Thursday, December 19, 2013

So Embarrassing

The Suspects
It's been over a week since I blogged, and it's because, well, it's kind of embarrassing what I have to report:

I attended a blind bourbon tasting recently 
and correctly identified zero of seven tastings. 

Last year, I attended this tasting and WON by correctly identifying three of the eight pours. I had only been drinking whiskey for a few months, and there were a couple guys there who had been drinking it for years. Needless to say, I was pretty dang proud of myself and have gleefully told this story many times as evidence of my knowing what I'm talking about. Imagine my shame this year, to get zero correct mere weeks after launching this blog. Imagine!

Oh dear. Anyway, the tasting was huge fun and I absolutely learned more about whiskey, more about my palate, and more about my biases toward certain brands.

Here is how we did it. The host asked each couple to bring a favorite bourbon/rye/whiskey. We told him ahead of time what we were going to bring, and his excruciatingly lovely girlfriend did some research and wrote up some notes about each selection to help us in identifying the pours. Last year we did it without tasting notes; we had only a list of the whiskeys we were tasting.

The list, along with my notes about each, follows. Notice that as we taste more, I seem to know less. Also notice that I clearly have no system for easily comparing the suspects. It got confusing!
  • Angels Envy Rye: very hot, spicy, high alcohol content. probably a rye, not smelling anything, just hot finish
  • Bulleit Frontier, 10 year: not a big aroma, milder, maybe AE rye except not sherry taste, easily drinkable, a little heat, some sweet
  • Redbreast, Single Pot Still, 12 year: sweet smell, heat at end, sweet in middle, smooth
  • Buffalo Trace: sweet, hot finish, not long, caramel, people thinking AE rye
  • EH Taylor Straight Rye: gorgeous color, so good, big, huge flavor
  • Elijah Craig Barrel Proof: big color, big alcohol, can't finish that, someone called it a punch in the face
  • Pappy 23: smells great, sweet and hot, no idea which it is
The one I couldn't finish? Yeah, I brought that. I've had it many times, neat, and absolutely LOVE it. I'm thinking that after all of the "tamer" ones, it was just a shock or something. Yikes. I was stunned that I liked the Bulleit. And, finally, in my defense, we were not told we would be tasting Pappy 23, but that we would taste Pappy 15, so I wasn't expecting it at all. (It's not much of a defense.)

We also got a couple thrown in as "extras" that the host identified for us. They weren't part of the guessing game, but just for fun. One was Calumet and the other was Eagle Rare, 10 year. Everyone enjoyed them, and the favorites of the night were the Angels Envy Rye and the Eagle Rare.  

This night was such fun and I was so excited to go, I can't even tell you! It was a combined bourbon tasting and ugly sweater competition. Instead of an ugly sweater, I just wore the cheesiest accessories I could find. Although you can't tell in the photo, both my earrings and my necklace lit up! Grand. 

So there you go - becoming a bourbon expert is hard work. I'm dedicated, though, and will keep you up to date on both my failures and successes. It's a rough job, but I'll do it. I stand by my ability to argue a point. Have to hang on to something, yes?

Until next time, cheers!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Is Jack bourbon?

People ask me all the time if Jack Daniel's is a bourbon. I say NO.

Last night I was reading a bit about it on the interwebs (I love that word), and learned a few things. There are arguments out there that it qualifies as a bourbon because it fits the federal legal requirements to be labelled as such. (See my tab above "What Is Bourbon?" for more on that.) Others argue that no, it cannot be called bourbon because it goes through another step before aging that other bourbons don't: charcoal filtering. Apparently there is nothing in the federal bourbon definition that rules out such filtering, but there you go - it's the argument that's made.

Well, what does Jack Daniels say about it themselves? The bottle clearly says it's a Tennessee Whiskey. Until April of last year, there were no legal requirements to be labelled Tennessee Whiskey. (Read more: New Tennessee Law.) Now, the product must be made in Tennessee and undergo the charcoal filtering. Other than that, the requirements list looks like bourbon, as if Tennessee Whiskey were a subset of bourbon. Does Jack Daniel's agree? Here's a link: Jack Daniel's FAQ. They say they are not bourbon. I'm going with that.

So, random people who try to tell me that it is when "showing off" your whiskey knowledge to me in a bar when you notice I'm drinking barrel proof, neat: ding dong, you're wrong. I'm pretty sure you cannot make the argument for its being included as a bourbon, anyway. Checkmate!! (Did I mention I like to win arguments?)

Cheers until next time!

** I have to thank my uncle for pointing out an error I made in the original posting, where I said that the charcoal filtering came after aging. It is before. 

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Woodford Double Oaked

Last night I tried something I've been curious about for a while, Woodford Reserve Double Oaked. Here's what I thought . . .

It was ok. 

I was a bit disappointed that it wasn't more WOW! I thought it would be more special, I suppose, considering the extra aging and extra dollars. 

Anyhow, it smelled fantastic: very creamy and vanilla. At first taste, it lived up to my expectations: super oaky and smooth. But then it got kind of spicy and I didn't enjoy the finish as much as I wanted to. 

Woodford Reserve, the standard version, is a very nice bourbon. It isn't exactly remarkable except for its drinkability. I usually describe it as a "nice, standard bourbon," perfect for everyday drinking. I enjoy it. It isn't too sweet or too hot - it's smooth and "just right".

The Double Oaked tasted, well, like standard Woodford Reserve, with extra oak (yay!) but extra burn (boo!). Given a choice, I would stick with the standard Woodford Reserve. 

Here is a review I agree with: WR Double Oaked Review.  I certainly didn't pick up all of the flavors this person did; my palate isn't that sophisticated. But the overall opinion in the review sums up my thoughts on it, too. 

I wouldn't suggest skipping it altogether, but I will pass on buying a bottle.

P.S. Did you figure out what the green stuff on my pizza is? Brussels sprouts!! Amazing. Seriously - very very good.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Bourbon Girl Jane

I met a new bourbon girl. I love bourbon girls!

She's awesome. We were at a holiday party and not only did I get the chance to chat with her before dinner, I actually got to sit NEXT TO her during dinner. Totally made my night.

So, I'll call her Jane, since I didn't really clear it with her that she would be the subject of this post. We spent most of the night chatting about whiskey, bourbon, the bourbon trail, you know, bourbon girl things. While we were talking,  I couldn't help but think about the many women I know who enjoy this delicious spirit. Somehow, this had escaped my attention before becoming a bourbon lover myself. I thought whiskey was for men, or for people from Kentucky. It seemed so...hardcore or something. Turns out, it's obviously hardcore, but so are a lot of women I know!

I mentioned this to Jane, my new girlfriend, and she remarked, "You know how men are always saying they should 'get women to like whiskey'? Well, we DO. It's GOOD. We know this!" And I swooned a little and then thought, of course she's right. Perhaps it's time to make the announcement:

Women love bourbon! We really do!

After talking with Jane, and hearing back from some friends who haven't ever tried bourbon, I've decided I could use this blog, in part, to get some new people to try it - men and women. It seems to me the reluctance to do so comes from thinking it's going to be harsh. So, I suggest starting with a whiskey cocktail. My first bourbon was Maker's Mark, which is on the sweet side, in an old fashioned. Oh, was it good! It's basically a bourbon or rye with sugar or simple syrup and bitters. The first one I had was in a sugar-rimmed glass. It was basically a dessert. A very delicious dessert.

From there, I tried Maker's Mark on the rocks. The ice melted, of course, and took the proof down as I drank it. Like I said, Maker's is pretty sweet and low in proof (90) in comparison to other bourbons, so it is quite smooth. Very easy to drink. Give it a try if you're new to whiskey and let me know what you think! I'll tell you how I went from there to my current barrel proof loving self. Neat, of course.

Until next time - Cheers! And thank you, Jane, for being my new best bourbon girl!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Very Special Micro Blend

"As bourbon malcontents, we appreciate subtle nuances and tinkering. This micro blend was created from samples of 3 Angel's Envy batches selected by Lincoln and blended to the specifications of Tippins Market."
So now it's time for some fun!

One of the things that appeals to me most about bourbons is that despite the guidelines under which they are made, e.g. consisting of at least 51% corn mash, each is different and distinctive. Even within a brand like Angel's Envy, there can be nuances, as it says right on this bottle in my hand. It's almost like tasting Mom's spaghetti sauce, but this time she added a bit more garlic, or less red wine. Each time, it tastes delicious, and the slight changes in the recipe keep you interested in trying it next time, wondering what new twist she has added.

My absolute favorite place on the planet to purchase any beer, wine, or spirits is Tippins Market. Granted, I haven't travelled around determining which places are best outside of my area, but just go with me here. I LOVE Tippins. Not just because they have, in my opinion, the most extensive collection of bourbon around, but because the guys who work there are excellent help in choosing something new. I have asked so many questions and tried so many new things from their store that I now know most of the people who work there. Dominic has kept me in the loop with new releases coming in. He is my bourbon captain, for sure.

Anyway, what happened with this Angel's Envy is a bit of magic. As you can probably glean from the photo above, the late Lincoln Henderson, Master Distiller for Angel's Envy, took samples from three barrels and sent them to Tippins. The Tippins guys blended the samples in differing proportions, then tasted them. When they settled on a favorite, after a delightful day of tasting, I'm sure (lucky!!), they let the distiller know how they would like it blended. And presto! This micro brew was born. It was blended and bottled especially for sale at Tippins Market. It's gorgeous, let me tell you. If you live near me, run, don't walk, to Tippins and grab yourself a bottle before they're all gone!

Another thing that makes this particular blend special is that, as you may have noticed, I said "the late" Lincoln Henderson. Unfortunately, he passed away this summer after sending the samples to Tippins. The batch was actually blended by his successor.

(For those of you who do not live near me, just get yourself a bottle of Angel's Envy. It won't be this specific blend, sure, but it's still going to be yummy.)

Ok, so I could try and pretend to have a distinguished palate and give you a run down of the flavors I pick up during the sipping, but I'm not going to. There are much fancier people out there who can let you know what it tastes like to them, exactly. I figure that if I taste oranges but you don't, that doesn't mean I don't taste oranges or that I'm doing it wrong. I like oranges very much, thank you, and I'll enjoy my bourbon how I please. (Just to be clear, I don't taste oranges in this blend.)

Never fear, though, I do have some things to say about it's taste. The kind of cool thing about Angel's Envy in general is that it's finished in port wine barrels. Remember, bourbon must be aged in new charred oak barrels for at least two years. They did that. Check. Then they aged it further in the port wine barrels: barrels previously used to age port. Doing this gives the bourbon a distinct port flavor toward the end. It's quite lovely. As I mentioned, I enjoy wine a great deal. I just cannot drink much without getting a headache. Boo. One of my favorite wines is chardonnay, very oaky chardonnay. I think that a reason bourbon tastes so delicious to me is that it is aged in oak barrels, so it has a very oaky flavor to it. But I digress. Angel's Envy's port wine finish is outstanding. I encourage you to go to your local store and pick up a bottle. It is a very nice and smooth bourbon. If it's your first bottle, remember you are tasting something special. It's pretty rare for a bourbon to finish in another type of barrel. 

Whew! That seems enough about this bottle for tonight. It's mighty fine. Truly, give it a shot. If you are a new bourbon drinker, don't be afraid to add water or ice to open up the flavors, as the bourbon geeks say, or as I say, to take the burn away. To me, this is a very smooth drink. It is 86.6 proof, so there really isn't much of a burn in the first place. It's a perfect end of the day treat.

If you want to read a bit more, go to their website: Angel's Envy.


My bottle chillin' next to me.
What, you don't make silly faces to your bourbon? 

Monday, December 2, 2013

I'm a whiskey girl. Who knew?


As it turns out, I'm a whiskey girl. 

I'm a 40 year old mom who is kind of short, and not at all physically intimidating, but I like my bourbon neat. Barrel proof if possible.

Sure, I've tried the usual "girl" drinks: cosmopolitans, vodka + soda, wine, lots of wine. But there is just something about a woman drinking whiskey that is badass. It isn't sugary sweet, it isn't silly, and it isn't pretentious, at least not the way I do it. 

While I enjoy Irish whiskey, Scotch, and other American whiskeys, I prefer bourbon. Tonight I'm enjoying Old Weller Antique 107. It's a "cherry bomb" as my friend, Dominic, the liquor store guy, says. Up front is a huge cherry sundae flavor, so it is sweet, but then it explodes into a hot finish, which is fantastic - no sugary stuff here. 

If I am out drinking bourbon socially, oftentimes people don't expect me to know much about it, and truth be told, I'm a newbie bourbon girl, but I do know *some* things. Please do not argue with me that Jack Daniels is a bourbon - it is not. Please do not tell me all bourbon comes from Kentucky - that is not true, though I do tend to enjoy Kentucky bourbons best. Don't try telling me what sort of barrels it is distilled in, or that the mash is mainly wheat or what a blend is. I will argue with you and you'll end up looking silly. Did I mention I'm also a lawyer? I love to argue. I'll do it all day. Smiling, with my bourbon in hand. 

So here I am, a whiskey girl. And so far, I'm loving it.