Monthly Archives: August 2008

Virginia Gentleman 90, small batch

Virginia Gentleman is perhaps the best known non-Kentucky bourbons, yet this distinction is only partly true since the Smith Bowman distillery takes new distillate from Buffalo Trace (in Kentucky) then distills it for a 3rd time at their Virginia location, where it is also barreled and aged. I suppose that’s good enough.


VG90 is the small batch, premium expression of the brand. The bottle is dominated by gold – in the waxed neck, the labels, and the text – but otherwise attempts to exude a subdued, genteel dignity. This is expressed with the spare descriptive text on the back and the prominent fox hunt painting that serves as the primary branding imagery on the front. The bottle itself is an attractive and simple shape that draws the eye toward the action in the label.


The most impressive elements of Virginia Gentleman 90 were the initial scent when opening the bottle and its impression on the nose after pouring. To the nose it has a strong yet smooth character. It is assertive in its presence, but not in its character, built with scents of kettle corn, sea-breeze, and wet grass. I really quite enjoyed this aspect which sets the table for the actual tasting.

On the palate VG90 is very smooth, yet a little boring. After an initial sweetness that vaguely hints at caramel and pineapple, comes a rather neutral warmth and a clean finish. I spent a good amount of time trying to chase down further depths but to no avail.

Over all:

Virginia Gentleman 90 made an impressive opening to the nose, but on the palate is was smooth yet dull. I have to admit that I enjoyed it though. This is an excellent bourbon to bring out for company and folks who aren’t going to be up for the intricacies of something more complex. True to its theme Virginia Gentleman manages to express a subdued, genteel dignity both in vision and character.


Elijah Craig Single Barrel

I’m back from vacation and found some time to stop by LeNell’s to pick up the next couple subjects for this blog of mine.


This week, I tried the Elijah Craig Single Barrel.  ECSB is one of those bourbons that could go either way.  On the one hand, its placement in the higher end of the market implies (and hopefully demands) a certain level of quality, but at the same time when bourbons get up to 18 years that can sometimes be to much wood.  No on wants to feel like they’re chewing on the barrel after all.

However it turned out, ECSB will make a fine aesthetic addition to any bourbon shelf.  The bottle stands out from the standard dusty-old-man school of design that most bourbons seem to adhere to.  Instead ECSB takes a decidedly more feminine approach, more like Four Roses Small Batch.  Its smooth curves and slender neck are adorned by swirls of flowers, petals, and vines and the label sports a baby-blue, gold, and white color scheme.  At the center of it all is the Elijah Craig seal, hanging like a silver pendant on a debutante’s neck (sadly, this seal is made of what seems to be cheap plastic).

All this does seem a little over-done, but that just means it will provide a nice visual counter-weight to the creaking masculinity of the Wellers and Grand-Dads of Old.


To the nose Elijah Craig Single Barrel comes across quite simply and a little off-puttingly.  The stark corn and char that make up the dominant features seem out of place in such an old bourbon.  Surely these would have been tempered by their time in the oak?  I was hoping for something more at this stage.

On tasting, the first sensation is red berries, followed quickly by the sweet corn and char.  These mix and provide some heat in the middle, but are followed by a pleasant finish of freshly mowed hay that fades to wet oak – edging very close to the point of over-aged, but not quite getting there.

Over all:

Elijah Craig Single Barrel is quite smooth with a touch of heat and vigor in the middle.  The finish definitely reflects its aging, but does not go too far.  It was not as simplistic as I had feared from the scent, it was well balanced over all, and flirting with the boundary of over-agedness.

The finish is a long one.  This is a drink to take your time with.

Apologies for the low-quality picture.  My usual camera is out of service at the moment.