Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes: Elijah Craig Straight Rye

I’ve often said that Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon is the most consistent and best value in all of bourbon.  As Rye Whiskey continues to gain in popularity, Heaven Hill has expanded beyond its Rittenhouse brand and one of my favorite Rye Whiskeys—Pikesville—to fill an obvious gap between those two with the newest addition, Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey.

Elijah Craig Straight Rye Tasting Notes

Whiskey:        Elijah Craig Straight Rye
Distillery:       Heaven Hill
Age:                not stated
ABV:              47% (94 proof)
Cost:               $29.99

Appearance:
Medium amber.

Nose:
Mild caramel aromas on a backbone of black pepper.

Taste:
The flavors begin with bourbon-like caramel, but more like the Homemade Ice Cream & Pie Kitchen’s Dutch Apple Caramel Pie (readers from Louisville will understand), rounded out by cinnamon, baking spices, and black pepper with a slight kick of mint.  It’s an easy-drinking whiskey without much oak influence and it’s best poured neat.

Finish:
Sweetness shines in the finish—more caramel along with vanilla, but followed by the rye grain influence and shifting to an elegant rye spice as it fades.

Bottom Line
At a mere 51% rye grain (the bare minimum to be a Rye Whiskey), the new Elijah Craig Straight Rye drinks much like a really high-rye bourbon, which because of the corn sweetness and more nuanced and complex flavors, I prefer to the flood of Indiana 95% ryes.  Plus, Heaven Hill is positioning Elijah Craig Straight Rye at a value price, which is unique under the current whiskey mindset.  I hope that as Heaven Hill’s stock of Rye Whiskey continues to grow and age that we’ll see more of an oak contribution in Elijah Craig Straight Rye, but in the meantime, Heaven Hill has another winner.

Elijah Craig Straight Rye was released in January 2020.  Currently you’ll only be able to find it in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Oregon (hopefully Kentucky is not too far behind). But what I’m really hoping for is that once Heaven Hill has enough older stock, we’ll see an Elijah Craig 12-year Barrel Proof Rye.

Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly
sent me a bottle for this review,
without any strings attached.
Thank you.

Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes: Four Gate X3—Batch 2 (Outer Loop Orbit); Batch 3 (Foundation); Batch 4 (Split Stave™ by Kelvin).

Four Gate knocked it out of the park on their first release so I was excited to receive samples of the next three batches, all crafted differently to showcase barrel finishing versus the good ‘ole “foundation” of bourbon.

Batch 2 uses a unique barrel finish of orange curaçao liqueur barrels (back when orange liqueur was gaining popularity in the 17th Century, an orange found only on the Caribbean island of Curaçao was a favorite) that were then used for gin before being used by Four Gate.

Batch 3 is called “Foundation” for a reason—it’s pure bourbon from the traditional, historical mash bill without any finishing, plus it’s age-stated, barrel-proof, and non-filtered, so all of the boxes are checked.

Batch 4 is where Four Gate and its partners at Louisville’s Kelvin Cooperage went all mad-scientist.  They crafted toasted barrels, then #2 char barrels, then #4 char barrels, broke them all down and rebuilt them by alternating the staves.  The end result looked like one of those optical illusion spirals.  Then Four Gate filled the rebuilt barrels with a blend of 5½ year-old and 12 year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, resting for another five months.

Batch 2—Outer Loop Orbit Tasting Notes

Bourbon:      Four Gate Outer Loop Orbit orange curaçao gin finished bourbon
Distillery:        Undisclosed
Age:              5½ blended with 12-year
ABV:              60.15% ABV (120.3 Proof)
Cost:               $199.99

Appearance:
Golden amber.

Nose:
Botanical gin hits right away, faint orange zest, herbal notes, and fresh pine.

Taste:
As predicted by the aromas, the gin is big again, with some pleasant chocolate orange cream.  The botanicals of the gin overpower most of the bourbon notes as pine and nuttiness return.

Finish:
At first I thought that it was short, but then it built into a long but subtle finish with soft—not tangy—orange citrus and more botanicals.

Batch 3—Foundation Tasting Notes

Bourbon:        Four Gate Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery:        Undisclosed
Age:                9 years, 9 months
ABV:              59.7% ABV (119.4 Proof)
Cost:               $199.99

Appearance:
Brown side of amber.

Nose:
Classic bourbon at first impression (caramel and vanilla balanced by spice and oak), and then it expands beyond caramel and spice to dried dark fruit, black pepper, lilac, praline, and oak.

Taste:
A robust version of the aromas, but without the floral elegance.  It’s all power, but with great balance, and wow, it’s satisfying.  Maybe it’s the pastry sweetness that balances the spice so well.

Finish:
Nice firm hug that fades but lasts with the right amount of oak.

Batch 4—Split Stave by Kelvin Tasting Notes

Bourbon:        Four Gate Split Stave Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery:        Undisclosed
Age:                5½ blended with 12-year
ABV:              57.8% ABV (115.6 Proof)
Cost:               $174.99

Appearance:
Most brown of the three with slight gold hues.

Nose:
Oaky right away.  Oak.  Then more oak.  Finally some brown sugar, cocoa, mint, and black tea.

Taste:
Yup, oak again.  Rye spice, earthiness, leather, cinnamon, and char.  The sweetness is deep, but mostly hidden by the oak.  A drop of water made it a creamy delight like custard.

Finish:
Shorter than Foundation, but really overall different.  It starts bigger and richer—think rich, gooey chocolate and old library leather—but fades faster.

Bottom Line
Foundation was a monster hit for me.  Split Stave wasn’t too far behind; I love the creativity and the outcome.  My fingers are crossed that Four Gate will find a way to use the Split Stave barrels for an imperial stout.  Outer Loop Orbit was a little more difficult for me to handle because of the strong botanical influence of the gin.  Plenty of people like that, but I’ve always been resistant to more herbal bourbons and ryes, and I’ve never been a gin fan, so this isn’t really any surprise for my personal palate.  All in all, we continue to see tremendous ingenuity and results from Four Gate.

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

Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes: Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond 7-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Until just over a year ago, Heaven Hill had the hands-down best price performer in all of Bourbon—a six-year age stated Bottled in Bond for only $11.99.  In previous posts I had called it the standard-bearer for all of the new “craft” whiskies; if one of those new $50.00 whiskies couldn’t be better than Heaven Hill 6-year Bottled in Bond, then why bother?

But it was such a limited release and there really wasn’t any way that it could be profitable for Heaven Hill.  We Kentuckians loved having it and outsiders loved finding it when they visited, but I think that everyone knew that it couldn’t possibly survive the bourbon boom.

After being rumored a few times, the news finally became official—Heaven Hill discontinued its namesake 6-year Bottled in Bond.  Some stores immediately raised the price, all local stores limited the number of bottles that could be purchased, and the secondary market price reached $40-50 per bottle and higher.

Then last June came the announcement that many of us figured was destined to follow—the release of a new 7-year Bottled in Bond in a beautifully-labeled bottle with a real cork closure and a suggested retail price of $39.99.

Heaven Hill was already the leading distillery with the most Bottled in Bond brands.  It’s a nod to history, quality, and heritage, and I’m thankful that Heaven Hill embraces the tradition of Bottled in Bond.  This new 7-year brand also brings with it a style that among Heaven Hill’s other Bottled in Bond brands is only outdone by the gorgeous Old Fitzgerald decanter series.  I was excited to receive a bottle because it has limited distribution which does not include Kentucky, and I wanted to compare it to the former 6-year brand.

Heaven Hill 7-year Bottled in Bond Tasting Notes

Bourbon:        Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery:       Heaven Hill
Age:                7 years
ABV:              50% (100 proof)
Cost:               $39.99

Appearance:
Amber copper.

Nose:
Beautiful oak with traditional caramel and vanilla, layer of mint, and leather.

Taste:
Caramel and vanilla, of course, and more rich sweetness like toffee, balanced with cinnamon, oak, and that leather-tobacco flavor that I usually find only on older bourbon.  The balance is tremendous.

Finish:
Medium in length, again with great balance.  This is an absolute classic bourbon.

Bottom Line
Let the people gripe about losing a value; Heaven Hill 7-year Bottled in Bond is delicious and worth every penny of its price.  It’s still a value and a must-try.

Currently you’ll only be able to find Heaven Hill 7-year in California, Texas, New York, Georgia, Florida, Illinois, South Carolina, and Colorado, but hopefully Kentucky is not too far behind.

Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly
sent me a bottle
for this review, without any
strings attached.
Thank you.

Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes: Yellowstone 2019 Limited Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Every year I look forward to what Steve and Paul Beam put together for their Yellowstone Limited Edition.  I think that others must be catching on, because I used to be able to buy it, and now all I have is this sample bottle.  I’m eager to see what I almost missed out on.

Yellowstone 2019 Limited Edition Tasting Notes

Bourbon:        Yellowstone 2019 Limited Edition Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery:       Undisclosed
Age:                9 years
ABV:              50.5% (101 proof)
Cost:               $99.99

Appearance:
The brown side of amber.

Nose:
Classic caramel, dark red fruit and candy store sugar, white chocolate, and oak.

Taste:
Caramel, cherry, and milk chocolate balanced by oak and cinnamon.

Finish:
Long with building warmth and satisfying nuttiness.  After the swell it leaves you with a lingering warm, sweet fade.  This is an outstanding finish.

Bottom Line
Another year and another homerun for Yellowstone.  In fact, this Yellowstone might be the best yet.  The balance is remarkable but it’s really the finish where this bourbon shines; with each sip I contemplated the swells and fades.  Overall, its sweetness and proof give it approachability for new bourbon drinkers and its elegance and finish will impress the most experienced enthusiasts.

Wherever you are on your personal bourbon journey, I highly recommend the 2019 Yellowstone Limited Edition.

Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly sent me a sample
for this review, without any strings attached.
Thank you.

Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes: Heaven Hill Trifecta of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Batch C919; Larceny Barrel Proof Batch A120; and Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond 15-year.

Here’s the last batch of 2019 for one of my favorite bourbons—Elijah Craig 12-year Barrel Proof.  And the first batch ever for what is bound to be another of my favorite bourbons—Larceny Barrel Proof.  Plus, the oldest Old Fitzgerald in the decanter series, the fall release of a 15-year old Bottled in Bond beauty.

Elijah Craig Barrel Proof C919 Tasting Notes

Bourbon:        Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery:       Heaven Hill
Age:                12 years
ABV:              68.4% (136.8 proof)
Cost:               $60.00

Appearance:
Nice glint of red under the brown and amber.

Nose:
Whoa that’s hot and peppery, but give it a minute and you’ll find caramel and vanilla sweetness and lingering oak.  The aromas give every indication that this will be a robust bourbon.

Taste:
As predicted by the aromas, yes this is a hot one—extremely hot.  Try it neat but then add a splash of water so that you can experience sweet flavors of caramel and vanilla.  There’s a great shift to cinnamon both with and without water, but this overall this is definitely a bourbon to drink with water.

Finish:
Medium length with lingering oak and lingering heat.

Larceny Barrel Proof A120 Tasting Notes

Bourbon:        Larceny Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery:       Heaven Hill
Age:                NAS, but 6-8 years
ABV:              61.62% (123.2 proof)
Cost:               $49.99

Appearance:
Darker than I would have expected, even for being uncut.

Nose:
Brown sugar, nougat, and the sweet aromas that I expect from Larceny hit right away with baking spice emerging.

Taste:
Flavors of vanilla and caramel, as should be expected from a wheated bourbon, along with honey and more nougat for additional sweetness, balanced with oak and tobacco.  The flavor are very rich, which sometimes I find lacking in wheated bourbons.  Slow-melting ice amps up the creaminess.  (I didn’t try it with water because I didn’t want to create regular Larceny.)

Finish:
The medium-length finish has a nice oak and cinnamon element.  Faint warmth extended beyond what I really considered to be the finish for a fantastic way of easing into the next sip.

Old Fitzgerald 15-year Bottled in Bond Tasting Notes

Bourbon:        Old Fitzgerald Bottled in Bond decanter series, fall 2019
Distillery:       Heaven Hill
Age:                15 years
ABV:              50.0% (100 proof)
Cost:               $150.00

Appearance:
Golden brown consistent with its age.

Nose:
Dark caramel and oak but pretty subdued.

Taste:
I immediately knew that this was special.  It’s full of caramel, dried dark fruit, cinnamon apples and great oak.  Elegant.  Creamy.  It reminds me bourbon from decades ago.

Finish:
Long with lingering oak and swells of warmth.

Bottom Line

The final batch of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof for 2019—which is the highest proof since batch A116—is more one-dimensional than other ECBP batches and just too hot for my taste.  But in a way it’s two-dimensional:  heat plus sweet, which is actually a difficult combination to pull off.  Definitely try this one with a splash of water and experience how it opens up.

The inaugural release of the Larceny Barrel Proof fired on all cylinders for me.  Barrel proof does wonders for Larceny.  Barrel-proof wheated bourbon can be phenomenal and with a couple more years (can Heaven Hill build its stock so that it can be 8-10+ years instead of 6-8?) Larceny could easily be the market leader.  Be sure to find it in January 2020.

And then there’s the Old Fitzgerald.  It’s phenomenal.  I can’t hardly say anything more than that.  You need to try this bourbon.

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