Posts from the ‘Comparison Reviews’ Category

Holiday Whiskey Comparison Review: Part 1 – 18 yr. American Whiskey

Well, it is getting to that time of year when us Americans over-celebrate holidays, which often involves drinking.  There are many folks who think that holiday drinking ought to entail drinking rare or expensive whiskey.  Of course, rare and expensive whiskeys are fun and often delicious, but holiday drinking is about enjoying your favorite dram.  So, enjoy a whiskey you might like this holiday, and avoid paying too much.

With that in mind, though, here are a few tips on buying hard to find and expensive whiskeys.  My primary piece of advice is probably the most important, do your research.  There are whiskey blogs all over the internet, and reviews of whiskeys are not hard to find.  When I am looking into buying an expensive bottle, it is usually because I have a specific flavor profile that I am looking for.  To that end, I read whiskey blogs and discuss my possible purchase with friends who have had previous bottlings or expressions of the whiskey.  If I am going to buy a whiskey for $80, then I want to have a good idea of what I am going to get.

My second piece of advice is that just because a whiskey is old, hard to find, and expensive, does not mean that it is a great whiskey.  I have said this over and over again because it is true.  Every whiskey has an ideal age that depends on the type of cask used, the temperature of the storage, the nature of the new make, your palate, etc.  The trick is to find the age you like a whiskey at the best, and balance that out with how much you are willing to spend on a bottle of whiskey.

Without any further gab, I’ll get to my comparison review.  Today, I am reviewing two 18 year-old American whiskeys, Sazerac 18 yr. and Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select.  Sazerac 18 yr. is a straight rye whiskey that is bottled by Buffalo Trace in limited quantities every fall as part of the Antique Collection.  Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select is a wheated bourbon from the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery (famously the makers of the coveted Van Winkle line).  Both these whiskeys are expensive, hard to find, and aged at least 18 years.

I am reviewing the Fall 2012 bottling of the Sazerac 18 yr., as it is the first and only bottling that I have tried.  It is a straight rye whiskey that is also bottled and sold in a 6 yr. edition.  Rye whiskeys have enough flavor to be very good at a young age, but I had always heard that the Sazerac line was at its best in the 18 year old.  It is bottled at 90 proof.

On the nose, the whiskey has a backbone of cinnamon and honey, but it is rounded out beautifully by oak, brown sugar, toffee, ginger, roses, and vanilla.  This whiskey is alive in the glass.  The scents come flooding deep into the nostrils; it is a wonderful, warming aroma.  On the palate, the whiskey opens up with fresh fruits and spiced sweetness.  There are notes of plums, cinnamon, oak, peaches, apples, and rye.  The finish is medium long, with notes of vanilla, rye, cinnamon, and oak.  My only minor complaint is that the finish can be a little tannin-ish sometimes, but that is a minor complaint.

Overall, this is a brilliant rye whiskey.  It balances the rye spices and the oak sweetness perfectly.  It is a joy to drink, and it is a hard whiskey to beat.  My grade: A.  Price: $70-80/750ml.  The price tag is a little steep, but it is worth a try if you can find it.  This whiskey is almost an A+.

Jefferson’s 18 year-old Presidential Select is a wheated bourbon from the old Stitzel-Weller Distillery.  As I have documented before, I am not a big fan of wheated bourbons, but they tend to be whiskeys that age very well.  Jefferson’s certainly proves that.  It is a small-batch bourbon bottled at 94 proof (I am reviewing Batch 14).

On the nose, Jefferson’s Presidential Select has many typical bourbon notes.  The oak is clearly present, but it is dense and flavorful, not too overpowering.  There are notes of toffee, corn sweetness, and melted caramel.  The palate is light-medium bodied, with notes of caramel, vanilla frosting, and silky oak.  It is an extremely drinkable bourbon (be careful).  The finish is of medium length, but it tastes delicious, with the rich oak melding with the toffee, caramel, and vanilla.

Overall, this whiskey drinks well under its proof point, and it is much better than other wheated bourbons I have reviewed on the site.  However, it still falls short of greatness in my opinion.  It is too light-bodied for my tastes, but that does not mean that it isn’t the rare bourbon for you.  My grade: B+.  Price: $90-100/750ml.  This is a damn good bourbon, but it is hard to justify the money for me.  It is a little too mellow for my taste.

My point in all this is to say that not all 18 year old whiskeys are the same.  Read up on some old whiskeys you might like to try, and let it ride!  Stay tuned for Part 2 where I compare an 18 year-old Islay Scotch and an 18 year-old Speyside.

High West Campfire Whiskey Review (ft. William from “A Dram Good Time”)

Today, I am doing my first tandem review with my good friend, William, from http://dramgoodtime.com/.  We both have tried this whiskey on several occasions, and hopefully seeing how we go about reviewing the whiskey will demonstrate how whiskey tastings can differ from person to person.  As a disclaimer, William and I reviewed the same bottle separately, and we did not compare tasting notes prior to our posts.

The whiskey we have chosen for our first (of many, hopefully) tandem review is High West’s Campfire Whiskey.  High West is a distillery and saloon from Park City, Utah.  It is a relatively young distillery that has not started bottling its own whiskey yet.  For now, High West is sourcing whiskey from a variety of distilleries and blending them to make some fantastic products.  Most of the High West products are at least $40/750ml, so they are rarely bargain buys.  However, they do make some great whiskeys for under $50 if you are interested in drinking some fine whiskey this holiday season.

High West’s Campfire Whiskey is a blend of a straight bourbon, a straight rye, and a blended, peated Scotch.  All of the components are at least 5 years old.  The two American components are LDI whiskeys from the old Seagram’s plant in Indiana.  The source of the peated Scotch is kept secret by High West.  They are all blended together in unknown quantities, and bottled at 92 proof.  Needless to say, this is a unique whiskey.

On the nose, Campfire whiskey is unlike any whiskey I have sniffed before.  There are notes of caramel, some vanilla, evergreen trees, and a nice puff of smoke now and again.  With a few drops of water, the rye characteristics of evergreens, gin botanicals, and black licorice assert themselves a bit more.  The palate begins sweet, with caramel, vanilla, and honey.  It moves through some pine, holly, and juniper before it reaches the smokiness at the back of the palate.  The finish is where the peat shows up most.  The finish is medium-long, but very well balanced between sweet vanilla and wet peat.

Overall, this whiskey is unique and very enjoyable.  It can be a little confusing on your senses, but that gives it a lot of versatility.  My grade: B+.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  This is a great whiskey, and the price is reasonable.  It is definitely worth a try if you are looking for something a little different.

Here are William’s thoughts (if you would like to read his blog, check it out here).

Color:  Dark Amber/Copper

Nose:  Smoldering pine needles and pine cones, soft peat, cinnamon, toffee, and with a little time it opens up with notes of heather honey.

Palate:  The palate gets interesting with sharp black pepper, followed up with some dry oak, toffee, a bit of that smoke, vanilla, honey, and a light peat that goes right into the finish.

w/ Water:  A little calmer with a bit more honey and sweetness showing, but the spices, light peat, and vanilla aren’t going anywhere.

Finish:  Moderate to long, sweet and dry finish with pepper and hints of smoke and peat.

This is quite a unique dram with each whisk(e)y in this blend clearly present and pretty well balanced with the rest. The rye stands out slightly more but it works very well. I would personally enjoy just a bit more of a smoke and peat influence, but it’s not needed. Not a full campfire yet, but it’s definitely being lit; good stuff.

Rating:  87

That concludes our review of High West Campfire whiskey.  As you can see, we both reviewed this whiskey similarly.  That will not always be the case, but for Campfire Whiskey, it is indicative of a very good pour of blended whiskey.  Let it ride!

My Favorite Whiskeys by Price Point

I am often asked, “What’s your favorite whiskey?”  Honestly, that is like asking me to name a favorite child, favorite beer, favorite song, or favorite movie.  I have many favorites, and many of these depend on my mood, and the money in my wallet.  However, I have recently had a request from my good friend, Kate at http://www.kateampersand.com/ for some recommendations for how to give the gift of whiskey.  I have reviewed about 40 whiskeys on the site so far, and here are my favorite whiskeys out of those 40 at different price points.  The prices used are the approximate prices for 750ml of the whiskey.

Best Whiskey under $20:  Old Grand-Dad Bottled-in-Bond (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/17/old-grand-dad-bonded-review/).  This is a very good, rye forward bourbon, with a lot of power.  It doesn’t have the complexity of some other high rye bourbons, but it is hard to beat for $18 a bottle.

Runner-up under $20:  Four Roses Yellow Label (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/03/14/four-roses-yellow-label-review/).  In comparison to the power of Old Grand-Dad (bottled at 100 proof), the Yellow Label is a delicate rye-forward bourbon.  There is a lot of light spice that tingles the tongue and the nostrils, but it doesn’t quite have the depth of Old Grand-Dad.  Nevertheless, Four Roses Yellow Label is a great buy.

Best Whiskey under $25:  Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-in-Bond (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/07/28/rittenhouse-rye-review/).  Not only is this whiskey a great value, it is a great whiskey.  There is a ton of complexity, ranging from spiciness to sweetness to a rich earthiness.  If you want to impress somebody, buy them this whiskey for their birthday.  Trust me, they will think you spent a good amount on it (especially if you put it in a fancy decanter since the bottle design is not especially flattering).

Runner-up Under $25:  McClelland’s Speyside (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/07/30/comparison-review-scotch-styles-mcclellands-speyside-vs-mcclellands-lowland/).  This is a fine single-malt Scotch for the price.  It has all the delicacy of a Speyside, with the craft necessary to give it some soft chocolate and smoke flavors that give it character.  (It should be mentioned that if you can find Wild Turkey 101, Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare 10 yr. Single Barrel, or Jim Beam Devil’s Cut for under $25, they are even better.  However, I live in Boston where I am not quite so lucky.)

Best Whiskey under $30:  Rittenhouse Rye Bottled-in-Bond.  It still reigns supreme; it’s just that good.

Runner-up under $30:  Buffalo Trace (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/03/31/buffalo-trace-review/).  It is the bourbon that turned me on to bourbon a number of years ago, and it continues to impress.  It is not overly sweet, leaving the vanilla to be blended perfectly.  It is like eating a perfectly balanced cheesecake (sort of).

Best Whiskey under $35:  Russell’s Reserve 10 yr (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/07/12/russells-reserve-10-year-bourbon-review/).  Finally, Rittenhouse was dethroned.  Every time I drink Russell’s Reserve, I am amazed at how wonderfully structured it is.  It is like reading a great novel, where the plot unfolds precisely when it should.

Runner-up under $35:  W.L. Weller 12 yr (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/28/w-l-weller-12-year-review/).  This is exactly what a wheated bourbon can achieve.  It is sweet, but complex, demonstrating the many phases of a sweetness.  It reminds me of eating buttermilk pancakes smothered in cinnamon sugar and maple syrup (except not as filling).

Best Whiskey under $40:  Four Roses Single Barrel (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/14/four-roses-single-barrel-review/).  Although this is a single barrel whiskey (meaning there will be some difference between batches), I’ve never had a bad batch of this whiskey.  It is plainly brilliant.  It has the all the spicy rye character of Four Roses Small Batch, but it demonstrates a whole other layer of complexity with a sweet, dark palate.

Runner-up under $40:  Russell’s Reserve 10 yr.  It has rightly remained high on my list even at a higher price point.

Best Whiskey under $50:  Bunnahabhain 12 yr (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/08/22/bunnahabhain-12-year-review/).  This is really a brilliant Islay whisky.  The sherry influence is strong, but the Islay peat hangs around to provide a perfect balance.  Although this is not a traditional Islay whisky, it is my favorite value.

Runner-up under $50:  Four Roses Single Barrel.  Yes, it can compete with whiskeys that reach above its price point.

Best Whiskey under $60:  Booker’s Small Batch Bourbon (https://bargainbourbon.com/2012/06/21/comparison-review-bookers-vs-noahs-mill/).  This is my favorite whiskey to date, and it should only be given to a true whiskey lover who you love very much.  It is a full, robust whiskey, providing a complexity and intensity rarely seen elsewhere in the bourbon world under $60.  (I have seen Booker’s for as cheap as $47.  If you see it around that price, snatch up a bottle.)

Runner-up under $60:  Bunnahabhain 12 yr.  As many of you are aware, Scotch is expensive.  However, I have yet to find a better value among Single Malt Scotch than Bunnahabhain.

I am stopping at $60, because most people that read this blog are seeking value bourbons.  If you like some recommendations for higher price ranges, feel free to email me at thedagupeir@gmail.com.  I would also recommend that you read the reviews of these whiskeys before purchasing them, just to make sure it sounds like something that will truly be enjoyed by whoever is its lucky recipient.  Let it ride!

Comparison Review: The Glenlivet 12 year vs. The MaCallan 12 year Sherry Oak

I have had some requests recently for reviews of single-malt Scotches that weigh in a good value.  Of course, one of the reasons I drink mostly bourbon is because it is a domestic product, which makes it a better value buy than Scotch (which is made exclusively in Scotland).  However, if you are willing to spend a few more dollars, there are definitely some very good single-malt Scotches on the market today.  Scotch whisky is usually delineated by the region of Scotland that the whisky comes from.  Today, I am reviewing a pair of Speyside whiskies, The Glenlivet 12 year and The MaCallan 12 year Sherry Oak, both bottled at 80 proof.  While most whiskies in the Speyside region have similar flavor profiles, there are some significant differences from whisky to whisky and distillery to distillery.

The Glenlivet is one of the most famous distilleries in all of Scotland, and it is also one of the most popular single-malt Scotches.  I must give credit to The Glenlivet because it was one of the first whiskies that I ever had that I truly loved.  Over the years, it has slipped a bit on my list, but it is still one of my favorite Speyside Scotches.  The Glenlivet bottles many different expressions of whisky, but The Glenlivet 12 year is their most recognizable, available in almost every liquor store and bar in the United States.

On the nose, The Glenlivet 12 year is light, but rich.  Fresh fruits and fresh flowers dominate the air, with slight whispers of vanilla and citrus.  I once described smelling The Glenlivet to sitting next to a lilac bush while eating an orange.  On the palate, the sweet, citrus flavors of the fruits give way to a sweetness of honey and almond.  The citrus zest only wafts in the background.  The finish comes back to the nose, with citrus and floral notes.  It is light, yet moderately long.  My grade: B.  Price: $40-45/750ml.  This is a nice, light Speyside, perfect for a daily pour.  This is a great whisky to have around the house if you don’t mind the price tag.

The MaCallan is another very popular Speyside distillery, also providing many different expressions of their whisky.  Most of their standard offerings are aged in either Fine (a mix of Spanish and American) Oak, or Sherry Oak, which gives each expression a distinct flavor profile.  Although The MaCallan is not as well-known as The Glenlivet, it is still a very popular product.

On the nose, The MaCallan 12 year Sherry Oak is dark and rich.  There are notes of hazelnuts and almonds, mixed with dried fruits (plantains and raisins).  The palate is dense with dark chocolate and dark, dried fruits.  As the whisky moves towards the finish, the oak begins to emerge.  The finish is rich with oak, both sweet and smoky, followed by a hint of vanilla as the finish lingers for a long time.  My grade: B.  Price: $50-60/750ml.  This is a very nice pour, but there are usually whiskies I reach for over this one if I am looking to spend more than $50.

Overall, both these whiskies are very good; they are almost two different sides of the same coin.  If you were to see the two side by side, you would instantly notice a difference in color.  The Glenlivet is a soft gold, whereas The MaCallan is a rich, dark amber.  The Glenlivet presents the softer, more delicate side of Speyside whisky, and The MaCallan represents the darker, oakier side of Speyside Scotch.  They are both very good whiskies, and good introductions into the wonderful world of Scotch whisky.

Comparison Review: Scotch Styles, McClelland’s Speyside vs. McClelland’s Lowland

I have been asked by several people to begin posting reviews of non-bourbon whiskeys that also fit the mission of bargainbourbon.com.  In that vein, I am doing a comparison review of two great value Scotches that I am fond of.  But first, a few brief words about Scotch Whisky.

Like bourbon to America, Scotch Whisky is made in Scotland.  Unlike bourbon, Scotch is made primarily from barley, although some other cereal grains are occasionally added.  In addition, Scotch varies significantly depending on the region of Scotland that the whisky comes from.  Obviously, each distillery is a little different, but most regions have a distinct flavor profile embodied by the distilleries in that region.

McClelland’s is a Scotch distributor that sources and bottles whisky from different regions of Scotland.  As such, McClelland’s whisky is usually pretty cheap (between $20-$30), and it gives a good introduction to a region’s flavor profile before diving headlong into a Scotch that costs $50 a bottle.  McClelland’s makes single malt Scotches, which means that all of the whisky in the bottle is made from the same mash.  Blended Scotches like Johnnie Walker, Chivas Regal, and Dewar’s are made from blending different Scotches from different distilleries in order to get the desired product.  Generally speaking, single malts are crisper with a more distinct flavor profile, hence their appeal to whisky drinkers.  Now, on to the whisky…

The Speyside region of Scotland is the most well-known Scotch region, home to about half the distilleries in Scotland.  It is a relatively small region located in the Northeast of Scotland, where the Spey River enters the North Sea.  Distilleries such as The Glenlivet, Glenfiddich, Glenfarclas, Glenrothes, The MaCallan, Aberlour, Glenfiddich, and The Balvenie are all found in the Speyside region.  As a general flavor profile, most Speyside whiskies strike a balance between fruity and floral notes and richer flavors of vanilla and oak.

On the nose, McClelland’s Speyside reminds me of Andes Mint candy.  It is fresh and minty, with some whispers of dark chocolate and fresh cut pine evergreens.  On the palate, the whisky is sweet and nutty, with the most prominent notes being almonds and hazelnuts.  The finish is moderately long, starting with light, piney flavors, and moving towards smoky pine and smoked peat at the end.  Like most of McClelland’s products, the Speyside is not very complex, but it gives a crisp, clear introduction to Speyside whisky.  My grade: B-.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is a great daily whisky.  It is a great anchor for any cabinet.

The Lowland region of Scotland is located in the south, and it is only home to a few active distilleries nowadays.  As a flavor profile, the Lowland Scotches are known for being very delicate and subtle.  They tend to be fresh and floral, with an almost silky or buttery texture.  Their popularity has died out a little bit in the past few decades as the whisky market has tended towards the massive flavor profiles of Islay Scotches and the Highland and Speyside regions.  However, Lowland Scotches are unique and fantastic whiskies.

On the nose, McClelland’s Lowland is mostly floral and citrusy.  There are notes of lemons and tangerines, coupled with dense floral notes of roses and lilacs.  This whisky is a pure joy to smell.  The palate is earthy and sweet, almost as if chewing on an orange or lemon peel.  The whisky is oily on the palate, feeling like melted butter in the mouth.  The finish is short and fairly weak.  It leaves a perfume-ish taste in the back of the mouth, but it is not very complex or powerful.  My grade: B-.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is great daily whisky, not as complex as the Speyside, but it anchors a cabinet just as well.

Overall, I prefer McClelland’s Speyside to McClelland’s Lowland.  However, if you are looking for a gateway whisky, a Lowland Scotch is a great place to start because of how easy the whisky is to drink neat.  These are both great introductions to Scotch, so give them a try and let it ride!

Comparison Review: Booker’s vs. Noah’s Mill


 

I recently did a review of Blanton’s Original Single Barrel for a friend of mine, in which I concluded that Blanton’s was a good bourbon, but it wasn’t quite worth $50 a bottle.  A few people have asked me a valid question, “Is there any bourbon worth $50 a bottle?”  Of course, the answer is up to you.  However, to aid your journey, I’ve decided to do a comparison review of two bourbons that I believe are both worth $50 a bottle, Booker’s and Noah’s Mill.

Both Booker’s and Noah’s Mill are usually priced at about $50 a bottle or so.  They are also both high proof bourbons, with Noah’s Mill weighing in at 114.3 proof and Booker’s weighing in between 123 and 129 proof, depending on the batching.  They are also both small batch bourbons, meaning they are created from combining different barrels together before they are put in the bottle.

Booker’s is a bourbon from Jim Beam’s Small Batch Collection (Knob Creek, Basil Hayden’s), named after Booker Noe, James Beam’s grandson.  As I mentioned earlier, this bourbon is uncut, and bottled at the same proof it is in the barrel.  Booker’s is comprised of whiskeys aged between six and eight years, specifically from barrels placed in the center of the James Beam Distillery Warehouse.  Although it is not the most popular bourbon from the Small Batch Collection, it is definitely the best in my opinion.  Booker’s is done in very small batches, and it does vary from batch to batch.  The particular bottle I am reviewing is batch C05-A-12, aged 7 years, 5 months, bottled at 128.5 proof (64.25% abv).

On the nose, Booker’s reminds me of freshly baked cinnamon rolls.  The nose is sweet, complex, and powerful.  There are notes of brown sugar, apple pie, sweet oak, vanilla, toasted peanut butter, and light smoke.  On the palate, Booker’s is full-bodied, yet surprisingly drinkable.  Green apples, caramel, vanilla, charred oak, and some smoked fruits all blend together to form a brilliant mouth feel.  The finish is long and very warming, but it is also full of flavor, achieving great balance between the oak and the sweet sugars of caramel and vanilla.  In my opinion, Booker’s is one of the best whiskeys on the American market today.  It is full, complex, and powerful in both proof and flavor profile.  My grade: A-.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  This is brilliant bourbon, plain and simple.

Right next to Booker’s on the top shelf is Noah’s Mill, a 114.3 proof, small batch bourbon produced by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers.  Noah’s Mill is made from a variety of whiskeys at different ages from different mash bills and from different distilleries.  Then, the whiskeys are blended and bottled to perfection by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers to create Noah’s Mill.

On the nose, Noah’s Mill can be a little shy, but give it a minute.  After sitting for a few, it will open up with a rich nose, displaying notes of toffee, caramel, and some roasted vanilla.  The palate is sweet and drying, with the sweetness of vanillas and caramels being bolstered by dried raisins and cranberries.  The finish is long and warming, just like Booker’s.  There is a good amount of rye spice balanced with sweet, warming toffee and caramel flavors.  In my opinion, Noah’s Mill is certainly deserving of its place on the top shelf.  My grade: B+.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  This is a wonderful, big, robust bourbon, it just doesn’t quite have the life that Booker’s has.

The one complaint that I have heard about both of these bourbons is that they vary significantly from batch to batch.  Unfortunately, that is just one of the perils of small batch bourbon.  Nevertheless, I have always found both of these bourbons to be fantastic whiskeys through and through.  In the end, I definitely give the edge to Booker’s, although Noah’s Mill is still one of my favorite whiskeys.  If I had $50 to spend on one bottle of bourbon, I would spend it on Booker’s with no hesitation.  But, the best way to find out is to drink these whiskeys and see which one works best for you.  Let it ride!

Comparison Review: Wild Turkey 101 vs. Fighting Cock 6 Year

I decided on these two bourbons for my first comparison review because they are very similar.  They are both under $30, over 100 proof, have a high percentage of rye in the mash bill, and they are both named after crazy poultry.  The biggest difference between the two is that almost everybody has heard of Wild Turkey, and almost nobody has heard of Fighting Cock.  However, both of them are very good value bourbons.

Wild Turkey 101 comes from the famous Austin Nichols Distillery, producers of the famous Wild Turkey and Russell’s Reserve bourbons.  There is no age statement on the bourbon, but my guess is that most of the bourbons that make it into the bottle are between 3 and 6 years old.  It has fancy advertising campaigns, and most college students have taken a shot of Turkey 101 at some point in their career.  However, what few college students realize is that they are drinking a damn good bourbon.

On the nose, Wild Turkey 101 is rich and complex.  There are strong notes of brown sugar and rye spices that balance each other well.  Some more fragile notes of dried summer fruits (peaches?), caramel, and pine sap come through as well.  Jason Pyle at Sour Mash Manifesto (http://sourmashmanifesto.com/2010/11/11/wild-comparison-wild-turkey-russells-reserve-vs-wild-turkey-101/) describes Wild Turkey’s mouth feel as “a porcupine running at 60 MPH,” but I think the palate is a bit softer than that.  There are certainly a lot of sharp spices from the rye, which give the bourbon a lot of peppery notes, but there is also good balance to the palate.  The brown sugars and caramels from the nose stick around through the whole experience, calming down the big rye kick on the palate and the finish.  Wild Turkey finishes with a sharp, spicy finish, with just enough caramel and barrel sugar to keep it smooth.  I only wish the finish would stay longer, it always seems too quick to me.  My grade: B+/B.  Price: $25-30.  This is a damn good sipper for a damn good price.

Fighting Cock 6 year is a 103 proof bourbon from Heaven Hill Distillery (Evan Williams, Elijah Craig, etc.).  It is not easy to find, especially in places that aren’t big bourbon hotspots, but it is worth a try if you find it.  At only about $20 for 750ml, it is a pretty good deal.  It is also available in a limited edition 15 year, which is very difficult to find.  If anyone finds that one, let me know (or just send me a bottle).

On the nose, the rye spices are very clear, with only some soft caramel and oak to balance out the bourbon.  On the palate, Fighting Cock is very full-bodied, with a distinct rye profile.  The bourbon is spicy and peppery on the palate, with some corny sweetness, nutmeg, and light caramel lingering around the front of the tongue.  The finish is monstrous.  Fighting Cock rumbles over the back of your tongue, kicking and screaming all the way.  The finish is dominated by the peppery flavors of the rye spices and drying oak, but there are slight sweet flavors (corn, caramel) that come back after a minute or two.  The finish is definitely longer than Wild Turkey, but Fighting Cock’s finish isn’t as complex, which can make it feel pretty harsh if you aren’t used to drinking high proof bourbons.  My grade: C-.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is a fine pour, but it is not complex enough to be the daily sipper.

Overall, Wild Turkey is the winner, hands down.  It is the more complex bourbon; it is rich, balanced, and very drinkable.  Fighting Cock is still very good value, but it isn’t as balanced as Wild Turkey 101, which can make it feel like a rough, one-tracked ride.  If Wild Turkey were at the same price point as Fighting Cock, then Wild Turkey might be my favorite value whiskey on the market, but its fame has made it a bit pricy.  In some places, you can still snag a bottle of 101 for $22.  If that is the case in your area, there is no reason not to have a bottle of Turkey 101 in the liquor cabinet when I come visit.