Big Reds and Whiskey for Dad
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Father’s Day is around the corner, so it’s time to get Dad a gift. Who knows — if you’re lucky, he may share.
Harney Lane 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel ($35)
All of the fruit for this truly old vine zinfandel was sourced at a single vineyard site. Lizzy James Vineyard was planted in Lodi, California, back in 1904. It was aged in French oak for 21 months. Black raspberry and plum aromas lead the charge on the deep, dark, and heady nose. Blueberry and blackberry flavors fill the substantial palate, which is loaded with sweet fruit and spice. A touch of roasted espresso leads a long and somewhat lusty finish that also shows off brown sugar, molasses, and lots of continuing dark fruit flavors. A lot of zinfandels say “Old Vine” on the label. Here’s one that really is, and what a terrific example it is.
Cadaretta 2012 Windthrow ($50)
The Rhône is the inspiration for this Washington State blend composed of syrah (56 percent), grenache (25 percent), and mourvèdre (19 percent). Aging occurred in French oak over 17 months; 33 percent of the barrels used were new. Heady aromas of black plum and spice fill the intoxicating nose. The palate is stuffed with a mouthful of black fruit such as blackberry, plum, and blueberry. Bits of chocolate sauce emerge on the finish along with plum pudding spices and blackberry elements that continue to reverberate. This is a lush, fruit-driven, and somewhat hedonistic blend.
Rodney Strong Vineyards 2012 Symmetry Red Meritage ($55)
A classic Sonoma County wine, this Bordeaux-inspired blend from Alexander Valley is composed of cabernet sauvignon (75 percent), merlot (13 percent), cabernet Franc (5 percent), malbec (5 percent), and petit verdot (2 percent). Aging occurred over 18 months in French oak; 37 percent of the barrels utilized were new. One vintage after another, Symmetry provides consistently enjoyable drinking pleasure. The 2012 is no exception. Black raspberry and currant aromas lead the welcoming nose along with savory herbs such as thyme and sage. Oodles of black fruit flavors and bits of earth fill the lush, giving palate. The long, persistent finish has continuing fruit, spices, dusty dark cocoa, and a wisp of chicory. Bet on this wine year after year and you’ll always come out a winner.
Avignonesi ‘Desiderio’ 2010 ($60)
This Tuscan red blends together merlot (85 percent) and cabernet sauvignon (15 percent). It was aged in French Barriques. Rose petal and red cherry aromas rule the nose of this lovely Tuscan offering. Black cherry flavors fill the palate along with bits of red plum, bay leaf, and sage. Earth, cocoa, and black pepper join sour black cherry on the lengthy and warming finish. This spectacular example of merlot is delicious now, but will benefit from additional aging. Lay it down for five years and drink it in the 10 that follow. International varieties and indigenous style come together in an outstanding way here.
Kaiken 2009 Mai ($60)
This Argentine wine is composed entirely of malbec. All of the fruit came from the Mendoza region. It was aged entirely in new French oak for 18 months. Blueberry, violet, and cherry aromas all leap from the nose of this refined offering. The palate is a study in measured black fruit flavors that are both intense and precise. A hint of leather emerges on the finish, along with sweet dark chocolate and continuing dark fruit flavors. Mai has the big fruit flavors one expects from malbec, but they are joined by structure and finesse in a package that’s several notches above the pack. It’s delicious now and it will age well over the next decade.
Cakebread 2012 Napa Valley Cabernet ($65)
This offering is composed of cabernet sauvignon (84 percent), merlot (six percent), cabernet Franc (six percent), and petit verdot (four percent). It was aged over 18 months in a combination of new and used French oak. Cakebread has built their reputation making wines that are alluring and approachable upon release and also have the ability to age well, in most cases. The 2012 edition of their Napa Valley cabernet fits that profile. It’s studded with a cornucopia of black fruits on the nose that are interspersed with hints of red. The palate is opulent but even keeled. Tons of appealing fruit flavors play alongside spices, minerals, and bits of tasty oak on the proportionate palate. Mission fig and black cherry flavors dominate the long finish. Medium tannins yield with some air, and firm acidity provides lovely structure. This is a lovely example of Napa Valley cabernet sauvignon from a great vintage.
Grgich Hills Estate 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon ($65)
This estate cabernet from Napa Valley is composed of cabernet sauvignon (85 percent), merlot (eight percent), petite verdot (three and a half percent), and cabernet Franc (three and a half percent). It was aged over 21 months in French oak; 60 percent new. Hints of tobacco emerge from the nose here along with dark flowers and a bit of plum. The generous palate is strewn with black cherry, plum, and raspberry flavors in droves. All of those characteristics continue through the impressively long finish, where they are joined by pepper spice, bits of leather, and a touch of earth. Delicious today, this cabernet will age effortlessly for a decade or more.
Flora Springs 2012 Trilogy ($75)
Napa Valley is home to a host of impressive red blends. This offering is composed of cabernet sauvignon (82 percent), merlot (six percent), malbec (six percent), and petit verdot (six percent). It was aged for 22 months in a combination of new and used French oak. Black raspberry and blackberry aromas dominate the impressive nose. Those fruits, and oodles of black cherry, dominate the deeply layered palate along with a core of spices. Earth, chicory, and sweet dark chocolate are all in evidence on the finish of this classic Bordeaux-inspired blend that is stuffed with somewhat boisterous Napa Valley Fruit.
Maker’s Mark Cask Strength 375 milliliter ($40)
This limited edition of Maker’s Mark was bottled straight from the barrel without being cut or filtered. The moment you pour this bourbon the coppery hue shimmers in the glass. Toast, vanilla, and marzipan aromas light up the nose. The palate is dense, with wave after wave of intense flavors unleashing themselves. Papaya, apricot, yellow peach, and toasted pecan are of particular note. Hints of molasses and white pepper lead the finish, which has excellent length and wraps up with a somewhat fiery final note. If your dad is already a Maker’s Mark fan, this special release is going to impress him. If he’s not, this will convert him. Grab it while it lasts.
Baker’s Bourbon ($42)
Made in small batches using a specific strain of yeast, this bourbon was then aged for seven years in new oak. Burnt brown sugar, toasted marcona almonds, and hints of crème fraîche surface on the alluring nose here. The palate is firm but not overwhelming, with a potpourri of dried stone fruits, spices, and a hint of molasses. The above-average finish shows a bit of heat and lots of spice. This bourbon is tasty served neat, but works even better on the rocks.
Twelve Five Rye ($50)
This whiskey comes from the first licensed distillery in Iowa since prohibition. It’s composed of rye (70 percent), malted barley (15 percent), and corn (15 percent). Anise and praline aromas fill the complex nose. Apricot, roasted farro, pecan, and toast are all in evidence on the multifaceted palate. The persistent finish features white pepper, caramel, and a hint of acacia. There’s a lovely duality here in a whiskey that is somewhat light-bodied but also has a bit of a sizzling edge to it. Most important to me, this is a well-made selection that is also distinct.
Seven and Seven Mixed Drink
The seven and seven (or 7 and 7) is a popular whiskey highball that brings together two specific beverage brands. If you're looking for a cheap and refreshing drink for happy hour that is incredibly easy to mix up, then this is the recipe for you. A throwback drink that will never go out of style, it rose in popularity during the '70s, when its signature whiskey was all the rage.
Much like the Jack and Coke, the name tells you exactly what goes into this mixed drink. It is, quite simply, a shot of Seagram's 7 Crown Whiskey topped with 7-Up. There's no mystery, no fancy ingredients, and no substitutions or variations. When you order a seven and seven at the bar, this is what you'll get.
While you may think it's too simple in today's world of complex cocktails, there is a certain appeal that keeps this retro mixed drink in the shadowy spotlight of the bar. The combination of this particular "well" whiskey with a common lemon-lime soda is rather pleasant. It's as if they were made for one another. Drinkers keep coming back for more, and that is not likely to change.
Best Overall: Old Grand-Dad Bonded Bourbon Whiskey
Old Grand-Dad (OGD, for short) is a quintessential back porch-sipping whiskey and a favorite among the whiskey crowd. The original bourbon is bottled at 80-proof and has a lively spice due to the rye, which was the signature ingredient of distiller Basil Hayden. Distilled today by Jim Beam (the makers of the top-shelf Basil Hayden Bourbon as well), it's a classic whiskey you won't want to miss.
While that bottle is a good choice, spending a few extra dollars on Old Grand-Dad Bonded Bourbon is an excellent upgrade. It's a robust 100-proof that continues to astound whiskey drinkers. It is excellent on its own and can stand up to any mixed drink, so there’s plenty of opportunities to enjoy it.
Does this whiskey have corn?
Yes. Redneck Riviera is a blend of two premium whiskeys with the majority of the mash bill being corn. We believe corn makes the sweetest tasting whiskey.
Where is Redneck Riviera Whiskey made?
Eastside Distilling, Portland OR (NASDAQ: EAST)
Does this product contain gluten?
No. Distilled spirits are gluten free, including whiskey. Gluten can be added back to the whiskey in the form of malt extract or certain caramel colorings. Redneck Riviera does not add these ingredients back into the spirt. For more info please visit:
Gluten Free Diet – Alcohol in the Celiac Diet
What is meant by ‘American Blended Whiskey’?
American “blended whiskey” is a blend of two or more whiskeys and must contain a minimum of 20% straight whiskey (meaning the spirit is aged a minimum of two years and contains 51% of a single grain corn, wheat, rye, etc.) Check out the back label of your bottle to see exactly what went into the Redneck Rivera blend!
What is the mash bill of the whiskey?
Redneck Riviera Whiskey contains many grains including corn, rye and malted barley. The exact blend of these grains is our secret sauce and is proprietary!
Folds of Honor, what is that and what is the connection to Redneck Riviera Whiskey?
John Rich grew up in a family where it was taught that for every dollar earned a portion is to go to a charitable cause this is known as ‘giving tithes’. John believes that it is the American way and a responsibility to provide for those who are less fortunate. Folds of Honor is an organization founded by Major Dan Rooney that provides college scholarships for children and spouses of fallen soldiers. The charity gave out over $60 million in scholarships last year and 10% from every sale of Redneck Riviera Whiskey goes directly to the cause. Learn more at https://www.foldsofhonor.org/
I drink Jim Beam. How is this different from bourbon?
Good question. Bourbon is distilled of at least 51% corn, at no more than 160 proof, aged in new charred American White Oak barrels and has no minimum maturation requirement. Unlike bourbon described here, American whiskey can be distilled at a higher proof, be made up of any combination of grains and can age in used whiskey barrels. Typically, bourbon tends to be a bit higher octane with spice and smoke characteristics while American blends are a bit gentler on the palate. Although bourbon remains the official national spirit, we think there is nothing more American than American blended whiskey
I drink Crown Royal. How is this different/similar?
Another great question! First of all, Redneck Riviera Whiskey is fermented, distilled and aged in the U.S. of A while Crown is produced in Manitoba, Canada. While similar to the lighter Canadian style, we think we’ve hit the nail on the head by producing a robust, smooth and slightly sweet whiskey without the hassle of importation. Try them side-by-side and tell us how we did!
How should I enjoy my bottle of Redneck Riviera Whiskey?
Our best advice is to drink your whiskey how you typically enjoy it! Whether that’s sipping it neat, taking as a shot, mixed with your favorite cola or in a classic old fashioned, we’re sure you’ll enjoy Redneck Riviera. Have a good recipe you’d like to share? Post on your Facebook or Instagram Account and tag #RedneckRivieraCocktail
Where can I find Redneck Riviera Whiskey near me?
Check out our Store Locator for retail and liquor store locations in your area.
How did you come up with the flavor of Redneck Riviera Whiskey?
We knew our research and development was over when Granny Rich said that it was good to go!
The Spruce / Julia Hartbeck
Pour the bourbon, lemon juice, and syrup into a collins glass filled with ice cubes.
Garnish with a cherry and orange slice. Serve and enjoy.
- You can also shake this drink. To do so, secure a mixing tin on top of the glass and give the mix a quick shake prior to adding the soda.
More Tips for Making a Great John Collins
Bourbon is often preferred for the John Collins though it can be made with other styles of whiskey as well. Canadian, rye, and blended whiskeys are all popular options.
Irish whiskey is another possibility and you will want to be very selective if you want to use Scotch. A good blended Scotch may be best because it is a little more neutral than many of the other brands, particularly single malts.
In all 'Collins' drinks, there are two basic options for creating the sour component.
- Make it with fresh lemon juice and simple syrup as in the recipe above.
- Replace those two ingredients with a fresh-made sour mix (or commercial sour that is available at most liquor stores).
To keep a nice balance in the drink, it really is best to use fresh-squeezed lemon juice. By separating the sweet and sour, you have more control. You'll want that, especially as you experiment with whiskeys because you can adjust the two elements to fit the liquor you're pouring at the moment.
How Strong Is the John Collins?
Estimating the strength of a highball like the John Collins is difficult because the amount of soda poured is the unknown. On average, 2 ounces of soda is used to fill the glass, though this can be more or less given the bartender's pour style and size of the glass.
If we use an 80-proof whiskey and count on 2 ounces of soda, then the John Collins would have an alcohol content of around 11 percent ABV (22 proof). If you would like it a little weaker or stronger, add more soda or whiskey accordingly.
Exploring the Collins Family
There are many 'Collins' drinks that vary due to the base liquor used and all of them are good drinks to memorize. To remember the difference between the John and Tom Collins, I think of "John" as the macho whiskey drinker (also the Jimmy Dean song "Big Bad John") and associate "Tom" with gin.
The vodka collins is an easy one to remember because the liquor of choice is right there in the name. Similarly, you can recall that the tequila collins has a tequila base.
The Collins formula is easy to remember:
- 1 1/2 parts Base Liquor
- 1 part Sour
- 1/2 part Sweet
- Topped with Soda
- Served over ice in a highball glass
Of course, those ratios will change slightly based on the spirit, but this will get you close.
From there, you can add ingredients to any collins recipe to come up with an entirely new drink. For instance, the American Collins add bing cherries and blueberries to the Tom Collins and the Lavender Sapphire Collins opts for a lavender-infused syrup. Come spring, you definitely have to try the Rhubarb Collins featuring a fresh rhubarb syrup against a gin background (though whiskey is fun as well).
Take your collins experience from there. The possibilities are endless and it's a ton of fun to see what you can come up with.
15 Big Batch Cocktails Guaranteed to Delight a Crowd
Whip up one of these large batch cocktails or punch recipes pre-festivities, and you&rsquoll be free to join the celebration. (Because nothing dulls a party faster than getting stuck behind the bar.)
Repeat after us: You are the host, not the bartender. But the best way to make sure you don’t get trapped mixing drinks all night is to plan ahead, and the best way to plan ahead where bartending is concerned is to turn to big batch drinks and punch recipes. To get you out from behind the bar—with a drink in hand, of course—we’ve devised a roster of supersized, festive cocktails ranging from a refreshing Minty Moscow Mule to an icy Hard Cider Slush designed to fuel your holiday revelry (or any sort of festivities) without ever requiring a cocktail shaker, a bar spoon, or a muddler.
These batch cocktails range from the sweet to the complex, so there’s sure to be a drink to suit your taste𠅊nd the vibe of the party. The cocktail mixer options range, too, so your favorite is sure to be included somewhere. And because big batch recipes are so generously proportioned, if you want to make yours a little stronger or a little weaker, you’re free to do so. Now go forth and mix.
8 Reasons You Should Never Drink Fireball
If this if your drink of choice, you really need to get out more.
Oh, Fireball. What an embarrassment to alcohol. The cheap and syrupy cinnamon mixture was made for newbie drinkers and Solo cup college parties and that's as far as it should have made it in the booze scene. Yet somehow it remains a popular order at bars nationwide. But this is wrong. So completely, sadly, and utterly wrong. Sure it might serve its purpose in a big batch Jell-O shot, but if it's your favorite booze, then you really need to sort out your priorities. Because there are more than enough reasons to not drink Fireball.
(Okay, but these are pretty cool. )
1. It tastes like Red Hots soaked in water.
Actually make that Big Red gum soaked in pee. Just the thought of sipping this syrupy mess is enough to make you gag and start dry-heaving. And these grandmas trying it for the first time agree with me.
2. Fireball has the worst recipe ideas with even worse names.
Any drink that ends in "balls" or "nuts" is best left behind. Same goes for the eye-roll&ndashinducing fragile masculinity of the"Man-mosa." And don't even get me started on adding cinnamon to lemonade. Barf.
3. It's always ordered by the d-bags at the bar.
You know who I'm talking about: the bros with popped-collar Polos and gingham button-ups, finance guys who always cut you but somehow touch your lower back while doing it, sorority girls and college freshmen (with fake IDs, obviously) looking to get plastered on a Thursday night, juice heads bragging about how much they can lift.
4. Sorry, but it's "whiskey" not "whisky."
The makers of Fireball, Sazerac, are based in Louisiana. So there's no need to use the United Kingdom's spelling of whiskey. According to the brand, the drink contains Canadian Whisky. Our friends to the north apparently drop the 'e', hence the spelling choice, but we're not sold.
5. It's weak as hell.
At 66 proof, Fireball has 20 percent less alcohol than a true whiskey, which typically clocks in at somewhere between 86 and 100 proof.
6. It always leads to terrible decisions.
No one orders a single shot of Fireball because it's cheap and weak and apparently people like to torture themselves. And so, since it's only ever had in excess, it inspires ridiculously drunk behavior&mdashlike peeing in public and starting fights with the bouncer. Hate to break it to you, Fireball, but no good story ever started with "Well, we were drinking Fireball. "
7. It will give you the worst hangover.
Sugar and spice and everything not so nice. The morning after drinking this nasty concoction should be enough to make you quit it for good.
8. It used to contain a chemical used in anti-freeze.
A fact so unsettling to Europeans that sales of the sickly sweet booze were "temporarily halted" in Norway, Sweden, and Finland, which Fireball says was "due to a small recipe-related compliance issue." The chemical coming under fire is propylene glycol, which supposedly enhances flavor by absorbing water. It's a slightly less toxic compound than ethylene glycol, which was&mdashuntil recently&mdashmost often used in anti-freeze. According to the FDA, propylene glycol is "generally recognized as safe" when used in food "at levels not to exceed current good manufacturing practice," but nonetheless, Fireball removed the chemical from its recipe.
This story has been updated with information from Sazerac.
Best Overall: Forty Creek Confederation Oak
This is an excellent expression from the Grimsby, Ontario distillery. Confederation Oak was created to commemorate Canada’s 1867 Confederation. It’s a blended whisky that is finished for up to two years in new Canadian oak barrels, which the distillery says have a tighter grain because of the colder climate. Look for notes of praline, honey and dark fruits on the palate.
Best High-End Bourbons
These run north of $50, all the way up to a month&rsquos paycheck. Buying in this range is high risk, high reward. &ldquoSometimes you&rsquore gonna be disappointed,&rdquo Minnick says. &ldquoJust because a bourbon is 90 bucks doesn&rsquot mean it&rsquos good.&rdquo The benchmark bourbons at this range have upwards of 100 flavor notes to pick out, often happening at the same time and lingering on the tongue for ages. Or, as Minnick put it, the best should make you think, &ldquoIf god gave birth to his bourbon child, this is what it would taste like.&rdquo
It&rsquos bottled at 115 proof &mdash &ldquofor this distillery, that&rsquos the perfect proof,&rdquo Minnick says. &ldquoI&rsquom going through a bottle a month. The notes kind of just linger. You can have five different notes hitting at once. I believe that to be the definition of nuance.&rdquo
Average Price: $60 &ndash $70
Made using a single recipe and barrel per bottle, it&rsquos between 7 and 8 years old and has more complexity than the Small Batch. &ldquoFor being the same brand as the Small Batch, they taste very different. This one is more of a sipper. I want to really sit there and think about it when I&rsquom drinking it,&rdquo Minnick says.
Average Price: $40 &ndash $50
Don't tell your bourbon-drinking friends, but Russell's Reserve 10-year-old bourbon is one of the best values in the bourbon world. Age statement in the double digits for $40 or less? Yes. Produced by a respected distiller (Wild Turkey)? Yes. Nice, easy-drinking proof? Yes. This is what you drink when you need a break from barrel-proof juice.
Average Price: $40
The McKenna distillery was established in 1855, founded by the noted Irish immigrant distiller. Seagrams closed the business in the 1970s, and Heaven Hill purchased the brand name in 1994, but no longer uses the original recipe as Minnick notes in his book, &ldquoThe original yeast, mashbill, and flavor profile are gone, lost with time.&rdquo But one thing the new bottle does have is time: its 10 year age statement makes it one of the older bourbons at this price range. Take heed, though, since it somewhat controversially took home &ldquoBest in Show, Whiskey&rdquo at a recent San Francisco World Spirits Competition it&rsquos been harder to come by, and more expensive than it used to be.
Average Price: $50 &ndash $75 (price varies store-to-store)
One of the best new whiskeys of 2021, Stellum is a more affordable Barrell Bourbon. It's a cask strength blend created by the blending masters at Barrell Craft Spirits and it is a doozy. It's made up of whiskeys from Indiana, Tennessee and Kentucky, with ages ranging from 4 to 16 years old. It's dynamic and well worth the $55 sticker price.
Proof: 115 (varies by bottling)
Average Price: $55
Luxco&rsquos Old Ezra line could is one of the best kept secrets in whiskey. Bourbon with an age statement and available at barrel strength for a good price? That&rsquos nuts in today&rsquos whiskey world.
This bourbon won Whisky Advocate&rsquos whiskey of the year, and Minnick was on the tasting panel. &ldquoIt was very, very nice bourbon,&rdquo he says, wistfully. It has none of the harshness you&rsquod expect from a 133.2 proof bourbon, and doesn&rsquot undergo chill filtering &mdash instead just using light filtration to remove barrel char flakes.
Average Price: $65
You might notice there isn&rsquot a price, tasting notes or distillery information listed on this pick. That&rsquos because Barrell is, at this moment, the best blended of American whiskey there is (they have the trophy case to prove it). Each of its releases makes clear what went into it &mdash distillery location, whiskey age, proof, etc. &mdash and all are worth seeking out. Barrell is a blender, not a distiller, and the flavor mastery of founder Joe Beatrice and master distiller Tripp Stimson have won the old bourbon guard over. &ldquoIt won my American Whiskey of the Year award [in 2018] in a blind tasting,&rdquo Minnick says. &ldquoIt&rsquos got so much flavor to it, so much complexity &mdash it&rsquos just brilliant whiskey.&rdquo
&ldquoAre we including bottles that are impossible to find?&rdquo Minnick asks. Sure. This treasure from Buffalo Trace&rsquos Antique collection does its namesake a service, representing some of the world&rsquos best wheated bourbon, a style Weller himself pioneered. &ldquoIf God gave birth to a bourbon child, this is what it would taste like,&rdquo Minnick says. &ldquoIt&rsquos so fucking amazing.&rdquo
Average Price: $800+
Big Reds and Whiskey for Dad - Recipes
Average Price: $150
Buffalo Trace Kosher provides a truly kosher spirit that also fully delivers on the palate. The juice is made from the same wheated bourbon recipe as Buffalo Trace’s Weller and Pappy lines. The difference is that the mash is loaded from fully cleaned stills and pipes into kosher barrels (that means the barrels were specially made and purchased under the watchful eye of a rabbi from the Chicago Rabbinical Council).
The whiskey then ages for seven years at Buffalo Trace before blending, proofing, and bottling.
There’s a familiar note of Red Hots and vanilla cream on the nose, with a hint of semi-dried florals. The palate mellows out the cinnamon towards a woody and dry bark as the florals deepen towards summer wildflowers as a touch of plums and berries arrive, adding sweetness and brightness. The end holds onto that dry bark, as a hint of anise pops late with a slight vanilla cream tobacco touching off the medium-length fade.
This is a yearly release that drops just before Passover. The MSRP is much lower on this one ($40) but expect to find it for at least double that locally in Kentucky and much more the further you get from Buffalo Trace’s warehouses and that Passover drop date. All of that being said, this is a great specialty whiskey that stands up to any bottle in this price range.
Cream of Kentucky 11.5 Year Old
Average Price: $160
This whiskey is part of the bespoke sourced line from bourbon legend Jim Rutledge. Rutledge spent 21 years as the head distiller over at Four Roses, building the worldwide renown that the brand is now known for today. Rutledge is currently sourcing the best barrels he can find to create this throwback brand of whiskey — whose labels used be to painted by Norman Rockwell back in the day.
You feel the deep bourbon heritage from the nose through the finish as classic notes of oily vanilla husks, soft cedar, and rich toffee draw you in. The taste holds onto the toffee and vanilla but also veers into sweet cherry with a rush of spice, which is almost like a Cherry Dr. Pepper in the best possible way. A note of bitterness comes in late via a dark chocolate vibe (especially with a drop or two of water) while the silken sip quickly (almost too quickly) fades, leaving you with warm and woody spices.
This is actually priced at $150 MSRP, so the hype machine hasn’t taken over the pricing … yet. Still, this is a classic bourbon that hits iconic notes from the style, making it a good bottle to really dial in those flavors on your palate. For us, the fade is a bit fast on the finish but, for some, that’s exactly what they want.
Knob Creek 2001
Average Price: $160
This bourbon is all about heritage. Back in 2001, Fred Noe took the reigns of Jim Beam from his legendary father, Booker Noe. As part of that transition, Booker Noe warehoused a final group of barrels for his son to finish and release to celebrate his ascendence to Master Distiller. The juice was aged for 14 long years and then released in three distinct batches (we’re reviewing the first batch), all at 100 proof.
There’s a subtle nod to Jim Beam’s cherry up top that’s more like a Haribo Cherry gummi with a hint of cinnamon cutting through the sweetness next to doses of creamy vanilla, rich toffee, and dry cedar boxes. The palate amps up the spice with notes of black pepper and powdery cinnamon as the cherry veers into dark red and ripe territory next to a slight tobacco chewiness and buzz on the tongue. That tobacco chew dries out near the finish, leading back to the cedar and vanilla as the sip slowly fades.
This hard-to-find bottle is one of those expressions that is very clear on its taste and feel. It’s classic bourbon that feels like it gets better with every sip you take. The other two batches will hit varying levels of choco-bitterness and vanilla pudding depths alongside those standard cherry/vanilla/toffee/woody notes, but Batch 1 really does feel like the most refined and classic bourbon of the three.
Kentucky Owl Confiscated
Average Price: $175
Kentucky Owl is another resurrection brand by Master Blender Dixon Dedman, the great-great-grandson of the shingle’s original founder. Yes, this is sourced juice from an undisclosed distillery in Kentucky, meaning we don’t know a whole lot of what’s in the bottle, but that leaves the family story and the taste of the whiskey as our only touchstones. And on those two levels, this expression excels.
The sip draws you in with a slight rye note of anise and maybe even licorice next to old cellar oak, vanilla cream, and a touch of ripe cherry. The taste warms on the tongue with dark spices, more of that old oak, and a touch of raw leather. The end is long and touches back on those spices, building a real buzzing on your senses, and hitting back towards that oak and leather, with just a hint of cherry tobacco.
This is another bottle that’s going to vary pretty wildly in prices. We’ve seen it for hundreds of dollars at places like Costco on the West Coast. Is it worth the $125 MSRP? It’s absolutely interesting and much sought after.
Still… we’d say it’s more of a palate-expanding stepping stone to high-end bourbon than the mountaintop.
Bardstown The Prisoner
Average Price: $180
Bardstown is one of the premier blenderies of American whiskey. This special release from 2020 takes sourced nine-year-old Tennessee bourbon and finishes the juice in red wine barrels from California’s Prisoner Wine Company for 18 months. The bourbon is then cut with that soft Tennessee water and bottled at 100 proof.
There’s a sense of blackberries, blueberries, and black cherries swimming in thin vanilla and honey cream with a hint of eggnog spices lurking in the background. The sip dries out a bit with a dark vinous edge, leading towards a spicy cherry pie with a crumbly and buttery crust dusted in brown sugar. The end dries out even more with a slight pine panel woodiness and a final whisper of those berries and eggnog spices on a slow fade.
We’re big fans of Bardstown around here. So it should come as no surprise that we’d recommend tracking down one of these very limited release bottles. This bottle really feels like you’re getting every cent of that $125 MSRP, with the refinement and beauty of the whiskey in the bottle.
Garrison Brothers Balmorhea
Average Price: $185
This much-lauded Texas bourbon is the highwater mark of what great whiskey from Texas can be. The juice is aged in Ozark oak for four years and then finished in oak from Minnesota for another year, all under that blazing West Texas sunshine. The bourbon is then small-batched, proofed with Texas spring water, and bottled at a healthy 115 proof.
You’re greeted with a real sense of a corn-syrup-laced pecan pie next to hazelnut bespeckled cinnamon rolls and creamy milk chocolate. That chocolate drives the taste towards a mint-chocolate ice cream vibe (heavy on the chocolate part) with small dashes of holiday spices, hard toffee candies, worn leather, and a flourish of cedar boxes full of dried tobacco leaves. The end circles back around to all that sweet and chocolatey creaminess with a final slice of pecan pie on a slow fade.
This is one of those bottles that just … delivers. Yes, it wins all the major awards and comes with a ton of hype. But, goddamnit, it’s f*cking delicious. It’s so tasty and truly easy-drinking that we wish it was affordable enough to be an everyday dram.
Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Revival
Average Price: $185
The Master’s Keep series is the mountaintop of Wild Turkey and, we’d argue, great Kentucky bourbon in general. The juice is a nod to Jimmy Russell releasing a sherry-cask finished bourbon back in 2000 (yes, sherry cask finishing has been around that long in bourbon). The ripple that makes this bottle special is that those sherry barrels are barrels that held sherry for 20 years.
That’s an extremely rare barrel in a world where sherry rarely ages more than three-ish years.
You’re beckoned into this sip through a nose full of marzipan, heavy with rose water, next to sultanas, orange oils, wet cedar, and a hint of spicy stewed red cherry. The taste delivers on those promises by amping up the spices into Christmas cake territory while adding in a rich and creamy vanilla pudding and a dash of pineapple and apricot. That apricot dries out while the fade slowly walks you back through those Christmas spices, almond, and stewed cherry.
This is the perfect end-of-the-year bottle. One, it’s holds a deep wintry/holiday season vibe to its core. Two, the price is going to range close to $200 (or more), making this a great candidate for a celebratory time of year.
Jefferson’s Presidential Select 16 Year
Average Price: $190
Jefferson’s is another stellar American whiskey blendery and distillery. This very limited release (only 10,000 bottles were made) is a unique double-barreled whiskey. The juice first spends ten years maturing in new oak, as per bourbon’s rules. Then the whiskey is transferred to a brand new oak barrel for a second maturation of six more years. In the end, the younger notes of the second barreling create a richer sense of “bourbon” in the final product, instead of sherry or port or rum, etc.
It’s a double bourboned bourbon, so to speak.
“Bourbon” is what you’re greeted with as notes of rich and creamy vanilla mingle with buttery toffee, wet oak, caramel-covered pears, and a matrix of holiday spices. The palate really delivers on all of that, while refining nicely as the spices lean into a cinnamon candy and the vanilla turns into a thick custard with a caramel glaze. That sweetness and silkiness impart a velvet mouthfeel that spikes with notes of spice, wet yet buzzy tobacco, and a mild sense of those pears.
This bottle feels like a real collector’s item that’ll be hard to keep in the vault since it’s so damn tasty and easy to drink. This dram with a single rock really shines as a great, all-around high-end bourbon that lives up to the price in every way.
Weller Aged 12 Years
Average Price: $199
Weller 12 is lovingly referred to as the “Poorman’s Pappy,” with good reason. Both whiskeys are made by Buffalo Trace with the same wheated bourbon mash bill. Of course, the barrels are treated differently when it comes to where they are stored and why. But we’re still talking about a very similar product at the end of the day.
Once which also tends to be a bit more accessible, at least for now.
This opens with a sense of vanilla pods coming to life in a hot pan next to light orange oil-infused marzipan, a touch of sweet corn, and a whisper of musty oak. The palate holds onto the orange and almond as it dries out towards a cedar box and vanilla tobacco chew with a mild sense of dry spices. The end is long-ish and touches on the wood, orange oils, spice, and nuttiness, leaving you warmed with that classic Kentucky Hug.
This is a bottle that gets a decent amount of hype (enough to make it cost far more than its MSRP, but not ridiculously so). For us, it’s an amazing choice for mixing up high-end whiskey cocktails like a fine Manhattan or Sazerac. Of course, it’s a solid sipper too, best with ice, especially when winter comes back around.
Michter’s 10 Year
Average Price: $199
The triumph of Michter’s coming to Kentucky (from Pennsylvania) is writ large in this bottle of fine bourbon. The juice is now contract-distilled according to Master Distiller Pam Heilmann and Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson’s precise instructions and watchful eyes (though, they’re distilling their own juice now in Kentucky).
This expression is a ten-year-old single barrel drop that hits the highest marks when talking about what bourbon is and can be.
There’s a maple syrup sweetness with spicy tobacco, creamy vanilla, and burnt toffee next to leathery oak. The taste hints at a charred bitterness (burnt espresso bean?) next to a touch of caramel-meets-fruit that meanders back through that tobacco, leather, vanilla, and maple. The end is soft but surprisingly short while touching on the sweeter notes of maple and vanilla and leaving the spice, tobacco, and oak behind.
This really does feel like the ultimate expression of bourbon as a style. There’s a sense that you’re drinking something wholly unique to the American whiskey experience while also getting a sip that stuns in its refinement and excellence as a whiskey in general. While a rock certainly helps this sip along, it’s delicate enough to drink neat and will wow with every sip.
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