Posts tagged ‘Basil Hayden’s’

Top Ten Conversion Whiskeys (and Happy Repeal Day!)

Well, it’s Repeal Day, and that calls for some good ol’ whiskey fun.  December 5, 2013 marks the 80th Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition in the United States, and I am celebrating with a list of my Top Ten Conversion Whiskeys.

Since most of us whiskey nerds have folks in our lives that do not enjoy whiskey, it is important to remember that evangelism is just as important as enjoyment.  One should not impose whiskey on others, but the introduction to whiskey can never hurt, right?  (Note: I realize that there are ethical problems with tying somebody to a chair and pouring whiskey down their throat.)

This is a list of whiskeys that I have found useful in the conversion process.  Some people do not like whiskey for all kinds of reasons – because it is too harsh, not flavorful enough, does not accommodate their palate, or they are just plain old prejudiced.  So, I have tried to incorporate whiskeys from all over the map, and all across the flavor wheel to help you convert that loved one in your life.  Not all of these whiskeys are personal favorites of mine, but they are all readily available in most liquor stores to help you in your proselytizing.  (I have also limited the list to one entry per distillery, and there are no limited edition whiskeys on here, only standard range releases.)

Honorable Mention:  Wild Turkey American Honey – While this is not technically a whiskey, it deserves a mention here because it is the best bourbon liqueur on the market today at preserving the flavors of bourbon.  This can be a great gateway drug, especially when served on the rocks with a splash of Wild Turkey 101 on a summer afternoon.

10. Ardbeg Uigeadail – This might seem like a strange entry on this list since most folks are turned off by peat, but there is a story here.  The beautiful woman I am currently dating is a coffee drinker who has never found whiskey to her liking.  Ardbeg Uigeadail was the breakthrough whiskey for her, so to the coffee drinker in your life, Slainte!

9. Bunnahabhain 12 yr. – Another Islay entry on this list makes it here because on its simplicity, and its drinkability.  The whiff of smoke works well for beer drinkers, as does the dense sherry on the palate.  For the lover of wee heavy ales, and Belgian Tripels, Bunnahabhain 12 yr. can be very persuasive.

8. Gentleman Jack – I know few (if any) whiskey lovers that love Gentleman Jack, but I know a ton of weekend gin guzzlers that love Gentleman Jack.  It speaks to a unique audience, and works well at converting that gin guzzling neighbor you know.

7. Basil Hayden’s – This is a bourbon on the lighter side of bourbon, and it lacks a lot of the dense, sweet notes that bourbon is known for.  It is a great introduction to spicier, more floral bourbons for that sultry Southerner you’re trying to convert.

6. Bushmill’s 16 yr. – This is a port-finished single malt Irish whiskey that is both sweet and dry, reminding me a lot of port, itself.  If you are seeking to convert a wine drinker, have a bottle of Bushmill’s 16 yr. on hand at your next house party.

5. Crown Royal Reserve – This super smooth Canadian dram is great for this conversion endeavor because of its allure.  The packaging works just as much as the contents of the bottle to convince the stubborn hold out that their life is about to be enhanced by whiskey.

4. Four Roses Yellow Label – This is flat out the most drinkable bourbon available.  It is mellow and sexy, and prime conversion material, which is one of the primary reasons it was one of the first whiskey reviews I ever did.

3. The Balvenie 12 yr. DoubleWood – This is on the list precisely because it works.  I don’t have a ton of analysis beyond the fact that I know at least three people who have told me that this whiskey changed their life.

2. Redbreast 12 yr. – This silky Irish pour will always be the highlight of a dinner party because of its combination of floral, sweet elegance, and its superb drinkability.  It is also an Irish whiskey so the tough, hard-working stockyard workers in your life will be more easily swayed.

1. The Glenlivet 12 yr. – This takes the number one spot on my list because it is the whiskey that converted me.  I was miring in a world of craft beer and rum (both of which are still wonderful) until I picked up a bottle of this juice on a whim one day.  Four years and a blog later, I could not be happier with that decision.  I also happen to know that my good friend, William from A Dram Good Time, could tell you a similar story about this Glenlivet expression.

Those are my favorite conversion whiskeys; what are yours?  What whiskeys do you keep on hand for those hold outs at your house parties?  Are there any great conversion whiskeys I have left out?  Happy Repeal Day, and don’t forget to let it ride!

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Old Grand-Dad 114 Bourbon Review

old grand dad 114Well, Scotchvember is over at Bargain Bourbon, and repeal week is here.  With December 5th right around the corner, I am reviewing a bourbon I have wanted to review for a long time, a throwback bourbon to an older time.  It is one of those bourbons that tempts you from the bottom shelf at the liquor store, with its reputation for wild nights and the big numbers “114” across the black box.  Old Grand-Dad 114 has no age statement, but I suspect it is about 7 years old or so.  Like the standard orange bottles of Old Grand-Dad, this whiskey comes from Jim Beam’s high rye mash bill, (the same juice that comprises Basil Hayden’s with a lot more alcohol).  As the name indicates, Old Grand-Dad 114 is bottled at 57% abv/114 proof, and pays homage to Basil Hayden, Sr., whose portrait still graces the Old Grand-Dad bottle.

The first thing you’ll notice after pouring this bourbon is its rich, dark mahogany in the glass.  There are also some orangish hues to the bourbon, giving it a truly beautiful appearance.  From the moment you dip your nose into this bourbon, it is a heavy hitter. There is a lot of cinnamon, brown sugar, rye heat, sawdust, fresh oranges, dried tea leaves, and potpourri.  There is definitely a dense sweetness to it, but the rye influence is palpable from the get-go.  The palate is big, full-bodied and continues right along with the nose.  Notes of corn bread, caramel, tangerine, orange cream, cinnamon, and berry fruits are all present on the palate.  The finish is long and warming, with caramel, sawdust, red hot cinnamon, and some tannic bite.  This whiskey definitely benefits from time in the bottle and time in the glass.  The first pour out of the bottle was hot and rough, but as the bottle opens up, this bourbon becomes something very enjoyable.

Overall, I am big fan of this bourbon, especially for the price.  It reminds of the great deal that is Wild Turkey 101.  It is not really a bourbon for everybody, especially if you are new to bourbon.  On the other hand, if you are a bourbon fan who needs a solid cabinet staple this winter, look no further than Old Grand-Dad 114.  This is by no means the best thing at your liquor store, but it shines brightly at its price point, for sure.  After all, any bourbon good enough for George Thorogood is good enough for me.  My grade: B/B-.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  For under $30 and 114 proof, this is really a hard bourbon to beat.

Giving the Gift of Bourbon

Well, a lot of folks are starting to do their holiday shopping, and there are a lot of people who love to give and receive the gift of bourbon.  Whiskey shopping around the holidays can offer some great deals on holiday gift packages.  A lot of distilleries will issue box sets where you might get a 750 ml bottle with some glassware or some 50 ml samples of other products.  Even if you are just looking to treat yourself, holiday box sets are always good fun.

Woodford Reserve's holiday gift set includes two Woodford glasses.

Woodford Reserve’s holiday gift set includes two Woodford glasses.

Before I get into my recommendations for the bourbon lovers on your list, I need to issue two disclaimers.  First, if you are a bourbon lover like myself, that does not give you the right to supply others with bourbon in hopes they will give you half the bottle because they don’t like bourbon all that much.  Secondly, taste is personal, and your favorite whiskey might not be tolerable to somebody else. That said, do some research on the person you are giving the gift to and the bottles you are thinking of buying to give the best gift possible.  Of course, that is where I want to offer some helpful suggestions that won’t break the bank.

For the bourbon newcomer on your list:  This is the person on your list who has never had bourbon (or any other whiskey) before, but they have put bourbon on their holiday wish list.  Don’t get them anything over 90 proof, and don’t get them anything will do dense a flavor profile.  My main recommendation is Four Roses Yellow Label.  It is light, and it gives a good introduction to whiskey without it being too complex.  It is also a great value buy.  If you are looking for something a little fancier, try Basil Hayden’s.  It is also a light, well-balanced whiskey.  Both of these presents will leave the recipient craving another bottle of bourbon.

For the bourbon novice on your list:  This is the person on your list that has been getting into some starter bourbons of late, but he/she looking is looking to enjoy some craft bourbon.  My recommendation (if you can find it) is Elmer T. Lee.  It is a single barrel bourbon that is indicative of what bourbon should be.  It won’t break the bank, but it is a monstrous step up from Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark.  However, Elmer T. Lee is hard to find.  If you can’t lay your hands on that one, Buffalo Trace is a great alternative.

For the bourbon admirer on your list:  This is the person who has been casually drinking bourbon for a few years, and it is one of their favorite drinks.  This person is one of the easiest people on your list because they will probably like your gift.  That said, here are a couple of the quintessential craft bourbons that make great gifts.  Eagle Rare 10 yr. and Woodford Reserve are two readily available bourbons that always make great gifts.  If you can find it, Four Roses Single Barrel is a great offering if you are willing to spend a few extra dollars.

For the bourbon connoisseur on your list:  This is the person who loves bourbon, and gives a lot of thought and attention to their bourbon.  Among bourbon connoisseurs, there are a few whiskeys that you can rarely go wrong with.  If you find anything from Buffalo Trace’s Antique Collection, Stitzel-Weller/Buffalo Trace’s Van Winkle Collection, Heaven Hill’s Parker’s Heritage Collection, or Four Roses Limited Edition Collection (and you can swing the bill), pick it up.  It is a rare occasion that I read a bad word about any of these bourbons, but they are all pretty hard to find.  That said, barrel strength bourbons are always a great gift for the bourbon connoisseur on your list.  Noah’s Mill, Booker’s, and Willett Single Barrel (barrel strength) are all great gifts to open and great bourbons to drink.

In case this guy is on your list...

In case this guy is on your list…

For the vain bourbon drinker on your list:  This is for that bourbon drinker that likes to sit in a smoking jacket with a $100 cigar while they enjoy their bourbon.  Hardly a value bourbon drinker, but for somebody like this, appearance is everything.  So, I would recommend a bourbon with a cool bottle and a long, uppity-sounding name.  My first recommendation is Willett Pot Still Single Barrel Reserve.  The bottle looks like you paid $100 dollars for it, but you didn’t even spend half that.  What is in the bottle is pretty good, too.  My other recommendation is the fancy horse-stopper of Blanton’s.  It is a solid, all-around bourbon that has a very distinguished bottle.

For the rye whiskey drinker (looking to get into bourbon) on your list:  This is for the rye drinker on your list that has mentioned wanting to get into bourbon.  I would definitely recommend a rye-heavy bourbon.  If you are thinking of a light, drinkable, full-flavored rye-forward bourbon, look no further than Russell’s Reserve 10 yr.  If you are thinking monstrous, full-bodied, intense rye-forward bourbon, look no further than Wild Turkey 101.  Both these bourbons are great choices for rye lovers.

For the Scotch whisky drinker (looking to get into bourbon) on your list:  This is for the Scotch (I’m thinking Speyside) drinker on your list who normally finds bourbon too heavy and sweet for their palate.  The bourbon to give to them is Four Roses Small Batch.  It is light, floral, and fruity, but it still possesses a lot of bourbon qualities.  Basil Hayden’s is usually a good gift here, too. Wild Turkey American Honey

For the liqueur drinker on your list:  The best bourbon-based liqueur on the market is Wild Turkey American Honey.  Hell, even I drink it every once in a while on a hot summer’s day.

Those are my thoughts on buying bourbon for the holidays.  If the person on your list falls outside any of these categories, leave a comment or shoot me an email at thedagupeir@gmail.com.  Let it Ride!

Old Grand-Dad Bonded Review

I have been searching for this bourbon for a while now, and I finally got a hold of a bottle of Old Grand-Dad Bonded.  Most people are familiar with Old Grand-Dad, mostly because of its shout-out in George Thorogood’s “I Drink Alone.”  The standard Old Grand-Dad offering is bottled at 86 proof, but it is offered at several different proof points.  Today, I am reviewing the 100 proof Bottled-in-Bond edition of Old Grand-Dad.

Today, the Old Grand-Dad Distillery is owned by Jim Beam, which makes the other namesake bourbon of the old granddad of bourbon, Basil Hayden.  For those who have asked me about it, Basil Hayden is the man pictured on the label of Old Grand-Dad.  Like Basil Hayden’s, Old Grand-Dad is manufactured with Basil Hayden’s signature high-rye mash bill.

On the nose, Old Grand-Dad Bonded is spicy and citrusy.  There are notes of wood and rye spices, backed up with a big corn sweetness and dried orange peels and lemon peels.  In my opinion, the rest of the bourbon is a bit too controlled by the prickly rye spices.  The palate has notes of the charred barrel, chili powder, black pepper, and some corniness.  The finish is hot and spicy, with the same notes of char, chili powder, and black pepper.  However, the finish does become more complex with notes of cocoa dust and roasted corn that keep it going for a long time.

Overall, Old Grand-Dad is a solid bourbon, especially if you like a robust, spicy rye-character.  I am not a big fan of the rye bourbons, so it is not my favorite.  I definitely prefer Wild Turkey 101 to Old Grand-Dad if all other factors were equal.  However, at $20 a bottle, it is pretty hard to find a better bourbon than Old Grand-Dad Bonded.  My grade: C.  Price: $20-25/750ml.  This is a nice mixing whiskey, especially when blended with other bourbons.

Bourbon Rankings (Taste)

I have had several people ask me to provide a ranking of the bourbons I have reviewed based solely on the bourbon.  Well, here are my bourbon grades.  Check out my grading scale here.

1.  Booker’s (A)

2. Four Roses Single Barrel (A-)

3. Russell’s Reserve 10 Year (B+)

4. Jefferson’s 18 yr. Presidential Select (B+)

5. Noah’s Mill (B+)

6. Rowan’s Creek (B+)

7. Maker’s 46 (B+)

8. Rock Hill Farms (B+/B)

9. Wild Turkey 101 (B+/B)

10. Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2002 (B)

11. Woodford Reserve (B)

12. Eagle Rare 10 Year Single Barrel (B)

13. Blanton’s Original (B)

14. Wild Turkey Rare Breed (B)

15. Four Roses Small Batch (B)

16. Knob Creek 9 Year Single Barrel Reserve (B/B-)

17. Elmer T. Lee (B/B-)

18. Basil Hayden’s (B-)

19. Buffalo Trace (B-)

20. Jim Beam Devil’s Cut (B-)

21. Elijah Craig 12 Year (B-)

22. W.L. Weller 12 Year (B-)

23. Willett Pot Still Single Barrel Family Reserve (B-)

24. Jefferson’s (B-)

25. Four Roses Yellow Label (C+)

26. Wild Turkey 81 (C+)

27. Old Forester (C/C+)

28. Knob Creek 9 Year Small Batch (C)

29. Old Grand-Dad Bonded (C)

30. Old Weller Antique (C)

31. Jim Beam Black Label (C)

32. Evan Williams Black Label (C)

33. Bulliet Frontier (C)

34. Berkshire Bourbon (C)

35.  Fighting Cock 6 Year (C-)

36. Kentucky Vintage (C-)

37. John E. Fitzgerald Larceny (C-)

38. Maker’s Mark (C-)

39. Wild Turkey 80 (C-)

40. Jim Beam White Label (C-)

41. Jesse James (D+)

Those are my bourbon rankings ranked solely on my tastes.  That’s the fun of bourbon, you might rank these completely different.  Which ones would you change?

Top Ten Foods to Pair with Bourbon

In honor of July 4th, a day when many folks will be eating a ton of food, I thought I should do a post of my favorite foods to drink bourbon with.  Of course, bourbon is a big, flavorful spirit that is certainly not in need of a food pairing.  However, it is July 4th, and bourbon whiskey is America’s native spirit, so why not try a few fingers of bourbon with some of good food?

Here are my favorite foods to pair with bourbon…

10. Peanuts – Of course peanuts are a beer companion.  However, I think they go well with certain types of bourbon as well.  I think peanuts go especially well with oaky bourbons, so maybe try a bottle of Rowan’s Creek next time you are shooting pool and munching on peanuts.

9. Apple pie (a la mode) – I find that the sweetness of an apple pie is bolstered well by a full-flavored bourbon with a lot of brown sugar and caramel flavors.  If you’re up for it, try a finger or two of Booker’s with your apple pie this evening.

8. Pistachios – Pistachios are another great beer companion that also works well with bourbon.  I like a big bourbon with my pistachios to compliment the big pistachio flavor.  Take it slow, and enjoy a long evening with friends, pistachios, and a bottle of Eagle Rare 10 year.

7. Fresh Peaches – Fruits are a great bourbon companion, and I have found that peaches have a delicate enough flavor to compliment bourbon well.  Peaches are a fantastic pairing with the subject of my most recent bourbon review, Jefferson’s.

6. Cheese and Crackers – Crackers are especially good for a bourbon tasting because they will clear the palate to ready you for more bourbon.  However, a light-bodied cheese with some crackers is a fine snack for the next summer evening with friends.  Like with peanuts, I usually like a big, oaky bourbon with my cheese and crackers.  However, a flavorful, rye-forward bourbon like Wild Turkey 101 also makes for a great evening.

5. Banana Bread – Banana bread has a tempered enough flavor profile to make for a very good bourbon companion.  I find that banana bread goes especially nice with a balanced, sweet bourbon.  This is where I recommend a bottle of my favorite value bourbon, Buffalo Trace.

4. Dark Chocolate – A few bites of a bitter dark chocolate can really set off some amazing flavors in the palate of a bourbon.  If you were to indulge in some Old Forester with some dark chocolate, you mind just find a whole new reason to love a great value buy like Old Forester.

3. Pecans – Of all the nuts that I have on my list, pecans are soundly my favorite to drink bourbon with.  They have a natural ability to compliment sweet flavors very well, which is probably why they top so many desserts.  Although I have only tried this pairing on one occasion, I was extremely pleased with the way pecans tasted as I was drinking William Larue Weller.

2. Cheesecake – Cheesecake is one of my favorite foods, with its soft, seductive flavors and texture.  It goes great with bourbon because it will not overpower the palate.  If you want to make your 4th of July a memorable one, I would highly recommend a slice of cheesecake and a glass of Woodford Reserve.

1. Steak – A nice cut of steak is my all-time favorite food to drink bourbon with.  For some reason, the savory flavors of a steak always seem to go right along with a great summer bourbon.  There are few things in life that I enjoy more than eating a good steak, and washing it down with a glass or two of Basil Hayden’s as the sun sets on a warm summer’s eve.

Of course, most of the time, I drink bourbon before or after a meal, not during.  However, if you would like to try some bourbon and food pairing, I think these ten foods are a great place to start.  Please comment and let me know which great bourbon foods I’ve left off my list.  Let it ride!

 

Jefferson’s Review

Jefferson’s “Very Small Batch” bourbon is the flagship bourbon from the McClain & Kyne Distillery.  However, Jefferson’s is only bottled at McClain & Kyne.  It is sourced from elsewhere (probably the Stitzel-Weller Distillery, but don’t quote me on that).  It is aged 8 years and bottled at 82.3 proof.  As I have talked about before with Basil Hayden’s, 80 proof is a low proof point for craft bourbon, but (unlike Basil Hayden’s) Jefferson’s does not drink like an 80 proof spirit.

Even at 82.3 proof, the nose on Jefferson’s can be slightly hidden.  The first notes are oak and vanilla, but there are some rich, sweet notes of green apples, honey, and brown sugar that come through after a few minutes.  Jefferson’s is medium-bodied, despite its proof.  The palate opens up a lot of sweetness, vanilla, nectarine, peach, and some light citrus.  The finish is warm and complex, with some soft oak and barrel char, followed by the same sweet fruits of the palate.  The finish reminds me of the fruit section at a fresh market, where the smells of berries and peaches linger across the palate for a long while.

On the whole, Jefferson’s is a very good value buy if you can find it.  The Jefferson’s Reserve and the Presidential Select are sometimes more available than the standard Jefferson’s.  However, Jefferson’s is a solid, well-built bourbon with a lot of sweetness throughout the whiskey.  It isn’t especially complex, but it is a quality bourbon.  My grade: B-.  Price: $30-35/750ml.  This is an enjoyable pour, but I there are whiskeys I prefer in this price range.