Four Roses – Single Barrel “A Budding Romance”

Ok it’s been a while faithful readers…wait mom don’t leave! I am trying to get a backlog of reviews cleared, this one I have to admit I’ve struggled with, not the whisky but just finding which way to broach the uniqueness of it.

Ok so for whisky cognoscenti and most informed consumers, you know all about Four Roses and it’s 5 yeast strains and 2 mashbills, allowing for up to 10 different variations to be made in one facility. It’s a geeks delight, one that I know annoys some as they probably have a friend who won’t shut up about the whole thing.

What’s interesting to me is that this mostly came about under the Seagram’s ownership of the facility. This is a pattern we would see repeated with many of the company’s other distilleries, it really was a brilliant move, remember at the time Seagrams was pumping out all kinds of blends and moving facilities to this type of arrangement would not only allow for greater consistency but would make them less reliant on sourced components for their blends.

This scheme is repeated famously at Crown Royal but also what made Benriach such a stellar purchase for Billie Walker & co, since they had all kinds of style of single malt whisky in inventory.

As it is this yeast driven scheme is one that is sadly still underused in distilling today, it’s the one area along with terroir (that is barley types & provenance) that I believe could help usher positive change in the industry.

Ok enough blab, The Four Roses Single Barrel is one of the 3 products in their standard line-up, it is always composed of the same recipe (OBSV) so it’s from the higher rye mashbill with their fruity yeast strain and it is bottled at 50% abv. mine is from warehouse US barrel#76-3A.

Four Roses SB

Nose: Minty, rye spices, cloves, slight vegetal notes. There’s sweetness but it’s not big bombastic corn but more like Turkish delight, corn porridge, clean oak. Honey that you licked off a Popsicle stick, a little apple and apricots… Its not a big thick chewy toffee vanilla bomb.

There is a touch of something acetic, a little vinegary but it works in this context but could trigger you into acetone territory if you’re sensitive to this.

Palate: Caramel, honey candy, loads of oak, cinnamon and cloves, the carpentry is in check not too forward, There is a feeling of beeswax or coconut oil? Floral, candied angelica and celery leaves, a bit of black licorice. There is a touch of something acetic, a little vinegary but it works in this context but could trigger you into acetone territory if sensitive.

Finish: Creamed honey, a bit of cucumber, vanilla, apricots, plum frangipane tart.

I feel like this is really in a category of it’s own, it’s still clearly bourbon and has those familiar touchstones. Yet the nose with it’s almost sharp acetic edge and the palate with those vegetal, creamy touches make it an outlier, it’s a fun whisky to dissect.

I can see the Four Roses style as being very polarizing, those who dig it will be amply rewarding, it’s next level bourbon in the best sense. It’s also fantastic value about 50$ at the LCBO.

Four Roses Single Barrel

50% ABV

86/100

Franck

Wild Turkey- 101 “The Seven Faced Bird”

After having had a few really good bourbons last year I vowed to try and purchase more of them this year. While I have been eyeing some of the premium selections, enough members on Connosr waxed on about Wild Turkey 101 saying it offered more than one would expect from a bourbon in it’s category. I figured I didn’t have much to lose, worse case it could be used for cocktails.

I poured a dram in both a Canadian style Glencairn and a traditional one to be able to compare.

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Nose: Fresh wet oak, caramel corn, a kind of dusty cumin and allspice, pleasant warm grain/corn porridge note.There is a smidge of green apple skin and then lots of cherries building up. There’s a persistent astringency and bite from the alcohol. The Canadian Glencairn, offers more oak/cedar and herbal intensity, a touch of cinnamon red hot candies and a minty feeling. The rye blooms towards the end, with a bit of yeasty brown bread too, it’s a very warming and inviting nose.

Palate: Sweet and dry, creme caramel and rising bread, oak, green plantain, bran muffins, spicy rye and savory feeling on the tip of the tongue, like mountain mint or oregano, a sort of resin-like feeling. Definitely a bit sharp when it first hits your throat but it’s just go this great chewy mouthfeel to it.

Finish: It fades away quickly, leaving a bit of tobacco, sweet vanilla and then turning to dry oak, a bit of barrel char, Turkish delight and caramel corn.

Turkey time

The Canadian Glencairn performed really well here it had a bit more burn but the bourbon felt fuller with more complex, with a bit of a floral touch whereas the nose was darker, closed even a bit dustier when using the traditional glass.One thing to note, there is a drying astringent bite to this bourbon that I generally find pleasant but at times can be off putting.

Overall I really enjoyed this bourbon, it can be easygoing with a large ice cube to sip on a hot day, works well in cocktails due to the abv or can provide enough interest if I want to have it neat and take my time. At 36$ it’s got great value as well.

Wild Turkey – 101 

50.5% ABV

84/100

 

Kings County Distillery Peated Bourbon

KCD Peated Bourbon

45% ABV

74/100

I’ve been meaning to post my review of this whisky but never got around to it. The genesis of this recipe is that having run out of malted barley one day, they decided to use a batch of peated malt that was on hand for experiments.

The result was to their liking and original enough as few American distillers use peat, especially in a bourbon mashbill.

Nose: sweet caramel corn, the youth is reflected in the varnish notes, they do relent after some time. Fresh oak, faint smoke like the embers and ash of a campfire, then dusty spices and herbs.

Palate: Chewy and astringent, wood sugars, lemon pith, herbal cough drops (Ricola?), slight violets and soapyness. The smoke is faint and seems to integrate with the charred oak flavour.

Finish: short, mild astringence from the oak and there is a faint feeling of sandalwood or incense.

The intel I gathered from my distillery visit, is that their bourbon recipe is basically 75% corn, 25% malted barley (peated in this case) so there is no flavouring grain like wheat or rye.

Also the peated malt used doesn’t seem to be very heavy therefore don’t expect a smoke bomb. It’s more like a slight accent. It’s less prononced as the bottle airs out. I liked this but it’s more for passing around a campfire or the flask than for easy sipping.

*Side note, I had about 10% of this bottle left and it got lost in the shuffle, I finally got around to it and it does not take well to oxidation. The nose is all cardboard, and the palate fell apart and got violent. A case for drink em’ if you got em’

Franck

Kings County Distillery wine cask finished bourbon.

Taste 1

I visited Kings County Distillery in early March of this year, when I arrived at the gates of the site I stopped into the tasting room and was told I’d just missed the beginning of a tour. With 30 minutes or so to kill I was offered the chance to warm up, have a drink and bask in the cozy atmosphere.

The bar is well decorated and honestly stands up on it’s own as a nice place to hangout and have a few drinks. The menu has many original drinks all made with products from the distillery, while studying it my eyes fell upon a wine cask finished bourbon. I was definitely curious and since it’s not something I’m likely to see much of back home I jumped at the chance to sample it.

The color is coppery with a rosy hue.

Wien finish bourbon

Nose: The alcohol hits first with some varnish, freshly dumped whisky cask that wet oak smell, corn porridge, ginger and baking spices, rye bread, bubblegum.

Palate: Sweet arrival, fizzy, jammy fruits. Fresh baked Bundt cake, a touch of toffee or milk jam. There is some rawness from the alcohol.

The finish is long on caraway and cloves, creamy vanilla and dark berries.

It was an interesting experiment, I think bourbon’s sweetness and proclivity towards cherry and caramel is at times a better pairing for a wine barrique than Scotch, if you can stand the sweetness. I would love to see a nice aged rye get this treatment I suppose High West Yippie ki yay or Midwinter nights dram are what I might be looking for. That said it is a bit immature, the nose felt closed up and the palate too narrow, lots of solvent notes at the beginning as well. 

I’ve since come across an article where the new head blender of KCD is interviewed and he gives the specs on this whisky. They used a mix of 13 month old bourbons from quarter casks that were vatted into a 63 gallon barrel that previously held fortified Cabarnet franc. This was finished for 8 weeks of the summer in order to obtain maximum extraction of the flavour, it is sold exclusively at the distillery.

Franck

Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel 16-0259

Jack Daniel’s single Barrel 16-0259

47% Alc/Vol

Score: 79/100

 

 

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We are changing gears a little here with my first American Whisky review and it’s not bourbon strictly speaking it’s Tennessee Whisky giant Jack Daniels. I must preface by saying that bourbon/American whisky isn’t my preferred style (although I have had some very good ones) and Old No. 7 figures even lower on my list.

I can see the appeal of it, it has indeed become a very powerful American Icon, pretty much synonymous with rock & roll, motorcycles and the assorted trappings of that lifestyle. It is probably one of, if not the top selling American whisky in the world. After all it is also easy drinking thanks in part to the Lincoln process of charcoal filtering the whisky prior to barreling and is bottled at 40% alc/vol.

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That being said when my friend Emmanuel asked if I wanted to split a bottle of the single barrel for us to share during our office Christmas party, I figured why not? This kind of occasion isn’t one where you bring that bottle you’ve been saving, you need something that can be passed around in the hip flask. This bottle is from the standard single barrel range not the new barrel proof release.

Nose: Ripe banana’s, toffee apples, dark cherry, a bit of spicy rye,carpenter’s shop floor, those typical JD fermentation notes, some charred oak too.

Palate: muscular without being rough, red licorice, cherry ice cream, spicy, the oak is present but not dominant, warm caramel made with honey. You can feel the smoothness of the corn on the palate, it’s pretty sweet.

Finish:  return of the banana/ferment, vanilla, warm spices and charred oak. The mouth feel is well executed, slightly waxy and oily.

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I have to admit this was a surprise, I enjoyed the palate of this whisky, it has none of the notes of baby sick that are very prevalent in many of the batches of old No.7 I have tried. It was not as oak driven as is the case with many bourbons, the higher ABV helped carry the flavors across and sustain the finish.

If you are a fan of JD or this style, it’s definitely worth taking the step up to single barrel, It has me itching to try the barrel proof version.

 

Franck