A Great Recommendation for an American Whiskey Sampler

Chuck Cowdery, a great America whiskey historian and the self-publisher of the Bourbon Country Reader (remarkable in its own right as a snail-mailed, paper newsletter in this day and age), has posted a great recommendation for those looking to give a whiskey gift (he posted it in the context of Mothers and Fathers days), to have as a good start at American whiskey starter collection, or those interested in learning more about the American whiskey industry—that is, bourbon, Tennessee, and rye whiskey, which focused on the political economy and material production process behind our whiskeys:

Micro-distilleries aside, every drop of American whiskey (bourbon, Tennessee and rye) is made by eight companies at 13 distilleries. The gift? A sampler of one bottle from each, either the eight or the 13.

I particularly like the distillery-based suggestion:

One from each of the 13 distilleries: Maker’s Mark (Maker’s Mark), Knob Creek (Jim Beam Clermont), Bookers (Beam Booker Noe), Woodford Reserve (Woodford Reserve), Old Forester Birthday Bourbon (Brown-Forman), Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel (Jack Daniel’s), George Dickel No. 12 (George Dickel), Bulleit Rye (MGP), Evan Williams Single Barrel (Heaven Hill), Four Roses Single Barrel (Four Roses), Buffalo Trace (Buffalo Trace), Ridgemont Reserve 1792 (Barton 1792), Rare Breed (Wild Turkey).

I suggest you head over and read the whole thing!

Bowman Brothers Pioneer Spirit

According to the label: Copper Still, Triple Distillation, Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Small Batch, 90°

Price: $30.

Bottle of Bowman Brothers Pioneer SpiritIn honor of the recently deceased Truman Cox of the A. Smith Bowman distillery, I picked up a bottle of this today, the lowest level of their small batch bourbons. According to Chuck Cowdery, “The whiskey is distilled at Buffalo Trace in Frankfort. The new make is sent to Virginia where it is distilled a third time and entered into barrels. Aging and bottling is done in Virginia,” in the copper pot still mentioned on the label. No age statement, nor does it mention when it was bottled, though the number “12221” printed on the bottle suggest it may be have been bottled 2012-22-1. It does have a cute fake tax stamp on it.

Light tawny honey color. Beautiful sweet nose, fruity and floral, honey and apples. Tastes less sweet than the nose would lead you to believe, with crisp and fresh taste, maybe white grapes and honeydew melon, along with some dried apricot. If there is any problem with this one, it is a slight bitter, astringent note on the finish, which is accompanied by a nice, darker fruit flavor (raisins or dried plums or Beaujolais nouveau).

Overall, an interesting, nice change of pace from what I’m used to in the ryes and bourbons I’ve been drinking lately. I tend to like a lot of rye spice and wood influence, and there’s very little of that here. It is less often I go for the sweeter stuff, though I do occasionally like a really nice wheater (I love Old Weller Antique 107°), and I do like Angel’s Envy, which is definitely on the sweet side. This isn’t really like any of those. Not sure I’ve had a bourbon I would describe as crispy before. Let’s call it a B+.

What this really does is make me want to try the John J. or the Abraham Bowman.

Angel’s Envy Bourbon Review

Angel’s Envy is Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey that has been finished in port pipes, which is unusual for bourbon but common for scotch.Angel's Envy Bourbon It is the brainchild of Lincoln Henderson. Angel’s Envy apparently skirts a line with respect to the arcane legalities of American whiskey labeling, as the Federal Standards of Identity for Bourbon are pretty strict as to what you can call “Bourbon.” This is why the bottle clearly indicates how it has been finished, to avoid any miscommunication that would defy those standards.

Age: At least 4 years (probably more like 5-7)
Proof: 86.6°
Price: $46.00
Volume:750mL

Color: Light golden honey. In lightness, almost closer to the color of many scotches than a normal bourbon. I would think that the port pipes would give it a darker color, but no.

Nose: Light and very sweet, with a clear whiff of vanilla, and also a bit of a light floral scent.

Palate: Nice and creamy, with vanilla and dried fruits prominent, especially dried apricot, and a little bit of fig drizzled with honey.

Finish: Glowing, with a bit of pepper and warming spices, medium length.

Overall: I love this whiskey. I’ve been holding on to this bottle for some time, taking a dram every now and again, and revising the tasting notes in my spreadsheet several times. It’s not perfect for every occasion, as it is definitely very sweet and also a bit low proof—you’re not going to want to drink this any way but neat. It is a fantastically crafted bourbon, and the peppery finish really clears the sweetness for the palate and gets you ready for the second dram. Hopefully we’ll see more innovation tempered by careful craftsmanship of this type in the future. Thank you, Mr. Henderson!

Rating: A 

Whiskey Review Post Formats

One of the exciting things about getting my blog up and running is having a place to post some longer-form whiskey reviews. (I’ve done some micro reviews on Twitter.) My first is my review of Baker’s! (Actually, one I’ve had stored in a spreadsheet for some time.) But the real question is, what style for the reviews? I tried a pretty long, structured version like Whiskey Wonka or Bourbon Enthusiast, but should I go for a shorter, less formal review like Sku or John Hansell?  Longer, informal, more narrative reviews like Drinkhacker or Scotch & Ice Cream? What sort of reviews do you like to read?

Baker’s Bourbon Review

Bottle of Baker's BourbonAge: 7 years
Proof: 107°
Price: $43.00
Volume:750mL

Color: Medium-dark amber

Nose: Dry sawdust and hay. A splash of water brings out some nice sweet and floral notes.

Palate: Starts with candied fruit that evolves quickly into heat and spice, burns in the nose. The 107° really shows on this one. A splash of water helps, brings out lot of caramel, but it’s almost too sweet.

Finish: Nice and long, a lot of black pepper and oak.

Overall: Baker’s is a good bourbon, less rye than a lot of the Jim Beam small batch bourbons. It turns out to be a tricky bourbon to drink, though, since the heat really comes through when you take it neat, while water makes it almost too sweet. The big problem with Baker’s is the price: you can get better bourbon’s for less. Compare this to Old Weller Antique, which is the same proof without as much heat, definitely sweeter but easier drinking and more interesting overall, and usually only runs $25 or less.

Rating: B+