Bottles from Tasteless Tastings Olympics

Tasteless Tastings: Belated Olympic Edition

Welcome to another edition of Tasteless Tastings, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about bourbon.

I’ve been embarrassingly behind on holding this Tasteless Tastings, and I have no one to blame but myself. I’ve had some of these bottles for months, and I’ve tried my hardest not to break into them until I could get some buddies over and do it to it. I invited five friends to join me, and we dove right in, tackling the most in the history of TT. We also had an Olympic theme going and awarded our top 3 with a gold, silver and bronze medal.

So here we are. Without further adieu …

Bottles from Tasteless Tastings Olympics
A stellar lineup indeed.

What are we drinking today?:

Penelope Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is a four-grain bourbon from the new-ish Penelope Bourbon folks, and it’s a blend of three bourbon mash bills sourced from MGP in Indiana. The four grains include corn, wheat, rye and malted barley.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

80 Proof | $34.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: It has a nice nose. I like it! It’s got nice legs, too.

Heather: It’s smooth.

Kat: I like how smooth it is, but nothing really jumps out flavor-wise.

Bar Belle: It sure is a mellow little fellow.

Tonya: It’s light and airy. I could sip on this all night.

Elizabeth: I’m not sure I like the bottle because it looks too much like wine.

Zanne: Yes! It looks like a rosé!

Final thought:

A light and refreshing take on bourbon, this standard Penelope release is definitely a gateway whiskey.

Group Consensus:

Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.


Silver medal

What are we drinking today?:

Five Brothers Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is the newest release from Heaven Hill that pays homage to the five Shapira brothers who founded the company in 1935. It’s a blend of five ages of bourbon ranging from 5 to 9 years old.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

90 Proof | $59.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: The nose is great on this one, but it kind of burnt me a little on first sip.

Bar Belle: That’s because you chugged it! You’re supposed to let it simmer in your mouth, not just swallow it whole!

Elizabeth: You didn’t pour me enough to truly get a taste. Quit being stingy!

Bar Belle: OK, fine! Here’s another pour.

Heather: I enjoy the rich nose on this one. It’s like you’re inside a rick house.

Kat: I’m getting apricot and citrus. It’s nice!

Heather: It’s an easy drinker for sure.

Kat: It really opened up in my mouth and was refreshing going down.

Bar Belle: Nobody say “That’s what she said,” please.

Final thought:

It’s a great sipping bourbon with the quintessential notes of rich caramel, dark chocolate and baked fruit.

Medal Winner!:

Silver — Second Place!


Puncher's Chance bottle
Bourbon or pirate booty?

What are we drinking today?:

Puncher’s Chance Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is a blend of 4-6-year-old Kentucky bourbon and is partly backed by famed sports announcer Bruce Buffer, aka “the voice of mixed martial arts.” We’ll let Buffer explain the name of the product himself:  “A puncher’s chance means that anyone has the potential to succeed, whatever the odds or circumstances, if he or she works for it.”

Give me the nerdy numbers:

90 Proof | $34.99

What do we think?:

Kat: The bottle is not appealing to me. It looks like a rum!

Zanne: It looks like a bottle of Bailey’s Irish Cream!

Elizabeth: It looks like it came off a pirate ship.

Kat: It drinks young.

Zanne: There’s a subtle hint of burnt tire in this.

Bar Belle: I’m detecting some mustiness here.

Heather: It’s like watered down Irish whiskey.

Final thought:

While most in our panel did not prefer this bourbon, that doesn’t mean others won’t enjoy it. It drinks a little young, but there are some who prefer those flavors of green apple and pear, drizzled with some caramel. This is Kentucky bourbon, after all, so it’s got potential to be your everyday drinker. Note: A 21-year-old crashed our tasting session during this pour, and he not only loved Puncher’s Chance, but he said he’d buy it just because of the cool bottle. So there you go.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to get bought by college dudes named Kyle.


What are we drinking today?:

Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is the 10-year-old version of Michter’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon. It was aged in a heat-cycled warehouse and is very sought-after by bourbon aficionados all around the globe.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

94.4 Proof | $150

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: This smells MUCH better than the last one.

Heather: I get cherry up front — definite cherry.

Tonya: It has a nice burn … it’s that Kentucky hug they talk about.

Elizabeth: I like the nose better than the taste. It kinda burns.

Bar Belle: Are we drinking the same thing? This is amazing!

Kat: There’s a nice spice at the end, too.

Zanne: I’d like this by a campfire in the autumn. Where can I get this?

Bar Belle: It’s pretty hard to find unless you get lucky at the distillery downtown.

Zanne: Money can’t buy you love when it comes to bourbon.

Final thought:

With notes of cherry, caramel and spice, it’s everything nice you want in a bourbon. At 10 years old, it’s a solid pour that is worth hunting for.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to marry a millionaire.


What are we drinking today?:

Stellum Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is a brand from the Barrell Craft Spirits that blends barrels of various ages from Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

114.98 Proof | $54.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: This smells like caramel!

Heather: I thought it would taste heavier than it does.

Zanne: Two thumbs up!

Tonya: I just added some water and that really helped me enjoy it more.

Bar Belle: The water really does open it up a bit. It’s nice!

Kat: I could sip on this while I watch my Eagles win this year.

Bar Belle: I’m sorry, did you mean Bengals?

Kat: No. No I didn’t. Are there still Bengals fans?

Bar Belle: Who Dey.

Final thought:

Not too shabby for a new product. This well-rounded bourbon has some bite, but if you can get past that, you’ll be rewarded with delightful flavors of caramel, cinnamon, vanilla and toffee.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to never be single (because it would be great in a cocktail).


Bronze Medal Winner

What are we drinking today?:

Penelope Barrel Strength Bourbon

What the hell is it?:

This is Batch No. 6 that is a barrel-strength version of the Penelope Four Grain. Again, the mash bills come from MGP, but the bourbons have been aged a bit longer, at 3.5-4.5 years. The uncut, unfiltered juice won Double Gold in the 2020 San Francisco World Spirits Awards, and here it took the third-place Bronze Medal.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

115.8 | $57.99

What do we think?:

Elizabeth: It noses well.

Zanne: P does not stand for packaging — I still think it looks too much like a wine bottle.

Elizabeth: Wow! I’m really impressed with the rich caramel and butter notes in this.

Kat: I like this! It’s smooth for being so high in proof.

Heather: I’d even say it’s sweet, with a little smack to the rear on the finish.

Bar Belle: This is quite amazing and another reason why I prefer barrel-strength to, say, like 80 or 90 proof. If I want to add water, that should be my decision.

Final thought:

It’s a very well-balanced, high-proof bourbon that doesn’t feel high proof. With flavors of orange peel, fruit and caramel, this is the perfect bourbon to sip by the bonfire.

Medal Winner!:

Bronze — Third Place!


What are we drinking today?:

Stellum Rye

What the hell is it?:

A project by the Barrell Craft Spirits folks, this one blends rye whiskey barrels from Kentucky, Tennessee and Indiana to pay respect to the tried-and-true Indiana rye whiskey mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

116.24 Proof | $54.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: Wow! I’m getting maple syrup right up front. It’s delightful! Like a bourbon waffle!

Tonya: Whoa … I might set something on fire with this!

Zanne: I’m liking it with a few cubes of ice. It puts out that fire just a bit.

Bar Belle: No ice! Step away from the ice, Zanne!

Kat: This is a great example of a rye whiskey, and even though the bottle also looks like wine, I think it’s sharp.

Final thought:

This tasty little rye snack would make a wonderful treat on a cold night. With hints of maple syrup and brown sugar and a respectable proof of 116, this is a solid choice to add to your bar.

Group Consensus:

Most likely to stay the night.


Gold Medal Winner

What are we drinking today?:

Old Forester Single Barrel Rye

What the hell is it?:

This is the single barrel, barrel-strength edition of the Old Forester Rye Whiskey.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

124 Proof | $79.99

What do we think?:

Kat: I really like this one. Wow!

Zanne: I’m in!

Tonya: It’s smooth, and it’s toying with my tongue … in a good way!

Heather: It’s the Pop Rocks of whiskey!

Bar Belle: Holy wow! You better cash me outside with this one! Is that how you say the phrase?

Elizabeth: Not really, but we’ll let it slide. This whiskey has a wonderful after taste!

Tonya: You get all the flavor up front, and then the heat on the back. It’s a fun spirit.

Final thought:

It’s the Pop Rocks of whiskey. This one has the flavor, the punch and the subtle flavors of a candy factory sprinkled with black pepper. Although we sampled this one last, it was the obvious winner of the night, proving that good things come to those who wait. We want more!

Medal Winner!:

Gold — First Place!

Alcohol Professor screenshot

Alcohol Professor: 8 Newly Released Bourbons You Should Definitely Try

Alcohol Professor screenshot

The assignment: Write about the Great Bourbon Release Season of 2021 and provide some tasting notes.

My response: Do chickens have lips?

I enjoy writing these roundups because they keep me organized and up to date on the latest releases. I try not to make them too boring, because who wants to read about what someone else tastes? Bourbon is subjective, after all.

A few caveats here: Most of these you might not be able to find at your corner liquor store, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try them by the pour at your favorite restaurant, bar or liquor store that offers tastings. Also, samples from each of these eight whiskeys were provided.

There are also many I probably failed to mention, but this category is growing like my waistline during a pandemic.

Here’s a quick excerpt from my article in Alcohol Professor:

It’s as anticipated as the coloring of the trees, the cool, crisp nip in the air and pumpkin spiced lattes. The great bourbon release season is upon us, and this year, for some reason, it felt like it couldn’t get here quick enough. Perhaps we’re all preparing for another global shutdown, but as long as we have some damn fine bourbon to keep us warm and occupied, we’re ready for what’s to come.

Here’s a list of a few anticipated releases these next few months, along with some newbies to the scene that are worth your effort in tracking down. Of course there are more bottles coming out now than we could possibly cover in one article, so just think of it as a buffet of bourbon. And remember the golden rule of buffets: Take all you want but eat all you take.

Sara Havens, AlcoholProfessor.com

READ MORE HERE

Maker's Mark FAE-02 bottle

Maker’s Mark FAE-02 debuts

Maker's Mark FAE-02 bottle
Courtesy of Maker’s Mark

If you’ve been keeping up with the Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series, then you’ll be happy to hear the second FAE release will be available any day now at liquor stores around the state (and beyond).

FAE stands for “fatty acid esters,” and that’s what Maker’s Master of Maturation and Director of Innovation Jane Bowie focused on while coming up with this second iteration of the FAE line. Here’s the piece I wrote about FAE-01 back in March.

If you’re wondering what fatty acids have to do with bourbon, it’s all about the mouthfeel. These are the compounds that make some bourbons thicker and more viscous than others. And I like a thick, creamy bourbon.

So the focus for Bowie in 2021 was on texture. And she and the team split up the experiments with two separate releases — the FAE-01 and now the FAE-02.

For No. 2, the team started with the finishing staves, which were double heat-treated to really bring out the luscious mouthfeel. The staves were put into a fully mature barrel of Maker’s Mark for eight weeks and four days, and then the bourbon rested for a month in a stainless steel tank (thus ending the aging process).

Why let it rest in the tank?

Bowie says she believes this extra time allowed the fatty acids to “come together.”

“I notice the texture on this before the flavor,” Bowie adds. Flavor notes include milk chocolate, caramel and toasted nuts.

Here’s an info graphic showing the differences between 01 and 02:

Maker's info graphic
Courtesy of Maker’s Mark

The Wood Finishing Series is Maker’s way of sharing the story of distilling with its fans. The FAE-02 is the fourth release in the series. It’ll be available soon for a suggested retail price of $59.99.

King of Kentucky label

Long live the King (of Kentucky)!

Step aside, mere mortals, because the King of Kentucky has returned.

You won’t find him holding court on a liquor store shelf, oh no. He’s too in demand for that nonsense. If you’re lucky, you can try him by the pour at your favorite watering hole — but it might cost you a pretty penny and a whole lot more.

King of Kentucky bottle

So who is this king and why should we care?

The King of Kentucky is an annual release by Brown-Forman. It’s a single-barrel expression of older Brown-Forman bourbon. This is the fourth release of the series, and the barrel-strength juice is 14 years old. Master Distiller Chris Morris hand-selected 33 barrels for this 2021 batch. That’s about 2,700 bottles.

“This year’s release comes from two production days — 14 years ago — but a mere 12 days apart,” said Morris in a news release. “Given the fact that each bottling is of a single barrel, the very slight difference in age is undetectable. All the barrels that were selected for this year are of the highest quality.”

The brand’s name is a throwback to a popular bourbon from 1881. Brown-Forman acquired the rights to the name and brand in 1936.

King of Kentucky retails for a suggested price of $249.99, but again, it’s going to be damn near impossible to hunt one down. It’ll range in proof from 125-135 and will only be available in Kentucky, Ohio and Illinois.

I was fortunate to get a small sample of this year’s King, and I can assure you it’s worth all the hype — and more.

Of course the color is a gorgeous deep amber given its age and the fact that it comes from a heat-cycled warehouse. On the nose, I get raisin and fig, with a little bit of maple syrup for good measure.

And after a sip — wow! It reminds me of those chocolate-covered modjeskas they sell at the Old Forester gift shop. It’s rich caramel, milk chocolate, a hint of that Brown-Forman banana and even a little toasted coconut. The finish lingers, reminding me of taking a bite of a caramel apple but getting more caramel than apple — as was my goal always.

Bottom line, the King is worth the hunt. This is the bourbon legends are made of.

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch

Four Roses 2021 LE Small Batch will be highest proof yet

Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch
The 2021 Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch is coming soon …

During a Zoom press conference Monday, Four Roses Master Distiller walked me and fellow spirits writers through a quick tasting of the 2021 Limited Edition Small Batch, which will be released in late September in select stores and through an online lottery system on the Four Roses website.

The annual release is highly anticipated in the bourbon world, and this iteration is no joke. At 114.2 proof, it’s the highest proof yet to be released — and it’s quite tasty, as you might have guessed.

Elliott described his process of assembling the LE Small Batch. He explained he basically looks at previous releases and sets out to evoke a different flavor profile. Since Four Roses uses two different yeasts and creates 10 distinct bourbon recipes, it’s a lot of trial and error since he’s working with mature barrels that are usually distinct in various flavors.

For all the Four Roses geeks out there, here is the specific blend for the 2021 release:

  • 16-year-old OESV: 58%
  • 12-year-old OESK: 23%
  • 16-year-old OESV: 13%
  • 14-year-old OBSQ: 6%

The robust bourbon packs quite a punch, especially on the first sip. But once your tastebuds settle down, you can truly experience the nuance of baked fruit, caramel, chocolate, baking spices and even a dash of cinnamon on the finish.

“Hand-selecting the barrels to make up our annual limited edition bottling is one of my most rewarding experiences each year,” Elliott said in a news release. “The ability to work with 10 bourbon recipes each with distinct characteristics opens up endless possibilities. This year’s release brings a proof higher than any of the past Limited Editions, creating robust complexity and layers of flavors resulting from the variety of constituent batches and recipes.”

Let’s just face it: Four Roses can really do no wrong, especially when they’re using mature barrels for limited edition products like this one. If someone were to lock me inside one of their rick houses, I’d be happy as a clam sampling through their inventory like I was at Costco.

Signups for the bottle lottery will start today and continue through Sept. 12. You can only enter once, and if you win, you’ll get the right to purchase the bottle for a suggested retail price of $150. Only 14,500 bottles will be released

An example of a Louisville bar

Changing last-call hours is a knee-jerk reaction that’ll stifle Louisville bars

An example of a Louisville bar
The proposed amendment would force Louisville bars to close at 2 a.m. instead of 4 a.m. | Photo by Sara Havens

On Aug. 23, Louisville Metro Council member Cassie Chambers Armstrong filed an ordinance that proposes a change to alcohol sales in Louisville from 4 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Notice I said Louisville — meaning the entire city and not just one neighborhood.

According to Chambers Armstrong, the ordinance would help cut down violence that has recently occurred in her Highlands neighborhood — because all bad things happen between 2 and 4 a.m., right? The ordinance would apply to all of Louisville’s bars, not just the Highlands.

As you know, I am a champion for our vibrant bar scene and believe it’s just as important to our city as bourbon, basketball, tops chefs and, yes, even the Derby. Our 4 a.m. last call is proof that our city thrives long after midnight, and it serves a purpose for those working third-shift jobs and in the service industry, both of which are the lifeblood of our city. 

I believe this new ordinance would further harm our bar scene, which is still recovering from the 2020 pandemic shutdown, and punish all for the acts of some. I’ve talked with a handful of bar owners who say a healthy amount of their daily sales comes between 2 and 4 a.m., the time when folks in the restaurant industry get off work and have cash to burn while they wind down from their workday. 

Contrary to popular belief (most likely from those who haven’t stepped foot in a bar after midnight in years), most late-night drinkers are not delinquents, rowdy frat boys or gun slingers looking for trouble. They’re people from all walks of life looking to unwind, dance, play pool, catch up with buddies or bond over brews. They’re also tourists who have flocked to this trending Southern city in search of all things bourbon, including this immaculate bourbon culture we’ve created through our nightlife scene. 

I feel like the proposed ordinance was a knee-jerk reaction to an uptick in violence in Louisville, but our small businesses shouldn’t be the ones that get punished. In fact, many bars hire extra staff to man the doors and check IDs, and they truly value the safety of their customers and surrounding neighbors. I know this doesn’t apply to all bars, and the establishments that continue to have issues should be monitored and reprimanded. 

The unfortunate facts are these: our Louisville Metro Police Department is dealing with a staffing shortage, and violence after the pandemic is up 21% nationwide. Cities all over the country are dealing with the same issues, but the good news is there are opportunities for creative thinking on combating violence. 

Perhaps it involves more street lighting, more patrolling, more security staffing, more awareness and more conversations. Of course the gun control issue can’t be ignored here either, but that political hot-button topic won’t be changed anytime soon locally or nationally.

But back to the issue at hand. It’s not right that an industry built into the fabric of our city must suffer because of several recent incidents. Unfortunately crime will continue to happen at all hours of the day, not just between 2 and 4 a.m.

Louisville’s late-night hours should be a point of pride, helping us stand out from other nearby cities like Indianapolis, Cincinnati and even Lexington. Our nightlife scene attracts people from near and far because it is unparalleled in this area of the United States. 

It may not be your cup of tea to sip an Old Fashioned at a neighborhood pub at 3 a.m., but that doesn’t mean you can take that right away from others. Let’s figure out a solution without penalizing our small businesses.  

Freddie Johnson at Green Hill Cemetery

Famed Buffalo Trace tour guide Freddie Johnson champions for Green Hill Cemetery

Freddie Johnson at Green Hill Cemetery
Freddie Johnson at Green Hill Cemetery | Photo by Sara Havens

It was a bit unusual for a group of reporters to be huddled together underneath a tent on a hot and humid August morning at the Green Hill Cemetery in Frankfort, Ky., but if Freddie Johnson is involved, I’ll go anywhere.

Johnson is the legendary tour guide at Buffalo Trace Distillery who has worked there since 2002, and his father and grandfather before him worked there as well. He’s not only won numerous industry awards — including being inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame in 2018 — but he also makes friends with every single person lucky enough to be on a Freddie Johnson-led tour.

Kentucky African American Civil War Memorial
The Kentucky African American Civil War Memorial at Green Hill Cemetery | Photo by Sara Havens

He’s personable, his passion for the industry is unwavering and he’s so down-to-earth and approachable that you’ll want to be besties after spending even five minutes with the man.

But back to the cemetery. Johnson has been on the Board of Volunteers of the once-forgotten Green Hill Cemetery for nearly a decade, and he’s vowed to bring the historic grounds into the 21st century by helping raise funds, installing much needed infrastructure and garnering support.

The cemetery was established in 1865 and features the Kentucky African American Civil War Memorial, a 10-foot-tall limestone pillar that bears the names of 142 veterans of Kentucky’s United States Colored Troops who fought in the Civil War. The monument was dedicated on July 4, 1924, by the Women’s Relief Corps.

The cemetery is in dire need for community support, and its board has worked tirelessly to do what it can for the hundreds of tombstones that have been damaged, lost, buried or stolen.

Freddie Gets a Check

Freddie Johnson with the check
Johnson and the board of Green Hill Cemetery got a check for nearly $12,000 from Sazerac from the sales of Freddie’s Sodas. | Photo by Sara Havens

On Tuesday morning, the Sazerac company, owners of Buffalo Trace, presented Johnson and the board with a check for $11,872. The money came directly from the sale of every case of Freddie’s Old Fashioned Soda (Root Beer, Ginger Ale and Ginger Beer) sold at the distillery.

Johnson and members of the board were thrilled beyond belief at the amount of money they’ll now have to get started on the many projects needed to be done. He spoke about the project and what it means to him and his family — Johnson has several family members buried at Green Hill — and also what it means to Frankfort and beyond.

Johnson said he’d like this cemetery to be another reason why people visit Frankfort, and his goals include locating lost graves, indexing the entire cemetery and creating an online site where people can search for their ancestors, adding several light fixtures to keep out vandals, and restoring deteriorated tombstones, among many other goals.

Johnson was appreciative of the funds and the attention, and he says his goal is to leave this cemetery in a much better shape before he leaves this earth. Mapping the cemetery will be his biggest achievement, he says, because many families in the area have stopped coming to visit because they can’t find their family’s tombstones or markers.

Johnson and the board plan to work with bourbon archeologist Nick Laracuente to help with the project.

Maker's Mark DNA Project

Maker’s Mark shares its entry proof experiment with DNA Project bottles

Maker's Mark DNA Project
Maker’s Mark experiments with barrel entry proof. | Courtesy

Maker’s Mark has been doing some cool stuff with special releases lately — for a recap, check out my pieces on the Wood-Finishing Series here and here — but this one truly takes the cake for anyone interested in the science behind bourbon.

The new Entry Proof Experiment will hit shelves later this month — you’ll most likely find it at the distillery gift shop, and if you’re a member of The Whisky Drop* Maker’s club, you’ll be getting the bottles in the next two installments. Basically, there are four bottles in this release, and all four come from an experiment held at the distillery in 2013.

To see how much impact barrel entry proof has on the taste profile of their bourbon, the folks at Maker’s Mark entered the bourbon into barrels at four different proof levels: 110 (which is what Maker’s has used since the beginning but is considered low in the industry), 115, 120 and 125.

For a quick explanation, entry proof is the proof of the distillate before it goes into a barrel. Many distilleries opt to put it in around 125 and then add water when it’s done aging, thus saving money on the amount of barrels needed. Some choose a lower number — like 110 — which was more common before and right after Prohibition because some believe by adding the water up front, it produces a better-tasting, nuanced bourbon.

Barrel entry proof is just one of the many bourbon-making components that can be manipulated to produce a different result. There’s no right or wrong number here — by legal definition, you can’t enter it into a barrel higher than 125 proof — it’s just the preference of the distillery and its master distiller as to when they want to add the water (before or after it ages).

So anyway, Maker’s decided to play around with the four different entry proofs, and they figured they’d let their fans get a taste of the experiment as well. The cool thing about these four bottles is that the age of the whiskey inside is about 8 years old — definitely older than the standard Maker’s Mark. So just taking that into account, it’s a rare release you’ll want to have in your collection. Plus, these are bottled at barrel-proof, so here’s your chance to try 8-year-old Maker’s Mark at cask strength!

Maker's Mark poster
With each purchase, you’ll get this custom-made poster from Hound Dog Press. | Courtesy

I was invited to a media tasting and explanation of the DNA Project, and I was blown away by the completely different flavors each sample produced. Even someone new to bourbon would be able to tell the differences between each sample.

I was partial to the first sample — 110 — as was the majority of the group. The flavors were more rich, and that familiar Maker’s Mark mouthfeel was present from the first sip to the last.

The other three expressions had some funky flavors — the 120 proof even had strong pineapple notes, which is crazy — and it was easy to see why the founders of Maker’s Mark chose 110 and have stuck to that ever since, even though it ultimately costs them more money.

What this experiment shows is, yes, barrel entry proof does indeed have a pronounced effect on taste profiles. And the best news is that you can try it for yourself.

Maker’s suggests buying the entire four-bottle set (at $99 per bottle), but they will also be sold individually at the distillery and various bars and liquor stores in the area. The bottles are 750ml, and with a purchase of the set, you also get handmade posters from Louisville’s Hound Dog Press, which partnered with Maker’s for this release.

There are only 2,400 sets available, and the release is staying in Kentucky. Each poster will be numbered to match your bottles. Look for these later this August and tell me which one is your favorite.

*Speaking of The Whisky Drop, I hear they’re expanding the membership to more folks in Kentucky and Washington, D.C., so if you want to sign up for that, click here. It’s a membership service where you get two special bottles in the mail every couple months or so.

Old Forester 117 Series Warehouse K

Old Forester serves up another 117 Series, plus Parker’s Heritage 2021 details

Get ready to loosen up those purse strings, y’all, because the bourbon releases will be coming at us full throttle in the next few weeks, leading up to September, aka National Bourbon Heritage Month. Here are two announcements to wet your whistle.

Old Forester 117 Series: Warehouse K

Old Forester 117 Series Warehouse K

Lucky for us, we don’t have to wait until the fall for this one. The second iteration of Old Forester‘s 117 Series will be out Thursday, Aug. 12 — that’s TOMORROW, folks! — at the downtown distillery and your favorite liquor store (if you’re lucky).

The name is “Warehouse K,” and it features a blend of barrels aged on different floors from the famed warehouse. Supposedly, Warehouse K produces some exceptional bourbon and is the stuff of legends among bourbon geeks, similar to the Four Roses Tier 6 lore.

Constructed in 1953, Warehouse K is one of Brown-Forman’s heat-cycling rick houses and is the place where Old Forester plucks most of its Single Barrel expressions from.

“Warehouse K has gained a cult following among bourbon connoisseurs,” said Master Taster Jackie Zykan in a news release. “This blend is a representation across multiple floors and locations within this warehouse, giving a more holistic example of the profile its barrels yield.” 

The 117 Series Warehouse K will be bottled at 110 proof and retail for $49.99 for a 375 ml bottle. The previous expression — “High Angels’ Share Barrels” — was also 110 proof and $49.99. The bottles will go on sale Thursday, Aug. 12, starting at 10 a.m. at the distillery.

Here are the tasting notes according to the news release:

Color: Rich honey.

Aroma: On the nose, creamy chocolate, caramel, and brown sugar lead, with a hint of golden raisin and a foreshadowing of the pepper the finish will unveil. 

Taste: The palate brings with it a full-bodied and rich viscosity, peripheral spice, and a touch of black cherry alongside bitter molasses. 

Finish: The robust yet balanced spice finish completes the story of the well-known complexity which is the K warehouse. 

Parker’s Heritage 2021: 11-Year-Old Heavy Char Wheat Whiskey

Parker's Heritage 2021

For this annual release, you’ll have to wait until September. But I’ve got all the sordid details!

For the 15th edition of Heaven Hill‘s Parker’s Heritage, named in honor of the late Master Distiller Parker Beam, the company is going with an 11-Year-Old Heavy Char Wheat Whiskey.

The bottles come from a batch of 75 barrels that were charred to a level 5 (standard bourbons use a level 3), which will, according to the news release, show how a more intense char allows the liquid to penetrate deeper into each barrel stave and the effects on the resulting flavor.

Count me in! The mash bill consists of 51% wheat, 37% corn and 12% malted barley.

“The Parker’s Heritage Collection is a testament to the distilling legacy at Heaven Hill Distillery and the detailed attention each step of the process receives,” said Susan Wahl, Vice President, American Whiskies at Heaven Hill, in the news release. “We are excited to release the third mashbill in this heavy char series, showcasing the consistency of quality throughout our innovation pipeline. It is in tribute to Parker and his legacy that we continue to support ALS research and patient care with this collection.”

Each year, Heaven Hill donates a portion of the proceeds from each bottle sold to the ALS Association. So far, they’ve donated more than $1 million toward ALS research and will continue raising funds with this bottle.

The Parker’s Heritage will be released in September and retails for a suggested price of $139.99.

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond Fall 2021 release

Old Fitzgerald BIB fall edition will be 11 years old

I expect this news release to be one of many that’ll soon flood my inbox — because we’re officially less than a month away from the big Bourbon Release Season! Oh happy days!

Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond Fall 2021 release
Behold!

The next Old Fitzgerald Bottled-in-Bond release will be 11 years old and — as always, since it’s a Bottled-in-Bond product — 100 proof. This is the second time one of the seasonal Old Fitz releases has been 11, the first being the spring of 2018.

If you’re unfamiliar, Heaven Hill releases the fancy Old Fitz BIB decanters every spring and fall, and each iteration differs in age. This wheated bourbon meets the strict requirements of Bottled-in-Bond: the product of a single distillery from a single distilling season, aged a minimum of four years, and bottled at 100 proof or 50% alcohol by volume.

It’ll retail for $110 if you’re lucky to find one in a liquor store or at the distillery. These are highly coveted bottles, of course, so they’ll disappear quickly — like most bottles these days.

If you’d just like to try it, though, you can probably find it behind the bar at places like Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen, Taj, Evergreen Liquors (go check out their new NuLu location!), Westport Whiskey & Wine, the new Frankfort Avenue Liquors & Wine, Taste Fine Wine & Bourbons, Justin’s House of Bourbon, and many, many more.

I don’t have the exact date this will be released, but I’ll update this post if I get it. Happy hunting!