Posts tagged ‘Blanton’s’

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!

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Review

Elmer T. Lee is a single barrel bourbon from Buffalo Trace Distillery.  It takes it’s namesake from Elmer T. Lee, a former Master Distiller at Buffalo Trace.  Despite the fact that Elmer Lee no longer oversees all of Buffalo Trace’s operations, it is said that he still personally selects the barrels that are used to age Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon.  Like Eagle Rare 10 year Single Barrel, Elmer T. Lee is bottled at 90 proof and is reasonably priced (usually under $30 a bottle).

On the nose, Elmer T. Lee is sweet with maple and vanilla, all held together well with a backbone of rye spices.  There are some light citrus notes that come up as the whiskey sits in the open air for a few minutes.  The palate begins as zesty, with some citrus and floral tones, but it quickly fills out with caramel, maple sugar, and vanilla.  The back of the palate picks up some rye spice as the whiskey finishes its journey.  The finish is deliciously sweet, mostly from rich notes of caramel and maple sugars.  There is also some peppery, drying oak that comes up now and again.

Overall, Elmer T. Lee continues the fine tradition of great value whiskeys from Buffalo Trace.  This is a delicious single barrel bourbon.  The flavor profile reminds me a lot of Blanton’s Original, although Elmer T. Lee is nearly half the price of Blanton’s, making it the much better buy.  My grade: B-/B.  Price: $25-30/750ml.  This is a good sippin’ whiskey, worth keeping on your shelf as often as you can.

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?

Bourbons for Beginners

Since I’ve been blogging about bourbon, several people have asked a very good question, “What bourbons should I try if I have never had bourbon before?”  Obviously, part of the answer to this question depends on what you normally drink; I would not recommend certain bourbons to folks who usually drink wine, whereas other bourbons definitely cater to wine drinkers.  Of course, like any beverage, the bottom line is whether or not your senses enjoy the whiskey.  With that caveat in mind, here are my suggestions for entry-level bourbons.

Bourbons to start with under $20:  Four Roses Yellow Label, Old Forester, Evan Williams Black Label, Jim Beam White Label.  Chief among this list is Four Roses, because of its great combination of drinkability, flavor profile, and value.

Bourbons to start with between $20-$30:  Buffalo Trace, Elijah Craig 12 year, Wild Turkey 81.  Out of this group, Buffalo Trace is probably the best demonstration of a medium-bodied, well-balanced craft bourbon.  Elijah Craig is a solid bourbon to start with if you are looking for an older, more oaky bourbon.  Wild Turkey is a good start to bourbon if you want to try a bold and spicy flavor profile.

Bourbons to start with over $30:  Woodford Reserve, Basil Hayden’s, Four Roses Small Batch, Blanton’s Original Single Barrel.  All four of these bourbons are very good and very drinkable.  Basil Hayden’s is very light-bodied for a craft bourbon, which makes it a great craft bourbon to start with.  If you are seeking a bourbon with a little more body, look no further than Woodford Reserve.  Be careful, though; a bottle of Woodford Reserve could very well make a bourbon enthusiast out of you.

Overall, I usually recommend that people try lower proof bourbons to begin their bourbon journey, because lower proof bourbons tend to be more drinkable.  As you drink a few bourbons and learn to appreciate the whiskey a little more, then you can start to branch out and try all sorts of great bourbon whiskeys.

 

Blanton’s Original Single Barrel Review

 At the behest of one of my good friends, I am doing a review today of Blanton’s Original Single Barrel bourbon, a product of the Buffalo Trace Distillery.  It is the second single barrel bourbon I’ve reviewed on the site (the first was Eagle Rare 10 year).  However, Blanton’s bourbon is believed by many to be the original single barrel bourbon, in that it was the first bourbon to be bottled from a single barrel.  The tribute to Colonel Blanton is found in both the bourbon’s name, as well as the trademark horse-and-rider stopper that stands atop each bottle of Blanton’s.  Blanton’s has no age statement on the bourbon, and it is usually bottled at around 93 proof.  Blanton’s is also not a cheap whiskey, usually costing at least $45-$50 per 750ml.  Let’s see if it’s worth the price…

On the nose, Blanton’s can be a little tight, meaning that you don’t get a lot of scents right away.  However, if you let the bourbon sit for a while, notes of caramel and vanilla arise.  There are some lighter notes of fruits and flowers that linger in the background.  On the palate, Blanton’s has a smooth, but full-flavored mouth feel.  There are good notes of caramel, toasted almonds and coconuts, vanilla, and some apple cinnamon spices.  The finish is long and smooth, with sweet roasted vanilla, oak, and coconut.  As the finish goes on and on, some light floral notes present themselves.

Overall, Blanton’s Original is a very good, drinkable bourbon.  The bourbon seems tight at times, refusing to demonstrate its full flavor profile.  The finish is the most impressive part of the whiskey.  Blanton’s has a long, complex, but very soft finish.  It is a rare achievement among bourbons.  My grade: B.  Price: $45-50/750ml.  This is really good stuff, and it would be in my cabinet at all times if it didn’t cost so damn much.

The Top Ten Historical People to Drink Bourbon with

Have you ever been reading a history book, and thought, “I’d like to have a drink with that person?”  As a historian and avid bourbon drinker, this happens to me often.  So, here are the ten people I would most like to have a few glasses of bourbon with.  Obviously, this is an anachronistic list because bourbon whiskey as we know and love it did not originate until the 18th century, and it was not made official by Congress until 1964.  The only qualifications for this list are that the person had to have lived at some point, and that person must have lived most of their life prior to 1900 (a list of more contemporary bourbon companions is in the works).

10. Mithridates VI of Pontus (Mithridates the Great) (134 BCE-63 BCE)  – Mithridates was arguably Rome’s greatest enemy.  He spent most of his adult life chipping away at Rome’s territory, until he was eventually holed up in his tower, where he tried to kill himself by consuming poison.  However, he had built up such an immunity to poison over his life that he ended up having his servant stab him to death instead.  In addition to being a ruthless militarist, Mithridates was also one of antiquity’s most famous polyglots, claiming to speak around 30 languages fluently.  All things considered, Mithridates the Great is one of the most epic individuals to have ever lived.  Mithridates’ bourbon:  Fighting Cock 6 year.  Its big, bold, and finishes with a bang.  Mithridates was always one to go big or go home.  Its also a bourbon of the people, not elitist, much like Mithridates and the way he fought the Romans.

9. Charles Earl Bowles (Black Bart) (c. 1829-c. 1888) – Black Bart is perhaps the most famous criminal of the American West, mostly for his gentile style and the poems that he left behind.  Supposedly, he never even loaded his gun.  He simply relied on intimidation to hold up the stagecoaches he robbed.  Like most Wild West characters, separating fact from fiction is nearly impossible with Black Bart.  However, that does not mean that he would be any less of a bourbon partner.  He was a poet with some great stories to tell over a glass or two.  Black Bart’s bourbon:  Wild Turkey American Spirit.  Black Bart was not an American, but he came to embody the romance and ruthlessness of the American West.  I’ve got him drinking a top shelf bourbon that’s a little rough around the edges.

8. Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) – To my knowledge, the only one of America’s founders to have a bourbon named after him/her is Thomas Jefferson, which puts him on my list of people to drink bourbon with.  In addition to his political exploits, he was also interested in a variety of different things, from farming to architecture.  He also had an eye for aesthetics rather than pragmatics, which is probably why Monticello was a failed business venture that left Jefferson in debt most of his life.  Like Mithridates, he spoke many languages (between 5 and 10), which would have made him a great bourbon companion.  Jefferson’s bourbon:  Jefferson’s Reserve, Presidential Select.  Come on, the bourbon is named after Jefferson’s presidency.  What else would he drink?

7. Henry “Long Ben” Every (1659-c. 1696) – Henry Every has been dubbed “The King of the Pirates,” primarily because he was never caught.  Of course, nobody actually knows what happened to Every after he stopped pilfering the Atlantic.  I like to think that he lived happily on Madagascar for many years.  That is where I’d like to sit and drink bourbon with “Long Ben” Every and hear his crazy seafaring stories.  Long Ben’s bourbon:  Jim Beam Devil’s Cut.  Devil’s Cut just sounds the bourbon that a pirate would drink.

6. Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519) – Leonardo Da Vinci was a genius, one of the few pure geniuses ever (in my opinion).  Unfortunately, many of his inventions were too far ahead of his time to be practical, which is why he would be a fascinating person to meet during time travel.  He was notoriously mysterious and reclusive during his lifetime, all the while pressing his mind to its limits for the sake of satisfying his own curiosity.  That’s certainly one recipe for a good bourbon companion.  Da Vinci’s bourbon:  Angel’s Envy.  It’s innovative, and a little off the beaten path.  It’s also hard to find, just like Da Vinci himself.

5. Oscar Wilde (1854-1900) – Oscar Wilde is one of the most quotable people I’ve read, which makes me think he would be a great bourbon partner.  Bourbon is not a drink for those who simply desire intoxication.  It is a complex drink that invites deep thought as well as light banter.  I believe Oscar Wilde would excel at both.  How many people have a top ten list of just their quotes?  http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-quotes-by-oscar-wilde.php  Oscar’s bourbon:  Blanton’s Original Single Barrel.  This bourbon is certainly one of the most iconic bottles in bourbon, with its orb-shape and racehorse stopper.  It is also incredibly smooth and seductive, much like the beautiful sexuality that Oscar Wilde loved so dearly.

4. Jesus of Nazareth (7-2 BCE-30-36 CE) – Regardless of your personal beliefs regarding Jesus of Nazareth, somewhat that has sparked the amount of controversy that he has would be a great bourbon companion.  His following indicates that he was an intelligent and captivating speaker, which is definitely one thing to look for in a bourbon companion.  Honestly, I’d like to just talk with him to see what was really going on in his mind.  Jesus’ bourbon:  Honestly, he would probably just supply his own.

3. Socrates (c. 470 BCE-399 BCE) – In many ways, my first introduction to Socrates was when I slowly began to learn the powers of the mind, and the powers of language.  For this reason, I would love to have a drink with the man who is partially responsible for my journey into intellectual history.  He loved a good conversation, and most good conversations are enhanced by bourbon.  Socrates’ bourbon:  Old Grand-Dad 114 proof.  As one of the grandfather’s of Western thought, it is only fitting that Socrates drink the best the Grand-Dad of bourbon (Basil Hayden, Sr.) has to offer.

2. Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) – Like Da Vinci, Franklin was pretty damn close to being a pure genius.  His curiosity knew no bounds, and his intellect followed closely behind.  He was a strong proponent of a few glasses of the good stuff, and I’m sure he would have been a strong endorser of bourbon had it been around in his lifetime.  Like Oscar Wilde, Franklin could be both a genius and a rabble-rouser in the same hour, which makes him a pretty solid bourbon companion.  Ben Franklin’s bourbon:  Hooker’s House.  Obviously, Franklin’s propensity for prostitutes makes this bourbon the logical choice.  In addition, Hooker’s House is an innovative bourbon created by finishing the bourbon in Pinot Noir casks before bottling it.  Creativity and sex were definitely two of Franklin’s hallmarks.

1. John Henry “Doc” Holliday (1851-1887) – As is the case with Black Bart and many other legends of the American West, separating fact from fiction with Doc Holliday is nearly impossible.  However, in the case of Doc Holliday, there are several themes among all his biographers and Hollywood portrayals.  Doc Holliday was a smooth-talking Georgian with a penchant for bourbon, poker, and a prostitute called Kate.  Hence, Doc Holliday is the historical figure I would most like to drink bourbon with.  Doc Holliday’s bourbon:  William Larue Weller.   I’ve got Doc drinking a bourbon that tastes great, but will also have the alcohol content to cure his tuberculosis.  Although William Weller is hard to get, Doc Holliday could sweet talk just about anybody with that soft, seductive Georgia accent.

Those are my top ten bourbon companions, what are yours?  Let me know what you think and let it ride!