Until last year, I was a wine snob.
Bogle Vineyards, Petite Sirah. Yep.
I enjoyed deep red wines, I could tell you if the wine came from the coast of California, from Napa or from the valleys in Livermore. I went through a season of Pinot Noir, slipping into deep Merlots and then rebounding into Petit Sirah with a great flourish. I love picking out the flavors of dark cherry in the Syrahs, or the lavender in Merlots; the sweet finish of Cabernets and the dry spirit of Pinot. It is a beautiful adventure in a stemmed glass to explore the nature of wines, and I couldn’t enjoy it more.
And then I rediscovered bourbon.
Good heavens, is bourbon wonderful. It just sits in those raw oak barrels and sucks the heavenly life out of the wood. The flavors are oaky, sweet and bold. I love it.
But this is a corn whiskey, so you have to be prepared for a little kick. If you prefer margaritas or rum & Coke, I don’t know if this is really the spirit for you.
However, if you are an explorer at heart and love unearthing the deepest secrets in your drink, you will love bourbon. If you honestly love the personalities of scotches, but you can’t get over the peat, bourbon is definitely your drink.
So, here are some bourbons that I have, and some notes on what they are, exactly. I’m going to be citing a lot of distilleries so I get this right.
Let’s start with what I like the most, and move to the least:
Ladies at attention.
The Blanton’s brand was launched in 1984 under the guidance of the distillery’s master distiller Elmer T. Lee, as the first modern bourbon marketed as a single barrel
The original brand name was “Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon”. A single barrel bourbon is one that is poured (and typically chill filtered
) from the contents of one particular aging barrel – not mixed with whiskey from any other barrels and not blended with neutral spirits
, colorings, or flavorings. The company says that producing a high quality whiskey using this production method requires constant monitoring of every barrel in the middle of the warehouse by the Master Distiller. The barrels are dumped by hand without using machinery. There are eight different stopper designs, each with a different letter of the alphabet molded into it and topped with a figurine of a racehorse and jockey
. When placed in order, spelling “B L A N T O N’ S”, the horse and jockey’s poses display eight different scenes of a horse race, from standing at the gate, to crossing the finish line with a win.”
Type– Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Nose– Very oaky, vanilla, cream, a little spicy.
Alcohol– 93 Proof, 46.5% abv
Taste– Oak, vanilla, nutmeg, raisins, corn. Sweet front, solid middle and a good clean, warm finish, no lingering tastes.
Overall– This is a beautiful bourbon with a decent amount of complexity, a very bold flavor, smooth overtones and a pleasing taste. It is sweet, warm, delightful with a very rich blend of flavors. You get the tastes of so many natural things in this, that you can almost picture what they look like while you are sipping it. The oak tastes like a warm oak wood that has been left out in the afternoon sun on a dry day. The vanilla is this musky vanilla that has been hanging in an empty cupboard. The spice is like a gentle spice cake with extra nutmeg and warm golden raisins. I just love how this bourbon opens up. This is absolutely my favorite bourbon, hands down.
“Ancient buffalo carved paths through the wilderness that led America’s first pioneers and explorers westward. One such trail led to the banks of the Kentucky River where we’ve been making bourbon whiskey the same way for over 200 years. Uncompromised and unchanged, we’re proud of the whiskey we make. Dedicated to the independent spirit of America, Buffalo Trace is the world’s most decorated distillery. We invite you to explore our rich history, our award-winning bourbon and learn why we’ll always stand strong. (-Buffalo Trace.com)”
Type– Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Nose– Dark Vanilla, fresh cotton candy
Alcohol– 90 Proof, 45% abv
Taste– Such a bright flavor, very cheerful front. Sweet but not too sweet. Very solid flavors for the middle, lots and lots of warm oak. Beautiful oak notes. Some gentle nut flavors, maybe walnut. Maybe some toasted sugar on the middle. Sunflowers. Apples in the finish.
Overall– I love Buffalo Trace very much. It is absolutely my go-to bourbon on a day to day basis. It never disappoints, it always impresses. It is a very optimistic, bold, bright bourbon with lots of aggressive flavors coming together. I will always have some on hand, and it will be the one I order if we go out. Definitely a winner in my book.
” “Replacing the rye grain in our recipe with wheat provides for an exceptionally smooth taste. W. L. Weller is a truly outstanding buy.” –Wine Enthusiast Magazine”
Type– The Original Wheated Bourbon
Nose– Bread, light, burnt sugar, leather, dark honey, some wildflower floral notes
Alcohol– 107 Proof, 53.5% abv
Taste– Very smooth, very light but with a great solid flavor. Sunflowers, creme brule, light vanilla. Spicy on the back. Warm finish, but not as clean as Blanton’s.
Overall– This bourbon was completely different than what I expected. I thought it would be more rugged like rye, but it was actually lighter than Buffalo Trace! Unbelievable. The flavor isn’t as impressive as Buffalo Trace, but it is still an amazing bourbon. Definitely A- in my book.
Side note- I have Celiac and I have never had a reaction to this bourbon, and I am very sensitive to gluten. Just take this with a grain of salt…if you have Celiac, you need to take responsibility for your self, as always. primum non nocere.
4) Angel’s Envy
“First a wee bit of back story as to why Angel’s Envy is called Angel’s Envy. No it’s not just to be clever, though it does sound clever, it actually has meaning; known as the “angel’s share”. The angel’s share is the portion of alcohol which will evaporate from the cask during aging. It’s not much that evaporates, between one and three percent depending on how hot the barrel house is. But this amount of alcohol is for the angels, as the story goes. Angel’s Envy derives its name from the fact that they finish aging their bourbon in Ruby port barrels from Portugal, making the angels truly envious. –See more at: http://whiskeynose.com/angels-envy-bourbon-review/#sthash.Pz9TBnRM.dpuf“
Type– Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished in Port Wine Barrels
Nose– Vanilla, cream, light sugar, honey
Alcohol Content– 86.6Proof, 43.3% abv
Taste– Honey, light brown sugar, a little vanilla. It is a simple bourbon, but delightful.
Overall– Angel’s Envy is a blend bourbon, so it tastes completely different from the other Straight Bourbon Whiskies. The blend is 25%A 40%B 35%C: On the bottle it explains that “As bourbon malcontents, we appriciate subtle nuances and tinkering. This micro blend was created from samples of 3 Angel’s Envy batches selected by Lincoln and Blended to the Specifications of BevMo!” My bottle is empty now because I have shared this one with friends the most. It is a very smooth, very likeable bourbon without the kick that straight bourbon has. It is very friendly and very open. I liked this one very much, but it is completely different as a blend.
“THIS BIG FLAVOR
HASN’T GONE ANYWHERE.
The extra aging, longer than nearly every other small batch offering, allows our bourbon to absorb more of the sugar from the wood, giving it a richer taste. And treating our American white oak barrels with the highest char level brings out even more distinctive flavor qualities during the aging process.
When it’s all done, we take our original Knob Creek Bourbon from barrel to bottle at an honest 100 proof, and our Single Barrel Reserve at 120 proof, just like it was done before prohibition.”
(read their story here.
They are quite a bunch over there, and it’s worth a visit!)
Type– Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Small Batch
Nose– Big punch to the nose, be prepared. This is not your grandmother’s bourbon, unless your grandmother was a steelworker. Husky vanilla notes, deep caramel, rich oak wood, fresh rye bread
Alcohol– 100 Proof, 50% abv
Taste– This is absolutely the boldest bourbon I have. You do not go about drinking Knob Creek if you are a sissy. You hold it firmly in your hand, you stare your opponent…or your date…down across the rim of your glass, and with a wide, confident grin you take a sip. And then you close your eyes as you recoil from the insane bouquet of flavors you have assaulting your palette. Rich vibrant oak notes, huge vanilla blasts, rye from the depths of Ryeville. Bruised peaches, apricot pits and caramels. There is nothing subtle about this bourbon, so you’re going to get it all at once. And once you swallow, you will have to take a breath to clear your lungs again…it’s that good.
Overall– Okay, this used to be my favorite bourbon. I went to this every time I was asked what I liked. It is seriously good…but now that I understand the flavors in bourbons, all I can taste in it is the rye! I still love it because it is so incredibly bold, you just have to respect it. But on a day to day basis, it is a little too much for me. It’s not a conversational-bourbon, it’s a punch-you-in-the-face-while-I-kiss-your-sister/brother bourbon. I kinda like it for that….
6) Bullet Rye
is an award-winning, small batch, straight rye whiskey with a character of unparalleled spice and complexity. Released in 2011, it continues to enjoy recognition as one of the highest quality ryes available.Russet in color, with rich oaky aromas. The flavor is notably smooth, with hints of vanilla, honey, and spice. Finishes crisp and clean, with long, lingering flavors.( See more at: http://www.bulleit.com/whiskey.aspx#!bulleit-rye)”
Type– Straight Rye Whiskey
Nose– Harsh, rye, dried grass
Alcohol Content– 90 Proof, 45% abv
Taste– I don’t know anymore. It tastes like pickles to me. But some people say it tastes like cherries and tobacco.
Overall– I hate this rye so much it kills me. I have tried to like it, but the only note I get from it is pickles. It is frustrating. I have had other ryes, like Michter’s US #1 Rye, which were incredible. So I don’t know exactly what went wrong with Bulleit rye.
7) Buffalo Trace White Dog
“In Kentucky, buffalo carved a pathway followed by America’s first explorers. Those brave pioneers distilled whiskey using traditional methods and drank it right off the still. They called it White Dog. This raw distillate was clear, un-aged and had a hint of sweet corn. Later distillers discovered this spirit was perfect for aging – creating what we know today as fine Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. We’re still making whiskey on the spot where ancient buffalo once crossed the Kentucky River and following centuries of time-honored distilling tradition. Enjoy this White Dog the way Americans did more than 200 years ago. (-buffalo trace distillery)”
Type– Wheated Mash
Nose– You don’t have a nose anymore if you smell this.
Alcohol Content– 125 Proof, 46.5% abv
Taste– Vanilla, sweet sugar, and the burn of a cowboys glare.
Overall– So, this is what Buffalo Trace bourbon is before it goes into the oak barrel. We just wanted to know what it tasted like…but, from one friend to another? DON’T DRINK THIS. I can’t explain it, but it’s just burn. Lots of burn.