Parker's 27 YO agin Black Maple Hill 21 YO- a throwdown

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Parker's 27 YO agin Black Maple Hill 21 YO- a throwdown

Unread postby Mike » Mon Jul 13, 2009 6:29 pm

Many folks find these ultra aged bourbons unappetizing............and I can understand why.........the wood is definitely the major player and they are (at least these two fellows and at least in my opinion) at the edge of abusing their time in the barrel.

I can think of several bourbons that lingered too long in the barrel. They were the last Pappy 23, a Rowan's Creek (I believe it was around 15 years old), a Noah's Mill 15 YO (but not all Noah's Mill), Elijah Craig 18 YO (all of the EC 18 YO's I have had were not to my taste), and one of the Stagg's (it was at least 15 Years Old).

Still, the Pappy 20 (I expect I have had 4 different expressions of this fellow) and several of the BMH (selected, I believe, by Julian Van Winkle, as were Pappy Van Winkle bourbons) ultra aged bourbons suited my palate very well. I think they bring an extra dimension to the world of bourbondom that only the ultra aged have. I have discussed it before several times in this forum. They capture much of the beauty in the barrel in terms of its thick richness, sweetness, and creamy texture, but with a slightly different emphasis.

They moderate the alcohol quite a lot and bring all components into a subtle sweet/dry sip that almost belies it bourbon origins. This is bourbon singing a different tune (and singing off key to many experienced and knowledgeable palates), one I happen to like a lot.

I also happen to prefer bourbon over Cognac and Scotch............but harbor no disregard for those who would change that order. Cognac (which is always in my cabinet) and Scotch (which is always in my cabinet) probably have more afficiondos than bourbon if you count the whole world. There is no substitute for either of those spirits...........they are just different from bourbon, not inferior...........preference naturally being a matter of taste.

Still, I do find both the BMH and the PH to have qualities reminiscent of Cognac in their subtle sweetness and soft sophistication.........qualities that I claim come from long association with the barrel (Gary Gillman has disagreed with this assessment and his is undoubedly a more knowleadgeable opinion than mine............still I persist in my folly because I can see no other reason for this similiarity).

As to the bourbons at hand, I can taste little to differentiate them. If anything, the 27 YO may have a touch more of the goodness of the barrel.........a surprise to me!

Ultra aged bourbons in my opinion, should be evaluated against each other, not other bourbons..............and only then if you care for them.........and you are not under the slightest obgligation to do so, because they rarely come cheap and are rarely (if ever) worth the cost!
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: Parker's 27 YO agin Black Maple Hill 21 YO- a throwdown

Unread postby gillmang » Tue Jul 14, 2009 9:42 am

I don't recall what I said specifically on that point, Mike. I might have said that in general, I do not favor the super-aged bourbons - well, maybe that is a tendentious phrase, but when very old they have to be really good to attract my attention. (I think you are saying the same thing though).

I like older ryes - rye is so pungent to start with that long aging can't hurt it too much and turns it into something distinctive without being too barrel-influenced. Specifically, it often imparts a caraway-like flavour (e.g., the aged Hirsch ryes), or sometimes complex musky flowery notes (e.g., BMH 18 or Michters 10 which are quite similar).

If a bourbon is rye-oriented - OG or any of the Beam line, say, or WR (with its additional pungency from the pot still element) that too will be a good candidate for long aging. Whereas I find the wheat-recipe bourbons, since they are delicate to start with, lose much of the distillery character by long storage.

Considering how much punch the Beam bourbons have - that smack of rye/yeast flavour we often discuss - they would be great at 12-15 years old. Pity that the age is capped currently at 9 years (for the worthy Knob Creek).

In the Cogac area, while my experience is limited, those long-aged ones I have had are never just barrely. The distinctive Cognac perfume informs them into late age - an analogue to aging straight rye perhaps. That Cognac note - I think it comes from the French wood mostly with some grapey elements from the wine base - can be overpowering in young brandies except where very well blended. Some of the young VS' and even VSOP's are best drunk long with water or ice to take down a bit that intense perfumy quality. But a 6-8 year old wheat-recipe bourbon gets the balance near perfect, so why age it further? (However I have enjoyed my share of wheat-recipe bourbons, mostly Van Winkles, up to 23 years old - logic breaks down when you just get a great glass before you, that is part of the serendipity of fine drink).

I do nonetheless get excellent value from any long-aged bourbon I happen to on hand which I do not like as such - I use it for mingling. A little aged bourbon can add a lot to a younger whiskey (especially a combination of them). These May-to-September combinations can be excellent if you do them right. Joseph Fleischman's 1885 formula for his best-grade blend is to combine 2 bourbons in equal proportions and add just 5% of straight rye to make up the compound. A variation he would approve ("it will be readily understood that the combinations of the different brands of whiskeys, with or without the addition of more or less spirits [GNS], could be extended almost indefinitely...") would be to substitute a very old bourbon for the straight rye.

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