Category Archives: Taste of the…

Gateway Series #5: Bushmills Irish Whiskey

Bushmills Original

What The Distillery Says:
The cornerstone of our family, it’s a blend of our own triple distilled malt whiskey with a lighter Irish grain whiskey.  Making it an approachable whiskey with a rich, warming taste of fresh fruit and vanilla.

What Richard Says:

Nose: Woody and peppery with vegetal/grassy notes.
Palate: Uber-mellow on the palate.  It’s a very cereal taste with the minutest hint of sweetness and pepper.
Finish: Peppery grains but very smooth.  You get some of the wood on the finish too.
Comments: I cut my whiskey teeth on a bottle of Bushmills Original so it holds a special place in my heart.  That said, I’ve come a long way in terms of development and experience in appreciating whiskey.  I ask for a lot more from my dram now that this whiskey can provide.  Is it bad?  No. It’s very consistent and drinkable but nothing make me take notice either.
Rating: Average

What Matt Says:
Nose: Not much on the nose.  Everything is subtle.  Notes of caramel and wet coffee grounds.
Palate: Not very bold.  Cereal, sweet and peppery with a hint of cucumber skin.
Finish: A little spice, very little burn and a little bit of wood.
Comments: Like Richard, I was introduced to Bushmills early in my whiskey education.  And, also like Richard, I now ask more from my dram.  In my youth, I sought anything that I could palate neat and was not too expensive.  I was not looking for complexity or nuance.  This was long before I before I began proselytizing the Way.  Bushmills will always taste the same though and there is something to be said for that.  A mediocre dram you can count on.
Rating:  Average

Overall Rating:  Average

Gateway Series #4: Gentleman Jack

In the spirit of fairness, we follow up our Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 review with the next in the Jack Daniel’s line.  If you remember, we started our Gateway Series with Jim Beam White Label and Jim Beam Black Label.

Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey
40% ABV (80 proof), about $30
Available in most US markets (not sure about abroad)

What the distillery says:
Just like Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, Gentleman Jack in Charcoal Mellowed before going into the barrel. Gentleman Jack, however, receives an additional “blessing” when it is Charcoal Mellowed again after reaching maturity – making it the only whiskey in the world to be Charcoal Mellowed twice, giving it ultimate smoothness. Gentleman Jack is full-bodied with fruit and spices, and its finish is silky, warm, and pleasant. When you drink Gentleman Jack, you’ll always enjoy rich, rewarding taste.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Honeysuckle and a lot of honey.  It’s a much more delicate nose than the standard Jack Daniels expression.
Palate: Tart candy, a lot of honey, and vanilla.  It is even smoother and more mellow that Jack Daniels Black Label.  It also has a more viscous mouthfeel.
Finish: Exceptionally smooth finish.  Almost none of the spice of regular Jack but more of that odd tartness.
Comments: Gentleman Jack is Jack Daniels smoking a huge blunt.  It just doesn’t get more mellow.  That’s good and bad.  On the good side it really doesn’t get any smoother and easier to drink that Gentleman Jack.  The downside is that there aren’t many pronounced flavors to bring me back for a second glass.
Rating: Average

What Matt Says:
Nose: Honeysuckle and hummingbird food (sugar water).  Delicate and floral, like spring in Tennessee.
Palate: Smooth and slightly oily.  Oak, vanilla, spice, and something that curls my tongue a little at the sides.  I don’t taste a tartness as much as I experience it.
Finish: Very smooth with very little burn.
Comments: Probably the smoothest “gateway” whiskey in the American whiskey bracket.  It lacks the complexity of similarly priced (but harder to find) bourbons.  I would drink this before Jim Beam Black though.  It is an interesting science experiment.  Gentleman Jack is produced and matured in the exact same manner as Old No. 7, but is filtered again after maturation.  It really smooths out the rough edges.  I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Gentleman Jack.  I’m not sure why.  I could drink it anytime.  What it lacks in complexity is what makes it accessible as an everyday dram.  That said, I don’t keep it stocked in my bar, but I wouldn’t say no to glass if offered.
Rating: Average

Overall Rating: Average

Charbay Hop Flavored Whiskey, Batch #2

After hearing that we accused them of over-pricing, the good folks at Charbay endeavored to teach us otherwise by sending us gobs of literature and a lovely sample. How’d they do? Read on, dear apostles, read on.

Charbay Hop Flavored Whiskey, Batch #2
55% ABV, $325
Available: Limited

What the distillery says:
[these are some bullet points from the press release – Matt] Single malt distilled from pilsner beer – a first in the history of whiskey distillation. 100% Two-Row European Barley grown and malted in British Columbia. No peat during malting – to emphasize the natural grain flavors. Hops added to the mash: Nugget, Cascade & Eroica. Double-distilled in 1000-gallon Alambic Charentais Pot Still. Classical 7-Fraction distillation method for purity & smoothness. Aged 6 years in custom-made new White Oak barrels (charred to #3 Gator Skin); aged for 3 more years in stainless. Bottled at 110 proof and not filtered. Second release from Collector’s Series – 20,000 gallons of Pilsner distilled for 3.5 weeks straight (24/7) in 1999 by Miles & Marko Karakasevic (22 barrels total). Aged at variable temperatures; 5 barrels chosen & blended to share how the Whiskey is aging.

What Richard says:
Nose: This really is a truely lovely nose.  It’s very floral and fruity with hints of grape, citrus, and something tropical that I can’t put my finger on.  The nose strongly resembles a medium aged cognac.  Pierre Ferrand Amber or Grand Mariner maybe?
Palate: Quite a precocious little tart aren’t you?  The palate opens slow.  First a tangy flavor that’s almost sweet but not quite.  It follows with a spiced heat and finishes with the hoppy pilsner notes.  It’s very viscous and luscious in mouthfeel.  For 55% ABV it’s more drinkable than you would expect.  Unfortunately, with water the palate deflates.
Finish:  The finish remains hoppy and a little rough around the edges but that’s mostly from the bottling strength.  Cutting it with a little water smooths out the finish.
Comments: This whiskey confuses me a little.  It has more in common with a brandy than a whiskey, both in nose and palate.   Definitely a whiskey for cognac drinkers.  It is remarkably smooth at higher proof.  It’s a very intriguing tipple but at the price that they are asking I can’t tell you to go out and buy it.  Matt and I don’t disagree too much on whiskey but I can’t give it nearly as high a rating as he did.  I can’t say must buy because of the price tag.  I’m inclined against must try too because it’s doesn’t taste like a whiskey.  But maybe that’s why you should try it.
Rating:  Stands Out

What Matt says:
Nose: Nutmeg, rice pudding and caramel. There is a distinct smell that reminds me of the cold dregs from a Turkish coffee. Yes, I said it. It smells cold. I know that “dregs from a Turkish coffee” is pretty specific and of little use if you have not had the experience, but that is what I get. Sorry.
Palate: Incredibly complex. Black pepper, cold (there it is again!) wet black tea, high-end marijuana, spearmint, evergreen, and Moroccan mint tea. There is even some fruit in there (muscadines?).
Finish: There is a little bit of burn on the finish (it’s 110 proof!), but with a few drops of water that goes away completely. This whiskey dances on the palate for a while, leaving a long finish of Moroccan mint tea.
Comments: I can only assume that the complexity of this whiskey comes from the addition of the hops. This is truly an amazing dram. Smooth and delicious. The only critique I can offer is this: this whiskey is so unique and interesting that it would not satisfy my craving for single malt whiskey. However, if I had a craving for this (and I will) there is nothing else that could satisfy my lust. The price tag is hefty, but there is nothing like it anywhere. There are only a few bottles of this left, so I hope there is a Batch #3 in the works (and that they send us a sample of it).
Rating: Must Try/Must Buy

Overall Rating: Must Try

Gateway Series #3: Jack Daniels Old No.7

This week we continue our Gateway Series with another staple of American whiskey, Jack Daniel’s Old No.7.

Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Sour Mash Tennessee Whiskey
40% ABV (80 Proof), about $20
Available: Most Widely Available Whiskey In The World

What the distillery says:
Jack Daniel’s, the best selling whiskey in the world, was established in 1866 and is crafted at America’s oldest registered distillery in the small town of Lynchburg, Tennessee. Made using the finest grains and pure, iron-free water from our cave spring, Jack Daniel’s is a unique whiskey that is slowly mellowed drop by drop through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal and matured in new American oak barrels to achieve its smooth character.

What Richard says:
Nose: On the nose I get mostly burnt caramel and vanilla. There is also a subtle undercurrent of wildflowers.
Palate: Candied oak? It sounds odd but that’s what it tastes like. Overall the palate is very smooth and almost chewy. Very mellow. So much so that there are not a lot of “strong” flavors that stand out to be recognized.
Finish: This has a much smoother finish than comparable bourbons. There is a little bit of peppery spice but mostly I’m left with an odd sort of tartness.
Comments: Personally, I think Jack Daniel’s is one of the best gateway whiskeys around. It is very smooth and drinkable. In terms of consistency, with the millions of bottle a year that they sell, you really can’t get much more consistent. While I would prefer Jack with Coke, I’m not against drinking it straight. The charcoal mellowing really adds to the smoothness and drinkability over like bourbons. If it wasn’t for that weird tart finish I’d like it even more.
Rating: Average

What Matt says:
Nose: Orange shellac primarily. With water, it opens up to potpourri (more pungent/sharp/floral than sweet).
Palate: Smooth and bland. Old No. 7 is so “mellow” it is difficult to grasp good tasting notes. There are faint traces of oak and orange peel.
Finish: Smooth and dry with very little burn. Does not linger.
Comments: There is nothing interesting or impressive about this whiskey. There is nothing terribly off-putting either. The smoothness and mildness of flavor makes Old No. 7 a better mixer than Jim Beam White Label. What makes Jack desirable (and a great gateway whiskey) is its lack of distinctive character. Do not waste your time sipping this one. Use this for mixers when you are feeling lazy.
Rating: Probably Pass (unless making a cocktail)

Overall Rating: Average (good if you are planning on mixing or looking for gentle entry into the world of whiskey)

Gateway Series #2: Jim Beam Black

For part #2 in our Gateway Series, we’re looking at the next tier in the Jim Beam family.

Jim Beam Black 8yo Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
43% ABV/86 Proof
Available just about everywhere

What the distillery says:
Elegant.  Smooth.  Refined.  That’s what eight years of aging will do to a bourbon.  Until it’s sweet like caramel.  Meant to be sipped.  Savored.

It’s not bragging if you can back it up.  And the Beverage Tasting Institute of Chicago gave Jim Beam Black the highest rating among leading North American whiskeys in 2003.  We knew that beforehand.  But it’s nice to have some confirmation.

What Richard says:
Nose: More complex than the standard white label.  There’s a lot of caramel
with a herbal almost medicinal under current.
Palate:
More robust than the white label in flavor but still plenty of
kick.  It continues to be rough around the edges but you can taste the
improvement of age.  There is a sweeter center to the palate but it’s
still peppery with a good bit of alcohol.
Finish:
It goes down smoother than the standard expression but that’s not
really hard.  It is still one of the rougher 8 year old bourbons that I’ve
had.
Comments:
Black label is something that stands up well in cocktails.  Much
more so that the standard white label expression.  You actually get some
bourbon flavor instead of just alcohol content.  That said, this still
isn’t something I’m going to sit and sip neat.
Rating: In cocktails: Average, Neat: Probably Pass

What Matt says:
Nose: More pleasant than the White Label.  Lots of caramel.  With water, the sweetness turns to floral with overtones of nail polish remover.
Palate: A boatload of oak (too much) and much mellower than the White Label.  The sourness present in the younger expression is still there, but sits further back and smooths out.
Finish: I’m with Richard on this one.  Rougher than most 8yo bourbons but much less burn than the White Label.
Comments: Good in cocktails.  While whiskeys like Jim Beam White Label give bourbon a bad wrap, Black Label takes it up a notch (not a big step though).  Again, I’m with Richard.  Not something I would voluntarily drink neat.
Rating: In cocktails: Average, Neat: Probably Pass

Overall Rating:  Probably Pass unless it is for a cocktail