"Best of the Best": Whisky Magazine tasting in Bar

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"Best of the Best": Whisky Magazine tasting in Bar

Unread postby bourbonv » Tue Nov 23, 2004 7:22 pm

Last week I was one of the members of the tasting panel at Whisky Magazine's "Best of the Best" tasting in Bardstown at the Oscar Getz Museum. This year's event was different from the one I attended in 2002. There were only 5 flights of whiskey and they did not include Japanese whisky or Single Malt Scotch. This was actually good because the palate did not get as burned out by the end of the day.

I was sitting at the table with Peter Pogue and Bill Friell. There were many others involved such as Chuck Cowdery, Julian and Preston Van Winkle, Jerry Dalton and other Master Distillers both past and present. We were to rank the products on a scale of 5 to 10 (the theory being that this was the best of the best and none should be less than a 5). We tasted blended Irish and blended Scotch, Single Malt Irish and two flights of bourbon. We had lunch between the morning flights (the Irish and Scotch whiskeys) with the bourbon and ryes after lunch.

The thing that I found interesting is that our panel agreed pretty much with the Irish counterpart as to what were the best Irish and Scotch whiskeys but we were radically different with our choices of bourbons and ryes. I would assume the Irish panel had a similar mix of distillers and others involved in the whiskey industry in Ireland. What I thought it interesting that the Americans seem to know and agree with them as to what makes a good whiskey in Ireland and Scotland but they did not seem to know the same about American whiskey.

Chuck, If you are listening, I think this difference would make an interesting article for the Reader. Why is there this big difference? Explore this and write about it and let us know.

Mike Veach
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Unread postby Mark » Tue Nov 23, 2004 7:50 pm

Wow, sounds like a great time Mike. And to have done it with such an 'esteemed crowd' like Chuck, Julian and Preston, Peter... A time to remember. Out of curiosity, what bourbons did you guys try after lunch Mike and how did they fare?
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Unread postby bunghole » Tue Nov 23, 2004 8:26 pm

Thank GOD you were spared Canadian whisky! :roll:
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Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Nov 24, 2004 10:07 am

Mark,
We tasted 15 bourbons in two flights after lunch. I have my notes at home and if you would like I could post them this weekend. I do recall that the George T. Stagg was a "10" with lots of maple sweetness and spice. This confirmed for me that this year's Stagg is the best so far.
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Unread postby Strayed » Wed Nov 24, 2004 10:10 am

Wow some more! Chuck, I heartily second Mike's suggestion, but I think it would be even more powerful in Whisky Magazine itself. Especially since they'd probably be less than receptive to one of their own writers self-publishing a separate article about their proprietary event.

More importantly (well, to the spirits world anyway; I'd guess the first reason is more important to Charles K. Cowdery's career), the article would reach (and therefore influence) many Scotch and Irish drinkers who likely would never subscribe to the BCR, and perhaps entice them to try more varieties of bourbon than the Beam White & Maker's Mark they're probably thinking of.
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Unread postby TNbourbon » Wed Nov 24, 2004 11:43 am

bourbonv wrote:Mark,
I do recall that the George T. Stagg was a "10" with lots of maple sweetness and spice...
Mike Veach


That's interesting, and may well display the taste-preference discrepancy between Euros and bourbonites -- because Stagg didn't win, place OR show at the event. In the over 10yo category, Eagle Rare 17yo was first, with Pappy 15yo and VWFRR tying for second. Less than 10yo, Four Roses Single Barrel won, with Ridgemont Reserve second.
Stagg must have been too much whiskey for the whisky pros.

(reference Kentucky Standard newspaper for details. No link available.)
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Unread postby Mark » Wed Nov 24, 2004 1:26 pm

bourbonv wrote:I have my notes at home and if you would like I could post them this weekend.



That would be great Mike, I for one would love to hear what you tried and read your impressions.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Wed Nov 24, 2004 3:19 pm

Whiskey Magazine provided forms that did a carbon copy so the tasters could keep their notes. I have mine at home and will see about posting them later as time allows.
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Unread postby cowdery » Thu Nov 25, 2004 2:12 am

I'm looking forward to Mike's notes because I was too drained by the end of the day that when they revealed what we had tasted, I didn't write it down. I do still have my notes, just not keyed to the actual samples.

I don't know how much more there is to be said about the anomaly Mike mentioned. Part of why they changed it this year is because the Scots and Japanese don't seem to "get" bourbon either and always score it much lower than their stuff. The theory was that the Irish might be closer to the American style and might appreciate it better. They didn't, but what it demonstrated is that our guys do understand the Irish blends and singles, and the one flight of scottish blends we tasted, as we rated them almost exactly the way the Irish did.

I'll confess to feeling a little intimidated organalyptically, considering that most of the people there do this every day.

So, what do you think we did after tasting whiskey for four hours? Went to the Talbot Tavern and drank for another 8 hours.
- Chuck Cowdery

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Tasting notes from Whisky Magazine Tasting.

Unread postby bourbonv » Thu Nov 25, 2004 1:45 pm

I am going to post my tasting notes here, but if Mark or Chris want to move them somewhere else they have my permission.

These notes were made in two blind flights of bourbon tasting. I learned that my tastes are very similar to the tastes of Bill and Peter. We did not always score the same but were usually within a point of each other.

While I wrote down the brand name, I did not get the exact bottling.


Flight 4 (Bourbons under 10yo)

Knob Creek
Nose: Chocolate and vanilla with a hint of raisin.
Palate: Very Hot Alcohol overwhelming the flavors.
Finish: Warm finish that lingers - dry and woody
Comments: Corn flavor comes through after it breaths.
Score: 8/10

Woodford Reserve
Nose: Complex nose with fruit (apricot) and floral scents (honey suckle).
Palate: Astringent and tannic - overwhelms most of the fruit flavors of nose. A hint of toffey.
Finish: Dry and lingering but not unpleasant.
Comments: Too old and woody
Score: 6/10

Ridgemont Reserve 1792
Nose: Rich Toffee
Palate: Sweet caramel and apricots
Finish: Lingering sweetness of candy apples
Comments: Mild and probably a wheated bourbon (I was wrong with this. At the time I thought it might be Weller Bourbon).
Score: 8/10

Blanton's (not sure what expression)
Nose: Caramel and ripe apples
Palate: Cornhusk with toffee and spice (Alspice)
Finish: Spice and vanilla - long lasting
Comments: Very flavorfull; would be good on a cold snowy night by the fire.
Score: 10/10

Four Roses Single Barrel
Nose: Fruity - Green apple or pear
Palate: Hot and spicy - cinnamin Apple
Finish: long with caramel sweetness and fruit
Comments: If you survive the the heat at first it gets very nice on the finish.
Score: 8/10

Evan Williams (not sure what expression)
Nose: Raw corn bread dough
Palate: Doughie taste but sweet
Finish: Caramel and yeast
Comments:
Score: 6/10

Old Potrero Single Malt Straight Rye (I think 7yo)
Nose: Earthy leather and tobacco
Palate: Smooth raisin or dates with nutmeg
Finish: Molasses finish that lingers with a hint of spice.
Comments: Reminds me of a Christmas cookie.
Score: 10/10

Flight 5

Russell's Reserve
Nose: Corn, cleaning fluid, hint of vanilla
Palate: Corn and then heat - dark fruits
Finish: Toffee finish after alcohol lessens
Comments: Bourbon with a bite
Score: 6/10

Elijah Craig 12yo
Nose: Vanilla and white chocolate
Palate: Sour corn and wood
Finish: Very sour and bitter
Comments: disappointing after the nice nose
Score: 5/10

Pappy Van Winkle 15yo 107 proof
Nose: Caramel toffee with ripe pear
Palate: Sweet fruit (apples and dark fruits) and caramel
Finish: Hazelnut and wood - dry
Comments: Would be good as after dinner drink.
Score: 10/10

Geo. T. Stagg
Nose: Maple syrup and ripe apples
Palate: Rich and warm - fruity and sweet
Finish: Warm and fruity - Apples and cinnimon.
Comments: Very good and flavorful
Score: 10/10

Eagle Rare 17yo
Nose: Complex- bananas, walnuts and caramel
Palate: Smooth- no bite, banana and peanuts
Finish: Clean - sweet and oaky.
Comments: Very Nice
Score: 10/10

Elijah Craig 18yo
Nose: Vanilla varnish
Palate: Corn and alcohol
Finish: Surprisingly nice and oaky
Comments:
Score: 6/10

Sazerac 18yo Rye
Nose: Weak nose with a hint of oak
Palate: Oily and Musty
Finish: Gets more musty as it lingers
Comments: Finishb lingers and just won't go away
Score: 5/10

Van Winkle Family Reserve Rye
Nose: Sweet cotton candy
Palate: Peppery spices and toffee
Finish: Sweet and nutty finish - hazelnut
Comments: very nice
Score: 8/10

These are my notes from the tasting. I was surprised in a few cases as some of my favorite brand scored lower than I would have thought. I generaly drink Woodford Reserve and Russell's Reserve regularly and I think these bottles were inferior to what I normally drink. I had not tried this years Sazerac Rye and was totally disappointed in it. Previous years were much better unless we had cork tainted bottles at the tasting.

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Unread postby Mark » Fri Nov 26, 2004 2:12 pm

Wow Mike, thanks for taking the time to post us your impressions. Some on there I can agree with, some I am shocked by and still others are interesting since they are yearly releaes and can vary from year to year. One example is the Sazerac. I have loved prior expressions, especially last years but now I will have to buy a bottle of this years and see if like you it is somewhat different. Eagle Rare 17yo I am glad to still see as a winner, I particularly like that bourbon. Russell's Reserve is a bourbon that I usually like from WT. I find it a bit more enjoyable than even KS and at a little more than half the price it is a good buy so 6/10 was shocking for me on that one. But hey, I am glad we all have differing opinions on so many offerings... If we all liked the same stuff what a boring website we would have now wouldn't we?!
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Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Nov 26, 2004 3:53 pm

Mark,
I generally like the Russell Reserve and was quite surprised to find out where it was in my notes. I will say that historically (and this goes back to when I started drinking Wild Turkey 101 8yo) I have always had a problem with Wild Turkey consistancy. I never really had a bad bottle, but some were much better than others.

The other big surprise for me was the Woodford Reserve. The bottles I have at home are several years old and I have to wonder if the tannic taste comes from the pot still whiskey. That would surprise me because I like the pot still bourbon and even have some left over from a bourbon academy in my liquor cabinet. It is not tannic so I wonder if it was just a bad bottle at the tasting.

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Unread postby Brewer » Fri Nov 26, 2004 5:24 pm

Mike,

I've been curious about the term "flights". :?: Please clarify. Thanks.

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Unread postby Mark » Fri Nov 26, 2004 5:32 pm

bourbonv wrote:The other big surprise for me was the Woodford Reserve.


Woodford Reserve is really a product that I have to buy a recent bottle of already... I have not had it for some years now as I found it to be good but a little pricey compared to other products of similiar or better quality. If I am reading your post right though, it seems you liked the older bottles you have at home? Of course there is nothing wrong with that if that is the case Mike. I know some who did like the older bottlings and others as well who did not. It seems lately several people who disliked the older batches have said that it has gotten much better with more recent batches. Maybe if I can find a 375ml of a recent batch I'll give it a go.
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Unread postby bourbonv » Fri Nov 26, 2004 7:23 pm

Mark,
I like the older Woodford which was simply honey barrels of Old Forester. I have drank more recent bottlings at D Marie's and at friends' house. I am puzzled by that tasting and will hope that it was simply a below par bottle of Woodford.

A "Flight" is simply a fancy way to describe the groupings of products at a tasting. In this case the "Flights" were belnded Irish, blended Scotch, Single Malt Irish, bourbon and ryes under 10yo and bourbon and ryes over 10yo. There were 6 products in the first flight, 5 products each in 2 and 3, 7 products in flight 4 and we finished the day with 8 products.

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