Bourbon sipping reveals wide variety

My friend Dave and I had a decision to make about how to spend a Sunday afternoon. Option one: Go to a pot-luck dinner at the riding stable and watch a riding exhibition. Option two: Sit on the deck in the shade sampling about a dozen bourbons I’ve collected.

It was a no-brainer.

Don’t get me wrong, we attend many of the saddlebred shows. (Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama) with our families. We cheer and yell “yea boy.”

This was no contest. Our decision was made: on the deck with the bourbons. For the record, the bourbon tasting was not a competition either.

When Dave, his wife and daughter arrived, the selection of bourbons was lined on the counter. His daughter rolled her eyes. We laughed and our wives were worried.

Spoiler alert: Everything turned out just fine. You see, when there are that many bourbons to taste and enjoy, the samples had to be lean.

The first bourbon I poured was Angel’s Envy. While I had already sampled this spirit, I thought it was important for that new product to be served first to savor the flavor.

This is not a rating of our most favorite to least favorite, rather we just wanted to taste and discuss the nuances of each one.

Angel’s Envy I’ve described in the past as velvety and fruity without any spice. Dave called in remarkable. He thought it borders on a liqueur and might be a nice drink after dinner. It is a bourbon without testosterone.

For fun, the next bourbon in our afternoon of tasting was at the other end of the spiritual spectrum: Devil’s Cut. I explained the origin of the name, that while the evaporated alcohol that escapes during aging is called the angel’s share. On the other hand, the bourbon that is absorbed in the oak of the barrel is the Devil’s cut.

The Jim Beam folks have found a way to extract that trapped bourbon and mix it with other bourbon.

Devil’s cut is full bodied and finishes with some spice. A very solid bourbon.

My friend was a little surprised at the next choice for sampling. It is one that I’ve received some questions about over the past couple months. I picked up a bottle of Kirkland’s Kentucky bourbon. Kirkland’s is the name associated with Costco. So we are talking bargain at about $20.

We are here to say the Kirkland private label bourbon is not rot-gut. It was not very complex. It had some spice at the end. It was just not a full-bodied bourbon. You would not be wasting money giving this bourbon a test drive.

Dave brought with him one of his favorites: Wathens. It started out strong and had a singular aroma. It had a rich finish with some spice. I can see why Dave likes this bourbon. He says he prefers a bourbon that has some spicey bite.

Next, I cracked open a special case of bourbons that I purchased at a silent auction fundraiser. I pulled out Booker’s. This bourbon does not mess around. At over 120-127 proof you should expect bold. If you close your eyes and think of what a bourbon would taste like and how you would respond, this would be the one that matches.

“Boy does it jump out of the gate,” Dave said. He’s right. Of course, it has a higher alcohol content. Oh, but it was good. It seems like this would be a good opener for an evening with a lot of red meat. Just know that when you dip into this one, you are going to have an exciting ride. After it jumps out of the gate, it races all the way to the finish. Horsepower.

Our sampling lasted over the course of several hours. Along the way we snacked on cheese, crackers and some meats.

Next up, Basil Hayden’s. Both of us have had this one before, so we had an idea what we were getting. We reconfirmed that it is a very nice spirit that is smooth to a fault, without any spice to speak of. It’s different from Angel’s Envy. I noted in Basil Hayden a slight grape aroma – a hint of the sweet concord grape came to mind.

Now we went on to two Knob Creek products. First we had the Knob Creek Small Batch. We could not really come up with a lot of notable things to say. It did seem a little shallow, and was missing someting.

However, the Knob Creek Single Barrel we had next filled the void in the small batch. It had much more body and a spicy finish. The single barrel is the product to choose.

The only bourbon from the Beam Global Spirits & Wine “Original Small Batch Collection” we did not try was Baker’s. Don’t worry, we will.

Finally, we finished with Blanton’s Single Barrel. It was a good way to finish our afternoon of tasting. It was velvety, with fruity aromas and a spicey finish.

Other bourbons I had on hand that we did not get to: Maker’s Mark, Woodford Reserve, Four Roses and Old Fitzgerald. We’re both pretty familiar with these so we concentrated on some new tastes.

Our wives returned from horsing around to find us talking and finishing dinner of salad with grilled watermelon, steak and potato skins. Life was good.

I’d love to hear what you have to say about these or other products you’ve tried, especially if you can offer some comparisons of one bourbon to another. What bourbon should I discuss next, I’ll get working on it.

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About Kim Kolarik

Exploring bourbon one sip at a time and sharing the experience.© Contact me at I've followed the original bourbon trail from my native Pennsylvania, where the whiskey rebellion erupted to Louisville, Kentucky, my current home. Bourbon is now in a revolution of expansion. I'll be bringing you news, information and tasting notes of bourbon from Kentucky and the emerging craft distillers from around the United States. I am photographer, designer and editor. --Kim D. Kolarik
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3 Responses to Bourbon sipping reveals wide variety

  1. All of these are great choices, Kim.

    We are blessed to have so many homegrown options. Another awesome blog entry. I would add Eagle Rare to the list, along with Old Forester Birthday Bourbon.

    Keep up the good work!

  2. Miller says:

    Sounds like a nice semi-evaluative sampling session. Just curious, were you sampling these on the rocks, neat, etc.?

    I know you didn’t include the usual bourbons in your tasting (Makers Mark, Woodford, Four Roses) but I think Makers 46 would have been a nice one to throw on there.

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