Thursday, September 1, 2016

One on One with Kentucky Artisan Distillery and Whiskey Row Bourbon Whiskey

Kentucky Artisan Distillers is a small but growing distillery East of Louisville in Crestwood, Kentucky.  Many bourbon heads may know them as the home of Jefferson's Reserve but they also boast a quite tasty offering under the Whiskey Row label.  I had the opportunity to sit down with Jeremy Dever, the Facility Director at Kentucky Artisan to discuss the background, philosophy and future of the spirit.

Four Barrels: First tell us about the bottle.

JD: The label presents a picture of Main Street Louisville around the year 1864.  We are shooting for a nostalgic feel around the times when bourbon started flowing down the Ohio River.

FB: and the story?
JD: Keeping in line with others who are looking back at the heritage of the Kentucky native spirit, the thinking around this bourbon is to show its origins and how it used to be made.  Ships used to travel down the Ohio River and at each stop, additional distillate would be combined with the previous stop.  Eventually, the trip down to Louisiana would allow these whiskeys time to mingle and create a unique product.

FB: Talk about how this bourbon is produced.

JD: The most recent edition of batch 4 is purposely different from each of the previous 3.  This edition is a blend of 3-5 whiskeys sourced from Kentucky distilleries.  Each of those within the blend are 4-7 years old.  This is a 4 grain whiskey - predominantly wheat.

We blend, chill filter and bottle on site in Crestwood.  Each batch is different and is based on a flavor profile sought by owner and Master Blender Steve Thompson (former Brown Foreman Executive).  Each batch is limited to approximately 12-15 barrels and will be differentiated by the color of the bottle neck.  Batch 4 is red.

FB reaction:
The nose is brief but the initial flavor makes up for it.  I found lots of oak, accented by flavors of banana and white chocolate.

This is certainly sipping bourbon.  There is a significant amount of spice on the palate - even though the dominant grain is wheat.  You can taste the age and feel the impact of the wood.
The finish seems about right.  Not at all brief and certainly does not linger on the tongue.
I am certainly glad to see distilleries such as Kentucky Artisan in the Bluegrass.  On a recent trip to the distillery, I was given a tour along with hints about the future of the brand.  They offer multiple samples at the end including a few Jefferson's products.  Definitely worth checking out yourself.

Website:  Kentucky Artisan Distillery

Jeffersons Bourbon 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Toast The Trees with Angles Envy during National Bourbon Heritage Month

World’s Highest-Rated Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Port Wine Barrels
Will Plant a White Oak Tree for Every Picture Posted
This September with the Hashtag #AE4THETREES

Louisville, Kentucky (September 1, 2016) – Louisville Distilling Co. LLC, producers of the highly celebrated Angel’s Envy super-premium bourbon, will once again Toast the Trees this September in celebration of National Bourbon Heritage Month, in an effort to ensure that there are always enough American white oak trees for future generations of whiskey lovers.

Angel’s Envy is proud to continue its partnership with The Arbor Day Foundation—now in its third year. Angel’s Envy will plant a white oak tree for every Angel’s Envy drink that its fans share this September—neat, on-the-rocks or in a cocktail. To plant your tree, simply snap a picture of your drink and share it to Facebook, Instagram or Twitter with the hashtag #AE4THETREES, and Angel’s Envy will work with The Arbor Day Foundation to ensure that a tree is planted. Additional opportunities will be available through the Angel’s Envy newsletter as well, which can be joined through its website at  

This year’s program builds on the successful social media initiative last year which culminated in the planting of 4,000 white oak trees to help restore the original composition of the Daniel Boone National Forest in Laurel County, Kentucky, and to make the site more productive for wildlife. 

“The ‘trees’ initiative is a great way to engage our consumers and fans in a fun and meaningful way via social media,” said James Kempland, Marketing Director, Angel’s Envy. “Toast the Trees helps us to preserve the future of bourbon through planning and sustainability.”

About Angel’s Envy  
The small batch artisan bourbon is the culmination of the late Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson's storied career. One of the original pioneers of the premium bourbon and whiskey categories in the U.S., Lincoln came out of retirement to create the world's finest bourbon on his own terms - with a simple desire to enjoy the art of making whiskey. In addition to the flagship bourbon port cask finish, the Company offers Angel’s Envy Cask Strength and Angel’s Envy Rye. Each Expression exhibits a passion for experimenting outside of conventional norms and producing unique whiskey steeped in tradition, but finished with a twist.

-       Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Port Wine Barrels, distilled for an unparalleled smoothness, aged for 4-6 years in American white oak barrels and finished in hand-selected port wine barrels for an incremental 3-6 months.  Now available across the U.S., the expression earned a 98/100 points from Wine Enthusiast magazine – the highest-ever rating for a bourbon – and five stars (highest recommendation) from F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal.

-       Cask Strength, aged to the perfect level of richness and maturity in the few American white oak barrels that made the cut (and are available each year) and then finished in port wine barrels for up to 18 months. The inaugural releases sold out in weeks. Paul Pacult of Spirit Journal named the Cask Strength “Best Spirit in the World,” giving it five stars and noting it “deserves a sixth rating star.”  Available in select U.S. markets for the suggested retail price (750ml bottle) of $179. 

-       Rye Finished in Rum Barrels, made with 95% rye and 5% malted barley that’s aged for as much as six years in new American, charred oak barrels and finished in hand-selected Caribbean rum casks for up to 18 months. Both The Tasting Panel and Wine Enthusiast magazines awarded Rye with 94/100 points. Available in select U.S. markets for the suggested retail price (750ml bottle) of $79.99. 

For more information, please visit us at or on Facebook and twitter (@angels_envy).

The ANGEL’S ENVY™ brand is part of the portfolio of Bacardi Limited, headquartered in Hamilton, Bermuda. Bacardi Limited refers to the Bacardi group of companies, including Bacardi International Limited.

Angel’s Envy™ 2016. Heaven Can Wait. Please Drink Responsibly. 

About the Arbor Day Foundation
Founded in 1972, the centennial of the first Arbor Day observance in the 19th century, the Foundation has grown to become the largest nonprofit membership organization dedicated to planting trees, with over one million members, supporters, and valued partners. The impact we make on our world is accomplished through our conservation and education programs.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Review of the Corbin Cash Merced Rye Whiskey - A Whiskey from Down on the Farm

Corbin Cash is a distillery hailing from California in the San Joaquin Valley.  Their primary spirit is vodka – produced from the farm’s specialty of sweet potatoes.  They also make a tasty rye using “ultra-rare, 100 percent California native Merced Rye” per the website.  Wrapped in beautiful packaging, CC Rye boasts a whiskey aged roughly 3.5 years.

The nose is typical of 3-4 year rye with bold notes of caramel, tobacco and toffee.  Compared to the myriad of ryes on the market, I think this whiskey has a greater note of caramelization - maybe the unique Merced rye makes the difference.  

The initial palate is sharp with flavors of unripe bananas with a nice balance – neither sweet nor savory.  I got hints of almonds and typical flavors you may find in beer such as yeast. 
We first tried the product neat.  We found a very different experience when we added a small piece of ice.  

Adding ice really accentuated the nose with pronounced aromas of grass and peat.  The front of the palate was no longer as spicy as when we drank it neat – the bite was gone.  However, the flavor still enveloped the tongue.  We still found the notes of almond but now this drank more like a young scotch.  

The finish is brief, short and focused.  There was a bit of residual sweetness on the back of the palate.  

This is certainly a unique product.  I am a huge fan of Rye and to find a product that differentiates itself in so many ways to be a great surprise. 

Corbin Cash also produces gin and a blended vodka/rye bottling of individually aged sweet potato spirit and rye – described by the distillery as “bourbon-esque”.  We will gladly share more on this product shortly.  

Expected Retail Price - $46 - $55 

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Review of Elmer T. Lee - A Vertical Blind Tasting for the Ages

Like most Kentucky transplants, I began my affair with bourbon with the likes of Makers Mark and Woodford Reserve.  I was fortunate that I quickly befriended other lovers of the brown water and let me in on the industry secrets.  In the early 2000s, when I set down roots in this great state, it was not at all uncommon to find shelves littered with cherished bottles like Pappy, AAA, Antique Collection (all of them – even the Weller 19) and all the age-stamped favorites that are now only found on the secondary market.  I count my lucky stars that I was introduced to bourbon back then.  The passion of Kentuckians about their native spirit led me to roam the aisles of Liquor Barn just to read the labels and understand their stories.  I was fortunate to rub shoulders with historic master distillers and tour distilleries before they were mega-complexes.  (one time I went on a self-guided tour of Buffalo Trace!)

Times have changed and the availability of these gems are fewer and farther between.  So has the development and production of these bourbons.  The demand has forced a number of producers to remove the age stamp on their bottles.  Though they tell us that the quality and the contents are not changing, I think we all feel differently.  

My dad, a fellow bourbon enthusiast (and soon-to-be Kentucky transplant) was along for the ride when I received my bourbon education.  He led the way and helped develop my palate for the spirit.  We shared many nights going over tasting notes and hints of this-or-that.  Fortunately, my dad is a collector.  I have benefited from his well-stocked and procured whiskey collection.  Because of this, I am able to write about some older bottlings that are now just overpriced offerings on the black market. 
With all of this in mind, I wanted to do a retrospective (vertical tasting?) of how certain lines have changed over the years.  Impacts of the bourbon boom have changed the way we taste this liquid gold and I wanted to put my thoughts to paper.  Today, we discuss Elmer T Lee and the variation over the years.  

We all know there are no finite definitions for “small batch” or “single barrel” in this industry.  For all we know, they mean the same thing.  I like to think that I have enjoyed enough of ETL to know that their definition is truly “single”.  Although always delicious, there is variation in the flavor profile from bottle to bottle.  We all know the Elmer himself selected these bottles once he felt they were ready for the public and then we were able to taste perfection.  Since his passing in July of 2013, this all changed.  Although we are not exactly sure how, we can certainly describe how his namesake spirit drinks.  

For this tasting, I sent out a message to a number of my bourbon collecting friends and we were able to scrape together a number of different eras of ETL.  We were not lucky enough to have a bottle of the old wax sealed gold bottles but we were able to collect 2011, 2013, 2014 and the black label bottle commemorating the life of this bourbon icon.  We blind tasted them and among the 5 of us, we shot out our thoughts and eventually ranked them at the end of the tasting.  


Nose – Banana with traditional aromas of oak, brown sugar and caramel
Palate – Astringent flavors of citrus oil with a bit of metallic influence.  It was not easy to tell that this was aged bourbon as we could not really taste the influences of the 6-8 years the juice spent in oak.  Flavors were balanced.  Nothing truly overtook the other flavors.  We got flavors of stone fruits such as nectarine and unripe peach without significant sweetness.  Finish was brief but definitely asked you to take another sip.


Nose – Wet oak.  Again traditional aromas.
Palate – Flat.  Oddly sweet.  No complexity.  The palate was short with very little notes.  It was hardly possible to identify this as an ETL bottling.  The juice seemed a bit watered down with little memorable features.  There was but a small bitter finish to speak of.  


Nose – Great amounts of citrus – orange peel along with lemon zest.  Someone described it as “dusty old wood brightened by fruit”. 
Palate – This is truly the epitome of delicious and classic ETL.  The palate expressed beautiful refined flavor of cocoa, toffee, maple and had been perfectly married to the barrel for just the right amount of flavor and balance.  The finish, although brief, reminded you of the first time you had an epic whiskey and couldn’t wait to try another.  

Commemorative Black Label Bottle (2013)

Nose – Lots of freeze dried red berry.  Hints of strawberry but dominated by raspberry and traditional caramel and maple.
Palate – The soft and sophisticated start gave way to an explosion of flavors of soft baked spices, apples, caramel and even a bit if baked plum.  The 93 proof bourbon was dominated by memories of the best apple pie you ever had.  There was a beautiful soft finish with a nice spicy refinement to complete the tasting.  

In the end, we voted on our favorites before revealing which glass was which.  All of us agreed that the black label was far superior to the rest.  Surprisingly, second place was the 2014 followed by the 2011.  Rounding out the group was the 2013.  

Going into this tasting, I honestly expected to find a massive difference in bottles picked before Mr. Lee’s passing and those of today’s era.  There was s significant drop off of the 2013 edition that we drank but that was more than made up for with the 2014.  In short, this bottle is still worth the roughly $35 retail price on the shelf – if you even see it any longer.  It is beautiful, refined and has a great story behind it.