Bourbon Roundup: Little Book’s next chapter, Elmer T. Lee celebrates 100, new Michter’s Toasted, and more
Once again, it’s not yet fall release season, but yet my inbox is full of new bourbon releases that all sound absolutely delicious. Some I’ve tried, and others I cross my fingers and pray I’ll come across an open bottle or bottle for sale in the wild.
Little Book Chapter 3 includes a heavenly blend of Basil Hayden, Knob Creek, Booker’s and Baker’s (!!!!!)
If I had free rein inside the Jim Beam rick houses, I’d probably end up doing something similar to the new Little Book release, called Chapter 3: The Road Home. Basically, eighth-generation distiller Freddie Noe took some of the best stock in the distillery and blended it together for a warm and sweet expression.
What exactly did he use? How about a little 9-year-old Knob Creek, 9-year-old Basil Hayden’s, 11-year-old Booker’s and 12-year-old Baker’s. That’s some of the very best juice Beam produces, all combined in one bottle at 122.6 proof.
I was fortunate to attend a media workshop with Freddie Noe and his father, Master Distiller Fred Noe, which involved trying the new Little Book and comparing it to the two previous chapters. This was, hands down, my favorite of the three, as I like my bourbon on the sweet and high-proof side.
Little Book shows off Freddie’s talent in blending, and this release will no doubt be a shining star in the Beam lineup. The limited-edition bottle should be on shelves now — if it doesn’t get snatched up — for a suggested retail price of $124.99.
New 100 proof Elmer T. Lee released in honor of his 100th birthday
On Aug. 5, respected bourbon legend Elmer T. Lee would have turned 100 years old.
In honor of this milestone, Buffalo Trace Distillery is honoring Lee with the release of a 100 proof commemorative bottling of Elmer T. Lee, and proceeds will go to the Frankfort VFW Post 4075, where he was a member until his death in 2013.
The limited-edition, one-time-only release is the same age and mashbill as the standard Elmer T. Lee bourbon, but it is bottled at 100 proof and features a different label design.
Lee is, hands down, one of the main reasons bourbon has seen a comeback in recent years, thanks to his decision in 1984 to release the first single barrel bourbon, which he called Blanton’s to honor his mentor and boss at the distillery, Col. Albert B. Blanton.
“What Elmer did for American whiskey is hard to grasp in today’s terms, but in 1984, bourbon was in the doldrums and sales were low,” said Harlen Wheatley, Buffalo Trace’s current master distiller, in a news release. “Elmer took a big risk creating a single barrel bourbon, but he hoped it would generate new interest in bourbon and revive the industry. At first Blanton’s wasn’t popular, and Elmer feared it may not take off. But today, I think it’s safe to say Elmer made a wise move.”
The bottle will be out later this month for a suggested retail price of $100.
Michter’s releases first-ever Toasted Barrel Sour Mash Whiskey
Next month, fans of Michter’s “toasted barrel” releases — including this writer — will get to try, if lucky, a brand new product: US*1 Toasted Barrel Sour Mash Whiskey.
The Louisville distillery has previously released toasted-barrel versions of its barrel-strength rye and bourbon, and now it’s trying out the sour mash, which recently was named “Whisky of the Year” by The Whisky Exchange.
What toasted means is they take the fully matured US*1 Sour Mash Whiskey and put it into specially toasted barrels for more aging. And, according to a news release, each version uses a different type of toasted barrel. We’ll let Michter’s Master of Maturation Andrea Wilson explain more:
“The toast profile used to finish our Toasted Barrel Sour Mash differs from both the toast profile used for our Toasted Bourbon and the toast profile used for our Toasted Barrel Strength Rye,” she said. “A milder toast was chosen to enhance the toffee character of the US*1 Sour Mash and provide a hint of campfire on the finish. After evaluating different degrees of toasting, we selected a level that would provide the toasty profile people enjoy while complementing the elegance of the sour mash whiskey.”
And if this is similar to the two previous releases, we’re in for a Rice Krispies treat. The whiskey will be bottled at 86 proof and available in September for a suggested retail price of $60.
Woodford Wheat is a sweet treat
As I mentioned earlier this month, Woodford Reserve has come out with a Wheat Whiskey, completing all four styles of American straight whiskey as outlined by the Federal Alcohol Administration Act of 1935.
Now, you can get Woodford Bourbon, Woodford Rye Whiskey, Woodford Malt Whiskey and Woodford Wheat Whiskey — as well as the delectable Woodford Double Oaked, which also is technically a bourbon.
Recently, I attended a media lunch event where we got to sample all five expressions and learn more about the wheat whiskey from Master Distiller Chris Morris and Assistant Master Distiller Elizabeth McCall.
Morris explained that while the Woodford Bourbon and Double Oaked are the brand’s priorities, the other three expressions will continue to be made in limited quantities.
The wheat recipe is 52% wheat, 20% corn, 8% rye and 20% malt, making it a four-grain whiskey. The spirit was easy to sip, at the standard Woodford proof of 90.4, and with that much wheat in its makeup, it made for a smooth, sweet and well-rounded finish.
To see if the whiskey would stand up for itself in a cocktail, I ordered an Old Fashioned — and it was a pleasant surprise how well the juice played off the sugar and bitters.
I would have had two more had it not been lunchtime.
Trying all four whiskeys side by side, it was interesting to experience how each dominant grain changes the flavor ever so slightly. I suggest trying it out at home or at a bar that serves each expression. The Woodford Wheat Whiskey will be available this month for a suggested retail price of $34.99.
Wild Turkey releases Master’s Keep Cornerstone Rye, oldest rye ever for the distillery
For the fourth release in Wild Turkey’s Master’s Keep series, Master Distiller Eddie Russell decided to pull from the distillery’s oldest barrels of rye whiskey — which range from nine to 11 years old.
Master’s Keep Cornerstone Rye will be a limited-edition release that shows off the distillery’s fine rye whiskey-making abilities, as they’ve been distilling it for decades. According to a news release, Russell hand-picked from among his oldest No. 4 alligator char barrels for the release.
Russell’s son Bruce, who has served for years as a brand ambassador, is partly responsible for the success of Turkey’s rye whiskey, as he’s been promoting it in cocktail scenes all across the United States. Bartenders like a decent rye in their drinks, and they’re likely the reason the overall rye whiskey production in the industry has gone from 100,000 barrels in 2010 to now more than one million.
“Wild Turkey was one of the few legacy distilleries that remained loyal to crafting rye even as vodka and gin became the new, hot thing,” Russell said in the release. “Cornerstone Rye celebrates our continued commitment to the grain. As my own son Bruce has reminded me given his devotion to rye in working with the bartender community, it’s a fundamental part of our history.”
Master’s Keep Cornerstone Rye will be released this month at 109 proof for a suggested retail price of $175.