February 25, 2009

Economic Bourbon Reviews, Part VII: Ten High Blended

We've reached the final whiskey review, which falls to Ten High. I've had Ten High a few times before, but never tasted the new blended expression that has replaced the Kentucky straight bourbon Ten High once was. The venerable Chuck Cowdery discusses the change from straight to the blend here, here, and here. I'm not sure I remember the former, straight Ten High, so I'm not sure I can compare it to the blended version. But that is the topic of another discussion anyway.

Ten High is bottled by Barton Distilling Company. It's 80 proof and made by the sour mash method, which I discussed briefly in the Evan Williams review. I've heard the name "Ten High" comes from the poker hand, the ten-high straight.

Neat: The nose of Ten High is ethanol, which is likely due to the fact it's a blend, meaning it's been blended with 49% neutral grain spirits (vodka). Behind the alcohol aroma is some vanilla sweetness and maybe some light fruit notes. Mouthfeel is slightly oily. Taste is not complex, kind of blunted, with oak and a tiny amount of smokiness. Very easy to drink. It finishes quick, with an astringent, grainy burn. It's uninteresting.

Whiskey Sour: Ten High mixed into an okay whiskey sour. Certainly nothing spectacular. But, I hope you wouldn't be too snooty to turn it down. It puts the booze into your drink, and just be happy enough with that. Like the other bourbons in this review series, Ten High's price is outstanding given its quality.

As you might have guessed, Ten High did not beat Old Grand Dad as my favorite cheap bourbon. Like Rebel Yell, it falls in the huddled masses of the average middle group. If Ten High is all that you have on hand for an impromptu party or is all that is left in your liquor cabinet when the urge to have a whiskey arises, don't fret.

Well, the reviews are in. Old Grand Dad takes the cake in my book. However, there was not a bad bourbon in the bunch. Considering the low prices of these bottles, and in the spirit of the enjoyment of spirits, you really can't go too wrong with any one of these bourbons. I hope that even in the worst of economic times, at least one of these whiskies is accessible to you.

February 24, 2009

Economical Bourbon Reviews, Part VI: Rebel Yell

And we come to Rebel Yell. It's name would suggest a nod to the Civil War South, and before the whiskey was acquired by an International distiller, its label read, "Especially for the Deep South." I wonder if sales increased when that slogan was edited from the label?

Rebel Yell is a Kentucky straight bourbon, is a pale, straw color, and is 80 proof. It is a wheated bourbon, meaning that wheat and not rye is used as the grain. Wheated bourbons are supposed to be softer and smoother than others, and I think that is generally true. It's made per its original W.L. Weller recipe.

Neat: The nose is very soft, dry, and a little citrusy, suggesting that the taste is light. Mouthfeel is watery and thin. As for taste, Rebel Yell has a sugary sweetness that quickly dissapates into a licorice and herbal spice. Simple, subtle, and docile. The finish was oaky, dry, and left a calm, lingering burn on the roof of the mouth. It is mellow and unassertive.

Whiskey Sour: Rebel Yell is a good fit in a whiskey sour. Since there wasn't any real complexity in its flavor when drank neat, there isn't much lost when mixed in a cocktail. The lemon and the sugar become the predominant flavors, but the finish is still dry and wooden. It's above average, but not memorable.

Rebel Yell has been the most mellow and soft of the whiskies thus far. For that, I give it credit as it has differentiated itself from the others. Being of the mind that you should chose a bourbon that fits your mood, I think Rebel Yell would be a good choice for a calm and lazy afternoon drink. I liked it more than Ancient Age, but not as much as Old Grand Dad or Early Times. It's in the middle of the pack, and stands out in that crowd because of its softness. When I think of a rebel yell, I think of fury, aggression, and relentlessness. In that regard, Rebel Yell is incorrectly named.

February 23, 2009

Economical Bourbon Reviews, Part V: Old Grand Dad 86 Proof

Here we are, already into the fifth inexpensive bourbon, marking the antepenultimate review in this series. The last time I had Old Grand Dad was at a friend's wedding in the Poconos, about 3 years ago. If I remeber correctly, it was the only whiskey the bar stocked. Needless to say, I have fond memories of it.

Old Grand Dad, with its distinctive bright orange label, is a Kentucky straight bourbon. It's currently produced by Jim Beam, and is said to be named after Basil Hayden. It's recipe dates back to before the Prohibition.

Neat: Old Grand Dad's nose is grainy, spicy, and woody. Lurking way in the background is some caramel sweetness. So far, so very, very good. The taste is rye at first, then a spicy crispness. The finish is all over the mouth and tongue, and is a permeating, strong burn that dissipates into an agreeable warmness. It's like getting slapped in the face, but it being an enjoyable experience you'd want to repeat. Old Grand Dad is brusque and tough. Wonderful.

Whiskey Sour: The sugar in the whiskey sour certainly sweetens the Old Grand Dad up, but its rye flavor is still alive and kicking. I find myself wishing that I was still drinking it neat, as I would a higher-priced bourbon. That isn't to say, however, that mixing it is bad. Rather, the mix was still in keeping with the character of Old Grand Dad neat: good and strong. Having said that, I do think I prefer it neat. I am going to see how it fares in a manattan. I think it has earned a spot on the varsity team.

I think we have a winner. I know there are still two more bourbons to go, but as of today, Old Grand Dad edges out Early Times. The back label on the bottle reads, "Since 1882, the unique marriage of body and flavor in Old Grand-Dad whiskey has been the standard by which all others are judged." I think this motto is justified, at least within the arena of bourbons under $12.99 a bottle. Well done.

February 21, 2009

Economical Bourbon Reviews, Part IV: Old Forester

Next, alphabetically, is Old Forester. I'm happy that Old Forester is part of this review series because I haven't tried it before, and without the review, who knows when I would have sampled it. Let's see if it is worth of being tried again.

Old Forester, like Early Times, is produced by Brown-Forman. It is a Kentucky straight "whisky" (spelled without the "e," a subject of some debate ) and clocks in at 86 proof. Old Forester is known to be America's first bottled bourbon, which is to say that it was the first to be sold solely in distillery-sealed bottles. I think this ensured that the bourbon wasn't tampered with prior to the sale and thus guranteed quality.

Neat: The nose presented cinnamon toast and dark fruits/black cherry. There's some spiciness, too. Mouthfeel was watery, and didn't hint at taste. As for taste, the rye comes through assertively. I was expecting to get some maltiness, but I couln't find any. There is also a dankness in the background, like a musty basement. At the end is when the sweetness pops its head in. Quickly. Old Forester finishes with a definite tannic burn but isn't overpowering. Oak and some char are in there as well.

Whiskey Sour: When mixed, Old Forester's rye bite was still there, as was it astringency. I'm not sure if I liked the sour better with Old Forester or Evan Williams. That makes me think it's close enough to call it a draw. So, in keeping with my thoughts on Evan Williams, the sour is average, and being average doesn't mean I won't drink a few or more of them. It's not a memorable experience, but who really needs it to be?

In sum, Old Forester 86 proof is a great value. I rank it together with Evan Williams, so while ahead of Ancient Age, it's just behind Early Times. As I mentioned, this was my first experience with Old Forester, and it gave me a firm handshake but had little to say. I think you could easily do worse.

February 20, 2009

Economical Bourbon Reviews, Part III: Evan Williams Black Label

In the third installment of bourbons that won't break the bank, I turn to Evan Williams. Evan Williams is distilled in Bardstown, KY, by Old Evan Williams Distillery, which is a subsidiary of the well known Heaven Hill Distilleries. EW was created in 1960 and is named after one of Kentucky's first distillers. (As an interesting aside, Evan Williams the distiller began distilling in 1793 in Louisville, KY, but had to close shop about 20 years later due to complaints from his neighbors. I guess not everyone in Kentucky is a bourbon lover). EW is touted as being the second best selling Kentucky straight bourbon in the U.S., and has a significant international presence, too. And, to be honest, a bottle of it closely resembles Jack Daniel's if a quick, passing glance is all you give it.

EW black label is bottled at 86 proof, and is distilled using the sour mash method. For those unfamiliar with this method, it describes a distillation process in which mash from previous batches is used to ferment and distill new bourbon (more on this process later). This method helps to ensure consistency among different bottlings. Ok. The tasting.

Neat: Upon intial nosing, soft vanilla and corn. Maybe some fruit notes after a few inhales. The smell has a balance, but isn't burdened with having to balance too much. Mouthfeel coats the tongue well, little bit of a burn at the edges. From feel to taste, there isn't much transition. There is a buttery nature to the taste, which layers well with an ethanol tingle. Then some spiciness, a good amount, that makes itself known late. The taste is not complex, and I don't mean to imply that that's a bad thing at all. EW finishes with corn and dry wood that hits the roof of your mouth. It ends with a healthy whisp of astrigency.

Whiskey Sour: Evan Williams makes a makes a good sour. It's tannic finish is blunted by the sweetness or sourness, not sure, of the cocktail. Also, the ice and the water that melts from it mellows the bourbon. However, the corn presence is almost magnified when mixed. I think the whiskey sour is average, and I would have no problem drinking a few of them throughout the evening.

Overall, Evan Williams is better than Ancient Age, and comes in as a close second behind Early Times. And for the purists out there who don't want to compare apples to oranges, which I may myself be, it is a better bourbon that Ancient Age. As with other cheaper bourbons, EW is a great value. Seeing as I paid $9.49 for a 750 ml bottle, I am in no position to complain about its quality. Picking up a bottle of it to have on hand is a smart choice in my mind. Think of it this way: you can have ten normally-sized drinks from the bottle at less that one dollar each. So, there you are.

February 19, 2009

Economical Bourbon Reviews, Part II: Early Times

Ok, I know, I know. Technically Early Times is not a bourbon, but a Kentucky Whiskey (well, "Whisky" as labelled) on account of some of it being aged in used barrels. However, in the spirit of thriftiness, I thought it deserved a place in the economical bourbon review series. After all, in trying times rules must be bent.

Early Times, as the label will tell you, was established in 1860. The distillery was founded by Jim Beam's uncle, John, and has since passed to the Brown-Forman Company. It is now made in Shively, KY and was wildly popular in the 1950's. Early Times has recently enjoyed a lot of success abroad, as an export.

Neat: ET is darker than one might think, being an amber-brown. The nose is vanilla, vanilla, vanilla with some caramel and slight citrus. It encourages you to taste it. Mouthfeel is more oily than Ancient Age, and has a greater presence. Early Times' taste has a honey sweetness, with undertones of leather. It is a much bigger taste than Ancient Age but is not overwhelming at all. I enjoy its simplicity, as if it's proud to be uncomplicated. It finishes in a hurry and treads lightly with only a timid burn. I thought it was very satisfying.

Whiskey Sour: Early Times makes a great whiskey sour. There isn't much analysis to be done here; when mixed, it makes a whiskey sour taste like you'd hope one would. It's easy to drink, making the glass hard to put down until you're done.

Early Times is surprisingly tasty. It's low prices belies its quality, and if I drank it blind, I'm not sure if I wouldn't be tricked into thinking it was a higher-priced whiskey. At bars, ET is usually relegated to the rail, but compared to its company at that class of drink, it is definitely an over-achiever. An outstanding value that has earned its place on a bourbon blog.

February 18, 2009

Economical Bourbon Reviews, Part I: Ancient Age

Everyone knows that times are tough and that those of us who still have jobs should consider themselves lucky. The economy being what it is, and disposable income being cut, I thought I would review some economical bourbons.

I chose seven bourbons, and made my choices by price alone (and I suppose availability in Southern California as well) - no 750 ml bottle was more expensive than $12.99. Today, I will start with Ancient Age, for no other reason than it being first alphabetically. I'll review the bourbons neat as well as mixed in a whiskey sour seeing as the ingredients for whiskey sours are very cheap: lemons and sugar. So, here goes.

Ancient Age is a Buffalo Trace Distillery product, and thus hails from Frankfort, KY. It is bottled at 80 proof and is a straight bourbon aged for 3 years.

Neat: The nose presents a lot of corn and sweetness. Some butterscotch in there, too. Mouthfeel is clean, not viscous. No initial burn either. Ancient Age tastes young, very slight spiciness and substantial sweetness with not much complexity at all. Finish is dry, woody, and pretty short with a faint, pleasant burn. Overall, nothing outstanding but nothing to pour down the drain either. It is what it is and is far from disappointing.

Whiskey Sour: When mixed into a sour, Ancient Age presented well. It blended nicely with the acid of the lemon and was complemented by the sugar. It makes a simple, refreshing drink and since there is not much complexity to it, no subleties are overpowered by the sour and sugar in any significant way. A great choice for a cheap cocktail at home (or at the office?)

Ancient Age does not disappoint. I would rather mix it with some sour mix or even with some cola, and save the more expensive bottles for sipping. For bourbon on the cheap, you get what you pay for, and then some, with this one.

February 17, 2009

Old Fashioned, But Still Hip

Like a Manhattan, the Old Fashioned is a quintessential bourbon cocktail. Legend holds that it was invented in Kentucky, which may place it at the top of the list of all bourbon cocktails.

The history of the drink that I choose to believe is that an Old Fashioned was created around the turn of the 20th century by Colonel James Pepper, a Kentucky bourbon distiller, and a bartender at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, KY. It has also been said that the Old Fashioned may have been the first mixed drink to be called a "cocktail." However, I think people said the same about a martini, so who knows for sure. Anyway, I think it's fair to say that the old-fashioned glass was, in fact, named after the drink.

An Old Fashioned is made by placing a sugar cube/teaspoon of sugar in an old-fashioned glass and soaking it with a few dashes of Angustora bitters. After the sugar and bitters have mixed, add enough club soda to cover the sugar and then muddle it all together. Next add the bourbon (however much you want, we're all adults here....) and a splash more of the club soda. You can garnish it with an orange slice and maraschino cherry should you want to. I usually do if I have fruit handy as it definitely completes the drink. If you are extra ambitious, you can also add a twist of lemon to finish it off.

The Old Fashioned is a sweet, refreshing cocktail. It was once called a "palate-paralyzer," but I'm glad that name, or more specifically misnomer, went to the wayside - "palate-pleaser" is much more accurate.

I enjoy Old Fashioneds very much, and I guess Cole Porter did as well, as he wrote "Make it Another Old-Fashioned, Please." A smart guy, that Cole Porter.

February 16, 2009

The Laws of Bourbon

No bourbon blog would be complete without a discussion of what actually makes whiskey a "bourbon." So, what is bourbon? Federal law will tell you.

To legally be a bourbon, at least 51% of the grain used to make it must be corn. No less. Further, the whiskey cannot be distilled at a proof higher than 160, and when put into the barrels for aging, it cannot be higher than 125 proof. The aging must take place in fire-charred oak barrels that have not yet held any spririts. If the whiskey is distilled and aged in this way, it can be called straight bourbon. Finally, nothing can be added during the bottling other than water, making bourbon a very "natural" drink.

This all seems very technical. However, within these rules, there is still a lot of room for creativity and individuality. How else could we have such a variety of spririts that qualify as bourbon? Some of this creativity is found with the amount of corn used - 51% is only the minimum, and several distillers use much more than that. Also, the level of char in the aging barrels will influence the character of the bourbon, as will the other grains used in addition to the corn such as rye or wheat. And, of course, the years spent in the barrels will have a direct impact on the taste, color, and subtleties of a bourbon whiskey.

In addition to straight bourbon, we have "small-batch" bourbon, blended bourbons, and single barrel bourbons. Small batch bourbons, such as Knob Creek and Baker's, are bourbons that are bottled from a blend of a select handful of barrels. Such bourbons are usually aged between 6 and 9 years, and have top-shelf qualities due to the careful decisions that go into the selection of the batch of barrels used in the bottlings. Only the choicest barrels or bourbon are used.

Single-barrel bourbons are, well, bourbons bottled from a single barrel. Each single barrel bourbon is bottled without be blended with the bourbon from seperate barrels. Single barrel bourbons may have slight taste changes from barrel to barrel.

Blended bourbons are bourbons that are bottled from the blend of several (like hundreds of) different barrels - many more barrels that used in small batch production. Blends allow for control over taste and other characterisitcs so there is continuity between a bottle today and one sold 10 years from now.

Well, there you are. As for me, I have the day off and it's cold and rainy outside - the perfect opportunity to pour myself a glass of something to warm me up.

February 11, 2009

Woodford Reserve Review

Woodford Reserve ranks very high on my list of sipping bourbons. I almost always drink it neat, but is just fine with ice, too. It happens to also be the official bourbon of both the Kentucky Derby as well as the Breeder's Cup. Giddy Up. The distillery is located in the middle of bluegrass country, in Versailles, Woodford County, KY, and uses copper stills. It is supposedly an extremely picturesque area, and worth visiting. It's certainly on my list.

Woodford is 90.4 proof. It has an orangy-amber color, and comes in a distinct flask-like bottle. But let's get to the tasting:

The nose is clean and not overpowering with definite cherry, vanilla and spice notes. Very pleasant. The nose hints at what becomes a peppery tang taste, but it also belies a dry and woody taste. After the initial dry pepperiness, a sweetness pushes its way through - a maple syrupy sweetness without being heavy. Woodford's finish is long, dry, with calm alcohol burn that makes its way up and our your nose. A great thing.

In all, Woodford Reserve is moderately priced and will never disappoint. It should be a mainstay in your liquor cabinet. Also, I think it is an outstanding introduction to more sophisticated bourbons, should you be on the look-out for such. As always, your thoughts are encouraged.

February 10, 2009

Kentucky to Tax Booze, Bourbon?

The Kentucky legislature is attempting to get a bill passed that would place a 6% tax on all alcohol sold in the state in addition wholesale taxes that currently exist on bourbon. This measure is being met with some pretty strong resistance from bourbon and other alcohol industry representatives. In fact, industy representatives protested this tax today by pouring bourbon on the Kentucky State Capital's front steps. While I am not quite sure what they thought they would accomplish by doing so, I suppose desperate times call for desperate measures.

The bill is set to go before the House and Senate before the Governor gets to review it. It looks, however, like the bill has support from all the right/wrong places (depending on your point of view) and will be passed in some form or another. Since Kentucky is facing a $450 million possible loss in revenue for the upcoming year, several politicians are looking at this bill as a measure to create more money for the state. In fact, the bill is slated to be signed by February 14, 2009, and would be put immiately into effect.

What does this mean for bourbon? Well, if the tax is implemented, thus raising the price of a bottle of bourbon, in theory people will buy less of it. With less demand, retailers cannot maintain their current supply, and will stock less booze. This in turn will hurt distributors and then producers/distilleries, the end product being job loss. It could also cause Kentuckians to cross state borders to buy their beloved bourbon (and other spirits) for cheaper. And, let's not forget the coopers that make bourbon barrels and the bartenders that serve bourbon. Again, this downturn is just theory. What happens in practice may be different. I suppose we will see, and in short order. Stay tuned for updates.

Listen to an interview with Eric Gregory, President of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association and find out how to voice your opinion to Kentucky legislators about this tax here.

So, what do you think about this probable tax? Fair? A disaster waiting to happen? A necessity?

February 9, 2009

The Manhattan: The (Big) Apple of My Eye

A manhattan is easily one of my top three favorite mixed drinks, if not number one. It is simple to make and can take on several different characteristics depending, obviously, on the type of whiskey used. The manhattan, as with all things bourbon, is made more enjoyable by understanding its past.

The manhattan was originally made with rye. However, since other whiskies are more common these days in bars, manhattans are mostly mixed with Canadian whiskey (which has a high rye content) or bourbon. Sometimes even Tennessee whiskey is used. It got its name, apparently, because it was first created in a Manhattan club in the late nineteenth century at a banquet hosted by Winston Churchill's mother to honor president-elect Sam Tilden. Other stories agree that it may have been created in New York, but had nothing to do with Churchill's mom. Either way...

I make my manhattans with bourbon, a splash of sweet vermouth, and a few dashes of Angastora bitters. I've long since done away with strict measurements. I prefer them in a martini glass, with a cherry, shaken with a good amount of ice, and strong. Bulleit makes a great manhattan, as does Rock Hill Farms if you like to add a lot of sweet vermouth (Rock Hill holds up very nice to a sweet mixer). An old standby's like Maker's Mark also makes a tasty cocktail.

Here is a video that takes you through the mixing steps. I don't really think a virgin manhattan mixer needs a visual tutorial, but the video is pretty funny because it has a grammar-school-learning-aid feel to it. Pretty sure I didn't get to watch this in 5th grade though.

My father-in-law loves Crown Royal in his manhattan, and says it makes the smoothest manhattan there is. Another friend uses nothing else but Buffalo Trace to mix his drink. Every different bourbon creates a unique manhattan. Which bourbon is your favorite in your manhattans?

February 7, 2009

A Tribute to Elijah Craig As A Symbol Of Bourbon's Origins

There is some debate whether or not Elijah Craig, the man and not the bourbon of his namesake, created bourbon. Craig was born in Virginia and was a distiller and a Baptist preacher. Craig later moved to Kentucky where he continued to distill whiskey and is said to have run a mill to grind corn which was used in the early production of what became known as bourbon. He is also credited with being the first whiskey distiller to age his liquor in charred oak casks, thus laying the foundation for the rules of bourbon-making as we know them today and perhaps giving him his "Father of Bourbon" moniker. History being an imperfect thing, the single inventor of bourbon may never be truly known. However, I consider Craig's legend to be the symbol of bourbon's heritage in America; an honor that deserves respectful recognition. His image should hang above every bourbon-lover's fireplace. Or liquor cabinet. Or favorite recliner. Or above this post for simplicity's sake. But, I digress.

Other sources indicate that Craig was not the founding father of bourbon, or at least was one of many, many bourbon makers of his day. Wherever the truth lies, who cares? Really. That we have a symbol of bourbon's creation is enough for me. Enjoying bourbon whiskey is not an objective, formulaic endeavor and neither should be its history. Perhaps subjectivity confounds the purpose of "history," but it absolutely lends itself to the enjoyment of bourbon. And the fact that critique, debate, and individual disagreement surround Craig's title as Inventor of Bourbon makes him a perfect figurehead to represent the subleties of bourbon enjoyment.

February 5, 2009

Can Bourbon Cure a Cold?

Truth be told, bourbon has had mitigating effects on colds I have had over the years. My experiences have revealed that a glass or two or bourbon is the ticket to a clear-headed morning. Of course, it should go without saying that if you drink too much, your prospects of waking with bright eyes and a sunny disposition will likely be replaced by a hangover. So, don't overdo it.

Anyhow, I've decided to search around and see if "cold killer" could be legitimately added to the list of bourbon's wonderful qualities. Is bourbon good for what ails ya?

I did discover some (pseudo?) medical evidence of the medicinal benefits of hot toddies, which contain bourbon or other whiskies. However, the majority of reports of bourbon being another over the counter cold cure are anecdotal. Such accounts include throwing some garlic cloves into a bottle, waiting a bit, and then drinking the bourbon and garlic together. Seems harsh. Several sources reiterated the hot toddy cure, stating the belief that alcohol kills germs. Still others emphatically proclaim that drinking alcohol while sick dimishes your immune system and just makes you sicker. Hmmmmmm. I hadn't realized this was such a contentious topic. More stories said gin and grapefruit is the answer. Other said rum. One guy said a pint of warm beer does the trick. Is there a doctor in the house?

Well, I guess to each is own. For me, bourbon does work, in addition to some vitamin C tablets during the day if I so choose. Next time you get ambushed by a cold, give bourbon a go. Might as well make your liquor cabinet as versatile as possible.

February 4, 2009

Eagle Rare Review - A Rare Bird Indeed

I have to mention that Eagle Rare 10 year is my favorite bourbon. The list to the left is not in any particular order; that is, notwithstanding the # 1 position. Eagle Rare is the best in every aspect.

I discovered Eagle Rare relatively late in my bourbon drinking career. I recall talking about bourbon with a friend a few years ago when he mentioned that his father would give a case of Eagle Rare to each of his clients as end-of-the-year presents. "A whole case of bourbon?" I asked, wondering what client of mine would ever warrant such a generous gift. "Yeah. My father thought that it was the best bourbon around." Well, I had to find out myself. Within a week, I had bought a bottle.

Since that first taste, Eagle Rare has firmly held its spot at the top of my bar. As I'm actually enjoying a glass of it as I write this (I always drink it neat), it's the perfect time for my first bourbon review.

Eagle Rare is a straight Kentucky bourbon and weighs in at 90 proof. Generally speaking, it provides a full bodied, rugged sip. It is certainly subtle in many ways, but it ain't no feeble quaff. More specifically, the first taste gives a medium spiciness that is tempered by an almost sherry-sweet tingle and a more marked dry oakiness. Hints of fruit are definitely present. The finish pleasantly burns, and reminds you of the charred barrel in which it was aged. At all times Eagle rare presents it's corn-induced sweetness, and has a mouthfeel that morphs from oily at first to rich at the end. The reason it ranks at the top of my list is its complex balance of flavor and mighty, raw character.

Other highlights of Eagle Rare are its relatively low cost - around $30. For the quality, $30 is awesome. It should also come as no suprise that Buffalo Trace, another outstanding bourbon-cum-distillery, produces this fine potable. No doubt I will discuss Buffalo Trace in subsequent posts. Eagle Rare was also the Double Gold Winner at the 2008 San Francisco World Spririts Competition.

In a final thought, I hope that other bourbon lovers regard bourbon as much more than just booze, but rather as a complement to, well, life. Please share your favorite bourbons, or thoughts in general.

February 3, 2009

Maker's Mark Ambassadors

I've recently discoved the Ambassador's Program with Maker's Mark. Happily, it's absolutely free and requires only the completion of a simple form. The main "duty" of would-be ambassadors is to simply promote the Maker's Mark product. And I mean "promote" in the loosest sense of the word: tell a friend about Maker's and you've accomplished your obligations.

Some of the perks of being an ambassador include getting your name etched into a bona fide Maker's Mark bourbon barrel, and the opportunity to buy a bottle from that batch. In addition, you get access to a members-only website, and advanced notice of certain Maker's special releases. The exclusive website is pretty cool.

Becoming an ambassador is worthwhile. It's free and you get to tell people your own personal bourbon barrel is aging in Loretto. I'll keep you posted with any other yet to be discovered perks of ambassadorship. Anyone who is a veteran ambassador is encouraged to share their experiences.

February 2, 2009

Bourbon: An American Establishment

Unlike so much else in this country, Bourbon is distinctly American. Bourbon's link with American history is one of the reasons I enjoy bourbon as much as I do. I think a brief history of the stuff is in order.

Bourbon was actually born from conflict. During the revolutionary period, the Continental Congress decided it would tax the production of whiskey to help finance the war. Certain settlers and farmers of western Pennsylvania essentially said "no" to this tax, and refused to pay it. These Pennsylvanians protested vehemently and atacked the tax collectors. This insurrection became the Whiskey Rebellion of 1791.

In light of the Rebellion, which became more violent as the months passed, George Washington decided to dispatch the Continental Army to restore order. Order was restored by 1794, however several settlers moved into the then-frontier areas of Kentucky and Tennessee, which were largely outside the control of the Federal government and its taxes. These areas of Kentucky and Tennessee were uniquely suited to corn cultivation. Having an abundance of corn, it was a logical step to use the surplus as the main grain in the settlers' whiskey-making, instead of rye as had been the tradition. Since much of this "corn whiskey" was distilled in Bourbon County, Kentucky, it eventually became known as Bourbon.

Now go pour yourself a glass.