De Whiskykoning’s American Whiskey Tasting, 2020 edition

Every year there are lots of thematic tastings at Whiskyslijterij De Koning. I always try to participate in some, but it’s a logistical nightmare to get back home later at night. Sometimes the trip back takes three hours with lots of waits at train stations. Not something to look forward to, to be honest.

Now, with this entire COVID-19 stuff happening, these tastings have moved online, with some Youtube introductions and sample sets for peaceful tasting at home. With this, I decided to catch up a little bit, since I had to cancel some tastings there over the last year for various reasons.

The American Whiskey Tasting was the first online tasting, and the Summer Whisky Tasting (Speyside themed) is the second. A review for that second tasting will follow shortly.

But, American Whiskey. Interesting to see if I am truly ‘bourboned out’. For some reason I didn’t feel the urge to try any American whiskeys over the last couple of years. I had some samples I went through, but I think I had some rather boring samples, since all were pretty middle of road bourbons. Nothing better to test the assumptions of no longer caring than trying again. So I did. Here’s the results.

Woodford Reserve Straight Wheat Whiskey, 45.2%

Spicy and fresh on the nose, with some woody and minty notes. Some minerals and corn, and gets warmer after a few seconds. It never gets overly sweet, as some American whiskeys do.

It tastes rather young with quite a grain forward spirity palate. There’s spiciness, with some Granny Smith apples. Quite dry with woody and peppery notes too. Dried mint leaves, some other herbs.

The finish shows even more spiciness and wood flavors. It’s suddenly rather cask driven, but not in a bothering way. It’s what you expect from when new make spirit hits the fresh oak. Dry and spicy, with some lovely flavors of black pepper, mint, other wood spices and dry corn kernels.

Rather complex and something quite different than I was expecting. Much more spicy without the pepper character of rye. Good stuff!


Heaven’s Door Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 42%

Popcorn and candyfloss. Rather sweet, but still quite light. Some youthful sharpness, with hints of slate and hazelnuts. Nutella, with corn syrup.

The palate is surprisingly dry, with oak and dry baking spices. Some clove and nutmeg. Cocoa, hazelnuts, corky in texture. A minor hint of warmth from some chili peppers. After a while I start getting hints of orange juice.

The finish has some more orange, but also the pithy notes of orange peel. Oak, sawdust and nuts. There’s sweetness, but it’s not very powerful.

Strangely, this is getting boring very quickly. It’s interesting that it’s labeled as a bourbon instead of a Tennessee whiskey.


Yellow Rose Outlaw Bourbon, 10yo, 46%

This has a lot of weird fumes. I’m getting diesel and paint, and lead. Backed up by some vanilla and corn, but very weird. Very funky.

The palate is very dry, with lots of sawdust and cork. Quite sweet with a lot of corn syrup. The funkiness is pushed back a little bit, because of the dryness. Some heat after a while. Almost like shammy leather.

The finish is a continuation of the palate. Some funk, but mostly heat and corn and syrup.

I like the weirdness for a bit, but wouldn’t want a bottle of this. When the weirdness passes there is not much left that’s interesting.


Pikesville Straight Rye Whiskey, 55%

Dry, with bitter notes of husks and some nuttiness. Autumn leaves, cigars, some menthol too.

It’s very hot on the palate. Massive chili peppers. Some corn sweetness, again very autumnal. Lots of oak, nuts, leaves, baking spices.

The finish is a tad more classical bourbon, albeit not sweet at all. Complex, with lots of different flavors, some bitterness.

Now we’re talking! This one packs a punch, and not just because of the high ABV. There’s a lot of flavors going on, and a lot of complexity because of it. I may have ordered a bottle of this!


I.W. Harper 15yo Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Lots of oak, with some charcoal. Quite closed on the nose. Some vegetables, quite a green scent. Corn, but not overly sweet due to the high age.

The bitterness is quite strong on this one. It adds a certain sharpness. There’s berries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries. Oak, corn, pepper.

Gentle and warming, lots of oak, some bitterness and some leafy herbs.

A bit too wooded, in my opinion. I find that this is a common problem for old(er) bourbons. The wood gets so much time to thwart the whiskey that the original character doesn’t really stand out anymore. So, while this is certainly a tasty bourbon, it is a bit generic.


James E. Pepper Straight Rye Barrel Proof 57.3%

Light and minty with lots of spices. Shoe polish and rye bread. Quite some oak too. Licorice, schoolkrijt (A Dutch licorice with aniseed and peppermint).

Insanely dry and very hot. Dry spices, rye, oak, straw. Lots of mint, menthol, dusty. Grapefruit.

The finish has minty grapefruit flavor too. Some bread and spices, with lots of grains.

Very good, especially towards the finish. This one is a very tasty whiskey again. Might I prefer rye to the sweeter bourbon?


So, I rediscovered that I really do enjoy these different whiskeys. As it turns out, I find the older bourbons a bit too generic with the wood taking over and leaving a fairly common base of flavors from the spirit. This I do not find interesting.

Luckily, there still is a lot to discover on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. I do fear for some of the gimmicky younger stuff that is just too weird and maybe too far diverged from ‘whiskey’.

My favorite, by some distance, is the Pikesville Rye. That is an absolute cracker! Highly recommended!

All of these whiskeys are available at Whiskyslijterij De Koning:


About Sjoerd de Haan-Kramer

I'm very interested in booze, with a focus on whisky. I like to listen to loads of music and play lots of Magic: the Gathering, and board games too. I'm married to Anneke, have two daughters Ot and Cato, a son Moos and a cat called Kikker (which means Frog, in Dutch). I live in Krommenie, The Netherlands.
This entry was posted in - American Whiskey, - Bourbon, - Rye Whiskey, - Wheat Whiskey, Heaven's Door, I. W. Harper, James E. Pepper, Pikesville, Woodford Reserve, Yellow Rose and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to De Whiskykoning’s American Whiskey Tasting, 2020 edition

  1. Pingback: Online Tasting: The Night Time is the Rye Time II, by Whisky4All / Norbert Tebarts | Malt Fascination

  2. Pingback: 4 x Woodford Reserve: Bourbon, Wheat, Rye and Double Oak | Malt Fascination

  3. Pingback: I.W. Harper Gold Medal, 4yo, 1970s bottling, 40% | Malt Fascination

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