5 Bottles of Bourbon NEVER to see ice or water

January 19, 2012

Usually by the middle to end of January there is enough snow on the ground around here in NJ to make things fun.  This year not a drop.  Or a flake for that matter.  Just 1000 shades of grey.  The ground is frozen solid.  If there was any mud around, it would be frozen solid too.  I awoke to about 10 degrees this morning.

The perfect morning to taste some Bourbon.  But what is it about Bourbon that makes it so desirable in all weather?

In summer, I love it with ice and mint- in the winter straight up in a glass.  If you want it cold, put your glass outside for a bit- I'm sure your drink will be plenty cold in a short while!  If it's warm outside, may I suggest using this unique product called Whiskey Disks.  Made of soapstone, shaped like a disk- they hold the cold necessary to keep your glass of brown perfectly cool. 

No matter, warm, cold- I like it all.

Sitting in front of me are five bottles of American Whiskey. I don't recommend mixing them with anything more complicated than a splash of water or maybe some distilled water ice cubes.  Of course whatever you chose to put in your Whiskey is your business! 

Tasting notes as follows

Starting from Alameda, California.  Breaking and Entering Bourbon Whiskey-  St. George Spirits might be best known for their Vodka or their sublime Absinthe.  If you can find their Bourbon you're in for a rare treat.  This handsome bottle, designed like something you'd see resting beside a stream of cool water is a wake-up call to the senses.  The burn of 86 proof power immediately makes itself known.  My lips began to burn slightly- in a good way.  Next entering the room of my mind's eye- dark fruits and tobacco.  Sure there is some more heat, some vanilla, some smoke and a bit of leather.  It's quite refreshing really and with a splash of Branch- this mouthful really takes getting used to.  Once you do get used to it.  Watch out!   The finish goes on and on.  Jagged on the tongue it's perfect to fend off the cold and raw of a San Francisco morning.  Leave the coffee on the side and sip!

Kinnickinnic Whiskey...  What do you mean you've never heard of Kinnickinnic?  Well if you live in the Milwaukee you'd be very familiar with it. The Great Lakes Distillery hand-crafts each sip with care and passion for the art of distillation.  On first sip I tasted something I'd never tasted prior.  The alchemy of Scotland meeting Kentucky.  There is smoke in there that is reminiscent of the Highlands style of Scotch Whiskey.  Coming into view I taste dark plums cooked in maple syrup and toasted rye bread.  Leather plays in to the mouth feel and there is the scent of wildflower honey and candied yams. Little pops of cane sugar bounce off my tongue.  Butter, smoke and more leather finish each sip.  This is darned good stuff from a distillery that no one on the East Coast has ever heard of... YET!

Next up in the tasting is Buffalo Trace.  A friend of mine who is a Bourbon fan says that Buffalo Trace is her favorite.  Now I see why.  The first thing you get when wetting your lips is that flavor of white tobacco flowers- then little bursts of cigar smoke on the top of my mouth.  Leather, malt sugar and finally maple syrup comes quickly into view.  This Bourbon is thick in the mouth and finishes with a chocolate mouth feel.  It tastes marvelous.  As if it has been heated and cooled numerous times during the distillation and aging process.  The casks are charred or so they taste with vanilla and honey making these marvelous loop-the-loops around on the back of my tongue.  It's good stuff folks.  I'm honored to have a bottle on my shelf.  It's easier to drink straight, so far... 

Ah Pappy.  The veritable Holy Grail of Whiskey.  I've seen it on restaurant drink lists in NYC for the high double digits- for a GLASS.  Now by the goodness of their PR agency I have not only the venerable 15 year (107 proof) but the magnificent 20 year version.  (90.4 proof) My dear friend Forrest Coakley said last night that Noah's Mill is his favorite- I have a bit left in the bottle of Noah's Mill and I will agree with you Forrest, particularly on the price- but that is another bottle for another tasting. 

Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve are my goal today. 

Pappy Van Winkle's Family Reserve 15 year.  In life, as I've learned over a very short period of drinking Bourbon Whiskey (about 35 years now) there is good, better and best.  I won't go so far as to say that Pappy is the best, but what I will say is that it's pretty darned good.  This 107 proof slurp is making getting out of my chair very difficult this morning.  I want to delve in and dissect it, flavor by flavor as it reveals itself over my tongue.  Dark Pacific Northwest cherries are in there- packed with brown sugar and charred cornbread- made in a cast iron pan!  Leather from western saddles (foam from the steed included) is making a firm statement on my tongue- it wraps around my mouth in a volcano of activity.  This Bourbon is not for everyone.  I've just completed some notes "On Whiskey" for OKRA Magazine in New Orleans regarding Pappy.  I want to go on record saying there are many Bourbon brands out there, but Pappy is unique.  I want it to be unique!

Pappy 20.  Pappy 20 year old is to me in flavor like the combination of a wet hunting dog, wool clothes soaked from a successful duck hunt and a hot wood fire.  All these scents come into view on my tongue.  I cannot imagine what slogging in the swamps would be like, but knowing that a bottle of Pappy 20 was waiting for me on my return would make the soaked clothes and pluff- mud smelly dogs more manageable.  There is smoke in there.  Do they blow the family cigar smoke into the barrels?  I'm not sure.  What I do know is that the roundness in the mouth is exceptional.  You can taste the heat- of course- I'd be a fool to say otherwise.  Is it worth the expense?  I think so- having always wanted a bottle of my own to taste with a multitude of foods. 

For this tasting there is no food.  Only the food known as Bourbon. 

They say Pappy is made in a Wheated style.  That means instead of Rye they use Wheat.  I agree.  This adds to the creamy mouth feel.  The finish goes on and on.  The 20 year old version is most inviting in a cut crystal glass- but please, as with all these bottles of Bourbon, please leave the ice on the side and the water out of the picture. 

Taste them as you like.  I can only try to influence you in my own way!

Until then, I remain.

Cheers! wb







Forrest Smith's picture

Great reviews! I love pairing bourbon with cigars. I bought a bottle of Pappy 15 year a couple years ago, but haven't opened it yet. I'll have to try the Buffalo Trace.

Zenbeer's picture

I'm worried one of these would slip out of the glass and crack my tooth.

I'd prefer these from Thinkgeek: soapstone glasses, same price as 4 "disks" and far more useful:


My two cents. Cool idea by Whiskey Disks, it's just been done better I think.


Warren Bobrow's picture

Zen- They actually stick to the bottom of your glass. I use a nice old one- belonged to a late family member. The soapstone is so cold that it doesn't move around at all.

Warren Bobrow's picture

Zen- They actually stick to the bottom of your glass. I use a nice old one- belonged to a late family member. The soapstone is so cold that it doesn't move around at all.

Pops's picture

Great article and introduction to bourbons that some people may not have enjoyed. I'm a big fan of the Pappy 23 but recently I'm starting to think that their 15 yr might just be their best when you factor in taste and value. But that does not mean that I would turn down a few bottles of any age if offered.

If you're a fan of bourbon I'd like to invite you to check out our bourbon community on Facebook by the name of Bourbon & Banter. (https://www.facebook.com/BourbonBanter) We're a group of bourbon fans who like to share our opinions on bourbon, offer sipping advice and brag about our bourbon exploits. We'd love to have you join us if interested. And as always there's no cover charge. Cheers!

- Pops

Jerry Kunze's picture

I happened to jump into the artical about Pappy and have great memories about the history and VanWinkle. Before the distillery was bought out in 72 I had the good fortune to work for the family. It was a great place and tradition..which has been carried on by "Ripper" the grandson.

Dale Crighton's picture

Is Kinnickinnic Bourbon?

Warren Bobrow's picture

Not exactly. It is a blend of Kentucky and American Whiskey. But I included it because of the quality of the parts.

zenbeer's picture

I used to really like Buffalo Trace, I moved to it from Bulleit, which was pretty rough to drink for me, at least neat. Needed way too much ice to make it palatable. BT is a big step up from Bulleit - espcially in Kansas where you can get it from $22 a bottle. But for money and a small step up in price ($32) I'm all about this bottle of Bourbon. wonderful. Black Maple Hill Small Batch Bourbon http://www.coolhunting.com/food-drink/black-maple-hil.php

My two cents. I liked the article, I'm going to look for the Kinnickinnic around the KC area.

Warren Bobrow's picture

Zenbeer. I love Black Maple Hill! Bulleit is robust, yes. Makes for a thirst quenching mint julep! One that stands up to crushed ice and Kentucky Mint.

Black Maple Hill also does a rye, correct?

I'm all about rye.

cheers and thank you for leaving a comment on Foodista. wb