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.
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.
I have made no secret of my love for independent bottlers and recently wrote an article for Bourbon & Banter where I lamented the fact that no one is doing with American whiskies what independent bottlers are able to do with Scotches. Just a few months later, a sample of Lost Lantern, Edition 1 appeared on my doorstep. I want to open this review with an admission: I really wanted to like this.
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.
O. H. Ingram River Aged Straight Whiskey, I found interesting whiskey. Aged in a floating “rickhouse” at the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, in Ballard County, Kentucky. The theory being the gentle rocking of the barrels enhances the aging process. This process has its roots in the river transport of barreled distillate from Bourbon County delivered to New Orleans, with the transformed taste that apocryphally led to our native spirit. Does it make a difference? I have no idea, but there are a lot of people putting barrels on ocean voyages, riverboats, playing music to them, and even aging in cranberry bogs.
Currently there are several bottled manhattans available on the market; High West has really put this one together well. All the right flavor components are there, and are well balanced. In the past when sampling bottled manhattans something was always off or missing for me, they just felt lacking. This was not the case with this offering from High West. If you are not able to make a manhattan at home, or are going to a gathering and don’t want to spend time mixing drinks, this is a great alternative.
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.