Smooth Ambler Old Scout 107

Our local group ended up with a Smooth Ambler Old Scout 107 pick and it was my first taste of Smooth Ambler. This bottle was from Barrel #12491 and dated 4/15/19.¬† This is an American Whiskey which is a blend of old and new whiskey which keeps it from being labeled as a Bourbon. At $35 I jumped at the chance to snag a bottle and while I found it enjoyable, this whiskey seemed to lack a bit of complexity. It was filled with a nose of brown sugar and cinnamon with leather, pepper, and wafts of alcohol. The flavor was more of the same with sweet brown sugar, cinnamon, pepper, oak, and an alcohol burn which reminded you this tipped the scales at 53.5% ABV. It was an enjoyable glass, but the roughness of the alcohol and over the top spice made me have second thoughts more than once as I reached for the bottle. If you asked me if this was a Bourbon I would say yes, but the rough nature reminds you this needs a little more time to develop fully. I’m glad our group selected one, but if I had missed the opportunity I would not have been overly disappointed. I may have to give some of the Smooth Ambler Bourbons a whirl, but probably won’t return to the American Whiskey.

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Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey

I heard good things and saw quite a bit of excitement surrounding the release of Uncle Nearest 1856 Premium Whiskey so when it hit our local ABC I had to pick up a bottle to see for myself. At 60 beans the price was certainly premium so I had high hopes for this Tennessee Whiskey with a unique history. Take a few minutes and peruse the website to learn about Nearest Green and his place in distilling history. So let’s get to the heart of the matter, what I thought of the Whiskey. At 100 proof it landed right in the sweet spot of what I prefer in my Whiskey or Bourbon. At $60 the price of admission was a bit hard on my wallet. I’ve come to the conclusion at $40 this would have been a shining star, but at the higher price point it’s rather pedestrian and lacks complexity. From start to finish you know this is no Kentucky Bourbon, rather a rough around the edges Tennessee Whiskey. The aroma is strong with oak and leather coupled to brown sugar and spice. The flavor is rather one dimensional with light oak, leather, more brown sugar, light spice, and an alcohol burn thrown in for good measure. While I liked it, I just couldn’t love it due to the price point. At $40 I’d tell you to run out and snag a bottle, at $60 I’d suggest you wait until you find it for less. If you love Tennessee Whiskey this might just be your cup of tea, but for me it’s a one and done.

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1792 Full Proof

The 1792 family of Bourbons is quickly becoming a favorite and 1792 Full Proof is no exception. Typically the high proof Bourbons are not my favorites because I drink my Bourbon neat nine times out of ten. When I came across a Full Proof at $45 I knew I had to try the 125 proof beast to see if it could be tamed. What I found was the alcohol is so restrained in this Bourbon it needs no splash or cube to be enjoyable. It does blossom on the palate when followed with water, but by itself it is pleasant, complex, and the alcohol seems much lower. The aroma is complex brown sugar, black pepper, cinnamon, oak, hints of char, with the alcohol presence coming through with the spice and char. The flavor is similarly complex, yet restrained, with caramel, brown sugar, more pepper spice, more cinnamon, oak, and char. The finish goes dry and has a definitely warming of alcohol, but little to no burn. I absolutely loved this bottle, but have seen a few reviews which were the opposite of my experience so it may be dependent upon the bottling. I’m not sure how to read the product code on 1792 product to determine when it was bottled, but suspect the L18 portion signifies it was bottled in 2018. Anyway, I’d be more than willing to take a chance on a bottle of 1792 Full Proof. Give it a whirl and don’t be deterred by old reviews.

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Shackleton Blended Malt Scotch Whisky

I happened to snag a bottle of Shackleton Whisky when it was on sale for $32 and figured why not give it a spin. As a blend of Highland single malts aged in Bourbon and Sherry barrels I was hoping it would be tasty and was not disappointed. The aroma is light with honey, sherry, light alcohol, wildflowers, pears, and only slight hints of leather. The flavor is more honey, wildflowers, sherry, very slight alcohol, leather, pears, and cinnnamon. The aftertaste of the 80 proof Scotch has light leather, chocolate, and pleasant alcohol. This is not a complex Scotch and one would not expect it to be so at this price point. Even if the flavor is not complex you can feel good because a portion of the purchase price goes to the Antartic Heritage Trust. If you see a bottle and haven’t given it a try you should. I still prefer Monkey Shoulder as my go to blended Scotch, but this is also a tasty glass and as such should not be overlooked.

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Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel

When the local group picked out a barrel of Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel¬†back in February I knew I had to snag a bottle when it arrived in June. The pick was standard Russell’s Reserve which is always 110 proof. At $55 it was a no brainer to pick up a bottle and I’m so glad I did. Our pick has an excellent nose of oak char, slight yeast, sweet brown sugar, slight alcohol, and leather. The flavor exhibited similar complexity with a well balanced sweetness of brown sugar and caramel which kept the alcohol in the background yet offered excellent oak char, very light pepper, and a low presence of alcohol. The finish impression is slightly sweet and once again kept the alcohol at bay. While I wasn’t part of the team who was lucky enough to select this barrel I believe they did the perfect job. This Bourbon has more complexity than it’s price point would suggest and enough sweetness to balance all the other flavors. This makes me want to buy every RR I come across to see if any are this perfect storm of complexity, aroma, and flavor. Two thumbs up for this one, way up!

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-Photo borrowed from Raleigh Bourbon & Banter group.

WhistlePig 10 Year Straight Rye

I happened upon WhistlePig 10 Year Straight Rye at an excellent price so I snagged it. In NC this Rye goes for $85 which I find to be a high price for a Rye. This one started out in Alberta, Canada prior to aging in new American Oak and finding its way to Vermont and a bottle. This Rye is 100 proof and quite smooth with hidden alcohol attributes. The aroma is rye spice, leather, pepper, orange peel citrus, caramel, and light wafts of alcohol. The flavor is caramel with brown sugar, light citrus, low pepper phenol, leather, rye spice, and a low presence of alcohol. The finish has a very pleasant brown sugar with peppery rye spice and a definite, yet pleasant, alcohol warming post consumption. While the complexity of this bottle is very nice and the Rye is delicious, the price seems to be on the high side. I’m thinking I paid around 70 beans for this bottle which is a bargain compared to what NC charges, but I have a difficult time shelling out big bucks for a Rye even if it is 10 years old. If you happen to see a bottle for a steal, grab it and give it a whirl. Otherwise there are many very tasty low budget Ryes which can scratch the itch for less than half the price of admission.

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Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey

A buddy turned me on to Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey and I am glad he did although the price of admission is not cheap. With MGP putting out so many great Rye whiskeys at affordable price points, he $50 price tag on Pikesville seems like a luxury item. This 110 proof Rye from Heaven Hill is double the price of most budget Ryes, but does have an excellent complexity which is showcased when consumed neat. The aroma is filled with spicy Rye, subtle alcohol, brown sugar, oak, and leather. The flavor delivers complexity in the form of Rye, fruity cherry, light alcohol, oak, brown sugar, oak, leather, and vanilla with a moderately sweet character. The finish is very pleasantly filled with Rye, cherry, brown sugar, oak, and hints of leather which linger long into the aftertaste. While a tad sweet the complexity of Pikesville makes it a must have for all who love Rye whiskey so run out and snag a bottle. Sure it’s a splurge, but go ahead, you’re worth it!

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Knob Creek Twice Barreled Rye

One night while out and about I tried Knob Creek Twice Barreled Rye on a whim. I found it delicious and went on the hunt for a bottle. The price of admission was $50 and IMHO it is worth every penny. This is a 100 proof Rye which has the perfect blend of complexity, alcohol, and price point to be a winner. The aroma is filled with rye spice, pepper, brown sugar, hints of alcohol, and oak. The flavor exhibits more of the same deliciousness with rye spice, vanilla, oak, light alcohol, caramel, brown sugar, and hints of leather. The finish is smooth and sublime with lasting light alcohol, caramel, vanilla, oak, leather, and brown sugar long and pleasant into the aftertaste. If you find a bottle, buy two and enjoy!
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George Dickel Bottled In Bond

I was super excited when I happened upon a bottle of George Dickel Bottled In Bond at a SC liquor store. The 100 proof Tennessee Whiskey cost about $45 and is 13 years old. I was all set to pop the top and enjoy a great bottle and unfortunately that is not what happened. The aroma was musty and old and the flavor was unpalatable. I thought it might make a decent mixed drink and that did not help it any. Often I find my first impression changes with time so I went to have another drink on a different day and poured another glass only to find the same old musty aroma and taste with muted vegetal notes. I immediately poured it out and decided not to subject myself to this awful concoction anymore. Whoever allowed this to be released on the market should be fired. I have never before poured out any whiskey, but there has to be a first for everything. Avoid at all cost.

 
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Four Roses Small Batch Select

Being a Four Roses fanboy I was pleased when Four Roses Small Batch Select was announced and even happier when a friend offered me a bottle at his cost. The price point varies, but typically averages $60 per bottle. This Bourbon is 104 proof and despite being 52% alcohol it does not present as hot or solventy. The aroma is somewhat restrained with brown sugar, dark fruit, cinnamon, and light pepper spice. The flavor is more of the same with a light oak presence and hints of leather. The finish fades to black with the same brown sugar, fruit, spice, oak and leather and a very slight post consumption presence of alcohol warmth. Therein lies the rub. While this Bourbon is extremely approachable, it lacks depth which I would expect in a bottle higher than 50 beans. It’s tasty, no one is going to be upset at having a glass, but I wanted more complexity and have to admit to being slightly let down. So if you happen upon this one give it a whirl because we all have different tastes, but be prepared for a good bottle as opposed to one which will blow your socks off.

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