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

September 9, 2020


A wheelbarrow of nine American whiskies

For, say the fifteen first years of little Whiskyfun, we used to post a lot about music too, with tips, mp3s and the world-famous Concert Reviews by Nick and Kate. But the worst part of this lousy website finally took over, that is to say whisky and other aged spirits. Sad turn of events, really, but we just couldn’t have kept up. Now in a way, History catches up with us since guess what just turned up? That’s right, Bob Dylan’s own whiskies! What’s more, one of them was aged in barrels made out of oak that was cut in the mountains just near WF Towers in France, in the Vosges! Incredible…

Heaven’s Door ‘Straight Rye Whiskey’ (43%, OB, USA, 2020)

Heaven’s Door ‘Straight Rye Whiskey’ (43%, OB, USA, 2020) Four stars
It’s not fully aged in Vosges oak, just finished for six months in those casks after seven years in regular America barrels. It’s to be noted that oak from the Vosges are also used in wine making. I’ve seen this baby at 46% vol. on the Web but this is well a 43% vol. version. Naturally, it’s sourced whisky from MGP’s and I’m wondering if Bob Dylan was fully involved (the answer, my friend…), but it seems that they plan to open a Distillery in Nashville. With all that in mind, let’s proceed… Oh and no, we won’t quote songs, but we won’t deny that Heaven’s Door is a lovely name. Colour: gold. Nose: this nose is lovely too, rather gentle, really full of rye, touches of violets, turmeric, some funny hints of tequila, then dill and fennel seeds, heather honey, warm caramel, cinnamon roll, and more earthy agave/tequila. What I really like here is that it’s earthier than other ryes, which I sometimes find too ‘round’ and lacking responsiveness, if you see what I mean. Mouth: starts dry, on sawdust and many spices, including white pepper and cinnamon indeed. It is very bready too, and would rather go towards caraway, cloves and nutmeg, then ground coffee and raw cocoa. The rye is very obvious, I’m also finding notes of buckwheat (not distilled buckwheat) and some wood ashes. It’s really dry, not a style that I dislike. Finish: rather long, spicy, earthy and grassy, with only a little marmalade and lavender sweets in the aftertaste. And a little salt too. Comments: it’s not often that spirits endorsed (or more) by high-celebrities are really good, but this dry American really is in my book. It’s as dry as Mr Bob.
SGP:362 - 86 points.

Heaven’s Door ‘Tennessee Bourbon’ (42%, OB, USA, straight bourbon, 2020)

Heaven’s Door ‘Tennessee Bourbon’ (42%, OB, USA, straight bourbon, 2020) Three stars and a half
High-maize content and this one too was bottled at a lower strength (seen at 45% on the Web). This ‘could’ be George Dickel juice, but that’s pure speculation, I’m no bourbon sleuth at all. Oh and couldn’t you blend Dickel with smaller parts from younger and smaller distilleries from Tennessee? Why would ‘sourcers’ always only buy readymade juice? By the way, there’s a black crow on the bottle but I doubt dear Joni Mitchel ever gave a hand here. Colour: gold. Nose: I’m finding some rye too but the whole is much rounder, gentler and easier than the rye, with less character, and certainly more vanilla and maple syrup. No big coconut though, so that’s sorted. Rather a lot of custard, biscuit and growing notes of pineapple jam and perhaps pear jelly. Mouth: I find it relatively firm, not that rounder than the rye, and rather dry and earthy again, which seems to be the desired style. Olive crackers, a little burnt caramel, nutmeg and cinnamon cookies, spicier honey (chestnut?) and some lavender and violet sweets, that’s the rye I suppose. Still a little less characterful than the rye, but it’s not as much a smooth and lazy baby as some other – and no less rock and roll - offerings from Tennessee. Finish: medium, with good creaminess and some maple syrup. Touch of aniseed in the aftertaste. Comments: I find this very good, it’s just that I’m having a soft spot for the rye. Not just because they’ve cut the trees near my house (all right, 30km away)…
SGP:551 - 84 points.

I remember Bob Dylan had bought a house in Nethybridge, near Aviemore in the late 2000s, so should we also expect some Balmenach one day?

But since we’ve mentioned George Dickel… Eenie meenie… What?

George Dickel ‘Tabasco Barrel Finish’ (35%, OB, USA, +/-2019)

George Dickel ‘Tabasco Barrel Finish’ (35%, OB, USA, +/-2019)
Wha-a-a-t indeed? Long story short, this is Dickel finished in Tabasco (so flavoured, Doritos-style) and bottled at a lower strength, possibly because it was pretty offensive at 40% or more. My guess… Colour: gold. Nose: pretty horrible. Some sour harissa, too light, green pepper… What’s the point here? I love Tabasco and am kind of fond of George Dickel, but this is just a good example of two fine juices killing each other if you ask me. Possibly the most pointless alcoholic drink ever, even before Haig Club. Mouth: Fireball anytime! This is terrible, too sugary and too full of chillies at the same time, and just undrinkable. Wrecks your palate – well it wrecked mine – and to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t even try to pour this over Hawaiian pizza. That’s right, the one with pineapples that hipsters in Alabama adore. Finish: couldn’t tell you, I’ve rinsed my mouth with marc de gewurztraminer at still strength. Comments: a ‘whisky’ as stupid as a voice assistant while it won’t even give you yesterday’s weather or play ‘Imagine’ by John Lennon. Or indeed ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ by Bob D. I’m not even sure I’ll ever manage to get my glass clean, better just toss it in a very remote (because of the smell) dumpster. I suppose this was another late-night idea straight from a dinner at the Rotary-Club.
SGP:690 - 1 points.

And now if you would excuse me, I’ll need a good thirty minutes to try to recover my palate…  Nose is fine though… Wait, perhaps this?

Elijah Craig ‘Barrel Proof B518’ (66.7%, OB, USA, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 2018)

Elijah Craig ‘Barrel Proof B518’ (66.7%, OB, USA, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 2018) Three stars and a half
Some corn-fuelled bourbon by Heaven Hill, not too expensive and much lauded by Bourbon enthusiasts and the American press alike. But watch the strength… Colour: rich gold. Nose: warm sawdust, cologne and molasses, but that’s normal at this murderous strength. So… With water: the best use of water, as they say. Nice fruits, mangos, apples, bananas, and a huge vanilla-and-maple syrup combo. So a little rudimentary perhaps, but that’s not a problem in this context. No one’s expecting Clynelish 1972 anyway. Mouth (neat): very sweet and very ethanoly. Big oak too, sugar, coconut balls… Not the style that malt drinkers prefer, but water should help… With water: classic high-class fruity bourbon, quality’s high, while it tends to get very spicy and that’s all the oak. Finish: dry and bitterish and peppery finish. A little rustic I would say. Comments: very very good, naturally, but I tend to prefer complex whiskies. Or more ‘idiosyncratic’ ones, such as Mr Dylan’s rye. Even if bourbon exegetes may cry wolf now, since the latter’s sourced, which, to some friends, is the equivalent to adding pineapple onto your pizza.
SGP:551 - 84 points.

More Heaven Hill, by indies this time…

Heaven Hill 10 yo 2009/2019 (50.2%, Liquid Treasure, bourbon barrel, 161 bottles)

Heaven Hill 10 yo 2009/2019 (50.2%, Liquid Treasures, bourbon barrel, 161 bottles) Four stars and a half
Isn’t it reassuring to learn that a Heaven Hill would stem from a bourbon barrel? Fine work on the label, very appropriate. Colour: gold. Nose: immediately superior, fresher, fruitier, more complex, less buried in vanilla and corn syrup, with plums, apples, papayas, touch of liquorice, hawthorn, oranges… With water: quite superb, floral, with lovely teas, Assam, touches of peaches, hints of beedis, orange cake… It’s this fruity/herbal freshness that’s really awesome. Mouth (neat): excellent, maltier (I know that’s bizarre), with even touches of smoke (even more bizarre) and some minerals (more bizarre yet). With water: indeed. Apricot jam, butterscotch, tinned peaches, custard, moderate pepper, a little peppermint, well-behaved vanilla (vanilla is the Kim K. of whisky)… I’m really fond of this little indie HH. Finish: rather long, bodied as a malt, complex, a tad sweeter. Fruit peel in the aftertaste, that’s tops too. Very well selected Mr Liquid and Mrs Treasures! Comments: another case of some indie bottlers trashing the officials, if you ask me. All these 2009s are very good, some, as this one, are excellent. IMHO, as we used to say before Karen took over the Internet.
SGP:651 - 88 points.

Let’s gear towards boutique whiskies…

Garrison Brothers 3 yo 2015/2019 (47%, OB for Peter Siegenthaler, USA, Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, cask #9057, 63 bottles)

Garrison Brothers 3 yo 2015/2019 (47%, OB for Peter Siegenthaler, USA, Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, cask #9057, 63 bottles) Four stars and a half
Hopes are high, the pedigree is immaculate here. Colour: deep gold. Nose: Aristotle said it already, bread will save the world. This is very bready, in a wonderful manner. One of the greatest pleasures in life is to have breakfast in the Germanic Alpes (Schweiz, Austria, Germany) in front of some snowy mountains, with dozens of different breads, some farm butter and a good bottle of champagne. Sometimes some Sekts will do. That’s exactly the impression I have while nosing this little Texan whisky of pretty high quality. Mouth: absolutely a-do-ra-ble, with rare honeys, stouts of good origins, and of course all those breads, chiefly pumpernickel. Gingerbread, Stolle, sucking a sweet cigar, having some ginger cookies. Finish: long, full of sweet oak spices but never ‘oaky’, going on with dried figs and more special honeys. Manuka, purple heather… And black olives in the aftertaste! That’s amazing. Comments: sure it’s a baby, but in this case, age doesn’t matter. Let’s not generalise, please. BTW and speaking of Texas, I’ve just listened to an early gig by ZZ Top (circa 1971). They never got better.
SGP:651 - 89 points.

How could we resist…

Garrison Brothers 6 yo 2014/2020 (60.1%, OB for Peter Siegenthaler, USA, Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, cask #7117, 81 bottles)

Garrison Brothers 6 yo 2014/2020 (60.1%, OB for Peter Siegenthaler, USA, Texas Straight Bourbon Whiskey, cask #7117, 81 bottles) Four stars
I’m very pleased to learn, from the most distinguished Swiss importer, that at 60.1% vol., ‘der Bourbon ist in Fassstärke.’ Haben wir nicht bemerkt. Colour: very dark red amber. Nose: high-alcohol blocking, Much less happening, only molasses, praline, caramel and pear cake. With water: we join the sister, drop by drop, but this showcases the limits of ‘home reducing’, we never quite manage to get to that perfect breadiness. Remember, ‘buy at high strength, you can always add the water yourself’ really is a BS proposition that negates the complex dynamics of water/alcohol interactions. There, I said it.  Oh and this Garrison is very good. Mouth (neat): fudge and cognac galore, but we’re ten times more ‘jammed’ than with the perfect sister cask at 47%. That’s the limits of high-strength, really. With water:  I think we got it right this time, this is really good, but cask #9057 still reigns supreme. Good menthol though. Finish: long, very very good but  tad more on everyday routes. Comments: how-the-hell would I have guessed, in all honesty, that I should have had the strongest sibling first? But don’t get me wrong, this is very good too.
SGP:651 – 85 points.

Why not an old bottle as this session’s signature? We don’t do old bottles of bourbon very often, do we?

Wild Turkey 8 yo (101 US proof, OB, +/-1960)

Wild Turkey 8 yo (101 US proof, OB, +/-1960) Three stars
101 US proof are 50.5% vol., US proof are for whisky lovers that are bad at math; UK proof is a whole different story… Colour: amber. Nose: I wouldn’t say you’ve got that old ‘OBE’ kind of thing with bourbon; they either kept very well or are flat dead, but I’m not sure they really ‘evolve’ in glass as much as Scotch whiskies do. This has some cake, touches of cardboard, some meatier coconut too (teriyaki sauce as well?) and whiffs of mushrooms in the woods, as well as some metallic notes (old rusty tin box). The jury’s still out… Mouth: good, a little earthier than contemporary offerings, with notes of fermented tea, cocoa pods, coffee dregs… In short it’s very dry and perhaps not very sexy. Perhaps for die-hard bourbon specialists only? Finish: medium and dry. A drop of soy sauce and one of mint syrup, then coffee and ‘sucking your Gauloise’. A very French thing, but if I remember well, Wild Turkey used to belong to Pernod until they sold it on to Campari, around 2010. Comments: not tired, just a little dry and more pine-y and mentholy than expected.
SGP:362 - 80 points.

Do we have room for a last American? Something insane and inane? No, not him, rather the strongest whisky we’ve ever tried!

Heaven Hill 16 yo 1994 (82.70%, EBRA special reserve, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, European Bourbon Rye Association Switzerland, cask #1.1, 77 bottles, +/-2010)

Heaven Hill 16 yo 1994 (82.70%, EBRA special reserve, Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, European Bourbon Rye Association Switzerland, cask #1.1, 77 bottles, +/-2010) Two stars and a half
These rare bottles are much sought after and extremely expensive. Given the totally lethal strength, no need to tell you I called both my lawyer and my insurance agent, but shh, I haven’t told my old Mum and even my dear wife isn’t in the know. Would you agree this would remain between us? Holy Mary, full of grace, mother and associate of the redeemer…  Colour: deep red amber. Nose: coffee? Caramel? Fudge? Peach jam? This is easy, just keep your nose at distance… With water: yeah, I do get those roasted chestnuts, the honeys, the pencil shavings, the praline, the toasted pastries and even this very specific kind of mentholated custard… But I’m finding it globally… a little shy. Mouth (neat): yeah well… This BURNS! I feel some coffee and peach skins, that’s all. With water (first time ever I’m adding water 50/50 and we’re still above 40% ;-))… Sweet Vishnu! So with water: syrups, oak, spices, rye, lavender, ginger, touches of earth, turmeric, ginseng powder, pollen… It’s fine, but really nothing to write home about. Finish: long, depending on the level of reduction, that’s all. The oakiness is a little sour. Nicer liquorice in the aftertaste. Comments: the strength is spectacular, the whiskey is not, in my very humble opinion. Rather good but uncomplex bourbon, hard to handle. Just a topic of discussion?
SGP:551 - 78 points.

Let's stop there, okay? Lawyers and insurance folks, you can go home now.

(Danke vielmals Joe, Max und Peter)

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