Thursday, February 21, 2013

Woodford Reserve... Fantastic Voyage

By Matt Adams

First off. This blog started out as a personal journey with bourbon and has now become a voyage with my cousin! He's buying into the search for the best of the best with me and now we're taking this son of a bitch head on together. Not only does this make more sense financially, but it's giving us more opportunities to try twice as many spirits. I also need to get this off my chest... Keith, the Breckenridge you brought over is in the shelf with all the weird schnapps and liquors for mixers. It will probably be living a long life up there in the dust bowl of drinking. If anyone ever wants to try some paint thinner, come on over! You can chase it with some nasty apple liqour that's right behind this bottle in my cupboard.

Onto the good stuff. 

Woodford Reserve

Last time Keith came up he brought over a bottle of Woodford and I went back to the liquor store and bought that Four Roses I passed on for the under $20 reviews. I'll get to that one in another post because I've only gone back to that one twice since having the official bourbon of the Kentuky Derby in the house. As for the smell or the "nose" for you snobs out there. You get a kick ass whiff of oranges, really deep cinnamon and almost a sweet pipe tobacco smell. It's a great combination of rich sweet goodness. Up front on the taste it's HOT and I'm not really comfortable with the burn. Once the finish comes on, it's worth it. It's a very complex sweetness with a lot of fruit and spice that I was waiting for when I smelled the shit. The oak in Woodford is really subtle compared to a Hudson Baby Bourbon or even the Rowan's Creek where you're hit with Oak at all times. I wasn't going to stick with this bourbon because I didn't like the burn on the front. The damn trick on the Woodford for me is to cut the burn with a splash of water when I ice it. I've been enjoying this one along side Makers Mark with the trick in place! It might be a cheat, but it's becoming one of my favorites. You know what. I'm also going to establish something right here and the pure reviewers out there might scoff at me, but I've learned a valuable lesson with Woodford. If you don't like something about a bourbon, try to fix it and you might like it better. Not everything needs to be enjoyed neat. I've also learned to enjoy bourbon with a little lemon or orange slice in it. In coffee tasting they pair food with certain beans to bring out the flavors and you can do the same with bourbon. Some might like the heat, but MY ass out the kitchen and on a mission with a splash of water in the Woodford. Fantastic Voyage and a good one to pick up.

Taste: Oranges, cinnamon, pipe tobacco. 
Price: $25-$30
Purchase Again: Yes

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Four riders behind me, 3 Bulleits left…

By: Keith Adams

Have you ever looked at a word and thought, “How the hell do I say that without sounding stupid?” That’s exactly how I felt when I came across Bulleit Bourbon. A wise man would have passed on principle alone but it was the Frontier Whiskey part that sealed the deal for me. There is some draw in believing I’m about to drink whiskey made from an old frontier recipe. The Gold Rush crew would probably love the shit out of this stuff, they live like frontiersmen.

On to the Bourbon… Since Bulleit offers 3 different whiskeys, (only 2 are technically bourbons) I decided to pick up the trifecta.

Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey

This is a very good offering.  It has a nice caramel/vanilla nose with a taste to match.  Something I didn’t notice in the scent but could definitely taste was a heavy cinnamon, almost red-hot flavor.  The cinnamon and vanilla hang around as a nice aftertaste. It’s a little dry but not 1792 dry. It didn’t really remind me of the old frontier, but I’m not sure what I was expecting.  It would probably need to taste like dust and cobwebs or something. At this point I’m going to say the taste was preferable to a frontier flavor and it’s a must try bourbon.

Taste: Very Good/Good
Price: $25
Purchase Again: Yes

Bulleit 10 Year Old Bourbon Frontier Whiskey

This is like the original Frontier Whiskey on roids! It’s bigger, bolder and carries a lot more punch. It holds onto that vanilla, caramel flavor but the cinnamon is lost to me and replaced with a much more pronounced wood flavor. If the original Bulleit was dry, then I’d say this one could be used to mop up the floor when the kids spill shit on it.  Closer to the dryness level of the 1792 I tested. This one is definitely more complex and a much stronger offering. I’m not sure it’s really worth the extra bones for that added punch, but if someone’s offering it, definitely have them pour you a glass.

Taste: Very Good - Complex
Price: $45
Purchase Again: On the fence (Not sure it’s worth the premium over the standard Bulleit)

Bulleit 95 Rye

To round out the trifecta I broke into the Bulliet 95 Rye. The 95 is a reference to the 95% rye grain mash.  I’ve gotta admit, I can’t even look at rye whiskey without hearing Jim-Tom singing the rye whiskey song - That alone made me want to add this one to the review. This one had me confused from the start. I thought I smelled a pine tree in the bottle when I opened it but that was quickly replaced with a minty cinnamon scent. That cinnamon stays true throughout the tasting and the finish, leaving you with the feeling that you just had some red-hots. I’m starting to think Bulleit is dissolving red-hots in their damn whiskey! I’d probably pass on a second bottle of this stuff; it’s not bad, rye whiskey may just not be my thing. My outlook on this may change by the time I finish the bottle.

Taste: Good
Price: $25
Purchase Again: No (Don’t let me sway you if you like a strong rye)
This brings me to the title of the article… Bulleit is pronounced like bullet, not boo-lay so it seemed only appropriate to include some frontier like song reference. Bullet The Blue Sky was an obvious choice but it was lacking that frontier punch I was looking for.  Instead I went with Marie by Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers ( which may also be a good tequila drinking song. Give it a listen, if nothing else it will help get Jim-Tom out of your head.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Maker's Mark Listened... Or did they? I'm Diggin' the Glory Hole of Marketing

By Matt Adams

Seems that Rob and Bill Samuels have a soul after all. It took a week of ranting and raving by the masses of devout Makers fans on Facebook, Twitter and other social media outlets to get them to reconsider the awful mistake they were about to make in watering down their whiskey. Nine out of ten Maker's drinkers probably would never had noticed the difference between an 90 proof and an 84 proof version, but their biggest mistake in this whole mess to me was actually TELLING us that they were making the change. Or was it a mistake? I have to believe that there is some maketing genius who thought this whole thing up just to get some noise going about the brand. In case you don't know, it happens to be the final 2 weeks of one of the most popular TV shows that Maker's Mark advertises on. If you watch "Gold Rush" as much as I do, you also would have noticed the Maker's Mark commercials. I find it a real coincidence that one of the most popular shows on the Discovery Channel, which is catered perfectly for your typical Maker's Mark drinker, is the only place I actually see a Maker's Mark commercial. I did a little digging and discovered this little "nugget." The PUN is intended by the way, so back off pansy ass.

In 2011, The Discovery Channel made a deal with Maker's Mark to make custom commercials during "Swamp Brothers" and "Gold Rush". When the deal was made, Discovery Communications Ad Sales President Joe Abruzzese said, “Discovery Channel’s viewers and the Maker’s Mark brand fans share so many similar attributes and interests, it was a natural fit,".

Read it here, I don't make this shit up:

What a great way for Maker's Mark to leverage those ads. Drum up a bourbon shortage, get the fans and media buzzing for a few weeks, re-tract the buzz and have a platform for brand recognition during a season finale of Gold Rush. I can hear the people now, "Hey, that's the company that was going to water down their shit and everyone lost it on Twitter." "That shit must be GOOD and strong now, let's buy a bottle." Custom made for the non Maker's fan and the die hards. Win, win...   

Conspiracy theory... Yes. But God Damnit, I have to bring Gold Rush into this somehow! I've heard of crazier shit happening and look what New Coke did for Coke. People ran out and bought the shit out of it. I remember being a kid and my dad and I went to the store specifically to get the OLD COKE before the new shit came to our small town store. 

All in all, I would have bought Maker's Mark in its watered down state because personally, I like the stuff. The biggest win for me now is I don't have to blow $400 on a credit card to buy a case of Maker's to squirrel away. I still might get that case after all, but don't tell my wife. Keith, I might have a case for you to stash for me in your sock drawer with that Baby Bourbon. The fans of Maker's Mark win in the end and the brand wrapped it all up in one tidy letter, (below) that everyone will accept with open arms. Consider it the Red Wax seal of approval on a made up "shortage". So I say anyways... 

You spoke. We listened. 

Dear Friends,

Since we announced our decision last week to reduce the alcohol content (ABV) of Maker’s Mark in response to supply constraints, we have heard many concerns and questions from our ambassadors and brand fans. We’re humbled by your overwhelming response and passion for Maker’s Mark. While we thought we were doing what’s right, this is your brand – and you told us in large numbers to change our decision.

You spoke. We listened. And we’re sincerely sorry we let you down.

So effective immediately, we are reversing our decision to lower the ABV of Maker’s Mark, and resuming production at 45% alcohol by volume (90 proof). Just like we’ve made it since the very beginning.

The unanticipated dramatic growth rate of Maker’s Mark is a good problem to have, and we appreciate some of you telling us you’d even put up with occasional shortages. We promise we'll deal with them as best we can, as we work to expand capacity at the distillery.

Your trust, loyalty and passion are what’s most important. We realize we can’t lose sight of that. Thanks for your honesty and for reminding us what makes Maker’s Mark, and its fans, so special.

We’ll set about getting back to bottling the handcrafted bourbon that our father/grandfather, Bill Samuels, Sr. created. Same recipe. Same production process. Same product.

As always, we will continue to let you know first about developments at the distillery. In the meantime please keep telling us what’s on your mind and come down and visit us at the distillery. It means a lot to us.


Rob Samuels Bill Samuels, Jr
Chief Operating Officer Chairman Emeritus

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Maker's Mark - "It isn't what is was..."

By Keith Adams

If you haven't heard already, Maker's Mark sent out a note to their ambassadors to talk about some exciting news at the company. Let me sum it up for you... We're going to start watering down our shit and we will probably charge the same damn price!

Am I pissed? You bet your candy ass I'm pissed. I haven't been this pissed off at a beverage company since Coke introduced New Coke.  This is definitely one of those WTF moments in the company history. I can only assume Rob Samuels took responsibility as COO and said to himself,"How can I fuck with our family's heritage and make a bunch of money at the same time?" <sarcasm> It took him a couple years to come up with this lame ass plan but thank god he figured it out. </sarcasm>

Why are they watering down their whisky? Well according to the concerned parties at Maker's Mark, there is a shortage of the stuff on store shelves. Dropping it to 84 proof, they can get more bottles out of a barrel and cover for their piss poor planning on this supply issue.  I don't know about you, but every time I walk into my local liquor store there is always a bottle of Maker's on the shelf.  Furthermore, there is always a bottle left for the next guy too.  Apparently there has been some huge fucking run on the shit and getting an extra few bottles out of a barrel is going to solve their supply issues. They go on to say that after looking at all possible solutions, this is the best course of action.  Really? Watering down the family recipe is the best idea the company leadership can come up with? Did they legalize marijuana in Kentucky, because I think Rob Samuels is high!

When Rob stepped up to the plate, the company stated, "Rob's number one responsibility going forward will be to ensure that we don’t screw up the whisky, as well as that we continue to hand-make our bourbon exactly the same way my grandparents did.” -  Mission Fucking Failed!

Maybe it's time for a recant on this ad.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It started out as an idea, it ended with a backfire

By Matt Adams

Listen up. It's been really busy for me the past few months, so the bourbon blog has taken a hit, but not the tastings, so leave it alone alright. The real excuses I have... Gold Rush is painful to watch and I can't stop watching it. They've been showing these God damned boxing matches on HBO each Friday and it's fucking Oscar season. I never expected to put Ben Affleck above Tarantino in the director's arena until I watched Argo and Django in the same week. I'm having a really hard time dealing with that right now, so if you're waiting with a calm bated breath for this stupid bourbon blog to update, deal with it.

I'm going to bring it back to the beginning with my "idea" I was going to try for this next post and move into how it all ended.

I discovered this blog. by this bad ass M.F. Jason Pyle. He's reviewing the Bourbon and Whiskey with a passion. If you check out his blog, he's got about a million drinks he's reviewed and he's making shorts on youtube of each review. Some of the reviews go on a little long and could use some editing, but that's just my profession so pay no attention to my bullshit. What really sucked me in was his review on Elmer T. Lee. I got a little history lesson as well as a nice little introduction into the $20-$30 bottle of bourbon which "Private Pyle" actually put on par with Makers Mark.

Holy shit. Why don't I try some $20 dollar bourbons and do a blog about them too! 

So I ran out and got myself 3 bottles of Bourbon that were all around 20 bucks. 

Elijah Craig
From Heaven Hills Distilleries

This gem was on sale and I got it for 18 bucks. It's a little higher proof at 94 so I was taken back when I was into the second glass on my first tasting. I needed to slow down a little. 4% makes a difference. The things I like about this drink are the earth tones you get right up front. A burnt sugar and fruit taste with only a hint of Oak. Some leather taste in the finish, but I chock that up to the "Magic" that these odd ball bourbon reviewers call complexity. When I first got into this bottle I stopped trying it for a really long time because I opened up the second bottle in my under $20 reviews right after this one. I had to force myself to go back to it. This shit is something I'd keep at the store, but not too far from the cabinet. If you have 20 bucks in your stupid pocket, go ahead and buy a bottle and drink it. If you have a little more cash to throw at some shit aged in a barrel, I'd hold off and get something else. What the hell do I care, do what you want with your money.

Taste: Complex

Price: $20 -$30
Purchase Again: No 

Elmer T. Lee
From the Buffalo Trace Distillery

This is the shit that I really wanted to get into because of Pyle's review. I got this for a deal as well at 25 bucks. Everything he says about this bottle is true. Up front you get caramel, honey, vanilla and in the finish the taste is like caramel corn. It's a hell of a drink that doesn't stop tasting good. There's a little burn that comes back at you, but I would recommend this bad boy before the Elijah Craig. I'm keeping this in the cupboard and I'll maybe even put it next to the Maker's bottle as a back up. Drinking this sucker has peaked my interests in trying more of the Buffalo Trace line. (Read Keith's guest blog for the 1792)

If you want to check out an hour long interview with Elmer T. Lee that really breaks down his history as a kick ass guy, hit the link below during work. Kill an hour during lunch while you choke down some shitty Progresso soup and actually learn something about the Buffalo Trace Distillery. Reminds me of one of my favorite work quotes, "The only thing I plan to accomplish at work today is to turn a gallon of coffee into a gallon of piss." Don't be THAT person. Educate yourself.

Taste: Complex
Price: $20 -$30
Purchase Again: Yes 

Four Roses Small Batch
From the Four Roses Distillery

How does this fucker taste? Don't know. Why? I felt guilty spending 60 dollars on 3 bottles of booze and put it back on the shelf. I paid for cable alright. I wanted to watch fucking Gold Rush and boxing. If you want to talk about the Hoffman crew or the upcoming fight schedule let me know.

How the under $20 reviews ended.
So, last week I was chatting with my cousin Keith and he said that he was going to be in town over the weekend with his lovely wife and wanted to get together. My first response to him was, "Let's do a flight of everything we have!" He agreed and it was on. 

When he arrived, we set up a row of bourbons and whiskey and drank them in this order. Hudson Baby, Templeton Rye (This was a bottle that was brought over by my friend Jason one night and has become a favorite.. review to come) the Elijah Craig, and lastly the Elmer T. Lee. I'm not sure why we kept out the Makers Mark, but we had more than enough of our plate as it was.

Quick comments from our tastings. Think of them as movie poster reviews.
Hudson Baby
"Tastes like a barrel of Oak."
"Very drinkable."
"This is one of my favorites so far."

The comments start becoming more free now.
Templeton Rye
"Surprising. I'm definitely going to try some more Rye."
"Was a prohibition recipe, so this shit must be good."
"I'm buying this."

The reviews takes a turn.
Elijah Craig
"This shit tastes like a leather glove."
"Holy shit, you're right. It's a baseball glove in a bottle."
"4% extra proof... Sweet."

Finally the review turns to story telling and Elmer is drained...
Elmer T. Lee
Keith and Katie tell us a story about an old RX7 they had when they lived in Maryland that used to idle when they took out the key to shut it off. Apparently this car would putter for 10-20 seconds until it would finally backfire. Hysterics ensue regarding the situations they were in with the backfiring RX7. Each scenario ended with either of them explaining to the offended or terrified individual with a simple nod and a few words, "That's just our car." I kept picturing the car in Uncle Buck that did the same thing. Keith finally ends the conversation with, "God I loved that car. Best car in the world." 

I guess Elmer T. Lee won the flight with a few tips of the bottle and a dozen good eye watering stories. But the best thing of all was having good friends over to enjoy a few tales from the old days. For me personally, the under $20 reviews are over because it was too much commitment at the start. Now I'm stuck in that decision making process again whenever I see the Elmer T. Lee empty in the recycling bin. Do I go back and get that Four Roses or get into something totally different for the sake of the blog. Perhaps a Rye? Either way, there's an RX7 out there somewhere giving someone a laugh and another bourbon with our name on it for a blog that no one gives a shit about. 

1792 Ridgemont Reserve.. Not a Third Stringer...

By Keith Adams

Time for another guest bourbon review featuring 1792 Ridgemont Reserve.  Since my last selection was sub-par, I took a slightly different approach when selecting my next bottle. This time I decided I’d go by name alone. As I scanned the shelves, I stopped on 1792 and thought back to a saying one of my friends has…. “Except for the B-52's, all bands with numbers in their name suck.”  I wondered to myself whether this same statement would hold true for bourbon’s, or would 1792 prove to be the B52’s of bourbon?

The first sip of this bourbon is incredibly smooth.  It seemed to go down like water.  I sat thinking about how amazingly smooth this was for about 5 seconds and then made the mistake of trying to breathe.  Holy shit, it was like I couldn’t get any air into my lungs. I don’t want you to think this was a bad experience; it was actually a very nice burn that left as quick as it started. It just caught me by surprise. Then came the overwhelming dryness you might associate with wine.  Again, not a bad thing.

Let me cut to my actual impressions of this bourbon. And then bore anyone who stays around with an odd story.  I really liked it.  It is a solid offering that I will keep in my cabinet for the foreseeable future.  It starts out slightly sweet and ends with a subtle oakey finish.

Anyone still here? Anyway, after I poured the first glass and took a few sips, I decided to read the bottle. While reading I noticed something floating in the bourbon.  Upon closer examination, it appeared to be a string or possibly a thread. 

I’m assuming this came from the stitching on the decorative lip and it ended up in there during the bottling process. I went ahead and poured another glass and drank it.  This was when I decided I should drop a note to the nice people over at Buffalo Trace Distillery.  They contacted me the very next business morning and asked me to ship the bottle back so they could have it tested.  They FedEx’d me a return shipping box and are sending me a check to cover a new bottle. I headed over to my liquor cabinet to get the bottle and send it back. 

It was about this time I realized that 1792 was a popular drink in my home.  Apparently my daughter's boyfriend has taken a liking to it and there was only about half the bottle left; luckily the thread was still floating around in there. I packed it up, sent it back and then went out and purchased a new bottle. I'm assuming my check will be for $10. I originally told them the bottle was almost full so they may not want to refund the full amount.  I considered splashing some around in the box to get a nice bourbon smell going so they might think it leaked during shipping.  Just kidding, this stuff is too good to do that.

Head out, buy yourself a bottle and check for floating threads! 

Taste: Sweet caramel/cinnamon/ginger
Price: $29
Purchase Again: Yes