Tasteless Tastings bottles

Tasteless Tastings: Summer 2020, The Quarantine 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 said sample.

This month’s gathering was rather limited, since we’re in the middle of a pandemic and all. But rest assured, we all stayed 6 feet apart, except when they wanted seconds, and then it was more like 12 feet. Let’s get to it …

Tasteless Tastings bottles

The fearsome fivesome. | Photo by Sara Havens

What Are We Drinking Today?: 

Rolling Fork Rum

 

What the hell is it?:

After an unfortunate (but delicious) mistake, the Louisville guys behind Rolling Fork Spirits have finally come out with the product they envisioned for their brand: Rolling Fork Rum. This small batch release features 11-year-old rum from El Salvador that has been finished in four different casks: bourbon, rye whiskey, port and sherry.

After spending about two years hanging out in these barrels in Kentucky, Turner Wathen and Jordan Morris mingled them together to create this flavorful, whiskey-tinged rum.

 

Give me the nerdy numbers:

110 proof, 11-year-old El Salvador rum finished in used bourbon, rye, port and sherry barrels. Retails for about $85-$95.

 

What do we think?:

Rolling Fork Rum bottleBritany: It smells like high school, when we used to drink Bacardi 151.

Miriam: There goes my nose hairs.

Tracy: Starts out smooth and then … whoosh!

Britany: It’s got sort of a tropical note flavor on the tongue.

Bar Belle: I’m getting banana and vanilla. It’s quite smooth and goes down easy.

Kelly: It’s hot and it burns all the way down.

Bar Belle: That’s because you’re a lightweight.

Katie: My throat is numb! But it’s good. I don’t have thoughts. It’s good.

Tracy: Tastes like a snickerdoodle. It’s cinnamon, or maybe that’s the explosion in the back.

Tasters add ice to samples …

Britany: Now that the ice is in it, it’s buttery. I want it in pudding!

Tracy: Like a good butterscotch. It’s porch-sippin’ rum.

Britany: It’s like you still had bourbon in the bottom in your glass and someone poured rum in.

Miriam: It’s still punching me in the nose.

Kelly: I’d put it with ginger ale. Or Coke.

 

Would you quarantine with this spirit?

Tracy: Yes! I would definitely quarantine with this.

Britany: It would definitely brighten my mood. I wouldn’t use it for disinfectant.

Bar BelleThis is a bourbon drinker’s rum. Of course I’d quarantine with it! I bet it does dirty things in a cocktail. Bring on the pineapple!

Miriam: Yes, I like it. Maybe with ginger ale?

Kelly: Sure. To be fair, though, I’d quarantine with anything.

Katie: I would for sure. I like the bottle, too.

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What Are We Drinking Today?: 

Buzzard’s Roost Single Barrel Straight Rye Whiskey

 

What the hell is it?:

Buzzard’s Roost is owned and operated by my buddy Jason Brauner, who also owns Bourbon’s Bistro in Louisville. Jason has been a bourbon connoisseur long before bourbon was hip, and I truly believe he was one of the driving forces behind the big bourbon boom of today, especially in Kentucky.

Jason loves bourbon so much, he decided to release his own brand last year, and it has garnered great reviews and accolades — including recently winning a gold medal in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition for this Single Barrel Rye Whiskey.

Basically, Jason purchases fully mature bourbon from various brokers (Kentucky and Indiana juice), and then he works his magic in the finishing process, adding that bourbon to new, sometimes toasted barrels.

(I did not tell the tasters that I personally know Jason because, you know, ethics.)

 

Give me the nerdy numbers:

105 proof, 3 years old. Retails for about $80.

 

What do we think?:

Buzzard's Roost bottleBritany: Oooh, it’s spicy. My tongue is tingly.

Bar Belle: I’m getting a lot of black pepper. Wow! It kinda reminds me of a morning muffin that is still warm from being in the oven, and the butter just melts right on top. 

Tracy: This is quite nice. It’s fire — in a good way.

Miriam: There goes my nose hairs again!

Kelly: Mmmm, now this doesn’t suck.

Katie: This makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside, like a liquid Snuggie.

Tasters add ice …

Tracy: The ice mellows it out a bit, but it’s still spicy. This would make a great winter drink, sitting by the fire, curled up with a book.

Britany: Curled up with your kitties!

Tracy: Even better.

Bar Belle: I don’t understand you cat people.

Miriam: A-chew!

 

Would you quarantine with this spirit?

Tracy: I would quarankeep it!

Britany: I like this. Yes!

Bar Belle: Yes, it’s so smooth and sweet, yet packs a punch. I need a good punch during quarantine.

Miriam: Absolutely!

Kelly: It’s peppery and hot, so yes, definitely!

Katie: Sure, rye not?

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What Are We Drinking Today?: 

Larceny Barrel Proof B520

 

What the hell is it?:

This is the second release in the Barrel Proof line for this wheated bourbon made by Heaven Hill.

 

Give me the nerdy numbers:

122.2 proof, 6-8 years old, non-chill filtered. Retails for around $50.

 

What do we think?:

Larceny Barrel Proof bottleBritany: Ouch! It hurts! Right up the nose!

Kelly: It does hit the nose.

Tracy: It started off smooth and then — BLAM!

Miriam: I’m not even going to dip my toes in the pool.

Bar Belle: It’s not bad for being 122 proof. I can still taste the nuances in this wheated bourbon. This is 100% wheat heat!

Katie: I’d do it if I had to, but I don’t want to keep drinking it.

Britany: I like it better when it’s completely out of my mouth.

Tracy: That’s what she said!

Katie: It smelled like it was going to be sweet, and it wasn’t. Tricky little shit.

Tasters add ice …

Tracy: Even with the ice, it’s more harsh than the other two. Now for a disinfectant, this could be it!

Britany: Better with ice for sure. Compared to the others, it was drastically different with water.

 

Would you quarantine with this spirit?

Britany: As a disinfectant, yes. It is not even better than Bud Light.

Kelly: If it was my only option, I’d drink it.

Tracy: As disiectant, too. You’re gonna kill all the germs with this.

Katie: If I had to. Not by choice. But I’m not going to quarantine without a drink.

Bar Belle: Yes, I think it’s quite tasty. I might save it for the bad days to instantly lift my mood.

Britany: They should change the name Larceny to Arsony. 

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What Are We Drinking Today?: 

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof B520

 

What the hell is it?:

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof is an uncut small batch of 12-year-old bourbon bottled straight from the barrel. This season’s release comes in at a stout 127.2 proof.

 

Give me the nerdy numbers:

127.2 proof, 12 years old, non-chill filtered. Retails for around $70.

 

What do we think?:

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof bottleKatie: That’s much smoother. But there’s an afterburn.

Britany: There’s definitely an afterburn, a front burn, a side burn …

Kelly: This is way better than the last one!

Bar Belle: Even though it’s a higher proof?

Kelly: Yes, for some reason. Maybe I’m weird.

Tracy: It smelled really good, smooth, but also has that explosion of flavor.

Bar Belle: A lot more flavor than the Larceny.

Tasters add ice …

Tracy: This is more complex with the ice.

Britany: It has grown on me with the ice.

Miriam: It’s much better with ice.

Bar Belle: Screw the ice! Ice sunk the Titanic, you know? It’s not to be trusted — or added to bourbon. 

 

Would you quarantine with this spirit?

Britany: As long as I had ice cubes, yes.

Bar Belle: 100% yes! I might put this guy under my pillow.

Tracy: Yes! To quarantine, not under your pillow.

Katie: Yes. 

Kelly: Yes. Even a lightweight would.

Miriam: Do chickens have lips?

Bar Belle: Huh?

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What Are We Drinking Today?: 

Old Forester Single Barrel Barrel Strength

 

What the hell is it?:

This is a new expression of Old Forester, which will only be available at the distillery and/or as a store pick. In fact, the very first release of this just went up on the Old Fo website last week, and it sold out in a matter of minutes. You’ll just have to keep your eyes peeled for this one, because they’ll go quick!

So what’s different about it? It’s Old Forester bottled at barrel strength, which has never really been done before other than some of the President’s Choice offerings. Also, some of the Birthday Bourbons are higher in proof as well, but not 120 high!

Giving us barrel-strength Old Fo a great way to celebrate the company’s 150th birthday, that’s for sure!

 

Give me the nerdy numbers:

125-135 proof, various ages. Retails for $79.99.

 

What do we think?:

Old Forester Barrel Strength bottleBritany: You could get drunk just by sniffing it.

Kelly: It hurts!

Tracy: It hurts!

Bar Belle: Oh my … this is something to behold. It’s amazingly tasty! And smooth. There’s a party in my mouth, and someone just tapped another keg. 

Kelly: Maybe if you want to burn a house down! I feel like it tastes good, but it’s hot.

Britany: This is the ghost pepper of bourbon.

Tasters add ice …

Tracy: Ice calms it down for sure.

Britany: It’s nice with ice. And you can taste it now. Like when coffee is too hot and you let it cool down and you can finally taste it.

Tracy: I can sip this now, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Miriam: Pairs well with Pringles, but it hits you like a freight train.

Britany: I’m picking this over the (Buzzard’s Roost) rye, and that never happens. Once you add an ice cube, it’s liquid gold.

Bar Belle: Gold Forester never disappoints.

 

Would you quarantine with this spirit?

Bar Belle: Yes, and I’m not sharing it with anyone!

Tracy: It’s another quarankeeper.

Britany: Oh yes. It’d almost be better quarantining with this one, because no one else can have it.

Kelly: Yes. If there are ice cubes readily available, and don’t give me that Titanic bullshit.

Katie: Yes, please.

Miriam: Yes!

Woodford Reserve

New releases: Batch Proof, Barrel Proof and bourbon-battered beer

Just when you thought it was safe to enjoy your bourbon collection as it now stands, along come more damn releases — but that’s a good thing! Right?

Batch Proof
Woodford Reserve

Courtesy of Woodford Reserve

First up, Woodford Reserve is releasing another limited-edition Batch Proof, which is up slightly in proof from last year’s first-ever Batch Proof release (123.6 vs. 123.3). Hey, we’ll take what we can get, right! I thought last year’s was incredible, so I’m excited to try this one on for size.

“Most people do not get to experience Woodford Reserve at such a high-proof presentation, so we are honored to share this special bourbon with the public,” said Master Distiller Chris Morris in a news release. “The intensity and depth of flavor found in Woodford Reserve Batch proof is truly remarkable.”

Thanks, Chris. Now I really need to try it!

According to the release, some flavor notes include rich raisin, brown sugar, “spicy leather character” (huh?) and cedar wood. Sounds like Grandma’s old closet to me.

Regardless, this is going to be great stuff. It’ll retail for $129.99.

Barrel Proof
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof

Photo by Sara Havens

Next up, it’s the 2020 release of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof (A120), at a whopping 136.6 proof! Each year, the Barrel Proof starts trickling out to thirsty bourbon fanatics, and it has garnered top accolades throughout the years, including Whisky of the Year.

This is bourbon in its purest form, you all! The only thing they do to it after dumping from the barrel is filter out the flecks of char.

It’s uncut, 12-year-old bourbon that packs a punch as well as a fascinating flavor that you just can’t put down. It’s hot, it’s sweet, it’s sticky. It’s what you’d taste if you found yourself in a rick house with a long-ass straw.

This usually retails for around $60-$70.

Bourbon-aged beer

And finally, Angel’s Envy is preparing to launch a barrel-aged beer program called “Angel’s & Ale,” and its first partner in crime is Against the Grain.

Angle's & Ales

Courtesy of Angel’s Envy

Apparently, AtG created a Belgian Quadruple Ale that was aged for three to four months in port barrels formerly used to finish Angel’s Envy core product.

While the beer will be available for the entire month of March at AtG, they’re having a kickoff party on Feb. 28 at the Angel’s Envy Distillery, just right across the street from AtG. And more good news: They’ll be announcing additional “Angel’s & Ale” collaborations throughout 2020.

Can’t wait to try this brew out, as I’m curious how much flavor resonates from a used port barrel that has aged bourbon for a few months.

Cheers!

Whitesnake Angel's Envy

New releases: The Angel’s Envy Tawny Port Finish is old and sexy, plus say hi to Elijah Craig rye

Whitesnake Angel's Envy

A tale of two Tawnys.

Here I go again on my own. Goin’ down the only road I’ve ever known. Like a drifter I was born to walk alone. And I’ve made up my mind. I ain’t wastin’ no more time …

Those, my millennial friends, are lyrics to a kick-ass ’80s song by hairband Whitesnake, and in the video, which they actually played on MTV back in the day, there was pin-up goddess Tawny Kitaen, rolling around half-naked on the hood of a muscle car.

It’s a beautiful piece of pop culture art stamped in time.

And my brain, which is forever stamped in all things ’80s and ’90s, immediately drew parallels to the video when I first heard about the new Cellar Collection from Angel’s Envy, which is finished in tawny port casks. Sure, Tawny is an unusual name, so you can understand why I automatically pictured an Angel’s Envy bottle frolicking on top of a car.

But when I took that first sip, there were way more similarities between the two beauties than just the name. They’re delicious. They’re rich. Their deep, auburn color teases, taunts and tantalizes with every sip. And on the other end of the spectrum, they’re both old — as am I.

Let me get my mind off that car and just focus on the bourbon for a minute. I was fortunate to stop by the Angel’s Envy Distillery last week for a top-secret media get-together announcing the new release. Of course they made us keep it a secret until now, so I apologize that I couldn’t spread the good news earlier.

Let me give you the quick details: The release is the second in the Cellar Collection (the first was the Oloroso Sherry Cask finish) and features 10-year-old bourbon that was finished for 10 months in tawny port casks. It is bottled at 111.6 proof and will retail for about $249.99. The limited run of just 5,400 bottles will be available beginning Feb. 8 at select retailers in Kentucky, California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Tennessee, as well as at the distillery in downtown Louisville

Angel's Envy Tawny(If you’re a member of the free-to-join 500 Main club, you’ll be getting an email soon about being able to purchase it in advance.)

Anyway, during the short tasting experience, we heard from Angel’s Envy Co-founder and Chief Innovation Officer Wes Henderson, Production Manager Kyle Henderson and Lead Distillery Operator Andrew Henderson about the limited release.

Wes Henderson opened the discussion by explaining the concept of the Cellar Collection. Basically, there’s no set date or expectation of when something new has to be released. It comes down to quality — and the wow factor.

“I don’t believe in innovating just to innovate,” Wes said. “We didn’t release this just to have something out there. It’s very different than anything we’ve released before. We set out to make the best whiskey we can, and this one, I believe, is very much in line with what my father (bourbon legend Lincoln Henderson) preferred — more subtle, not in-your-face.”

Kyle Henderson — Wes’ son, Lincoln’s grandson — added that currently, there are about 17 more experiments going on at the Bacardi-owned distillery.

“Those include all the dumbass ideas that won’t see the light of day,” he joked.

Now, as you know, regular Angel’s Envy is finished in ruby port barrels between three to six months. So how is tawny port different? For one, tawny port, which is made from red grapes, is aged longer in oak casks — giving it a golden-brown color. Port, in general, is a type of sweet wine made in Portugal.

So how does the Angel’s Envy Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Tawny Port Barrels taste?

It’s peppery, it’s nutty, it’s fruity. It’s like throwing a handful of Werther’s Originals into a blender with about two Red Hots. It’s everything you want a finished bourbon to be, yet its flavors are unfamiliar but intriguing. It’s like doing a cartwheel on the hood of a car and having knees that’ll stick the landing. (I miss those knees.)

I know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not that I’m not obsessed with Tawny Kitaen. It’s the price tag — a whopping $250! I get it — it’s a lot.

Maybe you don’t want to shell out that much for a bottle of bourbon, but it would be worth the search at a bar or restaurant or liquor store’s tasting bar for a sample. Or just bite the bullet and buy a bottle. Keep it in your private stash, hidden away from the wife or the husband, right next to your Whitesnake cassette tapes.

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Elijah Craig releases a rye

Elijah Craig rye

Say hi to Elijah Rye.

As a bourbon writer, I run to the mailbox as soon as I get home every day. Unfortunately, I encounter more bills than fun packages, but every now and then, I get something truly special.

Case in point — a box from Heaven Hill that contained a sample of the new Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey and a loaf of rye bread baked by Master Distiller Conor O’Driscoll himself!

Of course I popped that bottle open as soon as I could and enjoyed the sweet and spicy nectar. But I also savored the bread and ate a slice every morning for breakfast until it was gone. One day I even made a sandwich with two slices — and it was wonderful. Thanks, Conor!

rye sandwich

Turkey on rye.

But back to the rye. The mashbill includes 51% rye, 35% corn and 14% malted barley, making it pretty smooth for a rye whiskey with that much corn in it.

I could sip this neat all day, but I also believe it’ll be quite tasty in a cocktail like an Old Fashioned, because that rye won’t take any shit from the sugar.

And for those still in shock from the Angel’s Envy sticker price, this is much more affordable. Elijah Craig Rye Whiskey will be released this month in North Carolina, South Carolina, George and Oregon — What? No Kentucky?!?! — and retail for $29.99.

I suppose since you can’t get it here, you all can stop by and sample some of mine.

Just like Conor’s bread, fine whiskey was meant to be shared.