Tag Archive: Bourbon

Angel’s Envy (USA: Bourbon/ Whiskey: 43.3% ABV)

Visual: Quite deep gold.

Viscosity: Slow but thick streaks.

Nose: Minty. Peppery. Banana candy sweets. Rye crackers. Banana syrup. Spicy red wine. Light cherries. Vanilla. Topical fruit. Water adds pear drops.

Body: Big. Orange crème. Dry raisins. Madeira. Water adds banana and pear drops and light Blackpool rock.

Finish: Butterscotch. Peppery. Brown bread and rye crackers. Orange crème. Madeira. Dry raisins. Rum soaked fruitcake. Water adds pear drops and dried banana along with hints of malt chocolate.

Conclusion: Right – I really do like this one – it feels like a mix of traditional bourbon vanilla and rye characteristics matched with the unusual fruity raisins and dry spicy wine notes. At this point it feels like a sherry aged bourbon (Yes I know legally you can’t sherry barrel age bourbon, run with me on this one) – and like that I definitely enjoyed it.

However this is not just a good, but in fact an excellent whiskey and what makes it that is it feels like a whole host of traditional sweet shop notes have been mixed in with that – notes of pear drops on the light end, chewy banana sweets for thicker notes and a sparkle of Blackpool rock sweetness above that – lots of lighter and sweeter notes than adds a real easy going character into the bourbon style. It is a huge contrast but not in a way that creates any unpleasant dissonance of character.

This has so many subtle, interesting notes around the solid bourbon like base, and sherry aged whiskey highlights – and these are then subtly enhanced again by adding a drop of water. It calls to mind high quality bourbon, but playing with a range of complexity that normally it would not be allowed to handle.

An excellent whiskey/bourbon – one that I genuinely recommend you grab if you ever get the chance. It has been a few years between tries for me, and I hope it is not that long before I can try it again.

Background: OK, a quick explanation first on why I put both bourbon and whiskey up above. In most fashions this is a bourbon best I know, but, again as a far as I know, legally bourbon has to be aged entirely in fresh casks. This has been aged in port pipes for about 3-6 months after initial maturation, so I think it is technically not bourbon. Any which way – yep – an experimentation that I approve of. I first tried this years ago during the “Road Trip Of Awesome” in America, but did not do notes at the time. So, when I saw that it was in Independent Spirit’s “Mediocre Whisky Tasting” line-up I was a very happy bunny (Disclaimer – I am not actually a bunny). As before this was done in a more social environment, so my notes may be a tad more scattershot that normal – apologies.

Jack Daniels Gentleman Jack

Jack Daniels: Gentleman Jack (USA: Tennessee Whiskey: 40% ABV)

Visual: Deep bronzed colour.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Honey and a mix of rye crackers and shredded wheat. Thick but smooth. Water changes it very little.

Body: Very smooth. Vanilla. Warming alcohol. Wholemeal crackers. Slightly light at times. Fudge. Orange crème. Water lets existing notes booms but dims alcohol warmth.

Finish: Vanilla. Clean. Light rye crackers. Toffee. Feels oddly more viscous and with an oily sheen if you add water. Sulphur and smoke.

Conclusion: You know, for years people referred to bourbon as smooth, and as toffee and vanilla tasting, and I never got it. And yes I know this is “Tennessee Whiskey”, but it is close enough for this story to be relevant. Anyway… For me bourbon always seemed rough and kind of rustic. All those years back, this was the whiskey that is pretty much bourbon that helped the idea finally click with me

Basically this is very much like Jack Daniels but smoother. The alcohol kick is less, the harsh edges are less, and with that weight removed it becomes very easy to see toffee, vanilla and fudge notes come out plain as day. Once I had seen the notes here I suddenly could spot them all over the bourbon range. Those sweet notes are layered over a kind of crackers and smoke base.

Neat it still has a little alcohol warmth, but water smooths even that. It never loses the thickness of texture, it even seems to increase the oily character with water. What is odd is that despite the thick feel, the flavours can seem slightly light at times.

So, education aside, is it any good? Well it is smoother Jack Daniel – and as someone who grew up with that stuff it has a kind of retro kick going on. It’s not complex, but is very easy drinking. I have a soft spot for it for memory’s sake, and it is a good educational tool, but I will say it isn’t anything special as itself. Its main problem is that it can feel so smooth as to be a tad light, depsite the viscous mouthfeel – especially with water. It you like JD this is better than jack Daniels, otherwise it is ok but that are far better out there.

Still have a soft spot for it from my youth.

Background: So, the whole, is it bourbon? Is it Tennessee whisky? Argument. No idea. They call it whiskey so I will go with that. Screw it. Discussed this one for far too long over the years. Anyway, this is a bit of a retro kick again. Pretty much grew up in my mid teen years on JD. Anyway, grabbed a bottle of Gentleman Jack years ago and I remember quite enjoying it and it being very smooth. Then again, back then I thought Jack Daniels was the mutts nuts. I was stupid is what I am saying. I may still be stupid, nut now in different ways. Anyway, grabbed this from Independent Spirit to see how it holds up

Elijah Craig 12 Year

Elijah Craig: 12 Year (USA Bourbon: 12 Year: 47% ABV)

Visual: Bronzed gold.

Viscosity: Fast medium thickness streaks.

Nose: Honey. Rye crackers. Soft vanilla. Paprika. Water makes more heather and floral.

Body: Very smooth. Vanilla toffee. Rye crackers. Shredded wheat. Pepper. Honey. Orange crème. Sugared pastries. Beef slices. Water loses some subtlety but adds to the honey bringing out golden syrup.

Finish: Rye crackers. Honey. Orange juice touch. Water sweetens the orange and brings out pepper and a treacle touch.

Conclusion: This is some smooth bourbon – at 47% abv I was expecting at least some kick, but even neat it went down easily. It was warming but completely burn free. Nice.

The flavours are well within what I am used to for bourbon – a taste like honey drenched through shredded wheat backed by vanilla toffee coated rye bread. However, it is nicer than that imagery would suggest. I am aware that toffee coated rye bread would probably taste horrible in real life. Then again, pocky is basically chocolate covered breadsticks and they are addictive as hell, so who knows. Anyway, I digress.

This does have some extra notes, some sweet orange and a slightly dried beef character that I would normally associate with peated whisky – but generally it falls within the expected range of notes, just done very well and easy going.

Some of the lack of variance could be attributed to the fact that I am not as experienced with bourbon as I am with whisky, so I may just be getting the more evident characteristics and not the subtleties – especially considering that I am working with a smaller sample here. Which isn’t a complaint by the way, just an explanation – getting to try all these is awesome.

Anyway. I just checked out the price point on this and at a bourbon in the thirty to forty quid range this is doing very well. Very easy drinking and far smoother than most I encounter in that range.

A nice, well delivered, easy drinking bourbon.

Background: Huh, you don’t see aged bourbon much – usually, as they have to use fresh casks each time, they spend far less time in the wood. Ok, copy paste time again. ” Ok, bias warning first: This is a part of the Whisky Calendar given to The Bath Whisky and Rum Club, part of Independent Spirit, who invited me to assist with the notes in return for uploading them to alcohol and aphorisms. Sounded a very fair deal to me. Also, due to this we each only had half of the 3cl bottle so thoughts are based on a smaller exploration than usual. On the other hand I could not say no to the chance to try so many new whiskies. Many thanks!” I think that covers it. Was listening to Crossfaith – just saw them live and they are fucking awesome.

Woodford Reserve

Woodford Reserve: Distillers Select (USA: Bourbon: 43.2%)

Visual: Deep burnished gold.

Viscosity: Fast thick streaks.

Nose: Husked barley and honey. Meringue. Dried raspberry. Rye bread. Menthol touch. Vanilla.

Body: Smooth. Rye and peppercorn. Charcoal. Vanilla. Sour dough. Raspberry notes and meringue. Toffee. Milky chocolate. Menthol touch. Water smooths to add more toffee and vanilla.

Finish: Dry. Charcoal and vanilla. Strawberry notes. Milky chocolate.

Conclusion: This is amazingly mellow for a bourbon. That isn’t intended as a knock on bourbon, I have always liked a spirit with a bit of edge, but this is very satisfyingly mellow, and one of the few bourbons I have tried that actually gets better with water.

Initially there is a slightly harsh edge to it with the spicy rye notes, then slowly you get the vanilla and toffee layers so prevalent in most bourbon. What is interesting is the light fruity notes that come in with it. This is something I haven’t encountered much in bourbon. More interesting, even just a touch of water really brings out those elements and smooths away the last remnants of the harsh edges.

It is very easy to drink, smooth as it is, a bourbon that is full of what you would expect, then gives you a bit more that you didn’t. It is great both neat, where it has more peppercorns, spice and edge, and with water where it becomes a go to for easy sipping bourbon.

While it may not beat the rarities of the bourbon world when it comes to complexity it is no slouch, and it definitely replaced Makers Mark in my go to for (comparatively) easy to find bourbon. The mix of sweetness to rye character and fruit notes is just great, and the water to no water contrast makes for two different drinks in one.

Very interesting and should be the baseline of good bourbon.

Background: This was a gift from Paul Duran – many thanks guv. It’s been a while since I have done a bourbon review, and this was done with the calming backing tracks of a bit of Nirvana. I had just seen a youtube vid of current kids reacting to Nirvana and was happy to see most of the current generation enjoyed it. They get to live…for now.

Pappy Van Winkle: Family Reserve 20 Year (American Bourbon: 20 Year: 45.2% ABV)

Visual: A dark burnished bronzed gold.

Viscosity: A slow intermittent descending sheet.

Nose: Black pepper. Honeycomb. Rye bread. Light charcoal touches. Chives.

Body: Pepper. Strong oak. Maple syrup and pancakes., Slight orange liquore. Rye bread. Water makes sweeter with more maple syrup and the addition of slight custard.

Finish: Dry. Oaken and pepper filled. Rye bread. Water adds treacle and makes the finish last even longer. Vanilla touches come out also.

Conclusion: After the previous tour of the Van Winkle bourbon I was surprised by how smooth this was in comparison to the younger versions. In comparison to being the important words as it is still quite potent.  The alcohol burn however has been traded in, unfortunately to be replaced by a very high oaken presence. You really can tastes the extra years in the oak.

This does seem to limit the room the spice and orange flavour has compared to the younger version. It is a pity but the trade off does give a very easy sipping Bourbon. The person serving me described it as quite peppery and that is definitely true. The peppery element is instrumental to giving it that impressively long finish instead of just a burning alcohol touch.

For its smoothness it seems less lively on its flavours, with the pepper and rye (Again, its odd as I’m fairly sure rye isn’t used in making this) being the main elements alongside the oak. Unusually for a bourbon water really helps by pushing forth a maple syrup like sweetness that offsets the oak and gives the orange flavour more room to play. It also brings out a bit of the traditional Bourbon vanilla sweetness.

For my money this expression is just a bit too oak emphasised to be great, but I will give it respect for the smoothness it brings. I would say the most distinguished of the range is still the 15 year for its bit of extra play in the flavour.

Not bad at all. I don’t think Bourbon quite suits ageing this much but it is a very nice experiment to try.

Background; Drunk at the Rummer hotel. I’ve been slowly working my work up the ages of the van winkle range and reached this, the 20 year. A quite remarkable age for bourbon to be aged, but what Van Winkle seem to consider their baseline expression. The bartender recommended having with ice to counteract the warm flavours but my dislike of ice in spirits overruled that.

Pappy Van Winkle: Family Reserve: 15 Year (American Bourbon: 15 Years: 53.5% ABV)

Visual: A very dark rich amber.

Viscosity: Quite a loose mix of streaks.

Nose: Wheat and rye crackers. Quite a tingle at this point. Dry granite. Orange rind, possible liqueur like in style.  Slight sourness with water.

Body: Smooth. Spicy red grapes. Alcohol fire builds up after a while but is not immediately evident.  Vanilla toffee and glacier cherries. Water makes smoother and adds custard touches.

Finish: Milk chocolate and vanilla toffee. Orange liqueur again. With water becomes more bitter chocolate like.

Conclusion: I’m always unsure with higher abv bourbon on if I should add water or not.  The extra alcohol tends to make the drink more fiery which can hide the flavour, but most bourbons I’ve tinkered with don’t seem to react particularly well to water. Well in my experience anyway, would be interesting to get others views on this.

This is a pretty good case in point. It is significantly smoother and more easy going than the twelve year, which does it credit considering the abv, even better it plays with similar spice and red grape flavour that made the twelve year enjoyable.

However even with this smoother version, if you hold it on your tongue for a while to enjoy the sensation you find that the alcohol presence is soon made felt. At that point the smooth vanilla toffee and spice are pretty much concealed to the finish.

Now with tinkering it seems that water in moderation does quite well, allowing easier appreciation of the almost liqueur styling running through it, and also seems to bring out a custard sweetness.

The burn does still come in quicker than I would like, limiting your time to enjoy it. Enough  play with water smoothes even that out, but that point a lot of the vibrant spicy richness is also lost.

Looking back at the twelve year review to compare I am reminder of how much these two share in their main flavours and styles. This reacts better to water and is significantly smoother. While they have similar play to them, the 15 year doesn’t have quite the instant wow of the twelve year, instead pacing itself more over the entire drink. The spice and orange is more restrained, but similarly doesn’t burn out as quick.

This I would say this is the better bourbon, while it does not impress as instantly I found myself enjoying its charm to the end.

Now just to try the twenty year version.

Background: An odd thing I noticed on this one. It describes itself as a younger version of the 20 year old pappy van winkle.  Which I guess means they consider the 20 year version the default. Bloody hell that’s old for bourbon, I will have to get round to trying it at some point.  Drunk during the day at the Rummer Hotel. It was a relaxing day, and I enjoyed talking with the friendly and knowledgeable bar staff. A pleasant way to pass time I must say.

Van Winkle: Special Reserve: 12 Year: Lot B (American Wheated Bourbon: 12 Years: 45.2% ABV)

Visual: A very dark amber gold.

Viscosity: Comes down thick and as a single sheet.

Nose: Rye bread. Spice. Shelled husks. Faint oil air. Orange peel. Water lightens mainly without adding much.

Body: Very sweet and spiced. Orange liquor. Sherry soaked red grapes. Treacle. Muscat grapes. Chives. Rye bread.

Finish: Red grapes. Mulled spice. A scented candle like oddity that hands around just at the back of the nostrils. Quite dry. Treacle and herbal.

Conclusion: Not for the faint of heart this one. Before drinking it I thought I had worked out the rough range of flavour the Bourbon played with. Then this passed my lips and I realized I was wrong.

Very sweet with this almost liquore touches countered by very herbal mulled wine styling. The more traditional Bourbon flavours expected show them underneath that, but on top it is all dancing spicy flavour.

Unfortunately you acclimatise to this shock too quickly. It is such a pleasant experience that I would like to be surprised anew on each sip, but the eye blinking oddity loses its punch as you get used to it.  That doesn’t mean it becomes bad, just that you can only really have that surprise once.

Also, don’t add water, it doesn’t seem to benefit and water  kills some of the higher elements in it.

So it had wondrous first sips and  then a tingling spiciness that makes for fair decent flavour by itself. Reminds me a bit of Muscat cask ageing and that’s a fair impressive feat.  Overall very impressive without compromising the core elements. I will definitely have to try the even older versions.

Background: Made at the Buffalo Trace distillery, this is apparently a wheated Bourbon. Best I know that means that despite it containing elements that I was convinced was rye bread like, there was actually no rye used to make it. Go figure.  Drunk at the Rummer Hotel. I have been having a lot of Scottish whisky recently and decided to give their Bourbon selection a try for a change. No I don’t know what “Lot B” is.  Twelve years is bloody old for a Bourbon, I didn’t think they survived well aged for more than six. Obviously I was wrong

Makers Mark Bourbon (America: Bourbon: 45% ABV)

Visual: Light honeyed gold at the edges building to a burning gold centre

Viscosity: Moderate width but slow to form lines that ooze their way slowly down the glass.

Nose: Sour mash and planed wood. Honey and a slight saltiness. Grapes come out with a few drops of water. Wheat fields

Body: Harsh without water, thick treacle like texture and a hint of similar flavour. Crumbly biscuits, right at the back of the throat comes a hint of blackcurrant and light honey.

Finish: Almost coffee with just a drop of milk. Bitter but not overpowering. Punches in like that morning wake up call. Sawmill wood lingers on with sawdust and shavings. Wood fire smoke.

Conclusion: With its boast of a hand crafted bourbon, strong flavours and a slightly higher than average alcohol this crafted bourbon tells a tale of sweat and fields on your taste buds. A workman’s measure. Not my most preferred of drinks but you do respect the journey it takes you on and appreciate its nature. It does smooth out wonderfully with just 3 drops of water for a much softer more subtle experience.

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