Tag Archives: bourbon

Ian Somerhalder’s and Paul Wesley’s Brother’s Bond Bourbon is one of the fastest selling ultra-premium Bourbon brands

The brand shipped 50,000 cases in first 4 months of launch

Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley held a special toast on Wednesday, September 1st on the Brother’s Bond Bourbon official Instagram Channel (@BrothersBondBourbon) to kick off National Bourbon Heritage Month.
Read more about Brother’s Bond here.

Brother’s Bond Bourbon

Ian Somerhalder’s and Paul Wesley’s Brother’s Bond Bourbon, their hand-selected straight bourbon whiskey, continues strong momentum and growth in the first four months of launch, shipping 50,000 standard cases.

The Tasting Panel Magazine (June 2021 edition) concluded that Brother’s Bond Bourbon taste profile is exceptional giving it a 93 Rating.

“50,000 cases shipping in the first four months, is well ahead of plan,” says Vincent Hanna, CEO. “The response with roll outs in every market is overwhelming, the ReserveBar presales sold a retail value of over $1.4 M, within 2 x 24-hour periods, these record-breaking presales set the stage for unprecedented demand. Production has been scaled up to accommodate demand and reorders as online and instore retailers continue to sell out due to the consumer frenzy.

Brother’s Bond is the most followed alcohol brand on Instagram, with over 1.58 million followers.  The Brother’s Bond IG Live session with Ian and Paul was Whisky Advocate’s most viewed session, surpassing 20,000k views. This trend of exceeding expectations continues in many other media experiences, even the Whiskey Neat Podcast has well over 400,000 views to date.

September is National Bourbon Heritage month and Brother’s Bond will be part of Bourbon Heritage history. Rolling into many markets with the Time to Bond™ campaign through social media will drive excitement to the bourbon category.  By September 1, 2021, the brand will be available in 27 states including: Alabama, Arizona, California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, West Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

Brother’s Bond is now one of the fastest selling ultra-premium bourbon brands shipping 50,000 cases in first 4 months

Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley by Dean Bradshaw

Ian Somerhalder’s and Paul Wesley’s Brother’s Bond Bourbon Now Available In 17 States

Ian Somerhalder’s and Paul Wesley’s Brother’s Bond Bourbon is now available for sale online, at national and regional chains, and many independent retailers in 17 states including: Arizona, California, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin.

The brand name is a nod to their on-screen characters, “The Salvatore Brothers” from CW’s “The Vampire Diaries,” their shared love for great bourbon, and a reflection of the sense of brotherhood they have formed over the years. From the bourbon liquid development to the brand identity, packaging, marketing and advertising, Ian and Paul have been pivotal in every step of producing the bourbon.

Brother’s Bond had the most successful pre-sale launch in the history of Reserve Bar (highest velocity of sales in a 24hr period) following pre-sales last fall and again in January. Brand momentum and excitement have surpassed all expectations and early indicators point to the bourbon being the fastest-selling super-premium bourbon in the USA. In the first 60 days of the launch, over 40,000 cases have shipped. The brand has already accumulated over 1.4 million followers on their official Instagram page (@brothersbondbourbon).

Brother’s Bond Bourbon

“Our characters bonded on-screen over bourbon and so it made sense that we would do the same off-camera. Never could we have imagined that our creation would come this far and help establish new bonds as well as strengthen old ones. We are so proud of the success of our initial release and are excited to say that this is just the beginning,” said Ian and Paul. 

“The positive consumer response has exceeded our expectations,” says Vincent Hanna, CEO. “Everywhere we go people are lining up to buy a bottle, two or three and this is magical. When you see your strategy come to life in such an authentic way, it really gives our whole team the drive to know we are doing something very special.”

Brother’s Bond had the most successful pre-sale launch in the history of Reserve Bar (highest velocity of sales in 24hrs)

Brother’s Bond Bourbon

Brother’s Bond Bourbon is elegant and exceptionally smooth, complex, and balanced with a touch of sweetness and spice. The four-grain, high rye bourbon is 65% corn, 22% rye with the percentage of wheat and barley kept a secret. Aged for a minimum of four years in virgin American oak barrels, the barrel staves with #4 char and the barrel heads with #2 char.

Product description: Hand-selected and rooted in the desire to create the perfect bourbon, Brother’s Bond Bourbon features aromas of baked banana bread, jammy ripe fruit with walnuts and orange honey, and tastes of rich dried fruit and honey sweetness accompanied by hints of black tea and warm rye spice. The toasted cereal grains are rounded out with notes of honeysuckle and the finish of fresh-cut oak is energetic and smooth with perfectly balanced warm spice.

ABV: 40%

Bottle sizes available: 750ml

Suggested retail price: 39.99

It’s Time to Bond with Brother’s Bond Bourbon. Drink Responsibly.

Ian Somerhalder and Paul Wesley by Dean Bradshaw

Maker’s Mark® Bourbons Earn Top Honors at Spirits Industry’s Most Prestigious Tasting Competitions

Iconic Kentucky Producer’s Classic Maker’s Mark Expressions as well as Wood-Finished and Custom Offerings Named Among Best Bourbons of 2021

Maker’s Mark®, the iconic, red wax-dipped Kentucky Bourbon, created in Loretto, Kentucky in 1953, is proving that that its time-tested whisky still has what it takes to please the most discerning of palates, with top marks across its portfolio at the 2021 San Francisco World Spirits CompetitionInternational Whisky CompetitionUltimate Spirits Challenge and the International Wine & Spirit Competition.

Black Bourbon Society (BBS)’s collaboration with the Maker’s Mark Private Selection® program, the Black Bourbon Society’s Maker’s Mark® Private Selection: Recipe 2, has led the way as one of the world’s best bourbons of 2021, with numerous best-in-class designations and high scores from judges. The limited release, made by finishing fully-matured cask strength Maker’s Mark Bourbon in a single secondary barrel featuring a custom selection of ten proprietary oak finishing staves, was named Best Bourbon and Best American Whiskey overall at the 12th annual International Whiskey Competition (IWC); awarded 96 points and the Chairman’s Trophy as the top small batch bourbon at the Ultimate Spirits Challenge (USC); and earned 98 points and a medal of “Spirit Gold – Outstanding” at the International Wine & Spirit Competition (IWSC).

“Maker’s Mark Distillery at Star Hill Farm in Loretto, Kentucky, home of the award-winning Maker’s Mark portfolio.”

Results for other Maker’s Mark limited release, wood stave-finished bourbons, often described as some of the best values for bourbon hunters searching for special and unique releases, continued to prove the portfolio’s depth and quality with additional wins. The Maker’s Mark® CommUNITY Batch, a collaborative 2020 release benefiting hospitality non-profit The LEE Initiative, and the only blended whisky in Maker’s Mark’s lineup, was named a “Finalist” and earned 95 points at the USC, as well as a “Gold” medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition (SFWSC). The Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series 2020 Limited Release received “Spirit Gold” with 96 points at IWSC and its 2021 counterpart, the Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series 2021 Limited Release: FAE-01 earned its own “Gold” at the International Spirits Challenge (ISC).

The classic Maker’s Mark portfolio also impressed, with its Maker’s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon being awarded a “Double Gold” medal at the SFWSC, the competition’s highest medal tier. Judges at the USC agreed, awarding the iconic bourbon an impressive 91 points. Rounding out the lineup, Maker’s Mark Cask Strength earned 95 points and a “Spirit Gold” title at IWSC as well as another “Gold” medal at the SFWSC, while Maker’s Mark 101 was named a “Great Value” and awarded 93 points at USC.

“We’ve always been proud of each and every bottle of bourbon that comes out of our distillery here at Star Hill Farm, and it’s incredibly gratifying to see that the bourbon we’re making is something that whisky fans genuinely enjoy and continue to get excited about,” said Rob Samuels 8th Generation Whisky Maker and Grandson of Maker’s Mark Founders Bill and Margie Samuels. “With so many amazing American whiskies on the market these days, I have no doubt that my grandfather would be humbled to see his recipe continuing to be recognized as some of the finest bourbon available.”

For more information about Maker’s Mark and its award-winning bourbons, please visit www.makersmark.com.

Kentucky Owl Enters the Premium Rye Market

November 2017 By Michael Pendley | Photography Cheryl Pendley

Fresh on the heels of the recently announced expanded release area for Kentucky Owl Bourbon, the Harrodsburg, KY based company has again surprised the whiskey world with the recent release of its first ever Kentucky Owl Rye.

Like the bourbon, this rye release consists of a mingling of sourced barrels blended by Dixon Dedman. While it isn’t known exactly where the rye was distilled, the term “Kentucky Straight Rye” rules out distilleries outside the state. Kentucky Owl 11-Year-Old Straight Rye Whiskey will be available in limited quantities in the following markets: California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wisconsin.

DSCN7897.jpg edit1bWhile the new rye release comes soon after the purchase of the Kentucky Owl brand by industry giant Stoli, Dedman says the project is one he has been working on for a while. “I’m super excited about this rye and have been for some time.  I’ve been working on/with it for quite a while.  I finally felt like it was time to let it go and the response has been amazing.

It took me a while to figure out exactly where to put it.  It was 130+ Proof when I put the batch together.  As I worked with it and found it to have all the structure, backbone and complexity of a full-flavored rye, not missing any of the barrel notes, but also not eliminating the spice on the back end, even after making it a bit more approachable at 110.6 Proof.  I’m loving this stuff.”

In other Kentucky Owl notes, news that SPI Group, parent company of Stoli, is exploring plans for a new, $150 million distillery in the Bardstown, KY area to produce Kentucky Owl Branded products. According to documents released in late September by the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority, Strigiformes LLC, a subsidiary of SPI Group, the parent of Stolichnaya Vodka, “is considering property in Bardstown to establish a distillery, rickhouses, visitor’s center and other related facilities for the production of bourbon.”


I asked Dedman to comment on the possible distillery. He replied, “The distillery plan is a work in progress, but one I’m excited to be a small part of.  For Kentucky Owl to have a home is a dream come true and to be able to work with a company so committed to building more top-quality brands in the Bourbon marketplace is one I’m very excited about.  They’re going to let me keep doing exactly what I’ve been doing, but do to it in a place I can call my own home.  For me, that’s a dream come true.  We’ll see how it all shakes out.”

Does the rye live up the standard? It does for me. Even at the high retail, I am enjoying this bottle immensely.

Tasting Notes, Kentucky Owl Rye, Batch #1

Proof: 110.6 proof and 55.3% ABV

Age: 11-year age statement

Mash Bill: Undisclosed

Color: Dark copper

Release date: September 2017

MSRP: Right around $140

Tasted: Neat, no water or ice

Nose: Very floral, mint, leather, baking cinnamon bread

Palate: Fruity and floral at first, then cinnamon spice. This pour has a strong, thick mouth feel, slightly oily, it coats the mouth completely, making the flavor last. The finish is long, with mint, vanilla, and oak remaining even after the swallow. Complex, I picked up on several flavors on each sip, with those flavors changing the longer the rye was in the glass.

Finish: Classic rye. Long, lingering, plenty of spice. At 110 proof, you feel it, but it isn’t at all harsh. A drop or two of water would probably tame the burn a bit, but I enjoy the bit of heat that comes with a good rye. While excellent, this might not be the best pour for a new rye drinker unfamiliar with the spiciness of a nicely aged rye.

Overall thoughts: I have long been a fan of Kentucky Owl Bourbons. I still maintain that Batch #6 is one of my all-time favorite whiskeys. Does the rye live up the standard? It does for me. Even at the high retail, I am enjoying this bottle immensely. Will it be a regular pour? Probably not. I’ll save it for special occasions.

Dixon said of the new rye,” Good rye, to me, is not an everyday pour. It’s a sipping whiskey that, at its core, should be thought-provoking and heavy-hitting.” I think that pretty well covers this release. Pick up a bottle, if luck and budget allow, and enjoy it with good friends who enjoy and appreciate a nicely aged rye.

BSProfile2Michael Pendley lives in the heart of central Kentucky’s bourbon country. When he isn’t poking around local distilleries, he can usually be found searching for dusty bottles of old whiskey that might be hidden in the back rooms of liquor stores. He, along with his wife and three children, are very active in the outdoors. Michael also writes the twice-weekly wild game cooking blog Timber2Table at Realtree.com


Early Times Kentucky Whiskey Enters the Bottled in Bond Bourbon Market

September 2017 by Michael Pendley

Ask any liquor store manager near a college campus today what their bestselling whiskey is, and chances are high they will answer Early Times Kentucky Whiskey. What makes it so popular among the collegiate crowd? Well, mainly the price, which normally comes in right around $12 per 750ml bottle.

But other bottom shelf dwellers share that price range and don’t see near the popularity. Why? Because Early Times is very drinkable, either on the rocks or in mixed drinks. The high corn, nearly 80%, and low rye mash bill offers up a lot of sweetness with very little burn. Couple that with a relatively low 80 proof, and you get a very smooth, very easy to drink whiskey.

Notice I say whiskey, and not bourbon. Let’s go over the rules a whiskey must to meet in order to be labeled as bourbon.

IMG_0099.jpg edit1A bourbon must:

Be distilled in the United States

Have a mash bill of at least 51% corn.

Be distilled to no more than 160 proof (80% alcohol by volume)

Have a barrel entry proof of no more than 125 proof

Be bottled at a minimum of 80 proof

And must be aged in new, charred-oak barrels

It’s that last rule that makes the original Early Times a whiskey and not a bourbon. New oak barrels are expensive. As a cost-saving measure, Brown-Forman ages Early Times in used barrels. Pour a glass and look at it against the light and it becomes readily apparent. The whiskey lacks the deep coppers and rich ambers of bourbon aged in new barrels.

So, what happens if you take that same easy-to-drink mash bill and put it in a new barrel? And what if you leave it in the warehouse for at least four years? And, if you are going to do all that, shouldn’t you bottle it at 100 proof to classify it as Bottled in Bond?

The folks at Brown-Forman must have wondered the same thing, because that is just what they have done with their new Early Times Bottled in Bond Bourbon release. The new barrels and extra year are immediately apparent when you hold it up to the light. The color is much richer, a deep copper. Hold it up to your nose and inhale and you instantly know this isn’t the same old Early Times.

In today’s overinflated bourbon market, it is refreshing to see the folks behind the new Early Times release have held the price at a very reasonable $30 or slightly less for a liter sized bottle. Most limited releases these days come in at double that price or more.

IMG_0083.jpg edit1Distiller: Brown-Forman

Mash Bill: 79% Corn, 11% Rye, 10% Malted Barley

Proof: 100 (50% ABV)

Age: At least 4 years (4 years is the minimum age to be labeled a bottled in bond bourbon)

Appearance: Deep copper, much richer and darker than standard Early Times

MSRP: Around $30 for a one-liter bottle, I paid $25.99

Nose: Not noticeably strong, but classic bourbon. Heavy on corn and apple. A bit lighter on caramel, vanilla, and oak. Tilting the glass on the inhale gives strong ethanol.

Palate: Sweet corn comes through immediately, fruit, apples and raisins. The oak is very light. Noticeably little burn for a 100-proof whiskey.

Finish: Short, crisp. Very little lingering burn. The flavor disappears very soon after swallowing.

Notes: Is Early Times Bottled in Bond one of the best new releases of 2017? Not even close. Is it a respectable bourbon? Absolutely. Great on ice, but more than robust enough to sip neat. This is an excellent introduction to Bottled in Bond Bourbons, flavorful without being overly complicated. For the price, you should definitely pick up a bottle when you see it on the shelf. A very respectable upgrade to a 75-year-old classic.

BSProfile2Michael Pendley lives in the heart of central Kentucky’s bourbon country. When he isn’t poking around local distilleries, he can usually be found searching for dusty bottles of old whiskey that might be hidden in the back rooms of liquor stores. He, along with his wife and three children, are very active in the outdoors. Michael also writes the twice-weekly wild game cooking blog Timber2Table at Realtree.com


Tasting Notes: Angel’s Envy and Angel’s Envy Rye Finished Whiskeys

August 2017 by Michael Pendley



LincolnHenderson Photo Angel's Envy


Lincoln Henderson spent a lifetime in the distilling industry. The man knew whiskey. During his nearly 40-year tenure at Brown-Forman, Lincoln oversaw the development of Gentleman Jack and Woodford Reserve. As Master Distiller, he oversaw countless barrels of whiskey from mash to bottle.

When Lincoln retired from Brown-Forman in 2004, making whiskey was still on his mind. In April of 2011, Lincoln, along with his son Wes, launched Angel’s Envy. The brand was named after the iconic Angel’s Share, the bourbon that is lost through evaporation from each barrel during the long aging process. Soon after, Wes’s son Kyle joined the fold. The fledgling whiskey company soon began renovating the historic American Elevator & Machine Company Building, constructed in 1902, in downtown Louisville, KY.

Today, the distillery covers 90,000 square feet and has the capacity to mash 970 bushels of grain per day. They can run 25 gallons of fermented mash per minute in 35-ft tall Vendome Column Still and hold 13,565 gallons in 4 fermenters for a total production capacity of 72 barrels per day.

distillery-outside-entry Photo Angel's EnvyLincoln and Wes had the idea to experiment with high quality Kentucky straight bourbon and rye finished in different woods. For the bourbon, they settled on ruby port casks. For the rye, the duo decided on used Caribbean rum barrels. The whiskey would age in the standard oak barrels for 5 to 7 years, then get transferred to the port and rum casks to continue aging anywhere from 6 to 18 additional months.

Unfortunately, Lincoln didn’t live to see the first bottles of Angel’s Envy. He passed away in the Fall of 2013, shortly after breaking ground on the new distillery, but his fingerprints are all over the brand. From the yeast in the mash bill to the barrels the bourbon ages in, he used his lifetime of experience to make this brand entirely his.

While bottle and label design doesn’t normally factor into my bourbon choice, I do admit that Angel’s Envy does have a cool jug. The heavy based, upright teardrop shaped bottle is adorned with simple label and a set of Angel wings that make it stand out on the shelf.

distillery-tasting-room Photo Angel's Envy

Tasting Notes

Angel's Envy Photo Cheryl Pendley 3

Photo/Cheryl Pendley

Angel’s Envy Bourbon

Mash Bill: 72% corn, 18% rye and 10% malted barley, all of which are non-genetically modified and locally-sourced.

Proof: 86.6

Price: $50-$60

Color: Light golden amber, almost butterscotch

Nose: Floral, sweet, light fruit, light wood, faint vanilla and wine

Palate: Sweetness with a light burn at the front of the tongue. The floral and fruit carry through, cherries perhaps, with vanilla and light wood coming through near the end.

Finish: Light rye burn starts out with lots of cinnamon spice, but fades quickly into a mellow corn and vanilla that linger with a light citrus.

Notes: My bourbon tastes tend to trend more to the sweeter, softer whiskeys. Angel’s Envy fits this bill well. The fruitiness from the port barrels compliments the bourbon. At just over 86 proof, this one makes a fine sipper neat, or with a single ice cube. Not particularly complex, but the port finish makes Angels Envy interesting. This would be an exceptional choice for new bourbon drinkers.

Angel's Envy Photo Cheryl Pendley 7

Photo/Cheryl Pendley

Angel’s Envy Rye

Mash Bill:  95% rye and 5% malted barley. The rye is sourced, most likely from MGP

Proof: 100

Price: $80-$90

Color: Light reddish golden amber, very clear. Strong legs

Nose: The first thing that hits me with this rye is crème brulee, caramel, and strong oak. Vanilla and butterscotch soon come through. Cheryl said she picked up Candleberry’s Hot Maple Toddy Candle.

Palate: The nose doesn’t lie. Sweet caramel hits with the first sip, brown sugar, toasted marshmallow, oaky wood, very light fruit and rum sugar cane toward the end. I picked up Bananas Foster at the end.

Finish: The sweetness masks the traditional hotter finish of rye. That sweetness lingers in my mouth and the finish doesn’t last as long as I wish it would. Warm, but not as hot as you would expect from a 95% rye.

Notes: As noted above, my tastes tend to trend to sweeter, softer bourbons. Because of that, I don’t drink a lot of rye. This one changes my mind. It might be my favorite rye of all time. Perfect as a nightcap after dinner in place of, or alongside, dessert.

Some might question the value of the Rye, and, at around $90, it is considerably more expensive than other sourced ryes of the same age. The uniqueness of the rum finish and the overall richness of the bottle make it worth it for me. Will I drink it all the time? No, the hefty price tag will limit it to special occasions, but I will definitely keep a bottle around.

A definite winner and one to add to your bar. With only two releases per year, this one can be hard to find, but it is well worth the hunt.

BSProfile2Michael Pendley lives in the heart of central Kentucky’s bourbon country. When he isn’t poking around local distilleries, he can usually be found searching for dusty bottles of old whiskey that might be hidden in the back rooms of liquor stores. He, along with his wife and three children, are very active in the outdoors. Michael also writes the twice-weekly wild game cooking blog Timber2Table at Realtree.com


Around the world with Blanton’s Bourbon

July 2017 by Michael Pendley

Even the occasional whiskey drinker is probably familiar with Blanton’s bourbon. Since Elmer T. Lee bottled those first three barrels back in 1984 and named them in honor of his long time boss Col. Albert Blanton, the familiar faceted round bottle with its horse and jockey bottle top has been a fixture on bars and store shelves everywhere.

But what you might not know is the familiar 93 proof version we see on the American market isn’t the only bottling available. For those traveling abroad, several different proofs and ages of Blanton’s Bourbon can be found.

These bottlings range in proof from an easy sipping 80 up to an uncut version that tops out in the high 120s to 135 range. While most are aged a minimum of 6 years, two Japanese bottles are aged a minimum of 8. Despite these differences, all Blanton’s bourbon share a few common traits. All begin life as Buffalo Trace’s famed #2 Mashbill, a higher rye recipe than some of Buffalo Trace’s other bourbons, and all are aged in the famed Warehouse H, the only metal clad warehouse at the distillery. Warehouse H is also heated with steam during the cold winter months while the other warehouses are unheated. Colonel Blanton felt this combination of extra summer heat from the metal exterior and warmer winter temperatures produced the best bourbon, and he chose his personal bottles from there.

So how did it come to be that bourbon crazy United States has only one bottling available while the rest of the world has several? According to John Shutt, International Sales and Marketing Manager for Blanton’s Bourbon at AGE International Inc., it all goes back to a time when bourbon wasn’t so popular here. In 1991, bourbon sales in the U.S. were low, but international demand, particularly in Asia, was strong. That is when a Japanese company took ownership of what is now Buffalo Trace. In 1993, the distillery was sold again to current owner Sazerac but Takara Shuzo kept ownership of Blanton’s, Elmer T Lee, Rock Hill Farms, Hancock Reserve, and Ancient Age brands.

“At the request of Japanese ownership, a second label was created, Blanton’s Gold Edition 103pf in 1995 for the Duty Free market. Due to international popularity, this label ended up finding its way out of Duty Free and into the European markets, (France, UK, Germany, and Spain).

I’ve always described Blanton’s as that American rock band that took off in Europe before anyone back home was listening….We developed a cult following throughout the late 90’s/early 2000’s in Asia and Europe. During this time and at our customer’s request, the other labels were created. Straight From the Barrel, Gold, and Special Reserve (this is referred to as our 80 proof “green label” and it was created for the Australian market due to extremely high taxes.)

The “Red” and “Black” labels were also created during this time, but specifically for the Japanese market. Red 93pf and Black 80pf are the same mash bills as our other Blanton labels with one difference….there is an 8 year minimum aged barrel selected. Our other Blanton labels require a 6 year minimum. Regardless, you won’t find an age statement on any Blanton label. We bottle by taste, not age,” says Shutt.

So how do the different versions stack up? Besides the 93 proof U.S. version, we obtained 5 additional bottles from overseas. Hailing from France came Special Reserve 80 pf, Blanton’s Gold 103 pf, and Blanton’s Straight from the Barrel labeled at 128.8pf. Out of Japan came a Red label 93pf and a Black label 80pf. The tasting panel consisted of myself and my wife, Cheryl. We tasted in order of proof, starting with the two 80 proof versions.logo tipple and taste

Blanton's photo credit M.Pendley
Photo: Michael Pendley

Green Label Special Reserve 80pf: The lightest of an overall light-colored bourbon. Color could be described as very pale amber.

Nose: Light and fruity. Not much alcohol. Apple and vanilla.

Palate: Very smooth mouth feel. Light honey, some citrus. What warmth there is hits late and in the back of the mouth/upper throat area.

Finish: Short, no lingering heat. Very smooth.

Overall: A very nice bourbon, but not remarkable. A perfect choice for a new bourbon drinker to sip neat.


Japanese Black Label 80pf: The same 80 proof as the Special Reserve, but with a couple extra years in the barrel. That extra time translates to a slightly darker bourbon.

Nose: Apple, floral, honey, vanilla, slight banana. You can pick up more oak in the nose, probably due to increased aging time.

Palate: Slightly more intense than the Special Reserve. Not as sweet, but still with a fruitiness and vanilla flavor. More woody oak.

Finish: Finishes with more oak and vanilla than the Special Reserve. Heat lingers a bit at the back of the throat.

Overall: Very nice. The extra warehouse time adds quite a bit of character to an 80 proof bourbon. Drinks like a higher proof bourbon.


U.S. version 93 pf: The one that started it all and a staple on our bar. Color similar to the Japanese Black Label. For some reason, the 93 proof Original version, to our tastes, seems to vary more from barrel to barrel than most whiskeys. Some barrels are remarkable, some are just good. This barrel, number 855, was dumped on 11/18/2016 is pretty good, but not one of the best we have tried.

Nose: Vanilla, Fruit, tart apple, I get a bit of peach cobbler, but Cheryl doesn’t.

Palate: Slight heat starts immediately at the front of my tongue. Fruity, not as sweet as the Special Reserve. Vanilla and honey linger.

Finish: Very smooth. Cheryl says this one finishes smoother to her than the Black Label 80 proof. Both the heat and the vanilla linger longer on the finish. Interestingly enough, what was one of our favorite bourbons actually finished fourth for both of us in this taste test.


Japanese Red Label 93pf: The Original 93 proof with two extra years in the warehouse. This is one of the darkest bourbons of the bunch, almost a deep amber.

Nose: More oaky than the previous samples. Fruit and honey underlie the wood. Cheryl says it smells like a bourbon warehouse. More banana.

Palate: Instantly one of the more intense Blanton’s I have ever tasted. Very warm from the beginning, flavors of honey, banana, apple.

Finish: Finishes with vanilla and honey, the heat lingers in the back of my mouth and down my throat. Despite the slightly increased heat, the finish is still very smooth.

Overall: I think this might be my new favorite Blanton’s bourbon. Tons of flavor, great mouthfeel.


Gold Edition 103pf: The first of the overseas renditions launched in 1995. Color is about the same as the Japanese Red Label.

Nose: Oak and vanilla, more alcohol, not as much fruit or honey as the lower proofs.

Palate: Instantly more intense than lower proofs. The higher proof is immediately evident with more heat all over my mouth. The fruit and vanilla are less noticeable, the rye comes through at the end.

Finish: More rye burn on the finish, the fruit finally starts to show back up and lingers several seconds. Probably my close second to Red Label Japanese bottle. A really nice bourbon experience from start to finish. Cheryl’s favorite of the bunch, with the Red Label Japanese bottle finishing second.


Straight from the Barrel: The darkest color of the bunch. Deep amber, slightly cloudier than the other samples when held up to light.

Nose: Intense, but less oaky. More fruit, Cheryl says banana ice cream. You can pick up the additional proof in your nose with a slight burn. Strong scent of butterscotch.

Palate: Back to a sweeter flavor at the beginning, warm, vanilla, caramel. The sweet quickly gives way to a slightly bitter rye. Raisins and oak are apparent.

Finish: Hot, lingering raisins and rye, bitter chocolate on the tongue. The heat goes all the way down with this one and lingers several seconds after the swallow. Intense bourbon feel. Great, but the heat overpowers some of the flavor. I added a few drops of water to mine and it opened it up considerably, allowing other flavors to shine. Cheryl, forever a bourbon neat fan, kept hers pure and was very impressed with the mouthfeel and finish of this one.

BSProfile2Michael Pendley lives in the heart of central Kentucky’s bourbon country. When he isn’t poking around local distilleries, he can usually be found searching for dusty bottles of old whiskey that might be hidden in the back rooms of liquor stores. He, along with his wife and three children, are very active in the outdoors. Michael also writes the twice-weekly wild game cooking blog Timber2Table at Realtree.com




Craft Spirits Following Same Upward Trajectory As Craft Beer

America has fully embraced craft beer.

  On average, a new brewery opens its doors every single day in the U.S., according to NPR.

  Craft brewers now account for one out of every 10 beers sold in the U.S.

  Higher learning institutions are adding brewing minors, certificates and even four-year programs.

“Craft beer completely disrupted what was once believed to be a very traditional business,” says Steven Earles, CEO of Portland-based Eastside Distilling (www.EastsideDistilling.com).  

Steven-Earles-Chief-Executive-Officer-/EastSide Distilling“We believe craft spirits will follow the same path as craft beer. It’s basically a slam dunk, according to the data… and our overall hunch.” 

In 2008, when Earles’ distillery launched, there were only 210 craft distillers in America. Now, there are more than 700. Whiskey and bourbon continues its rapid growth. Helping to fuel this recent growth, women now represent 37 percent of the whiskey drinkers in the U.S., compared to just 15 percent in the 1990s.

And stories continue to unfold regarding possible bourbon shortages due to high demand. Innovations in distilling methods to create new flavor profiles are taking charge. Earles’ distillery uses locally sourced barrels and ingredients for their infused whiskeys and rums.

“Some states like Washington and Oregon – where we are based – have strict laws regarding quality control on distilled spirits,” Earles says. “We’re proud to be from the northwest and that we use locally sourced ingredients.”

Earles discusses America’s growing taste for quality spirits, and what craft may mean for the future of the liquor industry.

•  Bourbon and whiskey will continue in popularity. In the past decade, there has been a nearly 40 percent growth in sales of bourbon and Tennessee whiskey in the United States, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States. Bourbon is now the hottest distilled spirit in the world. In the U.S., bourbon and Tennessee whiskey revenue has leapt 47 percent throughout the past five years to a total of $2.68 billion in 2014. An International Wines and Spirits Record (IWSR) survey commission by Vinexpo predicts that global bourbon sales will increase by nearly 20 percent more in the next five years, and the Aristocrat Group Corp. (ASCC) is making plans to capitalize on that growth.

•  New flavor profiles will be sought by consumers, especially millennials and women. While consumers look to craft liquor for authenticity, women and 20-somethings are especially open to expanding their palates. Recently, Fireball Cinnamon Whisky has blazed quite a trail in the industry. The brand exploded in just a few short years, from just shy of $2 million in 2011 to $63 million in 2013 to $130 million last year, according to IRI, a Chicago-based market research firm. Those numbers do not include drinks sold in bars. Fireball is the fastest-growing major brand of liquor in America. Major industry players, including Jack Daniels and Jim Beam, have since come out with their own versions of the flavor.

“While Fireball has proven to be more than just a flavor of the month, we’re counting on consumers seeking out still more twists in their liquor,” Earles says.
“Our locally sourced Oregon Marionberry Whiskey, for example, is a popular choice.”

•  Lifestyle imaging will likely expand. While bourbon and whiskey have skyrocketed in popularity, advertisements have delved into the lure of what those spirits have meant to the popular imagination: earthy, direct, real. That will likely continue, but it will expand, too. Bacardi, which owns brands including Grey Goose, Bombay Sapphire and Martini, has hired a new Vice president of fashion. The idea is to create an image/alliance with the fashion world.

“Perhaps Bacardi is ceding whiskey and bourbon to one image – the salt of the earth – whereas Bacardi’s efforts for their clear liquors are now meant to be aligned with a more glamorous lifestyle,” he says.

  • Aztec Old Fashioned Eastside Distilling / FacebookAztec Old Fashioned
    2 oz Eastside Distilling Cherry Bomb Whiskey
    Fee Brothers Aztec Chocolate Bitters

    Muddle one half moon of orange and 4 dashes Aztec Chocolate Bitters in a cocktail shaker. Add ice and Cherry Bomb to shaker. Shake and strain into a rocks glass over fresh ice.

Follow Eastside Distilling on Facebook Twitter and Google+

About Steven Earles

Steven Earles is the CEO of Portland-based Eastside Distilling, (www.EastsideDistilling.com), a producer of master-crafted spirits created from local ingredients and focused in small batches to ensure unparalleled quality. He is responsible for Eastside’s day-to-day operations as well as overseeing the company’s brand development and financial strategy. Earles, who joined Eastside in 2009, has more than two decades of executive experience and orchestrated the development and building of one of the largest land-development companies in southern California.

Garrison Brothers Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey Now Available in Arizona

Garrison Brothers

Garrison Brothers

Garrison Brothers Distillery™, Texas’ first legal whiskey distillery, is pleased to announce that Arizona will be the first state beyond Texas for distribution of its highly acclaimed straight bourbon whiskey. The distillery will release 1,200 bottles of straight bourbon whiskey to stores, bars, country clubs, hotels, resorts and restaurants throughout Arizona as part of its partnership with Young’s Market Company.

The first straight bourbon whiskey ever legally made outside Kentucky or Tennessee, Garrison Brothers’ Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey™ has long been a labor of love for proprietor and distiller Dan Garrison, who, with the assistance of a “small staff of rednecks,” releases a unique vintage of its straight bourbon whiskey each fall and spring. While all previous vintage releases have sold out in Texas and demand across the nation and globe far exceeds what the small distillery can produce, Arizonans will be treated to a taste when the Fall 2013 and Spring 2014 vintages hit shelves later this year.

“We are extremely proud of this bourbon whiskey,” said proprietor and distiller Dan Garrison. “We’re so confident of its quality, taste and character that we’ll put it up against any Kentucky or Tennessee bourbon in blind taste tests. Yes, even Pappy.”

The experts apparently agree. In his 2014 Whisky Bible, respected taster and writer Jim Murray gave Cowboy Bourbon from Garrison Brothers a rating of 96 and named it the American Micro Whisky of the Year.

Garrison Brothers Distillery is Texas’ first and oldest legal whiskey distillery, having secured federal and state operating permits in 2007. Since then, Garrison and his dedicated crew have been painstakingly cooking and fermenting a sweet mash of organic Texas corn, wheat and barley, which they distill from a small antique copper pot still nicknamed The Copper Cowgirl. In 2011, the distillery installed two additional 500 gallon pot stills, and today, more than 6,000 barrels of bourbon are aging in custom-built barns on Garrison’s ranch in Hye, Texas.

Garrison Brothers

Garrison Brothers

Arizona was tapped as the first state in Garrison’s expansion plan thanks to younger brother Charlie Garrison, a Cave Creek resident and bourbon aficionado who took turns between operating several area restaurants and traveling to Texas in the off-season to assist with the distilling process.

“We always wanted to work together, but since we’re both a little headstrong, we were afraid we might kill each other if we did,” says Garrison. “Brother Charlie is going to be running things in Arizona. Knowing him, he’ll drink more than he’ll sell.”

“We continue to make and barrel every batch by hand, the old-fashioned way,” says Garrison, who prides himself on the attention he devotes to the distilling process, and personal touches like hand-numbering and signing each and every custom bottle the distillery distributes.

Unlike Kentucky and Tennessee bourbon distilleries, which make bourbon from “sour mash,” Garrison makes a “sweet mash” utilizing locally grown grain that is ground fresh daily and never reused. The organic white corn is harvested from farms in the Texas Panhandle, and Garrison grows his own organic soft red winter wheat on his ranch in the heart of Texas Hill Country.

Garrison Brothers also observes sustainable business practices throughout the distilling process, like using ultra-pure rainwater and custom-built Northern American Oak barrels harvested from sustainable forests.

“Making straight bourbon whiskey requires a commitment of time, money and patience that most craft distillers are unwilling to make,” Garrison said. “Dozens of high-priced consultants and professional investor-types told us this could never be done. It’s been done now.”

Garrison Brothers’ bourbons are expected to hit Arizona shelves this week.

Visit Garrison Brothers Distillery at their site and follow on Facebook and Twitter.




Friday Cocktail Hour; with Shaun the Bartender

It’s Friday and that means an all day Cocktail Hour.  Shaun the Bartender has the perfect concoction to bring in the weekend.

Ah, yes….Another bourbon whiskey drink that is perfect after a long work day.  A creamy drink recipe with a chocolatey edge, it is the perfect day’s end drink; one that will make everything complete.  What better way to reward yourself from the rigors of life than with a nice and soothing beverage?  I still haven’t found another answer to this question, nor do I wish to.

Louisville Lady

Louisville Lady

Louisville Lady

  • 2 ounces Bourbon Whiskey
  • 3/4 ounce Creme de Cacao
  • 3/4 ounce light Cream

Method:  Pour all ingredients into a shaker glass filled with ice.  Cap with a tin and shake a few times to give it a chill, then strain into a nicely chilled cocktail glass.  Rub an orange peal around the rim of the glass then drop it and a maraschino cherry in to garnish.

You can find Shaun every day at Shaunthebartender.com  and watch him whip this little gem up right here https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=NVkCm38qqbc

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