American Minis – TBWC 24 year Bourbon No 1 48%

Clearly That Boutique-y Whisky Company has featured prominently in our miniature explorations! However this was our first bourbon bottled by them… and a 24 year old one, no less? We were intrigued…

TBWC 24 year Bourbon No 1 48%

  • Nose – Mmmm coconut, lemon, toffee, apples, lots of over ripe fruit, then floral, shifting to sweet grass, then black vanilla being scraped from the pod, sweet leather, rich rum raisin, thick black treacle, molasses morphing into chocolate, then a honey liquor, apricot cream, burnt caramelized baked pineapple, cotton candy
  • Palate – Full of flavour too! Red berries, black berries, cherries… gorgeous! As the nose evolved, elements of it could be found swirling around with a great silky sipping sensation. Simply delicious.
  • Finish – Truthfully I don’t recall – I didn’t note anything for the finish… and think we were just so taken with the aromas then sipping that nothing else registered!

Can I just say – wow! We went from curious to incredibly impressed with the complexity and range we discovered. There was so much character on the nose which followed through on the palate. The more we sipped, the more we enjoyed.

So what do we know? It is their Batch 1, released in December 2018 with 8,376 bottles. In their quirky style, the folks at TBWC have this to say:

Now, now go about your business please – there’s nothing to see here. Don’t you know you’re in a restricted area? No unauthorised personnel allowed.

  • Nose: High notes of dried peel and vanilla, flaming Christmas pudding gives way to pear drops and a light dusting of cocoa powder
  • Taste: Insistent, buttery mouthfeel carrying a lorry load of vanilla, caramel and beurre noisette
  • Finish: Punchy, warm finish with great balance of the flavours

The recommended retail price on TBWC website is £199.95. All I can say is that I’m delighted it made it into our miniatures so we could sample one!

Here was our full American quartet:

With more from our 2019 Master of Malt Advent Calendar…

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American Minis – Hudson Baby Bourbon 46%

I must admit up front that while I’d heard great things about Hudson’s Baby Bourbon, my one and only previous Hudson experience with their single malt years ago was… not great. In truth, it was a clear deterrent to prioritizing further explorations. For years I would see their squat half bottles in various airports and think… should I? And never did.

However when a dram lands in your lap, one must put aside past prejudice and enter into the exploration with an open mind. It particularly helps when sampling with others who had no such preconceived notions from past forays.

What did we find?

Hudson Baby Bourbon 46%

  • Nose – We were initially greeted with sweet corn, coffee, cherries, resin, a bit funky but in a fun way, red licorice
  • Palate – A bit rough – much more so than anticipated from the nose, not complex, woody and a bit medicinal
  • Finish – None to speak of…
  • Water – We gamely tried hoping it might coax out additional elements… don’t, just don’t

Overall it wasn’t a bad start. It certainly was promising on the nose but a disappointment on the palate. We were calibrated for brasher, younger more spirited American drams, however even keeping that in mind, this was potentially interesting but certainly not  brilliant.

We returned after sampling the other three American whiskies to see if the Baby Bourbon had evolved or changed over the hour or so…. The additional time didn’t do it any favours. What remained in the glass had soured, losing those sweet funky elements that made it promising.

So what do we know? Well, touted as the first legal pot-still whiskey to be produced in New York since prohibition, Tuthilltown distillery uses local corn, aged in small 2 gallon barrels… and then coax along the maturity with ‘sonic maturation’ from bass speakers that agitate the cask and the liquid. Hmmm… 

It seems I’m not alone in being ambivalent about Hudson – more than many other bourbon’s out there, you can find a wide range of reactions from absolute raving love to distain and derision!

I tried to find the official tasting notes, however it seems that the distillery has gone in a  different direction and no longer has this ‘Baby Bourbon’ option, shifting instead to a “Bright Lights, Big Bourbon” expression.

Here was our full American quartet:

 

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BMC Bourbon – Bib + Tucker 10 year 66.6%

Can I admit sometimes I find the American whiskey industry just a tad confusing? Rather than distinct distilleries, we stumble across brands which may (or may not) be from a particular state and/or distillery or possibly a blend of several, made from barley or corn or rye or wheat a mix of many grains. Throw change in ownership or associations into the mix and it becomes even more confounding.

Such is the case with Bib & Tucker... Is it American? Yes… It was originally the brainchild of California’s 3 Badge Beverage Corp (previously 35 Maple Street with a Canadian connect), initially reputed to be bourbon from an undisclosed distillery in Tennessee… or was it Kentucky?

Fast forward to 2017 and you will see it is part of a Connecticut based Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits. As for where the golden liquid is actually from and how was it made and from what? I found both TN and KY on the bottle in small print but beyond that… tough to tell…

A different cask bottled at 64% was reputed to be from Kentucky Springs Distilling Co with a mash of 70% corn, 26% rye and 4% malted barley. The grains were distilled twice – through a column still and an old-fashioned copper pot still – then matured in No. 1 charred American white oak barrels… in other words charred for the least amount of time ie approx 15 seconds.

Whereas the one we tried clocked in at whopping 66.6% and I certainly couldn’t track it down… which isn’t so surprising given there are only 159 bottles of this particular expression in existence!

Setting aside my clearly inadequate detective skills, what matters most to us is what did we think? (as I can practically here the gents chaff with “Would you stop your blathering lassie so we can get on with the tasting??”)

Bib & Tucker 10 year Cask C130712 133.2 Proof 66.6%, Bottle 017 / 159

  • Colour – Burnished copper orange
  • Nose – Burnt caramel, tea leaves, toasted grain, dates and prunes, sweet spices particularly cinnamon, apricot salt tart, plum liqueur, a Chinese sour cherry, a bit of leather… as it opened, it became increasingly sour, cinnamon, almost camomile, then sweet with vanilla cream custard
  • Palate – Wow! There was no mistaking the 1st hit of alcohol and power behind this bourbon! If you had any taste buds remaining after the 1st singe, the embers continued to burn… however just as the nose evolved and opened up, so too did the palate… after time it even took on a lovely apricot too
  • Finish – A slightly bitter nutty edge came out after the spice dampened down
  • Water – A few much preferred it with water finding it brought out the tart sourness
  • Ice – Whereas others found it best with a nice chunk of ice

Overall? We thought it has quite an interesting nose that evolved as it opened up. And what a reaction to the 1st sip! The first gent to dive in had taken a good swig – burst out with “Woah!” and looked like he had been kicked by a mule. I kid you not. But slow down and take a wee sip? And be rewarded with a lovely flavourful rolling spice fire in your mouth.

This one certainly grew on us… and after the cigar was part-way through, most switched to the Bib & Tucker to pair and puff away the balance of our evening.

And what do the Bib & Tucker folks have to say? Well… this particular 10 year expression doesn’t seem to have on-line tasting notes however the 6 year is described as:

  • aroma  BIB & TUCKER leads with a strong vanilla scent along with fresh cut sweet grass, wet stone and old leatherbound books.
  • taste  With a smooth entry, the bourbon is nicely balanced with a hint of sweetness. It fulfills the promise of its nose before evolving into a warm, lightly crisp,spicy sensation.
  • finish  BIB & TUCKER lingers in the mouth with a complex, yet balanced chestnutty taste.

While not the same expression, can certainly see some similarity in profile between the standard 6 year vs the 10 year one we tried.

BMC’s Bourbon Night

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BMC Bourbon – Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon 46%

Clyde May’s takes inspiration from the story of Clyde May’s moonshine days in Alabama with their Conecuh Ridge style spirit which was essentially corn moonshine matured for a year in charred oak barrels with dried apples.

As for its modern avatar?  Kentucky Bourbon Distillers stepped in to produce the bourbon, though the branding retained a nod to Alabama. Why? Simply put prior to 2013, it was illegal to distill spirits in Alabama! However once the laws changed, rumour has it plans were hatched to build a distillery in Troy Alabama with developments at “an advanced stage.”

But what about the bourbon?

Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Batch CM0791 Recipe No 2 92 Proof 46%

  • Colour – Caramel red gold
  • Nose – Musty granary then mellows out, mild wood, ripe banana but not the typical bold bananas of a rough bourbon but instead a soft nuanced banana loaf, peaches, then brewed tea chilled to make ice tea with lemon slices, then the wood comes back on top, followed by apples… almost like a honey sweet apple brandy
  • Palate – Back of the tongue banana, sweet, so much more interesting on the palate than we hand anticipated, honey and fruits, simply beautiful, mild and easy sipping
  • Finish – Oolong tea, truly lovely finish
  • Water – For those who gadded, found it became even sweeter, the fruits came out to the fore even more, burnt sugar with a nice peppery finish

The longer is sat in the glass, the more enjoyable the aromas. Particularly with the revisit, we found this a clear desert dram.

And with ice? Banana cream and baked apple pie, simply fabulous! Then shifts to orange blossoms and vanilla cream. However don’t let it get watered down… overly diluted it becomes sugar water and insipid. Instead, keep it topped up and enjoy!

As for paired with our bourbon soaked Gurkha? First half of the cigar was equally sweet and the Clyde May’s was a perfect complement. However by the time we got to the heavier spicier part of the cigar, this was no longer quite the right fit… instead we shifted to Bib & Tucker 10 year bourbon.

And what do the Clyde May’s folks have to say?

Aged 4 to 5 years in new 53 gallon oak barrels and is non-chill filtered. You get dried orchard fruits on the nose and spice on the palate. A full and smooth choice, best either on the rocks or in a May’s Manhattan.

  • Appearance: Rich crimson.
  • Nose: Soft and sweet on the nose with aromas of brown sugar, baked apricot, wild strawberry, and nutmeg.
  • Palate: Wonderfully soft with complex aromas of barrel spice, fruit, and oiled leather.
  • Finishes long and delicious.

When I reached out to what I could find for a contact of Clyde May’s, John Soden,
International Sales Director of Belfast Distillery Company Ltd/Conecuh Brands kindly stepped in to further share details about the bourbon:

  • Mash Bill is 78% Corn, 12% Rye and 10% Malted Barley
  • Char #4 barrels, non-chill filtered, aged for 4-5 years

While the Alabama element is adding apples, this can’t done with the straight bourbon we sampled for it to qualify as bourbon. They also clarified that while they have plans to build their own distillery, currently the whiskey is sourced with a “very strict set of criteria with regard to age/quality, production methods and ingredients.”

Bottom line, did we like it? Why yes we did!

BMC’s Bourbon Night

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BMC Bourbon – Four Roses Small Batch 45%

This Kentucky small batch bourbon wasn’t originally part of the trio, however our host received it as a rather timely gift and decided to bring it along as an “appetizer” to our main “meal.”

As we poured, we compared notes on our preferred standard bourbons… names that came to mind included Blanton’s, Elijah Craig and yes – Four Roses… ideally with a nice large chunk of ice.

However, true to our tasting traditions… we sampled each first neat, then some added water, then each bourbon was set aside until all were tasted for a revisit… followed by closing which whisk(e)y we thought could best partner our cigar.

Four Roses Small Batch 45%

  • Colour – Bright yellow straw
  • Nose – Musty sweet mash, wood, bit of citrus, pear drops, oily orange, sweet tobacco leaf or sweet grass, loads of sour mash, hay…
  • Palate – Very smooth and a bit peppery
  • Finish – Orange zest with some thinking perhaps a chaser of anise
  • Water – Makes it spicier initially then once it settles down simply dilutes
  • Revisit – Coming back for a revisit after sampling the others – wow! Pear with sweet white flowers, certainly very easy going

Overall? We were reminded of why this bourbon came to mind in our collective short list. Truth be told, most of us are not typically bourbon drinkers unless it happens to be cocktail hour! In which case, having a base with more power is preferred.

As for what the folks over at Four Roses have to say?

  • Nose – Mellow spice, rich fruit, hints of sweet oak & caramel.
  • Palate – Mellow, ripened red berries, dried spice, well-balanced, rich.
  • Finish – Soft, smooth & pleasantly long.

We tried it from a closed bottle in Mumbai on March 2019.

As for what this would set you back? It remains quite affordable… currently selling on Master of Malt for approx $30.

BMC’s Bourbon Night

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Cleveland Underground Apple Bourbon Whiskey Sour

Ah… there are times when a chilled whisky sour just hits the spot! Which is exactly why our bourbon evening closed with a non-traditional take on this whiskey cocktail standard.

This isn’t quite what we tried but pretty close…

Underground Whiskey Sour
  • 1 ½ oz Underground Bourbon
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 1 drunken cherry
  • Chickpea froth
DIRECTIONS
  1. In an old fashioned glass, add Underground Bourbon, lemon juice, and sugar
  2. Shake with ice and strain into chilled tulip glass
  3. Add the froth
  4. Garnish with a cherry

Often it is made with frothed egg white… in our case we had a less traditional “vegetarian” version made with the froth from boiling chickpeas – which works surprisingly well.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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Mithcher’s Small Batch Bourbon Sazerac Cocktail

After sampling Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon solo, we had a change to try it in a different avatar – an exceedingly good Sazerac… so good that a few even had a repeat!

Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon L16F747 45.7% (91.4 proof)

This isn’t quite what we tried but pretty close…

  • 2 1/2 oz. Mitcher’s small batch bourbon whisky
  • sugar cube
  • dashes bitters
  • Absinthe
  • Lemon peel
  • Old-fashioned glass
Directions:
  1. In an Old-Fashioned glass, muddle a sugar cube with a few drops of water.
  2. Add several small ice cubes and the whiskey and bitters.
  3. Stir well and strain into a second, chilled, Old-Fashioned glass in which you have rolled around a few drops of absinthe until its inside is thoroughly coated, pouring off the excess.
  4. Garnish with a twist of lemon peel

The quality of the absinthe makes all the difference. In our case, we had a Czech absinthe – Bairnsfather;’s Reality Absinth – that was truly exceptional.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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FEW Bourbon Manhattan Cocktail

After enjoying the FEW Bourbon straight up, it was time for cocktails!

While I’m not sure if this is exactly what was whipped up for us, this is in the same territory…

FEW Bourbon Manhattan

  • 2 oz. FEW Bourbon Whiskey
  • 1 oz. Italian vermouth
  • dashes Angostura Bitters
Directions
  1. Stir the whiskey, vermouth, and bitters well with cracked ice.
  2. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with a twist or a maraschino cherry.

In this case, the cherry was soaked in a rather fine bourbon, and naturally it was also a quality vermouth, hence the results were frankly fabulous.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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FEW Bourbon 46.5%

The beauty of bourbon is how its full sweet flavours can make a killer base for a solid cocktail. The better the bourbon, the better the base, the better the cocktail.

And that’s just what we explored with our FEW Bourbon Manhattan…

First we sampled it blind, then we had it in a specially crafted cocktail.

FEW Bourbon 46.5% Batch 17H30

  • Nose – Fresh yeasty, flowers… like marigold or chrysanthemums, light citrus, quite sweet, light sacred ash, honey, raisins and apricots, dusty grains, perfume and lightly sour
  • Palate – Tastes quite different than the nose indicated, spice, cloves and oils, not at all harsh, sweet, with a walnut bitterness, something odd not normally found in whiskies like pulses or lentils
  • Finish – Minimal and a bit bitter.

While it came across as a bit soft and thin, there was still plenty going on. For the bourbon fans in the room, there was no doubt this was a fine specimen. Too soon our wee snifters with just a few sips were empty and it was time to move on to the next…

But this wasn’t it for us! No siree! After the teasing sample, out came one really quite fabulous Manhattan.

What do the folks at FEW have to say about their Bourbon?

Southern Tradition meet Norther Rye…

This spirit, distilled through timeless liquor-making techniques, utilizes a three-grain recipe that infuses generations of Southern tradition with the spiciness of northern rye and a touch of malt for smoothness. FEW is hand-crafted through a small-batch process in charred oak barrels to age its bourbon whiskey.

In a terrific twist, FEW Spirits takes their name from Frances Elizabeth Willard, a key figure in the Temperance Movement, The craft distillery is based in Evanston which has seen its fair share of Prohibition…. which sparked the creation of a remarkable array of illicit liquor plus import of Canadian rye whisky that was sometimes so harsh it had to be mixed up with various ingredients… making way for the famous flapper accoutrement – the cocktail!

Our Bourbon trio included:

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Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon

Our Bourbon explorations continued with Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon.

We began sampling it completely blind, to share our impressions without any influences beyond what was in our glass, then had the reveal followed by a brilliant cocktail.

Here is what we found…

Mitcher’s Small Batch Bourbon L16F747 45.7% (91.4 proof)

  • Nose – We were welcomed by mandarin oranges, sweet vanilla, jasmine, Cointreau, chocolate, creamy, butter rice, toffee, caramel, Chinese sweet red bean buns, fresh bread
  • Palate – Ooh! Very nice spice. Well rounded, has more substance than the FEW bourbon, orange blossoms, cinnamon gum like a Big Red, very smooth, lots of dried fruits
  • Finish – Lovely sweet light clove student oranges… long finish

It was universally pronounced “delicious!” A clear favourite of the evening – bringing enough character to make us happy to keep enjoying.

This was followed by an exceedingly good Sazerac… so good that a few even had a repeat!

Something to note about Mitcher’s is their master distiller, Pam Heilmann, was the first woman since Prohibition to serve as Master Distiller at a Kentucky Distillers Association distillery and their Mast of Maturation & Exec VP, Andrea Wilson, was the first woman to ever serve as Chair of the Kentucky Distillers Association.

What do they say about their Small Batch Bourbon?

Michter’s US1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon is made from a carefully selected mashbill that features the highest quality American corn. It is then matured to the peak of perfection. Truly “small batch” each batch of our US1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon is batched in a holding tank sized to fit a maximum of twenty full barrels, leaving no margin for “blending out” imperfection and thus necessitating excellence from every barrel. Reflecting the spirit of the Bluegrass State, Michter’s US1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon is nuanced, mellow and earthy.

Michter’s tasting notes:

  • Rich caramel with balanced vanilla, stone fruit notes, smoky depth, with an oak finish.

Our Bourbon trio included:

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