This is a swell whiskey. It’s balanced, bold—even muscular—and pretty much what a properly aged 15-year-old bourbon should taste like. Some sourced whiskey shows the talent or luck of the barrel hunter, so let’s call Grain & Barrel Spirits’ master distiller Gregg Snyder talented. It’s delicious. Ironically, I had this same whiskey from a full bottle bought by a friend, and it did little for me. A month later, I got a sample bottle from Chicken Cock, and it was praiseworthy. Go figure. I have no explanation for it.
This was a pleasant surprise. I have had the opportunity to try a number of KO Distilling whiskies including their Cask Strength Offerings at 120 proof and at least 3 years in age. I found them very hot and a good bit of youth showing through. The Distiller’s Reserve is a different story however. The sample I tried was 52 months. A wheated bourbon that is Non Chill Filtered. I would get a slight hint of youth every now and again but overall, this was a very enjoyable bourbon. Soft and sweet going in with a good bit of spice at the end for a wheated bourbon. I have in my collection a 4-year-old Bottled in Bond wheated bourbon from a craft distillery in Kentucky that many people are raving about and I can say that I liked this KO bourbon a lot more.
Despite the inviting nose—which revealed layer after incredible layer of aromas the longer it rested—whiskey is for drinking, and that effort ended the fun for me.
I get that others like some of these extra-long-aged bourbons; in fact, I appreciate it. That crowd is wired differently from me and variety is a great thing. But unlike Michter’s, which somehow pulls off the feat of bottling 20- and 25-year bourbon and rye that is as drying, it doesn’t win me over. This 22-year dries up quickly and heads right to astringency for me. Your reactions may vary, and I hope they do, especially if you spend the exorbitant sums requested online.
It isn’t harsh, which is good for a 4 year old, but that’s likely due to the low proof. Wolf Moon is best suited for sipping while hanging around and burning it down, and you don’t want to sip on any Jack Daniels. The type of whiskey you pour over ice in a solo cup around a bonfire, hanging out at the lake, or knocking back on a muddy tailgate.
I’m really pleased with this release because of its port-forward notes. Some recent Angel’s Envy Cask Strength releases tasted more like delicious, polished bourbon while lacking the distinctive port finish components of early releases. For anyone wondering why I pointed to purple iris in my nose notes: Years ago, a friend gave me some purple iris bulbs that I replanted. As they grew and bloomed, a powdered grape aroma (think grape Kool-Aid) emanated from them. Ever since, they’ve been one of my favorite flowers. That aroma is present in this release.
Now we’re talking! If you have been following my Black Button Bourbon reviews you know that their Signature Four Grain Bourbon and Double Oaked Bourbon didn’t quite do the trick for me at 84 proof. This cask strength version at 110.2 proof has something going for it. Yes, on the nose you still get that young bourbon note, however on the palate the richness of the bourbon starts go come through and has a very nice finish. Still a slight hint of young bourbon but more flavors as well. Note that Black Button bourbons are non-chill filtered.
This bourbon was started as the Black Button Four Grain expression aging in barrels of New York State White Oak, hand charred over open flames. After the first year, the wood was too tight and began to split. The bourbon was re-barreled into new, hand charred American White Oak from Missouri.
Old Forester’s 100 proof standard is a super-versatile and amazingly affordable favorite of mine. Some of this year’s special distillery releases (such as the 150th Anniversary Bourbon, Batch 2, which I reviewed here) have been brilliant. But Old Fo’s Birthday Bourbons are always hit or miss for me. The 2019 Birthday was brilliant, one of my favorite ever. At the press event when we tasted it, master taster Jackie Zykan included slices of birthday caramel cake because she deemed it the whiskey’s paramount note. She was dead on. It was deep, dense and rich, just like the cake. So confident that we’d love that release, she even poured us a 150 proof-barrel strength sample that, believe it or not, was far softer than anyone would think.