Some time back I happened to spy Compass Box Artist Blend stilling on a shelf in NC and decided to give it a whirl. If memory serves it as about 44 beans which isn’t terribly expensive for a 43% ABV blended Scotch. I’ve liked most of the Compass Box offerings I have tried so I was hoping this one wouldn’t disappoint. The aroma was very fruity with apples and pears initially greeting the nose followed by sweet honey and just a hint of black pepper. The flavor was once again pear and apple with honey, but also supported a light caramel, black pepper, and leather backbone. The finish faded into dryness, but the sweet impression lingered into the aftertaste and the warming post consumption was pleasant, but seemed higher than the alcohol level. As much as I want to proclaim this isn’t worth the price of admission, I keep coming back to a complexity in the flavor which makes it worth every penny. The bottom line is this is a tasty bottle, and I’d likely snag one again if I run into it at an attractive price. Pick one up and let me know what you think.
I went for a long time and was never able to snag a Larceny Barrel Proof Bourbon, then I happened upon an A121 while out and about. I’m not sure what the price of admission was at the time, but currently in NC it’s 60 bones. The A121 Batch had a proof of 114.8 and an ABV of 57.48. I’d made comments about Larceny Bourbon back in 2013 and liked the 92 proof which only cost me 15 bucks because I had a 10 dollar rebate. Sadly no rebate was available for the big brother Barrel Proof bottle, but it didn’t disappoint. The aroma was filled with brown sugar, wafts of alcohol, leather, cinnamon, and sawdust from cut dried oak. The flavor was delicious with brown sugar, prunes, light leather, cinnamon, black pepper, oak, and a reserved alcohol flavor which only led to additional complexity. The finish was subdued brown sugar and cinnamon with reserved alcohol warmth which trailed off as the flavors melded and faded into the aftertaste. I typically find wheated Bourbons to be boring and hesitate to purchase them. This is the exception to that rule. It’s a wheater worth the price of admission. If you run into a bottle snag it and enjoy!
I had the chance to snag a local group’s New Riff Single Barrel Bourbon pick. I had seen plenty of rave reviews so when the opportunity arose I figured why not get something which we do not see offered in NC. The bottle and label both say barrel proof, but at 105.2 proof it seems a tad light to me. This was barrel number 4556 which was distilled on 8.1.17 and bottled on 11.3.21. The price of admission was on the steep side at 80 bones. I typically reserve those price points for known quantities, but again, there has been quite a bit of New Riff hype/love so I figured I would take the chance. The aroma had a nice pepper spice, cinnamon, cherries, oranges, brown sugar, and oak. The flavor was restrained with cherries, brown sugar, honey, black pepper, cinnamon, oranges, and light oak. The finish was quite nice with oranges, light black pepper, brown sugar, and oak with hints of leather into the aftertaste. The alcohol was very restrained and faded pleasantly as it made its presence known with warming post consumption. I gotta admit this is a nice glass of Bourbon, but I’m struggling to decide if it is worth the price of admission. When I check some online pricing all over the place, but some with it at a 50 buck price point. At that price it is a no brainer, but it could be I was paying some mule fees. Anyway, I’ll keep my eye out for a reasonably priced bottle of New Riff in the future. If you find a bottle at a bargain, do not hesitate to pick it up.
A local group got the chance to select a Clyde May’s 5 Year Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey, and while I don’t remember the entire story behind this bottle, it was produced by MGP to Clyde’s recipe of 75% Corn, 21% Rye and 4% Barley. This bottle was barrel number 171 barreled on 04/18/2016 and bottled on 07/27/2021 at 102 proof. I picked this bottle up during a bottle signing event so L.C. May signed the bottle. I don’t recall the exact price, but want to say it was around 50 bucks. The aroma exhibited a powerful oak presence, brown sugar, citrus, cinnamon, and black pepper with an alcohol note. The flavor had more strong oak, brown sugar, cinnamon, black pepper, light citrus, prune, raisin, and leather once again coupled to alcohol. The finish faded with brown sugar, cinnamon, light black pepper, and dried cherries. The alcohol warmth post consumption was notable and pleasant. You never forget with this one it was barreled in oak and contained alcohol. Despite that strong presence it was quite complex and decidedly delicious. I would not hesitate to try another Clyde May’s 5 Year pick if I ran into it, so if you see one, snag it and give it a whirl.
While I like Scotch, often the price point of a Single Malt can be off-putting. Also with Scotch, I tend to tread lightly on the peaty bottles from Islay although I still enjoy them. When I finally spotted a bottle of Ardbeg Wee Beastie with a 45 buck price point, how could I say no? This is an anomaly for both it’s price point and it’s age being aged only 5 years. It rings in at 47.4% ABV and is not chill filtered. Upon initial opening my first thought is this is pure ashtray. I did a complete 180 a few days later when I poured another glass. The harsh ashy nature had matured into quite a nice drop. The aroma is filled with peat, chocolate, black pepper, apples, brown sugar, and leather in a briny backbone. The flavor was similar with peat, black pepper, apple, low brown sugar, leather, brine and chocolate coupled to a notable alcohol flavor. The finish goes pleasantly just dry with lasting chocolate, brine, leather, and brown sugar into the fading peat aftertaste. This truly is a stellar bottle of Scotch with a fantastic price point. If you haven’t tried it, you should. Wee Beastie will always be a welcomed bottle moving forward.
Some time back I picked up a bottle of Rebel Distiller’s Collection Bourbon Whiskey which was selected by a local group. There isn’t much info to be found about these picks, but all Rebel Distiller’s Collection picks are 113 proof. After the Ezra Brooks DC from Lux Row I had high hopes for this pick. What I forgot was Rebel is a wheater and I typically find them to be a bit pedestrian and boring. Of course I opened up the bottle and let it do the talking, but as I feared it showed it’s wheat side and just didn’t blow my socks off. Luckily the price of admission was only 40 beans and the Bourbon was solid so no worries. The aroma presented as sweet with brown sugar, raisins, and honey coupled to cherries and hints of orange citrus. The flavor was slightly subdued with brown sugar, raisins, slight hints of leather, very slight black pepper, and orange citrus. There was a light alcohol flavor which was well restrained for a 56.5% ABV Bourbon. The finish had light citrus, leather, and black pepper with hints of alcohol fading pleasantly into the aftertaste. The only strong presence of alcohol was in the post consumption warming. This actually was a nice bottle and a good pick, but I’m just not a fan of wheat Bourbon. If you spot one of these out and about it’s certainly worth your time to pick up at this attractive price point, but I know for my tastes it isn’t one I will chase.
I happened to receive a bottle of Blade And Bow Bourbon Whiskey as a gift which I selected so I was a little reluctant to post a review. The bottle is normally $45 at NCABC, and since I had never tried it I was truly excited to give it a whirl. At 91 proof I didn’t expect to have a strong alcohol presence, but I was expecting it to be easy to consume. The aroma was fruity with apples, cherries, almonds, and sherry with a light bit of pepper spice lurking in the background with just a hint of oak. The flavor was similarly subdued with cherries, light apple, almonds, light oak and leather, sherry, and slight hints of black pepper. The finish was just dry with lasting light pepper and oak into the aftertaste. Alcohol never played a part in the flavor, but there was a slight post consumption warming. It was easy to drink, but it was also quite boring. I was ultimately glad I received it as a gift rather than shelling out my own cash. At this price point there are bourbons which are much more complex and flavorful for the same price or less. So for me this is a one and done. I doubt I will buy another bottle unless I see some people rave about newer batches being stellar. Sorry folks, this one is a pass.
I ran into a bottle of Ezra Brooks Distiller’s Collection Bourbon Whiskey picked by a local ABC, and with a price of admission of only 35 bucks I couldn’t pass it up. There really isn’t much info online about the Distiller’s Collection, but all the Ezra Brooks are 107 proof. Often with a pick you are looking at a singular entity and relying upon whomever made the pick. If you are lucky you can find a group which aligns with your palate, but often it can be the luck of the draw. In this case I was a lucky winner. The aroma was nicely complex with cinnamon and black pepper most notably coupled to brown sugar, leather, sherry, and cherries. The flavor was also complex and presented with brown sugar, sherry, cherries, light presence of oak, more cinnamon, and hints of black pepper. The finish was nicely sweet and the alcohol warming post consumption was pleasant and lasting. Alcohol played a role throughout, but was never overpowering or unexpected. This was a fantastic bottle for only 35 beans. If you happen to see this Gibsonville pick, be sure to pick one up. I know I will likely snag these wherever I see them in hopes they all present with this much complexity and flavor.
Was looking for a Rye and noticed Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Old Rye was on sale awhile back for $35, so I figured why not give it a whirl. At 90 proof I did not expect this to be a barn burner, rather a daily drinker. The aroma was rye with honeysuckle, vanilla, and cinnamon. The flavor was more honeysuckle, cinnamon, a hint of black pepper, vanilla, light leather, and of course a light rye spice. The finish was black pepper with cinnamon and vanilla fading into the aftertaste. The alcohol only appeared post consumption and reminded you this is an alcoholic spirit. It was not overdone, but at the same time was only mildly restrained. As with all the Russell’s Reserve products this was delicious, approachable, and affordable. Don’t hesitate to buy this rye. While it won’t blow your socks off with complexity, it will scratch that itch for a nice Rye Whiskey.
I happened upon Smoke Wagon Small Batch Bourbon at the store and decided to bring it home based on the hype I’ve seen. It wasn’t exactly bargain basement pricing at 56 beans for this 100 proof Bourbon. This is typically in a dark bottle, but this came in a clear bottle with a gold label. The back of the label explains they ran out of the dark amber glass and this “is not limited nor special.” We’ll circle back to a part of that statement later in this blog post. The aroma was caramel, brown sugar, leather, oak, cherries, and nuts. The flavor was spicy black pepper, brown sugar, caramel, oak, leather, and cherries. The finish was oak tannin and leather with black pepper and a back of the throat alcohol presence. The aftertaste had a long lasting black pepper and alcohol note. While this isn’t limited, as they stated it also isn’t special. In fact it’s almost pedestrian. It might be worth 40 bucks, but certainly is not worth the 56 buck price of admission. I’m glad I didn’t exert any extra energy to find this bottle. I might try the other Smoke Wagon variants if I run into them, but I won’t go out of my way to try to find them to bring home.