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Bourbon Tasting Notes

Contrary to what some people may think, all bourbon is not alike - if fact, there are some very distinct differences between bourbons based on what they are distilled from (the grain bill), how they are distilled and how they are aged.  Everyone has different tastes so please remember that the observations here are based strictly on my own tastes and experiences.  I don't really have an all round favorite bourbon.  I actually like to support as many distillers as I can while at the same time enjoying some diversity in my bourbon pleasure. 

Still, I do have some favorites and generally rotate among them:

A long time favorite of mine is Wild Turkey 101 Proof.  You will always find this bourbon in my liquor cabinet.  This is one bad ass bourbon.  Yes there are bourbons with higher proof, but they aren't Wild Turkey.  I tried it as a college student because it was the favorite of "Uncle Duke" in the "Doonsebury" cartoon.  I took an instant liking to it.  The taste is intense without being rough.  A shot of WT101 after a hard day helps clear the mind and assists with getting things in proper perspective.  Of course, it's perfect for sipping neat or on the rocks.  It also stands up exceptionally well to mixers too.  It is an all around winner!

Probably the smoothest all around bourbon is Maker's Mark.  You'll pretty much always find a bottle in the liquor cabinet too.  The fact that they use red wheat instead of rye probably explains the very smooth taste and finish as rye tends to give bourbon a "spicy" flavor profile.  Straight or mixed this is one fine smooth bourbon.

I am also very fond of Four Roses.  It is about halfway between WT101 and MM as far as intensity but is still very smooth.  It tastes great both mixed and straight.  Also in this group is Buffalo Trace.  Again, it is a favorite of mine both mixed and straight.

For value, I highly recommend Very Old Barton.  I routinely find it for around ten bucks for a 750ml.  It is excellent in mixed drinks and even ok for the occasional shot.  I recently came across a bourbon from Barton's called "Colonel Lee".  It was going got 4.99 for a 750 ml - and that is not a misprint.  My point here is that don't necessarily judge a bourbon entirely by price. 

Finally, I recently tried Wild Turkey Spiced - that's right - spiced and found it to be very interesting.  I recommend anyone who likes something a little different to give this a try.  Another bourbon that falls into this type is Jim Beam Red Stag.  I am very fond of the Black Cherry while Chandra is a big fan of the Honey Tee. 

I am also a huge fan of Wild Turkey American Honey.  Contrary to what some people may think, this has been around for quite some time, albeit in a slightly different presentation.  At one time it was known as Wild Turkey Liqueur.  You can check out some promotional material from the late 70s by clicking here.

So how do I like my bourbon?  Well, there is nothing quite like a quick shot to get things rolling.  Of course, just pouring a little in a glass and sipping is nice too.  Just a drop or two of water can help release some of the aromas.  If I want to mix it, I like Coke Zero and Cherry Coke Zero.  Why Coke Zero?  I really don't like a lot of sugar (or HFCS).  The cherry taste is really nice.

So what about some of the high dollar bourbons that seem to be all the rage?  Frankly, I guess I just don't have the kind of palate to make it worth my while to pay the extra money for these bourbons.  I can't taste a fancy bottle or label.  Of course, every one is a little different and if these higher priced bourbons bring you pleasure I encourage you to go for it!

This page was last revised February 26, 2014.
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