Bourbon

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ivan
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Bourbon

Post by ivan »

America's Native Spirit, the brownest of the brown liquors. This fine booze typically springs from the limestone-filtered waters of Kentucky, although there are a few outliers.

I am going to use this thread to post tasting notes and recommendations, and I encourage other Bourbon fans to do the same. Let's try and leverage the awesome power of this community to create a guide to a variety of good whiskeys. And, just so we are all on the same sheet of music, I suggest using the following price guide*:

$- Bottom shelf. Generally available for under $10 for 750 mL
$$- Budget. Around $20-$25 for 1.75 liter, or $10-$20 for 750 mL
$$$- Premium. $20 or more for 750 mL
$$$$- Small Batch/SuperPremium. You're not walking out of the liquor store with 750 mL without laying down $50 or more.

All I ask is that, if you choose to contribute, you be as fair and impartial as possible, and that you put a bit of effort into the work. Saying "this stuff sucks" or "this is really good" doesn't help too much. Tell us why you like or dislike a particular brand. Also, describe how you sampled the Bourbon. Was it neat? Rocks? Did you use a mixer? If so, what? Try and keep your tasting notes as close to "straight out of the bottle" as possible, but don't be afraid to experiment a bit. "This whiskey burns horribly when taken straight, but is just fine when mixed with cola" or "a splash of water opens up this Bourbon, bringing more of the oak and caramel notes to the front" are both important bits of information.

If you disagree with someone's assessment of a particular Bourbon, then, by all means, feel free to post your own review. We're not all going to like the same things. In fact, what might cause one person to absolutely hate a particular Bourbon may be the selling point for someone else.

I suggest you conduct your tastings early on in your drinking day. It's much more difficult to discern different flavors at 11 PM, when you've spent the better part of the evening chugging booze. And, finally, enjoy each individual Bourbon for what it brings to the table. There are different expectations when you've paid $50 for a bottle of booze as opposed to $10, but they're both means to an end.

Enough talking. Let's get to drinking!

*Your mileage may vary if you live in New York City or San Francisco, but if you live there, you knew that in the first place.
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Re: Bourbon

Post by Mayhem »

I'll go first:
Beam white doesn't do it for me straight, which is my preferred way, but is excellent with a splash of ginger ale. I'm not a fan of it's burn.
For me Maker's is best for Manhattans, as it's lack of burn and caramel taste suits sweet Vermouth, and I feel Manhattans are kinda like a girly/dessert drink and shouldn't have a burn.
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ivan
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Re: Bourbon

Post by ivan »

Booker's

Price: $$$$
Proof: Varies. Mine is 125.4

With its high price and substantial proof, Booker's is generally not an everyday Bourbon. No, Booker's is raw, powerful, and embodies the essence of what Bourbon can be. It is unusual among mass-produced Bourbons in that it is simply poured from the barrel into the bottle, without any watering down. As a result, Bookers boldly shows what the barrel brings to the table.

Since it's bottled unfiltered and unwatered, my sampling was conducted the same way.

When you first open the bottle, the aroma is almost overwhelming. Booker's doesn't hide anything. The initial sip provides a stark alcoholic burn, but that soon subsides. After the initial shock to the taste buds, the true pleasure of Booker's begins. The most obvious flavor is the oak, which is soon followed by a distinct caramel sweetness and notes of vanilla. Subsequent sips bring more flavors out- is that a hint of coffee I'm getting? Honey?

If you're laying out the money for something this pricey, you're not going to want to mix it with anything. Save that for lesser Bourbons. The only thing I could see mixing with this would be a splash of proper spring water, for a classic "Bourbon and branch", but municipal water lacks the limestone flavor of Kentucky spring water. I tried a small splash of water, but did not find it to open up any new flavors, which, in my experience, is somewhat unusual.

I would recommend this as a special occasion Bourbon for serious Bourbon drinkers. If you're a casual whiskey sipper, Booker's may be too overwhelming. The pros and cons of this spirit are the same- it's expensive, it hits the taste buds hard, it is the essence of Bourbon. For veteran Bourbon drinkers, it needs to be experienced at least once, preferably with a friend. If Bourbon is not your usual drink, avoid Booker's. This one is not a starter, it instead needs to be worked up to.
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Re: Bourbon

Post by Glasgae Sam »

$$$ - Elijah Craig 12 year old.

For some reason this small batch bourbon from the inventor of the brown stuff himself is easy to find in Glasgow, but I'm told can be a bit tricky to get hold of in it's native USA. Can anyone confirm?

Anyway, a bottle of this is delightful right down to the real cork stopper. It's a refined and complex bourbon, I found hints of liquorice (possibly higher than normal rye content), caramel and spices. It has a deep, warm finish that lingers in the throat longer than most in this price range. However this is also it's only weakness - a lot of people won't like the intensity of the flavour. I've always taken mine on the rocks, but have discovered that leaving it to melt a while (about 10 mins should do it) will noticeably round out the flavour and provide a much more consistent experience. Being a true small batch I've heard 12yr old is prone to noticeable variation between bottles, but have never come across this myself. I've also tried it with apple juice and been very impressed. If you like your bourbons strong and full of depth then for my money this is a great choice. Don't even think about mixing it with coke though, the sweetness of the coke will mute all the delicate notes of the bourbon.

PS I've had friends swear there's a sort of banana after taste to this bourbon, but I'm not getting it myself. Weird!
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Re: Bourbon

Post by ivan »

Ezra Brooks

Price: $$
Proof: 90

The fine folks at Heaven Hill distilleries bring us Ezra Brooks, and it provides serious bang for the buck. In the interest of full disclosure, this was my grandfather's favorite Bourbon, but I think I can make it through the review in an unbiased manner.

The first thing you notice when you open the bottle is that Ezra has a cork. They have moved from actual cork to a synthetic, but it's a nice touch. The color is a good bourbon brown, with a little red thrown in. The initial sniff gives aromas of corn and the power of a 90 proof. Nothing too remarkable, it just smells like a Bourbon.

The initial sip has a nice bite. This is not a "too smooth" 90 proof, but rather an unapologetic and bold reminder of what used to be the industry standard. Subsequent tastes bring out smoky tastes and a nice vanilla.

A splash of water really opens up this Bourbon. Corn, vanilla, rye, and honey notes become more bold, but the whiskey itself still retains a good kick in your mouth, and a burn going down. Even if you're someone who normally drinks your Bourbon neat, I would strongly advise you to add some water. Not too much, just a quick splash. The improvement it makes is remarkable.

If you wanted to mix it, it would hold up in almost any popular Bourbon libation. The bold flavor would even cut through the sweetness of cola or ginger ale, and I think it could shine in either an Old Fashioned or a Mint Julep. This would be an ideal flask Bourbon- it's versatile, strong, and holds up well against mixers. If there is a downside to this Bourbon, it's that the flavor alone is somewhat unremarkable. It tastes like Bourbon, but unless I knew ahead of time what I was drinking, this could be any number of whiskeys. I don't think that alone is too strong of a negative- it's a Bourbon that tastes like a Bourbon.

In the end, I cannot do anything but recommend this to Bourbon drinkers of all levels. For the novice, it would hold up well when combined with a mixer. For the veteran Bourbon drinker, it's going to taste like what you expect from a Bourbon, while not putting too big a dent in your wallet. The fact that it's 90 proof only makes it more remarkable, because it's rare to find this combination of quality, strength, and low price. If Ezra is not in your liquor cabinet, it should be.
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Re: Bourbon

Post by Jelmo »

Interesting thread this is, I still need to improve and increase my knowlegde and tastingnotes on bourbons and rye whiskies.
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Re: Bourbon

Post by ivan »

Knob Creek

Price: $$$
Proof: 100

Booker Noe and family at Jim Beam bring us Knob Creek, a 9-year-old, 100 proof premium Bourbon. The first sniff is powerful, and reminiscent of caramel. Pouring this, I am reminded of maple syrup, both in color and in the way the "legs" cling to the side of the glass.

The first sip, while bold, is not overpowering. The caramel aroma is manifested as a flavor, and strong oak notes join it at the forefront. There are hints of vanilla at the edges. The booze itself almost feels like it's evaporating on the tongue, and there is surprisingly little burn. A 100 proof Bourbon has no business being this smooth. Subsequent tastes remain fairly constant- caramel, then oak, are the dominant tastes, with a nicely oaky aftertaste and remarkably little burn.

A splash of water serves this Bourbon well. Along with the dominant flavors, there is now a hint of orange, and a pleasant nuttiness. The splash almost completely removes the burn, though. There is even more smokiness to the aftertaste.

I would not mix this Bourbon. It needs to be appreciated for what it is, and what it is is a very nice Bourbon. Even a splash of water makes this almost too smooth for its own good. The only way I'd order it is neat, or perhaps on the rocks- but even then, I'd specify that not much ice be involved.

I would steer clear of this Bourbon if I were a novice. It loses too much when mixed. For a novice who is trying to get a taste for good Bourbon, this would be a decent starting point. For the veteran, Knob Creek is a good Bourbon for the price, and will not go to waste in your home bar.
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Re: Bourbon

Post by ***** »

Wild Turkey 101
101 Proof
$$

A mouthful (and noseful) of charred oak barrel flavor, the sweetness of the corn is whisked away by a carrier takeoff-worthy afterburn. Raw, bold, and unmistakable, Wild Turkey 101 is the All-Pro middle linebacker of the Bourbon world. Once you get up to cask strength premium bottlings, you'll find a sophisticated palate married to the ephemeral whiskey vapor experience, but for under $20 this gives you both barrels.

Although it is best straight, it can be made to play nice with ginger ale or lemon/lime soda and a dash of bitters. It makes a passable Manhattan, but that is a duty best carried out by it's Northern cousin, Wild Turkey Rye 101. An Old Fashioned is better served by a lighter brand, but a Whiskey Sour does quite nicely if the sour mix is fresh and handmade.

I've enjoyed this for the better part of 10 years, ranging from fetishistic guzzling inspired by Hunter S. Thompson to using it as the last line of defense against humdrum family gatherings. It can both prove your prowess as you take shot after shot off the Skid Row bar (hoping the high proof will kill anything unsavory) and it can help you stealth the in-laws (one glass on an empty stomach can keep you pleasantly lit for an afternoon) into thinking your a charming, if talkative, addition to the family. Though it may not be my favorite in any category, it wins my enduring affection for being so steadfast.

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Re: Bourbon

Post by Cowboy Joe »

Evan Williams Single Barrel
$$

The pour and appearence in the glass are unremarkable, just basic bourbon, with a good coating of the glass. In the nose, it's well balanced and mellow, with hints of vanilla, leather, and a touch of hay. At first taste, I feel this one forward on the pallete, as with most bourbons, and as it lingers the taste gently spreads out. There's also pleasant warmth and light leather taste at the back of the pallate. Overall, there is a relatively light mouthfeel with a really remarkable smoothness. Not as "hot" as some bourbons, and not very much rye in the mash, I suspect. The primary tastes are very well balanced and complimentary, I get the aforementioned vanilla, leather, and fresh hay flavors, along with a little bit of oak. The latter taste is especially noticable in the finish.

Overall, I'd rate this as a very mellow bourbon, that is great for sipping. It's lovely to sip neat, and I couldn't bring myself to adulterate it with water or ice. Personally, I'd wish it was just a bit more intense--I think a cask strength version would be really amazing. If it's this smooth watered to 86 proof, I feel like it could stand up very well at barrel proof to an experienced drinker. As it is, it might be a good bourbon to start with--it has all the hallmarks of a great bourbon, and is very approachable. To some, who crave balance, smoothness, and mellow tones, this might be one of the nicest bourbons available. I personally like my whiskey a little more intense (I'm a lover of Islay Scotch, along with Bookers, if that gives any insight in to my tastes), but I'm very happy to drink this. Especially considering the price--I find this superior to the Beam Black, and it's generally about the same price. Of course, keep in mind this is a single barrel whiskey and subject to some variance, this particular batch (Barrel no. 752) may just be a little different than another barrel. To my mind, there comes a point in evaluating a whiskey where there ceases to be "good" or "bad" and only "different." This bourbon is different from some of the other major players in bourbon (Buffalo Trace, Beam brands, et cetera), but whether or not you like it more, or less, is up to your individual preferences.

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Re: Bourbon

Post by Cowboy Joe »

Bulleit

$$
While many bourbons today have a taste profile that centers around sweet flavors, especially vanilla, balanced with wood and smoke, this bourbon has a very strong rye character to it--a flavor I'll call "vintage" because at one time rye was the most popular form of whiskey made in America. Not to mention it is bottled at 90 proof, as were many of the whiskeys made decades ago.

Color is dark amber, with good legs on the glass and relatively heavy look. In the nose, the aforementioned rye spice strikes me first, especially if you approach this expecting a more traditional vanilla nose. There's also plenty of charred oak, along with a subtle hint of the more traditional vanilla sweetness. In tasting, I get most of this towards the front of my mouth, with the warm rye flavors virtually exploding on the front of my tongue. It doesn't have quite the "freshly baked bread" quality of some rye whiskey, but the rye tastes are still quite pronounced. Further back, I notice the wood and smoke flavors, and the finish evens out to a pleasant melding of the two. This has considerably more sweetness than a traditional rye, but it doesn't strike me quite as sweet as many other bourbons. There is plenty of warmth, and while there is no age statement on the bottle, this one has a rich, charcoal barrel essence to it. The vanilla flavor is there, but it is somewhat layered beneath the rye and barrel tastes. There is absolutely no bitterness, and all the warmth in the flavor profile comes from taste, not alcohol harshness.

Overall, I like this one a lot. It is quite a bit different, and I think it would be a good choice for cocktails like a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned. I find it very smooth and drinkable, and I have no real desire to do anything more with it beyond sipping it neat, unless mixing in to one of the aforementioned cocktails. If you like whiskey with sodas, I'd suggest ginger ale would be a good mixer with Bulleit.

Overall, I enjoy this whiskey a lot, and I think it's a good deal. The rye flavors are somewhat different for a contemporary bourbon, but very nice.

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Re: Bourbon

Post by ruiner »

Buffalo Trace

Price: $$
Proof: 90

This is a mellow bourbon. It smells almost like a nice Irish whiskey, and has a slight burn. Very reasonably priced at 22 dollars a bottle, this is by far my all time favorite. Have it with an ice cube, it really does make a difference.
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Re: Bourbon

Post by fizzmaster »

This is an excellent thread. Good work, my fellow scholars of booze! I will post some reviews up here soon.
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Re: Bourbon

Post by ivan »

Eagle Rare 10 Year Old

Price: $$$
Proof: 90

When you pop the cork on this Bourbon, the aroma is overwhelmingly caramel. Upon first sip, the taste is surprisingly oak up front, then caramel. There is surprisingly little burn when you swallow, and the aftertaste is a pleasing honey. Subsequent sips follow the same pattern, but it seems that the flavors cycle back and forth more rapidly. There is also a fruitiness that I can't quite describe, but it's very nice.

Adding a splash of water... whoa! That really mutes this Bourbon. The caramel is almost the only flavor that comes through. Nothing else. At all. I have never tasted a Bourbon holding up this poorly against a simple splash.

On the whole, I would recommend this only for someone looking for sipping straight Bourbon. If a splash of water mutes this Bourbon this much, I don't see it holding up well against mixers. It's quite good straight, but there are better Bourbons available for the money.
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Re: Bourbon

Post by Frankennietzsche »

I had a thread on Noah's Mill bourbon from ages ago, but it seems to have disappeared. Same goes for Jefferson Reserve. I still have the bottles, but they are empty.
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Re: Bourbon

Post by ivan »

FNZ, have I mentioned lately how jealous I am of the Bourbon selection you have? At times, I wish I hadn't come of age in Kentucky. I just kind of assumed that everywhere had the same options.
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