Brush with Bourbon – Elmer T Lee 45%

Last in our trio of bourbon’s at 1602 Dundas was a dram from Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky who produce Blanton’s, W. L. Weller, E. H. Taylor and Buffalo Trace among others. Elmer T Lee is named after their Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee.

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon 45%

Image: LCBO

And what did we find?

  • Nose – Sweet mash, fruity cinnamon spice, over ripe fruits
  • Palate – Grape, raisins, bitter dry oaky, spicy
  • Finish – Slow bitter finish

Elmer T Lee has the clear and unmistakable stamp of Kentucky Bourbon character – lots of fruit, spice, bold and impossible to ignore.

While we split a 30 ml shot, a 750 ml bottle can be purchased at a Toronto LCBO for CND 54.95. Here what they have to say…

LCBO’s Tasting & Serving Notes

Complex and addictive. Scents of cinnamon, hazelnuts, and dried fruit precede big flavors: cinnamon spice, raisinated and plummy, like Madeira or Sherry. Long finish, with a bit of a bite. Score – 97. (Kara Newman, Wine Enthusiast, Sept. 2010).

Bourbon’s sampled at 1602 Dundas in Toronto in September 2017:

Other forays into American whiskies from Buffalo Trace:

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Brush with Bourbon – Basil Hayden’s 40%

Next in our brush with Bourbon informal flight at 1602 Dundas was a bourbon from the Jim Beam stable – part of their small batch bourbons such as Knob Creek. Styled after the mash created by its namesake Basil Hayden, it uses double the rye of a standard Kentucky bourbons.

Image: Beam Suntory

Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon 40%

And what did we find?

  • Nose – Resin, herbal, oats, cereals, sweet, honey, woody, treacle
  • Palate – Initial ‘yeowch’, then acclimatized to it, revealing some spices
  • Finish – There but..

What is fabulous about the world of whisky is the range of styles – something for everyone! However I’ve learned that my palate preferences veer away from both bourbon and rye… Which meant this whisky had a double strike against it as it both is very clearly a bourbon with a higher rye quotient.

What I enjoyed most was the nose – I could keep sniffing it and finding more elements. For me, the kick would be a brilliant dimension in certain cocktails – one where the interesting elements in the nose are given full room to shine with the rye spiciness and character on the palate punching up the drink.

Here’s what the folks over at the LCBO have to say:

The recipe for this classic Bourbon dates back to 1796. Amber in colour; on the nose are notes of dried apricot, caramel, custard, green peppercorn and hay; on the palate it is medium-bodied and warming, with flavours of white pepper, burnt sugar, dried white flowers and vanilla that finishes with a lingering herbal spice.

This bottle was released in February 26, 2015, made in Kentucky, USA by Beam Global Spirits and Wines with a style described as medium & spicy.

While we split a 30 ml shot, it can be purchased at Toronto LCBO for CND $53.95.

Bourbon’s sampled at 1602 Dundas in Toronto in September 2017:

Other forays into American whiskies from the Beam Suntory family:

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Brush with Bourbon – Black Maple Hill 47.5%

We started off our 1602 Dundas bourbon trio evening with a small batch Kentucky straight bourbon with handmade sour mash and mysterious origins – Black Maple Hill.

Image: K&L Wines, Different bottle

Black Maple Hill Kentucky Straight Bourbon 47.5%

And what did we find?

  • Nose – Treacle, molasses, raisins, black pepper, rich…
  • Palate – Spice, sweet, not at all harsh
  • Finish – There then goes, bitter sweet

Most enjoyable, very drinkable… spunky character… it reminded me of Elijah Craig – in a good way.

I will admit I tasted just a small sample with a friend knowing nothing about the bourbon. I’ll admit again – I’m not really a bourbon drinker, but this certainly was more to my taste than most.

What was amusing is when I dug a little deeper to find out more about Black Maple Hill… guess what… it seems the one we had may possibly have elements from the same folks behind Elijah Craig… whaddya know!

Or is it?? The story isn’t so simple… it was once said to mostly come from the Stizel-Weller distillery and bottled by Julian van Winkle – an insiders secret with quality rare bourbons aged from 11 – 22 years… It then was labelled as aged for 8 years and garnered spill-over hype from the elusive over-priced Pappy… selling for thousands of dollars!

The dark rust label no longer claims an age and while Heaven Hill is credited on sites such as The Whisky Exchange, you won’t find Heaven Hill claiming it as one of its American whiskey brands. Throw into the mix Willett Distillery – which for the most part does not distill its own spirits and has even been known to put out products under fictitious companies… And others from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (KBD) and you have a mystery blend from various unknown sources. Then the new Stein Distillery from Oregon came into picture… leading to a new spin-off Black Maple Hill from Oregon.

Alas my photo from our evening is madingly blurry and indistinct, however it was labelled as Kentucky straight bourbon and given the flavour profile of what we sampled, I’m guessing it shares some of the same bourbon source as Elijah Craig.

And what’s the reasonably reliable story? Read David Driscoll’s tale on K&L Wines in which he reveals:

So here it is – the story of Black Maple Hill.  A Bourbon made somewhere in Kentucky, sold to KBD, blended at their facility, sold to Paul Joseph, slapped with a romantic label, and distributed down the street from K&L in Redwood City.

All that matters? Of the trio we tasted that evening, this was my choice!

Bourbon’s sampled at 1602 Dundas in Toronto in September 2017:

  • Black Maple Hill Kentucky Straight Bourbon 47.5% – This post
  • Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon 40%
  • Elmer T Lee Kentucky Bourbon 45%

Other forays into American whiskies….

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1602 Dundas in Toronto – A Brush with Bourbon

When I travel, I enjoy seeking out whisky watering holes… from a collector’s paradise like The Auld Alliance in Singapore to the unabashedly curious range of Winnipeg’s Whisky Bar at Toad in the Hole.

Naturally my latest trip to Toronto (September 2017) had to include a chance to explore… in this case 1602 Dundas – a local joint conveniently found mere walking distance from where I was staying.

Well known for its cocktails, it has a most respectable range for a neighbourhood haunt – a mere 300 whiskies – all served in a chilled out, no pretence vibe where you can kick back, relax, enjoy a drink, discussion and throw in some whisky discoveries too.

After a short chat, knew we were in good hands with the lovely lady barkeep. As I perused the shelves, decided to plunge into waters I don’t normally tred – bourbon.

Image: Yelp Amanda C

Our wee brush with bourbons explored:

This was followed by a cocktail which was exceedingly well made and far too easy to drink.

And while I’m still not a huge bourbon fan… but I do love what ex-bourbon casks do to help the world of whisky!

Where can you find it?

  • 1602 Dundas is located at 1602 Dundas West, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M6K 1T8. 
  • Tel: 416 823 0661 – Currently open only evenings 6 PM – 2 AM
  • Or check out their map…

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Whisky Cocktail Hour?

While my jaunt around the globe hasn’t quite finished, my quick zip through a few interesting cocktails is a ‘wrap’!

In case you missed any, here is a quick list:

  • Old Fashioned – Bourbon, bitters, sugar with a twist of orange
  • Manhattan – Bourbon, vermouth + bitters
  • Mint Julep – Bourbon, simple syrup, bitters + mint
  • The Ginger Baker – Tennessee whisky, ginger, lime + pineapple juice, orgeat syrup with a slice of pineapple
  • Spiced Boulevardier – Infused bourbon, vermouth, campari with a twist of orange or almonds

These cocktails all came courtesy of a session with DISCUS in May 2017, Mumbai.

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Bonus Bourbon… Willett Pot Stilled Reserve 47%

Our Whisky Ladies evening closed with a Kentucky bourbon and chocolate – how fitting! This was a completely unplanned enthusiastic “I just so happen to have this great bourbon!” addition to our tasting!

The folks over at Willett (aka Kentucky Bourbon Distillers) claim a family history that harkens back to John David Willett (born in 1841) who was part of the master distiller for the Moore, Willett & Frenke Distillery. However, truth be told, these folks have actually only recently re-entered the distilling game in 2012, having stopped operations in the 1980s.

It is speculated that this particular whisky may actually be a product of Heaven Hill Distilleries – the folks that produce Elijah Craig amongst many others – using copper stills with only a pot still used for the doubler stage. Confused much?

All that matters to the Whisky Ladies is what we thought when we sampled it…

Willett Pot Still Reserve 47%

  • Nose – Well hello bourbon! Nice herbs, bubblegum sweet, slight mustiness too
  • Palate – Nice warm bourbon. some nuts, honey…
  • Finish – Great finish – a bit spicy

This was a bourbon that cried out for a cube of ice! When added? Voila! Lots of bright floral elements – overall just made it fab, Fab, FAB!!

And what do the Willett folks have to say about this whiskey?

  • Nose – Floral notes – jasmine and orange blossom, ginger, cinnamon with lots of bananas when water is added
  • Palate – Lemon, black tea, butterscotch, charcoal, citrus, nutty, honey. With water added – bananas and milk chocolate
  • Finish – Medium length, eucalyptus, herbal, rye, spicy, pepper, barber’s shop…with water added, light toffee & pecans

Very floral on the nose with wonderful citrus notes; more citrus on the palate with loads of honey & then turning quite herbal on the finish. An incredibly different and inviting array of aromas & flavors when water is added!

What else did we sample that “risky whisky” evening?

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Risky whisky? Virgil Kaine 2016 Ashcat 45.6%

Our trio of potentially ‘risky whisky‘ closed with a shift from old world France to new world US of A – with a “low country” whiskey from Charleston, South Carolina!

Virgil Kaine was started by two chefs – David Szlam and Ryan Meany. The idea behind Virgil Kaine was to draw on culinary “know-how” to blend, infuse and tinker in order to craft whiskeys like a ginger-infused bourbon, a ‘high-rye’ bourbon blend and a ‘robber baron’ rye… and more recently their limited edition “Ashcat” which is what we sampled.

Virgil Kaine 2016 Ashcat 45.6% Bottle #0612

  • Nose – Dusty, sawdust, cologne, spirit, dark honey, bitter, beeswax, caramelized honey, light raisin
  • Palate – Bourbon with a sherry twist! Warms, direct, spice
  • Finish – Finally a finish! Raisins, chocolatey hazel nuts

From practically the first sip, our birthday whisky lady gave an unequivocal announcement “I like this very much!”

This was no single malt, definitely a bourbon, yet we appreciated that it had other elements too.

In our Glencairn vs Norlan glass comparison, we found the Norlan brought out much more raisins, dark heavy honey on the nose and made it much more rounded on the palate, pumping up the slightly bitter quality.

Here is what the folks from Virgil Kaine have to say:

Virgil Kaine’s first detour from our three original whiskeys. A limited edition that strikes a balanced blend between the sweetness of a wheated bourbon, the spice of High-Rye bourbon and tannins derived from sherry casks. Which is all just a fancy way of saying we created a great tasting bourbon we hope you love as much as we loved making it. Savor this one. When it’s gone, it’s gone.

  • Nose – Cane sugar & sherry
  • Taste – Butterscotch, orange peel & dried figs
  • Finish – Smooth, long finish

What else did we sample that “risky whisky” evening?

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American Adventures – AD Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon 47.5%

The Whisky Ladies American evening began its next set shifting from single malts, cut with a moonshine, to break to enter into bourbon territory.

ad-laws

AD Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon 47.5% (Batch No 8)

  • Nose – Honey! Butter, covered salty honey sweet nuts, a bit herbal, becoming almost floral, a little curd or even mild horseradish, then cinnamon sweet
  • Palate – Curiously floral, particularly lavender, so smooth with no rough edges yet was no mild creature either with toasted slightly bitter nuts and a dash of chilli, there is an earthy substance here too
  • Finish – Buttery yumminess

After the disappointing Colorado single malt (Stranahan’s Original) we had pretty low expectations… What a treat to be more than just pleasantly surprised.

We found the nose quite remarkable and unique. Which followed through on the palate and even finish. This is no shy retiring miss, nor is it a brash young swashbuckler. While young, it has character.

One comment that captured this sentiment perfectly was “A potpourri on the palate! Flowery without being too sweet!” 

It may not sound like it would work, but it does. It also falls into the category of being dangerously drinkable.

Must say, we also rather like the bold clean lines of the square bottle.

Here is what the folks over at AD Laws have to say:

Our flagship whiskey is crafted from all four of the “American mother grains”: corn, wheat, barley and rye. There aren’t many four grain bourbons on the market as they are very difficult to make.

We utilize a stepped cooking process — each grain variety requires a different cooking temperature to maximize its flavor and character. The grain requiring the most heat is milled in and cooked first; the temperature is then lowered gradually as we add the smaller flavor grains, and then complete the cooking process with the malts.

This painstaking, 6.5 hour, labor-intensive process is critical to capturing the character and quality of each grain.

During aging, we strive to create harmony between this complex whiskey and the vanilla and caramel notes from the newly charred, American white oak barrels to create a classic bourbon with Colorado character.

They further share that it is a blend of 60% corn, 20% wheat, 10% of barley and 10% rye, aged for at least three years in new American white oak barrels.

However we would not consider it a ‘classic bourbon’ in line with what we’ve come to expect. And in our books, that is actually a good thing!

Other whiskies sampled in our American evening included:

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Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon 46.5%

We really thought our Kentucky Bourbon tasting experience was over… Then out popped a bourbon repeat from an earlier session – Blanton’s Single-Barrel Bourbon.

Bourbon there is a-plenty, however single barrel bourbon is apparently a relatively newer phenomenon… with Blanton’s claiming fame for popularizing it in the 1980s.

Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon takes its name from Colonel Albert Blanton, who was known to entertain friends by serving them bourbon from Warehouse H – especially in the middle sections known as the centre cut – which he believed aged bourbon better. Col. Blanton would pick an individual barrel he liked best and have it bottled – known as his special select single barrel bourbons.

His apprentice, Elmer T. Lee was inspired by this approach, hence used this concept when crafting the new Blanton’s brand… or so the story goes…

You can see here the whisky we enjoyed was indeed from Warehouse H, bottled at 93 proof on 6-2-14.

20141218-Blanton Label
Blanton is also know for its trademark set of eight stoppers – each in the series of  to see the race in action! Ours was at the starting point before the race takes off…20141218-Blanton

Now I have to be honest… we simply did not even think about tasting notes by that point in the evening. So you will simply have to suffice with what the Blanton’s folks have to say:

  • Nose: A spicy aroma of Dried Citrus and Orange Peels with a hint of Caramel and Vanilla
  • Palate: Full and soft, marked by a mix of Burnt Sugar, Caramel, Orange, and Cloves
  • Finish: Balanced with Vanilla, Honey, and Citrus
  • Best Served: Straight, on ice, or used in a premium cocktail
We then sat down to enjoy a North African themed meal – which paired rather well with the bourbons!
Our Kentucky bourbon night featured:
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Kentucky Bourbon – Following the buffalo trail…. with Buffalo Trace 40%

Last in our Kentucky straight bourbon revisit is Sazerac‘s Buffalo Trace – the distillery‘s name sake whisky

Buffalo Trace

As usual, we sampled blind then revealed the whiskey… Here is what we found:

Buffalo Trace

  • Colour – Dark reddish gold
  • Nose – Citrus honey flowery perhaps a little fruit
  • Palate – Spirity spice, chewy, a little harsh and dry
  • Finish – Stretched after taste, slightly bitter
  • Add water – Enhanced the sweet and spice

Debate: Some preferred the WL Weller, another thought the Buffalo Trace had more character…

Here’s what the folks over at Buffalo Trace have to say:

Ancient buffalo carved paths through the wilderness that led American pioneers and explorers to new frontiers. One such trail led to the banks of the Kentucky River where Buffalo Trace Distillery has been making bourbon whiskey the same way for more than 200 years. In tribute to the mighty buffalo and the rugged, independent spirit of the pioneers who followed them, we created our signature Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

TASTING NOTES:

This deep amber whiskey has a complex aroma of vanilla, mint and molasses. Pleasantly sweet to the taste with notes of brown sugar and spice that give way to oak, toffee, dark fruit and anise. This whiskey finishes long and smooth with serious depth.

Here’s what others have to say about Buffalo Trace:

Other whiskies in our Kentucky bourbon evening included:

It was an interesting departure to take a little tipple trip to Kentucky.

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