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

May 11, 2014


Young Americans - Part Trois

Nothing is impossible to a willing heart, they say, that’s why we’ll try to do the equivalent of Evel Knievel (RIP) jumping over the Grand Canyon, that is to say bringing together two E.H. Taylor, two Four Roses and two Blanton’s, all small batches or single barrels at rather high strengths. Are we ready? Oh and instead of trying to build a triple-double fight, we’ll just sort them up by ascending strength.

Blanton's Original 'Single Barrel' (46.50%, OB, bourbon, barrel #202, 2013)

Blanton's Original 'Single Barrel' (46.50%, OB, bourbon, barrel #202, 2013) Three stars Blanton’s made by Buffalo Trace. Colour: full gold. Nose: it’s a rather aromatic bourbon, and a rather complex one at that. Starts with notes of some kind of cinnamon, oranges and tea cake, before it becomes more honeyed and floral, while never displaying any over-oakiness or ‘dumb’ vanilla/syrups. I find touches of sugar cane, some precious wood (rosewood, sandalwood), chamomile and honeysuckle, then more mead and even more oranges. Orange blossom water comes more and more to the front. Mouth: it’s a fruity one, but it’s not exactly sweet. I find a lot of apples in all their forms, as cider, as calvados, as juice, as pie… And then a spicy ryeness as well as touches of cranberry juice. Geranium jelly, cardamom… The oak’s louder than I had expected, and makes it a little drying. Finish: quite, long, rather smooth for a few seconds, but it’s the spicy oak that speaks in the aftertaste. Cloves, pepper, ginger… Comments: loved the nose, found the palate a little simpler, but it’s high-quality bourbon for sure. SGP:561 - 80 points.

Colonel E.H. Taylor 'Small Batch' (50%, OB, bourbon, +/-2014)

Colonel E.H. Taylor 'Small Batch' (50%, OB, bourbon, +/-2014) Two stars and a half This is another brand by Buffalo Trace, apparently. Colour: full gold. Nose: there are similarities at first nosing, but then it gets all oakier, drier, less aromatic, with more sawdust, dried coconut, varnish, grated cinnamon (a lot) and bags of vanillin. A more bourbony bourbon, if I may, there’s rather less happening in this one. Mouth: it’s a spicier and oakier version of the Blanton’s again. Tannins, cardamom, cinnamon, white pepper, nutmeg… What’s quite striking is that there’s little sweetness, whether syrups, jams or simply fudge or toffee to balance all that oak. A little grenadine and oranges, perhaps, a feeling of Campari... And bitter oranges. Finish: it’s rather unusual that a whisky gets less tannic at this point, but it’s what happens with this EH Taylor. The oranges come out, together with ripe redcurrants. Comments: I’m sure it’s great, but it’s a little too oaky and spicy for me. SGP:371 - 78 points.

Colonel E.H. Taylor 'Single Barrel' (50%, OB, bourbon, +/-2014)

Colonel E.H. Taylor 'Single Barrel' (50%, OB, bourbon, +/-2014) Two stars Let’s see if this single cask is a little more approachable than the small batch… Colour: full gold. Nose: extremely close to the Small Batch, with maybe a little more fudge and toffee. The oak’s just as loud. Let’s see whether the palate diverges or not… Mouth: once again, we’re extremely close. Maybe a little more earth? More wet wood? The spices never stops growing, there’s really a lot of pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg… A little cardboard too, perhaps, and almost no fruity notes to come to the rescue. Finish: long, with a little maple syrup lingering but other than that, spices, oak and spices are leading the pack. Nice notes of mocha and chocolate in the aftertaste, that’s better (but that’s also the oak talking)  Comments: it’s not my style, but it’s probably ‘good stuff’. Let’s go for a conservative score – please take it with a handful of salt, as usual. SGP:271 - 75 points.

Four Roses 'Small Batch 2013' (51.4%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, 12468 bottles)

Four Roses 'Small Batch 2013' (51.4%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, 12468 bottles) Four stars and a half What's written on the back of the bottle is quite cryptic, you need to be Sku or Adam or Cowdery to understand all this: 'OBSV 18 years - OBSK 13 years - OESK 13 years'. What's more, this bottling commemorates Four Roses' 125th anniversary. Colour: pale amber. Nose: aaah! More aromatic again, but not quite like the Blanton’s. I find something both oriental and tropical, with a whole plate of pastries (baklavas, makrouts, angel hair and such), which leads to rosewater, orange blossom and almonds, which in turn leads to… holidays! Ach, no, wait… There’s also some cinchona, tequila, bitter oranges, honeydew, a moderate vanillaness, and just traces of sawdust. With water: more burnt oak, it’s like visiting a cooperage, but all that remains elegant and refined. I like, especialy because there are also notes of dried porcinis and earth. One cigar, perhaps (not Cuban this time, obviously). Mouth (neat): excellent! As always with bourbon, the heavy oak can surprise a Scotch enthusiast, but what’s on top of it is lovely. Soft spices (sweet curry, spicy chutney), one or two violet drops (not Parma violets, mind you), notes of aniseed and caraway… All good, and there isn’t much vanilla, hurray! With water: the tannins do not come to the front, so water works. Makes it more… drinkable, and brings out liquorice. Finish: rather long, with a grassiness. Toffee. The aftertaste is a little bitter. Comments: very high quality bourbon. I was prepared to go as high as 90, but the finish and the aftertaste were a notch too bitter and oaky for me. SGP:461 - 88 points.

Four Roses 'Small Batch 2012' (55.7%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, 4062 bottles)

Four Roses 'Small Batch 2012' (55.7%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, 4062 bottles) Four stars This time the Da Vinci code reads OBSV-17 years - OBSV 11 years - OBSK 12 years - OESK 12 years. Well, what I understood is that this is 11 years old bourbon. Colour: pale amber. Nose: this one’s oakier, and we’re rather more in the style of the E.H. Taylors. Rather more discreet as well, and as austere as bourbon can be (so not very austere, agreed). I guess water is needed. With water: the 2012 and the 2013 converge. This one’s maybe a little drier again, less aromatic, less floral. Mouth (neat): we’re close to the 2013, obviously, this one’s just a little punchier – yes, higher strength - and a notch more oaky. Drying spices, white pepper and all that. With water: same feeling. Finish: same. Comments: so yes, I liked the 2013 better. None will turn me into a pure bourbon aficionado, but we were probably at the top of modern bourbonity (excuse me?) Unless the other Blanton’s… SGP:361 - 86 points.

Blanton's 'Straight From The Barrel' (65.85%, OB, bourbon, barrel #68, 2012)

Blanton's 'Straight From The Barrel' (65.85%, OB, bourbon, barrel #68, 2012) Four stars Colour: amber. Nose: it’s well in the style of the first Blanton, with a huge aromatic side and a feeling of rum, but it’s very powerful and will burn you nostrils as sure as FZ was the best. With water: this is very different from all the others. Very herbal, with a lot of hay, some sandalwood, ideas of a ‘clean cow stable’, even hints of ‘old horse saddle’, cigars, sour wine, cider apples… This came unexpected, really. Behind all that, damp wood and coconut liqueur. Mouth (neat): more or less kirsch with spices and some triple-sec, but it’s all very strong. Aqua please… With water: remains huge, spicy and fruity. Not fresh fruits, rather fermented ones, then a little lavender (drops), quite a lot of cumin, juniper, gin, fennel, liquorice… A very spicy cocktail, with a huge presence. Finish: extremely long even when heavily diluted, gingery, very spicy but, unexpectedly, not on cinnamon/white pepper at all. European oak? That would be impossible, wouldn’t it? Comments: ‘big funny spicy stuff’, we’ll leave it at that. I liked it really a lot but wouldn’t quaff litres of this, it’s rather tiring spirit. SGP:462 - 85 points.

Phew, that was not an easy session (but heartfelt thanks, Steve!)







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