Russell’s Reserve 13 Year Review

About – Wild Turkey has listened to the cries of the masses and released a higher aged, cask-strength version of Russell’s Reserve. This 13 year release marks the first limited release under the Russell’s brand and carries the hype and the secondary price tag that comes along with that. This bottle that carried an srp of $69 has surpassed the $500 mark on the secondary market. Does this 114.8 proof release live up to the hype? Time to find out….

Nose – Complete surprised. The very first thing I get here is orange cream which is uncharacteristic of any Wild Turkey I have ever come across. Serious oak structure is present with a nice barrel spice. Slight musk shows the age. There is a hint of cherry as it sits in the glass and opens.

Palate – Burnt sugar and oak open things up. Once a bit of bitterness wears off cherry and vanilla come in giving you those familiar Russell’s notes. After that it darkens up a bit picking up a cola vibe along with some clove. The finish is long starting out with oak and coming back to the cola and clove. That combination is bringing back memories of a gingerbread Coke I once had at the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta.

Score – A

Verdict – This is an excellent release and lives up to the standards I expect from Wild Turkey. They have managed to take the standard Russell’s profile that we all know and love and elevate it. This is easily one of the best releases of the year. Is it worth the secondary price? That would depend on your budget. I will say if this falls in your budget you should buy it.

Heaven Hill Five Brothers Review

About – “Five Brothers Bourbon is made up of Heaven Hill’s traditional bourbon mashbill, aged from five to nine years, to represent each founding brother. It’s bottled at 90 proof, meant to reflect the initial proofs of Heaven Hill releases in the early stages of the distillery.” This new release is a Heaven Hill Bourbon Experience exclusive and retails for $60.

Nose – Peanuts and caramel. There is a little musk that lays over that and some kind of dark fruit is back there trying to break out, it just never quite makes it through. Pretty typical Heaven Hill nose.

Palate – This is fairly light. Caramel and peanuts are that matching right up with the nose. There is a touch of cinnamon in the mid-palate. Finish is short and all peanuts.

Score – B-

Verdict – This is a solid gift shop bottle that will appeal to a wide range of people who visit Heaven Hill. It is too light to thrill bourbon nerds, but it is good tasting and easy drinking. The flavor profile is quintessential Heaven Hill. A very good representation of who they are and what they do. Would I go to Heaven Hill just to pick up a bottle of this? No. Should you pick one up if your are there? Absolutely.

Kooper Family Barrel Reserve Rye Review

About – “Blended from two distinct Straight Rye whiskeys aged in a series of first and second fill barrels in the warm winds of rural Fayette County, Texas. First, we age 95% Rye from MGP in Indiana for at least four years in select white oak casks, and 51% Rye from Tennessee for at least six years. We then blend the two in small batches and bottle it at a barrel proof of 116. A barrel strength Rye Whiskey made for the strong of heart and created for adventurous lovers of untamed flavor and a sophisticated taste experience.” Kooper Family describes themselves as a blending house, buying exceptional whiskies and aging them in the Texas heat. This Barrel Reserve Rye is bottled at 116 proof and retails for $60.

Nose – Bold and Sweet. Instead of coming through in subtle waves, everything here is cranked to 11 and hits you at once with a blast of caramel, vanilla, spearmint, and rye spice. It does mellow some as it opens with vanilla and spearmint becoming the predominant notes.

Palate – The first note is a soft velvety vanilla that coats the mouth before spearmint really becomes the star. This whiskey has a solid oak structure backing everything up. The rye spice comes in a lot slower than expected and doesn’t really hit until the back end. The medium/long finish starts with a spearminth burst as you swallow and quickly moves to rye spice that leaves the mouth tingling. As it fades out there is a bit of stone fruit and caramel to finish things off.

Score – B+

Verdict – This is one of those bottles that I just keep finding myself coming back to for another pour (as evidence by the nearly empty bottle in the photo above). This reaches far beyond the standard bottle of sourced MGP rye that sits on the shelf under numerous labels. The addition of the Tennessee rye and perhaps the Texas climate adds a backbone of caramel and oak that is much more bourbon like. Overall Kooper has done a great job of aging and blending here. This is a great bottle of rye!

Green River Kentucky Straight Bourbon Review

About – Green River holds the distinction of owning DSP-KY-10, that makes them the 10th oldest registered distillery in the state of Kentucky. That is a rare distinction for a brand that you have likely never heard of. Terresentia purchased the property and began producing under the name O.Z. Tyler, taking on the Green River name in 2019. If you are thinking hey aren’t Terresentia those guys who use that weird terrepure rapid aging thing that is notioriously bad, you would be correct. It is important to point out that the whiskey produced under the Green River name does not use this process, and is traditionally aged. Green River has been mostly working in the private label space, but have a limited release of their own coming some time in the near future. No msrp has been announced. The sample I am reviewing is aged 4 years and was bottled at 100 proof.

Nose – Subtle floral notes catch my attention first. Next up is a honey sweetness that picks up a bit of spice in the way of black pepper. Cinnamon rounds things out with barrel spice ramping up as it has a chance to open up.

Palate – Honey from the nose as turned to caramel on the palate. Vanilla and bitter oak tanning come through on the mid palate. On the back end comes a blast of cinnamon. The finish is long and is quite literally Big Red chewing gum that slowly fades to cherry. There were some youthful undertones that seemed to fade as it sat in the glass.

Score – B-

Verdict – This is a straight up classic tasting bourbon with one hell of an exciting finish. If you don’t like Big Red then……well you probably won’t like this as much as I did. If you do like that flavor profile though this bourbon is surprisingly enjoyable. The only negative is the slight tinge of youth that faded with time. This is a four year old product so I am sure that will age out over the next couple of years. When we hit that point we could be looking at something remarkable. For now this is a solid pour.

McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey Review

About – “McKenzie Bourbon Whiskey is a very rich bourbon with just enough rye spice to complement the subtle sweetness. A local variety of corn makes 70% of the mash bill.” McKenzie bourbon is produced by Finger Lakes Distilling in New York. It is aged for a minimum of four years, but much of the bourbon is in the 5-6 year range, bottled at 92 proof, and costs around $40.

Nose – Dark toffee accompanied by vanilla, oak, and a little bit of must that is usually in high aged bourbon. As it opens up graham cracker starts to come through. A lot of dark notes on the nose here.

Palate – The toffee from the nose is slightly brighter on the palate and more akin to butterscotch. Cinnamon comes through in the mid-palate along with bitter oak that carries all the way through the finish. Finish is medium length and is all bitter oak accompanied by a touch of raw grain.

Score – C

Verdict – This bourbon does have some redeeming qualities, but it isn’t one I will find myself reaching for frequently. The raw grain note on the finish is a turnoff for me. That won’t be the case for everyone, but this is my review. Normally that is something I think would come out with age, but with this stuff being in the 5-6 year range I’m not so sure it will. If it does and the rest of the flavors continue to develop along the current path this could be great. Until then it just doesn’t do it for me.

George Dickel Bottled in Bond 2021 Review

About – Here we are with the 3rd release of George Dickel Bottled in Bond. This is a line that has achieved a tremendous amount of success in only two releases, and is the release that I consider to be the gold standard when it comes to Tennessee Whiskey. The 2019 release took home whiskey of the year awards form myself and several others. The 2020 followed up on that initial success with a release that catered to a broader audience who perhaps didn’t enjoy the initial release as much as I did. The 2021 release comes in with a 13 year age statement, is bottled at 100 proof, and retails for around $45. Let’s dive in and see how if it stands up to the two previous installments.

Nose – Dark and earthy caramel, sawdust (something I usually find in all good Dickel whiskies). Behind that orange and vanilla cream washes through. The oak is laying behind everything binding the whole experience together. As this sits in the glass I am picking up something sour and skunky almost like a sour beer type of element.

Palate – Great oily, coating mouthfeel to kick things off. It is bright and clean starting off with the orange from the nose and combines with vanilla cream in the mid palate. Just like the nose the oak is a solid backbone for the entire palate. There is a touch of cinnamon and musk before heading into the finish. The finish is long and is classic Dickel with oak and peanuts appearing heavily before fading back to the orange cream.

Score – A

Verdict – The 2021 release builds on both of the previous releases in the series showing a real evolution in the product. It takes the best parts of the previous two releases and combines them in a way that is greater than the sum of its parts. This in an excellent whiskey and is released at an unbelievable price point. As I said in the opening George Dickel Bottled in Bond has established itself as the gold standard for Tennessee Whiskies. Simply fantastic.

McKenzie Rye Whiskey Review

About – “McKenzie Rye Whiskey is made from local rye grain and is distilled using old-time techniques. We age this whiskey in new charred oak casks and finish in sherry barrels from local wineries. The sherry balances the spiciness of the rye and also gives a nod to the wine region where this whiskey is produced.” McKenzie Rye is bottled at 91 proof and retails for $40.

Nose – Bright is the first word that comes to mind. Lemon stands out along with buttery pie/pastry crust.

Palate – Berries jump out first, quickly followed by the lemon from the nose. Rye spice comes through shortly after that. From there vanilla and buttery shortbread take over leading into the finish. The finish is medium length and clean with tasty vanilla and oak.

Score – A-

Verdict – One of the most unique ryes I have ever come across. It is almost a freshly baked lemon and berry pie. I’m not sure if it is the locally grown grain, the climate, or what it is, but they Finger Lakes is on to something special here. If this is in your area buy it. If it isn’t find a place online where you can get some.

Blood Oath Pact 7 Review

About – A masterful union of three well-bred bourbons. One, a 14-year extra-aged ryed bourbon. Two, an 8-year ryed bourbon. And three, another 8-year ryed bourbon, finished in sauternes wine casks from the Bordeaux region of France for a balance of sweetness with additional spice.” Blood Oath is Lux Row’s yearly limited release. The blend and finishes change from year to year and are never repeated. Pact 7 is bottled at 98.6 proof. 51,000 bottles were released to retail with an srp of $100.

Nose – Rich and dessert like with caramel and apricots. A bit of barrel spice stings the nostrils. As it opens up the barrel spice picks up molasses turning it into gingerbread.

Palate – Comes in soft to start and really takes a second for the flavors to start jumping out. The apricot from the nose trickles in first along with a boat load of vanilla. Rye spice subtly sneaks in on the mid palate leading into the finish. The apricot comes roaring back on the finish and is joined by oak and spice to really balance things out bringing that gingerbread from the nose back into play as well.

Score – B+

Verdict – This is a really enjoyable pour. Every Blood Oath release is unique. Some I have enjoyed, some not so much. Apricot is always a note that I gravitate towards and I am digging the sweet and spicy exchange between that and the gingerbread. $100 isn’t cheap, but in the current bourbon market it isn’t really that expensive either. I think this bottle is relatively decent value, especially considering the nice packaging this comes in with the wood box as well.

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.