Handy, this collection has become increasingly more popular and harder to find.  The bottles are beautiful and really allow the juice inside to shine through.  If you are lucky enough to get a hold of one or two, you know you have scored a nice treasure.    Two of the five antique collection releases are rye whiskeys (meaning at least 51% of the mash bill is made up of rye).  One is called Thomas H Handy Sazerac Rye.  It is a rye whiskey that is aged for 6 years and bottled directly from the barrel with a proof this year of 129.2.  The other is a rye whiskey that has been aged for 18 years before it is bottled at 90 proof.  Now, word on the street is that in 2006, master distillers at Buffalo Trace tasted some Sazerac that had aged for 18 years and decided it was at its peak and removed it from the oak barrels and put into metal containers.  The metal containers stopped the aging process and every Sazerac 18 since then has been the exact same.  The Sazerac 18 from 2014 tasted the same as it did last year, and the year before, and the year before that.  Regardless of how and where or when this stuff was made or bottled, it is beautiful, like angels dancing in my mouth

What’s interesting to me about Saz 18 is that the nose totally doesn’t match the taste.  To me, the nose is kind of flat.   It smells to me more like a bourbon than a rye whiskey.  A whiff of 6 year Sazerac (baby Saz) reveals more of the sweeter rye smell that I am used to.  I actually smell a good bit of corn on the 18, some rye, and some tobacco.  A deep inhale burned just a little, like some peppermint.  Again though, the nose just doesn’t set the tone for what follows.

The palate is nice.  The flavor of the rye permeates along with a minty flavor and a sweetness, like sugar or honey.  It’s so pleasant, but it quickly gets replaced by that finish….

Holy shit that finish.  This is where this thing shines.  It’s like a leathery, oaky, caramel thickness that doesn’t burn even slightly going down.  It’s so amazing.  It’s like I’m a termite and I’m eating a delicious wooden stair that has caramel spilt all over it.  In the process I also accidentally chewed up a little bit of leather and tobacco and swallowed it all down at once.  I actually don’t even taste the rye at all once it goes down, just this amazing finish that sends me into the world of termites and leather straps and wooden steps.  It’s messed up I know, but my brain just works in mysterious ways.

It is going to be a sad day in my life when I finish this bottle, for a I may not see it again until next year.  Heck even then I may not see it.  That doesn’t mean I won’t try.  My baby will always be out there, and I will always be looking.

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The best gift for Boubon Drinkers…

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