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Hi, this is one of our (almost) daily tastings. Santé!

November 14, 2014


De bons bourbons mon bon…

Yes French is a strange language. Perhaps it’s time to have a few more American whiskies today, now that a real craftgate has been started at several and very great American bloggers. I have no time or need to delve deeper into these matters, but what I understood is that you just cannot trust the American labels. So we’ll have a few of them today, some being genuinely produced at the distillery and others being sourced from bigger distilleries in other states or even Canada, so simply faked craft. Even if, agreed, knowing how to blend four barrels can be a kind of craft as well. Or inventing a so-called ‘recipe’. Anyway, today we won’t even bother too much finding out whether any of these whiskies is ‘authentic’ or not. Let’s let the juices talk!

Old Bardstown (40%, OB, Kentucky straight Bourbon, +/-2008)

Old Bardstown (40%, OB, Kentucky straight Bourbon, +/-2008) Two stars and a half A brand by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers or Willet and, apparently, it’s sourced bourbon. Colour: amber. Nose: smooth and rounded, pretty honest, maybe a little light. Bits of pencil shavings, a little vanilla, a little café latte, a few oranges and a touch of coconut and ginger. A little flat, perhaps? Mouth: no, there’s good body, with tinned pineapples, chocolate, coffee, caramel, bananas, coconut, vanilla, maple syrup, roasted nuts… Too bad it tends to become a little watery after a few seconds, I guess 43% would have worked better. Finish: rather short but clean, without sawdust and without excessive vanilla. Comments: I won’t remember this baby forever, but I thought it was very honest and very easy to drink. SGP:550 - 78 points.

While we’re having ‘old’ ones…

Old Forester (43%, OB, Kentucky straight Bourbon, +/-2008)

Old Forester (43%, OB, Kentucky straight Bourbon, +/-2008) Two stars and a half According to good old Wikipedia, this is ‘officially the longest running Bourbon on the market today (approximately 142 years as of 2013), and was the first bourbon sold exclusively in sealed bottles’. It says ‘whisky’, not ‘whiskey’. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s fruitier than the Old Bardstown, with more fruit liqueurs and juices, syrups, flowers… Less depth, I find it less interesting, even if I do seem to find traces of rye, ginger, caraway and all that. Mouth: extremely close in style to the Old Bardstown, just a notch fruitier and, above all, fatter, thanks to the welcome extra-3%. A bit of spicy oak. Finish: of medium length, with more caramel and corn syrup. Comments: another one I could drink – without thinking about it. I liked the Old B.’s style a little better, but this one has got more oomph. Same score then. SGP:651 - 78 points.

While we’re at it, let’s try a newer batch, in true MM manner…

Old Forester (96 US proof, OB, Kentucky straight Bourbon, +/-2014)

Old Forester (96 US proof, OB, Kentucky straight Bourbon, +/-2014) Three stars Colour: deep gold, so lighter than the earlier batch. Nose: very similar, as expected, but there are less notes of caramel and corn syrup in this nose, and rather more flowers, then a little more bready tones. I have to say I tend to like this a little better. Mouth: same comments, maybe this is a notch younger. More pineapple comes through, hawthorn tea, sweet spices… Then cinnamon cream and coffee beans, but I find it remarkably un-oaky. Some rye shining through as well, which I enjoy. Finish: not very long but I like the cleanliness. Maple syrup and overripe peaches. Comments: I like this! Great balance, good presence, not an ‘empty’ spirit at all. SGP:651 - 80 points.

Jim Beam 12 yo 'Signature Craft' (43%, OB, Kentucky straight Bourbon, +/-2014)

Jim Beam 12 yo 'Signature Craft' (43%, OB, Kentucky straight Bourbon, +/-2014) Two starsThere you go, the apparently meaningless C-word is starting to strike. Should we get our guns? Colour: amber. Nose: really soft, easy, pretty aromatic, but there are quite some pencil shavings and other oaky notes. Café latte and overripe apples and pineapples, plus geranium and oranges. Certainly not unlikable. Mouth: a really soft arrival, with even a little strawberry jam, but then the oak comes out. Sawdust and vanilla. It’s not some drying oak, though. Then more vanilla, vanilla cake, vanilla fudge… It’s all simple, but very quaffable. Finish: rather short, sweet, easy, soft. Comments: it’s really soft, it’s almost fruit juice. I wouldn’t say it’s very interesting, but the price is fair and, again, it goes down a treat. SGP:640 - 76 points.

Tincup (42%, OB, American Whiskey, ‘Colorado’, +/-2014)

Tincup (42%, OB, American Whiskey, ‘Colorado’, +/-2014) Two stars This seems to be fully sourced whisky showcased as something ‘craft’ and ‘local’. The website alone is amazingly… misleading (, you could never do that in Europe - I hope. Now, should we care, if the whisky’s great? Colour: gold. Nose: not ugly, clean, rounded, vanilled, slightly floral, sweet. A bag of fruit drops. This seems to work, it’s just that we’re not very interested, you see. Mouth: yeah it’s not bad at all, with some rye, oranges, a touch of lavender sweet, caramel, vanilla, tangerines… I have no fault to find with this, except that it’s a little weak. Finish: short but clean. Vanilla and orange liqueur plus a few spices. Comments: good whiskey for sure. Only the story stinks. They should bring their website down if you ask me. SGP:530 - 75 points.

And now something a little more authentic…

Russell's Reserve 10 yo (45%, OB, Wild Turkey, Kentucky straight Bourbon, +/-2014)

Russell's Reserve 10 yo (45%, OB, Wild Turkey, Kentucky straight Bourbon, +/-2014) Three stars and a half My honourable American compadres seem to hold this and the people behind this in such high regard, that it’s hard not to feel a little… influenced? Colour: gold. Nose: I understand. I don’t find this hugely complex, but what it does it does brilliantly. Another world after the shameless Tincup, with much more structure, more fruits, more ‘secondary’ aromas from the wood (cinnamon cake, rose-flavoured Turkish delight, orange cake) and more soft spices. Entering a pastry shop in Istanbul. There’s also quite some vanilla, but no ‘chemical’ vanillin like in others, it’s natural vanilla. Mouth: body, structure, spiciness, lavender, violet sweets, bitter and blood oranges, spicy bread, and then more caramel. A little too much caramel for me, but that’s just me. Finish: medium length. A spicy smoothness and quite some vanilla and caramel again. Comments: pretty excellent indeed, just a tad too smooth for my taste. Now I’ve heard the Single Barrels are out of this world. We’ll find out… another day. SGP:631 - 84 points.

Michter's Bourbon (45.7%, OB, small batch, +/-2014)

Michter's Bourbon (45.7%, OB, small batch, +/-2014) Three stars and a halfThe stories about this brand and its recent reinstallation are so byzantine and contradictory that I’ve almost given up. Basically, what I understood after having listened to one of the reps for 20 minutes is that it’s a kind of sourced whisky made upon the brand’s specifications and blended according to the owners’ own recipes. It’s semi-craft, if you will. Colour: amber. Nose: it’s a bit in the style of the Tincup, that is to say rather appealing, simple, vanilled and pleasantly fruity. Overripe apples, apricots, dandelions, maple syrup and the obligatory cinnamon. Not a bad combo. Mouth: I like this. Sweet, jammy yet not cloying…  I seem to find sweet corn but that may be my imagination, then peaches, rye, ripe plums (zwetschke), cinnamon cake all over again, vanilla… And it’s got a nice body, rather satisfying. Finish: not any longer than the others, but it’s clean, easy and even fresh. And not too vanilla-ed. Comments: whichever the story, and the story about the story (and so on), I think this is pretty good juice, just a little simpler and smoother than the Russell’s. SGP:630 - 83 points.

Phew, already six down (what, seven?), I do no want to go too far today. Let’s have two more and we’re done. Eenie meenie miney mo…

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 yo (49.5%, OB, bourbon, West Virginia, +/-2014)

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 yo (49.5%, OB, bourbon, West Virginia, +/-2014) Three stars and a half This seems to be ‘storytelled’ sourced whiskey again, while they do own a distillery. But they seem to have a killer excuse, around ‘better sell something mature from elsewhere than immature whiskey from your own distillery.’ I’m utterly perplexed… But let’s try their disti… err, brand. Colour: deep amber. Nose: same as the Michter’s, just a notch bigger, hotter and oakier. The wood shavings are big here, but once again, this is no bad whiskey, at all. Fudge and oak. With water: the rye comes out, together with some menthol and liquorice. This, I like. Mouth (neat): classic sweet and ‘extracted’ bourbon. Feels even hotter than 49.5%, and certainly not very ‘smooth’. Quite some maple syrup and honey, then cinnamon cake and a little pinesap. Cough syrup and caramel? With water: swims very well. The rye comes out once again, some chocolate as well, bitter oranges… Finish: quite long, a tad oaky, with more soft spices, rye, lavender sweets, oranges… Comments: I have to say this baby gained my sympathy in the glass. Same score as the Michter’s. SGP:641 - 83 points.

And now, trumpets please… A young MONSTER!

Stagg Jr. (67.2%, OB, Kentucky straight Bourbon, +/-2014)

Stagg Jr. (67.2%, OB, Kentucky straight Bourbon, +/-2014) Two stars Some people might say that this is an attempt at taking advantage of the ‘halo’ that’s around the necessarily limited George T. Stagg. The price, £75 for a +/-8 yo bourbon, may not put them wrong. Colour: orange amber. Nose: blocked, spirity, plankish. Water if you please… With water: not quite, the oak comes out even more. A wheelbarrow of pencil shavings plus two litres of corn syrup, one bottle of Malibu or any coconut liqueur, and a jar of custard. No, it’s not that it’s horrible, it’s just pretty uninteresting, despite the wood smoke and the pinesap that improve it after one minute or two. Mouth: some sort of cough syrup made by the devil. Cloying, fat, too sweet at this point. Quick, water: oranges, ginger, lavender. Finish: quite long but the oak feels too much, it is tiring. Chocolate oak. Comments: I think it’s a mistake, if I may, even more so at this price. This is how you kill the magic in a brand name – again, if I may. SGP:471 - 70 points.

A sad ending indeed, but don’t worry, we’ll have funnier Americans next time, stay tuned!

More tasting notes Check the index of all American whiskies I've tasted so far







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