Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve Bourbon Review
Belle Meade is an oft overlooked brand (at least in my state) where I was amazed to find another bottle of the since-discontinued 'Cask Strength' version of the Reserve release still sitting on a shelf just last week. I purchased the bottle I am drinking in early 2020 and mainly left it alone after the first pour didn't knock my socks off and I had a lot of other open bottles at the time. I then promptly worked through half the bottle the next time I opened it and realized how good it is. I then left it alone for a long time again, knowing I may never get another of these cask strength versions with the new 108.3 proof release starting to take over NGB's production capacity. The standardization is likely great for consistency. I will definitely be reviewing the 108.3 proof Reserve release soon as well, but for now it's time to see how this Cask Strength holds up against my palate today.
This has a distilled in Lawrenceburg, IN statement on the back of the bottle that tells us it is sourced from MGP.
The mash bill is self-proclaimed as high-rye, but isn't the highest rye bourbon mash bill that MGP runs. Smoke Wagon is 36% for perspective. I'm really excited to revisit this so let's get into it already!
Company on Label: Nelson's Green Brier Distillery (Distilled in Lawrenceburg, IN)
Whiskey Type: Bourbon
Mash Bill Percentages: 64% Corn, 30% Rye and 6% Malted Barley
Age: NAS ("Aged to Perfection", 7-11+ years)
Further identification: Batch No. 20-02, Bottle No. 1740; I purchased this in early 2020
Nose: Rich toffee and molasses forward profile on first nosing. Baking spice rises to the occasion swiftly but softly. Vanilla, dried apricot, allspice and bright oak dance in the glass. Hints of chocolate, leather, and syrupy plum build in well. A hefty wave of bergamot gives this a really nice profile that certainly sets it apart from other MGP releases I've had. Now with some air time things are definitely taking on some of the sweeter fruity tones but are brought back level and soft by flashes of lightly browned marshmallow. So far this is hitting all of my favorite notes. There's a touch of smoke alongside a dark raisin and walnut shells. A swirl subdues some of the citrus zest to expose soft pepper, allspice and old, earthy barn wood. Time for a sip. Wow, I didn't think I could like it more, but after a sip the nose is even better. Caramel has developed in well, the marshmallow is even softer & sweeter, and everything is just creamy soft. It gives me the feeling of falling asleep in a really comfortable chair or bed. It makes me want to close my eyes, just breath in and enjoy. Some of this softness may be due to oxidation at this point, with this bottle being around for so long and at an unfortunately lower-than-full fill level. The overarching note on the nose is definitely a comforting vanilla. There's a touch of lavender that surely helps this pour achieve a calming sensation. The empty glass smells of charcoal, sugar cookie, honey-soaked leather and white marble floors.
Palate: My first sip is indulgent with syrupy plum, maraschino cherry, and a long caramel linger. I can tell already this is going to be a sweet tooth's delight. I'm admittedly not that person, but I can appreciate a well crafted assortment of flavors nonetheless. Another sip builds in the stone fruit intensity and adds in touches of leather, cinnamon and a heavy char that produces a syrupy vanilla mouth feel. Prunes, dried pear, and a mellow Sichuan peppercorn mouth-tingle all mingle incredibly to outperform some of the best mouthfeels I have experienced. It has that slightly numbing, slightly effervescent tingle that I know a lot of people love. And every sip reminds you of the fruit sweetness that launched this whole experience as well. If you're drinking along at home with this one, there's no way you can miss those red fruit; they are delicious. Ever so slight hints of banana peel can be found in the background of the linger if you filter out the incredibly sweet stuff that is happening in the foreground. Subtle touches of maple syrup, pie crust and cedar give this incredible depth. My last sip is once again soft and delectable with punchy surprises of raisin, dark cherry skins, caramel, plum, nutmeg and cinnamon. The finish is long with sweet fruit rolling over the tongue as your gums tingle with glee.
(Just wow. One of my favorites.)
Absolutely delicious pour! After telling myself I was only going to have one pour tonight, I think I will make an exception for this bottle. Yum.