Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Number 5 – Bourye, High West Distillery, Park City, Utah

Number 5 – Bourye, High West Distillery, Park City, Utah

From the Marketer: High West's proprietary blend and the world's only bourbon and rye marriage, makes Bourye a rich and complex sipping whiskey…. Bourye's unique blend features three whiskies: a 10-year-old bourbon with a mash bill of 75 percent corn, 20 percent rye and 5 percent barley malt; a 12-year-old straight rye whiskey that's 95 percent rye and five percent barley malt; and finally a 16-year-old straight rye with 53 percent rye, 37 percent corn and 10 percent malt.”

I appreciate the fact High West doesn’t make any pronouncements about being the greatest and just states simply that’s it’s a complex sipping Whiskey. 

I’ve longed to try a High West product and pulled the trigger at a great place in Milwaukee called The Rumpus Room; expect many posts to involve Whisk(e)y Bourbon or Rye enjoyed at Bartolottas version of a Gastropub and a damn fine one.  Back to the drink, it is exactly what you would expect from the name.  Is it a Bourbon, is it a Rye, better yet, it’s both.  Granted I like bourbons that have a bit higher rye content so Bourye is right up my alley and I think Bourye would be a great change of pace for those looking to branch out but not wanting to go all-in with full rye which frankly just isn’t for everyone.  Nothing to dislike here though as Bourye is excellent. It has a pleasing aroma (my wife commented that it “smells really good”), enough burn to make you appreciate a good sip and thus savor accordingly and the taste is just like the blend suggests, bourbon flavor at first (like a smooth Kentucky) with that distinct rye flavor coming in at the finish.  Bottom line:  I waited too long to try a Bourye as I’ll be pouring myself a High West Bourye often, it’s earned a place in my bar.

Ratings list (n=5) 1a-Angel’s Envy 1b-Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey 3-Bourye by HighWest 5-Knob Creek 5-Eagle Rare 

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The Fourth – Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey

The Fourth – Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey, Distilled by Breckenridge Distillery, Breckenridge, Co.

From the Marketer: “Besides our unique high-rye mash bill we owe our success to careful mingling of casks at each bottling and the perfect Breckenridge snowmelt water used for proofing. The natural minerality of our water source ensures the luscious mouth-feel, depth of flavor, and long finish making Breck Bourbon one of the very best Whiskeys in the World.”

While not quite as bold a claim as Angel’s Envy being the single best tasting bourbon in the world the more modest folks at Breck Distillery leave room for others to join them at the “best in the world” bar. 

Admittedly I’m biased towards anything Colorado as it’s the state of my birth and, I say this having been to all 50, the best state in the Union.  Stranahan’s Colorado Whiskey earned a place in my bar for name alone and just happens to be very good, but the new owners of Stranahan’s withholding product to create a false demand has tarnished their image and is an unnecessary tactic anyway.  Thus, on my visit to Colorado for Christmas I couldn’t find Stranahan’s and decided to give Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey a try; I’m very glad I did. 

The distillery located at 9600 feet brags about using snowmelt for it’s products (it has a variety of spirits I’ve yet to try) and as anyone who has munched on a snowball in the Colorado high country knows, it tastes great, but snowmelt is just water.  Whatever the case, the water they use allows for very good Bourbon, one of the best in world in fact (at least of those I’ve sampled).  Breckenridge Bourbon is very smooth and has a pleasant aroma. The taste leans  towards a rye (as does the other Colorado bourbons/whiskeys) and is excellent.  You know you’re having a nice drink as you can feel the alcohol (86 proof) but in a good way and you're eager to have the glass refilled.  My brother-in-law who is more of a Scotch guy was thrilled with Breckenridge Bourbon as was my other brother-in-law who is a more a bourbon and beer guy (regarding the latter, if you're in Colorado pick up a 6 pack of Batch 19 from Coors, trust me, and avoid at all costs Colorado Native Lager, logo, name and marketing plan aside, it's just a plain bad beer).  As for bourbon, needless to say the bottle of Breck I purchased to bring home was too far gone by the time we left thus I had to pick up a replacement as Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey has earned a spot of prominence in my bar.  As for it’s claim as one of the best Bourbons in the world, it’s accurate and while it can’t quite dethrone Angel’s Envy on my list it’s a 1a and 1b scenario and thus allows the marketing folks at Angel’s Envy and Breck to be looked upon as honest.  My test of their integrity continues.  Happy New Year to all!!

Ratings list (n=4) 1a-Angel’s Envy 1b-Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey 3-Knob Creek 4-Eagle Rare  

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Third - Knob Creek

The Third – Knob Creek, Distilled by Knob Creek Distillery Co., Clermont, KY (Jim Beam Family)

From the Marketer: Handcrafted in limited quantities, Knob Creek® is aged nine years to fully draw out the natural sugars in its charred white oak barrels. As a result, this exceptional, full-bodied bourbon strikes the senses with a maple sugar aroma, distinctive sweetness and rich, woody, caramel flavor with a long, smooth finish. Made at 100 proof and created to reflect the flavor, strength, care and patience that defined pre-prohibition whiskey, Knob Creek® is perfect straight or cooled slightly with one or two ice cubes.

Knob Creek, along with Makers Mark, used to be my bourbon of choice, but somehow while Maker’s remains in my bar, I haven’t purchased a bottle of KC in quite a while.  I revisited Knob Creek at Capitol Grill in Chicago, IL and while KC wasn’t bad I didn’t order a second and don’t see any reason to add it to my bar (the Kona coffee rubbed bone-in sirloin that followed my KC was fantastic). Knob Creek holds true to what the makers claim, in that it “strikes the senses”, being a bit harsh but it has a nice full bourbon flavor.  It’s not as refined or smooth a taste as I’ve come to appreciate in other bourbons and while I thought perhaps it was a supply issue, it’s readily apparent the taste is why Maker’s won the battle between my former “go-to” bourbons. 

You can do much worse than Knob Creek but alas you can do much better as well.  I have to give KC credit (or blame) for getting me started with better bourbons but it’s like the high-school girl you thought was so great before getting to college and experiencing the wealth of beauty available.  The journey continues, with bourbons not ladies as I out-kicked my coverage and am happily married to a lovely wife, and Merry Christmas to all!

Ratings list (n=3) 1-Angel’s Envy 2-Knob Creek 3-Eagle Rare  

Monday, December 12, 2011

The second – Eagle Rare 10 year-old

The second – Eagle Rare 10 year-old distilled by Buffalo Trace in Frankfort, KY

From the Marketer: "Eagle Rare Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey is masterfully crafted and carefully aged for no less than ten years, each barrel is discriminately selected. The rareness of this great breed of bourbon is evident in its complex aroma, as well as the smooth and lingering taste. Each bottle of Eagle Rare offers consistent flavors, but with a seemingly individual personality from each unique barrel. Eagle Rare is a bourbon that lives up to its name with its lofty, distinctive taste experience."

I sipped on my Eagle Rare at Dudley’s in Lexington, KY and while it’s a great place (if there you must try the fried peach pie dessert) the surroundings couldn’t bring me to agree with Buffalo Trace’s claims regarding Eagle Rare, “complex aroma” excepted.  I found Eagle Rare to be a bit harsh with the very nice flavor quickly turning to alcohol burn, so quick in fact I’m not sure if it was a good taste or just smell.  While only 90 proof it felt like much more, in fact it lead to a discussion with the bartender about the alcohol content and we verified, yep only 90 proof.  When I was critical of Eagle Rare he mentioned that he’s had the same feedback from most folks in the bar and many of his friends, with one exception that the bartender stated claims Eagle Rare is “the best”.  Perhaps his friend has a sophisticated palate or is just highly susceptible to spirits awards, as Eagle Rare has won its share.  For me it’s only been awarded “most disappointing.”  It took me quite a while to get through this one and I did not order another nor will for a long time, I’ve at least 51 others to try first. 

Ratings list (n=2) 1-Angels Envy 2-Eagle Rare 

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Bourbon #1 - Angel's Envy

The Opener – Angel’s Envy crafted by the Louisville Distilling Company, Louisville, KY

As this is my first entry I figured some housekeeping is in order:  Don’t expect typical tasting notes in this blog as 1. I’m not a sommelier and thus don’t know what I’m talking about getting pretentious with overblown descriptions and 2.  Chances are you aren’t either so stating something like “it hints of candied cranberry with a dash of mint and spices” may be misleading.  So is it like mashed up crasins?  Which mint, peppermint, spearmint, ginger mint and how many of the 1000s of world spices are dashed?  Bottom line I’ll only call out big picture impressions and leave the tasting notes to your palate (or the folks trained and gifted enough to decipher the subtleties of Tahitian vs. Mexican vanilla).   Without further ado… let’s get the quest underway.

Again, number 1 is Angel’s Envy, a Kentucky Bourbon finished for 3-6 months in Portuguese Port casks prior to blending.

From the Marketer: Mr. Henderson [Lincoln Henderson master distiller] describes his masterwork as "a warm spirit, lacking any hint of edginess, with ephemeral hints of port wine and a rich amber hue." Lincoln Henderson sought to create the best-tasting bourbon on the planet. In our humble opinion, he succeeded.” Brackets are mine

That is a very bold statement but “it ain’t bragging if you back it up” 

Granted what you think of a drink is influenced by the atmosphere in which you imbibe thus I wasn’t sure Angel’s Envy was as good as I thought it was the first time I tasted it.  My first pour of Angel’s Envy was at possibly the coolest place in the country, Yardbird in Miami.  I considered NOT mentioning this place because I don’t want my oasis overcrowded the next time I’m in the neon pink, trash money hip hell of Miami, but I don’t want to start our 52 week relationship off by withholding good info.  Yardbird was built for the locals that appreciate great food, and better drinks and in short it’s one of the best places I have had a drink IN THE WORLD.  I digress as this is not a restaurant/bar blog but I felt the environment of Yardbird might have enhanced my opinion of Angel’s Envy, a bourbon I’ve been dying to try again. 

In point of fact you can have your Angel’s Envy (rocks, which unless otherwise noted is how I take my drink) in a filthy alley and you’d still view Angel’s Envy as one of the best bourbons in the world.  It has a fantastic true Kentucky bourbon flavor and is very smooth and easy drinking, bordering almost too easy drinking.  Angel’s Envy is 86.6 proof but has less ‘burn’ than my standard of smooth and easy, 80 proof Basil Haydens.  Don’t fear the Port wine on the label, it’s not like the bourbon flavor is overpowered by an after dinner wine, and as some of you may know a “good Port” has similarities to a good bourbon, in the case of Angel’s Envy I think the finishing takes an already subtle edge completely off the bourbon. Bottom line: I picked a premier Bourbon for my premier entry as the folks at Louisville Distilling may indeed have claim to “the best tasting bourbon in the world”.  Angel’s Envy is excellent and will be in my bar.  

Of course one can’t rightly say what is “the best tasting bourbon in the world” until they’ve had each and every thus my quest continues.

Ratings list:  Angel’s Envy – Number 1 of 1 sampled

The Journey Begins...

Inspired by King Bob and his 365 days of beer blog I am hoping to complete a 52 Weeks of Bourbon adventure.  Of course there may be times when multiple entries are sampled at once but there will be a minimum of a drink a week tossed back and described after (hopefully) being enjoyed.  Frankly this is my excuse to try new Bourbons (whisk(e)y or rye) and as I have the luxury (at times, pain in the arse other times) of traveling often there will be some unique entries on the list sampled from around the world.  As a baseline know that my bar is always stocked with Basil Hayden's, Jameson (for the wife), Makers Mark, Stranahan’s Colorado (my beloved home state), Tullamore Dew and Woodford Reserve.  My all-time favorites not on hand are Pappy Van Winkle 23 year Family Reserve, 20 year and 12 (the 15 is my least favorite of the PVW but still if I find it, I order it) and W.L. Weller “Centennial” 10 Year old.  As what you want to drink depends on the mood consider the above my “top 10” in no particular order; yes, I know there are 11 listed above but pay attention and you’ll see 10 are ‘mine’.  I am certain that through this journey my list will change.  I welcome any comments or suggestions.