Category Archives: Bourbon

Bulleit Bourbon 

I’ve been finding myself buying bourbon with increasing frequency as the American spirit continues to capture my attention and interest. When I started my bourbon journey, I was mostly looking at upper-mid level drams, as I tried to figure out if I really wanted to reallocate much my whisk(e)y budget away from scotch and Canadian offerings. In short time, however, I began to branch out toward both ends of spectrum, exploring more top-shelf and entry-level offerings as I attempted to gain a more complete understanding of the genre. 

This search is what recently drew me to Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey, a bottle I had previously ignored because I felt the bottle presentation seemed rather low-end, an assumption that also seemed to be affirmed by the decidedly reasonable price…

Well, ahead of a camping trip, this summer, I found myself reconsidering Bulleit Bourbon as I looked for a dram I could possibly enjoy neat while also sharing with friends who’d be just as likely to add ice and too much cola. I’d seen Bulleit in many a drinking establishment and I’d read on other blogs that it was relatively underrated, so it was settled! Bulleit Bourbon Frontier Whiskey is bottled at 45% abv and cost me about $40 CDN


To the Eye

You know me, I think bourbon in my glass is a pretty sexy dram… All coppery and orange. Fairly nice legs, too!

In the Nose

For the most part, it pretty much has the standard bourbon smells of sweet caramel and vanilla, with some punky corn. But, with a little time in the glass, dried apricots and, interestingly, some dill pickles make their presence known. That dill pickle character seems to build and build until it is the dominant aroma in my Glencairn! There is also something almost soapy as well as a subtle charred smokiness lingering in the background. 

On the Tongue

Fairly straightforward bourbon, once again. Oak and vanilla, caramel corn and some rye spice. There is a drying bitterness that isn’t altogether unwelcome and which makes me want to take another sip. It has a nice alcohol bite, which is pretty much required for me to enjoy a bourbon, these days. The finish is shortish but full of oak and a sort of mineral-like quality, so let’s just call it pencil shavings and move along!

Final Thoughts

This is not the best whiskey or bourbon I’ve ever had… But it gave me exactly what I asked of it when I made my purchase! Reasonable price, plenty good to sip around the campfire and the family and friends who tried it (with or without mix) all seemed to enjoy it better than the whiskies they did (or didn’t) bring along themselves! 

So, while I can’t exaggerate Bulleit Bourbon to an unreasonable level of excellence, I do need to tout it as an honest and versatile whiskey that punches above its weight class price point. In fact, over the course of the summer, I ended up choosing to bring along a fresh bottle of this dram for each of two camping trips and a charity hockey tournament that I played in! So, while I have only given this whiskey my third-highest rating, I do recognize the niche that Bulleit Bourbon fills and that I highly respect how well it it fill said niche!

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Woodford Reserve

Another bourbon followed me home… 

My growing fondness for the American spirit (and my annoyance at the ever-increasing price of scotch) has me going for bourbon as often as anything, lately. This time, it’s a dram I haven’t tried before: Woodford Reserve “Distiller’s Select” Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. I’ve been intrigued by this whiskey the last couple times I’ve visited the bottle shop, admittedly at least partly because of the unique oversized flask style bottle. The label tells me that I have chosen bottle #3309 from batch 0238. Since Woodford Reserve is a readily accessible blend, I have no clue if these numbers are at all meaningful to the actual product inside the bottle. This whiskey is bottled at 45.2% abv and cost me about $50 CDN. 

To the Eye

Look at that deep mahogany, with flashes of coppery orange… Is there a more appealing looking dram than a bourbon? The requisite twist of my glass produces quick, skinny rivulets. 

In the Nose

The typical bourbon aromas are all there and the alcohol greets my nostrils sharply, but not harshly. Vanilla, citrus and brown sugar are front and centre but I’m left wondering if custard is a reasonable description.  There is an interesting, delicious floral quality about this whisky that has me suspecting that malted rye might be in the mash bill. A bit of milk chocolate, oak wood and pepper round out the nosing experience.

On the Tongue

Smooth, yet a nice firm bite! I’m finding that this bite is one of the things I hope for in my first sip of bourbon. (Does that mean I’m officially a bourbon drinker?) A slightly oily mouthfeel makes for a creamy sensation that is full of oak, corn flakes, vanilla, and baked apples. There is plenty of sweetness, but I find it nicely balanced by a charred, toasty quality. That malted-rye floral character makes a reappearance, which I really enjoy. 

The finish is medium, with a rich, creamy quality. More oak, graphite and burnt sugar. The chocolate also returns. 

Final Thoughts

Woodford Reserve is a delicious, fruity bourbon that is well-composed and nicely balanced. I have tasted better bourbons but I find this one to be very interesting and appealing to my Canadian, rye-trained palate. (I have no idea if I’m correct about the rye-malt, but that is what I smell and taste when I drink this whiskey.) I have a feeling that this bourbon will be a  frequent resident of my liquor cabinet!

A Wee Dram… Wild Turkey 81

So, this weekend, we had a bit of a family gathering at my place and, as is the custom between my father-in-law and me, we each brought a bottle of whisky to the party. In this case it was actually whiskey on both sides as both Pops and I chose a bourbon. My contribution will get the full-review treatment later on, but I’ll do a quick “Wee Dram” for the Wild Turkey 81 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey brought by my father-in-law. 

I don’t post prices for bottles that I haven’t purchased myself but I am aware that this is a very reasonably priced bourbon. The label notes state it is a blend of whiskeys aged up to 6-8 years and that it is made special through the use of an alligator char on the casks. I have no idea what makes this type of char different from other cask-toasting methods but I do suspect that the word choice, “up to” should be interpreted as meaning that most of the spirit in the bottle actually being younger than 6 years. This bourbon is, obviously, 81 proof – 40.5% abv. 

Not a lot going on with the nose, although the basic bourbon aromas seem to be there: caramel corn, vanilla, a bit of baking spice… Nothing bad but nothing special either and a bit understated, perhaps. The flavours are again pretty straightforward for bourbon., if not all that assertive. A bit of oak, punky corn and a ribbon of vanilla-infused sweetness, with a hint of cinnamon and spice hitching along. I am a bit disappointed by the thin mouth-feel of this whisky, in comparison to many of the bourbons I’ve been enjoying recently. The finish, however, is surprising long with more oak and sweet, toasty cornbread and was a highlight of the dram. 

Overall, Wild Turkey 81 seems to be a perfectly mediocre bourbon. It’s a decent value purchase, I think, and I wouldn’t turn one down in a pinch but it’s not quite interesting enough and doesn’t pack enough bite for my liking. It is probably best suited as a mixer, in my opinion.

Baker’s Bourbon

My exploration of bourbon continues…

A gradual, but pleasant, by-product of my love for whisk(e)y is that a lot of my friends and family members have become interested in more premium spirits. Growing up, I can recall my Dad pouring the occasional Alberta Springs and cola and I remember fighting with my brother for the “throwing star” off of his bottles of Seagram’s Five Star…

But I digress. The point is that, today, my old man is a likely to pull out as bottle of Ninety 20 Yr Old or Glenlivet 15 and pour out a couple healthy drams straight up as he is to suggest a beer. Hell, even my Mom will enjoy a drop of the good stuff these days! I also take credit for several buddies who now fancy themselves as whisky aficionados, which is good since, as they I have been known to say, more drinking buddies means more drams! My brother-in-law is another recent whisky convert and, when he was putting me up for a few nights while I attended my teacher’s convention in the big city, it seemed only right to bring a bottle along. I chose Baker’s 7 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon, which is bottled at 53.5% abv and cost me about $60 CDN. 

To the Eye

I’ve said it before but the appearance of a good bourbon is very appealing to me. Baker’s is a deep amber gold with flashes or coppery-orange… It looks good enough to drink!

In the Nose

Classic bourbon aromas jump out of the glass: caramel, vanilla, oak and sweet corn. I expected more of an alcoholic astringency, based on the higher proof but there is actually very little. A bit of time reveals a sharp citrus tang and a woody note that is different from the initial oakiness but I can’t decide if it’s more like pine or cedar. Regardless, it smells good! I think there are also some canned plums, cloves and cinnamon lurking in the background. I also get a touch of yeasty funk, which is pretty typical for Beam products. 

On the Tongue

A nice grainy, kettle-corn sweetness is well balanced by oak tannins and pink peppercorns. There is a definite rye spiciness about this bourbon. The cinnamon I noticed on the nose is much more assertive on the palate, along with some surprising fruitiness – dark ripe cherries, perhaps. Vanilla and toffee round out the flavours and ensure a true bourbon experience. This whiskey has a satisfying burn that carries the medium-long finish of oak, walnuts and vanilla. 

Final Thoughts

Baker’s 7 Yr Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon seems to be yet another excellent bourbon! It offers pretty much everything that I am attracted to in America’s major contribution to the whisk(e)y scene. A lingering thought is just how damned drinkable this whiskey is! It is exceedingly smooth and approachable, despite the higher alcohol content. I am left kind of wondering, however, where this dram fits in the Beam lineup. Knob Creek offers similar characteristics at a slightly lower proof, older age statement and a lower price point. Booker’s, on the other hand, costs more but packs a much higher proof and intense flavours. 

In the end, I have decided that Baker’s is a very fine whiskey in it’s own right and one I am likely to buy again. 

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

You know, the more I drink bourbon, the more I like bourbon…

How’s that for a philosophical opening statement?  It’s funny though, because I can remember a time, not so long ago, when I thought bourbon was really inferior stuff. No longer, however! I now find myself perusing the American whiskey aisles in my local bottle shops as often as I visit the scotch sections. And, while it’s kind of a chicken-egg thing, I have realized that I prefer bourbon-barrelled scotch whiskies over other finishing regimes. The thing I am enjoying the most about my growing infatuation with bourbon, though, is that it has opened an entire new category of taste experiences for me to enjoy. 

This brings me to my most recent purchase: a bottle of Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. This dram is aged for 9 years before being bottled at 100 proof (50% abv). This whiskey cost me $50 CDN. 


To the Eye

I’ve said it before, I love the colour of a proper bourbon! Deep amber, almost coppery-orange with flashes of brighter gold. Very appealing… A swirl of my Glencairn reveals a crest that eventually releases extreeeeeeemely stubborn, thick legs!

In the Nose

Brown sugar, burnt sugars and cinnamon are the first aromas to greet me. What really strikes me is an absence of alcohol burn. Some rye spiciness, more distinct cinnamon and some oak soon join the party.  Time in the glass eventually allows a ginger-bread quality to develop, along with a pine note and maybe a touch of marshmallow. 

On the Tongue

Nicely balanced. Caramel popcorn and oak form the backbone of this dram but there is also a fruitiness about it… apricot jam continually comes to mind. The are more subtle qualities woven amongst the more dominant flavours too: that rye spice is lurking in the background, along with a charred flavour that is not quite smoky, but more like something off the grill – barbequed corn-on-the-cob?  It’s not as sweet as I fear I’m making it sound. A little bit of cocoa powder and some vanilla are also evident. 

The finish is long. Actually, what’s longer than long? Seriously, the flavours linger on and on, several minutes after each sip. Oak for sure, but those sweet, ripe apricots return as well and almost gain strength before fading to something cherry-like (more like cherry wood than the actual fruit) and a smack of hazelnut at the end.

Final Thoughts

Delicious stuff! I still don’t know if I know enough about bourbon to make a statement like this, but Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon just seems to be an honest, well-crafted whiskey. It tastes like good bourbon! I have had whiskies that knocked my socks off more than this dram… Yet, those apricots! But for my money, this bottle is a very good value. I’m sure it won’t be a one-off in my cabinet!

Booker’s Bourbon

Lately, I find myself more and more curious about bourbon.  I’m sure that the slow but steady rise of Scotch prices is playing some sort of role in this – mostly on principle, since prices in Albrta remain fairly reasonable compared to other places. But I mostly blame this growing interest in bourbon on Four Roses Single Barrel. After only a few bottles passing through my cupboard, FRSB has quickly become one of my very favourite whiskies whiskeys, regardless of style, which has me wondering treasures there are to discover in the world of bourbon. 

As chance would have it, I was recently looking for something outstanding to share with my dramming pal, Richard, as our families were set to head out for the Okanagan on a week-long holiday together. I went looking for a bottle of FRSB but, as chance would have it, it was sold out… AGAIN… So I went to peruse the scotch wall but nothing really spoke to me. A return to the bourbon wall led to the fantastic presentation of Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon catching my eye. 

Booker’s is one of the ultra-premium bourbon offerings in the Beam-Suntory catalogue. The claim to fame for all bottling of Booker’s bourbon is that it always comes from a single barrel, completely uncut and unfiltered. Apparently, Jim Beam believed bourbon was always best somewhere between 6-8 years of aging, which is a tradition that his grandson, Booker Noe, adopted in creating his special bourbons. This particular bottle is labelled as Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon Series, bottled from batch number 2015-05 after 6 years and 7 months at 128 proof, aka 64% abv. This bourbon carries a price tag of $71 in my locale. 


To the Eye

I’ve said it before but the look of high quality bourbon is really appealing to me. Rich, deep copper with flames of brighter orange… This is a beautiful looking whiskey! As my dram swirls and moves during my inspection, it almost seems to cling to the walls of my glass and leaves behind thick stubborn legs. 

This is probably the right time to note the beautiful presentation of this whiskey… Something I don’t usually do. But Booker’s has done so many things right in packaging this dram, it would be a shame not to acknowledge the efforts. From the wood-with-a-window carton that holds the wine-style bottle, to the black wax-dipped cork and “B” seal, its a good looking bottle! The faux handwritten label is a bit hokey, but is forgiven since it provides entertainment value by challenging you to find a small error, which I think I successfully located – do you see it?


In the Nose

Hellfire and brimstone! Obviously, I’m kidding, but the first whiff of this very high-proof whiskey will nearly singe your nostril hairs if it’s not allowed to adequately open up first. During my tasting regime, I discovered that upwards of 30 minutes of breathing time does wonders for enjoying the nose of this dram, even with water. 

Booker’s offers loads or caramel and butterscotch, with brown sugar, vanilla and cinnamon at the forefront, with barrel notes of oak and a subtle sooty charcoal lingering in the background, along with something slightly vegetal. A splash of water tames the cinnamon and allows the wood notes to step forward, which reveals a peach-like character in the whiskey as well. Water also develops the brown sugar into maple syrup and that vegetal note comes somewhat more into focus as a minty-menthol sort of aroma. 

On the Tongue

The alcohol can grab you on the initial sip but what would you expect from 128 proof?! At full strength, caramel and peanut brittle are the first flavours that come to mind, along with a good dose of vanilla. (Very reminiscent of a “Crunch n’ Munch” combination of caramel corn and nuts.) There is some orange peel in there, as well as a definite spicy, dusty rye character. With water, that peanut brittle becomes more of a corn-syrup flavour and that orange note develops into a nice, floral marmalade. I think a little water brings the oak forward on the palate, as well. 

The finish on this whiskey is looooooonnnngggg! Especially neat, without water. Vanilla eventually gives way to leather, oak and a peppery character that is a bit like a mild green chile. All of these flavours eventually fade back toward a lovely sweetness that reminds me of graham crackers and corn bread. 

Final Thoughts

“Potent!” This was Richard’s description the first time we tried Booker’s Uncut & Unfiltered Bourbon.  Well, actually, I think it was, “Phhhhh…@#k, that’s potent!” And that’s coming from an experienced drammer! 

This is one beast of a bourbon, and it needs to be respected as such. I don’t think Booker’s will be everyone’s everyday favourite drop but it’s one that at least deserves to be tried by whiskey drinkers. Having tasted it several times now, I think I have a decent understanding about what it is and how to enjoy it. Definitely not the whiskey to grab after a few beers while barbecuing on the patio… this is a dram you pour when you’re serious about enjoying a whiskey and intending to take some time with it, allowing it to reveal itself to you. Water can come in handy with this bourbon especially since, when you think about it, you could cut it to half and it would still damn-near pass as minimum proof! I tend not to water my whiskies, however, and, even at 64%, Booker’s Bourbon manages to come across as a smooth and richly sophisticated dram, when it has been treated properly and allowed enough time to open up. The finish is among the longest I have experienced. 

Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Well here we go again… Bourbon review #2.

I can be a bit of a single malt snob from time to time but I do try to avoid pigeon-holing myself into the belief that one particular “genre” of whisky is the hands-down king of the hill.  Good whisk(e)y can be found all over the place, so why limit yourself from experiencing some good drams? While I’m admittedly still awfully naive when it comes to bourbon, I have recently been trying to expand my repertoire and, as expected, the more I explore America’s favourite whiskey, the more I appreciate it.

Buffalo Trace provides a lengthy story on the rear label, written in both English and French for distribution in Canada, but not a lot of the info pertains to the make-up or flavour profile of the whisky. Apparently, Smooth, confident and fiercely independent – these are the the tastes of Buffalo Trace Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky… Uh, okay…? Well, I guess this will be a new flavour experience for me. Maybe I should be excited – I’ve never tasted confidence or independence before!

This whiskey is bottled at 45% abv and can be bought for about $45 here in Alberta.

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To the Eye

I really like the colour of bourbon. Buffalo Trace is deep liquid gold in a glass, with streaks of orange and copper flashing in the light. The big, droopy legs on the sides of my glencairn are rather impressive.

In the Nose

Oak and sweet, grainy corn are predominant, along with some cinnamon and a few other baking spices. Vanilla is another main player, as well as sticky caramel toffee. As my dram breaths a bit, I get some impressions of coriander, lemon zest and I think even a little bit of milk chocolate. It’s a good glass to sit with for a while!

On the Tongue

Well, the nose on this whiskey writes a few cheques that the flavour just can’t cash… The first thing I taste is alcohol, which is not at all what I hope for in a whisky. Alcohol should be the vehicle that delivers flavour, not the predominant flavour in and of itself. And, let’s face it, 90 proof is not that high in alcohol.

Oak tannins and table pepper – you know, not the freshly cracked stuff – are other main players to be found in this whiskey. With a little effort, I also find the unexpected flavour of canned corn, complete with a twinge of metallic aftertaste. Corn syrup provides sweetness and there’s some vanilla on the exit, but it’s a bit flat and single-noted. I rarely do this, but my glass is begging for a piece of ice…

A small ice cube really opens up this whiskey as vanillins and honeysuckle burst onto the breezes. As the ice melts, the flavour also improves quite a bit as that stale black pepper transforms into jalapeño chilies. A slight hint of bittersweet chocolate also emerges alongside some toasty, sweet kettle corn. I don’t care for the mouthfeel that the added water creates, though, and the finish remains rather short and dominated by a bitter alcohol astringency.

Final Thoughts

Meh… This whiskey doesn’t really speak to me. I know that the great whisky guru, Jim Murray, touts Buffalo Trace as one of the world’s best, so perhaps I just don’t fully understand bourbon yet. (I really wanted to like this dram, especially after discovering Four Roses Single Barrel!) For me, though, Buffalo Trace doesn’t feature enough flavour to really challenge the alcohol for centre stage. I don’t often mix my whiskies but this one seems best suited to some old fashioneds and buckaroos.