Tomorrow is September 1st, which marks the start of Bourbon Heritage Month. Here at The Birmingham Whisky Club, we’re celebrating with a series of three events dedicated to all things American (you can find more about that here), but Richard (@DukeOfDrams on Twitter) is marking it in his own way… By tasting and reviewing all things Bourbon.
September is National Bourbon Heritage Month in the USA and in celebration I’m taking another look into the world of Bourbon! I’ve taken a selection of bourbons that are more than ‘entry level’ but give you more of an experience than you might get from a basic bottle. All of the bottles are in the £35 – 40 range usually. As someone that usually drinks scotch (funnily enough) I’ve noticed that we seem to be getting a bit short changed on our corks compared to our American cousins! The bottles look fabulous and the juice is excellent to boot.
What: Blantons Single Barrel Special Reserve, 40%, American Whisky
Where: Master Of Malt – £39.95
Nose: Grain / Rye, Burnt caramel in the glass but if I nose from further away I get more dry fruit. Quite light if you don’t get a nose full of the alcohol burn!
Palate: Slightly sweet, Agave honey, feels light on the alcohol, pepper and lemon peel after holding in the mouth a while.
Finish: Rye gives way to leathery finish. Surprisingly long finish given how light it felt to this point.
The Special Reserve is a lighter release compared to the regular Blanton’s Single Barrel making it a good starter if you prefer a lighter alcohol dram. Blanton’s was named for a previous master distiller of Buffalo Trace. If you enjoy this flavour profile and want a bit more try the regular Single Barrel.
What: Elijah Craig 12, Heaven Hill, 47%, American Whisky
Where: The Wellington (or £36.85 at MoM)
Nose: Sweet. Vanilla tinged caramel with some earthiness I couldn’t pin down.
Palate: Fills the mouth well. Low complexity but very pleasant. It’s got wood, it’s got char, it’s got sweetness and a dash of spice.
Finish: Medium length and dry finish with the spice developing out.
The 12 year old version is still available but is getting rarer following being discontinued and moved to a NAS in 2016. Both are good but I’d still recommend the 12 over the NAS as the aging adds a little more to the complexity I’ve found.
What: Single Barrel, Four Roses, 50%, American Whisky
Where: Master Of Malt – £39.70
Nose: Vanilla, Stewed prunes, raisins, fresh oak
Palate: Full on. Spice from the Rye is immediately prominent but when I swirled the whisky around my tongue I got a really muscovado sweetness reminiscent of a good rum.
Finish: Leather, almost minty as the spice fades and it softens in the mouth.
This really is a solid step up from a standard Four Roses bottling for me. 60% Corn, 35% Rye, 5% Malted Barley in the mash and the Rye really stands out to me. If you’re feeling adventurous then Four Roses also have potentially 9 other Single Barrel expressions that you can seek out to try. The distillery use 5 strains of yeast and 2 mashbills giving you 10 possible outcomes. Sadly getting hold of the other 9 is quite hard as they only come up as private selection bottles.