New Bourbon Release: Old Ripy

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I always enjoy getting The Bourbon Review because I always learn more about bourbon.   They discuss new bourbons being released by the distilleries with good background on the releases. The spring issue that just arrived announced that Campari Group, the parent company of Wild Turkey, is bringing back brands that were popular before Prohibition. The project is called the Whiskey Barons collection. They will release 2 brands in 2017, Bond and Lillard, and Old Ripy. Campari says they are not only bringing back the names but they are attempting to replicate the bourbons by using historical documents, recipes, and methods used to make these great whiskies from the late 19th and early 20th century.

Old Ripy was founded in 1868 by Irish immigrant James Ripy in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. The original home is still there on the site of the Wild Turkey Distillery. Part of the profits from this project will be used to restore the Ripy home. Campari used old brochures, bottling, and family stories to help create what they believe is the closest they could get to the original brand. The release says, “it’s a blend of 8 and 12-year-old whiskies, along with some younger whiskies and is non-chill filtered. It will be bottled at 104 proof in 375ml bottles.”

While out running errands last weekend I stopped in our local Total Wine and they had Old Ripy. Score! That was the one I wanted to try first based on the article. Suggested retail is $50 for a 375ml bottle. Total Wine was selling it for $45.99.

As I have shared in past blog posts, I am a sucker for great packaging (comes with the job). The historic look of this bottle and label are a knock out. But great packaging only takes you so far. The product definitely lives up to its heritage. At 104 proof it’s not for the casual 80 proof drinker. This is a bold whiskey with great flavor. When you first taste it, drink it neat. Do the “Kentucky Chew” and work it over your taste buds. It grabs you from the beginning with hints of caramel, and spice, lots and lots of spice.

After you have done your first tasting drop a very small ice cube in it and swirl it around. Dropping that temperature and adding just a hint of water really opens it up. I just love it! I highly recommend you try a bottle. At the price point it also makes a wonderful gift for that serious whiskey drinking friend. It’s very good, unusual, and not something easy to find on drink menus.

Kentucky Derby Bourbon Bar Cart

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It’s only a few days until the 2017 Kentucky Derby. We’ve sent out the invitations, planned the centerpieces, and started cooking (well – I can’t really take any credit – it all goes to Lynn). I have my Woodford Reserve “Official Bourbon of the Kentucky Derby” special edition bottle for mint juleps. I’m about ready to go. What’s left? Stocking the bar for those who want to do a little Derby Day bourbon tasting or drink their bourbon neat!

I would suggest you have some horse racing themed bottles for those guests to try. There are some incredible bourbons with equestrian themed names, and graphics. In past blogs I have shown you the Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottles, the Maker’s Mark American Pharoah bottle, and the Calumet bottle.

You must have a bottle of Blanton’s, the originals single barrel bourbon. It is a beautiful bottle with a horse and jockey stopper. These iconic stoppers are the different strides gate of the horse from standing to a full run. Each horse & stopper has a letter that spells out the name Blanton’s so there are 8 different stoppers.

I just got a bottle of Pinhook bourbon. Anyone familiar with racing knows the term pinhooking. It is an old Southern term for the purchase of very young thoroughbreds to be resold at a profit.   The best Pinhookers are speculators, with horse racing experience, and a deep knowledge of lineage. Each release is dedicated to a specific racehorse from Bourbon Lane Stable in Versailles, Kentucky. Great story, and impressive graphics. A friend gave me a bottle from Long Meadow Wine & Liquors in Hagerstown, Maryland.

Calumet Farm is one of the great old storied Kentucky Horse Farms. In 1924 William Monroe Wright, entrepreneur and owner of Calumet Baking Powder Company established a beautiful horse farm in Lexington, Kentucky in the heart of the Bluegrass. He went on to become one the most successful breeders and owners of thoroughbreds in the world. Calumet has eight Kentucky Derby Winners and 2 Triple Crown winners.  The Calumet bourbon bottle is an eye pleasing shape with a graphic of the steeple from their barns on the front of it.

Last but not least, pictured is the 2016 and 2017 Kentucky Derby Woodford Reserve bottles with art by Thomas Allen Pauly. Pauly is the first artist to do 2 Woodford Reserve Kentucky Derby bottles and he got them back to back. It is an outstanding bourbon with a history as rich as the Kentucky Derby. These bottles look good on the bar, on as the centerpiece on your table.

One bottle I don’t have is the Orphan Barrel “Gifted Horse.” This is another good tasting and good looking bottle from Orphan Barrel. Gifted Horse is the result of some 17-year-old Stitzel-Weller Distillery bourbon accidentally mixed with some younger bourbon. One their website they say, “Our gaffe is your gift.” They have it in stock at Hi-Time Wine in Costa Mesa, CA – I may be taking a trip there this week!

There are more equestrian themed bourbons. Black Saddle is another interesting choice for your bar. It was recommended to me at our local BevMo store and I have enjoyed it. Chestnut Farms Bourbon is another good choice. It hails from Barton 1792 Distillery with a product inside as impressive as the horse on the outside.

No matter what you have on your bar Derby Day your guests will have a great time. Let’s all toast to 2 great Kentucky traditions — Bourbon and the Kentucky Derby. Oh, yes, and the hats, all the incredible Kentucky Derby hats.

Bourbon Review: Parker’s Heritage 8 Year Old Malt Whiskey

I was in Dallas on business last week and visited Whiskey Cake, my favorite spot for a drink and bite to eat in the Frisco/Plano area. I decided to try something from Parker’s Heritage Collection.  Each year Heaven Hill Distillery releases a special whiskey in the name of their late Master Distiller Parker Beam.  I have never tried anything from the Parker Collection.  To honor the great Parker Beam I thought I would try one of their releases.  I selected the 8-year-old Malt Whiskey released in 2015.

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Enjoying Parker’s Collection at Whiskey Cake

 

If you are not familiar with Malt whiskey it is made from a fermented mash just like bourbon. Unlike bourbon which is 51% corn or higher, Malt is made from a malted grain, and this one is barley, 65% barley and 35% corn.  Just like bourbon it must be aged in a new charred American Oak barrel.

This is one of the first American Malt’s I have experienced. It was really good. If you haven’t had experience with American Malt Whiskey’s you will be pleasantly surprised.  There are many similarities to bourbon.  It felt a little like drinking a scotch, then I thought, “no, it’s a little like a bourbon.”  It has notes of butterscotch and toffee, and you get the sweetness from the corn.  You can definitely taste the oak.  It has a mellow rich flavor and is a very smooth whiskey with a soft finish.

I was originally going to try the 8th Edition 13 year old “Wheat” whiskey but they had sold the last of it. I never would have picked it first but glad the wheat was sold out. I’ve never been a big fan of scotch or European malts, but I’m glad I tried this.  I’m looking forward to trying more Malt Whiskey in the future. It’s a unique experience.  If this becomes the benchmark for American malts we are in for some fun experiences.

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Parker’s Heritage Collection Editions (Photo from the Heaven Hill Distillery website)

Aged: 8 years
Proof: 108 proof
Color: Mahogany
Aroma: Oak, pine
Taste: Toffee, butterscotch
Price: $100 (When Released in late 2015; you can find resale bottles at nice liquor stores like Hi-Time Wine Cellars)

Bourbon Review: Willett Pot Still Reserve

The first thing you notice about the Willet Pot Still Reserve Bourbon is the bottle. It is a beautiful, elegant bottle with a very long neck and wood topped cork. The bottle shape is made to look like a copper pot still. There is a gold wax seal medallion on the front. Willett Pot Still Reserve Bourbon appears a copper brown which makes it look even more like a Pot Still. The distillery first offered this bourbon and bottle in 2008.

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We visited Willett Distillery when we did the Bourbon Trail a few years ago. It is small distillery viewed against the big distilleries but a wonderful size for a craft distillery.

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I highly recommend you make a stop by Willet on your tour of the Bluegrass. They produce over a dozen bourbons and a few ryes. They are also known for Willett, Noah’s Mill, Rowan’s Creek, Johnny Drum, and Old Bardstown, Kentucky Vintage, and Pure Kentucky.

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Looks similar to their bottle shape, doesn’t it!?

They offer tours daily and the $12 charge includes a tour, tasting, and a Willett Glencarin tasting glass to take with you. (Well, we didn’t get glasses back when we toured, so now I want to go back!)

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Lynn in front of  one of their fermentation tanks

There isn’t much info on their website as to the mashbill or makeup of their bourbon. Based on the government regulations for a bourbon there is obviously at least 51% corn. I am guess for the Willett Pot Still Reserve it’s a little higher. The bourbon is very floral on the nose. It gives you citrus on the palate with a strong flavor of honey. The finish is very herbal and smooth.

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Barrels at Willett’s Distillery

This is a very well made bourbon from a family with a great reputation for small batch bourbons.

You are going to want this top-class bourbon on your bar for the bottle, but more importantly the liquid gold inside. The bourbon has a delightful finish that come up remarkably sweet and smooth. This is a great sipping bourbon.

Aged: 4 years
Proof: 94 proof
Color: Copper Brown
Aroma: Vanilla, Citrus, Caramelized Sugar
Taste: Caramel, Spice, Herbs, Honey
Price: $43.99 for 750mL at Hi-Time Wine Cellars
$85.99 for 1.75L at Hi-Time Wine Cellars

Bourbon Review: Reservoir Bourbon

Reservoir Distillery is a Double Gold award-winning distillery located in Richmond, Virginia, created by lifelong friends Jay Carpenter and David Cuttino. While tailgating at Virginia Tech football games they decided if they combined their talents and passions for fine whiskey they could produce a highly exceptional spirit that reflected their Virginia roots.

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I first saw Reservoir when we visited Taylor and Carter in Richmond. They distill three distinct whiskies, bourbon, wheat whiskey, and rye whiskey. They suggest you try their wheat first, then the bourbon, and last the rye. They age their whiskey in small (some 5 gallon) barrels. The theory is that a smaller barrel gives the whiskey more exposure to the wood and speeds aging.  One of the examples on their website says 2 years in a smaller barrel is equivalent to 15 or more years in a 53 gallon barrel. The focus is on quality not quantity. And, both Jay and David are personally involved in every barrel and bottle.

Their mashbill is 100% local corn. Most bourbons add some rye to their mashbill, some even add a little wheat.  On their website they say, “Reservoir trusts the full force of local corn and deep aging in our small barrels to produce a unique bourbon that is different from any other product available on the market.”

I received a bottle of Reservoir Bourbon from Taylor and Carter for Christmas and tried it for the first time over the weekend. Each bottle is labeled with the year, batch, and bottle number (mine is 2016 batch 15). It is a very full bodied 100 proof bourbon. They state their bourbon is “built to be bigger than the average bourbon.”   Lynn and I both tasted it and got a very strong spice. You may also taste coffee, and pecans. It is a fantastic sipping bourbon neat or with one ice cube which they recommend once you have tried it neat (at the price point it is definitely one for savoring, not mixing!).  It is very bold, and very flavorful.

If you are going to buy a bottle you are going to have to purchase it on the East Coast in Virginia or one of the surrounding states. I highly recommend you pick up a bottle. It’s a very unique, well-crafted bourbon to add to your collection. If you are not on the East Coat, pick one up on your next trip that way and bring it back with you in your suitcase. I look forward to swinging by the distillery the next time I’m in Richmond!

Aged: 2 years+
Proof: 100 proof
Color: Deep mahogany
Aroma: Vanilla, corn, toast
Taste: Spice, coffee, pecans
Price: $42.19 for 350mL

 

A Unique Experience – Kavalan Soloist Vinho Barrique

I had a unique experience last night. Whenever I visit my college roommate, Jeff, and his wife, Sandy, I have a unique experience. Let me set the stage. Jeff and Sandy live in a log cabin in the middle of 12 wooded acres in Indiana. It’s a fantastic home with a big fireplace and this time of year there is always a roaring fire. They regularly have 4 dogs laying around that fire. And they have an incredible collection of bourbons, whiskeys, and wine. I had my first sip of Pappy in front of that fireplace on a cold winter evening a few years ago.

Last night they poured me some of Kavalan Soloist Vinho Barrique Single Malt Whiskey they had recently purchased.   Kavalan, established in 2005, is Taiwan’s first and only family owned whisky and maker. Kavalan takes the name of Yilan County where it is located in northeastern Taiwan. Boasting pure water and fresh air, this part of the subtropical island provides the ideal environment for the production of whisky.

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I must admit my knowledge of Asian whisky is very limited. I had to read up on Kavalan to understand more about this whisky.   It was a very unique experience of taste and reading. At 59 proof it is a very bold whisky with a lot of bite but it has an impressive flavor profile.

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To mature their Vinho Barrique expression, the King Car distillers (who blend for Kavalan) in Taiwan use casks which have held both red and white wines, before being re-toasted. The whisky is fully matured in these casks to help their Taiwanese single malt develop a bold, expressive flavors of berry, plum, and caramelized sugar notes. A very strong caramel finish.

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The price point on this whisky is not for the faint of pocket book. This whisky and distillery has racked up an impressive number of awards in a short amount of time. If you get a chance to try it, by all means don’t pass it up.

Did you have a Bourbon-filled Christmas?

I hope your Christmas was as Bourbon-ful as mine.  As you are reading this blog hopefully you noticed my new logo and branding. We are getting pretty professional over here! (The logo design was a Christmas gift from our daughter). And Taylor had a dark blue t-shirt made with the logo on it. Now I won’t need a name tag when out bourbon tasting!

Taylor and her husband also gave me a bottle of Reservoir Bourbon Whiskey from Richmond, Virginia. Reservoir is handmade, single run, small batch whiskey. Look for a review in a future blog. I am so excited to try it (and visit the distillery the next time we’re in Richmond)!

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Lynn gave me a fantastic gift from Pappy & Company. It was a canvas tote bag from J. Stark. Inside the bag were 2 Pappy & Company glasses, some “Pappy Hour” napkins, and 12 “Pappy Hour” plastic cups. The last part of the gift set was a box of Bourbon Balls made with Old Rip Van Winkle 10 year. The bourbon balls are handmade by Sugar Mama’s Bake Shop. What a fun gift, great for picnics or a weekend away. There is plenty of room in the bag for a bottle of your favorite bourbon (maybe a new bottle of Pappy??) and a few other bar accessories for your getaway.

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In addition to the gift set, I got a Barrel Stave Cutting Board. The board measures 8.5 x 9 and about 1.5 inches thick. It is made from Pappy Van Winkle barrel staves and it is branded with their crest. Great for the bar!

Lynn also gave me a Collared Greens Bow Tie with bourbon barrels on it. (Collard Greens is another Richmond-made item… they have lots of fun bowties on their website)

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I did take my own suggestion and stopped by Hi-Time Wine Cellars to buy a bottle of Makers 46. I just love the Makers 46 and needed to replenish my bar. Based on a suggestion from Ryan at Hi-Time I also bought a bottle of Belle Meade Bourbon. Ryan said he thought it was one of the best bourbons and values in the store. I’ve had it once before but wanted to give it a full taste and review.

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I am ready for whatever the New Year brings with all my new gear. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas or Hanukah and want to wish a Happy New Year to all!