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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Sipp’n Corn Festival Preview – Bourbon & Beyond 2018.

Bourbon & Beyond returns to Louisville this fall with an amazing musical lineup, incredible food, and bourbon galore.  Fred Minnick really puts the bourbon into Bourbon & Beyond because he curated a bourbon lineup to equal the musical and culinary lineups.  The festival will offer a unique series of over 30 bourbon and food-focused seminars, including the first-ever discussion between Jack Daniel’s master distiller Jeff Arnett and Jim Beam’s master distiller Fred Noe—called the “Jack and Jim seminar.” This will be historical, and something only Fred could put together.

Plus, this year I’ll be in the mix as I moderate two all-star panels.  I’ll be discussing barrel finishes with Angel Envy’s Wes Henderson, Woodford Reserve’s Elizabeth McCall, Jefferson’s Trey Zoeller, and Bardstown Bourbon Company’s John Hargrove, and then the art of fermentation with New Riff’s Jay Erisman, Castle & Key’s Marianne Barnes, and Wilderness Trail’s Pat Heist.

Just as exciting, we have two other members of the Bourbon Community Roundtable moderating panels—Kenny and Ryan from Bourbon Pursuit and Blake from Bourbonr.  The last time we got together in person we came away with two barrels of bourbon, so you’ll want to be sure to catch up with us at Bourbon & Beyond.  Other local bourbon personalities like Maggie Kimbrel and Susan Reigler, along with rock star master distillers and brand ambassadors, will make this an unforgettable event.

Here are more details from the press release and links.  Tickets go on sale this Friday, April 20, so don’t delay!

April 20, 2018 update:  Use this link to purchase tickets: https://goo.gl/Pqbhqu
It tracks purchases to know that Sipp'n Corn fans are buying but don't worry, I don't get anything out of it (other than the pride of beating @Bourbonrcom and @BourbonPursuit).


The second annual Bourbon & Beyond festival makes its much-anticipated return to Champions Park in Louisville, KY, Saturday, September 22 and Sunday, September 23 with the perfect blend of bourbon, food & music not found anywhere else in the world. Festival producers Danny Wimmer Presents, culinary curator Edward Lee (The Mind of A Chef) and bourbon curator Fred Minnick have put together another incredible bourbon, music, and culinary lineup for the weekend. World-renowned musicians including Sting and Robert Plant And The Sensational Space Shifters, as well as superstars John Mayer, Lenny Kravitz, Counting Crows and David Byrne, lead the music lineup of more than 30 artists. Tom Colicchio, Stephanie Izard, Aarón Sánchez and Ray Garcia lead the culinary lineup of more than 20 chefs.

See the official bourbon announcement video here: http://bit.ly/BBBVideo18

The world’s largest bourbon festival, Bourbon & Beyond is an annual celebration of the craftsmanship behind award-winning bourbons, master distillers, legendary musicians, world-class chefs, and an unforgettable showcase of the soul and spirit of Louisville, held during Bourbon Heritage Month. In its inaugural year in 2017, the festival attracted 50,000 people from all over the country, offering a series of onsite experiences, including bourbon and culinary workshops.

The festival’s centerpiece, the Big Bourbon Bar presented by Louisville Courier Journal, will feature more than two dozen bourbons selected by best-selling author and renowned bourbon authority Fred Minnick, Bourbon & Beyond’s official bourbon curator. Acclaimed Louisville whiskey bar The Silver Dollar will operate The Hunter’s Club, where attendees can find vintage bourbons dating as far back as the 1930s, as well as contemporary collectibles -- which last year included more than 50 rarities. The festival also announces the return of Fred Minnick’s Mini Bar presented by The Bourbon Women Association, which will showcase this year’s craft bourbon selections: Hartfield & Co., MB Roland, Old Pogue, Wadelyn Ranch and Wilderness Trail. 

The current music lineup includes: Sting, John Mayer, Robert Plant And The Sensational Space Shifters, Lenny Kravitz, Counting Crows, David Byrne, Sheryl Crow, Brian Setzer’s Rockabilly Riot!, Kaleo, Gov’t Mule, Keb’ Mo’, Blackberry Smoke, JJ Grey & Mofro, Don Felder, The Record Company, Del McCoury Band, Joseph, Magpie Salute, Mindi Abair And The Boneshakers, Larkin Poe, The Last Bandoleros and Swimming With Bears.
  
Facebook: @bourbonandbeyond
Instagram: @bourbonandbeyond
Twitter: @bourbonNbeyond

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Lux Row Distillers Crosses The Finish Line in Style.

I’ve followed family-owned Luxco, Inc. closely from the groundbreaking of its Bardstown, Kentucky distillery in 2016, through a hard-hat tour once their 43-foot Vendome column still was installed along with most other equipment and guts (see The Finish Line is in Sight for Lux Row Distillers), through yesterday’s Grand Opening Celebration.  Lux Row is a state-of-the-art distillery that provides the capacity needed for Ezra Brooks, Rebel Yell, and Luxco’s other whiskey brands while blending perfectly into the 90 acres of classically-picturesque Kentucky grounds thanks to the architects at Joseph & Joseph.  It is a must-stop destination on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail beginning today with its opening to the general public.


The April 11 ribbon-cutting ceremony kicked off with a bagpipe processional and heartfelt comments from Creative Director Michele Lux, wife of Chairman and CEO Donn Lux, who drove the design and style elements at the distillery.  Luxco President and COO, David Bratcher, and Mr. Lux also spoke about their excitement for this first-ever distillery for Luxco, with sincere thanks to the support from Bardstown, Heaven Hill, and Steve and Paul Beam of Limestone Branch Distillery (in which the company owns a 50 percent stake).

Distillery Operations Manager Tony Kamer was working the still room where Lux Row was pumping out their distillate using rye as the secondary grain.  Soon he will switch to their wheated mash bill as they push toward an annual production of 20,000 barrels.  Since beginning distillation on January 10, Lux Row has already filled nearly 2,500 barrels.

Modern distilleries aren’t complete without gift shops, and Lux Row was open for business there too.  Thankfully Luxco stocked the gift shop with one of my favorite bourbons since its 2016 release—Rebel Yell 10-year Single Barrel—which I snapped up.

Throughout the afternoon of celebration, Bratcher and Lux could hardly contain their excitement.  But at the same time, they’re also looking forward to Luxco’s new tequila distillery project.  As Mr. Lux said, “we get sh*t done.”  He speaks the truth, and they’ve done it in style.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Banking on Bourbon – Blind Tasting and Finding “Value”

Bankers know value, right?  Whether it’s getting the right collateral, predicting trends, identifying the best investments, or knowing when to buy and sell, value is the key for banks because that’s what drives earnings.  But can bankers identify value in bourbon?

I decided to explore this with a group of Louisville bankers in a blind bourbon tasting.  First up was Rebel Yell 10-year, a bourbon that is moderately-priced but highly-acclaimed among enthusiasts; then Al Young’s 50th Anniversary, a highly-anticipated limited release that sold out immediately, then had some notable detractors, but lately has been skyrocketing on the secondary market; and finally the bourbon flipper’s ROI dream—a single barrel gift shop release from Willett.  All three bottles were freshly opened and poured about 20 minutes before we started.

Ten of us tried all three blind (I was the eleventh) and ranked them.  Then—before revealing the brands—I revealed the original cost and the current secondary price to see what those did to “value.”  Lastly, I revealed the brands to see how much the brand added to value.

The Contenders (in order of tasting):

Bourbon:
Rebel Yell 10-year Single Barrel (2016)

Barrel No.:
4744375

Distillery:
Undisclosed, but popularly believed to be Heaven Hill

Age:
10 years

ABV:
50% (100 proof)

Cost:
$49.99 (current secondary:  not much higher)

Appearance:
Medium amber, and noticeably lighter than the other two.

Nose:
“Mild” and “subtle” dominated the discussion and the written tasting notes.  Caramel, toffee, vanilla, dark cherry, and leather—for overall sweet aromas—had everyone expecting a sweet taste profile.

Taste:
Right away tasters where guessing that this was a wheated bourbon, and I agree that it’s pretty obvious.  There was sweetness galore—brown sugar, dark cherry, caramel, vanilla, and dried fruit—but the very first remark about it was the noticeable cinnamon kick.  The tasters found a balance between the sweet flavors and just enough cinnamon spice with deeper leather and oak flavors.

Finish:
The finish continued with sweet flavors and was characterized as medium at first, but short when compared to the other two bourbons.


Bourbon:
Four Roses 2017 Al Young 50th Anniversary Small Batch Limited Edition (2017)

Distillery:
Four Roses Distillery, Lawrenceburg, Kentucky
Warehouses, Cox’s Creek, Kentucky

Age:
23-year OBSV – 5%
15-year OBSK – 25%
13-year OESV – 50%
12-year OBSF – 20%

ABV:
54.49% (about 109 proof)

Cost:
$150.00 (current secondary: just under $500.00)

Appearance:
Amber brown; darker than the first glass, and barely lighter than the third glass.

Nose:
Especially compared to the first glass, the aromas were intense with pronounced oak and leather, but also with complexity of caramel, rye spice, black pepper, menthol, and floral notes.  It struck me that the aromas surprised some of the tasters after the subtle nose of the first glass.

Taste:
Everyone agreed that this glass had the most complexity with caramel, brown sugar, dark fruit, tobacco, cinnamon, pepper, clove, and oak.  Many of the tasters commented that they suspected this bourbon was the highest proof.

Finish:
L-O-N-G.  One taster wrote that minutes later the warmth was still swelling.  The sweetness faded first and the spices continued to linger.


Bourbon:
Willett Family Estate Single Barrel (2014 gift shop release)

Barrel No.:
380

Distillery:
Undisclosed

Age:
13 years

ABV:
61.5% (123 proof)

Cost:
$130.00 (current secondary: about $350.00)

Appearance:
Deepest brown of the three.

Nose:
The aromas started with a blast of rich caramel, along with cocoa, cinnamon, and charred oak.  As the only person who knew about the high proof, I was concerned about the consequences of vigorous sniffing, but while some heat was evident, there was no guessing that it was over 60% ABV.

Taste:
Candy bar sweetness heavy on the nougat, which was a totally different sweetness from the first glass, adding baked cinnamon apples along with robust oak, leather, and espresso.  While this bourbon was already a crowd favorite neat, a splash of water had the tasters raving.  The tasters were shocked when I told them that this was 123 proof.

Finish:
Long and warm without being overly hot.

The Results:

The first glass (Rebel Yell) was notably sweeter and “smoother” than the other two, which had several people guessing that it was a wheated bourbon.  Many of the tasters thought that the middle bourbon (Four Roses) was the hottest, and eight out of ten picked it as their second-favorite.  I expected Four Roses to be the favorite, but in hindsight, I suspect that the high rye and robust oak held it back in the comparison.  The third sample (Willett) was an immediate crowd favorite.  It completely hid its high proof, had a wallop of flavor, and took a splash of water the best.  Based only upon the blind tasting, Willett Family Estate had a slight lead, with Rebel Yell 10-year close behind, but zero first-place votes from the blind tasters for Four Roses Al Young 50th Anniversary. 

The order shifted after revealing the original cost and current secondary pricing.  The group concluded unanimously and decisively that they would prefer “the $50 bourbon” at retail and especially at secondary market pricing.  Learning that the “nearly $500 bourbon” wasn’t anyone’s favorite got some chuckles and revisiting of glass number two to see what they were missing.  Revisiting the third glass—especially with a splash of water—got some of the tasters to ponder whether they might still rank it the highest if it were available at retail.

Finally, after revealing the brands, most of the tasters had associated Rebel Yell with lower-value bourbon, whereas they knew that Willett Family Estate and Four Roses Limited Editions had incredible brand value.  Perhaps in the spirit of investors who are supposed to find hidden gems and buy low, the tasters unanimously agreed that Rebel Yell 10-year was the best value, and they would rather have bought three of those at retail instead of one Willett Family Estate or Al Young 50th.  There’s something to be said for a banker’s logic.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Kentucky Vintage Spirts Sales Start Slow.

Even outside of Kentucky, bourbon enthusiasts know that last year Kentucky passed House Bill 100, which was then signed into law by Governor Matt Bevin, permitting private sales of “vintage distilled spirits” to specially-licensed retailers.  This was a much-welcomed exception to the general rule in Kentucky and elsewhere that secondary market sales are illegal.

Despite the exemption for sales of vintage spirits, regulations have not been implemented yet to define vintage spirits.  The only definition in the new statute is that to qualify as a “vintage distilled spirit” the spirit must be in the original, unopened container, it cannot be owned by a distillery, and it cannot be “otherwise available for purchase from a licensed wholesaler within the Commonwealth.”  KRS 241.010(66).


Certainly bourbon like pre-Prohibition T.W. Samuels makes the cut, but what about last year’s highly-acclaimed Four Roses Limited Edition Small Batch or other limited editions that sold out immediately?  And what about standard mid-shelf brands that lose age statements, like Elijah Craig 12-year, or that simply get a label redesign, like the former Four Roses “Yellow Label” this year?  Do those become “vintage” when the last Kentucky wholesaler sells the last bottle?  What’s it really take to be “vintage?”

Without regulations in place, but with a January 1, 2018 effective date for the statute on the horizon, Kentucky’s Alcoholic Beverage Control (“ABC”) Board issued informal guidance requiring reporting on vintage sales:

Vintage Spirits

Effective January 1, 2018, a retail licensee selling vintage distilled spirits purchased from a non-licensed person must give the Department prior written notice of the proposed retail drink or package sale, which includes the following information:  (1) name and address of seller; (2) the quantity and name of the alcohol product being sold; (3) the date of the sale; and (4) name and license number of retail licensee. 
This notice shall be provided via electronic mail to the following email address:  abc.info@ky.gov.

The results are now in for the first month of vintage spirits sales in Kentucky, and, disappointingly, there was no Very Very Old Fitzgerald from Stitzel-Weller, no pre-Prohibition Old Crow or Old Taylor, and not even any 16-year A.H. Hirsch.  Maybe sellers are waiting for the regulations, or maybe they’re being patient by testing the waters slowly.  Or maybe they’re testing the limits of what might be considered “vintage” by selling more recent bottles first.

The most legitimately-vintage sales were to Feast BBQ in Louisville, which landed bottles of Anderson Club 10-year and 15-year, a bottle of Kentucky Prince, and a bottle of Very Old St. Nick Ancient Cask 12-year.  Another Louisville restaurant with common management, bar Vetti, purchased far less exciting bottles, like three Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection editions (1838 Sweet Mash, Four Wood, and Maple Wood Finish), along with a Blanton’s bottled in 1992.

The only other reported proposed purchase was in northern Kentucky, by Braxton Brewing Co., which listed recent BTACs, Angel’s Envy Cask Strength, Elijah Craig 18-year and 12-year Barrel Proof, Four Roses Al Young 50th Anniversary Limited Edition and the fall release 2017 Limited Edition Small Batch, Elliott’s Select, last year’s Parker’s Heritage Collection and Old Forester Birthday Bourbon, a few Van Winkle brands, Wild Turkey Master’s Keep, and many, many others.  Braxton Brewing also listed perfectly good but completely non-vintage bourbon like Elmer T. Lee and Rock Hill Farms, and never-in-a-million-years-should-it-be-considered-vintage bourbon like Weller Special Reserve.

Prices are not part of what the ABC requires in its email report, so we can’t compare these sales to the secondary market, but anyone interested in selling bottles might want to check with their favorite restaurants and retailers to see if we’re in a seller’s market.  Regardless, Kentucky’s new Vintage Spirits Law is bound to increase the availability of vintage and rare bourbon for thirsty Kentuckians and visitors to the Bourbon Trail.  And with Feast, bar Vetti, and Braxton Brewing on the leading edge, you might want to start there.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Blade & Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Blade and Bow is a Diageo brand that comes in a standard non-age-stated variety or with a 22-year age statement.  Both rely heavily on a tie-in to the famed Stitzel-Weller distillery in Shively, Kentucky.  I’ve never seen the 22-year version (containing bourbon distilled at the Old Bernheim Distillery and the George T. Stagg Distillery, but aged at Stitzel-Weller) for sale in Louisville, but the non-age-stated version is readily available.

Diageo uses the “Solera System” for this non-age-stated Blade & Bow, which essentially never quite empties the old surviving Stitzel-Weller stocks that are part of the blend.  This is a process where a series of five tanks are used each with progressively older bourbon at the bottom, in this case, bourbon distilled at Stitzel-Weller.  Only a fraction of the bottom / oldest tank is used for the blend, and then that tank is refilled from the next oldest stock, which is repeated through the succession of tanks, with the youngest bourbon used to fill the top tank.  The procedure is repeated for each new batch and while the percentage of Stitzel-Weller bourbon will diminish, there will be at least trace amounts for the foreseeable future.

Put in a lot less complicated terms, Blade & Bow has a tiny bit of Stitzel-Weller 20-something year-old bourbon blended in with bourbon distilled at an undisclosed distillery or distilleries.  Many critics call it a gimmick or decry Diageo’s use of its old stocks, but if I called the shots, I’d probably use the Stitzel-Weller name even more.  It’s legendary property that suffered the harshest consequences of the nation’s turn away from whiskey, and during the 25 years since its closure, thousands and thousands of barrels continued to age.  Why not tout that?

Bourbon:
Blade & Bow Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Distillery:
Undisclosed.

Age:
Unstated.

ABV:
45.5% (91 proof)

Cost:
$50.00

Tasting Notes

Appearance:
Medium amber.

Nose:
The aromas are subtle but very pleasant.  There is slight oak, but more of the polished-wood variety, and other aromas that are light and refreshing, like fresh citrus, spring grass, and a little mint.

Taste:
The taste isn’t as subtle as the aromas and it has some heat higher than its proof, but it’s consistent in its refreshing lightness, with light fruit (apple, pear), vanilla, and caramel sweetness.  A little pepper and baking spice round it out, but it’s missing a true spicy or oaky backbone.  Still, it is an elegant sipping whiskey.

Finish:
Blade & Bow finishes fast with lingering warmth and flavors of grain and char.  It’s pleasant again, but not a $50 finish.

Bottom Line

Some bourbon is contemplative, some is robust, and some is easy sipping.  That’s where Blade & Bow fits in; it’s an enjoyable, easy-sipping bourbon.  That’s what makes it an approachable bourbon and a great gift, especially when the Blade & Bow bottle adds its great presentation, which is why it made my 2017 Bourbon Gift Guide for a host/hostess gift.


Score on The Sipp’n Corn Scale:  3.0

The Sipp’n Corn Scale:
1 – Swill.  I might dump the bottle, but will probably save it for my guests who mix with Coke.
2 – Hits the minimum criteria, but given a choice, I’d rather have something else.
3 – Solid Bourbon with only minor shortcomings.  Glad to own and enjoy.
4 – Excellent Bourbon.  Need to be hyper-critical to find flaws.  I’m lucky to have this.
5 – Bourbon perfection.  I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Wyoming Whiskey(s)

Even the novices all know—by now hopefully—that bourbon doesn’t need to be made in Kentucky.  Instead, it can be made anywhere in the United States.  Indiana, New York, and Texas all have thriving distilleries that make bourbon, not to mention Tennessee if they would just learn to call it bourbon.  But Wyoming?

Yes, Wyoming.

I had a chance to chat with David DeFazio, one of the founders of Wyoming Whiskey, after his marketing firm sent some samples.  DeFazio is a lawyer too, so we shared an appreciation for many of the legal technicalities associated with bourbon.  Beyond those technicalities, I asked all kinds of the in-the-weeds questions like proof off of the 38’ Vendome copper column still (120), proof off of the doubler (130), and barrel-entry proof (114).  We also discussed the specifics of the three brands that I tried, Small Batch, Outryder, and Double Cask.

It’s impressive that Wyoming Whiskey is doing all of this from the ground up, all local, and all without sourcing.  They began production in 2009 and didn’t start selling whiskey until late 2012.  After beginning distillation with Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Famer Steve Nally, Wyoming native Sam Mead took the reigns as distiller.  The Wyoming climate and elevation is bound to add distinctive characteristics during aging, but Wyoming and Kentucky both have a natural source of limestone-filtered water and they share seasonal temperature swings (although Kentucky is usually about 10 degrees warmer, with much more humidity and rain).

Enough background; time to jump in with the three samples that I tried:

Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon

It’s missing the key word “straight,” but like some Kentucky bourbons that omit this word too, DeFazio says they just wanted to focus on “small batch.”  I would use “straight” if I could, and, arguably, the regulations (27 CFR § 5.22(b)(1)(iii)) require the use of the word when a whiskey qualifies as straight.  Regardless, Wyoming Whiskey plans to add the word “Straight” to its next small batch.

Bourbon:
Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch Bourbon Whiskey Batch 44

Distillery:
Wyoming Whiskey, Kirby, Wyoming

Mash bill:
68% corn; 20% wheat; 12% malted barley

Age:
5 years

ABV:
44% (88 proof)

Cost:
$39.99

Appearance:
Medium amber.

Nose:
The aromas are fresh floral, vanilla, and slight caramel, with a bit of green wood.  The aromas aren’t deep, but they’re pleasant.

Taste:
While still having a refreshingly light quality, the flavors move into warm caramel, brown sugar, and sweet grasses.  It has some characteristics of a young whiskey, and while mostly one-dimensional, it’s very easy drinking.

Finish:
The short finish has just a hint of spice (I’d like some more), and fades with nice warmth.
There are a few stragglers on the shelves in Kentucky, but
Wyoming Whiskey recently pulled out of this market. 

Outryder Bottled in Bond Straight American Whiskey

Outryder has created a bit of controversy because it blends together one whiskey that doesn’t qualify as either bourbon or rye whiskey (with a unique mash bill of 48% rye grain and 40% corn) plus another whiskey that qualifies as bourbon whiskey.  While having the audacity to do something unique might be controversial enough, the real controversy among enthusiasts came about because Outryder is labeled “Straight” and “Bottled in Bond.”

So, obviously, I was going to spend most of my time with DeFazio talking about Outryder.  For starters, the ratio between bourbon and the “almost rye” is 2-1; they used 44 barrels of bourbon and 22 barrels of “almost rye.”  More interestingly, there’s a story of defiance behind the “almost rye.”  Defiance plays a huge role in bourbon history, so I’m in favor of celebrating it here, even though if it had happened to me, I wouldn’t have been as gracious as DeFazio.

The story behind the “almost rye” is that Wyoming Whiskey predicted that rye whiskey would make a resurgence just like bourbon whiskey, so they wanted former distiller Steve Nally to make it along with the wheated bourbon already being distilled.  Nally refused.  He hated rye and thought the only whiskey worth making came from corn and wheat.  The owners demanded it though, so Nally reluctantly and begrudgingly agreed, and produced 92 barrels of what he said was rye whiskey.  Fast forward a couple of years—Nally had returned to Kentucky, the “rye whiskey” was progressing fantastically, and renowned consultant Nancy Fraley thought it was some of the best rye whiskey she had ever had.  That’s when they dug out the mash bill records and saw that the 92 barrels were distilled with only 48% rye grain.  Nally hadn’t wanted to make rye whiskey, and it turns out he really refused to do it.

Fraley helped Wyoming Whiskey decide what to do with the “almost rye,” ultimately recommending a 2-1 ratio with a bourbon containing rye as the secondary grain that Nally distilled at the same time.  There’s enough for four batches, with each new batch aging for an additional year.  The first batch was almost five years old, and the upcoming batch is nearly six years old.

The controversy over labeling Outryder as “Straight” and “Bottled in Bond” is a good sign that consumers—or at least enthusiasts—are paying attention.  A whiskey that is “Straight” can only include blends of straight whiskeys of the same type produced in the same state.  27 CFR § 5.22(b)(1)(iii).  Calling a bourbon and an American whiskey the same “type” of whiskey is debatable, in my unsolicited opinion.

Calling Outryder “Bottled in Bond” is much easier.  The Bottled-In-Bond Act of 1897 (29 Stat. 626, Comp. St. § 6070 et seq.) was drafted to protect the public and to give assurances about the actual spirits contained in a bottle.  The initial requirements have changed slightly over time but now the current restrictions require the contents to be the same kind of spirit, produced in the same distilling season by the same distiller at the same distillery with the same class of materials, aged at least four years in wooden containers, unaltered (except that filtration and proofing is permitted), and proofed with pure water to exactly 100 proof for bottling.  27 C.F.R. § 5.42(b)(3).  Outryder meets all of those requirements with the only disputed issue being the “same kind of spirit.”

What’s it take to be the “same kind of spirit?”  According to the TTB, spirits are divided into “classes,” one of which is “whisky.”  “Whisky,” in turn, is divided into “types,” such as “bourbon,” “rye,” corn whiskey,” etc.  The word “kind” isn’t used, and it’s indisputable that the two components of Outryder are American Whiskeys, and that’s exactly how Outryder is labeled, so while the controversy is a nice exercise, let’s move to how it tastes.

Bourbon:
Wyoming Whiskey Outryder Bottled in Bond Straight American Whiskey

Distillery:
Wyoming Whiskey, Kirby, Wyoming

Mash bill:
44 barrels of bourbon whiskey—68% corn; 20% winter rye; 12% malted barley
22 barrels of “almost rye”—48% winter rye; 40% corn; 12% malted barley

Age:
NAS (but about 5 or 6 years depending on which batch you find)

ABV:
50% (100 proof)

Cost:
$54.99

Appearance:
Deep but bright amber.

Nose:
The aromas are mostly sweet—dessert sweetness like melted caramel—but balanced with grain and that fresh country barn scent, along with and a punchy spike of cinnamon.  It has intriguing, layered aromas.

Taste:
Whereas the aromas were mostly comforting, the flavors of Outryder have more of a feisty quality.  It has a great interplay between rye and baking spice on the one hand, and bread pudding and vanilla custard on the other, and added complexity coming from flavors of black pepper, strong tea, cinnamon, and dried dark fruit.  A single ice cube made Outryder buttery, but probably diminished the rye and baking spice too much, so I’ll drink it neat.

Finish:
Medium finish with big spice balanced with just enough caramel and vanilla.  With that single cube and plenty of meltage, the finish reversed to predominantly sweet—like candy sweetness—with only slight rye spice.  So again, I preferred it neat.


Wyoming Whiskey Double Cask Bourbon

Finally, Wyoming Whiskey’s Double Cask Limited Edition Bourbon takes a route that I think we’ll be seeing more of in the future, as brands try to distinguish themselves.  Here, Wyoming Whiskey finished their bourbon in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks after five years of normal aging.

Bourbon:
Wyoming Whiskey Limited Edition Double Cask Straight Bourbon Whiskey finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks

Distillery:
Wyoming Whiskey, Kirby, Wyoming

Mash bill:
68% corn; 20% wheat; 12% malted barley

Age:
5 years (before finishing)

ABV:
50% (100 proof)

Cost:
$59.99

Appearance:
Deep copper.

Nose:
Dark dried fruit and clear sherry influence, with some oak and earthy aromas and a little nuttiness.  It’s an “inviting” nose, especially over these recent cold days.

Taste:
More dark dried fruit, but as opposed to the nose, sweetened dark dried fruit.  Caramel, cinnamon apples, fresh-baked cinnamon cake, and candied cherries round out the predominantly sweet flavors, with some balance of oak and the nuttiness carrying through from the aroma.  This is pure dessert, and probably a one-glass limit.

Finish:
The dried dark fruit and nuttiness carry through to the finish as well, but I felt like I wanted some spice to show through.  The finish is medium in length with great warmth.

Bottom Line

Wyoming Whiskey Small Batch can hold its own against many established brands in the $40 price range, and the less-pronounced oak and drinkability will be a selling point for many.  Personally, I prefer more oak, so I’ll be interested to follow the progression of Small Batch as older stocks become available. 

Outryder really impressed me, and I’m excited about the upcoming batches with more age.  It’s unlike any Kentucky bourbon that I’ve had, and hopefully that uniqueness encourages other brands to be as innovative with mash bills as Wyoming Whiskey.  Sometimes you need an outsider to shake up the status quo.  I’ll be looking (outside of Kentucky) for Batch No. 2.

Finally, when just comparing first sips of all three that I tried immediately, Double Cask was my favorite.  That initial impression was overtaken by Outryder and as I realized that Double Cask was really best as an after-dinner dessert, but the sherry cask finish still intrigues me and I’ll think that we’ll be seeing more finished bourbons and ryes.

Of these three, Outryder is a high buy recommendation.  Double Cask is great for dessert, and Small Batch is worth adding to your rotation for something different. 

Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly sent me samples
for this review, without any strings attached. 
Thank you.
Photo Courtesy of Wyoming Whiskey


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Yellowstone 2017 Limited Edition

This is the third year that Steve and Paul Beam at Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon, Kentucky (which partners with Luxco), have released a limited edition variety of the historic Yellowstone brand.  I enjoyed both of the previous limited editions, but for different reasons.  The 2015 Yellowstone Limited Edition was a 105 proof blend of 12 and 7-year bourbons using rye as the secondary grain, and a 7-year bourbon using wheat as the secondary grain, that had robust oak, a black-tea tang, and a finish swelling with rye spice.  The 2016 Yellowstone Limited Edition was a 101 proof blend of 7-year and 12-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon (both with rye as the secondary grain), and finished in new wine barrels with varying levels of toast (i.e., not charred) that was a nuanced sipping whiskey.


2017 marks the beginning of a new era because this Yellowstone Limited Edition is the first to include bourbon distilled at Limestone Branch.  While the proportions are not disclosed, the 2017 Yellowstone limited edition blends together 4-year (the Limestone Branch contribution), 7-year, and 12-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon, which was then finished in wine casks.  Interestingly, the finishing casks provide continuity to the 2016 Yellowstone Limited Edition.  After that release, Steve Beam sent the wine casks back to Kelvin Cooperage for #1 level charring without scraping the barrels.  Then he filled them with the 2017 blend, providing the final step for this year’s Limited Edition.

Bourbon:
Yellowstone 2017 Limited Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Distillery:
Unknown, but including Limestone Branch’s own bourbon

Age:
No age statement, but component bourbons include 4-year, 7-year, and 12-year

ABV:
50.5% ABV (101 proof)

Cost:
$99.99

Tasting Notes

Appearance:
Dark amber on the verge of brown.

Nose:
Aromas of leather and oak with cinnamon giving it some spark, along with butterscotch sweetness, pecans, and grassy fields.

Taste:
It needed some air to open up, but then it shined.  Consistent with the aromas, the prominent flavors are more earthy flavors, like leather, oak, tobacco and cinnamon again, along with dark, dried fruit.  The flavors seem much older than I would expect even from the oldest component bourbon.

Finish:
The finish ties it all together for this Yellowstone edition.  I imagined leather-bound books in an old library.  Oak and leather provide the backbone, rich caramel sweetness makes it indulgent, and the warmth and lingering flavors make the finish memorable. 

Bottom Line

Limestone Branch has been building its credibility with the Yellowstone Limited Editions and shows that it can be a player in the annual fall limited release season hysteria.  The 2017 edition is the most complex of the three to date, while not sacrificing consistency from aroma, to taste, to finish.  Perhaps most impressive though, the 2017 Yellowstone is robust without being a brute, which is a very fine line to walk.

Score on The Sipp’n Corn Scale:  4.0

The Sipp’n Corn Scale:
1 – Swill.  I might dump the bottle, but will probably save it for my guests who mix with Coke.
2 – Hits the minimum criteria, but given a choice, I’d rather have something else.
3 – Solid Bourbon with only minor shortcomings.  Glad to own and enjoy.
4 – Excellent Bourbon.  Need to be hyper-critical to find flaws.  I’m lucky to have this.
5 – Bourbon perfection.  I’ll search high and low to get another bottle of this.