Jul 8, 2015

stagg jr: battle of the releases

The rare bourbon scene has absolutely exploded in the past few years. Seasonal releases are becoming harder and harder to find as even the noob-ist of whiskey drinkers are seeking out our precious unicorns. And right in the forefront of these sought after bottles are the five bourbons that make up the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC), released once a year in the Fall. One of the most popular bottles of the BTAC is George T Stagg, but good luck getting a bottle or in the lucky chance you find it, obtaining the capital to fund a purchase of this good good.

I like to think that the good folks at Buffalo Trace started to feel our pain. A year or so ago they announced Stagg Jr, the love child of George T Stagg and hopelessly impatient bourbon connoisseurs. Stagg Jr is released four times a year. The goal of these releases was to get a bourbon on the shelves that had a similar tasting profile to its father, aged less years, at a slightly lower price. Bourbon fans rejoiced.

Fast forward to current day. There have been four releases of Stagg Jr, but not all of them are popular among the bourbon community. Some seem to absolutely love it (like Marcia), and others not so much. Each release elicited varying tasting notes and reviews in the community. So it got us wondering: What’s the difference? We showed some initiative and did the research for you all, which (of course) included a back-to-back-to-back blind taste test.

Release #1: 134.4 Proof (67.2% ABV)
Release #2: 128.7 Proof (64.35% ABV)
Release #3: 132.2 Proof (66.05% ABV)
Release #4: 132.2 Proof (66.10% ABV) (We didn’t taste this)

All batches are meant to have a similar tasting profile of “rich, bold, and complex tastes, with hints of dark chocolate, reminiscent of our classic George T Stagg”. So in order to accomplish this, each batch shares the similar qualities of:
  • All filled with Buffalo Trace Rye Bourbon Mash Bill #1 (reference this awesome cheat sheet from Bourbonr).
  • All Aged 8-9 years
  • All from various warehouses at Buffalo Trace Distillery.
According to Kris Comstock, brand manager at Buffalo Trace, each barrel is carefully taste tested while looking for the notes mentioned above. While every batch will obviously taste somewhat different, the main goal is a consistent predictable taste. So how good of a job did they do? How different does each batch taste from each other?

Batch #1
Smell: Extremely similar to Batch #2.
Chomp: Had the most mouth burn of all the batches, but the shortest finish as well.
Taste: Very leathery. Initial taste brings some sweet notes, but it’s immediately followed by a fairly strong dry spice. Would say of the three batches, this has the least distinct “Stagg taste”.

Batch #2
Smell: Very sweet, dessert-esque.
Chomp: A lot of mouth heat, providing a solid consistent tingle.
Taste: Caramel, chocolate, sweet. Vanilla, very decadent.

Batch #3
Smell: Very similar to Batch #2, a little more burn and a little more butterscotch.
Chomp: Tingle that is very short.
Taste: Starts with that distinct “Stagg Taste”, sweet and spicy with some heat. However, it’s kind of flat, not very dynamic. Finish is fairly long, but it’s all in the mouth. Is a bit spicier than Batch #2.

Batch #1
Smell: Sweet with a slight spice scent.
Chomp: Way less burn then Batch 3, but a bit more then Batch 2. A perfect medium.
Taste: Perfectly wonderful. The bite I expect from a Stagg, but still retains those caramel characteristics one lusts for in a great bourbon.

Batch #2
Smell: Sweet, makes me think of cherries.
Chomp: Tingle to the max! All in my mouth though, nothing at all in my throat.
Taste: Caramel-y. Extremely smooth with only a slight mouth-burn. Almost as decadent as butter.

Batch #3
Smell: More burn in this one. It has a woody scent and less sweet notes.
Chomp: Lots of tingle on this one as well, similar to Batch 2.
Taste: More leather and wood/oak notes here. Much less of a caramel flavor. This one has an earthy taste to it, with a slight burn in the mouth but also a bit in the throat.

What is his & her favorite? Drum roll please...

His: Batch #2 [followed by Batch #3 then Batch #1]
HersBatch #1 [followed by Batch #2 then Batch #3]

Final Thoughts
This blind back-to-back-to-back taste highlights a few things:
  1. Buffalo Trace did an okay job with these releases as far as consistency goes. While they all had some similar underlying characteristics, each had its own personality, which was very apparent right from the initial smell.
  2. Everyone’s taste buds are different. We were pretty similar with our tasting notes on some, and way off on others. This isn’t shocking. This experiment proved how similar some things can taste (Batch #2) and how different others can (Batch #1).
  3. Everyone likes different things. Marcia LOVES Batch #1. The first time she had it, she fell for it. This experiment just highlighted it more. Our order of our favorites could not have been more different. This is a good thing to keep in mind when reading bourbon reviews. Just because one person says they don’t like how much heat is in a bourbon, doesn’t mean you won’t love it. This is a driving reason for why we started bourbonlust in the his & hers format. We love to share with our readers two different perspectives from two different palates, but with one love for bourbon.

Jun 22, 2015

Barrell Bourbon Batch 003

Barrell Bourbon Batch 003
$80.00 (NYC)
70% Corn/ 25% Rye/ 5% Malted Barley
61% ABV

Barrell Bourbon can almost be described as the “New Kid on The Block”. When we first heard about Barrell Bourbon, it caught our eye. But the interest sort-of ended there. The bourbon world is filled with “craft distilleries” and “new unique/rare bottles” popping up all over the place (I guess that’s what happens when an industry is booming huh). So when we saw Barrell Bourbon, we thought “there’s a cool looking bottle” and we moved on with our lives. Then we saw it again. And again. And again. That’s when it hit us that this stuff may actually be around to stay. So naturally like any bourbon enthusiast, we went out and got ourselves a bottle. This is when our research started, and I’ve got to be honest, we were sort of shocked at what we found.

Nothing. We found little to nothing about the product. No distillery, no mash bill, no warehousing details, no ingredient details, no location details. Huh. This complicated things a little bit. Call us old fashion, but we are big advocates of transparency. To do all this research on a product that was getting so much attention (and very good attention at that), and find nothing, kind of left a weird feeling. Why the discreetness? It kind of reminded us of Orphan Barrel a little bit. “Found barrels” that are brought to the customer and would have been “lost” otherwise! It felt like the same story, different chapter. But, Orphan Barrel was getting a lot of negative publicity for their marketing while Barrell Bourbon was only getting high remarks. It seemed very odd to us that no one was asking the questions that deserved to be asked. So… we asked. 

We emailed the founder of Barrell Bourbon, Joe Beatrice, with our questions. And we got multiple responses. To give a brief overview of what we found out:
  • Barrell Bourbon is strictly a merchant spirits company (at the moment)*. *I say this because he admitted that there are future desires to begin distilling themselves.
  • Their goal is to bring customers limited unique “batches” at cask strength so the consumer can enjoy the product in an “as-close-as-it-gets-state” of right from the barrel. They never chill filter anything.
  • The batch we tried, 003, was a KY straight bourbon. But he could not disclose the source of this bottle or the warehousing of it (your killing us!!!).
  • They hand select the barrels they want from their mysterious source, batch, blend, and finish the bottle. 

While the discreetness was still there in some areas, we really appreciated the quick and timely responses. He was even nice enough to send us “samples” of Batch 004 and Whiskey Batch 001 (reviews coming soon!). We hope to talk more with Joe in the near future in getting more details on his product, but in the meantime, we wanted to share our thoughts on this bourbon!

Taking in a deep breathe from out of the bottle, I am grabbing some caramel and leather notes. Good combo. A second breathe in and I am getting some woody notes, a wicker smell. You can tell its going to be a muscular bourbon too, lots of stinging of my nostril hairs.
Out of the glass, I am getting more sweet scents, fruits like dates and figs. Yum very unique. It is still extremely tingly. Even when I use the super-secret-sniff-from-the-mouth technique I learned at Woodford Reserve, it still stings my nostrils pretty hard. I would recommend not going straight at this one with a deep breathe in. Approach it with caution as it will bite back (I love this feeling by the way).

The Kentucky Chomp left my mouth sedated. By flavors that are having a break-dance battle on my tongue. A very dry initial taste with a lot of leather. The first sip brought on A LOT of heat. How did I not expect that with the smell though? I am mostly feeling this one in the back of my throat. It is really letting me know its there as that burn is sticking around for quite a while. The next sip brought on some more heat. However, it also brought on a tart taste with some heavy fruit notes, that ends with a lingering dry taste. I think that is the leather I keep tasting. 

The finish of this bourbon is nice and long with a dry spice to it.  The burn feeling? Oh it sticks around for the party too. The fruity flavors unfortunately check out early, and are replaced with a long dry spicy hug.

With Water
Woah...total game changer. There we go! The water eases that lingering burn feeling a little (but not totally!..which again I love), and opens up more of the flavor notes. A couple drops of water = I like. You get much of what I stated before: the dry-leather taste is very strong, with a lot of tarty-fruit flavors. 

Side note: The color of this bourbon is amazing. I usually don't care how a bourbon looks, but I had to mention this. 

Final Thoughts
Without water, this bourbon is kind-of tough to get down. It makes you drink it slooooow as the burn lingers around for such a long time. However, add a couple drops of water (or an ice cube if you prefer), and you have an extremely good bourbon that won't entirely lose that punch. 

Who/What/Where/When/Why to drink it
I would consider this to be a perfect "stogie-bourbon". What do I mean by this? I mean that its a perfect drink to sit on your porch/rooftop/front lawn/pool side and sip/relax with this bourbon. If you smoke cigars, light one up too. I have a feeling the two may compliment each other perfectly.

Out of the bottle I am encountered with a complexing smell that I immediately identify as grapes & grass... which is mildly confusing. However, once poured into a glass the aroma becomes more characteristic of a bourbon. Wood & dark, ruby fruits, most notably cherry & pomegranate, begin to seduce my senses.

5-second chomp. The burn doesn't fully develop during the chomp, rather it waits to take you by surprise as it slithers down your throat. Yup, there it is... that big ol' Tucky hug. The initial taste evolves from a bold char to a soothing caramel. This bourbon is inconspicuously delicate & smooth on the tongue like an older bourbon, but don't let it fool you. Its immature age presents itself in the back of your throat. Its tragic really... a young bourbon dying to be old. The taste of Barrell Bourbon matches its nose out of the glass. I pick up those dark, ruby fruits along with bold fixtures of wood, oak & char. Maybe a hint of citrus, ruby grapefruit. 

The legs of this baby are a supermodel... long, long, long. You feel every drop as it works it way down... seducing your taste buds, harassing your esophagus and finally finding reprieve in the depths of your stomach.

With Water
A few drops of water is the therapy this bad boy needs... opens it right up. However, it does not dilute the taste profile. With the water, I gather a hint stronger of citrus at first touch to the tongue but the complex taste of this bourbon is resilient. And so is that hug. Bring on that heat.

Final Thoughts
This is what I expect, I want out of a barrel proof bourbon. It is strong & it wants you to know, to feel, to sense its presence. You can't, and frankly you won't, overlook this bourbon. It is unique in the best way... with a complex taste profile that hits all the right notes full of dark fruits and counterparts of leather and oak. 

Who/What/Where/When/Why to drink it
This is a bourbon best shared with another a bourbon lover. True bourbon lovers are really the only people who can handle, much less appreciate, a barrel proof bourbon like this one. But beware, this is a BOB. Black-out-bourbon, that is.

Jun 17, 2015

lust worthy wednesday: Lake Tahoe

I don't want to brag... hell who am I kidding, yes I do. I am one lucky SOB. We all value different things in life... money, careers, homes. But what makes me so lucky is the people in my life. Not only did I find a girl that melts over a glass a bourbon as if it were a pair of shoes, but I also have a stellar group of guy friends. These have been friendships that started in high school and college and have continued to outlast the realities of the "real world". Different cities, demanding jobs, and the vicissitudes of life all make it harder and harder  to have that much needed quality bro-time. Getting to see each other isn’t as easy as walking down the street on a afternoon, or knocking on the door next to you to see if they want some breakfast. Life gets in the way. And it sucks.

So we decided that we needed to do something. Ahh, the glory of the aptly named "Guys Weekend". 

Last year was Vegas and it was, uhh Vegas (lets just leave it at that). This year we opted for more of an "adventurous"  and "grown up" (amuse me) destination... Lake Tahoe, Nevada/California. It did not disappoint.

Lake Tahoe is incredible. The natural beauty of this place is breathtaking.  Lake Tahoe has this awesome balance where it offers so much to do, as well as offers a serenity to do absolutely nothing at all.  And we did a little bit of everything to get a good rounded trip. We rented a house with private beach access (now that's grown up!). The weekend was full of grilling, beach time, hiking, gambling, and of course, some genuine bro-time.

Obviously the weekend wouldn’t be complete without checking out the local bourbon selection. While I didn’t find any unicorns, we were able to try the reasonably-priced-but-still-suppose-to-taste-good Larceny for the first time which turned out to be "reasonably-priced-but-still-tasted-good". Anyone visiting the area should check out BevMo, it had good prices and a very solid selection (Elmer T Lee, High West, Four Roses to name a few).

The weekend was an awesome time and was one that will provide me with memories for the rest of my life. Check out some of our GoPro shots below!

Here is what we have been reading, watching, drinking, using, drinking, eating, excited for, inspired by, thinking about, lusting after:

  • Move over Farm-to-Table, Farm-to-Drink is coming in hot (and we are loving it!). We totally agree with The Whiskey Wash, very surprised to see the lack of advertising of non-GMO by all of these brands. Widow Jane also offers a Heirloom Collection that uses non-GMO corn (I really wish they would age these longer).

  • Check out this list of budget bourbons that will impress your taste buds and friends, without hurting your wallet. Here at bourbonlust we made our own list of budget friendly whiskies under $50:
    • Wild Turkey Rare Breed ($45.00)
    • Wild Turkey Forgiven ($45.00)
    • Woodford Reserve Rye ($45.00) (check out our review!)
    • Elijah Craig 12 Year ($29.99)
    • Henry McKenna ($32.99)

  • Another thought provoking article from The Whiskey Wash (wanna be bourbon friends?). What are some bottles that you only seem to find at the distillery? A lot of Willett comes to mind...

  • Father's Day is right around the corner which means whiskey themed gifts are in-season. Check out this list! The bar stools are tempting.

Down right, lust-tastic.

Jun 3, 2015

lust worthy wednesday

What do you want to do when you grow up? What a loaded question! It may come off as a confusing question because most of us reading a bourbon blog are technically “adults” already. 

I mean... what do you actually want to be doing with your life? I’d imagine the most of you are in the same position as us, working a job during the day that pays a reasonable salary, in order to do the things you actually want to be doing outside of work. However, I am a firm believer that these two tracks should merge together one day. That the things you love doing outside of work, should eventually turn into what makes you money. That’s the key to true happiness, right? Living off of doing things you love to do day in and day out.

May 29, 2015

wanderlust: New Orleans

We are new travelers. We saved up for two years before getting our wanderlust on. We have since vowed to do several vacations, big & small, domestic & international, hours away & thousands of miles away, each year. Eventually we will get around to writing about all of the amazing places we have been fortunate enough to visit in the past year, but we could not wait to share with you our recent trip to NOLA.

May 20, 2015

lust worthy wednesday

The Crescent City. The Resilient City. The birthplace of Jazz. The Big Easy. NOLA.

bourbonlust is headed to New Orleans! Beignets & crawfish. Jazz & voodoo. "Go cups" & festivals. What more could you ask for?

New Orleans has seen the darkest of days. Yet stories of the resilience of the people, the strength of the community & the rich culture that has cultivated from years of tragedies and triumphs continue to speak louder than any heartache the city has seen. That, in its very essence is the draw of the New Orleans. Its relatable, its real, its essentially human

May 6, 2015

lust worthy wednesday

This past weekend, we were suppose to relax. April was a hetic, hectic month and we vowed to have a quite weekend and catch up on each other lives.

Instead, we found ourselves on a run along the Hudson river, touring chocolate and bourbon distilleries in Brooklyn, taking a long walk across town just for iced matcha lattes, stirring up drinks for the derby, meeting friends in a overly crowded bar for the Mayweather/Pacquiao fight, making elaborate meals on the grill each day and on top of all of that... we did our laundry and cleaned the apartment like responsible adults(!) Phew.

That is what happens when New Yorkers see the sun. I swear. Nice weather does something to east coasters that west coasters will never understand (they are spoiled with vitamin D). With weather approaching the 80s, there's a new found energy in the city. You feel restless sitting still, no matter how much you just want to chill out. New Yorkers are more chipper, have (slight) smiles and are finally shedding their scary, ghostly complexions in favor of some increased melanin. The energy is magnetic, its positive & I love it. 

Apr 29, 2015

lust worthy wednesdey


Okay, not quite. The other half of bourbonlust has been killin' the #LUSTWORTHYWEDNESDAYS posts & I thought it was time you heard from the Big Dog (uh, me!)... so I am guest writing LWL this week. Hopefully, we can get some other interesting guest writers on here. In due time my friends, in due time.

I know its only Wednesday, but this weekend cannot come soon enough. After our vacation to California, I was back in Michigan for two short days before jetsetting to Miami. Its been almost 3 weeks since I have been home and I cannot wait to get back to NYC (who knew you actually miss a 477 sq. ft. apartment so much). On top of this pure excitement just to be home, we have two distillery tours set-up for this weekend (Widow Jane and Kings County) and a chocolate factory tour (Raaka Chocolate). Whats better than seeing how two up-and-coming, local, craft distilleries make the product we love, sampling that product, then heading to a chocolate factory to wind down the day?! That is my kind of Saturday. And to top it off, it is also derby day so can count on us to be downing a mint julep (or two) & you should too (we got some stellar events & recipes below for your derby day enjoyment).

Apr 22, 2015

lust worthy wednesday

Coming to you from a haze of sand, airplanes & flashing lights. Its been a whirlwind 5 days traveling from NYC >> Los Angeles >> Coachella >> Detroit >> NYC.

Definitely one of those vacations where you need a vacation when its over, but incredibly worth it. Along the way we got to spend time with friends from both coasts, have some once in a lifetime experiences, and I even got to surprise my family for a night (thank you NYC flight delays). But more to come on our travel experience to Coachella in a later post. Let's get back to the bourbon.

Apr 15, 2015

lust worthy wednesday (a recap)

There was no lust worthy wednesday last week (sad face).

Instead, you could have found me (being all high brow & classy) sipping some of the finest bourbons at the gorgeous Brandy Library in the Tribeca neighborhood of NYC. Come on, how lust worthy is that?

It was an incredible experience, especially for those whiskey nerds like me. The night started in a most beautiful room with a private bar & bartender serving up a cocktail made with wheated bourbon and praline syrup. Delish.