Cigars or Bourbon? I say both!

If I cannot drink Bourbon and smoke cigars in Heaven than I shall not go.

Mark Twain

My name is Bryan. Bourbon is just my thing.

State of distillation: Florida

Rick house: Tampa

Floor: 33614

Taste profile: Forward, a good kick in the mouth, with subtle hints of citrus, cut to the chase, and good laughs.

My name is Bryan Brantley. In 2016, my bourbon love affair began, or as some may call it, my date of distillation. Bourbon is unique as we all know, yet most of us didn’t start by drinking bourbon. We usually picked up another cheap spirit and called it a day. This is what makes bourbon so beautiful. We all end up here. Bourbon is meant to be a spirit we enjoy in brotherhood (or sisterhood – shoutout to the bourbon women!). Enter my goal: to bring more people together over this brown water that is so cherished.

As I embark on this blog journey I encourage all of you to try something new. After all, that is how it all begins. For those who may not be familiar, I will post weekly bourbon reviews and suggestions of what is available at different price ranges. Once a month I will dive into my favorite pour and smoke pairing during that time. I will also post pictures of what I find along the way.

I want to personally thank Scott for inviting me to join the Cigar Hawk blog. I am roughly a year into the cigar game but thoroughly enjoy my humidor being full. As the Hawk himself would say, “Long ashes, and full glasses!” Cheers everyone!

Weller Wednesday

Happy Weller Wednesday Hawks!!!!!!!

I had all planned on reviewing a local distillery this week, but then I got a hold of some Weller Special Reserve, Weller Antique, and Weller 12 year old. I have wanted to try some Weller’s for years, but could never find any in the ABC ran state of NC. Needless to say I was excited to run across these!

This week we will review Weller Special Reserve (WSR) AKA The Green Label Weller.

All the Weller products come from the Buffalo Trace Distillery and are part of their “wheated” line. These include bourbons such as W.L. Weller and Pappy Van Winkle. So let’s jump into this review!

Mash Bill- I couldn’t find the specific mash bill for WSR, but we know it’s from Buffalo Trace’s wheated mash bill.

ABV- 90 Proof

Price- This is only a 19-23 dollar bourbon. However, because of the limited quantities and the hoarders that live in the bourbon community, this goes for well over double on the illegal black market.

Color- Bronzed Orange/Honey

Nosing- I like to let my bourbons sit for a few minutes to allow some of the alcohol blunt to drift away, and this bourbon was no different. After letting it open up a few minutes, I was treated to sweet smells of caramel, honey, graham crackers, and as dumb as it sounds, candy corn. Not the regular ones either. The awesome caramel ones that we all loved as kids. Admittedly, I still love them.

Taste- Incredibly sweet with all the caramel and vanilla notes you could ask for. On the back end of the tongue, I get some mild oak, marshmallow, and maple syrup.

Finish- WSR is not an overly complex bourbon, but it does have a nice medium finish that coats the mouth like a light butter. On the exhale after swallow, you really get those caramel notes. At 90 proof, this was not a hard bourbon to just sip on neat. WSR had very little burn to it, and was great for an spring afternoon.

Final Thoughts- While I had hoped for this being a stellar out of the park bourbon because of the following, I was slightly let down. It was good in every sense, but nothing to write home about. All the hype behind this bourbon is absolutely crazy to me. Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed it and would love to keep it in my collection to sip on warmer evenings, or help newcomers to bourbon make the full transition to the bourbon world, but it just lacked. Hell, for a 20 dollar bottle, how much can we really expect? It does the job, and gets it done with little effort.

I sipped this bourbon out of my Glencairn glass, neat. I felt no need to add water or ice.

Beginner Bourbon Series Part 4…Elijah Craig

Happy Whiskey Wednesday Hawks!!!!!

I was absent last week for our weekly whiskey review due to having a great time with the wife on our anniversary trip, but now I’m back and ready to keep on drinking in order to give you ladies and gents the reviews you want!

This week I’m finishing the five beginner bourbons. This one has been a staple of my personal bar. It’s the first bourbon on this list with a little higher alcohol content and a little more complex flavor profile.

I’m of course talking about Heaven Hill’s Elijah Craig Small Batch. EC (Elijah Craig), used to sport a 12 year age statement, but with the bourbon boom of the last few years, the brand has abandoned the statement. It’s rumored to still be a 8-12 year aged bourbon.

Mash bill- 75% Corn, 12% Rye, and 13% Barley. I can’t vouch for these, as this was all I was able to find through a secondary bourbon website.

ABV- 94 proof

Price- 24-29.99. I picked this bottle up from the NC ABC on sale for 25.99.

Nose- Super sweet smelling. Vanilla, cinnamon, chocolate, and brown sugar. I pick up subtle hints of berries, and possibly plum. Adding ice to it just adds a little citrus to the nose.

Color- Mid-brown almost a chestnut color.

Taste- Sweet, oaky, caramel hits the tongue first. It does have a little spice, but nothing too bad. Very little burn. Adding ice just kind of waters it down for me. Didn’t really bring out any new flavors.

Finish- A medium finish with lots of oak and caramel. Hints of berries and brown sugar come out.

Final thoughts- EC is an amazing bourbon for under 30 bucks. It is great neat, on the rocks, or even as a mixer. The extra barley in this bourbon gives it a unique taste that is great in the price range.

I don’t personally think ice or water is needed, but since it does have a slightly higher proof, you folks can.


Beginner Bourbon Series Part 3…Eagle Rare

Happy Whiskey Wednesday my smokey brothers and sisters of the leaf! As I post this I am getting ready to board a plane to Europe for mine and the wife’s belated honeymoon.

So in part 4 of our beginner’s bourbon series, we take a look at another one of my all time favorites. Eagle Rare!

Another masterpiece from the Buffalo Trace distillery, Eagle Rare not only offers an amazing tasting juice, but a pretty cool wine style bottle to go along with it.

Eagle Rare is a 10 year aged bourbon, that up until a few years ago was branded as a single barrel. However, with the increasing demand in good bourbon, Buffalo Trace was forced to go from hand bottling Eagle Rare to using a bottling system. Buffalo Trace had announced dropping the single barrel listing from the label due to the possibility that a bottle could technically get a drop or two from a different barrel.

Mash bill- 75% Corn, 10% Rye, 15% Malted Barley. It uses Buffalo Trace’s mash bill # 1, the same as Buffalo Trace bourbon.

ABV- 90 proof

Price- 28-36 dollars. 34.99 here in NC, but you can find the half gallon bottles for 60 and save a few bucks.

You just have to figure out where to store that beast.

Color- A honey amber color that looks as perfect as a color can get.

Nosing- I instantly pick up charred oak and citrus. As though someone was squeezing fresh tangerines right on the fire while the barrels were toasted. Upon my second nosing, I get hints of vanilla, and dark chocolate.

Taste- oaky, sweet, and very little spice. I tasted dried fruit and raisins. It’s not super complex and none of the flavors really “pop” out. Hints of caramel and marshmallow can also be detected.

Finish- I find the finish on Eagle Rare to be medium, even though most would say it’s short. Toasted toffee and cream come to mine while swirling this around on the tongue. For a 90 proof bourbon, there is very little burn or alcohol aftertaste.

Final Thoughts- I mean what can I say, I love the stuff. It’s one of my go to daily drinks. It won’t break the bank, and it’s easy on the palate. This was another one of the juices that got me to fall in love with bourbon. I never have less than three bottles of this in my home bar at any given time. This is also one I would highly recommend as a dessert bourbon.

Even though I used my Norlan to do the nosing and tasting, I took the pictures in my new rocks glasses that I had my family crest engraved on.

I didn’t add any water or ice to this bourbon, because it was already incredibly smooth and easy to drink.

Beginner Bourbon Series Part 2…Buffalo Trace

Special thanks to my buddy Gonzo for another great contribution. I am a day late getting this posted. My fault. Adulting tends to get in the way sometimes. As we continue our Beginner Bourbon Series, we take a look at one of my personal favorites as well, Buffalo Trace. Hope you enjoy. I am hoping to start doing a pairing series with Gonzo this summer so stay tuned for that. Feel free to leave your thoughts, comments, suggestions and even request here. Full glasses friends, Cheers!

Happy Whiskey Wednesday Cigar and Whiskey Hawks!

In part two of our beginner bourbon series, I will be reviewing one of my all time favorite daily drinkers. Buffalo Trace!

Buffalo Trace is the one of many amazing bourbons from the Buffalo Trace distillery. With bourbons such as Pappy Van Winkle, Weller’s, Blanton’s, and many more being distilled there, it’s no wonder how they are one of the best at what they do. Making great bourbons!

Buffalo Trace is a no age statement bourbon, that is rumored to be aged 7-9 years.

Mash bill- I wasn’t able to find the exact numbers for Buffalo Trace, but we do know it is the distillery’s mash bill #1, which is a low rye, high corn profile.

Price- Prices range anywhere between 17-45 dollars for this bourbon. Here in NC, it’s 29.99. However, I have seen it on cruise ships in 1 L bottles, for 2 for 22 USD (I bought a lot😀).

Color- Using my snazzy Whiskey journey I got off eBay, I was able to determine that the color of Buffalo Trace is close to Tawny Orange (fancy right?).

Nose- I’m using my new Glencairn glass, and wow it really brings out a incredible nose on this whiskey. Same typical bourbon notes of vanilla, caramel, honey, and even cinnamon, but I also get hints of raisins and dried fruit.

Tasting- Wow! I still love this bourbon after all these years. It’s simple, yet slightly peaks into the complex flavors. You immediately get charred oak, caramel, and a unbelievably sweetness (no doubt from the high corn content), but I also get brown sugar, cherries, and toffee.

Finish- Buffalo Trace has a medium finish that last a decent amount of time. It starts with the oak and caramel, and ends with a vanilla fruity taste. At 90 proof (45%ABV), it very little burn and is incredibly smooth on the tongue.

Final thoughts- There is a reason Buffalo Trace has been around as long as it has been. It’s good! It’s an enjoyable bourbon that is easy on the wallet, but maybe a little harder to find in certain areas. Here in NC, our stores get allotted only a few cases a year. I find this to be an excellent beginner bourbon, and even enjoyable for the more well defined bourbon drinker.

As with Larceny, I didn’t see a need to drop water in it, or add ice. It was quite tame and had a nice well rounded taste without any assistance.

I must say, my wife took some amazing photos for me!

Beginners Bourbon Series…Larceny

It’s Whiskey Wednesday my fellow hawks!

So my plan is to do a review every Wednesday (since I’m probably enjoying a drink myself).

I’m going to start with five of what I consider to be beginner bourbons. The ones you let your friends try when you’re trying to bring them to the dark side!

Remember hawks, enjoying bourbon is no different than enjoying cigars, it’s completely subjective. So what I smell or taste, may not be what you smell or taste.

Hopefully everyone enjoys the reviews

Larceny Bourbon review

Larceny is a 6-12 year, no age statement bourbon from Heaven Hill Distillery.

The mashbill- 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12% malted barley

Price- 19-30 dollars, but I paid 24 in NC on sale (29 regular price)

Color- Honey/Light Carmel

Nosing- At first the nose on this heavy corn bourbon was nothing but alcohol. I have experienced this with other bourbons before, so I let this one set for about a minute. After letting it sit, I picked up all the typical bourbon smells of vanilla, caramel, and oak, but was able to pick up honey, cherries, and dried fruit.

Tasting- I really pick up the honey, corn, and sweet notes. It almost taste creamy, as the vanilla and caramel hits your tongue. The bourbon has very little spice and isn’t very complex. Very little heat or burn for a 92 proof whiskey.

Finish- creamy, sweet, almost a orange flavor, but doesn’t last very long.

Conclusion- This is by far my favorite bourbon to send new whiskey drinkers to. It’s soft, subtle, and won’t kill your tongue. It has tons of sweetness bc of the high corn and wheat content, which makes it a smooth drinker, at a great price point. Because it is not overly complex, beginners won’t have a hard time picking up the main flavors.

I didn’t see the need to try this one with a drop or two of water, or ice. It was smooth from start to finish without any assistance.

I did this review over two days. One without a cigar, and then today with a Foundry Time Flies. They paired nicely together, however the cigar did seem to over power the bourbon just a little.

** I want to thank my buddy Gonzo for doing this review. I look forward to more reviews as we expand on the content featured here. Please feel free to leave comments, questions and suggestions. Until next time…Long ashes and full glasses.