Fighting Cock

As the weather cools and the sun makes itself scarce, my choice in beverage leans towards the warming comfort of whiskey.  As I watch the rain (and yes, some flakes of snow) drop on this cool October evening, I am eased into a sense of tranquility by a small glass of the Fighting Cock.  I acquired this bottle on a whim recently and this seems like as good a time as any to experience its  offerings.

The Fighting Cock is a Kentucky straight bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky.  The bottle is sparse and likely unappealing to most casual and experienced customers alike.  The name itself seems meant more as a challenge to the consumer than an invitation.  As I mentioned, I bought this on a whim and had no idea what to expect.

Bottled at an angry 51.5% abv, the colour is rich with copper.  The bourbon is aged 6 years, though the age statement no longer appears on the bottle.

The nose is strong and starts the tasting experience appropriately for such a whisky.  A symphony of spice, vanilla, and caramel is supported by nuts and dried fruit.  This is a rich overture.

The palate does not disappoint.  It starts off sweet with honey and caramel, but quickly turns to spice, nuts, wood, leather, and vanilla.  There’s a change at the very end which I find hard to describe, like the flavours, as strong as they are, aren’t enough completely mask the strength the alcohol in the whisky.  Still, it’s quite nice and quickly forgotten.

The finish is spicy and long, with caramel rounding out the wood and light overlay of honey.

Adding some water releases even more spice, dulls a bit of the alcohol, and even opens up a tinge of citrus  to the palate.  I highly recommend taking this with a bit of water, the strengths are made more strong and the weakness masked.

Overall, this is a substantial product and I am more than happy to have found it.  Available at the SAQ in Quebec for about $35, it’s a decent value.  Ontario does not carry it at the moment, naming issues may trouble the Queen’s subjects in that province.

Cheers!

  

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Old Fitzgerald’s 1849

Bourbon’s have not been given their due on this blog and I intend on rectifying this by reviewing another fine American product today. Old Fitzgerald’s 1849 Kentucky Straight bourbon has been in my collection for some time. More than half the bottle has been consumed, yet I could not find the time to review the contents for my readers until now. Old Fitzgerald’s is distilled by Heaven Hill, producers of such known brands as Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, and Bernheim. This is a wheat- based product. The mash is therefore made up of corn and wheat instead of the more popular rye. This charcoal filtered whiskey is bottled at 45% abv.

The colour is copper, not unlike a shiny new penny. The legs run rather quick and thin. I added water before tasting as I find bourbon is usually better with a bit of water and even a tiny bit of ice.

The nose is pure vanilla and honey. A very warm sensation and pleasant on a cool winter day.

The palate is warm caramel, honey, hint of coffee, some smoke, light cinnamon, and old leather. It has an oily texture and somehow manages to kick in some pepper and spice here and there. If you look for it, you will find orange throughout. The orange is so obvious to me now but I was quite oblivious to its influence on the overall flavour during my first few tastings.

The finish isn’t particularly long but it is smooth and pleasant. Some pepper in there keeps it spicy even in the finish. As the pepper eases, it gives way to more vanilla. I appreciate a whiskey that ends where it started and does something different in between.

Overall, a nice whiskey and quite enjoyable for casual consumption. It may not stand out in a crowded market, but you won’t regret the purchase.

Cheers!

Old Fitzgerald's 1849

Four Roses Small Batch

This tasting features another bourbon, this time a Kentucky straight, for your consideration. Four Roses Small Batch is a product currently unavailable in Quebec, but quite popular in Europe and Japan.  I was on a trip to Ontario recently and was lamenting the dearth of Scotch whiskies at the LCBO I was visiting when I decided to change strategies and look for bourbons instead.  I prefer looking for items that are either unavailable in Quebec or much less costly in Ontario and was thrilled at the unique selection of bourbons at that particular LCBO.  The Four Roses was a brand I had heard about but never tried for obvious reasons of availability in my home province and my decision was instantly made.  Further research lead me to learn that, mysteriously, the brand was unavailable even in the US for many years, staging a comeback only recently.

A former Seagram’s distillery, this brand is now owned by a Japanese firm but has been allowed to retain and use its proprietary yeasts in the production of its many lines of whiskey. The Spanish Mission style distillery was built in 1910 and has been in continuous production ever since. It produces for other lines as well, including Bulleit.

Each bottle of the small batch may differ, this is a mingled product of four different select bourbons and I am unsure as to how these types of expressions are controlled. This is presented in a very nicely designed bottle with the roses taking on the colour of the whiskey at the very centre and featuring an alcohol content of 45% abv.

The colour is a nice shade of amber and the legs run fairly slow and thick.

The nose is high on honey and vanilla. An intense experience that leaves no doubt that this is a bourbon. I have yet to smell a Scotch that so intensely does what bourbons are able to achieve at this level. There’s some spice in there as well, cinnamon and perhaps nutmeg.

The palate oozes of honey, fruit, cinnamon and spice, and a slight hint of oak. The whole is well balanced and reasonably complex.

The finish is quite long and satisfying. The honey and spice remain, leading into the vanilla that came through on the nose.

With a bit of water, the nose becomes a showcase for the vanilla, leading into softer fruits on the palate, and continuing to advertise the vanilla on the finish. Some soft floral notes appear on the finish as well.

The whole thing is worthwhile. From a pleasant start, the senses are treated to a wonderfully married experience that is well balanced and complex enough to keep it interesting well into the second serving. Currently available at the LCBO for a song.

Four Roses Small Batch

Elijah Craig 12-Year-Old

Time to get into another bourbon and shake things up a bit. This entry is a longtime resident of my collection, yet somehow went under the radar until now.

Elijah Craig is named for the Baptist minister who supposedly invented the process of aging his spirit in charred barrels. The distinct bottle is topped by a short neck with an oversized cap and large cork which is clearly visible. The whiskey is bottled at an impressive 47% abv and is of the Kentucky Straight variety. My research has shown that the label has also released an 18-year-old version of its whiskey as well.

The combination of the age statement (still uncommon among bourbons, even more so at 12 years), charming presentation, and limited range of production had lead me to choose this bottle in the first place. Now let’s see if the product matches my expectations.

The whisky is deep amber in colour and demonstrates some thick legs when left to settle after a good swirl.

The nose shows vanilla and spice, honey, and a hint of almond.

The palate is about vanilla and a whole lot of honey, brown sugar, smoke, wood, spices, and, interesting enough, a very tiny hint of cotton candy.

The finish is long and satisfying with rich tones of vanilla and wood. Some sweetness appears with time. Vanilla dominates,

Overall, a very good bourbon. This is a very sweet whiskey, made more interesting by the vanilla that follows through from beginning to end, dominating all the ranges of this experience.  This whisky is available in Quebec at the SAQ (here) for just under $42 while Ontario’s LCBO doesn’t carry it at all.  New Hampshire’s got this on sale at $23 however (click here), well worth picking it up if you’re in the area!!  I would highly recommend this product, it is quite different from many of the Scotch whiskies I have reviewed and even from most other bourbons.  Fabulous value for money in this little gem and it gives some bourbons priced twice as much a good run for their money.

Elijah Craig 12

Blanton’s Single Barrel

This tasting goes back to a bourbon. I have been looking for this particular make for quite some time, but it has never been available outside of the United States until very recently. This is good news for bourbon whiskey lovers as Blanton’s Single Barrel Special Reserve is a fine Kentucky straight. The bottle is named for Colonel Albert Bacon Blanton, longtime distillery manager at Buffalo Trace. This expression was created by Elmer Lee in 1984 to honour the memory of Blanton.

The bottle is unique in shape and decor. There’s a horse and jockey on the stopper. The horse is made of bronze and there are eight different poses, each one assigned a letter. Collect all eight and it spells BLANTONS. The label contains crucial information about the spirit inside. The dumping date, warehouse letter, barrel number, rick number, strength, and registered bottle number are all written by hand on the label. My bottle was dumped on August 23, 2011 from barrel number 55. It was stored in Warehouse H on rick number 2. The registered bottle number is 107 and bottled at 40% abv. Apparently, Blanton’s preferred location for aging was Warehouse H, thus all of Blanton’s Single Barrel production is aged there.

In appearance, it’s a deep amber colour. I always take bourbon with a couple of drops of water from the start, so my tasting will take this into consideration. I assume each barrel results in slight variations on the theme, so individual results may vary depending on the barrel.

On the nose, it is honey sweetness with a touch of mint. Some caramel and toffee mix in and the overall introduction is very nice. The mint took me by surprise.

On the palate, very sweet and spicy. The caramel and honey are quite apparent. Vanilla can be tasted throughout. The mint is also available to the palate. I noticed a light char overtone throughout the tasting.

The finish is long and smooth. The honey, spice, and mint remain and round out an excellent experience.

Overall, an excellent whiskey. In Quebec, the SAQ prices this stuff at $81, but it is much less costly in Ontario where the LCBO charges a reasonable $63 for the same thing! New Hampshire sells it for $50. A fine addition to any collection, I highly recommend this whiskey for anyone looking for a a higher end product at a reasonable cost. For Quebec, I recommend waiting for a sale however as the price is quite high and some more interesting Scotch whiskies can be had at around the same price point.

Cheers!

Woodford Reserve Distiller’s Select

Back to the good ole USA for this tasting. The Woodford Reserve Distiller’s select is a Kentucky straight bourbon. Woodford Reserve’s Louisville distillery uses copper pot stills and triple distills the whiskey. The product is bottled at 45.2% alcohol by volume. The bottles are individually numbered to indicate the batch and the bottle numbers. The bottle being used for this tasting contains whiskey from batch 152. The bottle number is 07770. I think that’s a full house, so it must be a winner. I’m going all in.

The colour is amber of the rich and dark variety.

On the nose, the sweet aromas of honey, apples, pie crust, and old leather make fine impressions.

On the palate, green apple and sugar, some cinnamon and vanilla, cider, and a hint of oak with smoke undercurrent that intensifies towards the end provide for an exciting tasting experience. A bit of burn from the alcohol adds some bite.

The finish is rather short. Wood and smoke combine with honey and subtle caramel, then quickly vanish. Only a faint, syrupy sweetness lingers.

A few drops of water soften the burn of the alcohol. The nose becomes a bit sweeter and the leather becomes more faint. The flavours remain intense. More fruits come out, the green apple becomes even stronger and some of the pie crust that was felt on the nose starts to come through on the palate. The finish is longer, the sweetness becoming less faint and making a statement. The oak becomes more noticeable throughout.

This whiskey sells for virtually the same price in both Ontario and Quebec.

Overall, this bourbon is a worthy addition to any collection. A cool September evening after a hot late summer’s day accompanies the whiskey perfectly. So would, I assume, a nice cigar.

Cheers!

Knob Creek Single Barrel

A while back I reviewed a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. That is the only bourbon I have tasted for this blog to date and it’s time to change that with a tasting of a little known product from Knob Creek. The single barrel from Knob Creek is bottled at 60% alcohol by volume. A bold move that takes the experience to the next level, allowing the drinker to take on more water without adversely affecting the taste. Even a cube of ice could be considered without drawing my glare.

This is a Kentucky bourbon sourced from a single barrel, apparently chosen from amongst the highest quality honey barrels available to the distiller. Most bottlings are a mix of several barrels. It leaves me to wonder how uniform the experience is from one barrel to the other.

The colour is a deep, gorgeous amber. A nine year old bourbon and looking good for all that time in the barrel.

The nose is sweet and the notes of honey are unmistakable. Some spice and cinnamon are present.

The palate is rich. The complex mixture of honey, spice, and cinnamon leaves a warm feeling in the mouth. I feel like this drink would be perfect on a long, cold winter night with a nice book and a comfortable chair. In fact, it reminds be of the taste of the gingerbread men we make for Christmas.

The finish is not particularly long, but intense. Spice, cinnamon, and pepper give way to sweet honey before fading nearly completely in a relatively short time. However, a faint impression of sweetness lingers on the sides of the tongue for quite a while.

Note that this tasting took place with water added from the get go to correct for the alcohol content. If I try this variety without water at some point, I will update this space.

Overall, this is a fantastic whiskey. A wonderful blend of flavours that will assault your senses without offending them. Give this a try if you can find it, I first discovered it in the United States and have seen it crop up intermittently in Quebec. Much less expensive in the US though, I highly suggest you pick it up there if you have the possibility of bringing it back with you.

Cheers!