Weller’s Special Reserve

brbon_wlw20                                                             We have yet another guest taster. At this rate, anyone who has liked our Facebook page is eventually gone to be a taster. We welcome Kelsey to the tasting porch. Kelsey, by her own admission, likes almost everything alcohol related but is somewhat new to Bourbon.

Well today she gets to sample one of Talking Bourbon’s favorites, Weller’s Special Reserve. Special Reserve is a wheated Bourbon that comes in a squat, rounded bottle with a screw top(boo). Is 90 proof, aged around 7 years and goes for under $20.00.  Be warned, SP has become very hard to find, so hard that we call each other when we find it and usually buy whatever stock the place has.


Kelsey:  As they said, I’m just getting into Bourbon and have never been part of a tasting where we write things down, but here goes. At first I just got alcohol on the nose, but with a little patience and prodding from Ron and Todd I was able to detect some tobacco, praline, caramel and a little anise.

Todd:  For the record, while we did prod, we never say out loud what we are writing down.  We wait until we are all done with each phase, then we talk about it. Having said that, I didn’t really get anything that Kelsey got. SP has a very good nutty nose of leather, citrus and grain.

Ron:  I got the caramel and praline that Kelsey got, along with some oak and fruit. It has a nice sweet scent as well.

Kelsey:   Thanks Ron.


Kelsey:  I could taste the praline and tobacco that I got on the nose as well as some oak and some spice.

Todd:  Very smooth and sweet. Nice flavors of butterscotch and citrus. An ice cube really added to the enjoyment.

Ron:   I agree! Smooth and sweet. I tasted caramel, citrus, leather and praline .


Kelsey:  I felt that SP had a nice finish with hints of tobacco, and this sounds weird, medicine.

Todd:  Medium to long finish that brought caramel, vanilla and a little mustiness.

Ron: No medicine taste here, did pick up a little tobacco on a nice smooth finish.


Kelsey:  Yum!!

Todd:   Yeah, really good juice, especially at that price.

Ron:  If you can find it, buy it! Best daily Bourbon.

Nose    4.5 out of 5

Taste     9 out of 10

Finish    4.5 out of 10

Total Score        18 out of 20 Barrels

Remember we take price into consideration when rating, and for the price, this is our absolute favorite Bourbon under $20. It is smooth served neat or good with a few cubes. We like this so much that we debated about not reviewing it because it is so hard to find.  We were thinking that so positive a review by us  would make it even harder to find. We then came back to reality and realized that there are not that many people who read this blog.

Anyway, as mentioned above, if you come across some Weller’s Special Reserve, buy it! In fact, if you do find some, let us know on this blog or our FB page. On second thought, let us know by private message, no reason to tell everybody.

High West American Prairie

high-west-american-prairie                                                                   High West continues to push the envelope with regard to quality and unique blends. American Prairie is a blend of 2, 6 and 13 year old Bourbons. This is not American Prairie Reserve, which received many accolades, this is the follow up.

High West American Prairie is a limited release, so it might be somewhat difficult to find, and is bottled at 92 proof in the same cool Western “style” long neck, corked bottle with air bubbles in the glass that would typically be seen in the 1800’s (or so we would believe). This is the same presentation as all of the other High West products. If you do find a bottle it should be selling for around $35.

One note, High West will donate 10% of the profits to the American Prairie Foundation.


Todd:     Very pleasant with spiced honey, fruit, white pepper and baking spice up front. Behind this lurked a little clove, vanilla, almonds and citrus. Nice!

Ron:    Great clean nose with plum, pepper, fruit, almonds and raisin. This is followed by slight scents of cedar, grass and honey.


Todd:   Again the baking spice, white pepper and citrus that I got on the nose. This is followed by a little raisin, smoke and honey.

Ron:    The plum from the nose is by far the most prominent taste. Behind that is citrus, spice, honey and grass. Very good!


Todd:  Long nutty finish with a touch of bitterness.

Ron:    Medium-long with a nice spiciness and a slight burn.


Todd:  Really enjoyed American Prairie, makes me sad to know it is a limited release. Also makes me want to seek out the Reserve.

Ron:    Great Bourbon! From the multiple aromas and complex taste, this is a no-brainer at $35.

Nose    4.5 out of 5

Taste     9.25 out of 10

Finish    4.25 out of 5

Total               18 out of 20 Barrels

High West continues to impress us here at Talking Bourbon. We have always been a fan and American Prairie delivers. Great drink neat or on the rocks and it’s spice would make for a good cocktail, but we would frown on you for mixing it.

If you can find a bottle of High West American Prairie, buy it! You won’t be disappointed.

Basil Hayden’s


One of the original “Craft” Bourbons from Jim Beam, Basil Hayden’s was a major reason both of us got into Bourbon years ago.  It has been a long time since either of us has had a drink of Basil. Will it be a nice pleasant trip down memory lane, or a reminder of why neither of us have drank the stuff in a couple of years?

Basil Hayden’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is bottled at a mere 80 proof in a very recognizable, cool, corked bottle with a paper label and a Wood and Copper/Nickel metal band going around the waist of the bottle. It sells for just over $40 and is widely available. The label used to say “Aged 8 Years”, that has been replaced with “Artfully Aged”. There are no age statements on the bottle or on the JB website. So, by deduction, it must be somewhere between 4 and 7 years, your guess is as good as ours.

One interesting fact, Basil Hayden’s is the same juice as Old Grand Dad, just left in the wood a little longer.


Todd:    Pleasant with aromas of both rye and corn, also picked some bread, caramel, butterscotch and a little bit of cocoa.

Ron:    Excellent nose, albeit a little hot for 80 proof. It is loaded with all my favorite aromas; Caramel, spice, apricot and a woody/oak scent, behind this a little bit of tobacco and cherries.


Todd:   After that nose I was a little disappointed  in the taste. Seemed overly hot for just 80 proof and needed a cube to mellow it down a little. I did taste the spice from the rye, but everything else I had to really reach for. A little cedar, a slight scent of leather and malt.

Ron:   Yeah, this packs a little heat atypical of it’s 80 proof counter parts. Unlike Todd I got nice sweet flavors of caramel, honey, and oak upfront followed by slight taste of leather and tobacco.


Todd:   Medium-long, spicy with a touch of honey.

Ron:     Medium-long to long with a warm sweet finish, very nice.


Todd:  While  I cut my Bourbon teeth on Basil Hayden’s, the last time I had this I was underwhelmed. It just didn’t live up to my memory, maybe it’s the difference in the Bourbon’s age, I don’t know. This seemed better than my last experience but still not sure I would pay $40 plus for a bottle.

Ron:   It’s been a long time since I’ve had this Bourbon, maybe too long. This is much nicer than memory recalls but not saying it was bad before. Like Todd, this is one of the Bourbons that peaked my interest and my love for the American Spirit 15+ years ago.

Nose       4.5 out of 5

Taste       8.5 out of 10

Finish      4 out of 5

Total score                    17 out of 20 Barrels.

While we both thought Basil Hayden was better than the last time we had it, neither thought it was as good as the juice that we started our Bourbon adventure with years ago. This could be due to the change in the aging process. At around $40 and up, it is a little on the steep side considering you can buy Old Grand Dad 114, the same mash bill, for half the price, at a higher proof while serving well in a cocktail.

Our final thought is that if you have never tasted Basil Hayden’s, you should give it a shot. As stated before it was one of the fore-runners of the current Bourbon trend. Also, it still has a big following, so not a bad idea to keep a bottle in your cabinet for friends who like it.

Father’s Day gift? Bourbon!

What do Dad’s really want for Father’s Day? As both of us are fathers we have a pretty good idea. It’s not ties, golf balls, sweaters, or shirts. Both of us just tell our kids to come by and spend some time with us and the family. We believe that is the real gift that most Fathers would ask for.

But! If you insist  on bringing a gift when you visit, why not a bottle of Bourbon? Your dad will appreciate the gesture, will appreciate the Bourbon and it is something he can share with his friends and co- workers. But which bottle to buy? That depends on your dad.

If your father is somewhat sophisticated, older, maybe is into wine as well, and entertains a lot, we recommend Willett Pot Still Reserve Bourbon. WPSR comes in an elegant bottle that reminds you of a wine decanter.  In fact both of us have used the empty bottle for that purpose. So you get a good Bourbon that makes for a great presentation and the bottle can  be re-purposed. Willett Pot Still Reserve sells for around $40. Angel’s Envy would be another good choice in this price range.

If money is not a concern and your dad is a Bourbon guy, we have a few suggestions. And no, we are not recommending anything from the Pappy line. With the consideration that is nearly IMPOSSIBLE to find, we both think they are over priced and quite possibly over-rated. However if you want to spend upwards of $60+ on dad you can buy some really great Bourbon. While we have a lot we could put in this category we are sticking to the ones that are still somewhat available. Angel’s Envy Rye, anything from Colonel Taylor, High West’s Rendezvous Rye and Bourye, Michter’s Single Barrel or Rye and Blanton’s.  All of these would make your Bourbon-loving Dad very happy.

If pops is into Bourbon but you are a little pinched for cash, or you traditionally spend in the $20 to $30 range, here are few suggestions. If you can find Weller’s Antique, your dad will forever be in your debt, but be warned it is hard to find. For more readily available  juice we highly recommend Elijah Craig, great stuff, is aged 12 years and usually can be found for around the $26 range. Another great deal for under $30 is Bulleit Bourbon and Bulleit Rye, especially the Rye. In fact the Rye is one of our favorites at any price. With Bulleit you have the added benefit of a cool “Old School” corked bottle.

If your Father is really not that in to Bourbon but you think he would be if he just gave it a chance, try these. Bernheim is a Wheated Whiskey that has a very sweet taste and finish. Buffalo Trace is another easy drinking mild Bourbon that is also pretty easy on the wallet. Crown Royal, which like Bernheim is not really a Bourbon, is another good starter or introduction to Bourbon type drinks.

Of course you can also get him whatever your personal favorite might be. You can also throw in a couple of whiskey glasses or what some call Old Fashioned glasses. A whiskey decanter is always a cool and welcome gift. Both the glasses and the decanter make a better gift if accompanied by something to pour into them. This way, you too, can enjoy the libation with proper presentation. Even if it’s not the top shelf stuff, Bourbon always tastes better in the right glass.

Whatever you choose this Father’s Day, remember the best gift is to go and see your dad. If distance and circumstance make that impossible this year, at least reach out by phone. Hopefully you will be able to go see dad, hopefully with a bottle of Bourbon in hand.



Old Charter 8

oldcharter-new(1)                                                                                                                   We forgive you if you have never seen or heard of Old Charter Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey 8. It is easy to overlook this bottom shelf dweller. It comes in an unremarkable bottle and shares the “Old” moniker with about a dozen or so other Bourbons.  We often have wondered why so many use that term, but it does sound better than just Charter. A shout out to our friend Aaron who recommended we try it, for it had flown under our radar as well.

Old Charter can be found in a lot of liquor stores but not all of them.  It sells for around $13 and is bottled at 80 proof. A note on the age, not too long ago it used to read “Aged 8 Years” on the bottle’s neck, now  that has been replaced with just the number 8. But in the writing on the front of the bottle it states that it is ” gently matured for 8 seasons”.  So, is it still 8 years, as in distilling seasons, or 2 years which would be 8 literal seasons, (summer, fall etc)? To be called “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey”, it must be aged in the barrel for a minimum of4 years. If lower than 4 years the age must be stated on the bottle. To be called bourbon it must be aged at least 2 years. So this juice might only have been in the barrel for 2 years. If so, and that is the case, it seems pretty shady.


Ron:      Very faint aromas of caramel, clove, vanilla and spice. Behind all that lingered the slight smell of ethanol.

Todd:    The only thing we have in common is the faintness. I caught whiffs of honey and cinnamon bread, along with a musty/nutty aroma.


Ron:   A little on the warm side for 80 proof but still very smooth. I came away with a clean taste of caramel, oak and pepper up front. This was followed by a hint of tobacco.

Todd:    I agree, decent burn for 80 proof. Like the nose, the taste were very subtle. I feel like I have to really concentrate to nail down the flavors of caramel, wood, vanilla and some type of grain.


Ron:    Medium to medium long with a slight sweetness.

Todd:    Medium and sweet that reminds me of a Wheated Bourbon.


Ron:    Old Charter is somewhat simple but a decent Bourbon, very smooth and the price point is easy on the wallet.

Todd:   Yeah, not real complex but not bad for the price.

Nose     3.5

Taste     7.5

Finish    3.25

Total             14.25 out of 20 Barrels

Old Charter is a decent drink at a decent price, our biggest problem is trying to justify buying another bottle. Even at that price point there are some better deals, such as JTS Brown,  Old fitz, and Heaven Hill Old Style to name a few. Being somewhat sweet, not very flavorful and only 80 proof it doesn’t make that good of a mixer.

Our final verdict, we wouldn’t go looking for it, but if you can’t find any of the other Bourbons stated above, and you happen to spot a bottle, you might want to give Old Charter a shot.