Bourbon, some general opinions

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Bourbon, some general opinions

Unread postby Mike » Thu May 10, 2012 7:41 pm

I have the A H Hirsch 16 YO gold foil bourbon and a couple of the Hirsch Selection whiskies (several are not bourbons), I think one of them was a 21 YO American Whiskey, for which I will quickly admit I overpaid. I do not recall the amount I paid for the Hirsch Selection whiskey, but it was not cheap..... and there is still some available on the shelves at 'my' liquor store. I would buy no more of it. It is not bad whiskey by any means, but it is not, in my opinion, anywhere near as good as the A H Hirsch, which, after having just reviewed it, I would rate (now) as a great, but not truly exceptional bourbon. It is right on the edge of being too tannic, and hence almost bitter. As a comparison, I took some 15 YO Noah's Mill from Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (about 114 proof), and diluted it to about 100 proof and found it to be at least the equal of the A H Hirsch 16 YO...... more barrel sweetness, less tannic, but also a bit less subtle. It sells in the high $40s I believe. The A H Hirsch sells for about $300, a price for fools to be sure. BTW, the Noah's Mill now lacks an age statement, so its actual age is not known. I have always found it to be an exceptional ultra aged whiskey, and I may be among a small minority in that regard, as I am in liking most ultra aged whiskies.

Age is not a reliable guide in the quality of whiskey, certainly not as reliable a guide as the whiskey mongers want you to believe....... and, I think it is pretty well established that 12 years in Kentucky is not the equivalent of 12 years in Scotland or Ireland. There are Master Distillers who seem to think that bourbon is at its best in the 6 to 12 year range. They have experience on their side, and only (see a young exception below) those very specially selected barrels that exceed that age put the lie to that assertion (my unreliable opinion). The exceptions to that general rule, (Wild Turkey Tribute at 15 Years Old, and the Van Winkle bourbons at 10+ Years Old, and several of the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers bourbons at 12 and 15 YO), are truly the exceptions that prove the rule.

Now to further cloud the issue of age and quality, I am now, at this moment, sipping an Old Forrester bourbon that was probably bottled in the early 1990's and distilled in 1980's that is only 4 years old and 86 proof. Even though it is only a four year old whiskey it is superb....... soft, smooth, balanced, and almost delicate, with no edges and wayward tastes. There certainly are better whiskies, but this old Old Forrester makes a strong case for a well made four year old as a standard, one rarely met these days, me suspects.

So, the 6 to 12 YO rule is a very good one to go by as a general rule.......... exceptions will always be possible. As a bourbon (whiskey) lover, it is up to you to decide where your palate says you should be. There is a sweet spot that belongs to your palate (which, being the bourbon lover that you are, never says that you should avoid going out of it). The best bourbons, for the most palates (my opinon) lie in the $20 to $50 range. Sip and savor some of the bourbons in any of those ranges and you miss very little as far as more expensive bourbons go. Go to more expensive bourbons, and, in general, expect to be disappointed, the improvement in quality is very small, if at all, to your palate, and will most likely be a major disappointment.
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas
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Re: Bourbon, some general opinions

Unread postby Birdo » Fri May 11, 2012 7:44 am

Good observation. I like the 12y/o Elijah Craig just as well as the 18y/o. I didn't see the value in paying double for 18y/o. These days, I think they (all distillers) sell their lesser bourbon at 4 years.
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Re: Bourbon, some general opinions

Unread postby ebo » Fri May 11, 2012 4:49 pm

I've never had the EC 18. I'm a big fan of the EC 12. I'd love to try the 18, but I have to drive farther than I'm willing, just to buy a bottle of bourbon. :)
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Re: Bourbon, some general opinions

Unread postby Bourbon HQ » Fri May 11, 2012 5:05 pm

Well, just drive here to Louisville and I will give you a tasting of the 18 year old. Heaven Hill claims that they don't bottle anything under five years old.
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