So I’ll state the obvious: I haven’t updated this site as often as I had hoped. But I’ll be working to change that and at least update it every week if not every other week.
When people ask me what my favorite bourbon is I have to tell them the truth. I don’t have one. My preferences range so much day-to-day and can even be altered by my mood, diet or what side of the bed I got out. But chances are if I told someone a range of top bourbons that I really enjoy, you probably wouldn’t be able to find them readily on the shelves. With this in mind, I thought it would be helpful to post a list of my personal top ten favorite bourbons you can still find on the shelves! General disclaimer though: everyone’s taste preferences are different. If you enjoy the following ten bourbons, then chances are my reviews will match up with your preferences as well.
As a 6th generation Beam, Booker Noe began his mission in the bourbon world in 1951. Filing up the ranks of his family’s business, Noe would eventually become master distiller of the Jim Beam Distillery in 1965.
In 1988, Noe began bottling a small batch, straight from the barrel bourbon as gifts for close friends and family. In 1992, this uncut and unfiltered offering was released to the general public as Booker’s bourbon. The traditional Booker’s is aged at 6 to 8 years since according to Noe, that was the age of bourbon preferred by his grandfather, Jim Beam. Recognized for its high proof and deep amber color, Booker’s would eventually become a household name in the bourbon community.
In 2004, Booker Noe passed away due to complications with diabetes. The torch was passed to Booker’s son, Fred Noe, who would preserve his father’s legendary status. In 2014, Fred bottled a 10 year old, straight from the barrel bourbon to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his father’s original barrel proof bourbon.
As a celebration of Booker Noe’s life and achievements in the bourbon world, Booker’s 25th Anniversary Bourbon is a bottle anyone can be proud to own.
A common misconception about bourbon is that it must be distilled in Kentucky in order to be considered bourbon. While approximately 95% of bourbon is produced in Kentucky, it certainly isn’t a requirement. Since I run into a bunch of people who still believe this misconception, I thought it would be useful to distinguish the different whiskeys. First let’s start with an explanation of what whiskey is.
Whiskey (or Whisky)
Whiskey is a distillate product from a fermented wort mash that consists of malted grain, usually barley, corn, rye or wheat. A simpler way to think of whiskey is as distilled beer. It is produced all over the world and many countries have their own heavily regulated variants. Whiskey is usually aged in oak containers where it obtains most of its flavor. In order to be labeled as general whiskey, it must be bottled at no less than 80 proof or 40% alcohol by volume (abv) and no more than 190 proof or 95% abv. Below are the labeling requirements for the various forms of whiskey.
Another highly anticipated release under Diageo’s Orphan Barrel Project is the Barterhouse 20 year old bourbon. The Barterhouse consists of the same mash bill as the Old Blowhard (review: here), consisting of 86% corn, 8% barley and 6% rye, however it originates from the new Bernheim distillery where was distilled and barreled, transferred to Stitzel-Weller for aging and then bottled at the Dickel distillery in Tullahoma, Tennessee.
There’s no official statement on exactly how rare and limited this release is, however it’s suspected to be much more available than the Blowhard and there have even been hints of a second Barterhouse release later this year. It’s a curious rumor as one would think if Orphan Barrel has enough for a second release, why not just release it? There’s a ton of speculating that could answer that: Perhaps, Orphan Barrel is just testing the market with these new bottlings while keeping a limited supply and high demand in hopes of creating a name and lure for the Orphan Barrel brand. Or maybe if the Barterhouse juice doesn’t test well with the market, Orphan Barrel could let it age longer and produce an even more limited variation in a few more years. Of course this is just speculation and your guess is just as good as mine. Besides, it’s not uncommon for distillers and bottlers hold back portions of a limited release only to release it later. Regardless of the economics and marketing schemes, here’s my review: Continue reading
One of the most anticipated whiskey releases of early 2014 is probably the Old Blowhard 26 year old bourbon. Old Blowhard is a limited release under the newly created Orphan Barrel Whiskey Distilling Company, a project by Diageo aimed “to locate lost and forgotten barrels of whiskey from around the world and share them with discerning adult fans.”
Perhaps what makes the lure of the Old Blowhard so tempting is the fact the “lost and forgotten” barrels were discovered in old warehouses of the Stitzel-Weller distillery in Louisville, Kentucky. But before you start ooh-ing and aw-ing, it’s worth noting the Old Blowhard is not Stitzel-Weller juice. According to sources, the juice is from the Old Bernheim Distillery and consists of 86% corn, 8% barley and 6% rye. There’s no official word on when the barrels were transferred from Old Bernheim to Stitzel-Weller, but speculation and common sense would tell us it likely aged the majority of its 26 years at Stitzel-Weller. Once located, the barrels were hand-bottled at the Dickel distillery in Tullahoma, Tennessee. Now, onto the review.
With last years passing of one of bourbon’s greats, Elmer T. Lee at the age of 93, it’s no surprise Buffalo Trace introduced a 93 proof single barrel edition to commemorate Elmer T. Lee’s life and contributions to the bourbon world. Mr. Lee had been in the bourbon industry since the 1940’s where he’s most known for beginning the “single barrel” bottling of bourbon with Blanton’s single barrel.
Previously to Mr. Lee’s single barrel revolution, bourbon was either mass produced or bottled from small batches. The single barrel style revolutionized bourbon and is in most cases still considered to be a more desirable method even to this day. Elmer T. Lee single barrel is easily one of my favorite go to bourbons. You can find it just about anywhere for about $35 a bottle which easily makes this one of the best “bang for your buck” bourbons. I recommend Elmer T. Lee to all of my friends and acquaintances who are just getting into bourbon tasting.
With the Buffalo Trace’s recent release of Elmer T. Lee’s Commemorative bottling at 93 proof, I thought it would be interesting to comparatively taste and review the two Elmer T’s. The traditional Elmer T. is cut and bottled at 90 proof or 45% alcohol by volume, 1.5% abv less than the Commemorative edition. It may not seem much, but let’s find out from the tasting. First up, the traditional Elmer T. Lee.
Welcome to Barrel Juice!
My Name is Joe Mills and I created Barrel Juice to educate and portray some of my passion around bourbon and other American whiskies.
Ever since I became of age, whiskey was my spirit of choice, particularly for mixing. It was a couple years ago I was grabbing some beers with coworkers at the bar when a senior member of our team deviated from the group to order a “Johnnie Black on the rocks”. I was intrigued at the choice so much that I ordered that very drink the next time I was at a bar. I became hooked on whiskey ever since.
Since then I’ve transitioned from drinking on the rocks to drinking neat and from drinking scotch to primarily American whiskey (my wallet thanks me for that). I’ve also slowly developed a respectable collection of bourbons and whiskies, which I’ll periodically share with readers.
I hope you enjoy the site and I look forward to sharing some of my passion with you.