Fall is a beautiful time of year in Kentucky. The changing leaf’s vibrant orange and red colors look more like a Thomas Kinkade picture than actual life. We are truly blessed to live in a great state.
Another blessing is that in the Fall, most bourbon distilleries start to release new bottle expressions. Lately, we have had a rash of releases.
We asked our Flight Club founding members what is the best new bourbon to try this Fall.
My mailbox was filled with submissions of new releases I had never heard of or tasted. So, what is a bourbon drinker to do?
I drove to the nearest liquor store or distillery and bought the top five bottles that our members recommended.
Please understand that living in Kentucky, we are afforded access to bourbon that other states may not have, so please do not get upset at us if your state does not carry the spirit.
Hey, you can always take a trip to our state to see us and the colorful foliage.
Knob Creek 18-Year-Old
This spirit was by far, and away the most talked about bourbon in the Flight Club. The price is a little steep, but this is a definite splurge. At around $150, I was a little hesitant because that is way above my typical price range. But I can say it was well worth the money.
Unlike scotch, bourbon doesn’t age well. After about nine years, there is not a significant change. I know Pappy and other unicorn bourbons go up to 23 years, but I cannot afford them or locate them, so I can only go on my experience.
The nose was oaky, which was expected with a longer-than-normal aged bourbon, but not off-putting. A deep chocolate aroma pushed the other smells of char and rye. The taste, though, was complex. More complex than I had tasted before, with coffee, pecans, and tobacco rolled up with rye spice. The finish lingered a while, like a hot sip of espresso.
Woodford Reserve Honey Barrel Finish
If you like honey, this is the bourbon for you. My wife and I took a trip to the distillery to pick this gem up at $59 because it was nowhere to be found on store shelves. At first, I thought this would just be the typical Woodford Reserve with honey notes. I can say now that I am wrong.
As I opened the bottle, I was floored by how much it smelled like raw honey. The first sip had an overwhelming flavor of raw honey, but with graham crackers and marshmallows, like a S’more without the chocolate. The finish was deep in honey but quickly dissipated to a more relaxed Woodford finishing profile of oak and malt.
Barrell Craft Spirits Barrell Vantage
First, this $89 blended bourbon is excellent for tailgating or watching your favorite movie during cold fall nights. I will warn you; this bourbon’s hug is strong. Finished in three different casks and at 114 proof, this bourbon packs a punch.
With the top off, you immediately get the smell of ethanol, but it scatters after a couple of seconds. Peanut brittle is what first came to mind with a touch of chili pepper, which is a weird combination. The taste was a little overpowering at first but rested into an oak and star anise with a smidge of toffee. The burn and dryness of the finish were concerning but not bad, just as cinnamon and cherry ended the act.
RD1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished With French Oak
This bourbon is very new to the shelves but accessible. Finishing in French Oak has been down before, but RD1 has given a boost to the craze. The complexity of this bourbon allows for the price of around $60.
Initially, the nose was a little flat, but after resting for a minute or two, the scent of caramel, chocolate, and smoke emerged. The taste was similar to the beginning, but brown sugar entered the arena with honey suckle rounding out the pull. What makes this bourbon complex is after the sweet, mild nose flavor and taste, the finish does a U-turn into pepper and paprika, which lingers for a long time.
This is not your grandfather’s Fortuna. Revived after 50 years of being dormant, this spirit is perfect for Halloween as it resurrects a dead bourbon. $85 was a stretch because I had not heard about the bourbon other than the release, but I trusted our members.
Once a sought-after bourbon, I went into the tasting blind. The nose had baking spices all through it, almost like I was sitting outside a bakery. Cinnamon, nutmeg, and bread perfumed the air. One taste of Fortuna, and you knew you were dealing with a much older bourbon than you thought. Candied apples, cherries, and what I thought was the star ginger rang all over the palate. The finish was balanced, not too hot, but you knew you were drinking something special.
I want to thank all the submissions from our Flight Club founding members. I must say that our members have refined palates and a nose for new bourbons.
If you want to be part of America’s newest and most exciting bourbon club, subscribe now, or if you just want to read about all the exciting stuff that happens in the bourbon industry, subscribe to our quarterly magazine.
Click here to sign up for The Bourbon Flight Newsletter.