I had been ages since I participated in such a tasting. At some point these tastings started to get increasingly pretentious with people not just writing notes and assessing the drams, but writing complete sonnets with tasting notes, and shouting the greatness of the whisky from the rooftops. Even when the whisky was obviously shit.
However, this one wasn’t that. There was fair judgment, and nobody tried to outdo another in writing notes. There was just a mild stimulus to dive in once more to find another note or two. Highly suggestive, but it was fun!
Tasting notes then!
Rebel Bourbon, Cognac Cask Finish, 45%
Slightly acidic before the sweetness kicks in. It stays crisp and fresh, with quite some leafy herbs and some spices. Even minty, I’d say. Hints of charcoal and corn. A whiff of orange cheese cake. Maraschino cherries
The palate is quite a bit sharper than I anticipated (no info on ABV at the moment or writing). The charcoal I found on the nose is here too, as is the orange and its hint of bitterness. There’s some peanuts, or nuttiness. Slightly less creamy in texture, and far more dry than on the nose.
The finish is quite a bit more typical for a bourbon than before. Slightly less fruity and more focused on the wood. Some charcoal, and after a while there’s the sweet citrus again. Again, quite some spices.
A very decent dram, and the finish on Cognac barrels worked surprisingly well. Generally I think finished bourbon is hit or miss at best, even more so than scotch, but this one didn’t add more sweetness to an already sweet drink.
Ezra Brooks Sour Mash Bourbon, 40%, Charcoal filtered.
Rather light and sweet, with some pastry and vanilla custard notes. Corn and panettone. Popcorn, cornbread, not overly sweet.
The palate is very light too, but there’s a bit of a grainy, straw like dryness that wasn’t there before. Buttery popcorn, peanuts, pastry. Minor notes of cherry and barrel spiciness.
The finish continues down the same vein but adds boiled sweets, the sugary lemon kind. Some herbs too, tiny notes of mint and maybe even some sage. Quite light, and a bit short. With a sip of water, there’s suddenly these banana foam candies…
Apart from the fact that this one could stand up to Rebel Cognac Cask, this is a very, very light bourbon. 40% ABV is too low, I think, especially in this line-up.
Ezra Brooks Straight Rye Whiskey, 45%
Rather timid on the rye, compared to the Rebel, strangely. Or is it just shy? Crusty bread, Dutch rye bread, some oak. Some acidity and crisp apple after a while. The wood is rather forward, almost astringent. Pencil shavings. More fresh mint after a few minutes.
The palate is rather gentle on arrival, but the dryness starts up soon after. Pencil shavings, with the graphite. Rye bread, slightly burnt crusty dark bread. The dryness of walnuts, but with a slightly bitter edge to it. Oak, allspice, mint. Quite some black pepper too.
The finish has some bite to it and makes the spicy notes of the rye very well known. Lots of black pepper and allspice. Some mint too, with crusty bread.
This tastes like a rather low rye-rye, as in, I strongly doubt this is over 70% rye. This doesn’t mean it’s bad in any way, but it’s rather gentle and not too different from the bourbon.
However, this one did inspire me to pair it with my wife’s pumpkin soup. The toasty notes remind me of home made dark bread croutons in the oven, which in turn reminded me of said soup. I’ll probably not get a bottle of this (I don’t think it’s available in The Netherlands), but I’ve got other ryes to try this with.
Ezra Brooks 7yo Barrel Proof, 58.5%
Shy at first, but ominous. Like something is about to happen. Typical bourbon, but quite spicy. Might be some chili heat in there. Salted caramel, oak, even some browned butter methinks. (Roasted poblanos)
The ABV arrives quietly and shows itself mostly in building dryness. There’s a heat from sharp oak shavings and black pepper. It keeps building with notes of straw and salted caramel. Some bitter notes of almonds and cherry stones. Hints of pecan pie too. Almond/Pecan paste, puff pastry.
The finish leaves your tongue on fire, but in a good way. The Clint Eastwood face after he drinks whiskey in those westerns of his. After that there’s a lot of warmth, with caramel, butter, wood and corn. Some almonds and cherries too. Caramel pushed slightly too far.
Which this stays very much in the middle lane regarding the tasting notes, it’s quite well executed. Also, the slightly higher age than the minimum makes it better than it’s predecessors. A very tasty bourbon, and well priced too, at something around € 65