National Bourbon Day

In attempt to prepare for National Bourbon Day, we did a bit of research. We were happy to find ten fun facts with the help of Kentucky Bourbon Trail and Binny’s Spirits Specialist, Joe Maloney.

whiskey rocks 3
1. Bourbon does in fact get its name from Bourbon County. Which, sadly, used to be a part of Virginia.

2. Bourbon was declared, “America’s Official Native Spirit”, by an act of Congress in 1964.

3. The mash bill of Bourbon must include a minimum 51% corn.

4. Bourbon must be aged in New charred American White Oak barrels.

5. Maker’s Mark, Pappy VanWinkle, Weller, Old Fitzgerald (Larceny),and Rebel Yell all use wheat in their recipe. Others use Rye.

6. Interesting tidbit: Labels stay the same, while what fills the bottle can actually change.

7. Old Fitzgerald was originally made by Stitzel-Weller Distillery, the same label is used, but currently produced by Heaven Hill’s distillery(Bernheim).

8. Pappy VanWinkle used to be made at Stitzel-Weller, but is now made by Buffalo Trace.

whiskey rocks 2 (1)

9. Bourbon is only made in America, and not solely in Kentucky as you may believe. In fact, we have a delicious Bourbon made in Evanston. Few Spirits makes a bourbon. Ironically, the town was dry for quite a lengthy time, 1858-1972, and was home to a leading temperance movement activist, Frances Willard. She would most certainly be shocked and upset about Bourbon production in Evanston.

10. Well this really isn’t a fact, but here are some really great bourbon cocktail recipes from Four Roses.

Enjoy your bourbon on this fantastic holiday!

Binny’s Derby Mint Julep

It’s time for the Kentucky Derby! We’re celebrating with a classic – you guessed it – a Mint Julep. Of course our favorite is a Buffalo Trace Mint Julep. We headed to the South Loop Tasting Room for this not-so-secret recipe:


Derby Mint Julep
2 1/2 oz Buffalo Trace Bourbon
1/2 oz Simple Syrup
2 oz Water
4 Sprigs of Mint
Muddle the sprigs of mint with the simple syrup. Pour in bourbon and water. Serve on the rocks with a mint sprig garnish!


Whiskey Hotline Hits the Road: Willett


The Whiskey Hotline’s next stop on the road through Kentucky and Tennessee? Kentucky Bourbon Distillers. You might remember our visit last summer. What has changed since? When we were there last July, the first floor of their newly renovated Warehouse A was half full of barrels. Now, the entire warehouse is nearly full. The place is buzzing. On our last visit, they were gearing up to build a grain mill and two bed & breakfasts. The mill is finished – a shipment of corn arrived and we got to watch it go up an auger and into a hopper. That was cool. And at least one of the B&B’s is done. It seems like they start a project every week, and finish one every four.


What did we taste? KBD resumed distilling in January of 2012, and we got our first taste of their young rye and bourbon after just 13 months in wood. Excited to taste them over hte next few decades. Also, they’re distilling using seven different mash bills – we were able to sneak back a bottle of their wheated bourbon recipe white dog. And it’s fantastic. After our delicious (and popular) last batch of Willetts, you know we want another round. So keep an eye out for more Binny’s Handpicked Willetts in these ages: 4 year, 6 year, 7 year, 8 year, 9 year, 10 year, and 22 year (!!!).


Continue reading

Binny’s Mailbag: Finished Bourbon

What could be more tempting than sneaking a peek at somebody’s mail? Here’s your chance to see the kinds of letters we get every day. Have a question of your own? Email us at or



I am extremely concerned about whiskeys being called bourbon, yet being aged in sherry/wine/brandy casks. Isn’t there a strict law about what can and cannot be called bourbon?




Angel's Envy

Hi YK!

Yes and no. The Federal Standards of Identity for Distilled Spirits (pdf) covers what needs to happen to whiskey before it can be called bourbon:


  • It has to be made from at least 51% corn.
  • It has to be aged in NEW, charred oak barrels.
  • It can’t be distilled higher than 160 proof and can’t be put into a barrel for aging at higher than 125 proof.
  • It has to be bottled at 80 proof or higher.


Bourbon that you see with sherry or port cask aging is FINISHED in those casks. These bourbons generally spend several years in the legally required new charred oak barrels, and then are finished in refilled port, sherry or whatever barrels for a short time, usually 3-9 months. Angel’s Envy is a great example of this – a bourbon that saw years in charred oak barrels that then sees extra time finishing in port casks, giving it its characteristic gobs of round fruit.


Binny’s Handpicked Buffalo Trace

The next Binny’s Handpicked Buffalo Trace is on the way. It might seem like this is a story we’ve told before, but each of our Buffalo Trace Handpicks is a little different, and this next batch is no exception. After a painstaking afternoon, and after making a dumb mistake, we ended up with a Buffalo Trace we are proud to call Binny’s Handpicked. Here’s how it happened.


We started out this time with 24 barrel samples. It seems like our Buffalo Trace vattings sell out sooner and sooner, so we were hoping for a batch of 17 barrels, our biggest yet. Remember that our goal is to create the most delicious and consistent bourbon, one that we think is a step above the standard Buffalo Trace. We taste across all the samples, finding those that are right on target with that special Binny’s thumbprint, and blend a small amount of all the samples. Then we find more samples that are spicier or sweeter that we can use to hone the final blend to just the right balance.

Continue reading

Handpicked Casks: Willett Family Reserves

So Brett and Pat headed down to beautiful Bardstown to visit Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, Ltd. They took a lot of pretty pictures. They also tasted a bunch of barrel samples and brought back a few for the handpicking committee to taste. This time, there were a few selections where the choice of specific barrel had already been made for us, and they just wanted us to give a thumbs up or thumbs down. Why do we need so many Handpicked Willett bottlings? Because they’re awesome. Here are our picks, and my personal tasting notes:


Willett Family 4 Year

Bright. Almost citrus peel intensity on the nose, plus stemmy plant notes. Softer on the palate than I’d expect from the nose. Soft, sweet and nice. Legit.


Willett Family 5 Year

Choosing between two 5 year olds, and our winner is the bigger, more masculine choice. Green and fresh, spirited and youthful, with nice fruit notes on the palate. Plenty of corn notes. Candy. Grippy. Alcoholic. I’m the only one that preferred the more graceful, feminine 5 year, and I was voted down. So if you enjoy big bourbon, appreciate this….

Continue reading

New Binny’s Hand Picked Knob Creek Single Barrels Are Here

We first mentioned our new batch of Binny’s Hand Picked Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserves back in April, right after tasting and picking them. Now, just about a month and a half later, they have finally arrived! If you’re into our hand-picked bourbons, you owe it to yourself to pick up one of these bad boys:


click the pic for a closer view.


A couple of details to note: Not all Binny’s stores will receive all six bottlings, which means you Binny’s completists may have some searching to do. We stand behind all six, so don’t ask us to pick our favorite! You can check out my personal tasting notes on the previous Binny’s Blog post here. Also, you’ll notice that barrel proof is listed on the label, but all have since been cut down to a paltry 120 proof.


So grab a bottle of our Hand Picked Knob SB, and be sure to let us know what you think!

Binny’s Hand Picked Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve Batch No. 3

   The tasting panel conveined in yet another mission to bring you the best of the best single barrel offerings. This time our focus was on a third batch of Binny’s Hand Picked Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve – see also notes from batches one and two. This is a batch you won’t want to miss.


The last two batches have sold quickly, so we’re upping this next purchase to six barrels. Our sample group of fifteen gave us plenty of opportunities to find some world-class bourbon. Here are my personal tasting notes of our top six. You might notice that the six we chose are three pairs of “sister” barrels, barrels that came from the same rick and tier. They are from the same batch distilled on the same day, and sat side by side for over nine years. Still, each carries its own unique fingerprint. Interesting stuff….

Continue reading

Binny’s Mailbag: Bourbon Gift Idea

Let’s take a look and see what’s in the Binny’s Mailbag.



   I am looking to get my boyfriend a package of an assortment of his favorite whiskeys for Christmas. I have a few in mind (Jack Single BarrelGentleman JackBookersGeorge Dickle No 8 or No 12 — just to name a few) but was curious what are the size bottles you sell, since I’m getting a few i was wondering if you have smaller size bottles than the normal ones?

   Also, do you have any suggestions as another good one based on the list I gave above that he hasn’t had as a new one to offer him?


- J.B.


Hi J.B.,

   We carry the whiskies you list in just the 750mL (fifth) size, plus 1.75L in the case of Gentleman Jack.

   Since he likes these sweeter, fuller-bodies Tennessee whiskies, we would also recommend that he try some sweeter bourbons. Eagle Rare, a 10 year old single barrel, is a fantastic value and has a really rich vanilla and caramel flavor to it. Buffalo Trace would be a good one as well. It tends to be a little sweet, with a lot of oak and caramel in the profile. Both of these are available in 375 mL (pint) bottles at most Binny’s.

   A “wheated” bourbon would also be a good pick, these tend to be fatter on the palate, and a bit buttery in taste. Old Fitzgerald and Weller would be my recommendations for those.

   All these are less than $30 for the standard bottles, and less for the pints. 

   Sounds like he’s going to have an awesome Christmas! Thanks for thinking Binny’s,

- Binny’s Mailbag

Binny’s Next Hand Picked Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve

   You might remember the first Binny’s Hand Picked Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve selections. That first batch sold through way faster than we all expected. Between a mix-up at the distributor and the whiskey being wildly more popular than we expected, it didn’t last long. Now it’s time for another batch.

   Brett, Joe Maloney and I tasted through the Knob Creek barrels recently and finalized our selections. We tasted from nine samples that showed a surprising range in quality, and chose our favorite four that really stood out head and shoulders above the rest. We won’t waste your time with notes on those we didn’t pick. 

   Here are my tasting notes for the barrels we want:


02A15 P 6 23 1 - Nice spice, caramel, and oak on the nose, with a hint of cocoa. Medium-full body with a nice vanilla presence up front and a spicy, dry finish. (133.9 proof)


02D18 J 6 23 1 - Very spicy nose (white pepper?) with some background honey and vanilla. Full body, rich sweet corn flavor. Short, mildly dry anise and pepper finish. (132.9 proof)


02A17 G 5 42 3 - Great nose, lots of honey and caramel. Thinner body, but full of sweet caramel and vanilla flavors. Short and sweet finish. (129.9)

02D18 J 6 14 3 – Nice vanilla and toffee nose. Rich and oily palate with lots of corn and toffee. Very nice, warm, sweet finish. Almost tastes like bananas foster with some water added. (130.2 proof)


   We know that the labelling info is a lot to break down – check out the Binny’s Blog post on our last batch to see how to decode everything. 

   We’re still waiting to hear back on the time frame for the arrival of these picks. Be sure to check back on the Binny’s Blog and on The Whiskey Hotline for more details as they come. 

   Click on this pic for a bigger view: