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 Campari says they are not only bringing back the names but they are attempting to replicate the bourbons by using historical documents, recipes, and methods used to make these great whiskies from the late 19th and early 20th century.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.

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.

Bourbon Review: Michter’s Bourbon

I am sure many you have seen Michter’s on the shelf and wanted to try it. I was in that same boat and I decided to pick up a bottle at Hi-Time Wine Cellars in Costa Mesa (they also have a great website you can buy their products from). They have almost everything you ever wanted to add to your bourbon collection.

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Michter’s was established in 1753 and know as Shenk’s and later Bomberger’s. It was founded by John Shrek a Swiss Mennonite in Pennsylvania. It is one of the oldest distillers and George Washington even requested it for his men in the Revolutionary War. From their website I got the following. Michter’s USUS1_Michters_American_Whiskey_FRONT 1 Bourbon is made from a carefully selected mashbill that features the highest quality American corn. It is then matured to the peak of perfection, with barrels often aging in excess of eight years. Truly “small batch,” each batch of our US 1 Bourbon is typically composed of no more than two dozen barrels, leaving no margin for “blending out” imperfection and thus necessitating excellence from every barrel. Reflecting the spirit of the Bluegrass State, Michter’s US1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon is nuanced, mellow, and earthy.

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Now for my own tasting experience. It has a wonderful warm, rich color to it. It is bottled at 91.4 proof. That puts it between smack in the middle between Basil Hayden at 80 proof and Wild Turkey 101 at 101 Proof. Not sure if that tells you much but it tells me it’s going to have a gentlemanly grasp when you take your first sip. But it’s not too strong for any woman that appreciates good bourbon. I poured a small glass to take my pictures and noticed immediately how much aroma it exuded. It has a strong caramel taste with vanilla overtones and some stone fruit notes. It has a good smoky oak finish as well.

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I was very impressed with it as I tried my first sips neat. I then put a small ice cube in it and the caramel jumped out of my glass. I would highly recommend you try a bottle of Michter’s Bourbon. They say they bottle their US 1 bourbon in excess of 8 years. They also bottle a 10 year and 20 year bourbon. I hope to try the 20 sometime. Pick up a bottle and give it a try. You will be glad you did!

Age: 8 years
Proof: 91.4
Color: Warm Golden Brown
Aroma: Caramel, Vanilla, Smoky Oak
Taste: Caramel, Vanilla, Stone Fruit
Price: $36.99 at Hi Time Wine

Bar Review: Thoroughbred Club (Charleston, SC)

I always do my bourbon research before traveling – whether it’s asking friends for recommendations or turning to the internet. Thoroughbred Club in the Belmond Place Hotel was suggested as a top place to visit in Charleston by the Charleston City Paper.

After walking all over Charleston while we were there for Memorial Day Weekend and dodging rain drops with weary feet we stopped for a drink at the Thoroughbred Club.

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Its dark interior with horse racing memorabilia on the walls was just the ticket for me. The atmosphere was warm and inviting.

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Their bourbon list is not as deep as some but the atmosphere more than makes up for it. They have a nice selection of bourbons, whiskey, spirits, beer, and wine. Head bartender Mouzon Taylor has developed a reputation for pairing bourbons with food, and he mixes up some splendid bourbon cocktails.

I had an Old Fashioned. This trip was kind of like our Florida Keys trip a few years ago where every stop included Key Lime Pie. We tried a lot of Old Fashions in Charleston and the one I had at the Thoroughbred Club was very good.

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Lynn had a “Mouzon’s Mash.” It’s a silky blend of bourbon, fresh peaches, mint, lemon, and simple syrup created by Mouzon’s peach-farmer grandfather.

The staff was very friendly and helpful. You also get an amazing complimentary trio of a nut and snack mix. One cup had spicy, one regular, and one sweet. They have a very nice menu to compliment the bar selection. We did not try any food as we still had more ground to cover that afternoon. The reviews I have read are very positive and everything we saw looked good.

The bar was very full and lively, we look forward to returning to eat and try a few more of their cocktails.

By the way, I’ve found some of the best places for bourbon restaurant advice and other travel tips are Garden & Gun, Southern Living, and the New York Times travel section (they have some great 36 hour itineraries). Check them out before your next trip to bourbon country!

Bar Review: Husk (Charleston, SC)

No trip to Charleston is complete with out a meal at Husk. It’s a great restaurant and next door to it they have a cool bar. Both are in historic late 1800’s buildings. Husk is known for their food and bourbon and it’s tough to get a table. Husk has almost any bourbon you would ever want to try, and knowledgeable bartenders to help you make your choice.

Make sure to make reservations WAY in advance of your trip. Our daughter was in Charleston a couple months ago and as she and her husband pulled into town they tried to swing by Husk for a late lunch. The restaurant is so popular, rightfully so, that they were fully booked for lunch. When she mentioned this, Lynn immediately made reservations for our trip to Charleston over Memorial Day Weekend.

Husk describes their restaurant as:

“Centrally located in historic downtown Charleston, Husk, from James Beard Award-winning Chef Sean Brock of McCrady’s and the Neighborhood Dining Group, transforms the essence of Southern food. Led by Brock and Chef de Cuisine Travis Grimes, a Lowcountry native, the kitchen reinterprets the bounty of the surrounding area, exploring an ingredient-driven cuisine that begins in the rediscovery of heirloom products and redefines what it means to cook and eat in Charleston.”

Our meal was delicious! I had the fried chicken and it lived up to the billing. The menu changes daily and I had a tough decision to make between chicken fried steak and the fried chicken. The waiter suggested the fried chicken and that was all I needed to know. Lynn had the shrimp and grits. Both were winners. We finished lunch with the delicious Chocolate Chess Pie. The dessert menu even has recommended bourbon pairing for the dessert.

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My Barrel Aged Manhattan at lunch
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The delicious dessert menu!

After lunch we strolled, did some shopping, toured the historic Joseph Manigault house built in 1803, and the Charleston Museum. The Charleston Museum is recognized as the first museum in America. It was founded in 1773.

When the museum closed at 5:00pm, we found our way back to the Husk Bar which opens at 4:00pm daily.

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It is very cozy with a long bar on the first floor and a nice room on the second floor for groups to sit and enjoy the food and beverage.

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I tried the Jefferson’s Chef’s Collaboration. It is one of the creative offerings from Jefferson’s and was developed with the collaboration between Chef Edward Lee and Trey Zoeller Master Distiller. It has a hint of vanilla, cherry, and a little apple. It was a great pick and went well with the appetizer we had – pimento cheese on toast. I don’t remember all the ingredients but I do remember if was really good and went well with the Jefferson’s which was blended to be enjoyed with spicy foods.

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Lynn had an old fashioned and they used an orange and cherry bitters which gave it a wonderful flavor.

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Yes, we enjoyed Charleston, Husk, and, despite dodging a lot of rain over the weekend, look forward to our next trip there!

Bar Review: Who Goes to Augusta for the Bourbon?

Last weekend, we were in Augusta for the wedding of a good friend’s son. But we couldn’t pass up a great bourbon bar for lunch on the way to the wedding. So, I guess I went to Augusta for the bourbon.

The bar is Finch & Fifth and it’s only minutes from Augusta National. It’s in Surry Center, a nice shopping center with antique stores, clothing, and outdoor shops. Finch & Fifth has been there about 3 years.

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The bourbon selection is superb. They have most anything you want Pappy, Orphan Barrels, older and new bourbons. They have almost anything you might want. On their website they say, “With craft cocktails, artisanal cheeses, and a creative twist on southern classics, Finch & Fifth is your new local hang out.”

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I looked at the list of bourbons and decided on the Hillrock Solterra Aged Bourbon. I had not tried this one previously and they had it on their menu.

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I was very impressed with the bourbon, the setting, and a top-notch BLT sandwich.

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Lynn had an Old Fashioned and the Artisan Grilled Cheese (cablanca goat gouda, tomato, & smoky mayo on ciabatta).

Check out their menu on line – they have very creative drinks and food. We had a fun lunch and enjoyed a lot of attention from the bartender. The crowd was light but I am guessing most of the year it’s tough to get a seat in here with such good food and drinks.

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Next time you go to Augusta stop in or if you need a good diversion stop over, you won’t be disappointed.

Bourbon Review: Henry McKenna

Henry McKenna Single Barrel is a lesser-known bourbon and one that I haven’t had in my collection for very long. It’s an extra-aged bottled in bond single barrel bourbon. It is distilled and bottled by Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky. (Notice in the photo that Lynn’s beloved roses are in full bloom – just in time for the Kentucky Derby!)

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Here is a little history from their website:

In 1837, a young man from Ireland known for his remarkable whiskey-making skills, came to America with his family’s whiskey recipe that had been passed down for generations. Young Mr. McKenna settled in Kentucky and discovered the uniquely American drink known as Bourbon. McKenna instantly took a liking to Kentucky whiskey and set out to create a better Bourbon using his family’s recipe. To ensure the highest quality, he insisted that his Bourbon age in oak barrels before bottling. From this process, highly unusual for the time, emerged a remarkably smooth Bourbon boasting a distinctive character.

This is a high proof bourbon without the normal bite you would expect. It has a wonderful aroma delivering a lot of spice and caramel. Some say mint, but I didn’t experience it (guess I should try it again tomorrow). The mint apparently comes from the yeast that Heaven Hill uses. You can really smell the oak in it as well.

I was very impressed with the first sip and it kept delivering flavor with different nuances of taste and experience. The bottle I have has a label that says, “Hand selected by the Staff of Hi Times Wine Cellars.” I am guessing you would get about the same great taste with any bottle but this one was selected by them.

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If you have read a few of my posts you know I am a packaging geek. This bottle is very tastefully done. In describing the bottle, the brand says, “Commensurate with its status as a super-premium single barrel product, it features an antiqued strip stamp and a booklet neck hanger that tells the story of Henry McKenna, and explains the terms ‘single barrel’ and ‘bottled-in-bond.’  The face label also graphically emphasizes the ‘Aged 10 Years’ and ‘Since 1855’ statements, and has an area where the specific barrel number and ‘barreled on’ date for each bottle is hand-written.”

I would highly recommend you try a bottle. I was pleased first sip to last. If you haven’t been to Heaven Hill make them a stop on your hike of the Bourbon Trail and get a bottle from the source.

Aged: 10 years
Proof: 100
Color: Deep Mahogany
Price: $24.99 for 740mL at Hi-Time Wine Cellars