Monthly Archives: July 2008

American Trio #1: One-Oughts

Instead of venturing into a new whiskey this week, I’ve decided to take a look back with a coordinated trio from my past conquests.  For this first tri-tasting installment, I’ve chosen to group the spirits based on a common proof range.  This will allow me to better compare the plays and counter-plays between the other aspects of the trio.

And the three are…

1. Old Grand-Dad (Bonded) – the definition of the everyman’s bourbon: sweet, corn, classic (4 years, 100 proof)
2. Knob Creek – the punchy, bold, from the Jim Beam folks (9 years, 100 proof)
3. Old Weller Antique – reasonably priced, wheated, and slow: from Buffalo Trace (7 years, 107 proof)

I start with OGD – because there is no messing around with OGD.  It is not the subtlest of bourbons to say the least.  I’m betting it’s a good base to build from.  It is just as I expected, an angular, straight-forward bourbon.

On to the Knob Creek: in comparison, it smells sweet and refreshing…almost juicy.  Letting it wash over the tongue…wow.  Knob Creek really puts OGD in its place.  Much smoother much more depth to the flavor, yet still with its familiar punch followed by slow, oaky burn.  Over several more sips, the KB becomes spicier – as I remembered it had been.  Certainly not as angular as the OGD.  These two definitely contrast, though not in the most interesting way: we all knew that Knob Creek was better to begin with.

Moving on: Old Weller Antique comes across quite strangely after the Knob Creek.  Much more medicinal than I’d tasted before, and combined with the gentler wheated entrance it’s quite a shift of gears.  The spiciness is muted in comparision to a solo tasting, but appears in a crechendo in the finish.  These two demonstrate some of the fundamental differences between the two mash bill approaches.

Over all:
This is an interesting trio.  Clearly, there is a jump in market from the OGD to the KB and OWA, but each one is unique – with the exception of their proof range.  We have a wheated bourbon and two rye bases, one aged 4 years, one aged 7 years, and one aged 9 years.

I really enjoy the oak and tang from the Knob Creek that comes through with the increased aging and the Jim Beam mash bill respectively, but the Old Weller Antique finds its place in slower times when you aren’t looking for the muscle of Knob Creek.

As for Old Grand-Dad?  Well, good bless the fellow, he just makes the other ones taste better.


Bernheim Original

When it comes to wheat whiskey there’s usually one name that comes to mind above most others – Bernheim. So this week I finally took the plunge and gave it a serious look.

Presentation:

Bernheim does a great job with their bottle. It manages to be classic, classy, and simple all at once. IT doesn’t strive for some false American-whiskey past that other do. It seems to say, “we let out whiskey do the talking.”

The bottle is less than two inches in depth and uses minimal labeling. One side sports a faux-aged sticker with some text, but this is blissfully out of the way. Otherwise the main descriptive elements are the heavy copper-colored name plaque in the center of the bottle front, and the design of the bottle which lets light pass pleasingly through the yellow-amber colored liquid.

Focus here is on the drink and its attractive qualities rather than any semi-truthful origin stories. That’s the way it should be.

Tasting:

The nose is mostly mild, with hints of honey, dry grass, and hazelnut coming through. The honey is very much what I expected – the hazelnut is a bit of a surprise.

To the palate Bernheim absolutely screams “wheat!” when you first take it in. This quickly transforms into notes of unexpected spice, nuts, and green apples. Really quite complex, but not slow at all in its development. The flavors themselves may not be to aggressive, but they develop as though chased by hellhounds.

This turns into a lingering, pleasing spiciness.

Over all:

Bernheim is definitely not what I expected it to be. I was thinking I’d find a mild honey-driven whiskey, but instead was confronted by a hyper-active, but no less interesting drink with some surprising spice.

One thing that I found a little odd was how at points it reminded me of Glenfiddich – mostly at the height of its green-appley moments.

Quite a fine whiskey.


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