Monthly Archives: September 2008

Kentucky Vintage

The selection of Kentucky Vintage was not the result of the most pointed recommendation process.  I had never read or heard anything about it and it was recommended to me at LeNell’s only after it became clear that I had already exhausted the my guide’s first few rounds of suggestions.  That’s what this blog is all about though, right?

Kentucky Vintage comes to us from the folks who make Johnny Drum, Rowan’s Creek, and a few other familiars on liquor store shelves.  Judging by their website, Kentucky Bourbon Distillers has a broad and slightly disorganized product range in a variety directions – all the more for us to taste, I suppose.

Presentation:

The labeling on Kentucky Vintage seems to be a distillation of everything I complain about in bourbon labels: faux-aged, faux-burnt edges, Comic Sans-esque lettering, and (three!) long winded descriptions.  To top it off, they’ve dipped the plastic screw-top in wax.  Yet, to their credit, it seems their hand-numbering is legit, as is their medallion pressed into wax on the front.

The bourbon is small batch, 90 proof, and of an age only described as “long beyond that of any other bourbon,” hmmm.  This doesn’t mean anything other than it’s older than four years, legally, but it would be nice to imply a range from which they’ve selected.

Tasting:

To the nose Kentucky Vintage is pleasant, if subdued.  Dominated largely by char and a saltiness, there are also notes of sweet pears and oak.  It is neither rough nor complex, but hits a middle ground that just misses the “boring” range and lands in “pleasant”.

On tasting KV’s dominant sensation is saltiness start to finish.  Further inspection reveals that there isn’t too much more than that except corn and a hint of char in the middle.  This really tastes much greener than something aged “long beyond that of any other bourbon” should taste.  In a blind tasting, I’d be surprised if this were even four years.

Over all:

I was hoping that the clumsy presentation of Kentucky Vintage reflected an honest concentration on the bourbon itself – as it should be – but I was ultimately disappointed.  Judging by the range of bourbon sold by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, they would do well to take a hard look at some of their expressions.


Old Pogue, Master’s Select

Old Pogue Master’s Select came recommended to me after I told the woman helping me that I particularly liked the Old Forester I had last week.  It seems appropriate to make a comment about Dirty Old Towns or something along those lines, but that would just be too obvious, wouldn’t it?

Presentation:

Old Pogue Master’s Select’s bottle is quite attractive.  It’s simple, the typeface is elegant without being showy, and most importantly, it shows off the bourbon very well.  Its not-overly-sloped slides and relative slender profile direct light pleasingly through the amber tones within.  The hand-numbering is always a nice touch as well.

However, OPMS succumbs to the urge of burdening their product with over-wrought nostalgic tales in the little attached booklet.  Stories of how OP is somehow the most authentic bourbon lead in to tales of the Civil War and early Kentucky settlers.  Honestly, these kind of stories don’t mean a thing if your product isn’t good.

So let’s give this a try.

Tasting:

To the nose, Old Pogue Master’s Select comes across with dry hay and plenty of proof.  Deeper in, there are elements of wet slate and generally a wetness (moss, bark, grass, etc) that belies the first impression of dry hay.  I wish this weren’t so harsh, I feel like there’s much more I’m missing here.

On the palate OPMS is surprisingly sprightly.  It definitely tastes quite green and a little under done, but that initial rush is exciting.  It is definitely sweet, with elements of that hay from the nose, but them moves in to a slightly tart mango – all along with the clear impression this is green, corn whiskey.  As these intitial impressions fade, there arrives a bit of a more savory sensation like a young, un-peated Scotch (barleyish) – a little bizzare actually.   The finish is quite clean.

Over all:

I really think that Old Pogue Master’s Select could do with more time in the barrel.  The over all impression is largely that of immaturity and over-proof – even though it isn’t even 50%.  Needless to say this has very little in similarity to the Old Forester I tasted last week.


Old Forester Birthday Bourbon – 2007

I’ve never read a bad word about the Old Forester Birthday Bourbon series, so I was excited to try this one out.  I also tried out a new liquor store today, Wine Exchange, which didn’t have the greatest selection, but the manager was very friendly – asking what he should add to his bourbon offering. With any luck, this implies that we’ll have a decent source of bourbon in the neighborhood soon.

Presentation:

Old Forester Birthday Bourbon comes in a squat little bottle with a hearty cork stopper.  Its labeling is not over done and quite tasteful.  It doesn’t pander to the nostalgists but it does have a weighty feel to the branding.  The bottle itself isn’t burdened by origin stories or lists of awards – those are relegated to a little booklet attached to the neck.  Perhaps this is out of respect for those of us that prefer a vessel unadorned by too much text, but more likely it is simply because the number of awards this series has won can only fit in such a separate booklet.

Tasting:

To the nose Old Forester Birthday Bourbon 2007 is rich and smooth.  It’s dominated by sweet caramels, buttercreams, andcomes across without any sharp edges.  Each scent layers easily with the next.  Quite attractive.

On the palate OFBB can give some of my favorite single malt scotches a run for their money.  It opens with a citrusy tartness that recalls lemon drops and pineapple.  This drops into a sensation that borders between the saltiness of Talisker and freshly baked cupcake.  Next a cool mintiness creep up from the back then fades into a long, moderately warm finish with only the slightest notes of oak looking in on the edges.  Very well done.

Over all:

This 2007 edition is very impressive.  It is quite complex without brashness of a Knob Creek or any sharp angles to speak of.  For a bourbon aged 13 years, I’m surprised by how free of wood it is –  as though it traded in the wet oak aspects for a subtlety and variety of character not often seen.

This is possibly my favorite selection since starting this blog.


Shine On Georgia Moon Corn Whiskey

While the rest of my borough is out partying, I’ve taken a break to bring a new whiskey into my arsenal.  Shine On Georgia Moon is something that’s caught my eye on the shelf every time I visit my local liquor store, so instead of venturing down to Red Hook to see my usual pushers at LeNell’s I opted to give SOGM a try.

Presentation:

Shine On Georgia Moon is bottled and positioned for one purpose and one purpose only: to hammer home the idea that it is moonshine.  From the name, to the mason jar, to the irregular typeface on the shopping-bag-paper label, this liquor is anything but subtle.  Thankfully they realize that they are so unapologetically forward in their visual presentation that they didn’t find the need to add a hokey little narrative about some old-timey man and his still out in the back woods of Georgia (or Kentucky as is the case here).

Beyond these obvious points, there is one message that seems particularly distictive to this brand – they proult declare that their product is “less than 30 days old” right on the front label.  This is a clear response to the often fetishistic focus on a whiskey’s age that we see in other brands.  SOGM seems to be trying to make the “freshness” of the product a selling point…not a crazy approach in the era of local food and farmers’ markets.

If you take the cheap bottling and quick time to market implied in the “less than 30 days old” tag line, and place these two qualities next to the $13+ price point, what you see is some damn shrewed marketing.  The Johnson Distilling Company has taken the market’s obsession with notions of “authenticity” and manufactured unpretentiousness and turned it into a cheap-to-make, mid-market brand.  Bravo.

Tasting:

Shine On Georgia Moon is no subtler to the nose than its bottling is to the eye.  Before even getting to the nose however, one must struggle to pour the whiskey out of the mason jar itself – not an easy task to complete neatly.  Once in the glass, SOGM definitely smells like whiskey, but very green whiskey.  The dominant scent is (naturally) corn, but it really smells like the mash itself, unaged, unmellowed.

On the palate, SOGM is equally young.  It moves quickly through its seasons: starting with a burst of corn, dropping into the sensation of boiled mash, then disappearing as quickly as it came leaving only a slight remembrance in the clean finish that something had passed this way.  There seem few better ways to describe it than simply as ‘fast’.

Over all:

I would probably never find myself settling down with a glass of neat Georgia Moon any day soon, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t good uses for a green whiskey such as this.  For instance, I can imagine with a little simple syrup and mint this would make a fine julep; or perhaps replace the mint with a wedge of lime and the simple syrup for cane syrup for a variation on Ti’punch.  In fact, SOGM reminds me more of a rhum agricole than a bourbon or any other American whiskey – so it might be best to treat it as such.


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