This month we decided to stray from the big name in Bourbon and leave Kentucky behind. Kentucky has a limestone basin that brings a specific flavor to the water used in whiskey making, or so I’ve read. Our goal this month is to see if anyone outside Kentucky can make a great Bourbon and if the water is really that important.
We also decided to try and boost our numbers for attendance by encouraging our members to bring a friend. This was a huge success, and several people became regular members. The goal based on how much we spend and how many shots are in a bottle is 12 people in attendance. This ensures everyone gets at least 1 drink and a chance to try again for a few people.
As you may know from reading about our first tasting, Bourbon has some specific legal requirements. The most notable requirements are that it has to be aged in new-charred American oak barrels and that the mash must be made of at least 51% corn mash. If an American whiskey meets the legal requirements, it doesn’t necessarily have to be made in Bourbon county or even in the state of Kentucky.
This is 9 taster’s, some more tenured than others, experiences with non-Kentucky Bourbons.
Few Bourbon – Overall – 8/10 – burn 5.6/10
(Specs) 4 year aged | 46.5% or 93 proof | 750 ML $50.55
(Distiller) Few Spirits, Illinois
(Notes) 3 separate tasters noted that it tasted a bit like flat coke. There were multiple mentions of the initial smell being smooth, of leather and of strong vanilla. Several people mentioned anise or licorice and cracked black pepper. Other notes included fresh-cut grass and butterscotch.
(Finish) There were scattered notes about the aftertaste including spice, pine, a little smokey, very late burn, satisfying linger, sugar, and a cool sea breeze.
(Thoughts) To be totally honest, we all went into this bottle kind of feeling like it was going to be overpriced. It’s a beautiful label and it’s sealed elegantly. For the price, we were expecting the cost to be mostly marketing. However, we were all extremely surprised. This is a bottle all of us agreed would be worth purchasing again.
Washington Wheat Whiskey – Overall 6.3/10 – burn 4/10
(Specs) 3 year aged | 54% or 90 proof | 750 ML $39
(Distiller) Dry Fly, Washington
(Notes) The most frequent and nearly unanimous notes were sweet, smooth, and linear. The taste is consistent from beginning to end. Also frequently mentioned were caramel and maple syrup. Other notes include a bubblegum scent, cinnamon, big-red gum, and apple.
(Thoughts) I know, it’s not bourbon. However, after reading about the process and quality of the distiller, it seemed like one we needed to try. Plus, next month is local whiskey and I wanted something from the northwest in our tasting.
We were all baffled by how ugly this bottle is. Despite the quality of the liquor, this bottle looks like something meant for minors to shoplift and take shots of. This was one of the more polarizing whiskeys we’ve had so far. Everyone agreed on the basic taste of it, but there were some strong preferences about it. Some tasters felt like it was really good whiskey, but it’s not for everyone.
Bowman Brothers – Overall 7.5/10 – burn 5.2/10
(Specs) 6-7 years | 45% or 90 proof | 750 ML $32.95
(Distiller) Smith Bowman, Virginia
(Notes) Every person included a variation of tart hard candies. These included candy smell, candy store, 2 counts of candy necklace, and just candy. The majority also included vanilla and sweet in their notes. This whiskey was considered very complex and included these in the notes – woody, earthy, smoky, tobacco leaf, coffee aftertaste, complex oak, corn, dry rye, banana, cinnamon, cloves, pine cone on a fire, potatoes, butter.
The aftertaste was noted as being similar to coffee breath, sweet and floral, apple, a delayed burn, like a cigar with rosemary, and raisin.
This whiskey didn’t stand out to everyone as being of the highest value to everyone, but it did stand out as being extremely complex. The taste had clearly distinct beginning, middle, and final flavors that evolved with drinking. While it didn’t have the votes to throw it into the top bottles we’ve consumed, it is definitely one everyone would like to drink again.
Hudson Baby Bourbon – Overall 6.7/10 – burn 4.2/10
(Specs) 3 months | 46% or 92 proof | 750 ML $49.95
(Distiller) Tuthilltown, New York
(Notes) The most common notes mention sweet white corn, some form of maple syrup, and mentions about how smooth it is. In fact, the smoothness of the drink is the most notable aspect. A few mentions include woody, caramels, rum, agave, and butterscotch. We all enjoyed it but everyone agreed that it’s not at all worth the price we got the bottle for.
Here’s some other fun stuff we did, not so bourbon related –
Our events are BYOM (bring your own meat). After club is over, I fire up the grill and cook whatever people bring. I also get enough to feed my wife and myself. This month we grilled some chicken marinated in some tangy sauce my wife made. Not everyone wants to stay another couple hours on a Sunday, but for those who do I like to accommodate so they have a chance to eat and hydrate before they leave. It makes the even safer and reduces the number of people who show up hungover to work the next day.
You’re drinking whiskey, eating some grilled meat (or mushrooms or something for the vegetarian guests), and the sun’s out. Go ahead and play some backyard games. We like disc golf and horse shoes, but we throw in some other games sometimes.