Review: Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve

I’ve seen a lot of positive things written in my local Facebook group about Belle Meade.  Everyone seems to think that’s it’s really good and the Cask Strength Reserve seemed to have a lot of fans.  I went to my local shop to pickup a bottle of Four Roses Single Barrel for my upcoming tasting and while I was there, I was talking to one of my friends about what they had and he too suggested the Belle Meade.  I figured, ‘Why not?’ and told him to ring it up along with the rest of my purchase.  I’m glad I did.

Let’s set the mood here.  It’s a sunny day in March in North Georgia.  We’ve had an absolutely ridiculous amount of rain for the past few months and this was one of the first weeks of the year where it had been dry for most of the week.  The grass is starting to change back from brown to green, the flowers are starting to bloom and the temperature is a warm 70 degrees.  There’s a slight breeze blowing so that sitting in the warm sun is a very pleasant experience, not too hot, not too cool.  Perfect.  It’s my day off,  I had just gotten home from having lunch with an old friend and now I was sitting outside, soaking up the sun and just about to try my first taste of Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve.

The very first thing that struck me was the color of the bourbon when I took it out into the sun.  There was almost a ruby-like hue to the dark, rich liquid.  At first, I thought it was the bottle or something, but even after pouring it, the color remained.  The nose was fantastic, invoking memories of rich dark stone fruits.  There was oak on the back end, along with some brown sugar and the alcohol burn was minimal, even for 113.6 proof.  It reminded me a bit of Old Ezra 7 year.  The palate was met with a fruity sweetness, enveloped with rye spice and oak.  The finish was dry, warm and oaky.  Granted I couldn’t do a side-by-side comparison, but it reminded me of the pour of Blanton’s Straight from the Barrel I had a couple weeks ago which would make a little sense because they’re both higher rye mash bills.

This was a delicious pour and I could see why everyone in the Facebook group was recommending it.   Belle Meade Cask Strength Reserve is a blend of 7-11 year old bourbon, sourced from MGP,  bottled in Nashville, Tennessee and each batch is unique with a different blend and proof.  I’d be interested to get another bottle from a different batch and do a side-by-side comparison.  I’ll definitely be on the lookout for another batch, as this was an exceptional pour.  I’m starting to realize that, at least to some extent, the bottles we’re constantly chasing, while as good as they may be, are not necessarily the best value out there, or sometimes even the best tasting.

I know there are store picks of this to be had out there and I can only imagine how good those are.  Would I recommend this particular bottle?  Absolutely.  At $59.99, it’ s steal for an exceptional cask strength bourbon with deep, rich flavor that I would put up there with any of the other mid-tier cask strengths like Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, Stagg Jr. or even some of the older Knob Creek Single Barrel (not cask strength, but high proof) store picks.  For those wondering, mine is a batch 14 at 113.6 proof and I think I’ll try to snag another before they’re gone, I’d recommend you do the same.

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