Around the Barrel #6

So we have risen like the proverbial phoenix and are back with a podcast just for you, our loyal Crusaders. A little something to brighten your Friday commute. On this cast we do a tasting of some fantastic Knobs…(Knob Creek Single Barrels) and talk about some of the happenings since we last recorded. We hope you enjoy and that we come back with full force, fist shaking bourbon entertainment! Cheers!

Darren and Chris

Downloadable link: Around the Barrel #6

Review: The Hilhaven Lodge Blended Whiskey!

Well, bourbon and whiskey in general are the bee’s knees today. Everyone wants to try their hand at it. Rush Hour, Rush Hour 2, and Rush Hour 3 director Brett Ratner is no exception. After buying the Hilhaven Lodge, an exclusive home in Beverly Hills which has been owned by many a star of the silver screen, he shortly thereafter decided he wanted a whiskey to go with it. Which is never a bad idea, except for maybe driving a car.

The Hilhaven Lodge’s marketing firm reached out to us to see if we were interested in trying a sample. THE ANSWER IS ALWAYS “YES!” Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth?! As we often joke, our favorite bourbon/whiskey is whatever you’re buying.

Interestingly, The Hilhaven Lodge was sent a cease and desist letter from none other than Heaven Hill, claiming that there would be confusion in customers’ minds regarding mixing up the two names. Ratner then sued to end the trademark dispute, which apparently was successful, as we now have The Heaven Hill, err, the Hilhaven Lodge whiskey on the shelves in several US markets. For a fuller dish, see this article from the Hollywood Reporter. That was all back in early 2015. Fastforward a year and a half and through one crazy presidential election, and here we are, tasting and reviewing it for our wonderful listeners and readers!

Bottling: Elegant with a wood cork. Attention to detail matters, and the bottle looks slick.

Mash bill: Unknown. It is a blend of three whiskeys: a bourbon, a Tenneessee whiskey, and a rye whiskey. The ratio is also unknown.
Bottled at 80 proof.

Color: Straw-Honey, light color


Darren: Young, corn with definite hints of rye. No strong scents.

Chris: Sweet notes of salt water taffy, butterscotch, and red fruit. Some corn/grain. Mostly light sweetness.


Darren: Light. Light bodied. Less overpowering corn than comparable young-aged bourbons (likely rye influence). Very slightly astringent on the very back.

Chris: Thin all across the palate. Sweet, red fruits from the nose come forward more. Still some salt water taffy like candy. Some barley-like flavor, reminiscent of an Irish whiskey. More alcohol than would be expected at the proof. Reminds me of a thinner and less complicated version of Michter’s American Whiskey.


Darren: 1.5 barrels.

Chris: 1.5 barrels.

Impression: It’s very drinkable, and nothing outright unpleasant about it. A higher proof would likely have helped a lot. The inclusion of a rye in the blend makes it better than most young bourbons/whiskeys. There is a market for this style of whiskey, but it isn’t us, as we tend to be biased toward higher proofs. Maybe this will give bartenders something other than Mellow Corn to ironically rave about for the time being.

-Chris and Darren

Booker’s 2016-05 “Off Your Rocker” and “The Big Man of Jim Beam”

It’s a great feeling to like something, then liking it even more as time goes by, till, eventually, it’s love. Over the last two to three years, but especially 2015 and 2016, my interest in, and appreciation for, Booker’s has done just that: turned into love. Named for the previous Master Distiller at Jim Beam, Booker Noe, Booker’s can easily be recognized from afar in part thanks to the wooden box the bottle comes in. The box may be a sales gimmick, but the contents are anything but. Like the Big Man himself, there’s nothing small about Booker’s: packed with flavor, packing a punch, and always a hit at parties. As Fred Noe, Booker’s son and current Master Distiller, told us one cold February day, “if you’re drinking Booker’s, you better have your pajamas on.”

Those of you familiar with Fred Noe know he’s quite the raconteur, and a genuinely friendly well-loved guy. He apparently got a lot of it from his father. In order to preserve and spread the story of Booker, author Jim Kokoris penned the book “The Big Man of Jim Beam,” the story of Booker Noe and the Number One Bourbon in the World.

Jim Beam and their associated marketing team reached out to us recently and provided us with a gift box containing nothing less than pure gold. Well, it may as well have been: it contained a bottle of Booker’s 2016-05 Off Your Rocker and a copy of the aforementioned book, as well as a nice leather bookmark stating “Tasting Booker’s is like tasting the past.” – Booker Noe.

Like a six year old on Christmas, that box was torn into and the bottled opened in a flash! Off Your Rocker comes in at a blazing 129.7 proof at 6 years 7 months and 23 days in the barrel.


Color: Deep amber.

Nose: Darren: (with splash of water) Caramel and vanilla dominate. Chris: Ethanol, Beam yeast, sweet corn, graham cracker 

Palate: Darren: Full bodied, oak, mint, subtler caramel and vanilla than the nose suggests, but still very accessible, orange rind. Very well balanced. It tastes like it should be the official bourbon of camping. Just a small splash of water is all that’s needed to fight the burn of the high proof.

Chris: Graham cracker, not much vanilla, real maple syrup, thinner than most Booker’s. Very characteristic Beam. Not the depth and character I’m used to in Booker’s. 

Guest taster Jason V: Cherries, caramel, mild oak, toffee notes, easy drinker.

Rating: Darren: Strong 3.5 barrels, pushing 4. Chris: 2.5 barrels.

Note: This is likely the most disparate review we’ve ever had. While Darren fell in love, Chris was put off the strong Beam yeast/grain profile that is usually far more subtle in Booker’s. Chris had been drinking mostly Big Man, Small Batch, and a bottle from the mid 2000’s recently, which may have skewed his results. Either way, Booker’s is always a solid bet and makes one hell of a Manhattan (we call it The Widowmaker). We just sincerely hope that the younger age and somewhat uncharacteristic notes of this bottle aren’t a harbinger of things to come as the bourbon boom continues.

The book itself is next in line on my stack. I can only read so many books at once! I’ve flipped through the pictures, though, as any American would. They give a nice glimpse into the personal life of Booker Noe, and really remind me of being back home in Kentucky with family and friends.

Let us know what you think of this batch of Booker’s!


Darren and Chris

Knob Creek Single Barrel Private Barrel Selection by Modern Thirst and the Party Source

One of the best parts of producing a bourbon podcast and blog is meeting other great people with the same interest and goals: good bourbon and getting the word out. We first met Bill and Matt of Modern Thirst a few years back through a mutual friend, and it’s always a fun time when we’re together at bourbon events, or even just on a buss…

Earlier in 2016, the guys from Modern Thirst teamed up with the Party Source to pick a barrel of Knob Creek Single Barrel, 120 proof. As this is generally one of our standard always-on-our-shelf at home bottles, we were excited to try this bottle. While Bottom of the Barrel isn’t primarily a review site, in fact we review as little as possible, we were happy to give our thoughts on this bottle.  Here’s what me and Chris have to say about this barrel pick:

Background: Barreled Halloween, 2006 at 126.1 proof, Floor 4/7 in Warehouse L, 9 years old(almost 10). Private barrel pick by Modern Thirst and the Party Source.

Nose: Caramel sweet bomb with high char notes, hints of apple, very faint bright floral note akin to a Four Roses; addition of water really brings out the citrus. Chocolate becomes more apparent after a few minutes of rest.

Taste: Sweet heavy oak and char front that recedes into pleasant vanilla and caramel, bitter orange, cloves, and lemon; addition of water oddly makes the alcohol much more noticeable with a slightly astringent orange-chocolate predominance, with a lessening of the caramel and vanilla while keeping the heavy oak and char backbone, water somewhat enhances the similarities to some OBSV Four Roses single barrels.

Rating: Strong 3.5/5 barrels. As much as we enjoy the usual Knob Creek Single Barrel 120 (long one of our favorites), this was a slight step above. Chris notes that for him, this is likely due to his enjoyment of sweet, caramel bombs tempered by citrus, not unlike an Ethiopian coffee.

Overall, this is a fantastic private barrel pick of what is always a great bottle. It’s well worth the ~$45 price tag. Get it before it’s gone, it’s spooky good!

Chris and Darren

The Great American Whiskey Fair 2016

Hello, fellow Bourbon Crusaders!

We’re back! After what has been a harrowing year in our private lives worthy of a soap opera, we are finally back in the saddle of bourbon writing  and pod casting for your pleasure and edification.

Once again, I was able to attend the Great American Whiskey Fair here in Columbia, SC on September 29, 2016. Having been the two years prior, I can honestly say that it gets better each year. It’s organised by the owner of a Cajun and Creole restaurant in Columbia appropriately named Bourbon, as well as a very nice Italian restaurant named Rosso Trattoria. The event is catered by Bourbon and included pulled pork, quail gumbo, and all the fixins with locally sourced quail from Manchester Farms.

With over 500 whiskies, one has to do a little…selective tasting. After attending many, many similar events, one learns to try the new and untasted, and forego tasting that bottle you love but have sitting at home. This will just give a little taste of what I felt were the highlights. Granted, this is the Great American Whiskey Fair, but as of last year, they started to allow whiskies from outside the United States, hence the Scotch and Irish whiskies being well represented.

As usual, the bad news first: Smooth Ambler is getting near depleted of all the Seagram’s stocks they purchased, so go ahead and buy up whatever Old Scout you can. Pretty soon, just like the rye, the bourbon won’t ever be available again. They will be replacing it first with an American whiskey (aged ~4 years) and eventually with a properly aged bourbon when they so deem it ready.

Now for some good news! Bellemeade Bourbon made from MGP distillate, a product of Nelson’s Green Brier Distillery outside Nashville, TN has been, of course, distilling their white dog for some years now. It’s not on the market just yet, but shortly, there will be a little side trip of mine to Charleston where a tasting of their not released bourbon as-of-yet will occur. Stay tuned for a review.

Another highlight of the night was sampling Bellemeade’s 9 year single barrel at 111.8 proof. This is of course still from their MGP juice, and it did not disappoint. I’ve long been a fan of regular Bellemeade, and this single barrel selection was a step above. It didn’t hurt that it was barrel proof as well. I’ll be on the lookout for this to hit shelves around here for sure.

Next up was Templeton Rye which is easy to get, and we’ve had it before, but they actually just started releasing a 6 year product, and at the same time added an age statement on their 4 year rye. In an age of dropping age statements, this is always welcome, despite age not necessaarily correlating with “better.” Templeton uses a proprietary mashbill from MGP, so it isn’t the normal 95/5 rye mashbill, and as with Pikesville Rye last year, these ryes with a scoop of corn in the mix are very pleasing.

Now for some more local South Carolina fun! Carolina Moon Distillery in Edgefield, SC, makes several whiskies and other products, among which are Ole Tom whiskey and Tally Ho bourbon. The Ole Tom is a 100% corn mashbill and is aged in used bourbon barrels. Rumor has it the used barrels might come from a distillery which buys a lot of red wax. Ole Tom has a strong but not overpowering corn whiskey taste, somewhat mellowed down by aging in the used bourbon barrels. Now, their Tally Ho offering is interesting. It’s aged just 1 year in new 15 or 30 gallon barrels, and has a 60% corn mashbill, and frankly, was one of the best 1 year aged bourbons I’ve tasted. In the category of year-old bourbons, I’d only put the Elijah Craig experience year-old sample from a few years back ahead of it. Interestingly, they source the smaller barrels from Blackwater Barrels in Bamberg, SC. We’ll be watching this company.

With that, it’s time for some interesting foreign whiskies and tid bits:

Teeling Irish Whiskey had several products for sample, among them their Small Batch and Single Malt varieties. The small batch was very pleasant and light, as most Irish whiskey tends to be. Now, the single malt was actually a bit too floral for my personal liking, but still very quality. A bottle of the small batch will soon be on my shelves, and if we can work out a time, a podcast with the distiller’s son is in the works.

The tasting ended for me with Johnnie Walker Blue, which I had never tried. It’s a blend of many whiskies, with a minimum age of 25 years. So good. So very good. So very expensive…which is why Black exists. Solid tasting blend of at least 12 year old whiskies for those who haven’t won the lottery.

As usual, there was a cocktail competition, wherein four South Carolina bartenders battled it out using ingredients from Angostura to chickoree liqueur and even a smoke gun… These seem usually like it’s more fun to watch than judge, as all the cocktails seem too complicated to be readily made without extensive planning and supplies. It would be fun to taste some, but that’s probably where it would end for me. Give me a well-made Manhattan any day. That being said, it takes quite a bit of knowledge and skill to come up with these complex creations and concoctions, so hats off to all the great bartenders out there. WE LOVE YOU. Of note, Eddie Russel of Wild Turkey fame was there for the second year running as one of the cocktail competition judges, and of course was available at the Wild Turkey station throughout the evening.

So that’s a quick and dirty look at some of the highlights from the Great American Whiskey Fair 2016. It’s not too early to start planning your trip to Columbia next Fall for 2017 which is sure to be even better.


The Grand Podcast


Hello, Crusaders!

We had ourselves one helluva time this past week on the Rogue Buss and at the Bourbon Classic in Louisville, KY. We had the opportunity to record a cast with some of our favorite people, and we’re happy to share it with you! In it, we talk about some of our experiences during the week as well as our thoughts on some timely bourbon issues. I’ll link below to everyone involved, and we highly recommend you check them out. Special thanks to Mike Woods of Sips, Smokes, and Suds for providing his recording services! And don’t worry, we’ll be coming out with some posts about our personal experiences and pictures from the week, in particular Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co., Copper & Kings, Four Roses, and Castle & Key, soon!


LISTEN HERE: The Grand Podcast

Bill and Matt – Modern Thirst

Ginny and Charlie Tonic – The Charlie Tonic Hour

Jonathan and Tamara – Eight Piece Box

Mike and Zane – Sips, Suds, and Smokes

Melissa – Bourbon and Banter

Special thanks to the Rogue Buss sponsor Four Roses and the Bourbon Classic!

P.S. We’ll tell you what a Rogue Buss is soon.

The Science of Hangover Cures


What is a hangover?

The truth is we don’t really know. We all know the symptoms: headache, lack of appetite, fatigue, nausea, jitters, just feeling like crap, etc.. Some estimates put the cost in terms of poor work performance in the billions of dollars range. Yet, despite years of research, we don’t know the specific biologic mechanism which leaves us with a hangover. The most commonly referenced contenders are acetaldehyde build-up (a byproduct of alcohol metabolism), congeners, poor sleep, alterations in cytokine production (cell signaling molecules), and inhibition of antidiuretic hormone/dehydration (1). So unfortunately there’s no single smoking gun, but there are ways to combat some of these symptoms. Somewhat surprisingly, though with little definite results, there has been much research into the cause of hangovers, while work on cures is extremely limited.

We’ve tried to put together a list of all the remedies we could find that have had good quality scientific studies performed to assess their efficacy. The studies mentioned below were all double blinded cross-over studies unless otherwise mentioned. That means a group of people blindly took both the test remedy and a placebo on separate occasions of controlled environment drinking. We won’t get too much into the specifics to save you the boring technicalities, but trust us, these are the best we’ve got thus far.

Remedies that work and have high quality studies to prove it

NSAID’s (pain relievers): Everyone knows to take ibuprofen, naproxen, or a similar kidney-metabolized pain killer when you have a hangover to help get rid of your headache (Note: don’t take Tylenol (Acetaminophen) as it can compound liver damage). But what you should be doing is taking one BEFORE you go out drinking. Studies have shown that taking an NSAID both before and after an evening’s drinking significantly reduces not just headache, but also nausea, vomiting, irritation, tremor, thirst, and dry mouth (2). The mechanism of this is likely related to reducing certain prostaglandins (PGE2 and TXB2) that are associated with headache and inflammation.

Vitamin B6: A lot of people have heard of taking a B-complex vitamin for hangover, but B6 is the one likely to actually give you benefit. Again, this is best taken before and after drinking. How much you should take is somewhat unclear as the original study was performed in 1973 with a weird form of the vitamin, but one of your B-complexes of choice should suffice. Hangover symptoms were reduced by half in this study with taking a form of B6 called pyritinol (3). Also, enjoy the fluorescent urine!

Prickly Pear (Opuntia ficus indica): Surprisingly enough, taking 1600 IU of prickly pear extract, a species of cactus, 5 hours before drinking significantly reduced nausea, dry mouth, anorexia, and the risk of a severe hangover (4). What isn’t apparent is what type of extract they used and if it was from the fruit or the leaves of the cactus. This study was particularly interesting as it related levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation, as well as cortisol to severity of the hangover. The authors theorize that the ability of prickly pear to increase production of some protective proteins, called heat shock proteins, as well as the antioxidant properties of the extract may be responsible for the positive effects.

Drinking water: I don’t have a study to prove this, but it is one of the best ways to combat dehydration. Some people swear by coffee as well, and the caffeine would certainly help wake you up if you’re sleep deprived, but may end up dehydrating you more by its diuretic effect if you drink a lot quickly. As far as electrolyte replenishment, such as Gatorade or Pedialyte, I have no scientific proof that these help but they are never a bad idea and would certainly aid in re-hydration. Gatorade or another sugar and electrolyte containing beverage actually gets the water into your bloodstream faster than by drinking plain water.

Not drinking: Duh, but where’s the fun in that?

Remedies that might work

NAC (n-acetylcysteine): Honestly, this one is confusing. The most common claim is that NAC either enhances or improves the ability of your body to eliminate acetaldehyde. Often it is implied, or directly stated, that it is directly involved in the clearance of this nasty ethanol metabolite. The trouble is, this isn’t really correct. First of all, ethanol is metabolized in a 2-step fashion. Ethanol is converted to acetaldehyde by an enzyme called alcohol dehydrogenase, and then that acetaldehyde (which is toxic so your body wants to get rid of it) is then converted to acetate by acetaldehyde dehydrogenase. Acetate is a mostly friendly substance (it’s what’s in vinegar) that is soluble in blood and can be metabolized into carbon dioxide and water by the Krebs cycle. Do you see NAC there? Me either. However, the molecules required to let these enzymes work do end up generating something called reactive oxygen species (ROS) aka “free radicals.” They are essentially lonely oxygen molecules, which are normally in pairs, which are desperate for something to satisfy their now negative charge. These are best known for damaging DNA and otherwise wreaking havoc by oxidizing things. These are a normal part of your body, and are even products of the production of ATP (the energy source for most things cells do), so we have lots of ways to get rid of them. The one that is applicable in this case is glutathione. Glutathione is an antioxidant, and essentially serves to help get rid of oxidants, like ROS. NAC is a precursor to glutathione, so taking NAC would serve to raise your levels of glutathione. Great, now what does that do for you? Well, we don’t really know. As far as I could find there has never been any evidence or studies showing that NAC can reduce or prevent a hangover. There are a few more convincing articles out there showing that NAC may have a protective effect on the liver by reducing the aforementioned ROS, but only in animal models (5). For now, put this one in the “couldn’t hurt” pile as far as a liver “protectant” and in the “no evidence” category for hangovers.

Milk Thistle: The active compound silymarin (no, Tolkien didn’t make that up) being sought from this plant is a flavonoid, which is a fancy word for a molecule having a double bonded oxygen hanging off of it. The idea behind these is similar to NAC, in that they provide a mechanism to get rid of ROS. For the most part these are short lived in the bloodstream and haven’t been able to show any significant effects in terms of acute alcohol induced liver damage. Long term use, especially in high doses, may have some advantages for chronic liver injury, but as far as hangovers and a night out, this goes in the bunk pile for now. There are really no documented side effects though, so it isn’t something to fret over.

Korean pear juice: This study had a lot of problems, not the least of which being where to find Korean pear juice. It was a small group studied, all were Korean (more on that in a second), and their results were just barely significant (6). They show that drinking 220 mL 2 hours before drinking reduced hangover severity mildly (16%) and reduced blood levels of alcohol while drinking. They don’t even show this data though which is suspect. Also, people of Asian ancestry often have variations or deficiencies in the enzymes that process alcohol (especially acetaldehyde dehydrogenase) compared to those of other ancestry. The paper goes into this and ends up finding that this juice only works on people with certain the genotypes (variations) for that enzyme. So if you’re of Asian decent and have a source for Korean pear juice, it’s worth a shot.

Red Ginseng: We are without access to the full text of this article, but the summary says drinking 100 mL of red ginseng anti-hangover drink reduces alcohol concentration after drinking as well as has “positive effects on hangover symptoms.” (7) They only drank 100 mL of whiskey for the study, which is two airplane bottles, so it’s unsure how anyone could even get a hangover from that. This, again, was a study done in Asia, so it may have to do with the reduced ability to process alcohol. So this may work in some cases, but don’t take it to the bank.

A greasy meal: There’s no proof that this one works, but, man, does it always feel good. The only study I could find consists of a questionnaire posed to students about whether or not eating a heavy breakfast or fatty food gave them relief from their hangovers (8). The results were a modest improvement, and obviously this was not a controlled study; however, I’m going to continue to eat my bacon, egg, and cheese biscuits.

Remedies that don’t work

Basically anything else someone tries to sell you. Now, I’m not saying that you should abandon something you’ve been using for years and always works for you, but do consider the placebo effect. If you really want something to work, or feel like it’s doing you good, you are way more likely to feel better irrespective of the actual effects. There have been specific studies showing that propranolol, artichoke extract, and fructose/glucose specifically don’t work (not going to put in these references, but can send them to you if you want. “Hair of the dog” (starting to drink again) is always a bad idea as you are just delaying the inevitable, but it works short term. Anything else out there is uncharted territory, and if it works for you, wonderful, but there isn’t any non-proprietary science to back it up.

What should I do?

Let’s be clear again, we are not providing any of this as medical advice. We just wanted to see what was out there in terms of hard science that might help you through your next bad morning. We at BOTB have always utilized something we call “The Protocol.” It consists of a multivitamin, a B-vitamin, and NSAID’s with dinner followed by a liter of Pedialyte or Gatorade, a heartburn pill, and another B-vitamin after drinking. There’s one secret ingredient in there that we can’t share (no, it’s not illegal!), but come find us at an event sometime, and we’ll tell you about it. Something that wasn’t mentioned anywhere we could find was protection of your stomach lining. Both alcohol and NSAID’s are hard on your stomach, and we’d be interested in a preventative remedy that addressed this. Perhaps something like licorice root? Maybe we need to get to work on a marketable version of The Protocol. Anyhow, the most important lesson from all of this is to remember to take your remedy BEFORE you drink if possible. Some combination of an NSAID, vitamin B6, and prickly pear seems to have the most evidence, and a little NAC couldn’t hurt. Remember though that despite some positive results, no study has shown complete prevention of a hangover, just reduction in the symptoms.

There are a couple products we’re taking with us to the Bourbon Classic to try out, which put a lot of these together. DrinkWel has B6, NAC, and a hodgepodge of other potential aids in convenient pill form, and ResQwater puts together B6, prickly pear, NAC, and sundry electrolytes. One of these combined with an NSAID of your choice would likely help. We’ll give you a full report on both after the Bourbon Classic. Until then, let us know in the comments what works for you, and we hope this helps ease your suffering on a morning in the near future! Cheers!

1. Wiese, JG et al. The Alcohol Hangover. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2000; 132(11): 897-902.

2. Kaivola, S et al. Hangover headache and prostaglandins: prophylactic treatment with tolfenamic acid. Cephalagia. 1983; (3): 31-36.

3. Khan, MA et al. Alcohol-Induced Hangover: A Double-Blind Comparison of Pyritinol and Placebo in Preventing Hangover Symptoms. Quart. J. Stud. Alc. 1973; (34): 1195-1201.

4. Wiese, J et al. Effect of Opuntia ficus indica on symptoms of the alcohol hangover. Arch Intern Med. 2004; (164): 1334-1340.

5. Wang, AL et al. A dual effect of N-acetylcysteine on acute ethanol-induced liver damage in mice. Hepatol Res. 2006 Mar;34(3):199-206.

6. Lee, H et al. Effect of Korean pear (Pyruspyrifolia Shingo) juice on hangover severity following alcohol consumption. Food and Chemical Toxicology. 2013; (58): 101-10

7. Lee, MH et al. Red ginseng relieves the effects of alcohol consumption and hangover symptoms in healthy men: a randomized crossover study. Food Funct. 2014; (3): 528-534.

8. Kosem, Z et al. The impact of consuming food or drinking water on alcohol hangover. Addiction. Abstract P.6.b.008.