RoughStock Montana Bourbon Review

Whiskey Name: RoughStock Montana Bourbon

Distillery: RoughStock

Whiskey Type: Straight Bourbon

Release Date: General release.

Price: About £45

Age: NAS

ABV: 45% 

Mashbill: A vatting of four different mashbills, featuring corn, rye, wheat and barley

Introduction/Background: Another day, another craft distillery, another four grain recipe. Today’s hails from the RoughStock Distillery in Bozeman, Montana, which has been around since 2005. It’s mad to think that that still puts it on the older end of the craft distillery spectrum; there really has been an explosion of them in the last decade.

The website is at pains to underline the freshness of the grains, the purity of the water, the non-chill filtration etc etc. They’re at just as great pains to underline the old “age is just a number adage”. Which, in theory is true, and all very well, but is now trotted out so automatically by so many craft distilleries that it is beginning to sound like an excuse. But heck; I’ve had some outstanding young whiskies. I remember encountering one that gave its age in days (348 off the top of my head!). So let’s get into the glass.

Appearance: Fairly pale by Bourbon standards. Burnished gold.

Nose: A rather odd nose, if I’m honest. Very cereal-heavy; more grainy than the baked bread of Hudson Four Grain. The website states “heavily charred casks”, but the barrel seems barely to have been invited to the party. Savoury, almost malty character. Quite pungently farmyardy. In honesty, I’m not sure I’m a fan. It’s a fairly intense nose for the ABV, but I’d think in this case I’d prefer it a little more muted! Atypical of bourbon; very unusual.

Mouth: A little more sweetness appears here. Touches of caramel and brown sugar. But the headline remains those musty, almost straw-like cereals. Middle-weight on body and flavour.

Finish: Short-medium. Bitters ever so slightly.

Value for Money: For £45 you can do a lot better.

Summary: There’s no point writing tasting notes if you don’t speak exactly as you find, and I’m afraid I simply didn’t get on with RoughStock. I’m not sure how many bourbons I’ve tasted this year; enough to know that this one is distinctly different. That fusty, savoury edge rather put me off. It almost felt as if it were trying to be a Scotch, and not a good one. I wondered whether this was just me, so I checked around online after I’d scribbled, and there seems to be a consensus. “Farmyardy” popped up very frequently. And whilst I’d never read much into the comments on the Master of Malt page, there wasn’t much love for it there either. Rough by name, and slightly rough by nature too. I’m so sorry!

Overall Verdict: Your mileage may vary, but this isn’t the bourbon for me.

Review by WhiskyPilgrim 

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select Review

Whiskey Name: Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select

Distillery: Woodford Reserve (and Brown-Forman Distillery)

Whiskey Type: Rye recipe bourbon

Release Date: Launched in 1996.

Price: (+/-) £30 

Age: NAS

ABV: 43.2% 

Mashbill: 72% corn, 18% rye, 10% malted barley

Introduction/Background: If it wasn’t for Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select I wouldn’t be in the BBS. Back in my early University days it gave me my bourbon epiphany, and for a while after that it was the only bourbon I drank.

Brown-Forman repurchased their old Oscar Pepper site in the ‘90s, renamed it Woodford Reserve, launched Distiller’s Select in 1996, and the rest is history. These days you’ll find the DS on the shelves of every UK supermarket, normally priced at about £30 unless it’s on offer. It’s a blend of pot still bourbon from the Woodford Reserve distillery and column still bourbon from the Brown-Forman distillery.

Ubiquitous, sure, but I haven’t tried it in ages outside of a cocktail, so I thought I’d use it to kick the month off.

Appearance: Medium shade of Mahogany. On the darker end of the supermarket bourbon spectrum.

Nose: Char. Quite deep; there’s a rather fruity aspect as well; oranges perhaps, plus ripe toffee apple. Some strawberry laces in the background. Slightly muted; the rye, in particular, isn’t really singing. It’s a little muddled and musty – not as clear and clean as the likes of Bulleit.

Mouth: A step up. Fruitcakey, and surprisingly plump considering the low proof. There’s a little rye-led nutmeg, though this is more about the deeper flavours; dark chocolate and caramel. Still lacks a little clarity and definition; the flavours seem to be working against each other at times. There also isn’t much cutting through them, which flattens it a little. Perhaps not surprising given the proof.

Finish: The sweeter, deeper flavours dissipate into a dry oakiness.

Value for Money: About right. Just.

Summary: Always nice to return to an old favourite, albeit tempered by the context of having tried hundreds of others since being away. Still a decent pour, with the caveat that a couple of muddled elements distract from the whole, and there isn’t really any ‘wow factor’. That said, its deep fruit and chocolate offer a different flavour profile to other bourbons you’ll find on supermarket shelves, and are perfectly tasty for the price. Personally I’d probably only buy it if it was on offer, but then I am very stingey.

Overall Verdict: Solid, if not spectacular, but offers enough point of difference to retain relevance.

Review by WhiskyPilgrim

Charbay Release V

Whiskey Name: Charbay Release V

Distillery: Charbay

Whiskey Type: Er. I guess technically Single Malt. Plus hops. If that still counts, then yeah...Single Malt. If not, you pick.

Release Date: Autumn 2016

Price: $675. What’s that in Sterling these days? Call it a couple of million. Thereabouts.

Age: 16 Years

ABV: 70.6%

Mashbill: 100% Two-Row European Barley. Plus hops.

Introduction / Background:

This is a distilled version of the piece written for our blog here. To recap, or in case you’re too busy/lazy to read it, this is the fifth and final release of Charbay’s Whiskey distilled from bottle-ready pilsner beer.

It was aged in a new 59 gallon (223 litres plus change) American White Oak barrel with a char level of #3 (Gator Skin). Only 72 bottles were released, so if you haven’t bagged yours already, you’re unlikely to find one. But you can read this instead, which is just as fun, of course.

Oh, incidentally, I don’t do scores. Just a personal thing. But it means you will have to read the words if you want to know my thoughts on this whiskey. Sorry.

Appearance: Mahogany. Something like that. Why not? You can see the picture anyway. It looks like the colour of the picture. Done.

Nose: Very pronounced. A great deal of ripe peach fruit, but there’s a sharpness in the background from the hops, which translates into old oak furniture and potpourri. Lots of high notes despite age and virgin oak; grain still expressing itself well through some ale-elements. Hugely complex, with both depth and vibrancy.

Mouth: Massive alcohol. Flavours still hugely intense – but 70.6%ABV won’t be shouted down. Still a lot of freshness and spice; hops buzzing about amongst deep stone fruit, keeping things on the drier end of the spectrum. Tannins aren’t too aggressive, nor is oak excessive – there’s actually a rather creamy mouthfeel. Slight touch of charry coal-smoke. Not as voluptuous as bourbon, nor as lean as rye in body.

Finish: Astonishingly long. In fact I can only think of two or three I’ve tried to match it – and none longer. The hops survive right to the death, maintaining that vivacity and vibrancy amongst the bass of the deep wood and fruit.

Value For Money: $675 is a hell of a lot of money to pay for a bottle of whiskey. That’s largely going towards rarity – only 72 bottles were released globally, after all. Unquestionably superb whiskey, but no drink is worth that much. If you happen to be an oligarch then go nuts. If, like me, you couldn’t ever justify a full bottle, I wouldn’t lose too much sleep.

Summary: Unquestionably unique...and unquestionably brilliant. It does rather struggle with everything it has to offer at full strength. It’s very rare that I add water (mostly from laziness) but this really does benefit from it. The hops have survived incredibly, and they really do add life and lift and vibrancy to what might otherwise be a fairly ageing old chap.

I’m very glad I was able to taste this through the BBS bottle, and if you do have $675 to drop on a whiskey then you won’t regret spending it on this one. That being said, you’re paying a very hefty premium on rarity. Yes, it’s a unique flavour, but with thousands of other flavours available for a far lower price the world won’t end if you don’t pick up one of the other 71 bottles.

Overall Verdict: Excellent. Fascinating. Expensive.

 

Booker's Rye

Reviewed By@MCRBourbon

Whiskey Name: Booker's Rye

Distillery: Beam Suntory

Whiskey Type: Straight Rye

Release Date: June 2016

Price: $300

Age: 13 Years

ABV: 68.1%

Mashbill: No definitive information but around 70-80% rye

Booker Rye British Bourbon Society



Introduction / Background:

Welcome to the first in a new series of whiskey reviews here on the British Bourbon Society website. It's a series that we'll be looking to make regular additions to with reviews being undertaken by several BBS members, including @thebourbonator, @londonliquor, @whiskybunker & @edkinguk. For our first review we have perhaps the most hyped whiskey of the year, Booker's Rye "Big Time Batch".

There was considerable enthusiasm in the bourbon community last year when news leaked of a Booker's rye whiskey release. The fact that it would also be a 'one-off' that was put into barrels by Booker Noe himself only increased the fervour.

With Jim Murray's latest release of his annual Whisky Bible came the crown of 'World Whisky of the Year' along with all the associated secondary market price increases that tend to follow such accolades. For reference, a bottle of Booker's Rye sold on a UK auction site for around £350 earlier this year but since Murray's award it has jumped up to £850.

I managed to score a bottle from America pretty soon after it was released and so far I haven't seen it hit the UK on general sale. If it does make it to UK retailers, I'd expect it to be pricey and extremely limited.

I'm a big fan of Booker's, their bourbon was my introduction into barrel proof whiskey which meant that I was also pretty excited to try this and delighted when I managed to score a bottle. Now on with the review. 

Appearance: Amber with ruby edges

Nose:

There's no mistaking the high proof of this whiskey when I dip into the glencairn but I find it (just about) bearable, whereas some others of this proof have made my eyes water. Immediately, I get vanilla, cinnamon, white pepper and oak. There's a great deal of sweetness beneath though, which arrives with banana. Further down is butterscotch and a faint touch of milk chocolate. It's great how many layers there are to explore here.

Nose Score: 4.5

Mouth:

Plenty of cinnamon and brown sugar, this is a sweet whiskey that tingles the roof of my mouth with cloves. Full bodied, oily and also quite dense on the tongue. Some earthy oak is present along with the chocolate. I don't find it incredibly complex, especially considering the nose but that's not necessarily a bad thing. The flavours are bold and memorable.

Mouth Score: 4

Finish:

The finish is long and punchy. This is a sipping whiskey and taking a big gulp will leave you wincing. There is a minty-freshness that lingers and then turns to ever-so-slightly musty oak which is just on the verge of being unpleasant, but not quite. My glass is left with a fair amount of light grey residue and I'm thinking about pouring myself another.

Finish Score: 4.5

Value For Money:

I'm basing this on the RRP of $300 (which will be an unlikely find now). For that price, I find it hard to see value. Don't get me wrong, this is a great whiskey and I was raving about it when I first tried it but this is amongst the highest retail price of any whiskey this year, limited release or not. For that reason, I'm giving it a low score here.

Value for Money Score: 2

Overall Score: 15/20

Summary:

This is a fantastic rye whiskey with great provenance that perfectly transposes what I love about Booker's bourbon over to a rye. Booker's being the pioneering brand of barrel proof whiskey, it's good (but not surprising) to see them turn their hand to a rye that's as solid as this.
Unfortunately, the price pulls the overall score down significantly. Some may feel that it's worth every penny but I don't really want to see a world where this is an acceptable price for a thirteen year old whiskey, no matter how unique. Of course it's now very unlikely that it will be found at retail price again but I would very much like to see Fred Noe release some more barrel-proof rye whiskey under the Booker's label in the future.