Maker’s Mark

We were sitting back the other day, talking and sipping Bourbon when we realized we had never rated Maker’s Mark on our blog. This is one of the most well known, most recognizable Bourbons in the world and a favorite of many  Bourbon drinkers.  Most people have seen the iconic squarish bottle with the red wax top, which we understand Maker’s has a copyright for the color of the wax.

Maker’s is a wheated Bourbon, found everywhere, sells for around $26, aged between 6 & 7 years and is bottled at 90 proof. Interesting story on the proof, in 2013 they lowered it to 84 because of allegedly not being able to keep up with the increase in demand. There was a big public out cry and 2 weeks later a statement was issued saying they were switching back to 90 proof.                                                                                                                     Oddly, a year and a half later in 2014 they introduced Cask Strength which is bottled somewhere around 113 proof. Seems suspect to us that they now have enough supply to do this. I guess the $60 per bottle was incentive enough to magically increase their production. That brings up another issue, was the whole thing a publicity stunt? Rob Samuels, the CEO, says it was not but there is no denying it did create a lot of buzz.

One more little tidbit, the full name is Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky. The Samuels family has Scottish roots thus calling it Whisky, dropping the e which is in support of the Monarchy rather than Whiskey which is in protest of the Monarchy.

NOSE

Todd:   A nice nose of grain, honey and caramel up front. I then got a little smell of banana and a bread type aroma, but not the smell of banana bread.

Ron:   Hot hit of alcohol initially followed by a richness that included the honey that Todd got. I also detected a sweet praline smell. And lastly a little bit of malt and yeast.

TASTE

Todd:   Real hot neat, I needed a few cubes to be able to really taste much beside ethanol. After that I tasted the grain, honey and caramel that I got on the nose but not much else. I didn’t get any of the banana or bread.

Ron:   For 90 proof it is real hot to the tongue. I didn’t get a lot on the taste, a hint of honey and malt that I smelled, and a bit of sweetness.

FINISH

Todd: Medium finish with a little sweetness and burn.

Ron:    Medium finish with not much going on.

OVERALL

Todd:  This reminded me why I don’t usually buy Maker’s. It had a good nose but I don’t buy Bourbon just to smell it. There was just not a lot of flavors to taste, not complex at all.

Ron:   Just okay, not as many flavors on the the taste compared to the nose. I can boast that I am a Maker’s Ambassador, but enjoy the Cask Strength ten fold over the original.

Nose        4.25 out of 5

Taste        7.5 out of 10

Finish       3 out of 5

Total              14.75 out of 20 Barrels

We know that is a pretty low score for what a lot of people call their favorite Bourbon. We are sorry for that but Maker’s is just not that complex, nor is it real smooth until ice is added. We feel that there are better buys at or below that price. A positive, it makes a decent cocktail.

Final thought, we recommend you have a bottle of Maker’s Mark in your cabinet since so many people ask for it by name. It is enormously popular so you never know when a guest might ask for a glass.

 

 

Stetson Revisited

Over the course of our drinking and tasting Bourbon, it is natural that we taste some Bourbons multiple times. Some we just like better, others because we are at a tasting other than our own, or maybe just out with some friends. Usually we try and look back on what we have written to see if there are any differences, and if so, is it enough of a difference to make it worth revisiting the blog.

So far the answer has been no. However, that is not the case with Stetson. We bought a bottle, as we have in the past, because we like it and it is at a good price point.  We were in for an unexpected  surprise. Neither of us liked it, we  couldn’t believe it was the same stuff. We found out it was not, more on that later.

Ron:   Stetson turned to a scotch profile! Not good! It now has a strong nose of anti-freeze or something nasty. Taste was the same as the nose, bad.

Todd:  Smells awful, like a watered down bad scotch. Also has some type of chemical smell. Taste just like it smells. Get this, I couldn’t get close to finishing my glass.

So what is up with Stetson? We went back to our Blog on 8/25/2015 to look at the picture. Well low and behold, the label had a significant change. The old bottle said Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. Also, the words Sour Mash flanked the word Kentucky. We have inserted photos of both bottles at the end of the blog.

It looks like the makers of Stetson are trying to take advantage of the currant Bourbon craze by putting out an inferior product and charging the same price. First, by not saying Kentucky Straight Bourbon it does not have to be aged 4 years or more. This obviously cuts down on the aging process and lets the maker get the product out faster. Second, sour mash is when they use a little of the old mash with the new, this brings some uniformity to the drink. Authentic sourdough bread from San Francisco follows the same sort of criteria by “taking back” a portion of the yeast strain. By not saying that on the bottle means they have skipped this process.

We believe this is a blatant case of thinking the consumer is too stupid to notice the slight change in the bottle, and to be truthful, we didn’t. but this is NOT the same bourbon we reviewed in August of last year. DO NOT buy Stetson unless it says Kentucky Straight bourbon Whiskey and has the words Sour Mash.

This is why you need to read Talking Bourbon.

Old                                                       New

StetsonIMG_3115

Rittenhouse Rye

IMG_3110

As we have often in the past, today Talking Bourbon will be Talking Rye, tasting Rittenhouse Rye from Heaven Hill. Rittenhouse sells for around $20, is 100 proof (bottled in bond) and comes in an ordinary screw top bottle.  We had no problem finding a bottle.

NOSE:

Todd:    I could definitely smell the Rye along with a sweet, caramel, malty aroma. I also got some kind of black fruit with a little bit of banana and mint.

Ron:    I also picked up the caramel and a little bit of the malt. Also detected some oak and pear aromas. Under all that, I got a smell that reminded me of clean linen.

TASTE:

Todd:   Hot neat but not bad, liked it better with a few cubes. I tasted the Rye and sweetness I got on the nose along with vanilla and a light touch of chocolate. Not quite as spicy as other Rye’s.

Ron:   I tasted  sweet\spicy notes with more sweetness than spice. Also got some caramel and a touch of honey.

FINISH:

Todd:  Medium, the heat stays longer than the taste. Detected a bit of mint along with some ginger and caramel.

Ron:     Medium to medium-long with some hints of vanilla.

OVERALL

Todd:   Even though it didn’t shine in any one category, the whole was much better than the sum. I really enjoyed this Rye.

Ron:     I thought this was a good Rye but drinks more like a high rye Bourbon. A lot sweeter than most Rye’s. I will have a bottle in my cabinet soon since this one is Todd’s.

Nose      3.75 out of 5

Taste      8.25 out of 10

Finish     3.75 out of 5

Total  Score            15.75  Barrels out of  20

We both really liked Rittenhouse Rye. Even at 100 proof it is drinkable neat, but really shines with a cube or two.  Also, the higher proof makes for a real good cocktail. At $20 or so you won’t mind using it as a mixer.

Final verdict, you need a bottle of this in your cabinet.

Best Bourbon for the Price

We are constantly asked, in person, by message or by email, what is our favorite bourbon. This is a tough question.

For one, it depends on how much it costs. By this we mean is it worth it? Some Bourbons, especially the last few years, have just exploded in price. What was a decent drink at a decent price is now a rip off. Think 23 year old Pappy, we have seen it for over $2500. We both have tasted it, we might pay $199 just because it is so rare and for just the sake of having a bottle. But even that is way too much if judging strictly by quality.

Second, it depends on the mood we are in. Sometimes certain brands or styles just sound better at certain times.  Think sitting out on the porch in the summer with a lighter tasting, lower proof Bourbon. Then think about sitting inside during winter with an old, complex drink.

Third, our taste change. We used to really be into wheated Bourbons. Don’t get us wrong, we still love them, but our palates have evolved and both of us now prefer rye or at least a high rye Bourbon. So what we like on this list might be very different from what is on the list a couple years from now.

Having said all that, here is our list of the best Bourbons for the price. These are normal prices unless stated and they are prices from the Indianapolis area. Most of these can be found reviewed on our blog Talkingbourbon.com. You can find them on the Facebook page as well, it is just a little harder to look them up. We will have another list shortly with each of our choices regardless of price.

UNDER $10

This was a tough one, few just a few dollars more you can get a lot better product. After much discussion and some tastings that were not that good, we decide on:

EVAN WILLIAMS and HEAVEN HILL OLD STYLE 100 PROOF. Enough said.

$10 TO $15

Now we are getting somewhere, at this price we have three we would recommend which are:

REBEL YELL, OLD FITZGERALD PRIME, and J.T.S. BROWN.  We liked these pretty much in that order, maybe putting Old Fitz as number one.

$15 TO $20

We could only agree on two in this category.  One of whom is a real favorite of ours at almost any price, that is:

WELLER’S SPECIAL RESERVE. This is hard to find as of late, but as of two weeks ago we still could find some here in the Indianapolis area. We are just not telling where, sorry, just protecting our own personal interests.  Coming in a distant second in this category, even though we don’t like the name, is ANCIENT ANCIENT AGE.

$20 TO $25

This was a crowded category and hard to narrow down. We probably do most of our drinking in this and the next price range. This price point has another one of our favorites in:

WELLER’S ANTIQUE, which is just the Special Reserve @ 107 proof rather than 90 proof. Another go to Bourbon in this category is BUFFALO TRACE, something we have really gotten to appreciate the last couple of years. Also making the cut is OLD GRAND DAD 114, GEORGE DICKEL #12, RITTENHOUSE RYE and WILD TURKEY 101. Yes we are aware that Dickel is not a true Bourbon but a Tennessee whiskey (one of the best as far as we are concerned).

$25 TO $30

Anther hard range, lots of good juice at this price point. We finally decided on a long time favorite of both of ours:

ELIJAH CRAIG 12 year. One of the best buys in Bourbon. This range has our go to rye with BULLIET RYE. Honorable mention goes to BULLIET BOURBON as well as the wheated Bourbon BERNHEIM, and CROWN ROYAL RYE.

$30 TO $35

Here is where we start to get a little more picky. If we are paying over $30, there better be a reason beside the fact that it is rare. We expect to taste something we can’t get in the previous price ranges. Our winner is:

JOHNNY DRUM PRIVATE STOCK. This bottle has a cream label and is aged 15 years! We really enjoy this Bourbon and is, amazingly, still easy to find. Honorable mention to WELLER’S 12 and MAKER’S MARK 46. The former is an even older version of Special Reserve, the latter a very smooth and tasty upgrade on the original Maker’s Mark.

$35 TO $40

While we try not to drink too much in this range, it actually has a few of out favorites, including:

MICHTER’S RYE which might just be our favorite rye. Also taking a spot in this category is another one that we just love to sip on, MICHTER’S TOASTED BARREL, even though it is getting hard to find at this price point. One more needs calling out and that is JEFFERSON’S CHEF COLLABORATION, a very unique tasting Bourbon with a nice story behind it.

$40 TO $45

We found this to be a pretty easy price range to narrow down to two. Coming out ahead by just a little:

ELMER T LEE, another one that is hard to find which may trigger a premium of more than $45. If you find a bottle and it is even close to this price, buy it! The second one is also a great drink, ANGEL’S ENVY. This is another whiskey with a cool back story as well as a cool name and bottle.

$45 TO $50

This price point was dominated by one maker:

COLONEL E H TAYLOR, whether it be the rye or the small batch, you will get an exceptional glass of whiskey.

$50 TO $60

We could only agree on one here and even that was hard, more than likely we would just skip this price, but if we had to choose:

BLANTON’S. Yes we know that this is almost blasphemy, seeing as how this is a lot of people’s number one super premium Bourbon. But hey, we did put it on the list.

$60 TO $70

We found two that we would buy at this price above all others, and both of us have a bottle of each. In no order:

STAGG JR. and ANGEL’S ENVY RYE.  The first can be a little hard to find, the second can be hard to find under the $70 mark, but both are very good. The Angel’s Envy rye has one of the most unique taste on the market.

Above $70

Most of the stuff that can justifiably charge this much can’t be found. Say OLD RIP VAN WINKLE 10 YR, VAN WINKLE FAMILY RESERVE 12,  and STAGG SR. And a lot of the bottles you can find at this price don’t deserve to be. Really the only ones we found that we could actually buy that we thought worth the price were:

Some of the ORPHAN BARREL projects, and not even all of those but include FORGED OAK 15 YR and LOST PROPHET 22 YR.

That is it for this list, as stated before you are welcome to look any of these up on our blog. Most of them  have been reviewed. As always we welcome any feedback.

Cheers!

Ron & Todd