Scoring: Blade & Bow 22-year-old, Booker’s Dot’s Batch, Temperance Trader & Michter’s Rye


May 7, 2015

I will now score products on this blog. I’ve professionally judged spirits in several competitions, including the San Francisco World Spirits Competition and the World Whiskies, and have published tasting notes and or scores in national magazines. But this is the first time I’ve pursued scoring here. I’m in the process of hiring an assistant for pouring, so all products will be blind tasted. Until then, I will be pouring products myself and thus will know what they are. I will disclose when a product is a media sample by giving a parenthetical notation next to the product. I judge fairly, but will be critical and judge all products with the same eye, nose and palate. I will pull no punches. If I smell gym socks, I will let people know I smell gym socks. I will likely be giving a lot of 70s, followed by many 80s and very few 90s.

Scoring Standards

10 – Color: I’m looking for color that fits the age description. If there is no age statement, I will seek an age range from the distiller. Due to my belief in transparency and age statements, I will dock a product 2 points if none is provided or disclosed when asked. When I begin tasting blind, age information will be procured and provided during the tasting. (Double blind tasting means you know nothing of what you taste; blind means you have proof, age and type of spirit.)

40 – Aroma: I’m first looking for how the alcohol hits the nose. If it’s an alcohol-forward nose, that’s not good and I’ll judge accordingly. Then, I’m looking for the overall notes with certain styles in mind for certain categories.

40 – Palate: I’m expecting what I nosed and hoping for more.

10 – Finish: This is how the product feels on the way down. If it gives alcohol burns, at any point, it’s not smooth. And thus, I dock points. I also look for flavors appearing on the tongue after the product goes down the hatch.

Total: 90 -100 – Great with more love going to the higher in the 90s; 80-89 – Very good with more merit the higher the number; 70-79 – Good with more merit with higher the number; 60-69 – Average or decent with more merit higher the number; and 50-59 – Below average; 0 to 49 – Bad.

Blade & Bow 22-year-old

Limited Release, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

46% ABV

Blade and Bow 22-year-old bourbon won Best STraight Bourbon in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, of which I'm a judge. This is great bourbon.
Blade and Bow 22-year-old bourbon won Best STraight Bourbon in the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, of which I’m a judge. This is great bourbon.

Tech specs: From the press release: “Blade and Bow 22-Year-Old Limited Release Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is comprised of whiskeys distilled at both the distillery historically located at 17th and Breckinridge in Louisville, Ky. and the distillery historically located in at 1001 Wilkinson Blvd. Frankfort, Ky. The limited release offering was most recently aged and bottled at Stitzel-Weller.” That’s legal speak for Diageo (owners of Blade & Bow) can’t disclose this bourbon came from the Bernheim Distillery and Buffalo Trace.

Color: For 22-years-old, I expect more out of the color, but it’s still vibrant amber. Score: 7.

Aroma: The nose is beautiful. It reminds me of the old style bourbons from the 1960s and ’70s, presenting vibrant caramels, fruits and fresh New Orleans pralines with hints of dark cherries and smoked paprika. This is the kind of bouquet that really whets the palate, getting you ready for what hopes to be a beautiful taste. Sometimes the nose can be deceiving though. Will that happen here? Score: 38.

Palate: The palate picks up where the aromas left off, offering the richness in old style bourbons, filling the mouth with caramels and vanillas. But it’s the mouthfeel of this bourbon that’s special, all encompassing, surrounding the palate from top to bottom with a mouthcoating dripping presence. This is beautiful bourbon with the resounding caramel, vanilla and nutmeg notes I hoped for with hints of coconut, fig, freshly picked strawberries, banana and a lovely and long tickle of cinnamon. Score: 39.

Finish: The finish is long with an edgy baking spice and vanilla notes. Score: 9.

Total Score: 93.

Booker’s  (media sample)

Dot’s Batch No. 2015-02 (Note: Available in limited quantities nationwide.)

63.95% ABV

Tech Specs: 7-years-old, 18 days.

Color: With barrel strength, you expect extremely dark colors. But this is extraordinarily dark, more colorful than a brick. Dark, dark amber. Score: 10.

Aroma: The nose is rich with grains from a fresh-baked corn bread to a loaf of pumpernickel rye. Once the grain notes dissipate, I find a dessert chef’s delight in a caramel, vanilla and an unexpected lemon note with perfect hints of cinnamon and nutmeg. There’s a little herb and dark fruit in there, too, but is only found on the third whiff. Score: 33.

Palate: For such a high proof, the burn is not immediate. The palate is exactly what I wanted, an immediate dance with a slice of corn bread with a dab of melted butter followed by caramels, vanillas, citrus, cinnamon and nutmeg. The chewy mouthfeel leaves me wanting another taste, where I find just a delightful and richness unfound in the first taste. Perhaps, despite its smooth feel, the mouth just needed to warm up to this neat. In the second taste, the amplified notes meet a smokiness that’s just lovely. Score: 38.

Finish: Medium with a powerful presence of cinnamon. Score: 7.

Total Score: 88.

Temperance Trader Chinato Barrel (media sample)

Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Batch No. 002, Batch No. 01230. Distilled in Indiana and Bottled by Bull Run Distilling Company.

44.93% ABV

Tech Specs: From the Bull Run website: “Small batch, high rye bourbon, 25% rye, 65% corn, 10% malted barley and the pure, raw water from the Bull Run Watershed and barrel aged for minimum of 4–6 years.”

Color: Dark straw. Without knowing the exact age, it’s difficult to judge color. But even in the range of 4 to 6 years old, this is a great color. Score: 8.

Aroma: This is a vibrant nose with notes of grains, herbs, licorice, peppermint and fresh-baked apple pie. Score: 27.

Palate: The palate is actually much more exciting than the nose, giving a slightly creamy mouthfeel with a vanilla cake batter note and hints of blueberries and cinnamon-sprinkled baked apples. Score: 30.

Finish: Medium with cinnamon. Score: 7.

Total Score: 72.

Michter’s Limited Release Barrel Strength (media sample)

Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

54% ABV, Michter’s Barrel No. 15C210

Tech Specs: Michter’s whiskies enter the barrel at 103 proof, making it the lowest barrel entry proof in Kentucky. Their ryes tend to be in the lower rye side for the mashbills, roughly around 53% rye in the mashbill.

Color: Deep amber. This is a beautiful color for rye. Initial score: 9. Michter’s does not provide an age statement and will not offer an age range and will be deducted 2 points. Score: 7.

Aroma: For a rye, the nose does not have the typical spice-forward profile. Perhaps that’s because the majority of this country’s rye is made in Indiana with a 95% rye mashbill. This nose is much less spicy, more similar to a high rye bourbon than a rye. With that said, I’m picking up a smokiness that is quite attractive. The smoke is interlocked with caramel, vanillas, anise and roasted walnuts. These types of ryes are often lost in the nose when tasted next to Canadian or Indiana ryes; their approach is much softer. Score: 31.

Palate: On the palate, the flavors burst straight on the tongue, delivering fruits, vanilla, crème brule, earthiness, spiciness, caramels, marshmallow and a gorgeous creaminess mouthfeel. I like the way this feels on the tongue a lot. Score: 37.

Finish: After such a splendid palate, this finish is surprisingly short. I hoped for more here. Short with a subtle vanilla. Score: 5.

Total Score: 80.


Fred Minnick is the author of Bourbon Curious and Whiskey Women. (Amazon affiliate links.)