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!

Single Barrel Sunday!!

It’s single barrel Sunday Hawks!!!! I know it has been quite a few weeks since I’ve been able to do a review, but I’m here to review what has become one of my favorite daily drinks. This week we take a look at Knob Creek Single Barrel, bottled at 120 proof.

This bourbon comes from the Beam Suntory distillery, and more importantly it comes from the Booker/Noe lineup. I scored this bottle while finding my way into Frugal McDoogal’s in SC. It was a store pick, so I decided “what the hell” I’ll give it a try.

A little background on store picks. When a company, store, or ABC has a store pick label on bourbons, it means that they have sent a knowledgeable representative to the distillery to pick out what they consider the best barrels. When it comes to single barrel bourbon, you never know the slight differences you may get from barrel to barrel. Maybe barrel 123 got a little warmer than barrel 456, or colder. Maybe that barrel was closer to a rickhouse window, or was in the top center of the rickhouse. All these factors slightly change the taste and nose of the bourbon. With Small batch bourbons, the master distiller combines several barrels of bourbon to achieve the desired taste and nose of the bourbon they are producing. In a single bottle of small batch bourbon, you can have several barrels of bourbon mixed together. However, with single barrel bourbons the name says it all! What is in your bottle came from one barrel and one barrel only.

The mash bill on this bourbon is 75% Corn, 13% Rye, and 12% Malted barley.

ABV on Knob Creek Single Barrel is 120 proof. It’s not for the faint of heart, but in no way a hard drinker either.

The color sits at a dark amber.

At 42.99 in SC, it’s not going to break the bank for a nice single barrel bourbon that is aged 9 years.

The nose on this bourbon is amazing. I had to let it sit for about 30 seconds to let some of the alcohol burn drift away, but once I did I was treated to a nose full of oak, vanilla, leather, and citrus. Once I added a cube of ice to my glass, I picked up hints of caramel, clove, nutmeg, and orange.

The taste is not what I expected from a 120 proof bourbon. I expected to be hit with a wall of heat and burn. This was not the case. I tasted oak, vanilla, corn, and brown sugar. Once the ice was added, what burn there was turned into a mellow glass of caramel, more oak, and sweetness.

The finish on this bottle was medium to long. Lots of oak and sugar on the back end. Definitely some burn on the exhale. With ice added, the finish was shortened and the burn was almost completely taken away. Notes of oak, vanilla, and coco came out.

My final thoughts on this bourbon are that you need to try it out. If you like good bourbon that has a high enough proof that will give the drinker lots of options as to how to drink it, you’ve found it. You can easily drink this bourbon neat, with a drop or two of water, or with ice. I had no issue sitting by the fire in the mountains of NC and drinking it neat, and with some ice. With a low price tag, it’s definitely one you should pick up.

This bourbon can be found in a non-store pick configuration. Finding a store pick is nice, but it’s not needed.

Wild Turkey Longbranch

It’s bourbon time alright, alright, alright (in my best Matthew McConaughey voice). Turkey Tuesday is here and it’s time to take a look at Wild Turkey Longbranch. This is a bourbon that I was really excited about when I heard rumors of it being released. I was even more excited to actually see it in a NC ABC store. I love most Wild Turkey releases. Most have nice spicy finish, that make perfect winter pours, and make a great Old Fashioned.

A little background on this new Wild Turkey product should bring everyone up to speed. Unknown to me until I heard of Longbranch, but Matthey McConaughey has been the Creative Director for Wild Turkey for over two years! I had of course seen the commercials where, Matthew is sitting on the beach or just hanging out drinking Wild Turkey products, but I had no clue he was involved with the business.

So Eddie and Jimmy Russell, the master distillers at Wild Turkey came together with Matthew to create a new, creatively different bourbon. Inspired by his Kentucky and Texas roots, Wild Turkey Longbranch features a bourbon that has been filtered through Texas mesquite.

The mash bill on this bourbon features 75% Corn, 13% Rye, and 12% Barley. This follows the standard mash bill Wild Turkey uses for all their bourbons.

ABV on Longbranch sits right at 86 proof. Not too high, but still a little higher than your standard 80 proof bourbons.

The color sits somewhere between a light honey and golden color.

At 39.99 in NC for this bourbon, it’s not cheap, but it won’t break the bank either. I’m a firm believer that you have to try bourbons at a little higher price point to really taste some great juice.

The nose on Longbranch is sweet. Not the typical spicy that I seem to get from all the other Wild Turkey offerings. It smells smooth, like you could definitely sit on the beach and sip this on warm summer evenings. Caramel, toasted marshmallow, and oak hit the nose on the first smell. Upon the second nose, I get a lot of vanilla, and a smell I don’t recognize. Maybe from the mesquite.

The taste of this bourbon is just as smooth as I mentioned before. It’s nice and sweet, with honey and vanilla. It has a nice creamy, mouth coating feel. Not a lot of alcohol burn or spice. I pick up citrus and oak upon my second and third sips.

The Wild Turkey spice finally shows itself on the finish. Not a long finish, but not a short one either. You do get a little alcohol taste on the exhale, but nothing that would kill your tongue or warm you up too bad. On the second and third sips, I can still taste the sweet caramel and oak, even on the back end.

My final thoughts on this bourbon are that it’s good. Not great by any means, but it makes a nice evening pour. I was hoping to really taste the mesquite, but I just didn’t taste it.

I think 39.99 is a little overpriced for this bourbon. At just 23.99, you can get Wild Turkey 101, which in my humble opinion is a better all around pour. Longbranch is definitely one to try and add to your personal collection, but probably not one I’d buy again. Also, on another note, even though the bottle is really nice and looks amazing, the way it pours is horrible. I have dribbled some each time I have poured from the bottle. Maybe they will figure this out and fix the design flaw, or maybe I just suck at pouring.

I didn’t add water or Ice to this bourbon, as it was such an easy straight pour.