Category Archives: American Whiskey

Blind Bourbon Tasting July 4th 2018

It seemed like a good idea.

An opportunity to taste without prejudice. To judge all equally without bias to distillery of origin or mash bill. To savour  & enjoy new tastes & styles in a manner echoing the ethos of the Declaration Of Independence written all those years ago.

Yet the Midlands masses were not moved and on the day there were more whiskey expressions on offer than punters to drink them.

Ah well. All the more for those that did attend.

I tried to put together a flight of whiskeys that represented as many different styles of American bourbon – to compare & contrast – within the limitations of what was readily available in Ireland.

To kick off with – a pair of entry level bourbons showed that even within the same category there were differences of taste & flavour.

To be labelled ‘bourbon’ under American rules means a minimum of 51% corn used in the mash bill. The mash bill is the ratio of grains used to make the whiskey – usually made up of the big 4; corn, wheat, rye & barley.

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Clarke’s 1866 Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

I twinned an Aldi own brand  Clarke’s 1866 Old Kentucky Straight Sour Mash Whiskey with a market leading Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey. Most preferred the Jack – although Clarke’s wasn’t far behind.

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Jack Old No. 7 c/othewhiskeynut

Considering one is twice the price of the other – it just goes to show you can get a decent pour of a fairly standard bourbon at an affordable cost if you’re prepared to shop around.

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FEW Rye c/othewhiskeynut

The next pour moved up a level both in terms of cost and flavour – FEW Rye Whiskey. All agreed this was a far more complex, definitely a different style and a far more satisfying whiskey. The spicy rye dominated the palate yet was balanced by the sweet corn element in the mash bill.

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Brothership Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

The rye presence continued into the Brothership Irish – American Whiskey. A collaboration between Connacht Distillery in Ballina and New Liberty Distillery in Philly. It’s a blend of 10 year old Irish Single Malt & a 10 year old American Rye. A lighter & smoother start than the previous pours – all picked out the Irish malt influence – yet joyfully morphed into a lovely drying peppery spice at the end. You can pick out the 2 different styles within the same glass and marvel at how they both compliment each other in the final mix. Fabulous.

I was very much looking forward to the next bourbon.

A representative at Hi-Spirits Ireland – a distribution company handling the Sazerac, Buffalo Trace portfolio – reached out to donate some liquid for the Blind Tasting. Much appreciated.

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Barton 1792 full collapse c/oCourier-Journal

The bottle in question also happened to hail from the Barton 1792 Distillery which recently suffered a rickhouse collapse causing much loss of bourbon & property. Although thankfully no injuries.

1792 Small Batch Bourbon.

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1792 Small Batch Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Again – much like the Brothership – this was a whiskey in 2 halves.

To begin with a rich, deep vanilla & burnt caramel coated the mouth leading you into a drier, cinnamon spice rye body which finished in a delightfully playful prickly heat. This ‘high rye’ bourbon pleased all present – although there was no clear overall winner on the night before the bottles were revealed. Beautiful bourbon indeed.

The final offering was more of a fun product.

Buffalo Trace White Dog Rye Mash.

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Buffalo Trace White Dog c/othewhiskeynut

This is the American equivalent of Irish Poitin. Raw un-aged whiskey.

At 62.5% this White Dog certainly packed a punch – yet was extremely palatable & very enjoyable. That familiar – slightly sour – new make nose, the oiliness on first tasting proceeding to a soft dry rye spice rounded the evening off with a bang.

Sláinte.

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My thanks to Sean’s Bar Athlone for hosting the event.

Thanks also to Hi-Spirits Ireland for the kind donation of some fabulous bottles.

If you are interested in sampling any of the above contact either Whiskey Nut –  westmeathwhiskeyworld@eircom.net – or Sean’s Bar itself – to arrange.

 

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Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Cider, 5.5%

Having reviewed a Jim Beam non whiskey product – it’s only fair – and in the interests of impartiality – that I feature a Jack Daniel’s non whiskey product too.

Well – I say non whiskey – as this cider is a blend of  ‘Crisp Apple Cider’ with some of Jack’s Tennessee Whiskey.

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It’s Jack – but not Bourbon! c/othewhiskeynut

I don’t mind a cider now and then – especially on a warm summers evening – but I must admit to preferring a dry style of cider – not too sweet either – so I approached this bottle with none too high expectations.

Both Jack & Jim allow their logo’s to be used on many a product. It’s a great way to promote the brand. But often that product bears no relevance or connection to the original bourbons which are the core expressions of those brands.

Jack’s Cider poured clean & fresh.

It was very pale in colour.  The nose was definitely cider. A bit of dry apple mixed in with enough of a hint of bourbon to give a lift to the experience.

The taste was satisfyingly refreshing. Not too sweet. That crisp dry apple coming through and combining gently with that sticky sweetness associated with a pour of Old No. 7.

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Smooth sippin’ c/othewhiskeynut

There’s no real complexity here. It’s a simple bourbon infused cider. But it does exactly what it says on the label & certainly appealed to me as a refreshing alternative to a whiskey on a balmy warm night.

Heck!

If this summer heatwave continues I might be tempted to indulge in a little more ‘smooth sippin’ courtesy of Jack!

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Jim Beam Bourbon Whiskey Potato Chips

You never know what you might find down the aisles of your local German discount store – like Jim Beam Crisps?

I just had to try them.

Manufactured in Devon, England, these chips proudly proclaim to have no added colouring or artificial flavours. Often something many a whiskey brand cannot boast.

Obviously I had to pair them with a decent pour of bourbon – and sat back to enjoy the experience in the fabulous weather.

Well, the crisps do have a wonderfully savoury, meaty, BBQ-y thing going on. Without all the heat, mess & subsequent clean up of a real BBQ. I just didn’t detect any Jim Beam influence – other than the logo on the packet.

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Back label info c/othewhiskeynut

They did however compliment the sweet vanilla & caramel notes of the actual bourbon.

Quite a nice pairing indeed!

Both parties brought out & enhanced the flavours of each other to combine into an even better & enjoyable experience.

Savoury & sweet at it’s best.

My suggestion is to get yours soon before the bourbon tariffs kick in. Although I’m not sure that will affect the crisps that much.

Sláinte.

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Ransom The Emerald, Pot Still Whiskey, 43.8%

There was a surprise winner for The World’s Best Pot Still Whiskey at the recent World Whiskies Awards 2018.

It wasn’t Irish!

Pot Still is a term used to denote the use of malted and unmalted barley in the mash – which is usually an Irish whiskey speciality.

However here was an American interpretation of a pot still. Or was it?

I was fortunate enough to have come across this whiskey at the Irish Whiskey Awards 2016.

Having tasted this fine offering – I’m not surprised by the award & heartily cheer it’s success.

From a blog of mine back in October 2016 entitled ‘Irish Rye‘ these were my thoughts.

The Emerald release from Ransom Spirits of Oregon was far more approachable however and much more pertinent to the Irish Whiskey brand.

Made using barley, oats and rye to an 1865 Irish Whiskey recipe uncovered by some research this stunning whiskey is satisfyingly smooth yet rich in mouthfeel coupled with a delightfully long rye spice finish.

Emerald to me have captured the PAST of Irish Whiskey in a bottle of the PRESENT.

When you know Brian Nation and his colleagues are poring over old Jameson recipes from the early 1800’s that included rye and oats – as well as currently growing rye in the fields around Enniscorthy – then couldn’t this be a representation of the FUTURE of Irish Whiskey?

I certainly hope so!

It’s innovative.

It’s traditional,

And it’s out now.

Gorgeous!

I followed it up in December with The Emerald making ‘My Top 3 Whiskey Events 2016‘ blog.

Later in the evening some whiskey friends from America were sharing a bottle of Emerald American Whiskey.

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The Emerald c/othewhiskeynut

Well I say American Whiskey as that’s where it was produced and matured.

But the recipe is based on an 1865 Irish Whiskey recorded for posterity by a British excise agent and includes both malted and unmalted barley along with some oats & rye.

It tasted divine.

Nice to see the World Whiskies Awards 18 pick up on a winner of mine from 2016.

Sláinte.

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Jack Daniels Single Barrel, 45%

Jack Daniels.

It doesn’t really need an introduction.

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Jack c/othewhiskeynut

The iconic biggest selling whiskey brand in America has plenty of fans.

I wouldn’t be one of them.

The caramel forward nose, rather robust mouth feel with mere hints of wood & spice, leaves me nonplussed.

After one – I wouldn’t be tempted for more.

But moving up the range a little does find me something I have gone back to on a number of occasions.

Jack Daniels Single Barrel is an altogether far more enjoyable experience.

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A big whiskey in a small bottle. c/othewhiskeynut

The caramel isn’t the only note in town.

There’s vanilla, wood and an engaging spiciness.

The robust character is still there – but at 45% it delivers a far more extensive array of flavours that dance off the palate. Cinnamon & nutmeg combine with sweet vanilla & oakiness.

These gently fade away leaving that wonderful dry mouth feel I enjoy.

So when I spotted this attractive miniature in The Old Stand recently – I was tempted for more.

And I’m glad I did.

Slàinte.

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Pikesville Supreme, Straight Rye Whiskey, 40%

Pikesville was a small neighbourhood in Maryland USA. It is now consumed into Baltimore County and happens to be where some of my in-laws live.

Despite visiting last year – I never did get the chance to try the locally named brand.

Pikesville  – as well as Maryland in general – had a thriving rye whiskey business before prohibition. Only now is there a bit of a resurgence of that proud history with new distilleries entering the market.

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Pikesville Supreme Rye c/othewhiskeynut

This bottle in the meantime is made in Kentucky at the Heaven Hill Distillery in Bardstown – and when I spotted it on the shelves in Garavan’s – I couldn’t let the opportunity pass.

Now ‘straight’ in American terms means aged for at least 2 years. ‘Rye’ means at least 51% rye is used in the all important mash bill  – the other 49% can be commonly made up of corn, wheat or barley. Added caramel is not permitted.

Rye is a style of whiskey I love.

I like the hit of spicy cinnamon & nutmeg followed through by a rich peppery dryness combined with some softer warming vanilla & caramel notes.

Pikesville Supreme only just had that rye kick. I found it very much muted by the other ingredients – which I suspected as being corn. This resulted in a warm vanilla led nose & taste with only a tingling of rye at the end.

An easy drinking approachable rye yes – but not what I’m craving.

My suspicions on the corn content were confirmed later by an internet search. The mash bill makes all the difference to the taste. In this instance Pikesville appears to have a mix of rye 51%, corn 37%, and barley 12% – which explains why it didn’t light up my life.

That’s not to say it’s a bad rye. In fact many are lamenting the loss of this particular bottling which has been replaced by a 6 year old 110 proof – 55% ABV – expression that might be more up my street. The Washington Post even covered the story here! 

So if you’re missing a taste of Maryland – head for Garavan’s in Galway!

Sláinte.

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Up in the Klouds – Drinking in NYC

Flying in from a town whose tallest building is the 12 story Sheraton Hotel – staying in a 9th floor hotel room held a certain appeal.

Sadly the views I expected were obscured by even larger skyscrapers that we couldn’t see the tops of despite craning our necks through the permanently closed bedroom window.

Welcome to New York!

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Empire State c/othewhiskeynut

I still harboured high hopes for the hotel’s 14th floor roof top bar – Vu Bar – quietly enjoying a few drinks with a panoramic view of downtown NY below.

A cold blustery windswept veranda overlooked by even taller buildings was the reality. Well – it was March – and the building that dominated all – including our bedroom window vista – was in fact the Empire State Building!

Homer Doh!

The bar had a lovely collection of whiskey to sample however & a friendly bartender in Emilio.

I started with Maker’s Mark 46. It’s a mainly corn based bourbon with some wheat & barley in the mash bill which imparts a relatively soft, smooth & sweet overall experience to the taste despite it’s 47% strength. It goes down very easily – but didn’t really do anything for me & my penchant for bolder flavours. It definitely is a better dram than the standard Maker’s Mark which I tasted earlier on in the day though.

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Knob Creek Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Knob Creek Small Batch took my fancy next.

Now that’s more like it!

The darker colouring & slight dry spice on the nose indicated a high rye content in this 50% bourbon which was much more agreeable to my tastes.

Emilio mentioned a sister bar on the opposite side of the street – so the next evening after a busy day sightseeing & an enjoyable tasty meal washed down by the amusingly named Kloud lager – which had a lovely malty flavour – in a local Korean restaurant – we headed up to the 17th floor Cloud Social bar.

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Korean Kloud Lager c/othewhiskeynut

The views were far more impressive from up here. It would certainly make for a cool place to hang out on a warm summers day – but with temperatures below zero & a light dusting of snow it was back into the bar area for some warming whiskeys after a few snaps.

Again I was pleasantly surprised by the array of whiskeys before me. One that took my eye was Lot 40.

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Lot 40 c/othewhiskeynut

Now I’d heard great things about this Canadian Rye so on spotting a bottle I just had to try it.

Oh dear.

Soft ,sweet, hardly any spice. A very smooth easy drinking bourbon style of whiskey.

Not what I was expecting at all from this 43% rye. What I experienced bore no resemblance to the reviews I read before or after – so I just don’t know.

To counteract my disappointment I went for a Knob Creek Rye.

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POW c/opinterest

The full on rich dry peppery spice bowled me over after my previous drink. In fact it was almost overwhelming after the soft sweetness of Lot 40 as my palate struggled to come to terms with that lovely rye punch I crave in this full on 50% whiskey.

If anything – I think the Knob Creek Small Batch Bourbon – with it’s initial rich vanilla & caramel notes flowing through to a lovely balanced rye spice – came out tops for the 4 whiskeys I tried out up in the clouds of New York’s rooftop bars!

Sláinte.

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American Whiskey, NYC

Arriving in New York City after a 7 hour flight, the first thing on my mind was a taste of American whiskey – and what better place to satisfy that desire than the eponymously named American Whiskey bar at 247 W 30th St.

Now I have to admit we had to push our way through the heavy throng of very loud & cheery office workers who were enjoying a post work drink before we managed to find an empty table at the rear of the bar. Even here we had to almost shout to make ourselves heard above the din – but were attended to very quickly.

Not being sure what to taste from a very comprehensive whiskey list – and being unable to view the bar (which I normally like to do) because of the crowds – I chose the Rye: Winter 2017 flight.

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The Rye Flight c/othewhiskeynut

The presentation of the 4 rye whiskeys in Glencairn glasses set in a thick wooden tray complete with a tasting note card with room to leave you’re own notes on impressed me very much.

As did the very tasty burger & brussels when it arrived too.

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Burger & brussels & rye c/othewhiskeynut

Something whiskey bars in Ireland should emulate.

On my flight – which changes with the seasons – were 4 different ryes. In American terms this means they all contained a minimum of 51% rye grain in their mashbills to be legally allowed to be called a rye.

Kicking off the evening was Sagamore Rye from Baltimore at 83 proof.

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Sagamore Rye c/oBaltimoreSun

This is a sourced rye for a new distillery that is currently being built in downtown Baltimore. It’s a blend of a ‘high’ and ‘low’ rye cut with water from the owners farm in Maryland and aged for around 2 years.

I found it had a very welcome strong rye kick with that dry spice making itself felt prominently. It’s youthful exuberance was refreshing – though lacked finesse.

Next up was High West Rendezvous Rye.

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High West Rendezvous Rye c/othewhiskeynut

At 92 proof I was expecting a bigger kick off this  – but to me it tasted weaker, even softer & smoother than the Sagamore. Definitely a more rounded & balanced rye  – just lacking that rye hit I crave.

Russell’s Reserve 6 Year Old Rye at 90 proof followed.

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Russell’s Reserve c/oWhiskyExchange

Despite being softer & sweeter – it did morph into a rich dry rye on tasting & had a wonderfully long lasting rye finish. Part of the Wild Turkey range.

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Whistle Pig 10 Rye c/othewhiskeynut

The final tasting was Whistle Pig 10 Year Old Rye at 100 proof.

Again I was expecting more – but what I got was soft, smooth & sweet. There was a slight rye kick but it faded far to quickly for me.

Conclusions?

For my initial foray into rye I found the full on youthful kick of rye from Sagamore won out over the more refined & balanced age statement offerings.

Russell’s came in 2nd closely followed by Whistle Pig & High West at the rear.

Meantime the burger was going down well & the crowds were beginning to thin a little so another drink was ordered.

What else could I finish on other than Hudson Manhattan Rye? As I was happily sat in a bar in Manhattan near the banks of the Hudson River itself.

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Hudson Manhattan Rye c/othewiskeynut

This too proved to be a heavy youthful rye hitter which was refreshing – but a bit of me preferred the surprising spice from their Baby Bourbon expression mixed with that rich bourbon mouthfeel. Something I’ll have to explore in more detail later.

Thankfully it was only a short walk a few blocks away to our hotel on W 32nd St.

American Whiskey was certainly loud – but the whiskey & food inside definitely made it an enjoyable experience.

I wish I could say ‘I’ll be back.’ – but as it’s about 25 years from my last US visit – somehow I doubt it.

Sláinte.

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The Dead Rabbit, NYC

Walking into the downstairs bar of The Dead Rabbit in New York was like stepping back across the Atlantic and entering a well stocked Irish whiskey bar on the Emerald Isle itself.

In fact there was so much Irish whiskey lining the shelves it would put many a respectable bar in Ireland to shame!

The wall hangings, drinks mirrors & assorted jumble of paraphernalia together with the dark wood finish were also a very familiar attribute in many an Irish bar – along with no food!

As Mrs Whiskey & myself had come in for a spot of grub we were directed up stairs to the middle bar which does serve food – only to find it temporarily closed being midway between the lunchtime menu & evening service – and so ended up on the top floor via a narrow staircase.

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Loads of Irish whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

The bar here was a slightly smaller affair – yet still well stocked – with a comfortable bench along the back wall complete with high tables & chairs for casual diners & imbibers to sit back and enjoy the fair.

Being an Irish bar – I had to go for an Irish whiskey. Now Dead Rabbit do a selection of whiskey flights – but not including the specific whiskeys I was looking for – so I settled for a glass of Kinahan’s 10 year old single malt along with a burger & chips.

Kinahans 10 Single Malt c/othecelticwhiskeyshop
Kinahans 10 Single Malt c/othecelticwhiskeyshop

Kinahan’s are one of those sourced brands that are generally not available in Ireland. Mainly found in the American market – they were on my radar to try out. Coming in a blend and a 10 year old single malt they have a back story which you may choose to believe – or not – I found it entertaining.

The soft, smooth, charred ex-bourbon cask maturation taste sat well with my previous drinks yet developed into a clearer, more finely tuned fruity note together with a faint spice on the finish. A pretty fine example of an Irish barley single malt in contrast to the mixed corn, wheat, barley & rye american bourbon mash bills. It perfectly accompanied my rather large burger.

Grog & Grub in Dead Rabbit c/othewhiskeynut
Grog & grub in Dead Rabbit c/othewhiskeynut

For afters I decided to go native.

A very attractively designed bottle of Angels Envy took my eye.

Angels Envy c/othewhiskeynut
Angels Envy c/othewhiskeynut

Hailing from Louisville Distilling in Kentucky with a corn, barley & rye mash bill – the expression I had is aged for up to 6 years & unusually  – for American bourbon anyway – finished in ruby port casks.

The rye spice I love was very subdued by both the rich port influence as well as the high corn with added barley mixed mash. It did have depth & a complex nuance – but not that instant POW I was looking for. One to savour over I think.

Suitably sated – we ventured out for the South Ferry subway. Dead Rabbit is only a short walk from the very attractive Battery Park area where clear views of The Statue Of Liberty & Ellis Island can be enjoyed – along with the obligatory boat trips. As the temperatures were plummeting below zero we left the chance to embrace ourselves in the cultural & historic tales of Irish emigration for another day.

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Statue Of Liberty c/oMrsWhiskey

Dead Rabbit may not have been around when those early immigrants first arrived in America – but it’s a very welcome bolthole for the modern day traveller. Just be sure to get there early. We easily got a table when we arrived around 4ish – but later patrons had to wait for a while as the venue was packed out by the time we left.

A popular spot.

Sláinte.

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