Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey

46% ABV/92 Proof
Year ’08, Batch 6, Bottle 410
Available in the New York and California – around $45 for 375ml

What the distillery says:
Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey brings together the distinct characteristics of corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley. Each batch starts with 800 pounds of grain which is ground at the distillery, cooked and fermented, then distilled twice. It is aged in our signature small barrels (the barrels they use are about the size of a rugby ball, or slightly bigger that a football for those who have never traveled abroad -matt). Our Four Grain Bourbon is a rich full flavored spirit. The grains are perfectly suited one to the others so that the end result balances the soft richness of corn, the sharp peppery notes of rye, all the smooth subtlety of wheat and the sweetness of malted barley. Each bottle is hand numbered.

What Richard says:
Nose: I get the light odor of candied fruit with this one. It’s much lighter and more floral than a typical bourbon. This could be from the relative youth and short time spent in the barrel. The nose itself isn’t young per se, just delicate.
Palate: The palate is surprising and tells more of the whiskey’s age than the nose. There is no sweetness at all. The flavor profile less complex than I would have hoped and all I really get is a hint of licorice. There is not spice at all and the only other flavor or sensation is an alcohol burn if you hold it hold the palate.
Finish: Even sips leave a mellow finish that disappears all but for a lingering warmth at the back of the mouth. Little flavor hangs around. A larger sampling leaves an almost medicinal ending.
Comments: I applaud the effort made here. We should all try to support the inovation seen in the burgeoning craft distilling movement. That said, this whiskey just doesn’t move me. The nose promises something nice and different but the palate doesn’t deliver.
Rating: Average

What Matt says:
Nose: It smells somewhat sweet with hints of caramel and butterscotch. I can also smell the char from the barrel, but only very slightly.
Palate: This whiskey tastes young. Not that it’s harsh, because it’s not. However, it tastes like it has not come into it’s own yet. A slow and careful tasting can almost dissect this whiskey into it’s separate grains. A few more years in the barrel would help the flavors marry and develop into something greater than the sum of its parts.
Finish: This whiskey does not stick around long. It leaves a slight sweetness on the tongue and a burn along the edges that makes my mouth water. Perhaps this would be good as an aperitif?
Comments: I have tried most of what Tuthilltown Distillery (the makers of this whiskey) have to offer and this is not the best whiskey they make. I too applaud the effort, but it falls just shy of some of their other whiskeys. If you find yourself standing in front of a few bottles of Hudson Whiskey, I say try the Single Malt or Baby Bourbon. However, I’m giving this one a ‘Must Try’ because I think everyone should try these boutique whiskeys. They are at the forefront of whisk(e)y innovation. Additionally, I suggest trying this one with a little water. The water opens up the flavors a little, making this dram much more interesting.
Rating: Must Try

Overall Rating: If you were a fan of the Woodford Reserve Four Grain and were hoping to find a replacement, this is not your answer. I suggest writing Chris Morris (the Master Distiller) directly and begging him to make it a permanent part of the Woodford line. This is more like a smoother version of Michter’s American Whiskey. Good, drinkable, not a stand-out favorite. Average

Events In Your Area?

Well, we started off strong and now we seem to be slowing down. Things have been pretty hectic here at Whisk(e)y Apostle, but that is no excuse. We owe you some bloggage.

One of the best ways to get in a lot of tasting is to attend tasting events (pretty obvious, right?). Whether it is a small event held at a liquor store (like the Bourbon & Bacon Expo I recently attended) or a larger event (like WhiskyFest), tasting events give you the opportunity to try a large variety of whiskeys in a very short time.* At the larger events, you can sometimes try rare and very expensive whiskeys that may otherwise be unavailable to you. Furthermore, you can meet some of the Master Distillers and Blenders responsible for your favorite dram (I still get a little giddy around John Glaser of Compass Box). If there are no events in your area, organize your own. The selection at your event may not be as extensive as WhiskyFest, but I’m sure you will have a good time.

If you live in the New York/New Jersey area, The Whisky Guild is hosting ‘The Whisky Classic” (featuring over 100 single malts) on March 5. I probably will not be at this event because of the location, but it is bound to be great. Last fall, The Whisky Guild hosted “Whisky on the Hudson,” a booze cruise around Manhattan to celebrate the U.S. launch of Glenlivet XXV. Glenmorangie was there to introduce us to the Signet, which they paired with dark chocolate and cigars. You can try Glenmorangie’s newest incarnation, Astar, at “The Whisky Classic.”

The annual WhiskyFest (hosted by Malt Advocate) is always a blast, with great food and great whisky. If you talk to Richard and I long enough, you will discover how much respect we have for both Malt Advocate magazine and publisher/editor John Hansell. WhiskyFest has a lot to do with our love for Malt Advocate. It is a great event, with great food and more distilleries represented than you can shake a stick at. Perhaps the best thing about WhiskyFest is that it happens three times a year (annually in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York). Check it out if you are going to be in any of these places at the right time.

We will try to notify our readers of other upcoming events, but we need your help. If there is an event coming up in your area, send us an email and we will either post it or send it out in a newsletter to our registered users (didn’t think there was any point to registering, did you?). We’ll decide that later I guess. I hope to see you at the next tasting event.

*Please treat these events like wine tastings. Spitting is a must. Don’t be the guy who is falling down drunk after the first table. There is at least one every time.

Forty Creek Barrel Select

40% ABV/80 Proof
Available in the United States and Canada – $25

What the distillery says:
Forty Creek Barrel Select is distilled in small batches in our copper pot still and patiently aged in white oak barrels hand-picked for their unique characteristics. A selection of light, medium and heavy char barrels create a richness and toasted earthiness in the spirit. Vintage sherry casks impart a subtle complexity. This unique barrel selection process results in a whisky where aromas of honey, vanilla and apricot fuse with toasty oak, black walnut and spice. The flavour is rich & bold.

What Richard says:
Nose: There is a slightly caramelized nose of buttered fruit reminiscent of brandy. The smell brings to mind a cross between rye whiskey and cognac. The nose is much fruitier than other Canadian whiskies.
Palate: Not as sweet as the nose would suggest. The buttered flavor continues through the palate. There is very little viscosity in the mouth feel but it isn’t dry. I was expecting a chardonnay and got a cross between a chenin blanc and a pinot griggio. There is a slight lack of complexity in the flavor but it is more than made up for in the smoothness and ease of drinkability.
Finish: No noticeable burn at all. The whisky goes down the throat as smooth as the butter hinted at on the nose and palate suggest. The whisky clears the mouth very quickly, leaving little behind. Just a hint of spice and well worn old leather.
I was surprised to see the distillery say that the flavor is “bold” in their marketing. I don’t get bold at all. If anything this is surprisingly mellow. That’s not a bad thing. It makes for an incredibly drinkable whisky that stands out against other Canadian whiskies. A near-perfect “anytime” whisky.
Rating: Stands Out. Great Value.

What Matt says:
Nose: I get honey and (oddly enough) refrigerator pickles (fresh cucumber and dill). I don’t know. Maybe I am having a stroke. It has a crisp quality though.
Palate: Buckwheat honey (sweet but pungent), oak, slight spice, but no smoke for all the talk of barrel selection. I expected an astringent quality because of the cucumber aroma, but it had the viscosity of a high mineral water. It reminded me a little of home brewed mead, but only a little.
Finish: Clean finish. No lingering after taste. A good every day dram.
Rating: Stands Out. Great Value.

Overall Rating: If you are a completist and must have some of each type of whisk(e)y on your shelf, this is the Canadian whisky for you. The price is unbeatable and, while we may take issue with the use of ‘bold’ in the marketing, this is the closest thing to ‘bold’ you will find in an affordable Canadian whisky. The low proof and low price make Forty Creek Barrel Select infinitely drinkable. One caveat though, the low proof and subtle flavor means that this whisky will not stand up to any watering. Drink it neat. I know you would anyway. Stands Out. Great Value

Drinking In A Depressed Economy

Despite the worldwide economic crisis, the whiskey industry continues to see growth. While people are spending less at bars, liquor stores are feeling flush. Unfortunately for the consumer, this means that prices are going up as supply comes down. So, you ask, how am I to expand my whiskey experience without going broke? Well, that is the subject of my latest blog, the best values in whisk(e)y.

Face it, if you are on a budget, you are not going to go out and buy a 25 year old Macallan. However, that does not mean that you have to subsist on Rebel Yell and Bell’s Scottish whisky. You can get some bang for your buck.

Of all the types of whisk(e)y, bourbon is going to give you the best value. If you live in Kentucky, or a state with low interstate and alcohol tariffs, then this is doubly true for you. Finding a decent bourbon for under $25 should not be difficult, regardless of where you live. To my mind, the standard issue Buffalo Trace or the yellow label Four Roses bourbon is the best you can get at this price point. For a few dollars more, you can upgrade to the Four Roses Small Batch or Elmer T. Lee.

If you can handle it, rye whiskey is also a great value. Russell’s Reserve 6yo is quite affordable, but my recommendation is the Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond 100 proof. Russell’s Reserve is still a little harsh for my taste.

You will not see us write about Canadian whisky very often, but one of the best deals in whisk(e)y is Forty Creek Barrel Select. In my experience, you typically need to spend a lot of money to get a Canadian whisky suitable for anything other than a cocktail. Forty Creek is the first affordable (around $25) Canadian whisky that has a great taste and a full bodied profile that stands up to other whiskeys (stay tuned to Whisk(e)y Apostle for a formal review of 40 Creek).

For other whiskeys, we are going to have to go up a bit to get a decent dram, but you still don’t have to break the bank.

If you are looking for a deal with Irish whiskey, I will once again suggest Redbreast. Redbreast is one of a handful of pure pot stilled whiskeys from Ireland. You will never find another whiskey this complex at this price (around $45). The nose and palate are both filled with sweetness and botanicals. If you don’t have a bottle of this on your shelf, shame on you. You can also pick up some Irish blends (Black Bush is my favorite). Stock standard Jameson or Bushmill’s are also great values, but will likely not take you on the sensuous journey that you should expect from your dram.

When it comes to Scottish whisky, most distilleries offer a 10yo or 12yo option for a reasonable price. Chance are, if you like a more expensive version, you will like the economy version. Just don’t expect the same nuance. You can also get a deal on older whiskies by purchasing independent bottlings. However, unless you can taste before you buy or can find a review you trust, you can really get burned on independent bottles that do not retain any of the characteristics of the distillery from which they originated.

Blended Scotches are always an option, but most good blends cost as much as single malts. Johnnie Walker and Black Bottle are trusted brands. If you are going to go with Johnnie Walker, you should be able to find the Green label for less that $50, the Black for less than $40, and the Red for less than $30.

If you want to get the most of your whisk(e)y selections, find some friends who are also into whiskey and coordinate your purchases. Then get together and have a tasting. After all, what use is a good dram if you can’t share?

*Prices are estimated. Actual prices in your area could vary greatly.*

‘The Best’

Inevitably, when we are out proselytizing, someone asks the question, “What is the best whiskey?” For someone new to whiskey, this seems like a reasonable question. “Tell me what is best and I’ll try that,” is the implication. However, what is best for me may be swill for you. You may find the Bowmore Legend to be the finest thing on earth, but I would not touch it with Richard’s tongue. Taste is subjective and much more complicated than one might think. What are we really looking for? The best value? The best flavor? The best bourbon? The best Irish? Scotch? And on and on. So, I recruited Richard and we will be tackling this most perplexing of questions in a our first ever joint blog (not counting reviews).

Matt’s Answer:
I can tell you that I would drink Glenmorangie Original every day and be happy. I will recommend Redbreast Irish whiskey to everyone. And, I could drink anything produced at Buffalo Trace or Four Roses and be contented. The next logical question is, “Why?”

Again, a question more complicated than it seems. Is Glenmorangie Original the best single malt Scotch that I have tasted? Not by a long shot (that is a tight race between a Claret Aged Glen Grant and Macallan 30). However, Glenmorangie Original is a great whiskey at a good price and it holds a great deal of sentimental value to me. When I was a student at the University of Wales, my flat mates would often find me watching rugby or ‘Neighbors’ with my giant mug of Glenmorangie in the common room. It was my time in Wales that really crystallized my love of single malt Scotch. I could get a good bottle for very little at the Co-Op down the road. The selection rotated through the regions and Glenmorangie was my favorite of the offerings.

There are stories behind my love of the other distilleries as well. I have a deep affection, deeper than mere tasting notes, for the distilleries that top my list. Sure, I factor in taste, value, and reputation into my recommendations, but do not be surprised if ‘awesome’ is the only statement on taste I can give you off the cuff.

Richard’s Answer:
So Matt tells me that I’m supposed to co-write a blog about the “best whiskey” out there and my experiences with getting that question. I too get that question a good bit. Another version getting to the same point is when I’m asked “which whiskey should I buy?’

“Best whiskey?”[smirk] That’s a bit like picking your favorite child isn’t it? Maybe it’s not as drastic but you see what I’m getting at. Like Matt I have my favorites. But my favorites are not necessarily going to be your favorites. No matter how high the regard in which I hold my tastes and preferences I’m not arrogant enough to say that something is the best. Different strokes for different folks and all that.

Even between Matt and me there is a good bit of disagreement. We grew up in the same area, like the same types of food, and generally don’t have differing opinions on much…except whiskey. On Buffalo Trace we both agree. I kind of think their distillery manager walks on water but that’s just me. On Glenmorangie, not so much. I like it but I’ll take a dram of Macallan or Highland Park over the product of Tain any day.

Even when picking a whiskey for myself “the best” isn’t absolute. It’s really the best at that given moment. The setting, circumstances, and company can play almost as much a part in me picking one whiskey over another as the taste.

Why am I rambling on? Because I want to stress that taste is incredibly subjective. We offer reviews to highlight and inform. We don’t see our opinions as the end all be all on these particular drams. If you ask me what the best is then I will always answer with a question. More likely, I will answer with a series of questions. These questions will help me understand what you are looking for or could be looking for in a whiskey. From there I can recommend something that I think you might like. Putting all the ratings, reviews, and pomposity aside; that’s really the best any of us can hope for.