Thursday, August 29, 2013

Jim Beam Black

Nose: Beam yeast. Sugar cookie sweetness. Rye licorice. Astringent in a glencairn glass, surprisingly so for a 43% spirit. A watery, dank smell I’d associate with a matured spirit. A simple nose, not a lot of spice, but a sweet, yeasty Beam nose.

Taste: Sugar cookie base, mineral water, bitter rye, and finally some middleweight oak. Great mouthfeel for a mid-shelf product. The mouthfeel travels the entire palate, it’s rich and fully coating. The heat of the nose is not found on the palate.

Finish: Late rye spice builds into a warm, slower burn and concludes with a little oaky mouthfeel.

Balance: A great product that shows what Beam has to offer. Nothing fancy. Not a small batch release. Not a super high rye. Just a daily drinker that offers a good taste at a superb value. This product and other distilleries’ flagship products (Wild Turkey 101, Buffalo Trace, HH stuff (it seems like everything HH releases is in this price and prestige category))

Stupid Letter Grade: B+ (Edit 9/29 B/B+)

Would I buy again: Actually, not for a while. It’s good, it’s a product everyone and every beginner should try. Despite the fact I liked it, it’s not going into heavy rotation. I would absolutely buy this as a gift for a whiskey beginner.

Deviations from other reviewers: None worth noting. Everyone out there seems to think this is a solid product.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage 2001

Nose: Sweet corn meets dusty wood. Bitter spice profile. Cinnamon. All propelled into your nose via a sweet acetone/ketone smell. (If you’ve ever smelled someone’s breath during ketoacidosis you’ll know what I’m talking about). Some industrial solvent notes kicking in at the way end. Maybe a hint of green apple. Great nose

Taste: Classic Heaven Hill -- dank stone basement and spiced fruit cider crashes head on into particularly woody oak. Middle age bourbon mouthfeel -- slightly watery and oily. The beginning of a Scotch-style mouthfeel but this product is fortunately stopped short of that -- continuing the aging may through off the impressive spice/sweet/oak balance this product is currently running.

Finish: Oak and unspecific mid palate bitterness and warmth kicks into high gear. Surprisingly light on the oak tongue feeling. A little more of that gravelly rock flavor finally kick into the end.

Balance: As good as any heaven hill product is. This product tastes suspiciously like a lot of those non distiller produced products that sell for a couple bucks more. To me, Heaven Hill has the most wood forward profile and this product seems a little more in balance when compared to Elijah Craig 12.  I’d say (along with many others) that this product is as good as any other 25 dollar bourbon (this can be routinely found on sale in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area for 20 on sale) It’s not trendy. It’s not from those super popular distilleries. But it’s good.

Stupid letter grade: B+ (Edit 9/29 B/B+)

Me vs Experts: This is a routinely celebrated product and maybe the reason I started comparing my opinions to respected bourbon reviewers. My first bottle of this I thought was bad (I think it was a 2003, but I have no idea); when I compared this to reviews online my thoughts were way off the consistency of other reviewers. What I learned from these reviews is how to respect and enjoy a good, strong oak profile. It's not my favorite element of bourbon, but I've learned to like it. It’s taken me a long time to warm up to this product and now I more or less agree with other people’s reviews. Here's a good example

Would I buy again: Yes. Every year.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

About My Reviews

For this blog I'm going to be writing mostly new reviews and pulling reviews from my journal. I'll try to pull a time stamp if I am going in the wayback files.

I try to comment on the following.

Color: Only if really significant. Scotch is generally light brown to straw, bourbon is a dark amber. It's hard enough to keep fresh writing about the oak influence on a bourbon without thinking of another metaphor for brown.

Nose: Yup.

Taste: Basic flavor profile of the spirit, experienced on the tongue from front to back.

Finish: Lingering flavors after swallow. Mouthfeel, bitters, weird oak remnants, etc.

Balance: What I think this whiskey represents or how this whiskey compares to what it's supposed to compare to.

Stupid Letter Grade: As a person who works in a hospital laboratory, sensitivity, specificity, and precision are daily concerns. The sense of smell and taste are impressively sensitive instruments, but these words, my mood, and a bunch of other factors diminish the accuracy of the review. For that reason I do not use a x/100 score. Instead I use a letter grade, as I can imagine the difference between a B and a B+. But the difference between an 81 and 82 is, in the context of this untrained reviewer, worthless. I do not use a rubric, but my biggest factors are taste and balance. The next time you see a x/100 score, ask yourself, do you know what the score is established on?

Would I buy again: Put your money where your mouth is. Factors in price hopefully a little more. I have a sense of thrift, so this should be factored in here.

Me vs Experts: Comments on my review score versus other reviews, blogs, and books out there. I do put some emphasis on how I score versus other people. To know how a function is performing you should calibrate to a standard. Given there is no standard I am aware of, a peer consensus is another evaluation tool.

Another Spirits Blog?

I can recall my first whiskey purchase. It was a bottle of Canadian Club. In retrospect it was a good recommendation because you're really not going to taste your first bottle as you acclimate to the high proof of a spirt. The salesman was also honest; your first bottle probably shouldn't be in the premium or even middle shelf area. I cannot remember what it tastes like.

My first tasting I attended was a Cognac/Armangiac seminar with my wife. The star of that show was Kelt XO, we bought some expensive liqueur (Extase XO). It's still about 80% full about four years later. Good experience, dumb purchase. I'm an obsessive type personality and that experience probably brought me from being casually interested in spirits to obsessive about spirits.