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!

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 Forester Birthday Bourbon 2021

Spillin’ tea on Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2021

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2021
Behold the OFBB! | Courtesy

Every time this email comes into my inbox, a shiver shoots down my spine. It’s time to announce the details of this year’s Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, and I’m spillin’ all the tea!

I’m not going to waste my time or yours with anymore words — here are the damn facts. I hope you get a bottle. But I hope I get a bottle more.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2021 will be released on Sept. 2, 2021.

The bourbon is 12 years old and will be bottled at 104 proof.

It’s the 21st edition of the Birthday Bourbon series.

The color of this year’s label/tax stamp is an olive green.

The batch consists of 119 barrels that were aged in Warehouse G.

Birthday Bourbon honors the founder of Old Forester, George Garvin Brown.

If you can find it on the shelf, it’ll retail for about $129.99.

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2021

Master Taster Jackie Zykan says: “This year, we’ve composed a bold and compelling offering which showcases the unique fruit-forward side of Old Forester. Playful berry undertones with summery dessert notes balance out to our flagship spice finish while taking sippers on a textural journey from velvety to dry mouthfeel.”

Tasting Notes (according to the news release):
Color: Golden Citrine
Aroma: A beautiful symphony of berry and dessert components. Red raspberry preserves join plump, juicy blackberries and dried strawberries to set the tone, nestled in a bed of dried herbs and balanced with vanilla creme brulee, subtle pecan, rich maple syrup, and cocoa.
Taste: Rich and inviting, the velvety mouthfeel carries notes of buttery caramel, burnt sugar, and a touch of fresh baked Linzer cookie. This silky palate quickly awakens into a bright, peppery, peripheral spice.
Finish: Lengthy and warm with subtle dryness. Subdued notes of chocolate, raisin and cool herbs linger in the shadow of stark oak spice.

Old Forester Single Barrel Rye

Old Forester introduces Single Barrel Rye nationwide

Ever since Old Forester released a rye whisky in 2019, fans of the brand (myself included, duh) have wondered if they’d one day put out a single barrel or at least barrel-strength version of the rye. Well, my friends, the wait is over.

Old Forester Rye Single Barrel
This is one spicy pour! | Courtesy of Old Forester

Today, Old Forester announced it’s introducing the Rye Single Barrel to its product line, and it is not only barrel strength — at a whopping 124 proof — but also unfiltered. And that’s not all. For the first time, this Rye Single Barrel will be available nationwide, so all Old Fo fans can unite, unwind and clamor over this amazing spice ball of fire.

Here’s what I know: The Old Forester Single Barrel Rye will be sold in limited quantities at the distillery and in liquor stores across the country starting June 1. It’ll retail for $79.99 for a 750ml-sized bottle.

I don’t know if that means we need to camp out at the distillery for a bottle, or if it’ll be readily available around town. But either way, I know I’ll eventually get my hands on one of these, and that should be a goal of yours, too, if you like caramel and spice and everything nice.

“The Old Forester Rye Single Barrel delivers on the same balanced and unique flavor profile of our 100 proof expression, only amplified and in unfiltered, raw form,” said Master Taster Jackie Zykan in a news release.  

The nose on this one is quite potent at that high of proof, but once you get past the zap of the alcohol vapors, you get a nice creme brûlée and a pinch of black pepper. And when you sip, wow!

Of course you get the spice right up front — bam! — it’s like every Kramer entrance on “Seinfeld” as he swings open the door and takes centerstage. But after that, the sharp pepper and cinnamon notes simmer, welcoming a slice of Grandma’s baked apple pie with a drizzle of caramel and a scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side that play well with both the heat and the high-rye content.

I know the Old Fo Rye mash bill is 65% rye, 15% corn and 20% malted barley, so obviously this follows suit. The finish is also quite nice, leaving a slight burn on your tongue as it travels south. I’d call this one a Kentucky Bear Hug.

Jackie Zykan with Old Forester 117 Series

New Old Forester release, 117 Series, highlights innovation

For the first time in its 150-year history, an Old Forester label will bear the signature of a woman! The first release in the new 117 Series will launch on Wednesday, March 24, and the mastermind behind the bottle is Old Fo Master Taster Jackie Zykan.

The inaugural release is named High Angels’ Share because it was chosen from a selection of barrels that lost exceptional volume to evaporation in the aging process. It’ll be released in 375ml bottles at 110 proof. The suggested retail price is $49.99.

Jackie Zykan with Old Forester 117 Series
Jackie Zykan is the mastermind behind the Old Forester 117 Series. | Courtesy of Old Forester

The 117 Series will explore product innovation and experimentation, giving fans an opportunity to try a wide range of Old Forester’s flavor profiles. According to the news release, other 117 releases could explore selections from specific warehouses, barrel manipulations, deconstructed blends and more. Essentially, the possibilities are limitless.

117 Series

“Creating the 117 Series has been a labor of love, and seeing my signature on the label is one of the highlights of my career,” said Zykan in the news release. “My mind is exploding with the endless possibilities of this smaller scale of experimentation and innovation.

“This series presents an opportunity to pull the curtain back and share the isolates of the blending process to help deepen the understanding of how variants in maturation affect flavor profile. We’re playing in uncharted territory here, and those who love Old Forester like we do will have the chance to explore with us.”

The name comes from the address of the distillery on Whiskey Row, where Old Forester was located from 1882-1919 and returned in 2018.

The bottles will be released at the distillery starting Wednesday, March 24. A limited number of tickets will be given out daily to those lining up.

The tasting notes provided included notes of dried fruit and herbaceous qualities, and from the media sample I received, I would add that it’s got that deliciously spicy zing of a snickerdoodle cookie, followed by grandma hugs of warm vanilla and a dash of hot fudge.

It’s no surprise those thirsty angels were sipping from these barrels. Simply divine.

Old Forester 150 release

Once, twice, three times a bourbon: Old Forester celebrates 150 years with a trifecta release

Old Forester, the venerable and faithful Louisville-based bourbon brand, turns 150 this year, and they’re going big for their big anniversary. Fresh off the release of the highly coveted Birthday Bourbon, here comes — count ’em — one, two and three different batches of the Old Forester 150th Anniversary Bourbon.

Old Forester 150 Batch 1

Batch 1, baby!

As if you have endless room on that bar shelf!

The limited-edition release honors the early process that founder George Garvin Brown used to batch barrels and sell the world’s first bottled bourbon unfiltered and at batch proof.

Each of the three bathes has vastly different tasting notes and will come in a fancy tube similar to parent company Brown-Forman’s King of Kentucky release.

“My great-great grandfather had quite the vision for his whisky,” said Campbell Brown, Old Forester president and fifth-generation Brown family member, in a news release.

“He was bringing something to the market that had previously not existed, and today, we instill his legacy of ingenuity in everything we do — especially in the halls at Old Forester Distilling Co., in the same building George ran the business in the early days of the company.”

I attended a media conference call on Monday hosted by Campbell Brown and Master Taster Jackie Zykan, and I learned that these 150 barrels had been set aside more than half-a-dozen years ago by Master Distiller Chris Morris and were then batched together by Zykan in late 2019. The barrels were all filled the same day and aged together in the rick house.

Because Old Forester heat-cycles their rick houses, the angel’s share was definitely a factor in how much bourbon actually came out of each barrel. Zykan said that at least three or four barrels they opened for this product were completely empty!

George’s angels must be damn thirsty!

But anyway, working on such an important commemorative project was both “terrifying and an honor” said Zykan.

So let’s get to the three musketeers, amigos or blind mice — whatever you want to call ’em. (Below details come straight from the news release.)

Batch 1

125.6 proof/62.8% ABV, comprised of 46 barrels; fruit bomb

Nose: maple syrup and perfectly ripe orchard fruits, apricot and plum

Mid: açaí and black current

Finish: graham cracker, subtle peppermint, long well-rounded spice, moderately dry

Batch 2

126.4 proof/63.2% ABV, comprised of 48 barrels; sweet and spry

Nose: cherry cordial and raspberry preserves

Mid: French toast and chocolate malt

Finish: brilliant and perky spice at the front of the palate, touch of cedar, mildly dry

Batch 3

126.8 proof/63.4% ABV, comprised of 53 barrels; green and spice

Nose: dill and bright orange peel, hint of light brown sugar

Mid: sweetens in the middle to melon and pine

Finish: medium dry, tingling green peppercorns, rosemary, grapefruit peel, and lingering anise 

Each of us in that conference call was sent a different batch to sample, and I was fortunate to get Batch 1 — the “Fruit Bomb,” Zykan named. It was thick and viscous and had serious dark fruit notes like fig and plum. It didn’t seem hot being at 125.6 proof, and the delicious, caramel-y finish lasted quite a long time.

I’m curious now to try the other two batches, but I suppose I’ll have to wait like the rest of you!

The Old Forester 150th Anniversary Bourbon should hit store shelves (if you’re lucky to find it) in October, and each batch retails for $150.

Let the hunting begin!

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2020

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2020: How’s it taste? How can I get it?

Each September, the bourbon world gets a little nutty.

Yes, it’s National Bourbon Heritage Month, but it also holds one of the most significant dates of the year: Sept. 2 — the birthdate of Old Forester founder George Garvin Brown, which means it’s also time for the annual Old Forester Birthday Bourbon release!!

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2020

Happy Birthday to me!

Nothing can stop the Birthday Bourbon from being released, not even a global pandemic! So the powers that be at Old Forester have decided to launch the product on the website, where exclusive bottles have been sold the last few months.

I’m going to venture a guess and say that this might very well break the internet — but you better believe I’ll be one of these keyboard warriors trying to tap into bourbon bliss that day.

A little more about that in a second, but first, here’s a little more about this year’s release.

This is the 20th iteration of the Birthday Bourbon series and will be bottled at 98 proof. It is made up of 95 barrels of 10-year-old bourbon and was selected by Master Distiller Chris Morris and Master Taster Jackie Zykan for its interesting characteristics. According to a news release, these are the notes:

  • Color: Dusty Topaz
  • Aroma: A nuanced balance of white floral notes, magnolia and citrus, spiced with vanilla, buttery leather and cocoa powder. Countering the spice are sprinkles of brown sugar, white chocolate shavings, caramel drizzle and hints of tropical fruit.
  • Taste: Caramel and brittle toffee lead as the tropical character blooms into banana, mango, coconut flakes and macadamia nut.
  • Finish: Long and delicately drying with a hint of anise.

“We really believe that the 2020 version is one of our best yet,” said Old Forester President Campbell Brown in the release. Brown’s great-great grandfather is THE George Garvin Brown this release honors.

I was fortunate to get a small sample of this year’s Birthday Bourbon, and I can verify all of the flavors mentioned above, especially that delightful banana note that comes out in a lot of aged Brown-Forman whiskeys. It tastes how fall feels — a long walk on crisp, fallen leaves; the anticipation of a campfire s’more; the cool breeze that ushers out humidity and calls for sweaters.

It’s viscous, it’s well-rounded, it’s sweet, it’s spicy, it’s fruity and it’s something I want to be sipping on all year long.

So how can you get a bottle?

Well, be sure to sign up for emails at the Old Forester website, and be on the lookout for a special Birthday Bourbon email on Wednesday, Sept. 2. You, along with thousands of others, will be all vying to nab a bottle online. It retails for $129.99.

Some will get lucky, and some will throw their computers across the room.

I kind of wish Old Forester would have went with a lottery system, much like what Four Roses is doing with its annual Limited Edition Small Batch release. But I am but one small ladybug on the windshield of life.

Good luck to everyone!

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.

______________________________________________________________

 

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!

Birthday Bourbon 2020

Old Forester spills the beans on Birthday Bourbon 2020; Jim Beam to release affordable Old Tub BIB

While summer has only just begun, we’re already talking about the big Fall Bourbon Release season, thanks to Old Forester and its highly anticipated Birthday Bourbon.

Birthday Bourbon 2020

Love the bottle!

Not only does this release — which will be out Sept. 2, on founder George Garvin Brown’s birthday — signify the 20th iteration of this product, but it also comes out during Old Forester’s 150th year in the bourbon business.

According to a press release that came across my desk yesterday, the bourbon will be 10 years old and bottled at 98 proof.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall in that tasting room!

“Being part of the Birthday Bourbon selection process is one of my favorite parts of my job because of the legacy and tradition this expression represents,” said Jackie Zykan, Old Forester Master Taster, in the press release. “We’re really proud of what we’ve produced this year and think it’s a great way to celebrate George’s birthday and Old Forester’s historic anniversary.”

The special Birthday Bourbon will be priced at $129.99 — if you can find it on a shelf.

*  *  *

Old Tub bottle

New Old Tub!

In other news, Jim Beam is releasing a new/old Bottled-in-Bond* product called Old Tub, which is a product that actually dates back more than 140 years and was a viable early product for the Beam family. The bourbon will be about four years old and will be bottled at 100 proof, per the Bottled-in-Bond rules.

“We’re taking bourbon lovers back in time and making a delicious bourbon true to the way my ancestors intended over 140 years ago, when Old Tub was first crafted,” said Fred Noe, Beam Master Distiller, in a news release. “I’m excited to share this one-of-a-kind liquid with our fans and provide a bit of authenticity and nostalgia as we head toward another 225 years in the bourbon industry.”

The best news of all: Old Tub will be available for an affordable $22.99.

**If you’re wondering what Bottled-in-Bond means, here’s the definition, courtesy of Wikipedia:

Bottled in Bond is a label for an American-made distilled beverage that has been aged and bottled according to a set of legal regulations contained in the U.S. government’s Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits, as originally laid out in the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897. As a reaction to widespread adulteration in American whiskey, the act made the federal government the guarantor of a spirit’s authenticity, gave producers a tax incentive for participating, and helped ensure proper accounting and the eventual collection of the tax that was due.

To be labeled as Bottled-in-Bond or bonded, the liquor must be the product of one distillation season (January-June or July-December) by one distiller at one distillery. It must have been aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 proof. The bottled product’s label must identify the distillery where it was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled. Only spirits produced in the United States may be designated as bonded.

Old Forester family of bottles

Old Forester beefs up its single barrel proofs (!!)

When I read the news this morning, I immediately heard the voices of Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand singing “Happy Days Are Here Again” echoing through my head and down into my liver. Did you?

If you have no clue what I’m talking about, watch this:

 

So what news am I talking about? Well, I assure you it has nothing to do with politics or the Mexican drug cartel, but rather something more close to home and indeed happy. Turns out Old Forester, a bourbon brand that turns 150 this year, is celebrating this milestone by beefing up the proof on its single-barrel releases.

The Louisville company typically releases its single-barrel bourbon at an average 90 proof, but with consumer demand at an all-time high for higher-proofed products, especially from blokes like me, Old Fo decided to now let those who pick a barrel pick a proof, so to speak.

“Since our founding 150 years ago, we’ve always listened to our customers and looked for ways to innovate to meet their tastes,” said Jackie Zykan, Old Forester master taster, in a news release. “Proof and filtration are both really important factors in the final flavor and complexity of a whisky, and we wanted to be able to share how special some of these barrels are when the product inside is tasted in raw form.”

Old Forester bottles

Love the new labels! | Courtesy of Old Forester

So say you’ve got like $10,000 in your pocket and you want to buy a barrel of Old Forester. Once you and your group of friends (which better include me) pick your barrel, then you get to decide if you want it bottled at a nice 100 proof or an even nicer barrel strength, which could hover around 125 or higher!

Thus, why happy days are here!

It seems higher proof bourbons are on a rise these days, and for good reason. They pack more punch — and flavor, in my opinion. Let the consumer add water if she likes — that decision should be up to her, not added for her.

Take the recently released Weller Full Proof, or Booker’s, or George T. Stagg, or the 1792 Full Proof as examples of higher proofed bourbons that are successful and quite tasty. Heck, even Old Fo’s sister brand, Woodford Reserve, released a stout Batch Proof last year that was 125.8 proof.

Old Forester Single Barrel bottles can sometimes be found in the distillery’s gift shop, but mostly they’ll be at the stores and restaurants that actually spent the money to buy the barrel. Just keep your eyes and ears open for single-barrel offerings, as I’m sure they’ll be rolling off the line very soon.

I’m guessing all the major (and not so major) liquor stores in town already are in the barrel-pick calendar, as are bars and restaurants that sell picks — like Silver Dollar/The Pearl, 21c, Butchertown Grocery, Bourbons Bistro, Merle’s Whiskey Kitchen, Taj, etc. So just pay attention and stop in from time to time.

The suggested retail price for the 100 proof Old Forester Single Barrel bottles is $49.99, while the barrel strength bottles will go for $79.99.

Anyone lucky enough to be heading to the distillery soon for a barrel pick and needs some help, I’m no master taster, but I would like to master the tasting experience! I’ll even let you slide into my DM for that invite … or whatever the kids say.

Anyway, bravo, Old Forester! Happy days are here again …

Old Forester family of bottles

Great, now I need more shelf space. | Courtesy of Old Forester