Stellum Bourbon Review

About – “Stellum Bourbon finds its flavor in the tension of three Indiana Bourbon mash bills, two of which are high-rye, with the third being almost exclusively corn. Older barrels from both Kentucky and Tennessee are folded in slowly, through a multi-step blending process. This brings added layers of depth and complexity, ultimately allowing us to round out a uniquely Stellum flavor profile.” Stellum is the newest brand extension from Barrell Craft Spirits, a brand who has made a name for themselves with their blending prowess. This bourbon is bottled at cask strength (114.98 proof) and retails for around $55.

Nose – Caramel and berries. I can’t say that is a combination that I frequently come across. Behind that there is vanilla and light oak along with a touch of baking spice. It is giving me a nice Thanksgiving or holiday type of vibe.

Palate – Beautiful coating mouthfeel gives this bourbon a nice creamy texture. Tart cherry juice leads things off as a buttery oak comes in on the mid-palate. Cinnamon starts to flex its muscles as we move towards the backend. The finish is medium length with cinnamon spice and bitter oak tannins that fade out with a touch of vanilla.

Score – B

Verdict – This is a well balanced bourbon with a lingering cinnamon finish. This is easily one of the better options out there in the $50 price range. Barrell has really mastered the art of blending and this new brand is no exception. There is nothing here that will really knock your socks off, but for a sourced product in this price range it is impressive what they have been able to accomplish here. Hats off to Barrell Craft Spirits.

Barrell Seagrass Review

About – “Barrell Seagrass is an ode to coastal memories, blended to evoke the joy of a day on the beach and an evening listening to the soothing rhythm of waves. Hot sun, brisk air, dry sand, and oceanside vegetation are brought to mind. A ripe and inviting tropical nose and grassy, bright body evolve to a finish as long as the view down the shore on a clear day. 

Seagrass highlights the grassy oceanside notes we love in rye and the opulence and spice of finishing barrels. It is a blend of American and Canadian rye whiskeys, with each ingredient meticulously sourced and finished separately in Martinique Rhum Agricole casks, apricot brandy casks, and Madeira barrels.”

Barrel Seagrass is bottled at 118.4 proof and carries a retail price of $80.

Nose – Absolutely wild. I am getting something different with every whiff. Frist the spearmint from the rye, next there is some musty funk, the spice pairs with the high proof to give the nostrils a good sting. There are some nice fruity apple and apricot notes coming through as well.

Palate – Big fruit bomb. The apricot influence leads the way followed by what I can only describe as fruit cocktail in syrup. The grain influence of rye starts coming in after that leading into the finish. The finish is long with rye spice and sweet fruit having a nice back and forth duel.

Score – A-

Verdict – This is Barrell doing what they do best, giving the experienced whiskey drinker something that will both challenge their palate in identifying everything that is going on here and reward with with a delicious and complex experience.

Frey Ranch Straight Bourbon Review

About – ” Welcome to Frey Ranch, where the know how of 165 years of farming and custom state-of-the-art distilling methods blend into every bottle of our sustainable Nevada born bourbon. In our lush farm oasis nestled in the Lake Tahoe watershed, each of our slow grown grains are an heirloom and a point of pride, specifically grown for our non-chill filtered 90 proof Bourbon. Grown, distilled, matured and bottled on site, this is a new generation of Frey that is more than a ranch, but a true farm distillery in this 36th state of the U.S.A., raising a whiskey of the land.” Frey Ranch bourbon comes from a family that has over 165 years of history in growing grain. This 4 grain mashbill features corn, rye, wheat, and barley all grown by Frey Ranch specifically to distill. This bourbon is non-chill filtered, bottled at 90 proof, and costs are $50.

Nose – Slightly floral to start things of followed by a nice sweet cherry and vanilla.

Palate – Starts off sweet and subtle with vanilla and oak. The longer it sits on the tongue big rye baking spice starts to come through mainly as cinnamon and nutmeg. Diving back in there is a lot of cherry on the front. As it begins to open up caramel starts to come through in the mid-palate. The finish is medium with tinges of bitter oak along with sweet cherry and backing spice.

Score – B+

Verdict – The more I drink it the more flavors that come through. This is a surprisingly complex whiskey for coming in at 90 proof. The grain to glass movement is gaining popularity these days, and Frey Ranch have positioned themselves right at the front of it. I opened this bottle expecting something “crafty” and just not ready yet, and this is not that. This is a refined product from a company who has something special going on. I’m not sure if it is the grains, the mashbill, or the Nevada climate, but whatever they are doing is working.

Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series 2021 Limited Release FAE-01 Review

About – “Our third limited release from the Maker’s Mark® Wood Finishing Series joins our previous years’ expressions in honoring our signature bourbon – this time, amplifying the naturally present dried fruit and woody richness in a distinctively Maker’s® way. We like to say it tastes exactly how our barrel warehouse smells, with rich figgy notes complemented by tobacco undertones and a pleasantly dank woodiness.” For 2021 Maker’s has made the decision to do two limited releases in the wood finishing series. This is the first of those two releases. FAE-01 clocks in at 110.3 proof and retails for $60.

Nose – First whiff gives off a bit of darker profile than most Maker’s. Second take brings a deeply toasted vanilla and milk chocolate notes. This is giving me a real s’mores vibe. I’m not really picking up the tobacco from the label, but there is some coffee hiding there if you keep digging.

Palate – The toast hits first, but is quickly pushed aside by those cherry and cinnamon notes that are familiar to any fan of wheaters. After that the toast comes back in with the chocolate note creating some that is like a chocolate covered cherry smashed in the middle of a s’more. The finish starts off with that deeply toasted vanilla that shifts over to milk chocolate and back to vanilla and cherry for a nice medium-long finish.

Score – A

Verdict – I am a sucker for both wheated bourbons and toasted barrel finishes when they are done correctly, and this is one is done correctly. A lot of times with these toasted barrel finishes they overpower the softer notes in the bourbon, but in this case you get all of those great vanilla and chocolate toasty notes without overpowering that cherry that comes through in the mid palate. That makes for an excellent combination and an early bourbon of the year contender for me.

George Dickel Cascade Moon Edition No. 2 Review

About – “Cascade Moon Edition No. 2 Review “Celebrating 150 years of passion for cra­fting quality whisky, CASCADE MOON EDITION NO. 2 continues to set the tone for the future of the whisky category while looking toward the next 150 years. Further tying back to George Dickel’s history, the liquid for this second release was taken from a small batch blend curated around the first barrel of TN Whisky filled a­fter the distillery returned from shutdown in 2003. This small batch blend used less than 20 barrels, holding some of our best whiskies aged at least 17 years that are befitting a celebration of a 150 year heritage.” Cascade Moon Edition No. 2 is bottled at 90 proof in a sandblasted ceramic bottle featuring a label that was handprinted on a 130 year old press. Retail price is $250.

Nose – A very rich nose. Reminds me a lot of those stands selling hot glazed nuts at a fair or food court. Specifically a buttered toffee pecan. I could sit and nose this bourbon all day.

Palate – Every bit as rich as the nose. Very nice creamy mouthfeel that hits the tongue with an ooey-gooey stickey caramel along with candied pecans and a truckload of vanilla. The finish is all oak and toffee and just keeps going and going.

Score – A+

Verdict – This is very possibly the finest whiskey I have tasted from George Dickel, and that is saying a lot coming from me. I received this as a sample and it was good enough to justify making the $250 purchase. I understand the price on this bottle is too high for many people, but if this fits into your whiskey budget I would recommend picking it up. This is an early strong contender for my bourbon of the year.

Boone County 7 Year Single Barrel Wheated Bourbon Review

About – “This premium release of 45% Wheated Bourbon is limited to only 68 barrels. Every barrel is rare unique and will surpass your expectations.” This wheated bourbon sourced from MGP is available only in the gift shop at Boone County Distilling. When I was there they had 3 different barrels available ranging in price from $85-$100. The bottle I am reviewing today was $100, is non-chill filtered, and is bottled at 121.7 proof.

Nose – Bright cherries and caramel lead the way. Hot cinnamon is behind that bringing some sting with the high proof. All of that is backed by loads of vanilla.

Palate – The palate matches the nose very closely. Loads of sweet vanilla and cherries on the front end with that super hot cinnamon coming through on the mid palate carrying into a medium length sweet cinnamon and oak finish.

Score – B+

Verdict – This is a big and rowdy bourbon. To compare it to another populate wheater, Weller Full Proof drinks like a preppy kid wearing khakis and polo. This drinks like his older brother wearing a Metallica t-shirt and smoking the tires off of his Z28 Camaro. My only regret is that this is the only batch I picked up while at the distillery. It may drink a bit aggressive for some people, but this is exactly what I am looking for in a barrel proof wheater.

New Riff (Bourbon for the Masses Purple Riff Pick) Review

About – Here it is the first ever Bourbon for the Masses barrel pick. Unfortunately I missed out on the pick day festivities due to Covid exposure, but the BFTM crew did a great job and we ended up with an awesome pick. Upon entering the tasting room the group was given a menu with New Riff tasting notes and were able to pick out 3 barrels to compare. The guys saw the outrageous notes from this barrel and just had to include it “Scents of raspberry beret milkshake & smacked mint into flavors of fresh squeezed pomegranate & grape drink. Mineral finish.” Upon nosing it was set aside by many after noting scents like rotten wood, but as it opened up everyone kept coming back to it. In the end it was a nearly unanimous choice. With the notes of raspberry beret milkshake a Prince theme was inevitable, which quickly led to the Chapelle’s Show skit. Purple Riff was aged 4 years and 2 months and comes in at 104.6 proof. All bottles were sold during pre-sale.

Nose – Dark fruit that lands somewhere between berries and stone fruit. Behind that is a musty, funk oak that you normally only find in very highly aged bourbons. Clove and vanilla join in on the backend rounding things out.

Palate – The berry note from the nose hits first and quickly shifts into citrus. Cinnamon moves in next along with that funky oak on the mid-palate leading into a medium length finish that has a mineral quality and shifts from funk to grape before fading away.

Verdict – Slightly off profile, this pick showcases the potential that New Riff has as it picks up more age. The funky note is something that is near and dear to me as an avid Wild Turkey fan, and this barrel has it. A big thank you to New Riff for being excellent hosts and to all of the BFTM crew who were a part of this pick. Hopefully this is the first of many to come. If you missed out I have donated one of my bottles to a silent auction hosted by the Tennessee Winter Beer Fest benefiting Blount County Children’s Advocacy Center. This auction does require local pickup, but if any of my followers win any of the items available I will pick them up and cover shipping costs for you. Click here for more details.

Jack Daniel’s Special Release Barrel Proof Rye Review

About – “This annual special release Single Barrel Barrel Proof Rye celebrates the early craftsmanship of the Jack Daniel Distillery, honoring a time when American whiskey was often high in rye content and offered at barrel strength. Bottled in its purest form right from the barrel and uncut at full proof, it’s packed with Jack character with our signature smooth finish. Proof will range from 125-140.” This is the first limited edition rye released by Jack Daniel’s and replaces Heritage Barrel for 2020. Similar to their other barrel proof offering, the barrels used for this release have been aged for around 6 years and come exclusively from the top of the rickhouse. Retail price is $65, but being a limited release your mileage may vary.

Nose – Confectionary powdered sugar sweetness combined with pecans. There is a deep brown sugar note sitting behind that and banana starts to come through as it opens up. Very much a holiday dessert vibe.

Palate – Bright caramel and banana shine through as it hits the palate. The ethanol really makes itself present, but doesn’t blow out the palate. It begins to fade after a few seconds. Pecan comes through in the mid palate and shifts to a touch of dill before heading into a long finish of oak and baking spice. As the finish continues it shifts to caramel and oak.

Score – A

Verdict – I can’t think of much more that I would want from a bottle of rye whiskey. This checks all of the boxes and brings that banana note that Jack Daniel’s is known for along for the ride. It is a tad hot so if you are someone that doesn’t do well with high proof or “hot” whiskey this one will need a bit of water for you to enjoy. Beyond that there just isn’t much to complain about. An excellent release from Jack Daniel’s.