10-Year Wheated Bourbon Showdown: Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10-year vs. Old Rip Van Winkle 10-year

Wheated Bourbon

First, just the facts.

The Rebel Yell brand name is owned by the Luxco company out of St. Louis, Missouri, but is currently produced under agreement with Heaven Hill at the Bernheim distillery in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Old Rip Van Winkle brand name is owned by the Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery company, but is currently produced under a joint venture agreement with Sazerac’s Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky.

While not obvious by either brand name, these two whiskeys share a common and storied history.

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Booker’s 2014-2016: Round Table head-to-head


Google “Booker’s” right now and you are most certain to find some rants and raves about the audacity of Jim Beam to raise prices.  You will find slams on Booker’s and promises to never buy it again.

I hear you.  I want to be able to buy the same great bourbon at the same old prices, just like my millions of other friends and growing.

But I’m not here to complain about prices. And I’m not here to defend them either.  Instead, I’m here to defend some really good bourbon:  Booker’s.  It’s wonderful stuff at $75 (yes I said it) and probably good stuff at $100 (yep, quote me on that).  It’s unbelievable stuff at $50 (I really don’t hear anyone disagreeing).

Ask Jim Beam, and they will likely tell you we are exactly the problem.  Our demand is increasing, yet we want to ignore the effects of that demand on suppliers.  I have a theory, or maybe just a concern.  If demand has truly increased for a product, it would be natural for a supplier to try to keep up with that demand by taking some slight corners on production.  If you can eek out just a few more bottles by reducing age, or by grabbing some less than perfect barrels for a blend, then you can stretch your supply, meet demand, and make a profit.  But at some point isn’t a consumer benefited by a reduction of supply, and increase in quality standards, and the resulting upshift in pricing?  Feel free to debate.

So how do Booker’s batches compare over the past few years?  Has quality suffered as Jim Beam sets out to satisfy demand? I set out to find out.  Without hiding conclusions (or giving any credibility to my theory), I’ll simply state that I hope that Jim Beam’s business plan for Booker’s includes returning to the glory of year’s past.

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Jefferson’s Very Small Batch – By land or by sea?

Jefferson's Ocean

I’ve always enjoyed the Jefferson’s lineup. The Straight Rye is historically one of my favorite ryes, and the Reserve bourbon is delicious.  I’ve sampled the Very Small Batch on several different occasions.  And I’ve tasted several different voyages from the Ocean Aged at Sea and I will say I’ve appreciated each of them (although there is certainly some winners and runner-ups in the group).  I’m very excited to try (soon, I hope) the Cask Strength Voyage bottling.

But despite my overall enjoyment of the line, I’ve often wondered whether the “aged at sea” gimmick has any real merit, at least as it concerns my palate.

The only way to know might be to compare for myself the land version of what I believe to be the most closely related:  the Very Small Batch (without knowing much more about mash bills, sourcing, and age, there may not be a way to knowing exactly what compares, but I’m willing to make the comparison anyway).  And what better to compare than a couple of store pick single barrels?

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August 2016: Espadin Joven Mezcals

Espadin Joven Mezcals, August 2016, by Scott Hill

[Click here for a full list of our tasting events!] 

For August 2016, Flight Club will feature “Artisanal Espadin Joven Mezcals.” In layman’s terms, these are all extremely small batch, craft-quality, unaged, spirits made from the Espadin agave plants in a specific region of Mexico.


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