Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes – Pursuit United Blended Straight Rye Whiskeys

I was a big fan of the Pursuit United Bourbon blend, which redefined the bad connotations of the word “blended.”  Now Kenny and Ryan at Pursuit Spirits have released their first Rye Whiskey, sourcing barrels from arguably the best historic state for Rye—Maryland—and Kentucky, famous in its own right for its Kentucky-style Rye Whiskey.

Pursuit United Blended Straight Rye Tasting Notes

Whiskey:Pursuit United Blended Straight Rye Whiskeys
Components:Three mashbills from two distilleries—Sagamore Spirits (52% rye, 43% corn, 5% malted barley); Sagamore Spirits (95% rye and 5% malted barley); and Bardstown Bourbon Company (95% rye and 5% malted barley)
Age:Unstated
ABV:54% ABV (108 proof)
Cost:$65.00

Appearance:
Copper amber.

Nose:
Vanilla, ripe berry sweetness, brown sugar, and graham cracker crust balanced with baking spice and a hint of coffee.  The rye complexity shines with black pepper and cinnamon.

Taste:
Each time that I tried it, my first sip was a blast of cinnamon candy, but each time that note also dissipated with subsequent sips.  The cinnamon was still there but balanced with dark fruit, brown sugar, and caramel, evolving to a dryer whiskey with oak, black pepper, baking spice, a little leather, and oak.  There’s nothing young about this remarkable Rye.

Finish:
Classic finish of a high-rye Rye with black pepper but no prickly bitterness that I find in some of the Indiana high rye whiskies.  There’s also a great black tea vibe in the finish and some lasting oak.

Bottom Line

This is a fantastic Rye and I hope that it encourages more brands to work on the art of blending.  There are way too many high-rye Ryes all from that same place in Indiana.  Pursuit Spirits is on to something huge here.

The Kentucky Bourbon Benefit Raises $3.5 Million for Tornado Relief.

The massive tornado that ripped through Western Kentucky overnight on December 10, 2021 caused tremendous losses.  But, as Kentuckians have shown throughout history, we’re resilient, and as distillers and bourbon fans have also shown, we answer the call.  In fact, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association and the Bourbon Crusaders set a new bar for fundraising.

The morning after the storms, KDA president Eric Gregory was on the phone with me, Fred Minnick, the Bourbon Crusaders, and all Kentucky distillers (not just KDA member distilleries) to begin planning how we could help with relief efforts.

Within only a few days, the KDA had secured incredible once-in-a-lifetime donations from Kentucky’s signature distilleries, the Bourbon Crusaders had lined up donations of epic “unicorn” bottles from members and friends, and Fred Minnick mobilized his resources to present what would become the largest charitable bourbon auction ever—The Kentucky Bourbon Benefit.

Over a four-day period, the Kentucky Bourbon Benefit listed about 100 new auction items per day, ending with 429 items.  Bidding began immediately, with over five thousand total bidders, ending with a live auction of the top items on December 21 at Westport Whiskey & Wine in Louisville.  By the following morning as final bids were tallied and donations were still coming in, the Kentucky Bourbon Benefit had raised about $3.5 million for tornado relief efforts, which will all go to Governor Andy Beshear’s Team Western Kentucky Tornado Relief Fund.

The top two items were exclusive barrel experiences donated by Willett and Four Roses.  The Willett barrel experience—a 19-year-old barrel selection—sold for $401,001, which set the individual barrel record ever, and Willett doubled it the next morning when the second-place bidder agreed to pay the winning bid price.  Similarly, the Four Roses experience, which offered a barrel between 17 and 24 years, sold for an astounding $278,000, and Four Roses doubled its donation too, so the second-place bidder increased his bid to net $556,000 for the Four Roses barrels.

Both Four Roses and Willett donated other rare bottles and barrels to the Kentucky Bourbon Benefit, so that just from the generosity of these two distilleries, Western Kentuckians will receive over $1.7 million.

Other distillery partners like Brown-Forman/Woodford Reserve, Heaven Hill, Maker’s Mark, Angel’s Envy, New Riff, Michter’s, Rabbit Hole, and Castle & Key, among others, all made remarkable donations that raked in never-before-seen bidding.  And individual donors like Chris Morris, of Brown-Forman, and Larry Kass, retired from Heaven Hill, donated bottles that are impossible to find anywhere.  Only one major distillery did its own auction, but individuals affiliated with that distillery made generous donations on their own.

The Kentucky Bourbon Benefit also included 14 bottles from Carr’s Steakhouse in Mayfield, Kentucky, which was devastated by the storm.  While Carr’s was demolished, 14 bottles of bourbon survived and were added to the auction, most with matching funds from KDA-member distilleries, Independent Stave Company, Vendome Copper & Brass Works, and the Kentucky Travel Industry Association.

KDA President Eric Gregory said, “The outpouring of support, care and love for Western Kentuckians is truly unparalleled in the history of Bourbon. We are forever grateful for the generosity of distillers, donors and bidders.”  Bourbon Crusaders President RJ Sargent added, “The response was tremendous, far beyond our wildest hopes.  Our members pulled out treasures from their collections and the community responded enthusiastically.”

Bourbon enthusiasts across the country proved again that it’s not just about the bourbon

**You can still donate to the official Kentucky relief site here: https://secure.kentucky.gov/formservices/Finance/WKYRelief or to the Bourbon Crusaders, a 501(c)(3) charitable organization.  If you donate to the official fund, please designate “Kentucky Bourbon Benefit” in the “Fundraising Event” field.

Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes: Parker’s Heritage Collection No. 15, 11-year Heavy Char Wheat Whiskey.

Heaven Hill’s highly anticipated annual fall limited release of Parker’s Heritage Collection is back and continues the recent series of heavy char barrel strength whiskey.  For 2021—the fifteenth edition—Parker’s Heritage Collection is an 11-year Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey.  I was a huge fan of the 2014 Parker’s Heritage Collection, “Original Batch” Wheat Whiskey, and was excited to see what the heavy char barrels contribute to the same whiskey.

So, like PHC 13 (Heavy Char Rye Whiskey) and PHC 14 (Heavy Char Bourbon Whiskey), Wheat Whiskey makes the heavy char trifecta this year.  Heaven Hill’s wheat whiskey was aged in Level 5 charred barrels, as opposed to the customary Level 3 for Heaven Hill.  That’s 90 seconds of intense flame!  Comprised of only 75 barrels aged on the sixth floor of rickhouse Y at the main campus in Bardstown for the past 11 years, this wheat whiskey was aged in the same location as last year’s Heavy Char Bourbon Whiskey.

As with previous years, Heaven Hill continues its support of ALS research in honor of Heaven Hill’s late Master Distiller, Parker Beam.  Since 2013 with the Promise of Hope edition, Heaven Hill has raised more than one million dollars for ALS research and patient care by contributing a portion of the sales from each bottle.  This remarkable effort by Heaven Hill should be much bigger news than it is.

Parker’s Heritage Collection Tasting Notes

Bourbon:Parker’s Heritage Collection 11-Year Heavy Char Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey
Distillery:Heaven Hill, Bardstown, Kentucky (distilled in Louisville and aged in Bardstown)
Mashbill:51% wheat; 37% corn; 12% malted barley
Age:11 years
ABV:61% (122 proof)
Cost:$139.99

Appearance:
Dark amber with a slight red hue.  Very similar to the first two heavy char PHCs.

Nose:
Beautifully sweet aromas led by butterscotch with honeysuckle, vanilla, and snickerdoodle cookies, built around leather, oak, and black pepper.  High proof is evident, but not 122 proof.

Taste:
The gorgeous aromas get blasted on the first sip—this is not a delicate, mellow whiskey.  It’s robust while balancing mouthwatering butterscotch sweetness and buttery graham cracker crust with bold spice, black pepper, some slight cinnamon, tobacco, and oak.  It’s missing the creaminess of last year’s PHC and instead focuses on packing a wallop.

Finish:
Long with a gear shift from the same butterscotch sweetness to somewhat drying tobacco, leather, and oak. 

Bottom Line

Heaven Hill proves again that heavy char doesn’t mean more smokiness; it usually means more sweetness because of more hemicellulose breaking down into sugars, which explains the prominence of butterscotch.  Between this year’s edition and the 2014 Original Batch, this also convinces me that I need more barrel strength wheat whiskey from Heaven Hill in my life.  I highly recommend this Parker’s Heritage Collection.

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

Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes: Bluegrass Distillers Bottled-in-Bond Blue Corn Bourbon.

Earlier this fall, Bluegrass Distillers in Lexington (www.bluegrassdistillers.com), released the first ever Kentucky Blue Corn Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon.  Bluegrass Distillers is the only Kentucky distillery that produces a wheated bourbon with 100% blue corn, a non-GMO corn grown locally in Central Kentucky.  Distilling a mash of blue corn can result in a sweeter, nuttier distillate.

This Bottled-in-Bond Blue Corn Bourbon release is comprised of just four 53 gallon barrels, aged 4½ years.  Bluegrass previously released a younger blue corn bourbon in 2017, and a Bottled-in-Bond release with yellow corn, but this is the first Bottled-in-Bond release using blue corn. 

Bluegrass is banking on more blue corn because this past season it grew 25 acres of blue corn in Woodford County, which will one day go into roughly 500 barrels.  To help accommodate that growth, Bluegrass is expanding at the Historic Elkwood Farm in Midway, Kentucky, where it will ultimately relocate in 2022.

Bluegrass Bottled-in-Bond Blue Corn Bourbon Tasting Notes

Bourbon:        Bottled-in-Bond Blue Corn Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Batch 001
Distillery:       Bluegrass Distillers
Age:                4½ years
Mash Bill:      75% blue corn; 21% wheat; 4% malted barley
ABV:              50% (100 proof)
Cost:               $60.00

Appearance:
Amber gold.

Nose:
Sharp cedar, corn mash, spring grass, honeysuckle, and brown sugar.  There’s also some light fruit similar to a non-peated Scotch.

Taste:
Soft wheat behind youthful pepper, pecan nuttiness, and subtle earthiness.

Finish:
Medium finish with lingering herbal and cedar notes, and a bit smokey.

Bottom Line
Wheat can be tough under six years but this doesn’t have the hallmarks of a young wheater.  While I still give younger bourbons plenty of air, this Bluegrass Blue Corn Bottled-in-Bond is unlike any other wheated bourbon that I’ve had.  The earthy, nutty notes are unique and they play well with the brighter fruit and pepper flavors.  Maybe it’s the blue corn, but it’s extremely promising for Bluegrass Distillers and I’m excited for future bottlings.  Definitely check out Bluegrass Distillers!

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

Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes: Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch.

Evan Williams is insanely popular worldwide, and now Heaven Hill has released a newly-redesigned 1783 Small Batch, along with a bump in proof.  The name 1783 comes from the year Evan Williams first opened his distillery on the Ohio River in Louisville, when Kentucky was still part of Virginia.  Check out the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in downtown Louisville for more of that history—it’s a must-stop for anyone visiting town.

Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch Tasting Notes

Bourbon:        Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery:       Heaven Hill
Age:                Unstated, but 6-8 years
Mash Bill:      78% corn; 12% malted barley; 10% rye
ABV:              45% (90 proof)
Cost:               $20.00

Appearance:
Bright amber.

Nose:
Corn pudding, brown sugar, ginger, clove, and oak.  Mostly mellow.

Taste:
Surprising balance between drying oak, black pepper, and cinnamon, on the one hand, and caramel apple, honey, and chocolate on the other.  The flavors are pronounced without being robust, making it suitable for easy sipping neat or using in a cocktail.

Finish:
Medium length and warming with a fade of nuttiness, brown sugar, popcorn, and oak.

Bottom Line
I can’t help comparing this Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch to its competitors.  It’s a classic bourbon with incredible balance that leads the market in this price range.  And the flavors burst too; so many bourbons at 90 proof or less are far too subtle, or they’re so young that you get graininess and green wood.  I can’t think of a better bourbon in this price range.

After the demise of my top-ever value buy—the $11.99 Kentucky-only Heaven Hill 6-year Bottled in Bond—my new house bourbon became a 1.75L of Evan Williams Bottled in Bond.  With the proof increase and insane affordability, this Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch will be part of the rotation.

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