The Benchmark Old No. 8 brand was purchased by Sazerac (Buffalo Trace) from Seagram in 1992, when it was originally distilled at the Four Roses distillery. Sazerac moved production to the Buffalo Trace Distillery and tacked “McAfee’s” onto the name, in honor of the McAfee brothers who surveyed the site of the Buffalo Trace Distillery in 1775, long before it was built.
Unlike Batch 1, Batch 3 consists of a blend of two different casks of bonded bourbon. … Together, these casks yielded a batch of 466 bottles at 50% ABV (100 proof, a requirement for the Bottled-in-Bond label). … So, can I finally salve my conscience (and simultaneously ease my anxiety about the reliability of my palate) by evaluating Batch 3?
The same bourbon that goes into 1792 Small-Batch is aged for an additional 2 years in port wine barrels, and then bottled at the odd choice of 44.45% ABV. The extra aging means a price premium, so expect to shell out an additional $10 or so. That turns the very budget-friendly 1792 into a bit of a splurge, for a bourbon.
As usual, Angel’s Envy cask strength brings a wealth of intense flavor at a tongue-searing proof. You pay for the robust, dense flavors of berries and complex caramelized sugars in dead taste buds and the inability to smell for a few hours after. By all means, proof it down, but you might as well experience the full force of the 124.6 proof that you paid for. And paid well, I should add, at around $180.
This special edition of the Scotch Noob is brought to you by Tom at Tom’s Foolery, who asked that I take another look at his bourbon (which I kinda panned), with two things in mind: First, that I make sure the bottle has been open to oxidize a little bit (it has, at 75% full for a few weeks), and second that I compare it to Wyoming Whisky.
Tom’s Foolery is actually made by an Ohio man named Tom (take that, modern whisky marketing!). He does this on a pair of pot-stills and ages his bottled-in-bond Ohio Straight Bourbon in an honest-to-goodness US bonded warehouse for four years in new charred American oak barrels.
Maker’s 46 is basically Maker’s Mark with an additional 10 weeks of aging with 10 “seared” French Oak barrel staves inserted into the casks, and bottled at an extra 2% ABV (at 47%). The process is done during the winter in the coolest parts of the warehouse, to minimize the movement of whiskey through the wood. This treatment (the 46th attempt, hence the name) is supposed to intensify the vanilla and caramel notes of the bourbon without adding additional bitterness from barrel tannin.
The line of Russell’s Reserve bourbons and ryes are crafted by (and named after) legendary master distiller Jimmy Russell and his son Eddie Russell. Aged a full 10 years (hear, hear for age statements!) and bottled in small batches (a meaningless term, these days, basically an excuse for batch variability), Russell’s Reserve is reportedly made from a mashbill of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. The barrels used in each batch are chosen by Jimmy and Eddie, and are from the center of the Wild Turkey rickhouses.
Another in a long line of sourced whiskies, with marketing story and bottle proudly proclaiming its California heritage, while actually being distilled in Indiana. At least these barrels were aged in Healdsburg California (aka Napa), giving them some vestiges of individuality.
The “other” Diageo Bourbon, I.W. Harper is another resurrected brand. The Bernheim brothers began selling I.W. Harper in 1879 and it has been (like most Bourbon brands) sold several times since. It saw a 20-year hiatus in the US, although it has been sold continuously in Japan. Now, Diageo is bringing it back in two forms.