Knob Creek Single Barrel Select – COWS Pick

As luck would have it, our first pick of the year (back in April) came in right at the end of the year. But it is well worth the wait.  The pick team had to fight to get the barrel to give its nectar up – striking the bung ~50 times before it would yield its contents – hence the name.

 NAME – Knob Creek – COWS Tough Bung

PROOF – 120 proof

AGE – Barreled January 8, 2014; bottled April 20, 2023 – 9 years and 3 months (and no, I don’t have any idea what happened between April and its arrival in December other than the Black Hole that is OHLQ).

COLOR – Tawny (1.4 on the Whiskey Magazine Color Chart).

NOSE – A sweet adventure of chocolate, peanuts, nougat, caramel, and kettle corn – almost like a Payday candy bar lightly coated with chocolate.  While you get a little ethanol from the proof – it is light.

TASTE – This is one of those pours where the nose somewhat betrays what you taste.  The sweetness from the nose hits right up front with a soft caramel and peanut, but quickly dissipates into a wild cherry and soft vanilla that hangs in the middle of the palate.  A slight mineral note appears mid-palate as well that provides a cherry soda note.

FINISH – This is a medium finish.  It is interesting that the mid-palate flavors hang around and to a certain degree out shadow the peppery oak finish.  Although 120 proof, this is a very approachable pour.

REVIEW – It wouldn’t be a Beam product without a nutty note, but kudos to the pick team taking a known quantity and capturing a unique expression of it – which is in part what barrel picks are all about.

FINAL COMMENTS – There is a reason that the barrel was one Tough Bung and didn’t want to give its contents up – it is very solid pour. You’ll want this one on your shelf to share during these cold winter months.

-Todd Sarver

COWS Maker’s Mark Private Selection by Todd Sarver

When the pick team trekked down to Loretto for the most recent Maker’s pick – the objective was to take COWS’ prior pick (“COWS Did It On The Lakeside”) and […]

Five Brothers Bourbon by Todd Sarver

When I am in Bardstown, I will wander into Heaven Hill reminded of the halcyon days when I could walk up to the desk, ask for a Parker’s Heritage or Old Fitzgerald, and the clerk would ask what year (true story).  Most recently, I wandered in and did not find Parker’s Heritage or Old Fitzgerald, but Five Brothers bourbon.

The bottle pays homage to the Shapiro brothers who started Heaven Hill.  The bottle is a blend of 5 different aged bourbons, ranging from 5 to 9 years.

Make sure you put in the comments any bottles that you would like me to review.

NAME – Five Brothers Bourbon

PROOF – 90

AGE – None on the label, but it says “Straight” and media information indicates a blend of 5-9 years.

COLOR – Tawny (1.4 on the Whiskey Magazine Color Chart)

NOSE – A very enjoyable blend of burnt caramel; dark chocolate; brown sugar; oak; and a subtle hint of pear.

TASTE – A relatively thin mouthfeel (but it is 90 proof).  Kraft caramel squares provide a very sweet start up front, then into a charred oak with a light cinnamon in the middle. A solid tasting bourbon.

FINISH – This is a shorter finish.  The caramel reappears along with the charred oak continuing through.

REVIEW – This is a good 90 proof Heaven Hill bourbon.  The problem, again, is the price point.  This is a $60 bottle. In Ohio, I can get Evan Williams BIB for $19; Elijah Craig (94 proof) for $34; Elijah Craig Toasted (94 proof) for $55.  Even Evan Williams Master Blend (90 proof) is available at the Evan Williams Experience for $60; and it has a whiff of their 23-year product in it.  All of these, to me, are the same or better than Five Brothers.

FINAL COMMENTS – This, to me, is more evidence that the market is oversaturated and if the bubble hasn’t already burst, it’s coming soon.  The price and proof point vis-à-vis their own products is a head scratcher.  But I presume it is the process of putting another product out there and hoping that folks like me will chase them.

Fortuna Review by Todd Sarver

Review – M&O Smoking’ in the COWS Room by Todd Sarver

One of the great opportunities with COWS is to get truly unique experiences. We are not aware of any other group that is taking the barrels from barrel picks and filling them with another distillery’s distillate to create unicorn bottles. COWS did this recently with High Bank and created a popular bottle.

COWS is doing it again with M&O Spirits in Ashville, Ohio. You will recall in May 2022, COWS released its Bulleit pick, “Fruity and the Yeast” – which was, as the name suggests, was heavy on the fruit and bread notes and was proofed at 104.

COWS then collaborated with Doug McLaughlin, the master distiller at M&O. We sampled a few barrels and settled on one of their Smoke whiskey barrels that had a prevalent nose and flavor profile of breakfast: maple syrup, waffles, vanilla notes.

And what better than to add some of fruit to breakfast – so we took the distillate in the M&O barrel and put it in the Bulleit barrel…and waited.

This release will be M&O’s first barrel strength single barrel – ever – and it’s a COWS pick.  As well as their first double barreled product.

NAME – M&O, Smokin’ in the COWS Room

PROOF – 123.1

MASH BILL – 58% Ohio corn; 14% Ohio rye; 10.5% Ohio wheat; 17.5% malted barley

COLOR – Old Oak (1.8 on the Whiskey Magazine Color Chart) – very dark

NOSE – The maple and waffles (or pancakes if you are so inclined) hit you first followed by soft vanilla, almonds, light strawberry or sweet cherry, and a subtle oak. Given the proof, there is surprisingly little ethanol on the nose.

TASTE – This is extremely viscous. It hugs the glass and coats the tongue. The maple syrup and waffles hit right up front then dissipates into a light caramel as it hits the middle of the palate. There is a cinnamon note that runs from the front to the finish. The middle is where the fruit notes emerge – a light strawberry or sweet cherry glaze. The waffles continue to be present through the middle as well.

FINISH – I would describe this as a long finish. Basically, sit back and enjoy breakfast. The maple, fruit, nuttiness, waffles, cinnamon all continue or reappear. A wisp of smokiness also appears on the finish.

REVIEW – Mission accomplished. Imagine, if you will, sitting in a small-town diner on a Saturday morning ordering breakfast – and that is what is captured in this bottle.


FINAL COMMENTS – If you are not acquainted with M&O, you are missing out. They are generally open to the public on Saturdays from noon-4p, and it is worth the trip down to have Doug show you around and to sample their lineup.

We are very excited about this bottle. COWS will be holding a 4-course meal and with a tasting of an M&O product with each course led by M&O’s master distiller, Doug McLaughlin at Pinnacle Golf Club in Grove City. The event will be on Wednesday evening, May 17. Be on the lookout for reservations for this event being posted soon.

The Smokin’ in the COWS Room reservations will also be posted soon. If you attend the M&O event, you will be able to pick up your bottle(s) there.

COWS Yellowstone Single Barrel Pick by Joe Martyniuk

This was an exciting pick for the COWS group as it was held outside at the Yellowstone facility in a gazebo overlooking their grain fields.  The fresh air, along with […]

Review – High Bank, Trail of Unicorn Tears, Double Oaked Barrel Proof by Todd Sarver

Let down by the OHLQ bottle lottery…again? Santa forget to drop that Pappy off at your place?  Well, here is your opportunity to catch a true unicorn. You will recall […]

COWS Old Forester Single Barrel, Barrel Proof Pick Review by Todd Sarver

While we all like surprises during the holiday season – the earlier than expected release of the COWS Single Barrel, Barrel Proof is a great way to ring in the New Year.  This pick, which COWS obtained when another group backed out, was the holy grail of picks for the COWS founder, Eric Smith.  Accordingly, it is appropriately named: “COWS Founder’s Favorite.” While it is hard to go wrong with an Old Forester Barrel Proof pick, we think this one is truly special.

Make sure you put in the comments any bottles that you would like me to review.

NAME – Old Forester Single Barrel, Barrel Proof

PROOF – 131

AGE – 5 years, 9 months

COLOR – Auburn, polished mahogany (1.5 on the Whiskey Magazine Color Chart)

NOSE – There is a lot going on.  Right up front there is Banana Foster with a coating of brown sugar and a French Vanilla cream.  The sweetness is balanced out by soft worn leather and oak char.

TASTE – The palate is complex and a fun ride.  This is a very buttery bourbon with a great mouth feel. On the front I get a creamy banana pudding with a sprinkle of brown sugar.  That transitions into a chocolate covered cherry note in the middle before fading into a leather note on the back. The banana note reappears as well.  While you certainly get some heat from the proof point on this pick – it does not drink like a 130+ proof bourbon

FINISH – I would describe this as a longer finish.  While the oak and leather notes linger on the back, after a little bit a soft banana note reappears.  You certainly get some peppery spice notes, but it is not overwhelming.

REVIEW – Again, it is hard to go wrong on an Old Forester Barrel Proof pick.  We had 3 barrels to choose from.  And while it was a tight vote initially between barrels 2 & 3, our pick (barrel 3) had a much more complex and unique aroma and taste profile and the higher proof point.  Ian, our Old Forester guide on the pick, commented that he liked our pick as it has a unique profile versus the usual Old Forester.  This is one you will definitely not want to miss.

FINAL COMMENTS – The mash bill for Old Forester is 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% malted barley.  With that level of rye, this is generally regarded as a “high rye” Kentucky bourbon.  While you get some heat from the rye and the proof point, overall this is a complex, balanced pour.

Reviewed by Todd Sarver