Seeing as it’s Independence Day in America – and by a little twist of fate Britain also recently voted for it’s ‘Independence’ regarding the Brexit split from the European Union – I thought I’d celebrate/drown my sorrows – nothing like sitting on the fence on tricky subjects – by opening a few bottles of bourbon to try out the contents.
America is the biggest export market for Irish whiskey. In return we get the used bourbon barrels to mature yet more whiskey in – as well as easy availability of famous bourbon brands in our pubs and off-licences.
Now bourbon has a whole set of rules and regulations – like Irish Whiskey – which define how it’s made – matured and that all important mash bill – but I’l leave The Whisky Exchange blog here to explain all that.
To get the ball rolling I’ve started with the iconic Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 from Tennesse.
I did think of using a Bruce Springsteen track to accompany this blog – but given revelations from Jack Daniel’s themselves – perhaps Donna Summer is more appropriate?
Despite Jack being one of the biggest brands out there – I must admit to not liking it.
The combination of sticky sweet notes from the corn element together with a rough finish probably from the shorter maturation period leaves my palate a little strained. I can see why it’s usually drunk as a mixer rather than my preferred option of neat.
Undeterred I moved on.
Clarke’s Old Kentucky Straight Sour Mash Bourbon is a budget brand courtesy of the supermarket chain Aldi.
Surprisingly this brand warmed to me as the initial sweetness evolved into a lovely soft spiciness which pleasingly lingered on the tongue to give a long finish.
Given that Aldi sourced this bourbon from an unknown Kentucky distillery – there is no Clarke from 1866 – they’ve done a pretty fine job in my book. It’s also won some awards too – so don’t just take my word.
To be fair to other supermarket brands – and on the strength of Clarke’s Bourbon – I purchased Tesco’s budget bourbon by the name of Old Samuel.
Billing itself as ‘Aged Kentucky Style Blended Bourbon’ the label also declares
‘Product of the USA. Blended and bottled in the Netherlands’
Intrigued I checked out the bottler and uncovered Toorank – a Dutch distilling company which does a successful business importing bulk bourbon from USA – along with whiskey from Ireland and Scotland – to blend for third party customers.
My bottle has been open for sometime now and is going down fast as once again I found this an easy bourbon to consume. Not too sweet, a smooth body and pleasant finish.
My final choice was bought from a well known internet whiskey site by the name of Flavair. Knowing my palate enjoys the more robust flavours and less sweet notes normally found in rye whiskey – I took advantage of an offer on FEW Rye Whiskey.
Bottled at 46.5% as opposed to the 40% of the others – this expression also bills itself as ‘handcrafted and small batched’ and hails from Chicago.
An initial sweetness soon gave way to a powerful spicy rye punch and a lingering dryness on the palate. Now this is more my thing!
Given a choice – I’d always go for a rye first. All of the admittedly very limited selection I’ve tasted so far suit my palate better than even the best bourbons.
It should come as no surprise then that FEW Rye comes out tops in my Independence Day tasting session.
Jack Daniel’s I’m afraid flunks – to use an American phrase.
Whilst in the budget bourbon category Clarke’s comes in second because of it’s soft spice followed closely behind by Old Samuel.
As regards pricing. Both Clarke’s and Old Samuel came in at 16 euro. Jack Daniel’s can be got from 25 whilst FEW starts at 70 – when you can get hold of it.
Clarke’s Bourbon wins as the best buy.
So there you go.
I thoroughly enjoyed my exploration into american bourbons.
Enjoy your 4th July – and remember – don’t drink too much.
Enjoy the tastes – flavours and good company – not the hangover.