Joseph Magnus - A New Beast from Nasa Liquors

December 8, 2017

Joseph Magnus - A New Beast from Nasa Liquors

A relatively new beast on the block is Joseph Magnus out of D.C.  They've been doing some impressive private bourbon barrels, as well as some really interesting cigar blends. We were pretty excited to receive this bottle from our man in Houston, Alex Le of Nasa Liquors. His barrel picks have never disappointed us in the past, so we expected nothing less this time.

There's not a ton of information on the label. It says "Distilled in Indiana" so we're figuring this is MGP juice. As y'all know we love some MGP juice, so that's probably a good sign. 52.13%, very specific. And given the odd proof you'd think cask strength...  There's no age statement, but it's nice and dark so imagining this is in the 5+ years category at a minimum.

One thing they definitely get right at Magnus is the packaging. What a gorgeous bottle. It shouldn't matter, but who's kidding who, this is a classy-as-fuck bottle to have on your bar (classy right?).

Nose: Interesting nose with wood and vanilla and some mint. Very sweet. It's creamy, but also a little tangy. Orange cream soda? Something like that. Is this a high corn MGP mashbill? Something more than that though in the sweets department. Let's ask Alex what's going on here.

Aha, it's a high corn mashbill bourbon triple finished in Oloroso, PX, and cognac casks. That makes sense. They definitely didn't overdo the wine finishes and let the bourbon do the talking, which is nice. It's probably the cognac that gives it that fruity creaminess. Not your everyday nose.

Palate: Nice mingling of sweetness and spirit on the tongue. That orange flavor is on the front on the mouth and there's some molasses stuff going on in the back.

Finish: A little sharpness at first but then the sweets take over for a pleasant finish that sits high on the tip of the tongue. We miss a little of that rich MGP spiciness, maybe that's because of the high corn recipe. Could see sipping this with dessert for sure, a little Italian ricotta cheesecake perhaps. Really enjoyed this though not what we were expecting since the label just said "straight bourbon"!

Love the tax strip!!


Realized that we've been sitting on another Nasa pick that we've been meaning to review for some time.  (Like a year??!?).  Been a little busy at the Beast Lair lately.

We're not very familiar with brandy, so were very curious to try this cask strength private barrel. Come to think of it we've never tasted a cask strength brandy, nor a private barrel brandy, so this will be a first. No idea what to expect here.

Nose: Wow, smells like green pears swimming in oak! I love pears, and this is a really striking flavor match for me. I know it's made from grapes, but it smells just like pears.

Palate: Just sort of satiny on the tongue, disappearing as you chase it around in the mouth. Wait a minute, 130 proof? No F'ing way. This is straight up danger Will Robinson. You could get tanked on this stuff in the blink of an eye and not even know it.

Finish: The flavor really explodes on the finish with red grapes and lots of deep florals, herbal notes, and all kinds of different things.  Damn maybe I should give brandy more of a chance.  Ok this still may not be my everyday drink, not even really sure I'm a brandy fan, but I'll tell you this stuff is totally different and much much better than the brandy I used to sneak out of grandma's cupboard.

Fun stuff.  Love us some private barrels!  Should we get some of this stuff for Beast Masters Club?  Let us know!  Cheers/SB

SmokyBeast - An Update, A Night of Drinking, and a Review

August 20, 2017

SmokyBeast - An Update, A Night of Drinking, and a Review

Hello beasties!

Apologies that I've been a bit quiet on the blog this year.  I hope you all have been enjoying Beast Masters Club!  Truthfully the new format of podcasting, selling private barrels, and interviewing master distillers has been super fun and so I've been spending  a lot more time over there than here on the blog.  I hope some of you faithful SmokyBeast fans in the NYC area will come and join us for One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer, our upcoming live whiskey battle.  I promise it will be a good time if you can make it on September 29th.

But August has come, and I'm up at the cottage in the foothills of the great Berkshire Mountains, so it's time for an old fashioned review.  Digging through my samples I found an untapped 2oz of Parker's Heritage Collection #5.  So here goes.

Wha Dis?

Most of you who read this blog are familiar with Parker's Heritage Collection. It's an annual release from Heaven Hill named after Master Distiller Parker Beam, that started in 2007.  This is the fifth edition, from 2011.  The first review I read online said it was "a bargain whiskey starting at $80." Ah 2011. The next link was to purchase the bottle for $775. Well just about all the original PHC that I've tried have been pretty mind-blowing, particularly the #2 (27 year bourbon) and the #4 (cask strength wheater).  This one is a 100 proof 10 year bourbon that's been finished six months in Congac barrels. I'm not a huge fan of barrel finishes, but the glass is sitting eighteen inches away and I can already tell it smells incredible, so fingers crossed this will be the exception to the rule.

Tasting Notes

Nose: Oh yeah it's starting out right in the pocket. Cream soda starts the show, followed by a really deep old men's club leather and oak. The next wave, similar to the cream soda, is a big blast of vanilla, and then baking spices: cocoa, nutmeg, cloves. There's some spice towards the end of the nose: mint, black peppercorn, slow cooked chili peppers.  The nose is not at all burdened by being cloying, but the cognac does bring out a nice sweet balance against the wood which is lovely.

Palate: Really excellent stuff here. Here's the lesson in cask finishes: Don't put a young whiskey in a super sweet barrel to try and cover up the heat! On the other hand, if you have a really nice mature whiskey like this one, a subtle hand with cask finishing can be superb. The only thing missing here is that it's not very oily, more of a dry palate.  However the flavor profile is awesome. Equal parts sweet and wood, I can only describe it as aged cream soda. The vanilla continues to dominate with quite a bit of sweetness, but mingling deliciously with the full flavored spicy and punchy bourbon. 100 proof is just where this should be with just a touch of heat on the throat.

Finish: The worst part of most cask finished bourbons is the finish, when you're left with a mess of bubblegum and grapes in your mouth and can't even enjoy the aftertaste of the whiskey. In this case the cognac dissipates before the lovely char and heat of the bourbon for a great finish. Oak, vanilla, mint, spice, pound cake, brown butter, lots of great taste buds firing approval off across the synapse.


Well it's a gem. Too bad I don't have $775 sitting around, and if I did honestly I wouldn't spend it on this. But I'm super happy to be drinking it for free.  Definitely the best barrel finish bourbon I've had to date.  Ok, maybe that's not saying much since probably the only other one I've enjoyed was the Angle's Envy Cask Strength.  But still this one is friggin awesome. The sweetness balances perfectly with the wood, the 10 year high rye Heaven Hill bourbon is awesome, obviously some top notch barrel picking was going on with this batch.  I can't remember who sent me this sample, but THANKS!

Hopefully it won't be too long before my next review.

The Best Drinking of My Life - Turkey Hunting with Eddie Russell

July 12, 2017

The Best Drinking of My Life - Turkey Hunting with Eddie Russell

The Hot Pickle Has Landed!!

Buy the bottle here
Check out the podcast here

We had high expectations when we brought 8 folks down to Kentucky with us to go barrel hunting. The trip still managed to blow our minds. The absolute highlight was our time at Wild Turkey choosing a Beast Masters Club private barrel with Eddie Russell.

Eddie Russell taps into a barrel in Wild Turkey Warehouse A

Hot Pickle's Origin Story

We all assembled at our AirBnB outside Louisville, piled into a Suburban, and made a b-line to Liquor Barn, where we picked up some "research" bottles - private barrel Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve and Four Roses. We stocked up on some snacks and "healthy breakfast" foods like donuts and cans of expensive super-diesel iced coffee.

In the checkout line, something caught our eye. It was an individually wrapped Hot Pickle. Jeff "Professor Rickhouse" Roth purchased said pickle and started making it talk in funny voices.  Hot Pickle told dirty jokes on the car ride home. The term "Going Full Hot Pickle" was batted around. It became our spirit mascot for the trip. So much so that it could never be eaten, like some kind of sacred cow that would be treated with the utmost reverence even if she was taking a dump in the middle of the street.

Beast Masters Go Bluegrass!

The trip took us through Michter's Distillery (podcast with Master Distiller Pamela Heilmann), Heaven Hill (podcast with Bernie Lubbers), Four Roses (Ed Young podcast and barrel pick coming soon!!), and finally Wild Turkey.

Wild Turkey is just a gorgeous spot, situated on these rolling hills that dip down into a little valley of trees. There are old train tracks running across the valley where they used to transport materials to and from the distillery back at the turn of the century. It was hard to capture the scene in a picture but here's some sweet drone footage I found on YouTube:


Jimmy & Steve
As we walked into the gift shop, a friendly gentleman in a cowboy hat held the door open for us. I paused and said to Ben, "I think that's Jimmy Russell!".  Sure enough it was the man himself, who was only to happy to sit and talk with us for half an hour about the history of the distillery while we waited for the bus to bring us to the rick houses. Turns out that when it's hot Jimmy likes his bourbon with some ice. Go figure.


We entered Warehouse A, which was built in 1890, to find Eddie Russell there with his hand-hammered whiskey thief and a dozen hand-picked barrels. Eddie is the kind of guy who is immediately likable in a disarming sort of way. He has such obvious love, pride, and incredibly deep knowledge of whiskey that it's an amazing pleasure to sit with him and taste.  "I've got 700,000 barrels of whiskey and I've picked these twelve for you to taste today," is pretty much the best setup for any drinking experience I've ever heard.  As he hammered on the barrels, popped out the bungs, and sunk in his thief to fill our glasses we got to learn the history of bourbon-making firsthand.

Eddie Welcomes us to Warehouse A

We spent over two hours with Eddie talking and drinking. We tasted many barrels and several of them were so good that we had to go back for a second round. Afterward, all the Beast Masters in attendance agreed that this had been the best drinking of our lives. Finally the choice was unanimous, an incredible barrel from Warehouse G that was distilled on New Year's Eve, 2007.

It's Unanimous!  After the pick, Eddie signs the barrel.

Hot Pickle Redux

So strong was our bond with the Hot Pickle that it was packed, checked at Louisville airport, brought back to New York, and now holds an honorary seat on Prof. Rickhouse's bar. Out of all the bourbons we tasted down in Kentucky, our Wild Turkey barrel was the most memorable, and so gave it the honor of being dubbed "The Hot Pickle"!

Drink Along!

When we started Beast Masters Club, our goal was to bring you in on some of the great experiences we had at SmokyBeast. So we're super happy that you can pick up this unique bottle (there are about two dozen left at the time I'm writing this), download the podcast and sip along while we talk with Jimmy, learn all about Wild Turkey, and pick our cask.  Long live the Hot Pickle!


Who Dat Kung Fu Jew?  YOU dat kung fu jew part two!

June 24, 2017

Who Dat Kung Fu Jew? YOU dat kung fu jew part two!

So the battle has been fought, and well - spoiler alert - we lost. But for fork's sake we did our best. The problem was that the boys from Single Cask Nation brought two of their infamous Jewbilee festival bottlings. Tough to beat those bad boys. Anyway a good time was had by all. The crowd was killer and Robin Robinson did a great job as guest judge and referee.  Until next time SCN.


Listen to the whole battle:

And don't miss the next battle:

Hand-Picked Elijah Craig Barrel

June 6, 2017

Hand-Picked Elijah Craig Barrel

The first of a few very special hand-picked barrels is available today.  We tasted a range of Heaven Hill barrels from 8-12 years, but this 9-year was the unanimous favorite. Chocolate, oak, molasses and spice make this an awesome everyday drinker.  And for $36 you can drink it every day.  Thanks to the gang at Heaven Hill for hooking up this great barrel.  We'll be dropping our podcast with the legendary bottled in bond professor, bluegrass musician, and brand ambassador Bernie Lubbers from Heaven Hill shortly.  In the meantime we recommend picking up "one for the glass and one for the shelf" since these are going quick!

Who Dat Kung Fu Jew?

May 31, 2017

Who Dat Kung Fu Jew?

Howdy Beasties,

Despite being a little quiet on the blog, I've been super hard at work on the whiskey front these past couple of months.  We had an incredible trip down to Kentucky last month.  It was some of the best drinking of my life.  We got a private tour of the new Michter's distillery. Picked a Four Roses barrel with Al Young, and the incredible highlight of the trip was going to the historic Wild Turkey Warehouse A and picking barrels with Eddie Russell. Then we got back and spent some time with Bernie Lubbers from Heaven Hill and have a private barrel coming from them as well.

And the results of all these travails is finally upon us!  The Heaven Hill barrel will be available through Beast Masters Club Shop starting this week.  We'll have the Wild Turkey barrel shortly thereafter, and the Four Roses coming up third.  The podcast with Bernie will be queued up shortly where we learn all about Bottled-in-Bond and chat with him about our private barrel.  The interview with Eddie was long, informative, and totally hilarious, so that's probably going to be a couple of podcasts worth that will be coming next month.

In the meantime, as if we weren't busy enough, we are working with Single Cask Nation on an event for their Whisky Jewbilee festival.  The night before Jewbilee (Jewbilee is June 15th, our event is June 14th), we're going to have a Battle Royale with Josh and Jason from Single Cask Nation / Jewish Whiskey Company.  (Yes, I'm Jewish too so the jokes are all in good fun).  Beast Masters Club vs. Single Cask Nation will be a blind contest where our live audience votes on the best private barrel pick from BMC and SCN's collections.  Our guest judge and moderator will be Robin Robinson (all-around whiskey veteran and former visionary for Compass Box).

There are a few seats left if you are in NYC and want to attend.

I hope to get back to regular whiskey reviews shortly (perhaps starting with some of my new barrels!!), but I hope that everyone takes a minute to participate in the club.  Signing up and listening to the podcasts is free, and we have two private barrels available right now (WhistlePig and Barrell Bourbon) and these three coming up in the next month.

We'll also have a table at Jewbilee, so if you are coming to the festival, come by and say hello.


Beast Masters Club Exclusive Podcast with Michter's Master Distiller

April 25, 2017

Beast Masters Club Exclusive Podcast with Michter's Master Distiller

This weekend we had a very special treat. Michter's Distillery Master Distiller Pamela Heilmann sat down with the club and led us on an incredible (and delicious) journey.  We discussed her career as the first woman Kentucky master distiller, her time running the Booker Noe distillery, and her role in building the impressive new operation at Michters.  Big thanks to Pam and everyone at Michters.  Tune in and give a listen as you sip your favorite Michter's!


I love it when a plan comes together. David Pickerell guest hosts our next podcast event!!

March 3, 2017

I love it when a plan comes together. David Pickerell guest hosts our next podcast event!!

I love it when a plan comes together.

When my friend Ben came to me with the idea of doing a whiskey podcast I was skeptical. "Who wants to listen to me slurp on booze that they can't even buy?" I wondered. It's one thing to read a quick review online for a recommendation of a new bottle or even a vicarious sip of some fantasy collectors item. But it seemed indulgent to record the experience minute by minute.

Then we had a bit of an epiphany.  "Well we've been buying private barrels, what if we could help folks get some of this hard to find whiskey and then talk about it on the podcast?"  Hmmm, I thought, this might be an idea. "Oh, and what if we did a big live event, recorded it live, and invited the master distiller to come talk about it?" Now I was getting excited.

Beast Masters Club was born. We've had some great events so far, Signatory Vintage, Barrell Bourbon, Westland... Everyone had a great time, we hooked up the club with some excellent hooch, both in person and mail order. And we learned a lot from some cool guests.

But now I feel like we're really taking things to the next level. Dave Pickerell is a true whiskey legend.  I'm sure I don't have to tell most of you that.  We've been determined to do a rye barrel and couldn't pass up their 12 year Old World private barrel program. Then we had the idea to ask Dave if he could bring all the individual cask finished ryes (Madeira, Port, & Sauternes casks) so that everyone could taste the blending process firsthand. It took some convincing but that's happening.


Dave Pickerell Debuts Beast Masters Club WhistlePig Private Barrel
Thursday March 16th  @ 6:30 PM
Domaine Select Wine & Spirits
106 Madison Avenue
New York, NY 10016

So we're really pumped. We hope all of you will tune it. If you're in NYC buy a ticket. We're doing a special that's pretty hard to beat where you can buy a bottle and get a free ticket.  And if you're not in the area please send us questions that you'd like us to ask Dave and then download the 'cast and we'll get them answered for you.

This has been a labor of love, but we're really starting to make some special things happen with the club.  Thanks to everyone for the support so far!  Cheers/ SB
A Genuine Smoky Beast Whisky Review!  Lagavulin 8-Year

February 19, 2017

A Genuine Smoky Beast Whisky Review! Lagavulin 8-Year

Hello beasties,

Today I have the luxury or writing a bona fide whisky review. I know these have been few and far between this year. I, along with my partner Ben and the wife, have been putting more time into whisky than ever before. And I want to sincerely thank everyone who has supported Beast Masters Club. It's a real labor of love, and it's really starting to take off. In the next few months we've got three private barrels coming out (WhistlePig, Elijah Craig, and Four Roses) and some amazing interviews including WhistlePig master distiller & all-around whiskey legend Dave Pickerell leading a tasting for us in March. Anyway thanks to everyone who has joined the club, sent amazing emails and social media posts, and showed up at our events. It's been amazing meeting so many of the people that I only knew online as readers of this blog and fellow whiskey fanatics.

Anyway, on to the matter at hand, one legitimate, non-podcast format, review! For the President's Weekend, the family headed up to the Berkshires  for a long overdue quiet several days of fires, Netflix cartoons, and of course a little nip before bedtime. I went to a random liquor store near the Stop&Shop, and lo-and-behold they had an awesome selection. I saw a bottle that I've been meaning to try, the Lagavulin 200th Anniversary 8-year sitting there for under $60 and couldn't say no. So now by the fire I'm popping it open and enjoying some warm peat on a cold night. (sure it's 60 degrees in Manhattan, but it's still in the 30's up here!).

So what do we know? We know Lagavulin was founded in 1816 and for its 200th anniversary they released a few special bottlings. One is the 25 year old which is frankly too expensive to casually pop, President's weekend or not. The other is this interesting 8-year. We've seen it cost more than the 16 year and sometimes less, so let's say it's about the same price. It is offered at a higher proof, 48% instead of Lag16's 43%, so 10 additional proof points at 96.

It comes in a very tasteful white box.

Tasting Notes

Nose:  If I nosed this blind I would not guess Lagavulin. Islay for sure, but probably I would have said Caol Ila, or wait...  maybe... Kilchoman.  Yes that's probably what I'd guess. Which totally makes sense since they're releasing very high quality younger malts. The nose has a lot of smoke, but not quite the warm smoldering campfire rocks smoke you get from older Lag. This is a more raw, slightly hot and spirit-forward and very peaty smoke. While the smoke is more in your face than what we typically think of with Lag, there are other interesting flavors that are much more prominent as well. Granny smith apples, white chocolate, citrus candies. Yes, pretty much exactly the flavors I usually pick out in Kilchoman. Funny that.

Palate: I will say in the mouthfeel department that it has a nice oiliness going on that's not as apparent in the 16. It's a bit thicker and more full on the tongue. That's kind of where the compliments end. The taste is just thinner, hotter, and not quite as complex as the 16. It's got some of the same components as the nose. White chocolate, lots of bright peat, little wood, citrus, and maybe some spice like cinnamon and red pepper flakes.

Finish: The finish is where this differs most dramatically from most of the OB Lagavulin that we've tried. It's sort of thin and hot and a little bitter. Very similar to what you get from most of the off-the-shelf Islays these days like a Caol Ila or one of the NAS Ardbegs.


Look I love me some Lag. It's my first and still favorite malt. This is still a really nice whisky. If you collect Lag, obviously you're going to score a bottle or two. The box is lovely. But it you're a malt drinker shopping on a budget, it's hard to see the allure here. Getting something twice as old in the standard 16 year bottling, with a little more sherry (sure and some E150 coloring too) is just a better deal and a tastier whiskey. Granted, sitting here by the fire drinking out of a ridiculously oversized snifter, and letting the peat smoke mingle with the birch I'm burning doesn't suck. And I don't mean to sound like a dick. I love that they put out higher proof stuff, love that they aren't afraid of a younger age statement, and still love me some Lag. But there's nothing "do-not-miss" about this one if you're keeping score.

Until next time.  Cheers/Steve
The Big Westland Tasting

January 30, 2017

The Big Westland Tasting

Wow what an awesome Friday night! Our little whiskey tasting club was hosted at the stunning Norwood Club and our special guest was Chris Reisbeck of Westland Distillery. We got to taste their whole lineup include the cask strength Garryana and the special release Winter edition.

Now I know what Quercus alba is (White Oak). And what Typicity is (the degree to which something reflects it's regional/varietal origins). Drink & learn...  

Thanks to everyone who's reached out to the club online. I got to meet a few of you there! I hope those of you who are into podcasts enjoy the discussion.

(or on iTunes)

Let us know if there are distilleries out there who you think would make a great episode of Beast Masters Club!  Cheers/SB