Happy Derby Week! I was so pleased to talk with Amy Smalley and Carrie Vittitoe about what led to Bourbon Justice, books that have influenced us, and what we’re reading. The Perks of Being a Book Lover is a radio show about books, people who read and how reading can be a social experience. Enjoy!
Some might argue that Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr., is more relevant to bourbon today than he was in the 1800’s. Buffalo Trace now sits on the property where Colonel Taylor’s O.F.C. once stood, and the new distillery has seemingly spared no expense in connecting itself with the legend of Colonel Taylor, even though he attained truly legendary status after he left the O.F.C. to George T. Stagg and built the famed Old Taylor Distillery. With the guidance and expertise of bourbon archaeologist, Nicolas Laracuente, Buffalo Trace uncovered what it calls Bourbon Pompei, tanks used by Colonel Taylor at the O.F.C. Similarly, Warehouse C—built while Colonel Taylor owned the property—has become a top attraction, and the Col. E. H. Taylor brand has become a highly sought-after brand and Buffalo Trace’s sole connection to Bottled in Bond whiskey. My historical sensibilities are slightly offended by the use of a red faux tax strip when Bottled in Bond tax strips back in the day were green, but consumers won’t ever notice.
Buffalo Trace has expanded the brand from the sad bottom shelf Old Taylor to Col. E. H. Taylor Small Batch, Single Barrel, Rye, and limited editions. A slew of Rye hit local retail last fall, so I picked one up. I opened it on Halloween with some friends and none of us were overly impressed (but, to be fair, we had some pretty good bottles open). I revisited it several times since and it grew on me over these months.
Colonel E. H. Taylor Bottled in Bond Rye Tasting Notes
|Whiskey:||Colonel E. H. Taylor Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey|
|Distillery:||Barton, but bottled at Buffalo Trace (so not distilled at the property once owned by Col. Taylor)|
|Mashbill:||All rye and malted barley; no corn|
|Age:||Not stated, but at least four years old|
|ABV:||50% (100 proof)|
Black pepper and dried apricot dominate, with a bit of sweet citrus, vanilla, and nougat.
I’m more familiar with the 95% rye grain Straight Rye Whiskey from MGP, and this E. H. Taylor does not taste anything like it. Somehow, despite all of that rye and the lack of any corn, it’s more like a bourbon. It’s rye grain dominant for sure, but it shares some characteristics with a buttery bourbon. After the rye there are ripe berries, caramel, and oak flavors, before it shifts back to black pepper.
Medium-ish and dry.
The Buffalo Trace website touts that E. H. Taylor Rye received a Silver Medal in 2020 and 2019 at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, but, frankly, that’s not saying much. Silver doesn’t mean “second best” in San Francisco; it comes after Platinum, Double Gold, and Gold. Silver is probably a fair ranking; it’s well above average and certainly enjoyable, but it’s still overpriced compared to its peers.
Other, less expensive (and arguably better) options include Wild Turkey Rare Breed Rye and one of my favorites, Heaven Hill Pikesville Rye, but then again, neither of those come in a fancy tube.
We all have high hopes for 2021, and if one thing is for certain, Elijah Craig 12-Year Barrel Proof can be counted on year in and year out. The first edition of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof for 2021 is lower proof than all three of last year’s batches, and it’s the lowest since Batch B519. I tend to like barrel proofs in the 120’s better than those in the 130’s, so I was excited to see this proof.
In the meantime, Larceny’s inaugural year for its Barrel Proof edition saw so much fanfare, from things like Double Gold at San Francisco to Whiskey of the Year from Whiskey Advocate. Starting so strong out of the gate sets the bar pretty high for 2021, where the first edition is a little lower than last year’s proofs, just like A121 for Elijah Craig.
Elijah Craig Barrel Proof A121 Tasting Notes
Bourbon: Elijah Craig Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery: Heaven Hill
Age: 12 years
ABV: 61.8% (123.6 proof)
Dark amber brown.
Oak leads the aromas along with the expected rich caramel and vanilla, and a mocha chocolate candy. This is decidedly sweeter than many of the Elijah Craig Barrel Proofs and really enjoyable, if a bit subtle.
The flavors flood in—a backbone of oak is balanced with caramel, cinnamon glazed pastry, and a slight orange zest. Nothing overly complex or unexpected, but so satisfyingly balanced. This is what I think of when I think bourbon.
Long and warming with a cocoa and pralines.
Larceny Barrel Proof A121 Tasting Notes
Bourbon: Larceny Barrel Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Distillery: Heaven Hill
Age: NAS, but 6-8 years
ABV: 57.4% (114.8 proof)
Amber with more of a copper tone.
Candy corn, corn bread, and a little medicinal or floral.
Most notably, this Larceny Barrel Proof has more black pepper spice than I’m used to in a wheated bourbon. Great sweetness from caramel, vanilla, graham cracker, and honey. Not really any fruit sweetness—it’s more of a candy sweetness, and then followed by the misplaced spice.
Crisp and medium in length.
This first batch of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof starts 2021 off on the right foot as a classic bourbon. This has been a can’t miss release and, no matter the batch, and I highly recommend picking this up whenever you see it. Elijah Craig continues to be the top barrel proof brand out there.
The year’s first batch of Larceny Barrel Proof needs a little air to open up. After letting it rest the pepper subsides into more of complimentary role, which is precisely what it needed. Four batches in and I’m still excited for the promise of Larceny Barrel Proof.
Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly
sent me samples for this review,
without any strings attached.
Who comes top of mind in todays’ crowded market of merchant bottlers? Could it be that some of my friends who run the greatest bourbon podcast around have proven their mettle as blenders too? I’m afraid that the answer is a resounding yes.
Pursuit United Tasting Notes
|Bourbon:||Pursuit United Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey|
|Distilleries:||Blend of three straight bourbons from |
Kentucky (Bardstown Bourbon Company);
New York (wheated, from Finger Lakes Distilling); and
Tennessee (undisclosed, but not in Tullahoma)
|ABV:||54% ABV (108 proof)|
Old barrel rings. Darker than expected for the age.
In addition to the expected caramel and vanilla, there’s a rich brown sugary, caramelized, sweetness. It’s balanced with nuttiness, pine, rye spice, maple, and graham cracker.
The flavors absolutely shine with light summer fruit, a touch of citrus zest, more caramel and brown sugar, all balanced with the same pine and rye spice from the aromas. It’s creamy too, so the sweetness is like a glazed cinnamon roll. I keep looking for the wheated influence, and not really finding it, but that’s OK because I’m enjoying it so much.
Medium but it lingers in a warming long fade.
I always include a disclaimer when brand managers send me a sample, and that’s true here too. Rarely, however, does a sample entice me to immediately go buy a bottle. But that’s exactly what happened here. And I love that blending is embraced in a way that bourbon brands have tended to shy away from. This impressive bourbon is priced right and finally calls the out boring bourbon conventions. We need more of this sort of innovation. I highly recommend that you visit Seelbach’s now, before it’s too late.
Disclaimer: The brand managers kindly
sent me a sample for this review,
without any strings attached.
You can still make 2020 a little brighter with the right bottle of Kentucky Straight Bourbon or Rye Whiskey paired with Bourbon Justice. We won’t be having the same Holiday events, but this year your gifts will be all the more appreciated, and they’re probably all the more necessary. Brian’s Book and a Bottle™ has the right suggestion for everyone on your list:
For your business partner: Bourbon Justice and Four Roses Small Batch Select. This one went over so well last year, it’s my first-ever repeat. Look for “Select” and 104 proof because Four Roses also has a standard Small Batch. You’ll prove yourself again to be the brains of the business.
For your impossible family member: Bourbon Justice and Wild Turkey 101 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. If ever the country needed to get back to solid roots, it’s now, and there’s hardly anything as solid as Jimmy Russell, Mater Distiller at Wild Turkey since 1954. Jimmy has been the heart and soul of Wild Turkey and he can tell you all about family.
For a host/hostess: Bourbon Justice and Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey. Just because Holiday parties are not happening this year, don’t let that dampen your spirits. People who host a party every year need you to stop by for a socially-distanced “hello.” Your visit will be all the more memorable with Pikesville’s 110 proof and beautiful presentation. Sipping Pikesville while getting to know James Crow, James Pepper, and Col. E.H. Taylor, Jr. is the perfect substitute for a cancelled party.
For your boss or other authority figure: Bourbon Justice and Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection Batch Proof. These gifts are all about balance, and in this hunt, allowing Master Distiller Chris Morris to take the lead showcases your wisdom. Bourbon was meant to be barrel proof and this limited release Woodford Reserve is exclusive without being gaudy. That sensibility balanced with vitality will show that you are a crucial part of the team.
Where to find Bourbon Justice:
Best deal: Bourbon Justice is on a 50% off sale through Potomac until Dec. 31 with promotion code 6HLW20 — Potomac
Fastest Shipping: Amazon is tough to beat — Amazon
VIP/Limited Edition: Go to my website for a personally-inscribed book — Bourbon Justice
Please enjoy the Holidays responsibly!