Thursday, November 29, 2012

Four Roses Single Barrel Bourbon Review:

“I’ve enjoyed my entire career, but being part of a team that is putting Four Roses back on the map in the U.S. has made these last few years exceptionally special, and no matter which hat I’m wearing, I love what I do.”

– Jim Rutledge

When it comes to Four Roses I have to say I'm a bit biased. And how can I not be? Just listening to any interview of Jim Rutledge will sell me on their product before I even put a glass to my nose. Four Roses single barrel is no different, and every experience I have with the brand is exemplified in this label. As I spoke of in my Yellow Label review last April, the Single Barrel has been on the market the longest. Only in the US market since 2002, the Single Barrel (re)established the Four Roses brand in the United States with confidence. 

Each year Four Roses produces ten varieties of distillate in which they age everything in new charred white oak. From these ten, Jim Rutledge will choose one expression which works best for that year. As with any single barrel, the profile will shift from year to year, but generally they will always be characterized with the mellowness and floral/fruity palate Four Roses is known for. But don’t mistake fruity for sweet, this isn’t what I would characterize as an overly sweet whiskey – or rather, any of the sweetness in the bottle is always balanced out by the spice.

Four Roses Single Barrel Whiskey Review:

Price: Around $44.00 for a 750ml bottle. The price has definitely increased since its release, but I would still consider this reasonable.

Packaging/Labeling: The bottle is terrific. It feels nice in the hand and the wooden cork top which surrounds the half inch spout is a beautiful work. Classy, simple, and elegant at the same time.

Alcoholic Content: 50% abv, 100 proof. Perfect abv for not being a cask strength – allows for clarity and sharpness on the palate.

Nose:  This is a fabulous nose. Rich and sweet maple wood, buttery chocolate covered peanuts. Fresh pine, candy corn, honey, and dark peach cobbler. This thing has great complexity from which you can nose for hours.

Palate: Expands on the tongue assertively, yet it proceeds gently and never overpowers. All the mulling spices are present, with cypress and clean Fall air. The golden ribbon of corn which flows through this entire palate is controlled and on point with strong pine, light mint, fruit, animated honey, and char. I don’t know where it came from but a beautiful cherry pie finish snuck up on me at the very end.

Conclusion: Sweet, but not too sweet. Char, but not too much. Traditional bourbon appeal, yet it leaves you with something more. Enjoy this on its own, no water, no nothing, or have a piece of fruit pie on the side. As with any good bourbon, this is a great holiday treat which matches perfectly with the current weather outside.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Whistle Pig: An American Rye Whiskey (from Canada)

“There is no bad whiskey.
There are only some whiskeys that aren't as good as others.”
– Raymond Chandler

Firstly I would like to say hello, and welcome back to the Bourbon Intelligencer! This is the very first blog post since getting back from Europe. Now that everything has all but settled here in our new (old) home in Sacramento, CA. I hope to finally start pumping these blogs out again.

One of the very first whiskies my father introduced to me since I’ve been back has been the WhistlePig Straight Rye. About time right? I’ve been hearing about this fantastic 100% rye for quite a while now. Fashioned by the previous Master Distiller of Maker’s Mark, David Pickerell, and founded along with entrepreneur and a prior contestant from The Apprentice, Raj Bhakta, WhistlePig has quickly gained stardom from everywhere. Sourced in Canada and bottled in Vermont, this is definitely a whiskey which gains its glory post-distillation. Thankfully it appears that things at the WhistlePig Distillery will slowly transition to a fully distilled rye product onsite once they get the whole place in full production. For now, we gain something quite fantastic. While it was still in bulk storage, Bhakta purchased the Canadian rye whiskey and transported it back to the two century old working farm in Shoreham and renamed it WhistlePig Farm in Vermont. Most likely to be used as a blending spirit, Bhakta and Pickerell branded it, bottled it, labeled it, and watched as the excellent reviews came in from all over the country.

As rye has been gaining more success, a comeback from its glory days in the Wild West, it is not easy finding a 100 percent rye whiskey. And honestly I generally don’t always prefer many of the rye whiskies I have tried, so I was a bit skeptical of the hype WhistlePig has garnered. I can say that I have been truly blown away by this product and I can also honestly say it is one of my favorite American (/Canadian) whiskies out there.

I understand that people like rye in their cocktails, I do in my Old Fashioned’s. But please save the WhistlePig for a quiet moment - it deserves the respect. As always I am not entirely happy about mystery whiskey from wherever, but the intrinsic quality inside the bottle is what I ultimately care about and I really do love this stuff.

WhistlePig Straight Rye Whiskey Review:

Price: Around $70.00 for a 750ml bottle.

Packaging/Labeling: The bottle looks and feels like it should for the price. Classy yet modern, and despite the strange drawing of the pig in a top hat and cigar, it all works. Could use some more information on the back label, yet I don’t really take much of an issue with it. Liking the 100-100 design.

Alcoholic Content: 50% abv, 100 proof. This is quite unique when it comes to rye. Note that you will not get any of the traditional malt or corn flavor profiles peeking in.

Nose: Unadulterated rye. The 10 years of aging is a wonderful breath of fresh air. Spearmint leaves, Wrigley’s Chewing Gum, green winter oak, distinct pine needles. Star anise, hinged on mulling spices. Sweet, sugary and airy taffy.

Palate: The palate compliments the nose wonderfully. Bold and confident, yet elegant. Such a distinct and beautiful note of spearmint leaves. More of that Wrigley’s. Menthol, rye, oak and honey from the barrel. Sweet and smooth nutty taffy. Layers of flavor and layers of complexity with a long finish. A true treat.

Conclusion: In many ways, this does not taste like a traditional rye. I loved Jason Pyle’s way of summing it up, saying it is not bourbon like, but it has the rich qualities that bourbon has. This is seriously a humdinger of a whiskey. A game changer for the whole category. This would definitely make a very nice cocktail, but I as I said before this is a sipping whiskey. Grab it while you can.