I was in Kentucky earlier in the week, and as I always do when in Bardstown, I stopped by Toddy's Liquors to pick up stuff I can't get in Pennsylvania. I got a standard bottling of Four Roses (my favorite hot weather, throw in a handful of ice, sip and smile, bourbon), a bottle of Jim Beam Rye (last batch with the old sunflower yellow label, the clerk said; "You might not want to drink that one." As if.), some Russell's Reserve Rye, a Very Old Barton and a Heaven Hill bottled in bond (for my buddy Sam Komlenic), and a bottle of a new bourbon, Charter 101.
A confession: I've been delinquent on what we'll call...legacy bottlings and labels. Old Charter, I.W. Harper, J.W. Dant, T.W. Samuels....I haven't had many of them. I'm trying to remedy that, though, and when I saw the bottle of 101, it was a weird way of doing new and old at the same time: this is a new release, at a new proof. Besides, I'd just been at Buffalo Trace the day before, talking about Charter with the folks there, and I wanted to see if it really was good or if they were just talking (mind, I really like the whiskeys from the Trace).
I came home Wednesday, worked Thursday and Friday, and knocked off about 6:15 Friday. Went and picked up some hoagies for me and the kids (Cathy was out with some friends), lit a fire out back, and thought of the Charter. I popped three cubes of crisply cold ice in that glass, poured in about an inch and a half of liquor, and got down to it, right there on the deck.
No need for more suspense: this is good bourbon. I liked it from the first sweet, mellow sip, a rich taste of barrel-enhanced corn, just a hint of wood spice, and rolling vanilla. There's nothing terribly complex about it, no notes of blackberries or mint or leather, and a very simple label (with no age statement). This is not a contemplative bourbon, and I wouldn't hesitate to use it in a cocktail or a highball. I don't know that I'd reach for it in the heat, but on a cool June evening, it sure hit me in a real good place. I found myself thinking of what Angela Traver at Buffalo Trace had said Tuesday afternoon as we were gossiping about bourbon stuff: "I'm just drinking a lot of Charter 101 lately. It's what I pick up." Yup.
Even if I can't find it at Toddy's price of $19.99 for this 101 proof 750 ml, I can see I'm going to have to find another -- closer -- source for more of this. I sense Christmas present purchases coming on; wonder what kind of price I can get on a case?