Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The appropriate glass

When drinking whiskey for enjoyment, there are no rules as to how to drink it. Any glass, with ice, with water, neat, or some people even drink it mixed with pop (although I strongly recommend against ever doing that). However, when drinking for appreciation, for the fullest experience which bourbon whiskey brings to all the senses, drinking from an appropriate glass is essential.

For proper appreciation, a snifter, like the one pictured at the top right of the blog, should be used. The tulip shape of the glass captures the aroma of the whiskey so it can be presented to the nose in a more rich, concentrated form. In a regular low ball glass with ice you wont smell a thing.

Make sure the glass has been rinsed and dried and has a clean smell.

Pour no more than an ounce and a half of bourbon into the glass. Smell. Slowly. Draw comparisons about what you smell and try to articulate and record your sensations. The snifter is the best glass for allowing you to do this.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Elijah Craig 12 year old Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

A while back I noted that Ezra Brooks is my favorite whiskey. I'm afraid I have to retire Ezra, Elijah has taken his place. This whiskey almost made me shed a tear when I tasted it so I thought I'd review it for my mass of followers. I can't think of a single thing I don't like about this fine bourbon.

Presentation: classic short bottle with a cork top. The dark colour, result of 12 years of aging in charred oak barrels, is rich and brown. It's important to note that Rev. Elijah Craig was the first maker to age his whiskey in charred oak in 1789. This whiskey goes back to the days when George Washington was president.

Nose: Particularly pungent, brown sugar dominates over oddly leaf/grass-like hues but the grain presence is still there in the shadows. It's obvious this is a 94 proof whiskey.

Taste: The oak adds a lot of character of wood and vanilla without being over-caramalized. A smooth smoke flavor sets up nicely and fades into fruit tones of dates and raisins after rolling around on the palate a bit.

Finish: This one lingers a mile. It's not overwhelmingly hot but leaves a pleasant burn of dryer spices and vanilla.

This is an perfect example of what balance of flavors and excellent alignment should be. This was the true "small batch" bourbon before the term ever even existed. 97 out of 100.

Proof: 94
Price: $22.95/750ml
Recommended: highly

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Ezra Brooks Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

This has long been a cherished whiskey for me so I decided to review it. I'll admit right away that this is my favorite. I like that it's still bottled at an "honest 90 proof" but has such low astringency that it's dangerously drinkable. Looking at the bottle, I'm always impressed by the bold dark color of the spirit. It looks almost ruby-like. This is due, not to the addition of caramel coloring, as you'll find in shittier whiskey, but rather is due to years of careful aging in quality charred oak barrels.

As for the price, this is probably about $10 cheaper than Jack Daniels, and just as good, if not better. Ezra Brooks doesn't blow money on advertising and sponsorships of all kinds. They invest in finding the best oak barrels and grains. The result is an incredibly rich and smooth drink.

On the nose, fairly standard, but eventually a formidable complexity ascends. Floral and charming, I'm ready to sip.

The taste is light to medium. There's no overpowering syrupy corn oil taste clouding the delicious grain notes as you'll find even in more expensive whiskeys. Ezra Brooks has a light, clean "mouthfeel" and just enough of a burn to let you know you're drinking whiskey. On the finish, delicate liquorish emerges. Sweet and refreshing, I love taking that first breath after downing a sip and savoring the lingering sweetness. I give this blend a rating of 89.

There's also a small-batch blend that I haven't found yet, but you better believe I'm looking!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Zwack Hungarian Herbal Liquor

Here's a unique and delicious liquor if ever there was one. Zwack is an herb based liquor imported from Hungary that's only available in the United States in New York and Ohio. Us Ohioans are fortunate to have the privilege to purchase this great stuff. Brewed from a secret mixture of over 40 herbs, it's like a more upscale version of Jagermeister with slightly different flavor variations. It's also reasonably priced; I purchased a 750ml bottle for $29.00. Speaking of the bottle, it's one of the coolest I've ever seen! It's globe shaped. Great for any bottle collection.

Initially herbal-tasting and almost medicinal, strong orange and lemon notes come on halfway through the flavor experience. Someone who clearly doesn't appreciate the flavor of fine herbal tinctures described the flavor as being similar to a "hospital corridor." This isn't a drink for anyone who's afraid of flavor. The main essences I take away from Zwack are sassafras, herb, orange, lemon, and anise. It settles the stomach and also blends well with coffee for a morning pick-me-up. Also mixes great with red bull or other energy drinks.

As an ardent capitalist, I like that this drink has survived since 1790 and endured a communist regime in Hungary. Under communism, Zwack became known to the Hungarians as the drink of freedom. I'll drink to that!

Zwack, you'll either love it of you'll hate it. But if you're a jager fan, try Zwack instead next time. You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Old Crow Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey review

Old Crow is a very approachable whiskey, mostly because it's dirt cheap. It's a whiskey for those who aren't seeking to impress. One step above coming in a plastic handle, the kind with the indented grips on it - Old Crow is bottled in glass with an attractive, old-fashioned looking label.
Interestingly enough, this whiskey was supposedly the favorite drink of the great compromiser from Kentucky, Henry Clay. However, there's nothing pretentious or aristocratic about Old Crow. One might consume it while wearing a wife-beater and sweat pants.

Now for the description:

On the nose, slightly prickly. Mosses and phenolic essence come through. Very faint hints of citrus coming through on the finish. Not overpowering at all. I have no idea why we use words like "phenolic" to describe the scent of whiskey. We probably don't want to admit that it smells like ass on fire.

As I bring it to my lips for a kiss, I sense it is young, very sweet (wont be a favorite for those who prefer drier whiskies). The florals which are usually my favorite element of a young whiskey just aren't present. There's an odd minty or eucalyptus-like flavor pervading the whole taste experience. Overall, though, it's what you'd expect from a 3 year old blend.

It's bottle by the fine folks at Jim Beam so I suspect it's a lighter version of what you'd get in a bottle of Jim Beam white label.

Old Crow earns the whiskey score of 74 out of 100, mostly because it lacks character. Now, purely for the sake of research, I must have another glass of this vile stuff.