Old Elk Single Barrel Cask Strength Picks

Our local Bourbon group picked two barrels of Old Elk which were the first Old Elk Single Barrel Cask Strength bottles distributed in NC. One barrel was affectionately named “First In Flight” and was 108.2 proof while the second barrel was dubbed “Second To None” and was 106.9 proof. The price point was $61 for each bottle including taxes. I was excited to try the Old Elk Single Barrel since the standard offering in NC is blended. Another reason for excitement is their Master Distiller, Greg Metze, was previously the distiller at MWGP. Readers should be familiar with MWGP as many sourced Bourbons and Ryes originate at the Indiana distillery. The bottles were ultra cool with the custom labels and stoppers which listed the group name. My personal preference was Second To None over First In Flight and while I didn’t take notes on the flavor, it was filled with all the standard attributes of oak, brown sugar, light spice, and restrained alcohol despite the higher proofs. I would have preferred a bit more complexity and a slightly lower proof, but they were not my picks. I tend to gravitate to 100 proof Bourbons and these did exhibit a bit more alcohol than my preference and I’m not inclined to drink with ice or a splash anymore so I only tried them neat. As an experiment I mixed the two to see the result and still preferred Second To None. They were decidedly different in flavor with First In Flight being more restrained and having a lighter color. I’m still trying to decide if the price point was just a bit much, but to have a couple of the first bottles in NC it was worth the price of admission.


J.W. Dant Bottled In Bond

J.W. Dant is a special order item in NC and until recently was only available if an ABC Board decided to buy a case or you purchased a case of the Bourbon. It’s not much of a stretch to purchase a case when it rings in at less than $13 per bottle, but when it’s an unknown quantity purchasing 12 bottles it a tough row to hoe. Anyway, the Angier ABC Board decided it was no problem to buy a case and sell it one bottle at a time and I was lucky enough to snag one from them. This Bourbon is a rye-based Heaven Hill product which is Bottle In Bond. The aroma presents the rye spice, with oak, brown sugar, pepper, cherries, and light wafts of alcohol. The flavor is light with rye, brown sugar, oak, cherries, slight pepper, and a light lasting alcohol flavor. The finish leaves rye and brown sugar with a definite alcohol warming post consumption. While tasty, the Bourbon is not overly complex. Having a bottle at the ready would always be a wise decision at this price point. I’ve seen some mixed reviews, probably the ones looking down the nose are from snobs who aren’t willing to give an inexpensive Bourbon a fair shake. This one isn’t overly complex, but is quite tasty and with such an affordable price point you should give it a whirl!


Knappogue Castle 12 Year Old Single Malt Irish Whiskey

When Knappogue Castle 12 Year went on sale in NC I picked up a bottle. At 40 beans it was a bit pricey for Irish Whiskey, but it was also single malt so I figured why not.  The triple distilled whiskey is aged for 12 years in Bourbon casks and it is a sourced whiskey, but a brief search did not yield the origin. The aroma was filled with estery banana, pepper, malt, and whifts of light leather. The flavor had more banana, candy sweetness, light pepper, honeysuckle, tropical fruits, and a lasting light spice impression. The finish was tropical with honeysuckle, low alcohol, and light spice. While tasty the money juice character was far too strong for it to be one of my favorites. Had this rolled in at 10 bucks lower I might be more enchanted, but at the purchased price point there are other Irish offerings which best this hands down. If you are looking to try all the Irish Whiskeys you can then certainly give this one a whirl, otherwise the price of admission is too high for this whiskey.


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.

Old Scout

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.


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.


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.


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!


-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.


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!