Eight different American whiskies on a Sunday afternoon, right between Christmas and New Year. Sounds good to me!
Especially when Norbert of Whisky4All organizes it, since I’ve not had any disappointing tastings with him. Sure, there was some money involved, since this is by no means a run of the mill line-up. Some $ 500 bottles were planned, both old and new stuff!
Let’s dive right in!
Fleischmann’s Select, 4 years old, 43%, bottled in 1973
Lots of wood at first, with some grain and corn right after. Some vanilla sweetness, but not a lot. Charred sawdust, Brazil nuts, some charcoal.
Quite some dryness, a lot of oak. Chili pepper heat. Fairly straight forward, dry tobacco leaves. Cherries in syrup.
The finish is surprisingly soft and sweet. Corn, cornbread, a whiff of apple, vanilla.
Interesting and absolutely not bad, but the nose, palate and finish don’t really line up. It’s a tad inconsistent.
Ironroot Harbinger XC, Cognac Cask 20A, 45%
Insanely dry on the nose. Lots of dry grains, with hints of dried mint leaves. “Crafty”, somehow. Dried herbs, putty, a hint of glue. Granny Smith apples, licorice.
The palate is quite a lot softer than I expected. Still dry, young, crafty. Some heat, cherry stones, almonds. Slightly bitter.
The finish is, if possible, even more dry. Lots of oak, some dark chocolate, suddenly. Mocha, cold brew coffee.
Quite typical for crafty and young bourbon. Almost like the oak was forced onto the whisky. That’s not a bad thing, but just something quite different to what’s happening at the big old distilleries.
Whistlepig 18, Double Malt Rye, 46%
Strangely, the initial scent is that of a glue and washing-up-liquid. I tried a second glass to make sure that it wasn’t the glass. Maybe it needs some time.
Veers towards minty chocolate, bay leaf, marzipan, lots of oak.
The palate is very gentle, but does build up in heat a little bit. Some After Eight, chili peppers, oak. ‘schuimblok’. Bay leaf.
The finish brings back that slightly chemical note of the nose, but in a more candy like way (schuimblokken). Bay leaf and a very slight acidic note.
This quite typical Dutch candy note was a tad suggestive with someone else in the group naming it first, but after that there was no way around it.
Also, this whisky starts really weird on the nose. At first I was a bit disappointed, but it got massively better with air, and by tasting it started to make a lot more sense too. Great stuff!
Elijah Craig Toasted Barrel, New Toasted Oak, 47%
Sweet bourbon, with quite a lot of depth. Some sweetness, some cherry. Almonds, puff pastry, vanilla. Orange rind, Triple Sec.
The palate brings a lot of oak, very dry with sawdust, some charcoal, vanilla and oak. Cherry syrup, slightly sugary, custard. Later it gets quite a lot of black and chili pepper.
The finish is quite oaky, and tones down the sweetness. Sawdust and very oak forward. After a few seconds there’s quite a lot of fruit with raisins and cherry.
The main thing (the only thing?) that’s different compared to the regular Elijah Craig is the way the oak was treated. And what a difference that makes!
The normal (formerly 12 year old) is a very solid bourbon by any means, and this one is very much hit or miss, according to reviews. I’m on the ‘hit’ side of things. The toasting brings a lot of new oak driven flavors, without this being too oaky.
Blood Oath Pact 6, Cognac finish, 49.3%
Slightly barbecue-y, brown sugar and oak. Some honey and licorice, vanilla and cherry. Orange liqueur, with hints of cinnamon.
Very sweet, quite strong and therefore rather hot. Oak, hints of flowers, insanely dry. Orange juice and barbecue notes.
The finish has some nice dry notes with the savory barbecue notes, some dried flowers.
The barbecue-y hints are like when I’m making my own sauce. The moment I add the onion powder and brown sugar. People thought I was going insane when I mentioned it, but that’s the note I got.
To me this is a very solid whisky once again. There’s quite some age to the bourbons used, and as it turns out, bourbon works very well with brandy and cognac casks.
Catoctin Creek Cask Proof Rye, Roundstone Rye, Batch B15E1, 58%
Nail polish remover, glue. What the actual fuck? Pine, lemon. All purpose cleaning liquid.
Gentle for the ABV, but with quite some chili heat, simple syrup, nail polish remover, glue. Becomes very hot after a while.
The finish shows some oak, wine gums, licorice. Very chemical.
I really wanted to like this, but I don’t. I even tried pouring it into a fresh glass in case the one I used was somehow not clean. It did not matter. I really think this stuff is wrong. I finished my sample, just to check if it didn’t grow on me, but I can’t bring myself to like this.
Four Roses 12 years old, Limited Edition Small Batch 2020, 55.7%
Lots of brown sugar with a slight savory note. Some oak, a lovely sweetness, milk chocolate, caramel. Some warm fruit like papaya and mango.
The palate has quite some heat, but there’s a lot of tropical sweetness. Lots of fruit like mango, papaya, tinned pineapple. Dry oak after a while, with chili heat.
The palate has some toast and jam at first, but goes towards pepper and oak right after. Fruity with lots of sweet tropical fruits.
This, dear reader, is absolutely gorgeous. Luckily I own a bottle although I’ve not taken the time to sit down with/for it yet. I know I gladly will sometime in the future.
The tropical fruit works really well for this whisky and adds a layer of flavors that I don’t often find in American whisky. Glorious stuff.
Kentucky Owl Batch 9, The Wiseman’s Bourbon, 63.8%
It has the typical bourbon notes of brown sugar, corn and oak. But also a slightly weird note of glue. A bit of burnt butter and Scottish tablet.
Very dry, with a building heat. Vanilla and cherry sweetness, with caramel and puff pastry. Molasses and burnt sugar. Buttery.
The finish has a bit of heat, but lingers mostly on the caramel, oak and molasses. Slightly rummy.
With an absolutely mental ABV, this one hit hard even after all that came before. The entire whisky is a bit weird with the buttery and rum like notes, but somehow it works very well. Again, one that stands out among the crowd. Once again, a shame it’s so expensive.
I don’t think I have to tell anyone that this was an awesome tasting! I had a great time and (except one) great whisky. Some scored as expected, one scored massively lower than I hoped, and some were way above average.
It goes to say that American whisky has a lot more to offer than most people I know think, which is a shame. Then again, do we really need more fans of the stuff with prices as they are?
The clear winner of the night was the Four Roses, but I wouldn’t be disappointed with another glass of the Kentucky Owl, Whistlepig or Blood Oath at all!