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.
This is the signature bourbon for Black Button Distilling. This bottle of the Four Grain Small Batch Bourbon is Batch 19. It consists of a blend 20 to 24 barrels. The blend includes bourbon aged in both 15 and 30 gallon barrels. While the label states it is aged at least two yours, according to Owner and Head Distiller Jason Barrett, the 15 gallon barrels run almost 36 months in age and the 30 gallon barrels about 44 months. The label states “aged at least two years” so they don’t have to keep changing the label.
Straight out of the bottle this bourbon’s inviting nose led me to jump in and taste, which was a small mistake. It was surprisingly oaky and tannic, especially for a 13-year-old. So, I poured a little more and abandoned it for about 20 minutes to let it open up, and it did. The oak returned, but cloaked in brown sugar, and the tannin nearly disappeared save for the finish—and not much of it there either. It’s a delightful whiskey all around; a fine example of what the team at this venerable distillery has learned over 85 years.
The price is a tough sell for me but the bourbon itself is exceptional. It certainly reminds me of one of my all-time favorite expressions (Elijah Craig) and when I had my boyfriend taste it he asked, “Is this Elijah Craig?” It is fitting, as the proximity to Elijah Craig’s Scott County homestead (“close enough to throw a nerf football and hit the front door”) is what originally inspired one of the co-founders to launch a bourbon brand. Though the source of the bourbon is kept under wraps, it was expertly chosen. The folks from Blue Run – a diverse crowd from tech to marketing to politics – recognized themselves as industry outsiders and lacked the sophisticated palate required to select an exceptional bourbon, not to mention optimal proof. So they brought in an industry veteran with proven bourbon chops to thumbs up or down their barrel selections.
Don’t let Old Forester 150th Anniversary bourbon’s potent proof fool you, this bourbon can be rolled around the mouth and savored. The finish on it is beautiful, silken and long; it’s a real pleasure to drink. This is Old Forester at its purest, boldest, most enticing and exciting. It’s why I love (most iterations) of this brand.
Jefferson’s has done it again and just in time for the holidays! Never was there a more perfect release that pairs perfectly with Thanksgiving dinner. The gentle tartness of the palate will blend perfectly with the salinity of a well-brined turkey, and especially one with a crisp, fried skin. Not a meat eater? Not to fear, Jefferson’s Ocean Spray also complements the nutty/salty flavor circus of a traditional green bean casserole, and even helps cut the sweetness of a marshmallow-topped sweet potato dish. Regardless of your favorite Thanksgiving side, Jefferson’s Ocean Spray is its best liquid companion. This release gleans its versatility in flavor from long days bobbing gently atop the bog waters, receiving only gentle nudges from both cranberry harvesters and the Massachusetts crisp air alike.
On the nose I’m getting light wheat grain and a lot of bubble gum. Not Trident or Hubba Bubba, but Topps baseball card gum. The gum that could also be used to shim an unlevel chair, that kind of gum. It’s not unpleasant, but it has that chalkiness to it that you remember from when you were a kid opening a pack of baseball cards. I know, I know, many adults still open packs of baseball cards, but I don’t think gum is still included. If you’re opening a pack of 1983 Topps, I don’t recommend chewing the gum enclosed.
The first time I and a friend cracked a bottle of Maker’s Mark Cask Strength, he said, correctly, “This is what Maker’s Mark should have been all along. Why did they wait so long to release at this proof?” I agreed. Neither of us knew then how committed to barrel strength releases Maker’s since the Private Select program (recently renamed Private Selection program) was still in the design stage. Maker’s spent 50 years becoming famous as a one-hit whiskey wonder, but in the 10 years since it released Maker’s 46, it’s shown a high level of skill in creating variations on that long-established theme.