March 3, 2006

On Southern Comfort and Lime

Historically, we haven't paid much attention to popular whiskey liqueur Southern Comfort. You might think it's because we're purists who prefer to stick to pure whiskeys instead of sweeter liqueurs. In fact, you'd be wrong.

Southern ComfortThe real reason we haven't turned our bloodshot gaze to SoCo (as the kids call it) is that our editor-in-chief had a run-in with it in college, and he has trouble even looking at the bottle. It seems our fearless leader was in a "shot race" whilst in college, and he drank somewhere in the neighborhood of 17 shots of the stuff, with semi-disastrous results. Guess that doesn't really fit in with SoCo's "Start things up, Know when to stop. Drink Responsibly." campaign. Consider him properly chastised.

So why are we bringing it up? We've started seeing some pretty cool TV ads for the stuff, and they're flashy enough to even pique his interest. Our favorite one used to be the one where a group of friends is trying to find a train for Prague. The newest features a drink called the SoCo Lime, and it's set in New Orleans. Flashy visuals, peppy music and a kind of shot we'd never tried before? Let's just say we were interested.

Apparently all you do for a SoCo Lime is mix a shot of SoCo with a splash of sweetened lime juice (like Rose's for example), shake it with ice, and shoot it. Sounds similar to the daily ritual here in the Liquor Snob offices, and we're going to have to try it out. Learn more about SoCo and check out the ads if you haven't seen them yet, at SouthernComfort.com. Oh, and let us know if you've tried the SoCo Lime - will it be good enough to turn around the opinion of our relucant Editor in Chief?

Jake Jamieson at Permalink | Comments (20) | social bookmarking

Elijah Craig Small Batch Bourbon Review

Elijah Craig Bourbon
12 Year Old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
94 Proof (47% ABV)
Typical Price: $15 - $20 for 750ml - buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits

Elijah Craig 12 Year Old BourbonElijah Craig was a kindly old coot who used to travel the countryside, handing out Bourbon to all the good boys and girls. Actually he wasn't - we made all that up, but we really wish it was true. In fact, he was a Baptist minister from Kentucky who was pivotal in the creation of that sweet, sweet nectar we call bourbon. We recently got our hands on a bottle of the 12 year old small batch that's distilled under his name - does it live up to his legacy?

The Color: Reddish Brown
We like redheads, and Elijah Craig reminds us of one. Or at least his whiskey does.

The Nose: Butterscotch?
We were pleasantly surprised by the sweet smell of butterscotch and honey, but it's not cloyingly sweet - there's the warmth of rye in there too. Pleasantly, there was no alcoholic burn there - it just smelled welcoming.

The Taste: Keep It Complex, Stupid
Usually we like our drinks to be relatively simple. But Elijah Craig 12 Year Old posed us a challenge. There was a strong rye taste, spicy and heated. But then, we also tasted fruit, citrus and berries. And what else, maybe some of that butterscotch we smelled, as well as the woodiness of the oak? Yessir, it's all there. When we breathed in, we could feel the heat rushing into our lungs. Adding water or ice removed some of that heat, but we liked it best straight up.

The Recipes: What You Talking About Willis?
We're sure this stuff would be great in an Old Fashioned or something similar, but we recommend this one straight.

The Verdict: Excelsior!
We were very impressed with Elijah's 12 Year Old offering. Not our typical style, but it grew on us significantly. This is the one we've been turning to lately when it's time to do something a bit different. This one's great to chew on neat as you're sitting by a warm fireplace.

The Site: Learn more from the Bardstown Bourbon Society.

Jake Jamieson at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

March 2, 2006

Evan Williams Single Barrel - Vintage 1996 Review

Evan Williams Single Barrel 1996
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
86.6 Proof (43.3% ABV)
Barreled on: 5/21/96
Barrel #144
Bottled on: 2/06/06
Typical Price: Around $25 for 750ml

Evan Williams Single Barrel 1996We were big fans of 1996. We graduated from college, The Onion moved to the Infernets, and Tupac Shakur faked his death. Another good thing that happened that year was that Evan Williams took a bunch of good Bourbon and put it into some nice oak barrels, and set them aside for a few years. Whereas most Bourbons are mixed from among various barrels, this stuff is all bottled from the same one.

What does that mean? Not much to your average drinker maybe, but it is pretty damn cool to look at the barrel number and vintage of your Bourbon as you sip it. The interesting thing is you won't necessarily get the same barrel or bottling date we did, so every bottle is more or less unique. How you doin', Barrel 144?

The Color: Brown. Seriously? Seriously.
It's a nice, clear and bright brownish color.

The Nose: What Is That Smell?
As we took our first whiff, we couldn't place it. We knew this stuff had been sitting in oak barrels for the last ten or so years. We could pick up on some corn undertones. It was pretty light and not too sharp on the nose, and for some reason it made us think of Sherry. But it didn't really hit us what it reminded us of until we tasted it.

The Flavors: Calling Smokey The Bear
Smoky all the way. We could taste the charred oak from the barrel along with the corn and rye - it was like corn and rye were fist fighting in a forest fire. In the middle there was some astringency, though it never pinched. But the weirdest thing was...we knew this was Bourbon, but we swear on all that was holy, the smokiness at the back end reminded us of our favorite Scotch, Lagavulin. Obviously there's no peat here, but the similarity was impressive.

The Recipes: Not Applicable
You don't mix single malt Scotch, and you don't mix with this. Seriously, this is a sipper - we didn't even put it on the rocks.

The Verdict: Bourbon for Scotch Lovers
This one took a few drinks to grow on us, but once it did we were completely converted. It's complex and challenging, and we really like the idea of it growing up in one barrel. Plus, the vintage and hand-written dates on the label made us feel like we were in a secret club, sipping special whiskey.

The Site: We found some notes about previous Single Barrel vintages, though it hasn't been updated for the 1996, at EvanWilliams.com.

Jake Jamieson at Permalink | Comments (3) | social bookmarking

March 1, 2006

Evan Williams 1783 Bourbon Review

Evan Williams 1783
Straight Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
10 Year Old Sour Mash
Typical Price: About $11 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits

Evan Williams 1783 Bourbon1783 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!
Surprise, surprise.

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.

Jake Jamieson at Permalink | Comments (5) | social bookmarking

February 28, 2006

Henry McKenna Single Barrel Bourbon Review

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

Henry McKenna Single Barrel BourbonThis 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.

Jake Jamieson at Permalink | Comments (2) | social bookmarking

February 27, 2006

Evan Williams Black Label Bourbon Review

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

Evan Williams Black Label BourbonSince 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

Jake Jamieson at Permalink | Comments (5) | social bookmarking

February 26, 2006

Prepare Yourself For Whiskey Week

Whiskey WeekThis 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!

Jake Jamieson at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

February 21, 2006

Heaven Hill Bourbons Arrive for Review

heaven-hill-bourbons1.jpg

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.

Jake Jamieson at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

December 8, 2005

Bernheim Original Wheat Whiskey Review

Bernheim Original
90 proof Kentucky straight wheat whiskey
Typical Price: About $40 for 750ml - Buy it at Internet Wines & Spirits
Slogan: "Kentucky's Spirit of Innovation"

Bernheim Original Wheat WhiskeyInitial 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.

Jake Jamieson at Permalink | Comments (0) | social bookmarking

December 7, 2005

Holiday Egg Nog Recipe From Maker's Mark

Egg NogWe 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
Ingredients:
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!

Jake Jamieson at Permalink | Comments (1) | social bookmarking

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