Monthly Archives: December 2008

Old Crow

oldcrowYou can’t know a good top-shelf whiskey until you’ve had a few of the bottles on the bottom.  Shelf-height and price do not always properly denote quality so tasting a range will not only show you what a bad whiskey can be, but also help you discover a few gems.

It was in this spirit that I picked up a bottle of Old Crow.  Sure, I have my preconceptions about this brand – what with its many cultural references from bands I like to prominent American historical figures – which just means that I would have to approach this tasting with that much care.

But how can you talk about Old Crow without a bit of history creeping in?  After all, it gets its name from the man who invented the sour mash process (basically this is putting some of the old batch into the new) that all bourbons use to keep bottlings consistent over time.  Yet the bourbon before me today is probably quite different from the one Dr. Crow produced.

Stats:

- $10-15

- Old Crow Distillery Co. (Fortune)

- 80 proof

Presentation:

I like a bottle that isn’t overbearing – either in its modernity or its nostalgia – and Old Crow seems to cut a path down the middle.  On the one hand, there are a number of cues to tip the potential customer off to its history: the drawing of men transporting a barrel faded in the background, the “Since 1835″ heading, and the very name itself.  On the other hand though, the designers made a clear effort to avoid the clutter that so plagues many bourbon bottles.

To top it off the historicizing text on the back is short and to the point: Dr. Crow invented the sour mash process, this bourbon is his legacy.  OC get points for its brevity, but not for the three-year age statement.

Tasting:

Sadly, Old Crow is anything but well-balanced when it comes to the nose.  It’s hard to move past the strong rubbing alcohol scent, and if you do there’s little to greet you but maybe a hint of corn-juice and char.  This is the first sign that we’re dealing with a bourbon that has been aged so relatively few years.

On the palate OC’s youth is expressed even further.  It is quick to come and quick to go and you’ll be lucky to catch something in between.  While not as harsh as I’d been expecting, it took a bit to tease out what little notable elements I could: a soft-caramel body and perhaps some woodiness, surrounded by the fresh-green corn.  This isn’t too far from Georgia Moon when compared with many other selections on this site.

The finish is quite clean and it is pretty smooth, all things considered.

Over all:

This is more or less what you’d expect from a young whiskey.  Some people like it this way, but there just isn’t enough heft or intricacy to hold my interest.

Ultimately Old Crow is disappointingly bland, a bit of a let-down, but not assertively unpleasant.


The American Hooch 2008 Gift Guide

I’ve gotten questions from many friends and co-workers about what bourbon they should buy for their friend/boyfriend/roommate for the holiday season.  This is always a difficult thing to judge since some of the best wiskies don’t always make for the classiest gift, but on the other hand many of the gift-like bottles aren’t the most original or demonstrative of taste.

With that in mind, here’s my American Hooch 2008 Gift Guide to help you navigate your social relationships with a properly chosen bottle of alcohol.

The Mantle Piece Bourbon

willettThis one is for that someone on your list who wants something to show off to folks stopping by over the holidays.  Willett Family Pot Still Reserve is certainly a fine tasting bourbon, with notes of butterscotch, cherry-sweetness, and honey, but it is most impressive in its profile.  Your receipient will not only be impressed with the pot still shaped bottle, but also the wonderfully gurgly noise it makes when you pour.  I wrote about it here.

This one might be a little tougher to find, but it will make an immediate visual impression.  It will also run you around $40.

Continue reading


Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon Whiskey

cornercreekThe other night I was on my way to my girlfriend’s apartment after work and decided to pick up a bottle of wine for dinner.  I stopped into fairly large (for Brooklyn) liquor store in her neighborhood and, of course, had to spend a bit of time in the bourbon/American whiskey section.

I didn’t intend to get any whiskies, but I picked up Corner Creek Reserve without much forethought.  It was in a reasonable price range and is not something that you see every day, so I figured I’d give it a try.  I left with it and an inexpensive bottle of wine.  You can see where my alcoholic priorities lie.

Stats:

$20-25

- Made by Corner Creek

- 88 proof

Presentation:

The thing that most people will notice about Corner Creek Reserve is that it comes in a green-tinted wine bottle.  That alone will make it stand out on most everyday liquor store bourbon shelves, but it also seems to be a part of a larger positioning play by the company, which I’ll get to in a moment.

The front label is dark blue ink on unbleached paper with a fine, red border line.  It is dominated by a print of what we must assume is the eponymous creek, below which is the name and basic aging and production information.  The font is a rustic serif set in a very matter-of-fact style, giving a sense of openness to the packaging that contrasts the cluttered nostalgia of many bourbon bottles.

The copy on the back tries to tie what Corner Creek is doing to the selection of fine wines: “In the tradition of the great wine importers, we … search for the the elusive few great barrels of prime aged American whiskey, and offer it to you in this limited bottling.”  This is a clever tactic, likely meant to draw in curious (and apparently snooty) oenophiles who might be put off by the usual peculiarities of bourbon packaging.

This is where CC’s product positioning becomes clear, they have created a bottle that looks and appeals to wine drinkers and noticably eschews the common bourbon tropes in favor of common wine tropes.  They’ve gone for classy rustic instead of the bourbon favorite trio of old men, old recipes, and old times.

Tasting:

Corner Creek Reserve does not have much of a nose to it.  It feels tight and pretty locked-up in comparison with its usually more bombastic bretheren.  You can search, but really all you’ll find is a bland sweetness with maybe a hint of ash.

Things open up a bit more on the palate.  I got pine, some distant smoke, along with the usual corn/caramel.  The finish is largely smooth but lingers a bit with a smooth creaminess.

One thing I can say about this over all is that it is very smooth.  It is more like Basil Hayden’s in this way, but without as much complexity.  Goes down easy despite the 88 proof.

Over all:

I have to hand it to Corner Creek, they’ve created the perfect bourbon to capture wine drinkers.  Everything from the presentation to the liquor itself seem tailor made to draw someone away from their cabernets and merlots.

It’s a good, smooth bourbon that won’t get you too excited, but which I’ll probably bring out for folks who like a milder drink or are nervous about leaving their oenophile ways.


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