Okay, here is what I hope will become the whisk(e)y omnibus thread (does that sound a modest enough goal?), based on a discussion that began in the infamous black suit thread. We'll start with bourbon because . . . well, because. This is just a start, presented in rough order of preference. I'm clearly forgetting some things, but I'm short on time right now. A.H. Hirsch 16 (Michter's) The clear favorite among many involved in the previous discussion, and I concur. It has good sweetness with lots of complexity, a huge, smooth body, and very long finish. In the words of the owner of the local establishment that carries it, "it's just such a goddamned good whiskey." However, the distillery is long since closed (late "˜80s, IIRC), so what's left is what's left, though prices have actually come down a bit in the past year, and range from $60 to $80. There is also a 20-year-old bottling that's supposedly even better, nearly impossible to find, and costs about $200. Blanton's Single Barrel (Ancient Age/Buffalo Trace) Tops my list of bourbons that are currently in production, though it's arguably not a particularly close second to Hirsch. JBZ has said that "some I have talked to find Blantons to be almost "˜too mellow'," and I've heard the same, but I find that it has plenty of depth (if not as much punch), a good, almost oily body, and a very pronounced vanilla/caramel character. Prices for this generally hover around $50. Booker's (Jim Beam) A bourbon with the attack of an Islay single malt. Very, very smoky and full-flavored, and bottled at cask strength (~125 proof). One of the only bourbons I'll add water to (just a couple of teaspoons really opens it up beautifully), and it also does well in Manhattans, as the vermouth mellows the bourbon perfectly. I wouldn't give it to someone new to bourbon or distilled spirits (unless said person is already an Islay scotch drinker). Â Prices around $50-$60 per bottle. Elijah Craig 12-year (Heaven Hill) My favorite "everyday" bourbon"”ridiculously well-priced at ~$18"”with a great, sweet, floral nose and a smoothness akin to Maker's Mark, but with a bit more punch and complexity. Elijah Craig 18-year (Heaven Hill) Very different from the 12-year: much more smooth and sweet, almost to the point of being too smooth and sweet. I've only dipped into my bottle a couple of times so far, and I'm ambivalent, though it's not truly bad. I think this is analogous to some of the longer-aged Islay scotches that have arguably had the peat smoke aged out of them. Sure, they can be pretty good, but you expect something different. Sazerac Rye 18-year (Buffalo Trace??) Pricey (around $50-$60) but worthwhile: nice and peppery/spicy, with tobacco and other strong, earthy notes. Jefferson's Reserve (Mclain & Kyne) A really nice sipping bourbon. It's smoky and leathery and always reminds me of a wood-paneled study with a brass-studded leather wingback chair. Perfect for a contemplative mood. Priced usually around $45-$60. Often available at Costco for around $40. Maker's Mark (Maker's Mark) Probably because of its low price (often under $20) and ubiquity in the liquor aisle of your local supermarket, MM seems to have acquired a reputation as a poor bourbon. This reputation is unjust and undeserved: this IS a good bourbon. Famously smooth and on the sweeter side, largely because it's a wheated bourbon (i.e., wheat is a large secondary component, as opposed to rye). JBZ observed earlier that it is particularly good for someone who is just "getting into" bourbons, and I agree"”it was my first bourbon and it hooked me. Â MM also makes a couple of higher-end bottlings, though only one (V.I.P., with gold wax instead of red) is available in the states. It's even smoother, and almost too mellow and sweet for me. I've always wanted to visit the MM distillery: it's a National Historic Landmark, and the complex looks simply beautiful in the photos I've seen. Knob Creek (Jim Beam) JBZ mentioned that he found it not all that remarkable, but disagree: I think it has a really nice fruity (peaches?) character to it, though smokiness is definitely there. This one hits a bit harder than, say, Blanton's. It's also a bargain in the low $20s. Eagle Rare 10-year (Buffalo Trace) Another smooth, sweet bourbon in the mold of Maker's Mark. Also good for first-timers, and very reasonably priced (upper $20s). There's an 18-year, as well: it's more expensive, and I've not yet tried it. Woodford Reserve (Brown-Forman) smokier than MM, but quite good. Â Runs about $5 more per bottle. Â I've had it on the rocks and straight up. Misc. Others Others that I don't have time to write about right now, but enjoy: Evan Williams Single Barrel Vintage, Wild Turkey 101, Wild Turkey Russell's Reserve, Corner Creek Reserve, Baker's.
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4/27/05 at 3:34pm