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

August 10, 2016


An American flight

And so it is America’s turn! I’m still trying to recover from the fantastic Westlands that we tried within the last months, and perhaps shall we find some more today, by the way. But first, a wee apéritif, as usual…

Wild Turkey 8 yo (86.8 US proof, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-1980)

Wild Turkey 8 yo (86.8 US proof, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-1980) Four stars There was also a version at 101 proof that’s perhaps better known. They still make this baby, apparently, but it’s suffering from a seemingly incurable epidemic, it’s lost its age statement. I believe this baby comes from the beginning of the Pernod-Ricard era. Colour: gold. Nose: feels rye-driven, but I may be wrong. Spicy flowers, lavender sweets, speculoos, praline, a little wood smoke, curry powder, sweet mustard, a pack of cinnamon mints… There’s a lot happening in there! Mouth: really very spicy, and as it’s a little rough, we’re very far from some modern vanilla-ridden bourbons. Spicy sweets (they have some in China but the name escapes me), crystallised oranges, more cinnamon mints, caraway and clove, bitter chocolate… What’s really striking is how dry this is, you’d almost believe you’re having some strong oloroso, with flying walnuts and mustard. Finish: long, ultra-dry, very spicy. Cinnamon and nutmeg. Comments: very good. Contemporary offerings are much rounder and sweeter. SGP:272 - 85 points.

Hope the apéritif won’t kill them all…

PennyPacker (40%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2015)

PennyPacker (40%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, +/-2015) Two stars I had never seen this before, but it seems that it is an old brand. In Germany they say that Heaven Hill ship it in tankers to their country, where they bottle it. Is that possible? Colour: gold. Nose: totally the opposite of the old Wild Turkey, much softer, rounder, more vanilla-driven, with very little ryeness. It’s quite pleasant, it’s just that there isn’t much happening. Possibly high maize content. Mouth: it is okay. Ish. Eau-de-vie-ish, a little rough, probably very young, with a vanilla-ed oakiness that feels ‘stuck over it’. Not sure this should be drunken neat, should it? Finish: short, with some burnt wood and more vanilla. The aftertaste is a little drying. Comments: a very simple bourbon. It’s not terrible, though. SGP:341 - 70 points.

Marshall's (40%, OB, Bourbon, +/-2015)

Marshall's (40%, OB, Bourbon, +/-2015) Two stars It’s not straight bourbon, and while the label says ‘Old Time Distillery’, I doubt the brand owns any distillery. Oh and it’s a budget brand, it seems. Colour: gold. Nose: whaaah! Watery and kind of disjointed, dirty-ish at first nosing, but it tends to improve a bit, with bitter oranges and a spicy/bready side that I always rather enjoy. Very curious about the palate… Mouth: not bad, very similar to that of the PennyPacker, only even lighter. Small fruit sweets, orange drops, Fanta, vanilla… Probably a very high maize/corn content once again. Finish: short and relatively clean, a little sweeter than the previous one. A discreet earthiness in the aftertaste, which isn’t bad. Comments: I cannot see why I’d come up with a different score. It’s loyal cheapish bourbon, I think. SGP:441 - 70 points.

George Dickel No. 1 (45.5%, OB, American spirit, +/-2015)

George Dickel No. 1 (45.5%, OB, American spirit, +/-2015) one star and a half This is fully white, and while they call it ‘White corn whisky’, it sure is no whisky since it’s unaged. Colour: white. Nose: not u-nice, not un-nice. It’s clean, fruity and herbal (rhubarb), void of any roughness, with some buttered sweet maize and perhaps drops of tangerine juice. I do like all this freshness, and perhaps did the traditional heavy filtration play a large part in that. Mouth: I like the fresh and fruity/bready arrival, but I’m less fond of the way it unfolds, as it’s becoming spirity (medicinal alcohol) and vodka-ish. I guess that was to be expected. Finish: medium, with a little lime and pear this time, which is good. Comments: I don’t know. Some parts are nice, but a price of 65€ for a bottle of new make seems a little steep. Let’s say ‘no’. SGP:520 - 68 points.

Let’s do craft if you don’t mind…

Garrison Brothers 2015 (47%, OB, Texas straight bourbon)

Garrison Brothers 2015 (47%, OB, Texas straight bourbon) Two stars and a half A genuine distillery, with stills and a very high score by Jim M. (who said just like any new distillery in the world, who?), founded 2005. This very bottle was released in 2015. Colour: deep gold. Nose: classic, pencil shavings, toasted bread, popcorn, pumpernickel, caraway, cinnamon, ginger, and a wee rye-y/earthy side. Rather oak-driven, but not too oak-driven. Mouth: young bourbon with unexpected hints of olive oil, then gingerbread and liquorice wood. Good breadiness, and despite its origins, no gunpowder that I can feel (hey, I’m joking!) Finish: rather long, with many oak spices as well as a sweeter side, around marmalade. Earthy and bready aftertaste, as it should be. Comments: solid craft bourbon, perhaps less extravagant than other young craft Americans (talking about the genuine ones, not about the simple ‘brand-builders’), that’s all I’m going to say. SGP:451 - 79 points.

Koval Bourbon (47%, OB, bourbon, +/-2015)

Koval Bourbon (47%, OB, bourbon, +/-2015) Four stars This baby straight from Chicago. I’m totally in love with their ultra-smart minimal packaging, and perhaps with their whiskies too, but I’ve only tried one of them so far, the Four Grains (WF 84). It is single barrel bourbon, so I guess they vary. Colour: gold. Nose: very different from the Garrison, which was more ‘in your face’. This is subtle and complex, light in a beautiful manner, and rather more floral than the usual bourbons. Iris and lilies. And there’s a wonderful breadiness, you’d think you’re having breakfast in a posh ski resort somewhere in South Tyrol. Yes, I’m speaking with experience. Mouth: exceptionally good, I think. Amazing depth at what ought to be a very young age, with citron squash, notes of kiwi, celeriac, natural vanilla, radish… What’s totally amazing is the celeriac, I’m a sucker for celeriac. And the freshness, not many bourbons are this fresh. Finish: what, goji in whisky? And carrots? One of the most more-ish young whiskies I’ve tried this year. Only the aftertaste is a little less thrilling (tannic), but that’s more than normal. Comments: impressed. I’ll have to try to distil celeriac… BTW some Alsatian distillers do that, but I never came across a good ‘eau-de-vie de céleri’. SGP:462 - 87 points.

Westland 2 yo (46%, OB for Kalish & Sons, single malt, Heavy char new American oak, cask #97, 188 bottles, 2014)

Westland 2 yo (46%, OB for Kalish & Sons, single malt, Heavy char new American oak, cask #97, 188 bottles, 2014) Four stars The wonders of Belgian brewer’s yeast (amongst other smart choices). Colour: deep gold. Nose: while the Koval was clearly a bourbon, this one goes more towards sherried malt whisky – and yes I know this is no sherry cask – for it’s got these raisins, these overripe quinces, all these fresh pastries rather than bread, some kind of Indian ginger-based sweets, cinnamon cake, walnut cake… In shot an awesome nose, rather more candied than the fresher Koval. Mouth: so good. I’m sure they flew to Istanbul, plundered the poshest pastry shop down there, brought everything back, and stuffed the barrel with their loot. Orange blossom, dates, raisins… And even that very special tobacco called Latakia (which is Syrian). A funny fizzy orangeness coming through after a few minutes. Finish: medium to long, still quite oriental. I’ve tried some excellent arrack that used to taste a bit like this. The aftertaste is more chocolaty, though. Comments: between the Koval and this Westland, I choose both. Now I did enjoy the former’s freshness just a wee tad better. Even better. SGP:541 - 86 points.

Good, I had planned to spot here, but since we’ve just had one from high char oak, we could as well try another one…

Ezra Brooks 12 yo (49.5%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, cask #599, 2015)

Ezra Brooks 12 yo (49.5%, OB, Kentucky straight bourbon, cask #599, 2015) Three stars Some single barrel bourbon from Heaven Hill. I’m really curious about this one, since I never tried any Ezra Brooks… Colour: deep gold. Nose: I’m tempted to write that this is much more commercial. You know, caramel, butter cream, fudge, vanilla, butterscotch maple syrup, and the largest bag of buttered popcorn ever. I may have used the word ‘butter’ a little too often. Mouth: powerful, but a little indistinct. Sweet oak, vanilla, toasts, cakes, corn syrup, molasses, vanilla, Starbucks’ best (I mean, worst)… Bwah bwah bwah… Finish: medium, with some molasses-covered vanilla cake and a slice of cinnamon cake. Comments: good bourbon, but I feel it’s uninspired and uninspiring. It’s really lacking the edges and asperities that the ‘crafts’ had, but yeah, it’s very good, most certainly. SGP:541 - 80 points.

(Thanks a bunch, Claude and Scott)

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







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