Tag Archives: Bourbon

…the big Jack Daniel´s tasting is long overdue – American whiskey tasting no 14.

Jack Daniel´s Old No. 7, 80 proof (40%).

Tasted and written about before (https://danolofohman.wordpress.com/2014/04/13/american-whiskey-tasting-no-1-is-on-the-schedule/), this is the most popular and basic product of the Jack Daniel´s distillery. A very enjoyable drink with its smooth and mellow vanilla, caramel and fruit notes. The first American whiskey I ever tasted, and still one of my favourites.

Jack Daniel´s Single Barrel Select, 90 proof (45%).

Unlike the Old No. 7, that´s blended from many different barrels to achieve a consistent taste, this whiskey comes from a single barrel, chosen for its special character. Only about one in a hundred barrels are chosen to be matured in the higher parts of the Jack Daniel´s barrelhouses. The high location on the storage ricks makes the whiskey mature faster, as well as concentrating both alcohol content and flavour. My particular bottle is from rick L-16 and barrel 13-7230.

Jack Daniels single barrel select

Dark copper colour. Neat in a tasting glass we have a much more complex nose compared to the Old No. 7. The usual vanilla and caramel notes are initially hidden by a strong whiff of oak, giving way to corn sweetness, cocoa and fruit. On the palate you get a medium bodied feel, with initial sweetness, caramel and cocoa, giving way to wood, peppery rye and a slightly bitter finish. In a tumbler with ice the sweetness is enhanced, while reducing the length and bitterness of the finish.

Coming in a heavy, decanter-like bottle of thick glass, embossed with the Jack Daniel name, the wood/cork stopper adds to the exclusive feel of this whiskey. Tasting a variety of different single barrel releases would certainly be interesting.

Jack Daniel´s Silver Select Single Barrel, 100 proof (50%).

Another single barrel whiskey, from selected barrels stored high in the Jack Daniel rickhouses. Bottled at a higher proof and without any mentioning of the exact barrel identity.

Jack Daniels Silver Select Single Barrel

Slightly darker copper compared to the Single Barrel Select. A distinct nose with initial sweetness giving way to cherry notes and a finish of oak. Neat in a tasting glass you get a mellow whiskey without much burn despite the high proof. Smooth sweetness and cherry, followed by vanilla and caramel, with a medium long finish of peppery spice. In a tumbler with ice the smoothness is accentuated while lifting the cherry notes and the oaky finish.

The bottling is very similar to the Single Barrel Select, with heavy decanter-like glass and an embossed metal-looking label. A very well-made and smooth expression of the Jack Daniel´s way of making whiskey.

Jack Daniel´s Master Distiller Series No. 1, Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel , 86 proof (43%).

The first in a series of releases honoring the seven master distillers of the Jack Daniel company. Jasper Newton Daniel, the founder of the company and its first master distiller has given his name to the first edition of this series. Apart from being the founder of the company, Jack Daniel also served as master distiller for the time period of 1866 – 1911.

Jack Daniels Master Distillers 1

Copper colour. A nose characterized by corn sweetness, vanilla and caramel, finishing with rye spice and oak. Neat in a tasting glass you get a light mouthfeel, mellow sweetness and a fairly short finish of wood. A very smooth and easily drinkable whiskey still not without allure. In a tumbler with ice not very much happens, the whiskey pretty much keeping its character.

Packed in a bottle very much similar to the Old No. 7, but in a box with a picture of the master distiller, this limited edition surely will make an impact.


Jack Daniel´s Master Distiller Series No. 2, Jesse Butler “Jess” Motlow, 86 proof (43%).

Known for his storytelling abilities as well as his taste for good whiskey, Jess Motlow was the man who took the Jack Daniel´s distillery through 28 years of prohibition. Not only rebuilding the distillery from memory, but also keeping the family recipe of distilling and charcoal mellowing through his service during the years 1911 – 1941.

Jack Daniels Master Distillers 2

Light copper colour. A nose slightly stronger on rye pepper than caramel and vanilla. Neat in a tasting glass there´s a light and elegant mix of spice and sweetness, with a fairly short finish of sweetness and oak. In a tumbler with ice the sweetness comes to the front, making it even more drinkable.

The packaging is identical to its predecessor and gives this limited release a similarly exclusive feel.



Jack Daniel´s Master Distiller Series No. 3, Lemuel Lee “Lem” Tolley, 86 proof (43%).

The grandnephew of Mr Jack, Lem Tolley, steered the distillery through a period of increased demand without compromising the quality of the whiskey. Serving as master distiller during the years 1941 – 1964, this is a man who left a distinctive mark on the legacy of Jack Daniel´s.

Jack Daniels Master Distillers 3

Light copper colour. A nose with the perfect mix of caramel and spice. Neat in a tasting glass you get a well-balanced take on the Old No. 7. Smooth and mellow sweetness, with a short but still distinct finish.

Packed in the by now easily recognizable variation on the classical Jack Daniel´s bottle, this release carries on the design characteristics of the series.



Gentleman Jack, Rare Tennessee Whiskey, 80 proof (40%).

In many respects similar to the Old No. 7, but with an additional mellowing procedure. This whiskey is filtered through sugar cane charcoal first after distillation and then after barrel maturation, all to achieve a smoother character.

Gentleman Jack

Amber colour. The nose has a complex mix of fruit, caramel sweetness and rye spice, making it an elegant variety of Tennessee whiskey. The palate is smooth and light, with a pleasant corn sweetness and a short rye finish. A very refined and smooth whiskey which might be too polished for the adventurous, or a way in for those who believe they dislike Tennessee whiskey.

Coming in an elegant square bottle quite unlike the other Jack Daniel´s products. With embossed glass and faux-metal label, it´s look is quite high-profile.


Jack Daniel´s Sinatra Select, 90 proof (45%).

Paying tribute to big Jack Daniel´s fan Frank Sinatra, this whiskey is a blend of regular Old No. 7 and whiskey matured in special “Sinatra barrels”, meaning barrels with ricks inside of them to increase contact between spirit and wood.

Jack Daniels Sinatra Select

Darker amber than the ordinary Old No. 7. A nose with hints of smoke followed by oak, balanced with corn, vanilla and hints of orange. Neat in a tasting glass you definitely get more oak than you´re used to from a Jack Daniel´s whiskey, but really no astringency. Wood is followed by smooth vanilla, corn and some citrus tones. Fairly long and smooth finish. Elegant and refined.

Luxuriously packed, as you might expect from the pretty steep price. A cloth covered special cardboard box holding the bottle in place, also containing a small booklet celebrating the relationship between Sinatra and Jack Daniel´s. A heavy, specially made bottle riffing on the regular one but still recognizable as Jack.

Jack Daniel´s No. 27 Gold, 80 proof (40%).

Probably conceived as the smoothest Jack Daniel´s distillate ever, this is basically the Old No. 7 that´s been primarily aged in new American oak, finished in maple-wood barrels and then charcoal mellowed twice.

Jack Daniels no 27 Gold

Golden colour. Mellow on the nose with wood, corn, vanilla and toffee notes. Neat in a tasting glass it´s very smooth and balanced, showing oak with a slight astringency followed by a finish of oak, vanilla and fleeting banana notes. Elegant but in my opinion losing some of what I like in the original No. 7.

Coming in an upscale golden cardboard box and with a similarly heavy bottle variety that was used for the Sinatra selection. Very nice to have tried it, but will not be a repeat buy at this price.


Jack Daniel´s Rested Tennessee Rye, 80 proof (40%).

For the first time since Prohibition Jack Daniel´s has changed it´s mash bill, and made a whiskey with predominantly rye (the exact proportions being 70% rye, 18% corn and 12% malted barley). The distillate was first released as Tennessee Unaged Rye in 2013. The limited edition made it very expensive in my part of the world, and I must confess to not having tried it. The new iteration is called Rested Tennessee Rye, and has been matured for a short time in barrels. Also quite expensive and released in limited quantities as a way of following it´s maturation from the unaged rye, through this and finally to the finished rye that will be released later.

Jack Daniels rested Tennessee rye

Clear gold in colour. The nose has a clearly detectable rye spiciness even though the period of barrel maturation has bestowed it a more marked sweetness than could be expected, with both vanilla and faint banana notes. Neat in a tasting glass there´s fairly overpowering initial wood, followed by some sweetness and a pretty short finish where some weak spice can be found. Interesting as a waypoint in a work in progress, but certainly not something I would buy again at that price.

Coming in a classy bottle a bit similar to the Single Barrel Selects, with batch number and what seems to be a genuine master distiller autograph. Really looking forward to the rye-proper release.

Since this tasting was done a while ago, several new iterations of the Master Distillers series has arrived ( nr 4 – 6, apparently quickly sold out), as well as a matured rye in two variations. Hopefully something that can be returned to.


…it´s great and straight from Kentucky – Whiskey tasting no 12.


Fighting Cock Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 103 proof (51,5%).

One of many in the huge line of products from the Heaven Hill distillery (or Heaven Hill Brands as it is now called) www.heavenhill.com , this is a whiskey aged for 6 years and bottled at a fairly high proof. The mash bill is an undisclosed percentage of corn, barley and rye, with an extra dose of rye claiming to add increased spiciness.

Pretty deep amber colour and a nose with vanilla, caramel, leather, pepper and nutmeg. In a tasting glass with a few drops of water you get a beginning of corn sweetness together with some alcohol burn, giving way to a finish dominated by rye spiciness and some oak. In a tumbler with ice the sweetness of the nose is toned down, instead dominated by spice and oak. The palate remains about the same, but with a toned down intensity.

All in all not an unpleasant whiskey, packing quite a punch. Much better than the first impression you get from the hideously ugly bottle. Still not something I´m likely to return to.

John B Stetson Kentucky Bourbon

John B. Stetson Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 84 proof (42%).

Making every effort possible to look old and traditional, this is a fairly new brand of bourbon manufactured by the Stetson company, www.stetson.com/bourbon mostly known for the Stetson hat. Distilled by an undisclosed Kentucky distillery (rumoured on the net to be Heaven Hill) and containing a mash bill of corn, barley, rye and wheat. The whiskey is aged for four years before bottling.

The colour is light amber, and the nose first hits you with sharp ethanol. Repeat swirlings and sniffing gives first a strong rye spiciness and then some softer vanilla and caramel notes. Neat in a tasting glass there´s sweet vanilla, white pepper and grain with a pretty short finish. A smooth bourbon not without character, that becomes even smoother in a tumbler with ice.

As mentioned earlier, the bottle goes for old and traditional. Embossed glass, drawings of the Old West on the label and a small booklet attached to the neck by a leather band. In spite of it being all marketing it looks kind of nice. This whiskey could be a good entry bourbon but is nevertheless really no match for today´s artisanal distillates.

Kentucky Vintage Bourbon

Kentucky Vintage Bourbon, 90 proof (45%).

One of four small batch whiskey´s distilled by the Willett Distilling Company (formerly Kentucky Bourbon Distillers) www.kentuckybourbonwhiskey.com . The production of small batch bourbon in Kentucky goes back to the 1779 “Corn patch and cabin rights” law, giving settlers who built a cabin and grew a patch of corn the right to free land. Distillation of bourbon as a way of keeping the corn from spoiling soon became popular and gave rise to a tradition continuing to our day.

No age statement except “long beyond that of any ordinary bourbon”, and no information on the mash bill. Manufactured wih the sour mash method in small batches and numbered bottles.

Medium amber colour. A rather short nose which initially is only alcohol, but after a few swirls shows mostly corn, vanilla and oak. Neat in a tasting glass you get an initial alcohol burn followed by some caramel, black pepper and a hint of almonds in the surprisingly short finish. In a tumbler with ice the whiskey mellows considerably and tones of caramel and vanilla appears. On the palate it´s considerably smoother but mostly sweet.

The bottle is designed to give feelings of tradition and age, and actually manages quite well. There´s a wax seal (almost impossible to remove), a wax medallion and a mini-booklet attached to the neck of the bottle with a piece of string.

Although sometimes much lauded, I find this whiskey to be pretty much a disappointment. While much effort has been put into its making there´s not that much real character here.

Larceny Whiskey

Larceny Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 92 proof (46%).

Taking its name from the crime defined as “the unlawful taking of the personal property of another”, this is yet another whiskey from the Heaven Hill distillery. Again having a fascinating backstory, that may or may not actually be true, this distillate still intrigues.

In 1870 John E. Fitzgerald started a Kentucky distilling company, selling his wares to railway lines, steam ships and private clubs. During prohibition the Old Fitzgerald brand was sold to legendary bourbon profile Pappy Van Winkle, who changed the mash bill into using wheat as the second grain instead of rye. According to bourbon lore, John Fitzgerald was later revealed to be a treasury agent, using his access of keys to the whiskey storage facilities to pilfer whiskey from the best available barrels.

Larceny bourbon is made as a heir to the wheated bourbons of the Old Fitzgerald brand. A small batch bourbon produced from 100 or fewer barrels selected from the 4th – 6th floors of Heaven Hill´s warehouses in Kentucky. Larceny is blended from barrels 6 – 12 years of age under the control of Master Distillers Parker and Craig Beam.

Dark, glowing amber. A complex and enjoyable nose that opens to vanilla, caramel, toasted oak and a dry spicy finish with traces of cinnamon. Neat in a tasting glass you get a very well-balanced whiskey with a rounded mouthfeel beginning with corn sweetness and ending in dry spice. In a tumbler with ice the nose keeps its complexity while the palate turns smoother while still keeping the basic character.

Coming in a large, chunky bottle that´s very appealing to the eye, with the key and lock implicated in its background story neatly implemented into the design. I think this whiskey is a real find and together with Knob Creek one of those bourbons I would like to always own a bottle of.

…Bourbon keeps being interesting – American whiskey tasting nr 11.

After forays into rye and malt whiskey, it´s time to return to Kentucky and a set of interesting bourbons.

Willett Pot Still Reserve, 94 proof (47%).

Willet pot still reserve

Coming from the Willett Distilling Company in Bardstown, Kentucky, we have yet another slightly convoluted backstory to this whiskey. The company was started in 1935 by Lambert Willett and several of his sons. After the death of Lambert his son Thompson took over responsibility of the company and served as president until 1984. Experience and knowledge of whiskey distillation went back much longer in the family, and their bourbons were made from family recipes from the late 19th century. In 1984 the facility was bought by Even G. Kulsveen, son-in-law of Thompson Willett, who together with his family runs the company today. Kulsveen renamed the company Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, initially bottling whiskey from existing reserves of barrels, since their own distilling facilities had been shut down in the beginning of the 1980´s. The company has since then been sourcing bourbon from other distillers, making a fairly large line of bottlings sometimes under fictitious company names. As of January 2012, the company again has distilling capabilities and is returning to calling themselves the Willett Distilling Company.

This particular whiskey is made from a distillate of unknown origin (even if the Heaven Hill distillery has been named as a suspect), and I´ve managed to find no information about the mash bill. Each bottle comes from a single barrel of new white oak, after having matured for 8 – 10 years. My particular one was number 67 of 110 from barrel number 7 077.

The whiskey shows a pleasantly glowing amber colour. On the nose you get a beginning of sweetness and vanilla, followed by some spice, orange peel and fleeting notes of eucalyptus. Neat in a tasting glass the mouthfeel is medium bodied with a light start of corn turning more complex in the middle, where wood, citrus and spice gives way to a fairly long finish dominated by oak. In a tumbler with ice you get notes of banana and chocolate both on nose and palate.

The bottle deserves special mention. A 1,75 liter giant formed as a pot still. Very unique and stylish and something I´m going to keep as a decanter. To sum it up, a very nice and complex whiskey that would be fun to try again sometime.

Jim Beam Black, 86 proof (43%).

Jim Beam Black

Here we have a producer with a long and winding history beginning in the late 18th century, after members of the Böhm family emigrated from Germany to Kentucky. Changing their name to Beam, seven generations has been involved in the distillation of Kentucky bourbon as well as being Master Distillers at the famous Heaven Hill Distillery. Later acquired by Japanese company Suntory, this is one of the giants in the whiskey business, with many different products in their inventory.

This variety of Jim Beam bourbon boasts of being triple aged, which means that it´s matured in barrels for 6 years, three times the requisite two year aging needed for the “straight bourbon” epithet. The version I´m writing about is for the international market, the US Jim Beam Black is actually aged for 8 years.

Deep amber colour. The nose shows corn, caramel, vanilla and some wood. Neat in a tasting glass there´s a start of caramel and vanilla, changing into toasted oak and spice in the middle which carries on into a short finish of slightly adstringent wood. In a tumbler with ice the wood on the nose becomes stronger, and the taste shifts into much sweeter vanilla and caramel notes, finishing on sweetness instead of oak. Not that much to say about the bottle, it´s instantly recognizable as Jim Beam and as such serves its purpose well.

In my opinion superior to their regular 4 year old bourbon. Very nice and smooth, balancing the usual bourbon sweetness with it’s somewhat dry, woody character. Nothing stellar, but competent and honest.

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 100 proof (50%).

Knob Creek Bourbon

Aiming at restoring bourbon to its pre-prohibition splendor, this drink goes a long way towards achieving its goal. The mash bill contains the 51% corn regulated by law, along with an undisclosed percentage of rye and malted barley. Pure, limestone-filtered water together with a proprietary yeast strain is used during fermentation, and “set back” (mash from previous distillations) is added twice at different stages of production. It´s then double distilled and aged for 9 years in heavily charred barrels of new American oak, at an initial proof of 125. For the finished bottle a selection of small batches stored at different locations in the warehouse is blended to assure an even quality.

The colour is a radiant, dark gold amber. The nose is big and bold, with loads of maple syrup, burnt sugar, caramel and strong oak notes. Neat in a tasting glass (I´m discounting three drops of water) you get less of an alcohol kick than could be expected at this proof. There´s a big, chewy mouthfeel to this whiskey, beginning with sweet maple syrup and caramel turning into spice, toasted oak and wood resin at the middle, with a long and lingering finish of dry oak. In a tumbler with ice it manages to retain the big nose with a slant towards oak instead of sweetness. On the other hand, the palate turns sweeter and slightly less complex.

The bottle is square and chunky in a very distinct way, and along with the label recreates pre-prohibition bourbon bottles. The plastic/cork stopper and wax seal also aims at a higher degree of sophistication. Personally, I must confess to quite liking it.

A really well made and distinctive bourbon with lots of character and punch. I´ve enjoyed this immensely and would very much like to try the single barrel variety and their other products.

 John Medley´s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 80 proof (40%).

John Medley Bourbon

One of the cheapest bourbons available in Sweden, with not that much information to find out about the distillers. Made from a mash bill of 51% corn and 49% barley you can´t really accuse the makers of John Medley´s of being that original. What we get is a pretty traditional Kentucky Straight Bourbon, but with a much longer barrel aging than necessary.

A medium amber colour. The nose has oak, caramel and vanilla. Neat in a tasting glass it gives a smooth and mild impression of caramel, vanilla and some oak, with a short and quite unremarkable finish. In a tumbler with ice much of its to begin with pretty mild character is diluted and you end up with something rather anonymous. The bottle just as the whiskey is a no-frills square and chubby variety without any unique design features.

A whiskey well worth its admittedly low price, but too lacking of character to merit another tasting.

Maker´s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 90 proof (45%).

Makers mark

Many years of tradition lies behind this whiskey, which has a definitive edge its own. Clear, limestone water combined with a mash bill of 70% corn, 16 % wheat and 14% barley. Replacing rye with red winter wheat making this what is called a wheated bourbon. First introduced in 1958 this whiskey has a long history, and is one of the staples of American whiskey production.

Golden amber colour. A nose dominated by oak, caramel and vanilla. Neat in a tasting glass you get a well balanced combination of caramel, vanilla, spice and oak. In a tumbler with ice much of the complexity is lost, and a dominating sweetness takes over.

The bottle is both distinctive and unique, with its square format and wax seal. One of the true originals and a whiskey I would like to always have in my liquor cabinet.

…American Whiskey tasting no 1 is on the schedule.

I must confess to Jack Daniels having a special place in my heart. Not considered much of anything amongst serious single malt drinkers, it´s still the rock ´n´roll whiskey, making it undeniably cool to the twenty-something rock fan that I was when I first came in contact with it. No lover of rock ´n´ roll could have escaped the lure of this easily recognizable brand. It´s very easy to imagine Keith Richards in front of a microphone with his guitar, a bottle of Jack dangling from one hand and a cigarette in the other.

I´ve never used it for mixing cocktails or in Jack ´n´Coke or something like that, instead always enjoying it in a tumbler with a single ice cube. Something of a guilty pleasure, you could say, just like the old Eurythmics albums I keep stacked in the back of my vinyl LP collection. Maybe not that hip, but still definitely enjoyable.

Jack Daniels

Jack Daniels Old No.7 Brand, 80 proof (40%).
The Jack Daniels distillery was established in 1866, making it the oldest in America and claiming to still make it´s famous Old No.7 Brand precisely as it´s always been done. A Tennessee whiskey crafted from cool, iron-free water from their own spring, with a sour mash based on corn with an addition of rye and malted barley, mellowed by dripping through 10 feet of maple charcoal before maturing in barrels of new white oak, made and charred at the distillery. No specified time of barrel maturation is said to be needed, “it´s ready when it´s ready”. Whiskey from different barrels are blended to give a consistent taste and quality.

So, how does it taste? Let me begin by saying that this is not a very demanding whiskey to drink. A nice, fairly light colour with a nose that´s also on the light side. Sweet and with notes of caramel and vanilla, with just the slightest hint of charcoal smoke. A second sniff gives you pretty strong banana notes. Straight, in a tasting glass, you get a very smooth and mellow drink, with some fresh oak and distinct caramel and vanilla notes, followed by a finish dominated by sweetness. In a tumbler with an ice cube the sweetness is more marked and some fruitiness appears. This description might give the faulty impression that Jack Daniels is an unremarkable drink, which is not my opinion at all. I really like this whiskey and while it´s quite light and pleasing from the first sip, it still holds a certain measure of complexity. Of course, it can´t be compared to a 25 year old Highland Park, but that´s not really what it´s about is it? I would say that it´s perfectly possible for the same person to enjoy both the Allman Brothers Band and Radiohead´s latest.

Elijah Craig

Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 12 years old, 94 proof (47%).
Produced by the large Heaven Hill distillery, this straight Bourbon was named after the Reverend Elijah Craig (1738 – 1808), who has been claimed to be the first to make true Kentucky Bourbon, after storing his whiskey in barrels that had been accidentally charred in a fire. Be that as it may, you don´t have to believe this story to try the whiskey. It is marketed as a small batch Bourbon, coming from a dump of not more than 100 barrels. If that´s really to be considered small batch can of course be discussed, but let´s not be overly elitist here.

In this day and age where packaging and design is becoming more and more important, Elijah Craig is either an anti-statement or just plain old fashioned. Everything about this bottle looks cheap and uninteresting, not that different from the generic rum I once bought back in the eighties in a Prague government store. That said, drinking the contents of the bottle will make you happier than looking at it. Here we have a whiskey with the light amber colour that could be expected from 12 years of barrel maturation (I haven´t found any information about the presence or absence of artificial colourings, so let´s believe in a natural process for the time being). The nose carries a strong and full sweetness with no sharpness of alcohol whatsoever, along with vanilla and banana toffee. Tasting it straight reveals more of the sweetness and a certain creaminess in the medium long finish. Toasted oak is evident, combined with a hint of vanilla. Iced in a tumbler the oak is played down and a discrete aniseed or liquorice tone develops. Not sure that ice really improves on this whiskey, unlike what I´ve found during the years for Jack Daniels. There is a definite Bourbon character to this brew that I enjoy, even though the likes of Woodford and Blanton´s reach much higher in that respect. Not sure I´m going to buy this again, but let´s see.

Rebel reserve

Rebel Reserve, Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 90,6 proof (45,3%).
William Larue Weller (1825 – 1899) initiated the use of wheat instead of rye in the mashbill of Bourbon whiskey, which of course had to contain at least 51% corn. Now several other types of wheated Bourbon exists, and the WLW brand has been sold to the Sazerac Company. Rebel Yell and it´s sister whiskey Rebel Reserve is currently produced by the Heaven Hill distillery. Claiming to be hand-crafted in small batches my particular bottle is number 53 549 from batch 1 065. Seems like industrial production trying to mimic artisanal. Wheated Bourbon definitely has a different character compared to the others, whether you like it or not is a different story. An earlier tasting of Rebel Yell that I did found it to be entirely unremarkable. Rebel Reserve however is marketed as the more exclusive alternative, with more bells and whistles. It shows a light amber colour, probably consistent with its undisclosed time of barrel maturation. The nose carries a distinct alcohol sharpness that almost completely displaces tones of oak and caramel. Tasting it straight will show you a pretty decent wheat character, but not so much else. Unfortunately this whiskey is fairly one-dimensional and severely lacking in complexity. The finish is short and unsatisfying and not something that will get you excited. Tasting it in a tumbler with an ice cube doesn´t really change anything. There is a definite lack of character here that can´t be overlooked. Not something that I´m going to return to.

…the hipsters might be on to something – American whiskey

Every other year a new trend in alcoholic beverages comes along, making it possible for the self-appointed hip guys (yes, it´s always guys) to set themselves apart from their pals by amassing tons of nerdy knowledge. I should know since I´ve been one of those guys for years. We´ve seen single malt whisky, matured rum, Italian grappa, premium vodka, Carter-head still gin and several others go from cult to mainstream, and now the time in the limelight has come for American whiskey. For many years, the Systembolaget store (the only licensed seller of alcohol in Sweden) has offered just a handful of pretty basic Bourbons. This has definitely changed and now you can get over 70 types of American wiskey, many of them by special order and some with prices even higher than premium Scottish malts.

The many centuries of history of this type of drink in Ireland and Scotland is very hard to overlook, and that story deserves it´s own telling some other time. To simplify things you could say that Scottish whisky is made from either malted barley (malt whisky) or from other grains (mostly wheat or rye). Single malt whisky is distilled from a mash containing only malted barley, while the equivalent single grain uses either rye or wheat. Several blends of the different types of whisky also exists; blended malt, blended grain as well as blends of malt and grain whiskies.

American whiskey follows the same ground rules with some noteable exceptions. The spirit is still distilled from different kinds of fermented grains – barley, malted barley, rye, malted rye, wheat and corn. Several distinctive types of this whiskey exists with different rules of what they are allowed to be made of. Rye and rye malt whiskey must contain at least 51% rye or malted rye. Similarly malt and wheat whiskey must use at least 51% malted barley or wheat respectively. Corn whiskey on the other hand contains at least 80% corn, something that sets it apart from all the others.Bourbon is maybe the most well known of American whiskeys and can only be distilled from a mash of at least 51 % corn and then aged in charred new oak barrels. No artificial colour or flavouring is allowed and the length of barrel aging is not closely regulated. To be called straight whiskey a distillate needs to be not more than 80% alcohol, aged for at least two years and without additives.

George Dickel

Tennessee whiskey is a special case of straight Bourbon produced in the state of Tennessee. Relatively few producers of this type of whiskey exists due to a statewide prohibition of alcoholic beverages that has endured much longer than the national prohibition. Many of the Tennessee whiskeys will not use the Bourbon label in spite of technically qualifying as such. The main producers of Tennessee whiskey are Jack Daniels, George Dickel and Benjamin Prichard. All of these companies manufacture several types of whiskey with their own unique character. Some of these are made with the Lincoln County Process, meaning that the whiskey is filtered through or steeped in maple charcoal chips before going into oak casks for aging. The Jack Daniels and George Dickel distilleries have different ways of doing this, which is claimed to affect the taste of their products. The sour mash process used in making the Tennesee whiskeys is a way of achieving an even quality over time. Some of the already used mash is added to the present batch to start fermentation, ensuring that the same yeast is used and lowering the pH to avoid proliferation of bacteria that could affect the taste of the distillate.

charcoal mellowing

Having a story explaining why your particular whisky is better and more special than the rest has always been important, and the lore of Scottish malts are full of special ingredients and techniques, single-minded master distillers, unique combinations of new and previously used barells, as well as storage locations exposed to salty sea air or other environmental factors perceived beneficial. The same goes for American whiskey, however with several important differences. While age is an important factor in Scottish whiskies, American ones have no way of competing in that department. Instead we get a lot of unique compositions of the fermentable material, paired with some special manufacturing steps like for example the Lincoln County Process. The tales behind American whiskeys are in no way less intriguing than those behind their Scottish counterparts. Very often you have a strong personality initiating manufacture of whiskey in a different way than what´s been done before. It might be a water supply of remarkable quality, a special combination and/or treatment of the grains used, different extra processes like maple charcoal mellowing, and innovations in barrel maturation. How the distillery dealt with the Prohibition Era is often a part of its history that´s recounted with pride, and of course adds colour to its background. Having been the favorite whiskey of different luminaries from Abe Lincoln to Al Capone is also used as part of the mythology surrounding a certain brand.

There´s been a lot of debate about whether to add water or ice to your drink, and even though no distinctive truths are to be found there are still arguments for the different practices. When talking about single malts, many agree that a splash of water is needed to release the full taste of high alcohol content whiskies like cask strength varieties, that can go up to 60% or more. At this high percentage the alcohol can actually prevent your taste buds from registering the subtler nuances of the whisky, and instead leave you with an anaesthesized feeling. For single malt whiskies ice is never an option even though it´s sometimes used for blended ones. American whiskeys on the other hand have a long history of drinking on the rocks, and there might even be a point to this practice. It´s true that the lower temperature in a glass of whiskey with an ice cube in it will withhold some of the tastes. Still, some of the high end Bourbons like Blanton´s have such a high alcohol content that some water might help to release some of their finer nuances. While tasting American whiskey it might be a good idea to first try it neat and then continue by adding an ice cube and see how it changes. Future posts in this blog will be doing exactly that, with different products from a number of distilleries.