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Archives for : January2015

First Impression : Orphan Barrel Old Blowhard

Old-Blowhard-BourbonOld Blowhard by Orphan Barrel

Age : 26

Nose : Very nice.  Smells almost identical to Eagle Rare 17 to me.  Oak, leather, caramel.

Palate : Very nice on the tongue.  Strong on the caramel and butterscotch.  Oak stays.  Hint of spice.

Finish : It goes down nicely, with butterscotch and leather and oak leading the way…..then….the strangest flavor/taste comes back.  I don’t know what that is.  It almost tastes like dish soap, or an old person’s perfume.  What the hell is that?  I drink some more water and went back again.  Orange peel maybe?  I guess maybe that’s it, but like orange peel dish soap.  It doesn’t satisfy me.  As I sipped it slowly, that strange finish seemed to fade away.  Maybe it mixed with the bourbon I had before it.  Seems weird because I had a glass of water in between.  As I sipped it, it became more pleasant, but still a bit ordinary, and very similar in profile to Eagle Rare 17.  I guess I expected a little more from a bourbon aged 9 more years than ER17.

Overall : Once the strange finish left me, it was an enjoyable sipper, but nothing extraordinary by any means.  I expected more.

A recap of the bourbon meet up in Atlanta – 1/17/2015

I waited for the right moment to pop the question.  I noticed she was smiling looking at the TV, so I knew this was the right time.  “Honey, you know I love you right?”  It’s been 11 years since we got married, so she knew this always followed with bad news, or something I was uncomfortable asking.  Her face slowly, and I mean slowly, turned from the TV.  “What do you want Kerry”, she asked.  I replied, “Can I meet up with some bourbon guys from Twitter this upcoming Saturday night to drink some bourbon?”  Loose translation, “I’d like to meet some guys I’ve never met from the internet in some hotel in Buckead and do it on a Saturday night when we usually hang out as a couple and also somehow get home without a DUI”.  She laughed at me.  But, as is usually the case, she was cool with it, she just wanted me to get home safe, and take a few buddies so I wouldn’t get robbed or raped.  Requirement one – check.

Two weeks ago I went over to a buddy’s house down the street from me and he and I and another friend who lives next door to him ended up drinking some bourbon in his basement.  I had mentioned that a few guys were talking about coming to Atlanta for a bourbon meet up and asked if they would be interested.  They both said yes.  I texted both throughout the week to see if they wanted to accompany me on this bourbon meet up.  Both ended up saying yes.  Both also had the same question, “where EXACTLY are we going?”  I had no idea.  Didn’t matter though, I had bodyguards.  Requirement two – check.

I sent direct messages on Twitter to the people who were coming to the impromptu party,  Sam@(bourbonchaser), Brock (@dbrockmanw), and Lloyd (@bourbontruth).  I asked where we were meeting.  No one knew.  It was mentioned we would meet at a hotel in Buckhead where everyone was staying, but we weren’t sure where.  I asked Lloyd (@bourbontruth) why he was coming to Atlanta and he said to re-reverse a sex change.  He never followed back up after I responded to it (yes he was kidding).  I picked up my buddies at 7:30 and told them, “This will either be an epic evening, or one of the weirdest we have ever had”.  We all agreed that we weren’t ready to die, so we hoped for the former.  My friend told me he would take a bullet for me, but only in his hands or arms, not in his chest.  I thought that was fair.

We arrived at the hotel at 8:00pm and grabbed all the goodies we had in my trunk.  I had brought some Saz 18, some Midnight Winter’s Dram, and some Troy and Sons Blonde Whiskey.  My friends has brought a Smooth Ambler 7 year bourbon and a store select Eagle Rare.  We carried the stuff in and met up with Sam in the lobby.  He mentioned he hadn’t heard from others yet and said we could head up to his room while we wait.  His son was up there.  We took the elevator up and walked to his room.  I knew Sam, he was one of my first Twitter friends, so I really wasn’t worried.  One of my buddies that I brought gave me a look that said , “If it’s like Deliverance up there I’m breaking these bottles on heads and running away”.  No problem, just try to break the Saz 18 last.

Once in the room, Sam introduced us to his son, and showed us what he had brought.  A Booker’s 25th, a rare Heaven Hill select stock, a Four Roses Private Barrel (can’t remember the recipe), and an Old Orphan Lost Prophet.  We called the front desk and asked if they had meeting rooms and they said no.  I called back and told them we had a big business meeting and needed to close a deal and were hoping for a place where we could drink and talk.  The man suggested the breakfast area attached to the lobby.  We went down there and met up with Brock.  We began to set up bottles and the front desk told us we couldn’t drink in there.  We also couldn’t drink in the meeting rooms.  At that point Lloyd walked in as well.  We finally ended up back in Sam’s room and set up shop.  Lloyd had brought 8 sample bottles of which we knew were going to be ridiculously good.  And Brock, the unassuming kid who looks like he is still in college, had brought an amazing collection of rare stuff.  A sample of every Four Roses recipe, a 25 year Willett rye, Willett XCF, ’14 George T. Stagg, 2014 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch, and some really rare Scotch, including a 25 year Talisker.  He also had samples of  William Larue Weller, Handy, and a bunch of other stuff.   We set up the bar and it looked a little something like this:

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whoa

No one really knew where to begin.  All this amazing booze was sitting in front of us and we weren’t really sure how or where to start.  A nervous tension filled the air as waited for our next move.  Thankfully Lloyd stepped up and said let’s try Sample # 1., so we did.  He told us about each sample, the story behind it, etc.  Say what you will about @bourbontruth, he knows his stuff.  He is also a lot friendlier than he comes across on Twitter, even if you don’t want to believe it.  Sorry Lloyd, had to say it, but feel free to publicly call me a liar on it.  Sample #1 was a Whistle Pig Boss Hog.  Sample #2 I think was a Four Roses from 1993.  Sample #3 was a 15 year William Heavenhill Cask Strength.  Then we all tried some Saz 18.  Then everyone kind of diverged into different stuff from there.  We tried an 11 year Willett bourbon which was amazing.  I had the 25 year Willett rye, and another 24 year Willet Rye (a Bonili Japan).  I had Booker’s 25th, GTS, Lost Prophet, William Larue Weller, and some of these rare Scotch that Brock brought.  I began to lose track of what I was trying.  I know all of it was good, so good.  And I know that I was feeling great until around 10:30.  That’s when the feeling hit me that I am really, REALLY drunk.  I remember telling everyone that I wanted to take home some of Lloyd’s sample # 7, the 11 year Willett bourbon.  Apparently that didn’t sit well with Sam’s son, who went over and poured another glass from it while I was lying on the floor.  In all fairness, I didn’t need to take that sample bottle, it was there to be consumed, not taken home, so I’m actually glad he did.

We ended up calling safe ride who met us in the lobby sometime after 11.  My friend John asked the driver if he was into Goth.  I couldn’t stop laughing and started coughing.  My esophagus burned, there was a lot of rocket fuel in my belly at that point.  Poor safe ride driver had to deal with us for 30 minutes.  We had him stop at a Waffle House near my house.  We ate a huge meal.  I had eggs over medium, a waffle, toast, grits, and hash browns.  I’m not sure what my other 2 friends had, I don’t think I looked up until the plates were empty.   A bunch of high school kids came, my friend John started a chant, “High School….High School…High School”  My other friend Chuck said he was fine to drive at that point and got us home.  I got into bed around 1, put one foot on the floor to stop the spins, and drifted to sleep.

It was an incredibly fun evening.  Sam, Lloyd, and Brock are friendly, knowledgeable, and very generous.  They offered up amazing stuff to me and my friends and were happy to share.  I wish I had brought better stuff, but as I’m fairly new to the hunting game, I didn’t have that much to bring.  I tasted some amazing stuff, my favorite probably being the 11 year Willett Bourbon, sample #7 from Lloyd.  I had one Scotch that was great, and another that I couldn’t drink because it was soo….Scotchy.  Such an amazing time with some great people.  And I didn’t get raped or robbed.  Win/win.

Lots of Roses… (My review of 2014 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch)

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Imagine you wake up one day and decide you really want a Toyota.  You don’t really care which model, just that you want a Toyota.  You walk into a Toyota dealership and you ask for a Toyota.  The salesperson laughs a little and says ,”ok which model”.  Suddenly, you have another decision to make.  You picked a Make, but you never picked a Model.  Now you have to walk around and figure out which model you want.  You could go with a lower end model, maybe a Toyota Yaris.  It’s still a Toyota, but doesn’t have the bells and whistles of other models.  Maybe you want to go middle of the road with a Camry, or splurge for the best available Toyota, a highly decked out Land Cruiser.  Whatever you choose, they are all going to be different, even though they are all Toyotas.

Now equate this if you will to bourbon.  Suppose you went to a friend’s house and tried some really good bourbon and you looked at the label and saw ‘Four Roses’.  You go into a liquor store the next day and say, “I want Four Roses”.  In the world of Vodka, this would be easy.  Oh you want Grey Goose, ok no problem, it’s over there.  There are also some flavored Vodkas if you want.  But with Bourbon, its not that easy.  Perhaps if you just wanted Jack Daniels, or Makers Mark, you could be shown a single bourbon.  But for many others, there are multiple varieties, blends, and styles.  That includes Four Roses.

See, with Four Roses you have the standard Yellow Label:

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The Small Batch:

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The Single Barrel:

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and the Private Barrel selections which are Single Barrel at Barrel Strength:

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On top of that, there are 10 different recipes for the Single Barrel (both regular and Barrel Strength).  There are 2 different mash bills and 5 different yeast strains, all which create a different flavor profile, as it mentioned on the side of the bottle:

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Four Roses Single Barrel – Barrel Strength OBSV is different from OESK, etc, etc.

So if that isn’t enough variety, there is also 2 additional ones released each year, the Limited Edition Small Batch and Limited Edition Single Barrel:

SpecEdBottles

These are amazing bourbons, released in very limited quantity, and hand picked by the master distiller of Four Roses, Jim Rutledge.  They are hard to find and generally in the $100 range per bottle.

Now to be fair, I do not currently have a bottle of the 2014 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch.  I did, but I ended up trading it away.  Had I known how amazing this bourbon was, I would not have traded it, and I would have searched for another.  As it is, I ended up with a few samples of it, and thus had enough to review it.

The Limited Edition Small Batch this year is a combination of 4 different recipes each aged between 9 and 13 years.  The bottle is beautiful, or at least it was in my mitts.  The color is a nice deep amber, and it just looks so damn tasty, like sweet tea.

The nose of this bourbon is awesome.  I can smell oak and caramel, like any good bourbon.  I do have faint tinge of alcohol on my nose with really deep breaths.  Dill and mint are also present in the nose for me.

The mouth feel is thick and syrupy.  Its delicious, a bit of honey, caramel, mixed with some spearamint, black licorice, and citrus fruit.

The finish is awesome as well.  It’s like I just drank a bourbon macchiato.  Caramel candy and mint stay around for awhile, and it just makes me want more.  A truly delicious drink.

If you are lucky enough to land a 2014 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch, enjoy it, drink it slow, and savor it.  It’s amazing stuff, and only the first Limited Edition Four Roses I have ever tried.  I’m excited to see what else they have made, and what awaits us in the future.  You want it?  You got it.  Well…maybe….if you get really lucky.

 

5 things I learned about Bourbon in 2014…

1)  It’s not all about Pappy.  Pretend the entire hype surrounding Pappy didn’t exist and you went to a store and paid $69.99 for a 15 year bottle of Pappy Van Winkle.  You would say man this is great bourbon, but you wouldn’t lose sleep if you didn’t get a bottle.  You wouldn’t sit outside in a lawn chair in freezing temps overnight, and you sure as hell wouldn’t pay $625 in the secondary market for one.  No, you would just drink a really good bottle of bourbon, but life would continue either way.  For some reason, in this alternate universe, Pappy is supposedly greater than everything else.  Is it good?  Sure.  Worth the overhype, more than double retail price, hassle, long lines, and general bullshit to aquire one?  Absolutely not.  It’s just another bourbon.

2)  Your tastes change as you get into Bourbon and you begin to try older and stronger stuff.  A year ago my first big time bottle for me was the standard proof Angels Envy.  I took a taste of it tonight, at 90 proof, and thought it was terrible.  Just 3 months ago, I thought Jefferson’s Ocean was amazing.  Now it just tastes overly salty to me.  The more you try, the more your tastes change.  Or maybe I’m just burning taste buds at an extraordinary rate.

3)  Bourbon as a hobby connects you to a lot of people, and it’s awesome.  I have befriended people all over the place, on all forms of social media, and it’s really fun to be able to reach out to so many different people for opinions, thoughts, reviews, ideas, etc.  Bourbon is a very social hobby, and I like that aspect of it.

4)  Rare bourbon has become like baseball cards in the late 80’s with people buying, selling, and trading all day long to complete collections, acquire rare pieces, etc.  The only difference is this trading is completely underground, in secret places, and totally controlled by the consumer, not by the retailer (the secondary market that is).

5)  Bourbon hunting can take over your life, your family, and your bank account.  I spent too much time in liquor stores and not enough time with my family or with my friends sharing the rewards of my hunts.  My hunts in the future will be more refined, take less time, and be less intrusive on my family life that takes precedence over everything else.

Cheers to a new year and new experiences.  🙂

Pulling for the little guys… (My review of American Barrels Bourbon Whiskey)

One of the coolest parts of my new hobby is getting to know new people on social media.  I am pretty active on Twitter and Reddit, and have met a lot of good bourbon folks on those sites.  Another cool part is that it gives me access to pictures and reviews of spirits that I have not tried, or spirits that are new and not available everywhere.  One night while browsing Twitter, a new follower tweeted a picture of what I thought was the coolest bottle of bourbon I had ever seen.  It had a snake, a dog tag, a shotgun, and looked like a bullet casing.  The name of the bourbon was American Barrels Bourbon Whiskey.  All of that screamed ‘Merica like no other product I had seen.  I had to try this stuff.  I contacted the Twitter person and eventually I was led to Michael Reed, owner of American Barrels.  I requested a small sample, I got a bottle.  I was impressed, but I vowed to make my review honest, and not swayed by the more than generous sampling of the product.  It was only fair to the company, and to people reading this, if I kept an honest opinion no matter what.  I sampled the bottle a few times before sitting down to write this review.

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As I described above, the bottle is really cool.  Michael Reed says he came up with the idea for the brand and bottle while at a bar at Indiana University.  He says he designed it as a “shotgun shell wrapped in the iconic American rattle snake,” and that the name American Barrels represented “whiskey barrels and gun barrels, the two barrels Americans hold quite [sacred]”.  It is a very cool looking bottle.

I have to be honest, the first time I opened this bottle and gave it a big whiff, it smelled like Moonshine.  The back of the bottle states that the bourbon is aged less than 2 years, and it was apparent in the nose.  Grain alcohol mixed with corn prevailed on the nose, and maybe a little bit of caramel.  Just to compare, I opened up my half empty bottle of Prichard’s White Lightning and took a whiff.  Ok, that’s moonshine.  This stuff just smells like a mix between moonshine and bourbon.  After a few weeks open, the nose of the bourbon lightened up a little bit, but not by much.  There is no depth to the smell of the bourbon, and is expected for such a young juice.

When I first poured it neat, I was a little scared.  I expected the gross, grainy, corn based rocket fuel flavor of Moonshine.  At a minimum, I expected it to burn quite a bit, even if I got a taste of some bourbon in there.  I took a sip and let it sit on my tongue for a second before swishing it around and swallowing.  I winced and readied for the pain…and…it never came.  I was pleasantly surprised.  There was very little burn.  Pecan, peanuts, and caramel were consistent flavors for me.  As Michael stated, “It’s a young bourbon, but it’s filtered through a unique post – barrel refinement system that uses ultra sonic energy to remove the minor alcohols which results in a taste profile of a more mature whiskey, but as a bonus essentially double the smoothness and the removal of the hangover effect.”  Now, I haven’t had a hangover in a long time, but regardless, I liked the idea of not having one.

Though the taste is not bad, there really is no finish.  There is a little alcohol burn at the end, but not much bourbon flavor.  I think that is also a trait of young bourbons.  There is no oak or caramel sweetness lingering after the fact that I have come to love with bourbons.  To be fair, American Barrels is not a sipping bourbon.  At least not for me.  I made a few mixed drinks with the bourbon and I can say that is where this stuff truly shines.  It mixes well in an Old Fashioned, and in a Manhattan, and I even preferred it over Buffalo Trace.  The nice smooth palate remains, but the mix of the drink removes the lingering alcohol finish.

So in conclusion, American Barrels Bourbon Whiskey is probably not going to become a regular drink for me.  It’s young, it lacks depth in smell and finish compared to what I usually drink.

But this is a new company, with a new product, and I came away impressed.  It’s a young product trying to compete in a world of 10+ year aged bourbon.  How can anyone expect to come right out with a well polished bourbon and compete in the market place?  It takes time, it takes money, and it takes a passion.  Michael Reed with American Barrels has that passion.  He will continue to improve his product and continue to expand.  He has already produced a product that I prefer over a well-known brand name in mixed drinks.  I expect good things from American Barrels in the future and I look forward to hearing about it’s successes in the years to come.

Cheers to you Michael Reed, keep on fighting the fight of the little guys.