Stellum Rye

I’ve seen several positive reviews of Stellum Rye, so when I happened upon a bottle I decided to give it a try. At 116.24 proof this had potential to be a hottie. At a price point of 55 bucks per bottle, I was hopeful I would like this Rye. My first couple of pours seemed to have a mint characteristic, but after having glasses with a clean palate, I think it was due to the interaction with what I had eaten or drank prior to the glass. The website indicates this is a Rye blend of 95% Indiana Rye with the remainder being comprised of barrels from Kentucky and Tennessee. The aroma was leather, brown sugar, caramel, black pepper, sweat, baked apples, and an underlying earthy note. The flavor was initially sweet with brown sugar, caramel, apples, slight black pepper, melon, and just a slight hint of mint. The finish had apples, brown sugar, and light black pepper long into the aftertaste. If you’re paying attention, what I didn’t mention was alcohol. Sure it was present, but always in the background and never strong nor oppressive. I’m not exactly sure how they made a high proof Rye without a strong presence of alcohol, but here it is. There is a lower proof Rye which is slightly less expensive I prefer more, but when you consider the proof on this one the price point seems appropriate. I’m not going to run out and grab another bottle, but perhaps you should if high proof spirits are you favorite. Give it a whirl and see what you think.

Stellum Bourbon

I had seen some recent excited posts for the roll out of Stellum bottles, so when I happened upon a bottle of Stellum Bourbon I brought it home to see if there was anything there. At $55 it wasn’t crazy expensive, but it wasn’t cheap either. It’s in the price point most bottles try to be nowadays, but I’m in the camp of if you are going to charge more than $50, it better be special. Stellum rings in at 114.98 proof so you’re getting full use of all the spirits in the bottle which may make the price of admission acceptable to some. The aroma is restrained brown sugar, black pepper, oak, leather, and tobacco. The alcohol is low yet present in the aroma. The flavor was brown sugar, black pepper, oak, leather, and a back of the throat presence of alcohol. The finish lingers with black pepper and the warming post consumption is where you know it packs a punch. While there is nothing at all wrong with this bottle, it just doesn’t get me excited. It’s not complex enough for the price I paid. If this were $15 less than I might be singing a different tune, but at the 55 buck price point I expect more that just a higher proof. Maybe this needs a cube or a splash to really shine, but when I added water it just seemed more watered down so I stuck to consuming it neat. Again, it’s not bad in any way, but it’s not complex enough for me to purchase it again.

Redwood Empire Lost Monarch

Many people reported loving Redwood Empire Lost Monarch so I had to give this blend a try. It took awhile, but I finally snagged a bottle. I’m still not sure why it was difficult to find, but when I did, it had a $40 price point on the 45% ABV Whiskey. I was hopeful after trying Pipe Dream this would be just as delicious, but it turned out to have more in common with Emerald Giant. That’s understandable once you realize this is a blend of 60% Rye Whiskey and 40% Bourbon. The aroma was filled with spicy rye, black pepper, brown sugar, clove, and hints of spearmint. The flavor was slightly sweet and focused on caramel, brown sugar, vanilla, black pepper, rye, and of course spearmint. The finish was restrained brown sugar and caramel, light black pepper, and lasting low spearmint. I’m just not a fan of spearmint in my rye so this one, although the spearmint is restrained, doesn’t make me want to purchase another bottle. If you love EG then this bottle is definitely one you should try, otherwise, go for the Pipe Dream.

PS: The namesake for this Whiskey is a 321 foot tall coastal redwood.

Ezra Brooks 99 Bourbon

When I spotted Ezra Brooks 99 Bourbon on the shelf I knew I had to snag a bottle. This was a new to the market 99 proof Bourbon at a price point of $25 regular price. I had heard good things so I figured it was best to check it out for myself. The website touts a high rye mash bill which falls squarely in my wheelhouse. The aroma is filled with oak, cinnamon, caramel, brown sugar, and hints of black pepper. The flavor has a distinct spicy cinnamon, more toasted oak, and delicious caramel and brown sugar. The finish lasts with more caramel, black pepper, cinnamon, and very light oak which all fades fantastically into the aftertaste. It’s a fantastic bottle at an affordable price. Hopefully it’s overlooked for a very long time and will be readily available all the time. Snag yourself a bottle before people realize it’s out there and it becomes gone baby gone.

Wheat Penny Barrel Proof Bourbon Whiskey

A local ABC Board received the first Wheat Penny Barrel Proof Bourbon released in the country. I’m not sure why Cleveland Whiskey decided to send their 115 proof release to Youngsville ABC, but I figured why not snag a bottle when it drops on your doorstep. The price of admission was $56 so I decided to bring a bottle home. Before I opened the bottle some research yielded Cleveland Whiskey started as a company devoted to accelerated aging of Bourbon. I scoured the label for any indication of an age less than 4 years and came up empty. My bottle is Batch: 01 Bottle: 0629 and finishing woods are Black Cherry and Toasted Oak. The grist is 51% Corn, 45% Wheat, and 4% Malted Barley. The aroma was filled with sherry, cherries, and strong oak. Lurking not far behind was a strong presence of caramel and wafting alcohol aromatics and slight hints of pepper. The flavor had brown sugar, caramel, leather, oak, sherry, cherries, and light characteristics of black pepper. The finish was oak, cherries, and a substantial and lasting warming presence of alcohol. For some reason the flavor seemed just a little rough, but it didn’t seem young. The color was quite dark so I’m guessing the Bourbon spent time in the oak and then they ran it through the accelerated aging process with the black cherry wood. Perhaps over time the story of the Barrel Proof will emerge and we’ll learn exactly how it was created and how long it was aged. As I was taking the bottle out to recycling I happened to look at the stopper and saw it was what appeared to be a Wheat Penny. As you cannot reproduce currency I pried the penny out of the stopper and it was a 1958. I probably won’t run out for another bottle, but it was an interesting drop and I ended up with a collectible coin as a Cracker Jack prize!

Jim Beam Double Oak Twice Barreled Bourbon

Happened to see Jim Beam Double Oak was on sale at NCABC for $23 so I snagged a bottle. Wasn’t sure what to expect from an inexpensive 86 proof Bourbon, but figured why not give it a try. There was plenty on the shelf so I knew this was either a sleeper or something I should pass up. Lucky for me, most people turn up their nose on this daily drinker. The beautiful thing about this bottle is the lower alcohol which allows you to have a larger sample without paying a price. So let’s discuss what matters, how it tastes. The aroma has oak, sherry, caramel, and hints of black pepper. The flavor has a definite presence of oak with caramel, more black pepper, and a bit of leather. The finish has hints of alcohol and pepper with leather and oak, but the caramel fades pleasantly into the aftertaste. The bottom line is this is a budget friendly bottle for those who what a stronger presence of oak in their Bourbon. The alcohol is restrained and this is extremely easy to drink. I know at this price point I’ll find another bottle along the way and you should definitely give it a whirl. Of course there is no rush, people aren’t lining up to snag this drop. It’s their loss and your win!

Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Rye Whiskey

I happened upon Redwood Empire Emerald Giant Rye Whiskey at NCABC and figured I should give it a try. The 90 proof rye was 40 bucks so it didn’t seem like there was much to lose with the purchase. I like the story behind Redwood Empire and thought I had something nice after the first pour, however sometimes first impressions aren’t correct. Let’s discuss what I perceive. The aroma has always had a nice brown sugar backbone, rye spice, black pepper, and cinnamon. Also present is a spearmint note which I just don’t love. It has a fusel alcohol note accompanying it which seemed to increase the further I got into the bottle. The flavor was much like the aroma with brown sugar, rye, black pepper, and cinnamon. Unfortunately that same spearmint character was far too prevalent for my taste. The finish was pepper, cinnamon, brown sugar, and spearmint into the finality of the aftertaste. The alcohol was restrained with only a bit of warming present post consumption. Had it not been for the spearmint this would have been a good bottle, but for me it was too much and too strong. Once I realized it was there I just couldn’t steer my palate away from it. So this is a one and done for me. If you like/appreciate spearmint then this bottle will probably be your cup of tea. Rest assured I’ll leave it on the shelf for you to find.

Thomas S. Moore Cabernet Sauvignon Casks and Port Casks

When I heard of the Thomas S. Moore Bourbon releases I was excited to find them knowing their origin prior to cask aging was 1792. The Bourbon used for the three variants was 5 to 6 years old and then finished in the Cabernet Sauvignon, Port, and Chardonnay casks. With a price point of $69.95 it was a bit of a stretch to purchase all three bottles so when reviews emerged suggesting a pass on the Chardonnay cask I took that as a sign to skip it. I was able to get the other two bottles and as both leave it building if the Chardonnay is the weakest expression of the three, skipping it was a wise decision. Anyway, let’s take a closer look at the other two bottles.

Cabernet Sauvignon Casks
The Cabernet Sauvignon bottle is 95.3 proof. The aroma is reminiscent of Cabernet Sauvignon enhanced Bourbon, but lacks depth and complexity. There is a slight fusel alcohol component which wafts unpleasantly. The background Bourbon notes are brown sugar and pepper with hints of oak. The flavor is extremely restrained with slight Cabernet Sauvignon wine character, low brown sugar, low black peppery, and a smidge of oak thrown in for good measure. The finish is the best part with lingering brown sugar and wine long and pleasantly into the aftertaste. The sweetness in the finish is well balanced and where this bottle truly shines out of the darkness.

Port Casks
The Port bottle has the highest alcohol content and rings in at 98.9 proof. The Port aroma is much more pleasant than the CS. Once again however a slight fusel alcohol note fills the nasal passages with an unpleasant character. The Bourbon is masked by the Port in this bottle and that is not necessarily a bad thing. What is a bad thing is a vegetal note which while very low is off-putting and present. Otherwise the notable aromatic notes which are worth mentioning are oak and black pepper. The flavor is balanced and tasty, but still not as complex as it should be for a bottle with this price point. It’s mostly Port with slight oak, brown sugar, and pepper. The finish is very pleasant, and similar to the CS bottle with the exception of Port presence. In case you cannot tell, this was my preferred bottle of the two. The Bourbon was noticeable darker and with a ruby hue in the glass. Of course it still wasn’t mind blowing.

While the bottle appearance is eye catching, the slender base is a terrible idea. I first noticed the poor functional design of the bottle when placing in the vehicle. Its near impossible for the bottle to stay vertical on anything but a perfectly horizontal surface. Also the bottle is extra tall. In my bar it was almost impossible to pull out the bottle without contacting the glassware hanging above the bottles. I can imagine someone with shelves might have a difficult time storing the bottle on their shelves. In case you are wondering how tall these bottles actually are, they stand 13 inches tall.

In the end when you consider it all these bottles need to gather dust on the store shelves until they land in the bargain bin. Their flavor and complexity is not interesting enough to command a 70 bean price point. Couple that to a lousy, but eye-catching, bottle at 40 bucks these would be fantastic, even at 50 bucks they would be good or better, but at 70 they are a hard pass. Skip them as a fad. I know if they roll out more I will not be the guinea pig and I may not pick up another even if all the reviews talk about how it blows their socks off. Sorry guys, these aren’t all that and a bag of chips and IMHO aren’t worth the price of admission.

Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Rye

Happened upon Jim Beam Pre-Prohibition Rye in the ABC store and figured why not give it a try. With a standard NCABC price of $25 and sale price of $22 there wasn’t much to loose in trying this 90 proof Rye. While the flavor wasn’t mind blowing, it wasn’t a slouch either. The aroma greets the nose with brown sugar, rye, black pepper, and oak. The flavor was filled with black pepper, rye spice, and more oak surrounded by subtle brown sugar. The finish was lingering black pepper and oak and a warming alcohol presence which was stronger than anticipated from a 45% ABV Rye. Not bad rye at all for the price point so snag a bottle if you need a budget friendly rye. You shouldn’t be disappointed and you won’t be out too much coin.

Pinhook Rye’d On Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

Not sure where I happened upon Pinhook Rye’d On, nor what it cost, but NCABC pricing is currently 42 beans. This 97 proof Rye is from the 2020 crop according to the bottle. This particular Rye was distilled and aged over 2 years at Castle & Key Distillery in Frankfort, KY. The aroma was quite subdued, but presented with caramel, rye, and hints of spearmint. The flavor was more bold with the same caramel and rye, but the spearmint was strong, almost too strong. The finish was spearmint and peaches long with hints of rye and black pepper fading into the aftertaste. It was ok, but I’m not a big fan of spearmint and spearmint mixed with peaches is just a bit too much for me. So it’s a decent rye and fairly easy to consume, but it’s not one I’d come back to at that price of admission. Give it a try if you are a spearmint fan as it just might be your cup of tea.