Following on from the 6 Irish offerings were 2 American Whiskeys courtesy Hi-Spirits Ireland distributors.
Colonel EH Taylor, Small Batch, 50%
An extremely well crafted & balanced bourbon. A few not familiar with this category were impressed. Clearly their previous drinking experiences hadn’t matched the quality of EH Taylor.
Using an undisclosed mash bill – #1 for those interested – of corn, rye & malted barley from the mighty Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Kentucky – this Bottled In Bond offering displays the tasty highlights bourbon can attain.
A delight to meet it’s acquaintance.
1792 Full Proof 63.5%
Not many in Ireland may have had the pleasure of tasting 1792, but they might recall the disastrous rickhouse collapse at the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky where this fine bourbon hails from.
The Full Proof version at a stonking 63.5% is not for the fainthearted.
There is an explosion of taste & flavour followed by an even bigger explosion of alcohol as it literally ‘booms’ on the palate.
Using the same high rye mash bill as the 1792 Small Batch I’d enjoyed at a 4th July tasting in Sean’s Bar, Athlone – Full Proof achieved cult status after Jim Murray gave it Whisky Of The Year in his 2020 Whisky Bible.
Fantastic to have sampled Full Proof, – yet for easy drinking without the high strength drama- Small Batch is still a winner for me.
If you’re ever in Sean’s – drop me a line – perhaps we might put it to the test?
As it’s National Bourbon Day I thought I’d celebrate by cracking open a bottle that’s been sitting in my cupboard for some time.
When I first bought this bourbon I knew nothing about it.
My original impression was that as it has a large 8 emblazoned on the label it must be a step up from the 7 on a bottle of Jack?
And on eventually getting round to a tasting – it certainly did satisfy my palate more.
A lovely golden hue complete with decent legs graced the Túath glass on a pour. Being a ‘straight‘ bourbon guarantees no added caramel in the mix.
Soft and gentle on the palate to begin with, the flavours & heat slowly grew in intensity giving a good showing of vanillas & sweet caramel mixed with darker hints of tobacco and a lovely growing spice towards the end.
For me the finish was the best bit.
The spiciness – suggestive of a decent rye percentage in the mashbill – slowly dried out leaving a gentle prickliness in the mouth – which I enjoy.
Being an entry level bourbon – Benchmark is appropriately named as it does provide an exceedingly pleasing drinking experience from which other bourbons can be compared.
Only after I purchased this bottle did I find out it’s part of the Buffalo Trace portfolio from Kentucky.
Interestingly it shares the same mashbill as Buffalo Trace itself – along with the more aged Eagle Rare & George T Stagg offerings!
The only differences are the time spent in the barrel – they are all virgin american oak remember with the same char level – and which part of the rickhouse they were stored in during maturity.
Having tasted the Eagle Rare 17 Year Old 2017 release at Whiskey Live Dublin – it would be folly to compare the 2 bourbons – but you can appreciate the solid foundations of the young Benchmark that with added maturity grew into the stunning Eagle Rare 17.
But then my local O’Briens only stocked Benchmark!
Out and about on my holidays in Southern France I did as many of the locals do and took a day trip into Spain for a spot of shopping, sightseeing, Spanish sausage & chips and a cold San Miguel.
The border is only about an hour away set in the stunning scenery of the Pyrenees mountain range.
Les is the first town you reach on the particular crossing I ventured on. What greets you on the outskirts of town is a car park full of French vehicles taking advantage of the cheaper tax regime on a variety of goods including fuel, tobacco and booze.
I eagerly browsed a couple of shops looking for some Spanish whisky – none were available.
There we’re some interesting American & Scottish offerings however.
How about some Buffalo Bill Bourbon?
Or perhaps William Peel, Black Vulture & Sir Edward might please your palate?
These are only a few of the locally based brands that are widely obtainable in France or Spain – yet are rarely encountered in the country of origin.
Maybe you’d feel safer with more familiar brands like Jack Daniels, William Lawson’s or Ballantines.
Amidst all this liquid there was only one Irish representative – Jameson.
Where are all the new Irish Brands?
Where are all the locally branded & marketed French based Irish Whiskeys with fancy names like Green Dragon, Seamus Shaughnessey or even Shamrock Sile?
Now I realise this market is more about quantity rather than quality.
There are no pretentions to provenance and terroir is trodden underfoot with trollies laden with 4.5 litre bottles of your favourite whisky bound for a celebratory social occasion or party.
Yet even within this segment there are a variety of styles, tastes and prices.
I know Irish Whiskey is capable of producing a decent tipple at a bargain basement price – Irish Reserve 4 Year Old springs to mind – so why not here?
I have nothing against Jameson – but by my purely anecdotal browsings you’d be forgiven for being unaware of the explosive growth of Irish Whiskeys on the market.
Irish Whiskey is seriously under represented in this segment.
Apart from Jameson – it’s not even in the market.
I was a customer in that market. I bought a Scotch I hadn’t tried before. That’s a missed Irish opportunity.
There has been a profusion of barrel aged beers on the market lately.
I welcome this development.
It adds a new flavour profile to both the beer industry – as well as the returning beer barrels being used to flavour new whiskeys.
The Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale wouldn’t be the best example according to my tastes.
The bourbon effect is somewhat muted – perhaps not long enough in the barrel? – and the fizz is more suitable for a lager rather than the heavy ale style I enjoy.
There is no mention of who collaborated to bring about this ale.
Alltech are the importers into Europe and although they posses both breweries and distilleries in Kentucky – they haven’t put their name on the product. Yet a trip to their website here does show it as one of their own.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
If this summer heatwave continues I might be tempted to indulge in a little more ‘smooth sippin’ courtesy of Jack!
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.
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.