Bourbons of the Fall

Part One of our Two Part Series  |   By Justin Thompson

Click Here for Part Two of the Series 


Fall has always been a special season in Bourbon Country. Farming families have been celebrating for centuries there, the fruits of their work during the spring and humid summer months once the cooler and dryer period of late September and October rolls around and the ground finally takes a break from producing reapable crops. Mother Nature has blessed the Ohio Valley this year with mild temperatures that have accompanied a steady source of rain, making this fall’s harvest season one of the best in  recent memory for those who farm the land in the area. Not to be outdone, the Bourbon companies that distill in the same area and are responsible for 95% of the world’s Bourbon supply are providing consumers with a plentiful harvest of multiple limited-edition bottlings along with permanent brand extensions, giving fans of the amber hued liquid multiple reasons to celebrate this fall.

Elijah Craig 21

From the distilling company who claims to have more “extra-aged” Bourbon than any other, comes a new release with a familiar name.  The Elijah Craig 21-Year-Old Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is the most recent extra-aged Bourbon released by the Heaven Hill Distillery.  This limited edition is being offer in a 750ml bottle at the standard 90 proof that Elijah Craig is known for at a suggested retail of $140.

This offering comes to the public with much anticipation after the previous 18 and 20-year-old offerings received massive amounts of acclaim and superlatives from some of whiskey’s most recognized critics.   “With the success we have had with the Elijah Craig 20-Year-Old Single Barrel, and the 18-Year-Old before that, we are really looking forward to the release of this new 21-Year-Old bottling,” noted Heaven Hill’s 7th generation Master Distiller Craig Beam.  “A number of years ago we carefully identified several hundred barrels that are at middle to high storage in our best rickhouses, and these are the source for this very special 21-Year-Old and for future Elijah Craig Single Barrel editions. These are some of the best older barrels of traditional rye-based Bourbon we have in our inventory.”

Four Roses 2013 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon

This has become one of the most anticipated Bourbon releases during the fall period since the first one hit the shelves in 2008.  Each year since then, Four Roses Master Distiller Jim Rutledge has thoroughly demonstrated why he’s one of the best whiskey makers in the world by showcasing his 40 plus years of experience via the flawlessly mingling of separate Bourbons to make one powerful and palate pleasing whiskey in the Limited Edition Small Batch.

The 2013 Limited Edition Small Batch Bourbon demonstrates that Rutledge hasn’t lost his touch at creating great whiskey, by combining three separate Bo

urbons, each with a different recipe that is proprietary to Four Roses to celebrate the company’s 125th anniversary.  The Bourbons Rutledge chose to use for this special anniversary, included an 18-year-old (with fruit, spicy and creamy characteristics) a 13-year-old (spicy, full bodied) and another 13-year-old whiskey (which was also spicy and full bodied) to create one special Bourbon that has been said to offer tastes of creamy vanilla, light oak and cherry cordial, with hints of nutmeg and cocoa.

“I’m always coming across some really amazing Bourbons during the selection process,” said Rutledge.  “And for the special release, I was presented with quite the challenge to make a selection worthy of toasting our 125th year.”

This anniversary bottling also offers its buyers the opportunity to experience what Bourbon tastes like straight from the barrel, by bottling at barrel proof and non-chill filtered.  Approximately 8,000 bottles will be sold to the U.S. markets for a suggested retail price of $90.

Jefferson’s Chef Collaboration

Castle Brands’ whiskey brand, Jefferson’s, has proven it will take risks.  From bottling extremely extra-aged Bourbon and rye, to aging whiskey on ships while out at sea, the team at Jefferson’s and it’s Master Blender Trey Zoeller, don’t mind being untraditional when it comes to bottling whiskey.  Zoeller’s newest whiskey adventure has teamed him up with Top Chef alum and cookbook author, Edward Lee, to co-produce Jefferson’s Chef Collaboration.

And this isn’t any ordinary whiskey.  The duo decided to blend both Bourbon and rye whiskey together for their cooperative creation.  “This started out as an excuse to eat delicious food and drink exceptional bourbon with a friend, but evolved into a unique bourbon-rye blend, with a nuanced flavor profile, that pairs excellently with a variety of dishes, both neat and in cocktails,” says Trey Zoeller.  “This limited edition release whiskey offers an assertive up-front spice that you get from a rye with more delicate and well-rounded vanilla, caramel and citrus notes you would get from a finely aged bourbon.”

According to Castle Brands, some of the whiskey used in this blend is 14 years old and will be bottled at 92 proof.  The whiskey is tailored to pair well with a wide range of Southern fare, and is featured in several of Chef Lee’s recipes for his new book, Smoke and Pickles.

“A collaboration like this is a dream come true.  We’re taking bourbon in a new direction while respecting the voices from the past,” says chef Edward Lee.  “Bourbon is a long, slow process and our collaboration was no different.  In the end, I think we have a libation worth bragging about.”

Suggested retail is set at $40.

Stagg Jr.

If you have ever asked your wife’s cousin’s friend, who happens to manage a liquor store, if they could hold a bottle of George T. Stagg for you the day it gets released – because you can not make it to the store within the two hours they are going to sell out of it – then you might be a Bourbon geek. Well geeks, get ready to ask your wife to call her cousin to inform their friend that there is a new version of this cultish Bourbon that is going to hit the shelves very soon.

Buffalo Trace has announced that in mid-August various markets will start receiving shipments of Stagg Jr. Bourbon, a younger version of the George T. Stagg (GTS) Bourbon.

The “Jr.” doesn’t come from its lack of punch. Made with the same mashbill as the original, Stagg Jr. is unfiltered and uncut, meaning it is bottled at barrel proof. The first batch of Stagg Jr. will weigh in at 134.4 proof, well above what most Bourbons bottle at (usually around 90 proof, or 45 percent alcohol). But Stagg Jr. will not be as old as its predecessor. According to Buffalo Trace, it will be a combination of Bourbons that are eight to nine years old, compared to the 2013 GTS which will be 16 years old (GTS is usually aged for around 15 years).

Another variance from GTS is that Stagg Jr. will have multiple releases per year. Buffalo expects to offer three to four different batches annually, with each having a different proof in that eight-to-nine-year age range. The batches will be released as soon as enough Bourbon meets the desired taste profile that Buffalo Trace Master Distiller, Harlen Wheatley, is shooting for.  Wheatley describes the inaugural Stagg Jr. taste profile as, “rich, sweet, chocolate and brown sugar flavors mingled in perfect balance with a bold, rye spiciness. The boundless finish lingers with hints of cherries, cloves and smokiness.”

Although there will be multiple offerings each year, Stagg Jr. will still be produced on a limited basis, so don’t expect it to sit on the shelves long. Stagg Jr. will be available in 750 ml bottles for the suggested retail price of $49.99.

Knob Creek Smoked Maple

Fred Noe also helped develop this spirit as a tribute to his late father the great distilling legend, Booker Noe.  Booker had a passion for experimenting with Bourbon, and is considered to be a pioneer in super-premium Bourbon.  He also enjoyed smoking meats in the smokehouse at his home and while on a trip to Vermont, became very interested in maple syrup and ended up crafting his own.  The idea is to bring the three flavors of smoke, maple and Bourbon together to honor Booker’s legacy.

While the precise process of creating this flavor profile is not being disclosed at this time by the folks at Beam, we’re told Knob Creek Smoked Maple is infused with natural smoke and maple flavors.  Available in the United States starting in September 2013, this whiskey comes in at 90 proof and has a suggested retail of $30.99.

Wild Turkey Forgiven

Sometimes accidents happen and it costs someone their job.  But in the mind of Wild Turkey Master Distiller Eddie Russell, sometimes accidents can create some damn good whiskey.  Forgiven was never supposed to be created.  Not too long ago, a holding tank with perfectly good 6-year-old Bourbon in it at Wild Turkey Distillery was accidently connected with a hose that was pumping some recently dumbed straight rye whiskey.

After the mistake was realized and the hose had been pulled, the tank was filled with about 78% of that 6-year-old Bourbon and 22% of 4-year-old rye.  When Russell has an opportunity to try this mingling, he was blown away by the taste.  “Forgiven highlights the best of both worlds to create a one-of-a-kind taste that will appeal to both Bourbon and rye aficionados.”

The mixture was kept as is and approximately 5,000 cases are being brought to market.  When asked if this release will be gone for good when it runs out, Russell replies, “I love the liquid so we will wait and see how it is received before we decide.  This will be all for this year for sure.”  Forgiven is bottled at 91 proof with a $49.99 suggested retail.

Woodford Reserve Masters Collection Classic Malt

Woodford Reserve recently announced the release of its limited edition Master’s Collection which will hit stores in early November. The Double Malt Selections – Straight Malt Whiskey and Classic Malt – are the first fully matured whiskies crafted from malt in Kentucky since Prohibition.

Uniquely triple distilled in Woodford Reserve’s copper pot stills, the Classic Malt comes in a 750ml bottle and is individually numbered and presented at 90.4 proof. This special bottle is inspired by the copper pot stills of the Woodford Reserve Distillery. Available in major metro markets throughout the United States and select international locations, limited quantities are available at a suggested retail price of $99.99 per bottle. The inspiration for the Master’s Collection is rooted in the rich history and tradition of what is known today as The Woodford Reserve Distillery. The mid-1800s Master Distiller James Christopher Crow and distillery owner Oscar Pepper brought new insight to the spirits industry by studying the differences between aged-cask and new-cask maturation. Prior to their work, there were no rules governing the charring of casks or about the use and re-use of casks.

Additionally, whiskey is presented globally in a range of flavor profiles typically described as either Old World or New World in style. Old World whiskeys such as Scotch and Irish typically have a grain-focused flavor profile and are matured in used barrels, while New World expressions such as Bourbon and Tennessee whiskeys highlight the impact of new cask maturation. With the Classic Malt matured in used barrels, the offering afford a rare opportunity for a side-by-side barrel style comparison featuring Old World versus New World styles.

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye

Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye is an uncut and unfiltered straight rye whiskey. The 2012 edition was named “World Whisky of the Year” in Jim Murray’s 2013 Whisky Bible. This year’s Handy was distilled in the spring of 2007, aged on the seventh floor of Warehouse K and weighs in at 128.4 proof.  The flavor has been described as toffee, clove, and allspice.

Part of the Antique Collection, from Buffalo Trace Distillery, Suggested retail price is $70 each. The highly anticipated collection will once again feature five limited-release whiskeys of various ages, recipes and proofs.


PART 1  |  PART 2