March 1, 2006
Evan Williams 1783
Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
10 Year Old Sour Mash
Typical Price: About $11 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
1783 was a pretty big year, in terms of American history. For one thing, Washington Irving was born. OK, so Sleepy Hollow and the Headless Horseman isn't enough for you? It was also the year the Revolutionary War ended! Is that a big enough deal for you? Of course, good things happen in threes, so the other important event is that Evan Williams started distilling his Bourbon in this prestigious year. We've just tried the Evan Williams 1783 expression and we have to say - we're glad he did.
The Color: Brown!
The Nose: Big and Rich
This one has a very subtle and rich smell, with hints of vanilla and a tiny rye bite. If you ask us, this is what Bourbon should smell like.
The Flavors: Nice and Smooth
Very smooth, and not the slightest bit harsh, sweet as it hits the tongue. When we swished it around our mouths we felt an herbal, almost minty twinge, without much alcohol burn as we swallowed. The finish wasn't too aggressive, and we really liked the balance between the sweetness of the corn and the quick bite of the rye.
The Recipes: Go On and Mix It
This stuff would be great in any whiskey drink you can think of, and for the price, you don't even feel guilty about mixing it. We still liked it best with just a splash of water, though.
The Verdict: Tall, Dark and Handsome
This is the way it should be - top notch Bourbon for a bottom shelf price. We were floored by the fact that an $11 Bourbon could taste this good. We recommend heading out to find a bottle, and keep in mind that you can probably buy three of them for the price you'd pay for another bottle with comparable quality.
The Site: We couldn't find any official info about this product online.
February 28, 2006
Henry Mckenna Single Barrel
10 Year Old Bourbon Whiskey, Bottled in Bond
100 Proof (50% ABV)
Typical Price: About $30 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
This second bottle we're cracking for the Whiskey Week festivities is 10 years old, but that doesn't take any of the aggressiveness out of it. This stuff is definitely on the assertive side, and one of our reviewers said it reminded him of "Maker's Mark in steel-toed boots." Now that's an assessment that makes us want to pour ourselves a glass.
The Color: Brown
This whiskey shows a very clear, light amber color.
The Nose: Sweet and Spicy
We smelled pepper and citrus and caramel when we held the glass to our nose, and we found a light, almost floral tone to the smell. There was no burn when we sniffed it, however, and we didn't get that "just pulled a nose hair" feeling we get from some higher-proof whiskeys when we put our nose to it. Very nice.
The Flavors: A Nice, Big Bite
This one was much smoother up front than we expected, based on the high alcohol content, and we detected a mixed bag of flavors. Once again we detected caramel or sugar, and we liked the complex spiciness and oily texture as the McKenna's coated our tongues. When we swallowed we felt the burn we had expected, but it was pleasant and warming, rather than wince-inducing. We liked it straight, but once we poured it on the rocks we really felt like we'd found our drink. Spicy is the watch word here, but you can reign in the bite a bit with judicious ice cube addition.
The Recipes: Keep It On The Rocks
We didn't mix any drinks, but we thought McKenna's would go well in any specialty whiskey drinks, especially an Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Julep, etc. If it ends up being too much, you can put out the fire on this one by dousing it with cola or something too sweet, but before you do, we recommend giving it a try on the rocks.
The Verdict: I'm Spicy!
We were great fans of this stuff, but we like some spice in our drink. You'll probably like Henry McKenna if you like your Bourbon kicked up and aggressive, and it's definitely a must-try for the enthusiast. We found the Maker's Mark analogy to be true up to a point, but Henry McKenna has a flavor all its own.
The Site: Check out the Bardstown Bourbon Society McKenna page for more information and reviews.
February 27, 2006
Evan Williams Black Label
7 Year Old Sour Mash Bourbon Whiskey
Made in Kentucky
86 Proof (43% ABV)
Typical Price: About $10 - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Since we're reviewing our whiskeys in order of age, we'll open up the Whiskey Week proceedings with the Black Label. So what'd we think of this ubiquitous whiskey?
The Color: Brown! Surprised?
Yup, it's brown when you look at it in the bottle, and it's brown when you pour it in a glass. It's Bourbon...what did you expect?
The Nose: Fruit and Leather
As we went nose to glass, we could smell vanilla, spices, and...leather? There's a musky, smoky smell somewhere in that bottle, like a saddle or a big fat belt with a huge buckle. We also detected a citrusy smell, which we attributed to the sour mash.
The Flavors: Drunk straight, it was surprisingly oily on the tongue, followed by hints of pepper and wood. This is a young Bourbon, and it tastes that way - almost too young to drink straight, unless you're up for a fight. When we put it on the rocks, however, it mellowed out a bit and gained some of the sweetness of vanilla. All in all, we can compare this stuff to Jack Daniels, but offering a bit more bitterness on the back of the tongue.
The Recipes: We liked the Black Label in your typical Whiskey drinks - from mixing it with cola to whipping up a Old Fashioned. The Evan Williams drink recipe page offers some other cocktails that might be worth a try, including a Bourbon Margarita and a Bourbon and Cream Martini.
The Verdict: Don't be afraid to check this one out, especially if you're planning to mix cocktails. Compare it to Jack Daniels, and we don't think you'll be disappointed - especially since the Modern Drunkard says we're supposed to boycott Jack Daniels nowadays. [Update: All you Jack enthusiasts can save your angry emails - we're not rallying for a JD ban, we just linked to a story. Jeez...]
The Site: EvanWilliams.com
February 26, 2006
This is going to be a good week at the Liquor Snob offices. Move over, Oscar Week - we're introducing Whiskey Week. We'll be sampling and reviewing a Bourbon each day for seven days, tearing through bottles like a tornado through a trailer park. It'll be a lot like Shark Week, except with slightly less flesh-tearing, and we'll be drunk. Wait, we're drunk during Shark Week too.
Oh yeah, and before we get too far into each bottle, we'll make sure to take some notes about what they taste like, too. If you're curious about the Bourbons we'll be turning our bloodshot eyes to, find out more about our Heaven Hill Bourbon selection.
Update: One thing we forgot to mention is that we'll be doing the reviews in order of age, from youngest to oldest. That means we'll start with the Evan Williams Black Label (7 years old) today, and ending with Elijah Craig Single Barrel (18 years old) at the end of the week. Now let's get cracking!
February 21, 2006
Late last year, we did a little piece on some alternative American Whiskeys
, including corn, rye and wheat-based, from Heaven Hill distilleries. We were impressed with the varieties we weren't used to, but sometimes it's important to go back to what you know. One of the things we know is Bourbon, and it turns out that those crazy Southerners offer about 200 labels. We weren't able to get our hands on them all, but we've gotten a nice sample of seven different bottles.
See below for the full list of bottles we've got in the cabinet - you can expect reviews in the coming days:
- Evan Williams Black Label
- Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage
- Evan Williams 1783
- Elijah Craig Small Batch
- Elijah Craig Single Barrel
- Very Special Old Fitzgerald Small Batch
- Henry McKenna Single Barrel
In the meantime, you can learn about Heaven Hill Bourbons
December 8, 2005
90 proof Kentucky straight wheat whiskey
Typical Price: About $40 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Slogan: "Kentucky's Spirit of Innovation"
Initial Thoughts: If you're not interested in whiskey, it might be easy to wonder what's all the hubbub about Bernheim Original Wheat. "Sure," you might say, "nobody else is making it, and it probably hasn't been made since before Prohibition. But how much difference can it really make?" In fact, we might have been asking ourselves the same question a few short days ago, but now that we've tried Bernheim we know the answer...it's all about the wheat, baby!
At first blush, there doesn't seem to be too much difference between Bernheim and your typical craft Bourbon. The distillation process is similar, the crafters use the same process, and it’s not aged significantly more than a lot of other whiskeys (about five years, if you're interested). But when you pull it out of its protective little cardboard box, you start to notice the uniqueness.
When we slipped the cork out of the neck of the bottle - we have to admit, we're suckers for any whiskey that's corked instead of capped, for reasons we can't even figure out ourselves - we thought we were prepared for anything. What we weren't prepared for was the sweet, delicate aroma that wafted from the neck of the bottle...we'd expected something much more hearty. In the glass it offered up a much lighter color than we'd expected as well, somewhere between the peaty yellow of Scotch and the molasses brown of Bourbon.
When we tasted it, the flavor was surprisingly light and dry, almost refreshing. We want to say it was sweet, with honey undertones, but it wasn't syrupy at all. The flavor also hinted at nuts, with a trace of some fall fruits, and it was incredibly dry, and didn't coat our tongue like some similar whiskeys might. Once we added a small splash of water, the dryness intensified and became even more crisp.
Cocktail Recipes: N/A. We're sure Bernheim would taste great in cocktails, but we recommend it straight, with a splash of water, or on the rocks.
Finishing Thoughts: We've had whiskey that contained wheat before, because a lot of Bourbons and other American whiskeys use it in their mash, but as we said before this is the only whiskey currently on the market that utilizes wheat as the primary ingredient. We were extremely impressed with it, and we think it can hold its own against pretty much any other American whiskey we've tried. It's tasty, it's craft-distilled, it's unique, and we're still impressed with that dry finish. We think it would make a great gift for any whiskey drinker on your list, especially if they've expressed an interest in trying something different.
Read more about Bernheim wheat, along with profiles of corn and rye whiskeys, in our earlier story: Whiskey Alternatives: Corn, Rye and Wheat.
December 7, 2005
We just got an email from Kevin over at The Scotch Blog, and apparently Scotch isn't the only whisk(e)y he drinks. He was perusing the Maker's Mark website and found an interesting egg nog recipe just in time to get ready for your holiday party.
Sure, our hearts will probably stop due to the two-dozen eggs, but a nog recipe that calls for a liter of bourbon? We're so there.
Maker's Mark Bourbon Eggnog
1 liter Maker's Mark
1 quart milk
1 quart heavy cream
2 dozen eggs
1 1/2 cups sugar
Nutmeg for garnish
Separate eggs and beat yolks until creamy. Whip sugar into yolks. Beat whites until they stand in peaks, adding 1/2 cup additional sugar, if desired. Beat yolks and Maker's Mark together, add whites. Beat cream. Add cream and milk to mixture. Add nutmeg to taste and garnish each cup with nutmeg. Makes 2 1/2 gallons.
This recipe, along with a bunch of other interesting ones that aren't so holiday-centric, can be found on the Maker's Mark Recipes
page. You can also sign up to be a Maker's Mark Ambassador
and get all sorts of cool offers, print out score cards for your next Bourbon tasting, and name a barrel of Maker's after yourself or someone else!
Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond
100 proof aged rye whiskey
Typical Price: About $15 - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Initial Thoughts: Rye was one of the first whiskey types to be distilled in the United States, and it was originally distilled mainly in the Northeast. After a few glasses of Rittenhouse we thought it was hysterical to think about Boston Puritans getting plastered on the stuff, and maybe going out and dumping a bunch of tea into the harbor or something.
In fact, rye whiskey does have a bit of a tumultuous history...it was the inspiration for the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794. The stuff remained popular all the way up until Prohibition, which is when Americans started mixing cocktails to take some of the bite out of their drink. By the time Prohibition ended, most people had sort of lost their taste for the stronger flavor of Rye and gotten used to booze with lighter or sweeter flavors, hence it becoming a bit of an alternative whiskey.
And it's a sad thing, but we keep hearing more about rye and we think it could be on the rebound. Based on what we tasted in Rittenhouse, it definitely should be. We've been Bourbon types for as long as we can remember and when we opened our bottle of Rittenhouse and gave it a sniff, the first thing we thought of was how reminiscent it was. The nose was rich and had a scent of brown sugar, and while we remember smelling rye in our earlier years and wincing, this had none of the overpowering alcoholic tang we used to associate with rye.
In the glass, we liked it even better (of course). The flavor was complex, with overtones of black strap molasses and the sweetness of caramel, and we even thought we could taste, for lack of a better term, a taste of rum and burnt sugar on the back end. All in all, very nice. Find our cocktail recipe suggestions and finishing thoughts after the jump.
Continue reading: "Rittenhouse Bottled In Bond Rye Whiskey Review"
November 30, 2005
Vital Stats: 100 proof corn whiskey
Typical Price: Less than $15 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Slogan: Less than 30 days old
Initial Thoughts: We made some bold claims about whiskey alternatives this week, but we're not afraid to come right out and say that for a brief moment, we were afraid we weren't tough enough to drink Georgia Moon whiskey. "Bottled" in a Mason jar, this stuff is supposed to be reminiscent of moonshine (AKA corn likker, AKA white lightning, AKA white dog, AKA liver varnish), and it does a good job. Other snobs who expect their whiskey to be aged might have turned up their nose upon seeing the "less than 30 days old label" - we were excited to try some fresh whiskey.
Georgia Moon is clear, and upon twisting off the cap we were hit with the potent tang of sour liquor, followed by the smell of sweet corn. We took our first belts directly out of the Mason jar, as nature intended, and found that the taste was a bit sour too, especially in comparison with the sweetness of bourbon and other American whiskeys. It wasn't unpleasant, however, and we found ourselves swishing it around in our mouths and marveling at the straightforward and simple taste once we got used to it. For a crew used to searching for complexity in our booze, the simplicity of Georgia Moon was, well, intoxicating. That and the fiery 100 proof trail it blazed down our gullets, of course.
Cocktail Recipes: We actually didn't mix any recipes with Georgia Moon. We just joked about putting on some overalls, slugged it out of the jar and reminisced about that old Bugs Bunny cartoon with the feuding hillbillies. When we searched the InterWeb to find drink recipes, we couldn't find any, but we did learn that the episode we were thinking of was called Hillbilly Hare.
Finishing Thoughts: Corn whiskey isn't something we'd normally think of when browsing in the liquor store, but it's definitely a unique drink. We're glad we tried it, and while it might not go into our regular rotation, for the price it's worth it to have the jar around as a conversation piece alone. We recommend Georgia Moon for late nights when your still is broken, romantic evenings with your shotgun bride and those not-so-rare evenings when you feel like drinking out of a wide-mouthed jar.
Georgia Moon is part of the corn whiskey family distributed by Heaven Hill - the other labels include Mellow Corn, Dixie Dew and J.W. Corn. Learn more about Heaven Hill's "Other Whiskeys" at their website.
November 29, 2005
A lot of the time when you hear about whiskey, people are talking about Bourbon or Scotch. There are obviously other popular types, including Canadian and Irish, but these major four types aren't your only options if you're looking for a full whiskey experience. We're huge bourbon fans here at Liquor Snob, but we've rounded up some bottles of corn, rye and wheat whiskey, and we'll be doing reviews soon.
According to the definition we found here, bourbon whiskey is "a distinctive product of the United States made from a fermented mash containing at least 51 percent corn, distilled at no more than 160 proof, aged at no more than 125 proof for at least two years in new charred oak barrels, and bottled at no less than 80 proof." Phew. We didn't know all that...we like it because it's sweet and brown.
Here's the rundown on how the other types differ from bourbon so you'll know what to expect:
Corn Whiskey: A forerunner of bourbon, corn whiskey is usually strong and sour with none of bourbon's sweetness. In fact, this stuff is pretty much a heartbeat away from the White Lightning moonshine you might taste from a backcountry still. Corn whiskey must contain at least 80% corn in the mash; the rest can be made of malted barley or rye. Corn whiskey does not have to be aged like the other varieties, and usually boasts a high alcohol content. Even though it's not as sophisticated as its cousins, any connoisseur should consider corn part of the whiskey education. The brand we will be reviewing is called Georgia Moon. [Update: Read the Georgia Moon review.]
Rye Whiskey: If corn whiskey is the Neanderthal ancestor of debonair modern bourbon, rye is the missing link in the evolutionary scale...Cro Magnon whiskey if you will. Straight rye whiskey must be made from a mash of at least 51% rye, and must be fermented in new charred oak barrels. Offering a sweeter flavor but still sporting a mule kick, rye is often an acquired taste, but one that is well worth acquiring. Our review bottle is Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond 100 proof. [Update: Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond Review.]
Wheat Whiskey: The wheat whiskey we'll be reviewing is called Bernheim Original Kentucky Straight Wheat Whiskey. It's hailed as the only wheat whiskey made since the repeal of Prohibition, and it's made with 51% wheat, plus corn and barley. Otherwise it's crafted to the exact same standards as bourbon, though it's rumored to offer less sweetness when you sip. This is the only alternative whiskey we have yet to try, and we'll get the review up as soon as we can. [Update: Bernheim Wheat Whiskey Review.]
All three of our alternative whiskeys are distributed by Heaven Hill Distilleries. To learn more about these and other whiskeys, go to the Other Whiskeys page.