My Bourbon Journey continues with Rowan’s Creek Bourbon. I was looking for an aggressive bourbon at a great price point, and this bottle of Rowan’s Creek was my gamble. What a good gamble it was. At 100.1 proof, this bourbon packs a punch, but at just $38 in New York City, this is easily one of my top 5 bourbons. I picked this whiskey up at my new favorite local liquor store in Crown Heights: Liquor Warehouse, on Bergen St. and Washington Ave. Now for the review…
In order of prominence: Caramel, vanilla, honey, rye spice, and cinnamon.
Plenty of spice present in this whiskey. Spicy upfront that quickly transforms into a thick flavor profile that coats the palate, with notes of caramel, slight butteriness, oak, and honey. Very good. A couple of drops of water bring the spice down and really help the caramel and vanilla to come through quite a bit more. A complex but accessible whiskey.
Medium length finish, with caramel and vanilla. I also notice some confectionery notes as well that quickly disappear.
I really enjoy this bourbon. I’ve found it pretty difficult to find a bourbon that pairs well with a powerful cigar at a reasonable price. Rowan’s Creek bourbon absolutely hits the mark here, and at just $38 a bottle I’ll be back for more.
During one of our cold and dreary winters here in New York I invited some close friends to my house for a grueling task. I wasn’t asking them to move furniture or paint rooms which are the archetypal favors you may rope a friend into. No, this was a “chore” most mates would jump at the chance to aid in. The call I placed was to ask if they would assist me in rating a vertical of Pappy Van Winkle 15, 20, and 23yr. old bourbon. Needless to say both friends didn’t seem to mind lending a hand or their taste buds. However in order to gather sufficient and comprehensive results I had to put a few key methods into place.
First I chose these two friends for particular reasons. Although I had many people offer to “help” out with my study I felt I needed some specific tasters. One of them has tasted many a fine bourbon yet still considers his tasting acumen as” budding” and continuing to develop. Also this individual doesn’t covet any booze or cigar and price and/or hype never sways him. I can always count on him for an honest assessment and he is one friend who even keeps me grounded at times. The other person has never tried bourbon but is a big fan of wine with a developing palate enhanced by his extensive Sommelier certification coursework. He is an asset to the study as he has the ability to recognize taste but no preconceived notions on what bourbon should be.
Second we had to do this study blind. In order to score without bias we needed to NOT be aware of what we were drinking. Each bourbon was covered up by someone not participating in the study and each bottle labeled simply 1, 2 & 3. We were poured each one in number order and utilized the UC Davis College Wine Score Card which applies to spirits as well. This card has a point system broken up into 3 categories with a scoring system for each category. The categories were Appearance, Odor, and Taste. Each category was noted and then given a score. The scores were then added up for a final scoring on that particular spirit. The highest total score that can be achieved is 25 points on the UC Davis College Wine Score Card respectively. The results and ratings below are listed highest to lowest scored with tasting notes as well as the year of the bourbon. The results were quite surprising. Enjoy!
1. Pappy Van Winkle 20yr. Old Bourbon- 20 Points. We found that this bourbon was the sweet spot in terms of the time Pappy should be aged in barrel. The color was a wonderful golden amber with a honeyed hue and a touch of rose’. The first nose gave off alcohol aromas some vanilla and slight spice. Initial tastings had vanilla, baking spice and oak with medium intensity. The mid palate was smooth and refined with oak vanilla and earthy characteristics. The finish was long, rich and continued with an interplay of spices, toasted oak and vanilla. An extremely balanced bourbon with a length that beats many I’ve tasted.
2. Pappy Van Winkle 15yr. Old Bourbon- 18 Points. The color in the glass was that of caramel and toasted almond. Nosing gave off aromas of cinnamon, citrus and spice. This bourbon had a weighty mouth feel with earth and vanilla dominating. Midway caramel, butterscotch and a bit of toasted oak came through. Some “bourbon heat” kicked in for a moment before finishing with a long caramel/toffee aftertaste. This was a medium intensity bourbon and we all felt it was a fine sipping spirit.
3. Pappy Van Winkle 23yr. Old Bourbon- 17 Points. The color on this bourbon was medium with an amber hue. There was a more intense burn on the nose with some vanilla coming through on the second impression. There wasn’t much more on the front of this offering. First sip yielded baking spice, wood and coconut. Midway gave a lot of earthiness along with baking spices and some more vanilla and caramel. There was a lot of heat present and the finish took on a long earthy and spicy character. This bourbon came on with intense spice, heat and wood no doubt due to its aging however we did not feel the extended time benefited it.
The lineup and copious note taking
So after a long hard afternoon which trickled into evening we concluded our findings. Having drunk these bourbons for years I wasn’t surprised to see the 20 yr. old the best in taste, flavor and finish as it has always been my personal favorite. We were all surprised to find that the 23yr. old scored the lowest in our tasting. This wasn’t a bad bourbon at all in fact it is of extremely high quality. The additional aging however seemed to overpower some flavors which seemingly hurt its scoring. What makes blind tastings so interesting is that you remove your preconceived notions and are forced to focus on the sight, smell and taste of the product alone. I would recommend getting some friends together and try a blind tasting. It can be done with any spirit and you may be surprised at what you THINK you like. I’m sure you won’t have any trouble finding friends to lend a hand in this endeavor,I sure didn’t.
This past week I gathered some spirits and cigar aficionado friends of mine for a bourbon and rye blind tasting at Havana’s Cigar Club in East Meadow NY. Our goal was to have all of us bring bourbons or ryes for a total of 20 bottles together for the tasting. There were five guys total including myself with backgrounds ranging from sommeliers to certified tobacconists. All of us arrived at the private club at 11:00 am ready for the challenge. Another cigar associate was present as his job was to pour all the spirits as well as number them so we would have no idea what we were tasting. In addition we each had to fill out cards for every spirit tasted and evaluate them using a hundred point scale. We gave points for 4 separate criteria; 1. Appearance 2. Aroma 3. Taste & Characteristics and 4. Finish. After tasting we tallied all the points up for a top 5 best of the best. It was quite an afternoon with many surprises as to what we “Thought” was what. I urge anyone who hasn’t to organize your own blind tasting and you too may be surprised at how you taste. So without further ado, here is our official top five list and congrats to these wonderful spirits. Enjoy!
From Richard Stabile of Long Island Distillers makers of LiV vodka, Rough Rider Bourbon and Pine Barrens Single Malt this Rough Rider shot out the gate with three tasters commenting instantly on its aroma and complexity. This rye had it all for us; spice, caramel, butter, toasted oak and some wonderful heat. All that with a silky mouthfeel and a finish that lingered on our taste buds for days. All of us agreed the Three Barrel aging was a brilliant idea that added to its intertwined flavors and finish. We need more of these innovations and more of this Rye!
#2: Rating 96 Points- Four Roses 2012 Limited Edition Small Batch.
This very close second in our tasting is one of my favorite bourbons. There are four different bourbons comprised here ranging from 11-17 years old. The nose on this yielded cinnamon, all spice and even a bit of citrus. Notes of vanilla, oak and caramel dominated leaving an aged oak finish. A delicate bourbon due to its age and an amazing expression of what quality blending can accomplish.
Yet another choice bourbon that blew us away. This spirit gave off a candied nose along with some citrus and dried fruits. Its initial spice gave way to leather, tobacco and cinnamon. Subtle oak on the finish along with a shot of heat hit all of our sensory spots. I’ve always been a fan of the different style of Eagle Rare even in their lesser offerings and this one is not to be downplayed. A stylish bourbon.
#4: Rating 94 Points- Templeton Small Batch Rye.
We were surprised how far ahead this Rye got in our ratings but despite its seemingly gimmicky claims, this Rye stood out amongst they fray. Its nose was reminiscent of the holiday with pine, allspice and woods. The cinnamon and spice came forward along with a buttery mouthfeel and heated finish. I can’t say for fact that this is a “Prohibition Era” spirit but it’s sure tasty for this day and age.
#5: Rating 93 Points- Kings County Distillery Bourbon.
We must have had NY on our minds as yet another NY spirit made our top tastings. This small batch bourbon out of Kings County delivered fine malts along with a lot of corn on the nose. The flavors gave hints of charred oak, leather and touches anise. The oak finish smacked on the sides of the mouth and kept us salivating for more. Yet another unique style that cut through the rest.
As you’ve probably guessed it was a tough afternoon sifting through choice bourbons and ryes at a private cigar lounge; fortunately we bit the bullet and suffered through the day. Our scientific method yielded the most unbiased ratings we could deliver. You’ll be happy to know we treated ourselves to some luxurious cigars afterward while dutifully sipping on the winner. All for you dear readers, all for you.
From the brainchild of Richard Stabile of Long Island Distillers makers of LiV vodka, Rough Bourbon and Pine Barrens Single Malt comes one of the best Rye’s I’ve tasted all year. What makes this rye so special is its aging and select finishing in wine barrels. The spirit is first aged for a minimum of four years in newly charred American oak casks. After aging it’s then finished in selected merlot and chardonnay casks. The result is a rye with a tremendous depth of flavor and a lingering finish. Speaking of “finish’, I just finished another bottle myself and the results are thus. Enjoy!
APPERANCE: A light copper color with legs that scurry down the glass. Swirling gives a nice feel of the depth of the spirit within.
NOSE: Initial flavors of oak, vanilla and spicy heat emerge. Second nose gives toasted wood, bread and some dried fruits.
TASTE: First sip is buttery with apricot some caramel and “merlot” flavors in its expression. The mouth feel is rich with flavors that demonstrates its balance. Both sides of the cheeks are coated with butter and spice that caress not overpowers the senses. The finish goes on forever with a velvety texture and flavors of caramel, toasted oak, butter and heat all at once. This is one of the most balanced and complex Rye’s I’ve tasted.
CONCLUSION: With Bull Moose Three Barrel Rye Long Island Distillers has produced probably my favorite spirit to date. This Rye delivers a cacophony of flavors on the palate and lingers on and on. This exceeded my expectations of rye and what can be done with it. The finishing in wine casks creates tastes and nuances that makes this a true sipping spirit. I’ve enjoyed most everything Rich Stabile has been putting out as of late but if I had to venture off with the “Rough Riders” and could bring only one spirit, this would be the bottle that I’d saddle up with.
Up for review today is the Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch bourbon. My liquor travels so far have taken me far and wide in the bourbon world, and this gem is so reasonably priced and enjoyable that I’ve found myself buying bottle after bottle. This bourbon is aged 10 years, and is named after the year that Mr. Evan Williams began distilling for the first time. It’s a whiskey that is viewed by some bourbon enthusiasts (including me) to be one of the best value whiskies out there. Others absolutely hate it, which honestly for the life of me I can’t understand, particularly because I’m no fan of the company’s standard Black Label and Bottled in Bond whiskies.
Whiskey Reviewed: Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch Bourbon
Spirit Type: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Producer: Heaven Hill Distilleries, Inc.
Origin: Kentucky United States
Price (USD): $15
Evan Williams 1783 Review
Appearance: Evan Williams 1783 comes presented in a rather humble bottle. Standard shape and a plastic label. So, not many points scored here and the branding could use a bit of an update. But honestly, I’m not expecting too much from any bottle of whiskey sold for $15. In the glass, the whiskey is pale gold.
Nose: Strong smell immediately on opening the bottle. After pouring a bit into the glass, scents include rye, vanilla, lots of oak, and muted alcohol.
Taste: Light caramel, rye, some citrus note, and oak. Here’s where I think EW 1783 really shines. It has virtually none of the drawbacks that many other cheap whiskies have. It doesn’t taste flat out watered down like Jim Beam White Label. It isn’t harsh on the palate. And it doesn’t have that not-so-wonderful circus peanut/floor cleaner mix on the finish that a lesser-aged, rushed whiskey has. If I had to make a criticism of EW 1783 with respect to the palate, I’d say it could be a touch over-oaked. But on this whiskey I find the additional age produces a strong oak note that really rounds out this whiskey and gives it a maturity that isn’t reflective of its price.
Finish: A long but light finish with caramel, vanilla, and citrus (some reviewers specify orange).
Conclusion: For just $15 per bottle, the Evan Williams 1783 is (to me) a mind blowing value. I wouldn’t recommend this as a mixer. Drink this bourbon neat or on the rocks, adding a few drops of water as you see fit to release additional flavors.