Bernheim Original Wheat Bourbon

Read More

51% winter wheat, 39% corn, 10% barley malt. 45% ABV.

It’s cold outside now in Austin and we’re back at it with the whiskey reviews. Last week, I wanted to try a new wheat bourbon. I’m only really familiar with WL Weller, a staple over at C&W, and it’s such a reliable bottle that I’ve rarely ventured out to see what else is out there. The Weller, which we’ve reviewed here a while back, features a chewy, satisfying flavor and stays away from oversweet qualities or astringency that might be endemic to a wheat whiskey. It was against the Weller standard that I rolled the dice on the Bernheim Original.

Three of us settled on the porch, each with different cigars but splitting the Bernheim, a few splashes each and neat. By itself, the Bernheim is astringent. If you’re unfamiliar with this taste, do you know how you’ve choked down Robitussin as a little kid, at the direction of a parent or a school nurse? The first part of Robitussin, out of those little plastic caps, is not that bad. It tastes a little bit rich, round, like licorice. But the end – what we call the backsip – is the rough part. It makes you pucker your lips and grimace unrecognizably. The Bernheim, without any water or ice to open itself up, has the same effect. So, because we like to enjoy ourselves and not feel like we are taking medicine, we added some water.

Room-temperature water opened up this bottle very well. The Bernheim only needed a splash, and we could taste some vanilla, cedar and of course the wheat. Grant, who had joined us on the back porch for the night, mentioned that a couple of big ice cubes were his favorite way to water down a nice whiskey. I agree with this. You may taste something different in the drink when the ice is at various melted levels; we were fresh out of cubes, so water had to do. Either way, we were drinking a wheat bourbon on the back porch – hard to complain otherwise.

Even though some water saved the night, it’s difficult to justify the Bernheim Original for the price. The 750 ml bottle ran for about $28, the same price point as WL Weller. It’s a thinner, less developed wheat bourbon, and Weller is just the superior product in this field. If you happen to need a wheat bourbon for a particular sort of cocktail, the Bernheim is excellent – a couple of days later I used it for a hot toddy kind of drink with a cider, and the sharpness complemented some of the sweetness. But if you’re hoping to sip something straight, neat or with an ice cube, spring for a different wheat bourbon. I’m continuing the hunt for something to beat WL Weller.

Stagg Jr.

Read More
Photo Credit: Buffalo Trace Distillery

 

Photo Credit: Buffalo Trace Distillery
Photo Credit: Buffalo Trace Distillery

In the world of bourbon, there are a few names that stand out above the crowd. One of those is George T. Stagg, a pioneer of whiskey who has been associated with some of the finest beverages conceived by man. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that a bourbon bearing his name should be held to the highest standards of excellence. When I came across the Stagg Jr. by happenstance, I knew I’d have to put it to the test.

I began unwrapping the bourbon and pouring it neat. The nose was rich and sweet. Swirling it around the glass, it had a perfect amber color and lazily dripped down the edges.

I gave it a sip with no ice to get the pure flavor. I was immediately exposed to hearty cinnamon, brown butter, cloves and dried cherries. The flavors were not subtle, but were absolutely delicious. Still I prefer to take the edge off my whiskeys just a hair, so I dropped a large ice cube in and let it settle.

The ice did the trick, mellowing the Stagg Jr. just enough so that I could more comfortably explore its nuance. I was rewarded with a light caramel flavor that synthesized with the rest, binding them together and making the drink more silky in the process. It was an extremely pleasant experience.

The Stagg Jr. is not the easiest bourbon to find, but if you come across some I’d highly recommend picking up a bottle. I’ll make a brief note that after I drank mine I came across some other reviews stating that it was not particularly good. To each their own, but I’d say you’re missing out if you don’t at least give this one a try.

Whiskey Wednesdays: Kings County Distillery

IMG_1634

Happy Wednesday Dear Readers!

In a slight change of pace, this week our subject is not a particular brew, but rather an entire distillery. Kings County Distillery (KCD) is THE oldest distillery in New York City. That being said, due to absurdly restrictive liquor laws that were just lifted at the beginning of the century, KCD has only been active since 2010. However, they make up for their relative newcoming by invoking the spirit of their surroundings – located in the historic Brooklyn Navy Yard, the amber product of KCD truly reflects the spirit of Monitor and Missouri.

IMG_1636

I had the privilege of touring this fine establishment on a sunny July afternoon, and it was a glorious setting for my first distillery trip north of the Mason-Dixon. Tucked away in a ramshackle industrial park near the Brooklyn Bridge, the red brick appeared as lost to the weeds as Yoda’s home on Dagobah, until I realized that instead of an overgrown green infestation, what surrounded their headquarters was a thriving urban garden complete with music, cornhole, and free ice cream. Lesson learned = looks can be deceiving.

IMG_1632

And what an applicable lesson for the rest of my day at KCD. Inside the 115-year old Navy Paymaster’s House, hosts a modern setup for blending some of the most delicious liquids in the Northeast. What’s this advanced scientific metric the distillery uses you ask? The human palate of course, and you can find the master mixers crafting their brews right in with the barrels; for us whiskey lovers, it’s as artful as being on the bridge at Giverny. Their products are conventional, but reflect courage and competence. KCD uses a good chunk of state-produced ingredients, and their bourbon, while not as complex as older (southern) varieties, is certainly smooth enough to be going on with. Kings County Distillery – come for the novelty, stay for the ambiance, and drink whiskey.

But as always, further research is needed…

IMG_1635

Belle Meade 9 Sherry Cask

Belle Meade Sherry

The oppressive summer heat is in full swing, meaning sweltering days and somewhat humid nights. Though this weather can wear you down quick if you aren’t ready for it, there is no better time of year to sit out back sipping a glass of bourbon. The candidate for this post is the Belle Meade 9 Sherry Cask. I was looking for something unique that I hadn’t tried yet and was put on to this bourbon by a trusted clerk at my local liquor store.

I was initially intrigued by the darkness of the bourbon, a color derived from the sherry casks in which it is aged. I poured myself a glass, dropped in one huge ice cube, and settled in.

The nose of the bourbon is tantalizing and sweet. Giving it a light curl the whiskey clings to the side of the glass like a syrup. I expected this would be a rich treat indeed.

The first sip confirmed my suspicion. The Belle Meade 9 Sherry Cask has a depth of flavor that stands it apart even from other rich bourbons. I got mostly plum, cherry, caramel, and a bit of bitter chocolate. There was actually a touch of spice here as well, though that flavor pops and disappears as quickly as I could pick up on it. The character is intense, and it is not without a bit of a kick on the finish, though I would still say it is primarily smooth drinking.

This whiskey pairs very well with full-bodied cigars. I suspect it would hold it’s own against just about anything you throw at it.

The next time you want something that’ll keep your attention while still allowing for a casual night in the warm summer weather, give the Belle Meade 9 Sherry Cask a try. I’ll certainly be picking up another bottle.

Redbreast 12 Year

redbreastcw

I opened the Redbreast 12 on a recent evening when the weather was just perfect. I had finished the first grilled steak of the year, a massive bone-in ribeye that turned out just perfect with beautiful marbling and a side of buttered asparagus. This, I felt, was the prefect environment to crack into the Redbreast, an Irish whiskey referred to by many of my colleagues as “one of the best.”

The nose is elegant and rich. I got brown sugar and caramel with just a hint of fruit.

I added one very large cube of slow melting ice and took my first sip. The flavors I picked up in the nose were present here. The fruit notes turned out to be a touch of dried apricot. And this drink went down smooth, though unlike the Tullamore Dew we tasted recently, it had just enough bite to remind you that you were drinking a pretty stoic drink. I liked that.

As the cube melted the flavors mellowed and I picked up a touch of cream underneath the heavy sweetness of the fruit and sugars. These mingled beautifully, and I drank the rest down in a couple of gulps. I know not to let a drink this good get too watered down.

I will have to say that I concur with other assessments of the Redbreast 12: it is one of the finest Irish whiskeys I have ever tried. Frankly, it might be the best. I highly recommend you pick some up to treat yourself after a rich meal.

Tullamore Dew

Read More

TullamoreDewBarrels

Next up in our series on Irish Whiskey is one of my old favorites, Tullamore Dew.

Tullamore Dew is one of the older Irish Whiskey brands that, though not quite as widely popular as the likes of Jameson, still has a strong following. More importantly, they produce one of the finest sipping whiskeys currently out there (Irish or otherwise).

I tested the Tullamore Dew with a small splash of water in a Glenmorangie glass. The nose is fairly light, giving off faint caramel notes and something that is almost floral.

First sip tastes, and I know this is a strange descriptor, incredibly clean. If we are to refer to whiskey as the eau de vie then it has never been more applicable than here. There is also more of that caramel I detected on the nose, and even some light cherry flavors. There is a touch of smoke, but only a touch, and there is no astringent harshness at all.

Taking a drink in earnest, the flavors deepen but do not change. Most notable is just how remarkably smooth the Tullamore Dew really is. This is one that you could kick back with all night easily (though I have reason to believe that it will sneak up on you if you aren’t careful…).

If I have any complaint at all it is that the flavors are almost too smooth, but maybe that’s because my go-to beverages are generally more punishing Islay scotches. In any case, I would recommend the Tullamore Dew, particularly if you want a whiskey that will stick with you for the long haul.

Jameson Select Reserve Black Barrel

Read More

JamesonBarrelsBottle

Jameson Irish Whiskey is a classic.

I am certain that nearly every whiskey drinker has had at least a sip or two of Jameson in their lives. Whether on the rocks or in the nefarious “Irish Car Bomb,” Jameson is a treat.

All that said, I have never branched out from Jameson proper. So when I saw the Jameson Select Reserve Black Barrel while perusing the store shelves the other day, I was intrigued. How much better would one of the variants be?

As it turns out, pretty damn good.

The drink is smoother than regular Jameson, and even more drinkable. Taken neat it is bright with a warm finish that tastes like caramel. However, I preferred it on the rocks. It lent more of a vanilla flavor that combined with salted caramel and slightly charred wood. Don’t worry though, the drink is not too sweet. It is simply a balanced beverage that would pair well with rich cigars or as a standalone after-dinner treat.

I actually think that I would take Jameson Black over standard Jameson, even at the slightly increased price tag. Give it a try, particularly if you are a fan of Jameson original. You won’t be disappointed.

Whisky Wednesday: Deanston Virgin Oak

Read More

virgin-oak

Hello Dear Readers!

As we at C&W awake from our wintry slumber, our search today for delicious, barrel-related liquids takes us back to the land without the “e” – Deanston Distillery in the Highlands of Scotland. The Deanston Virgin Oak is a fine blend. That’s right, another blend joins our ranks. Technically, Deanston does classify it as a single malt because they finish the whisky in a single barrel, but seeing as how they “married” separate single malts to create the VO, it certainly seems like a blend for all intents and purposes.

After you pour yourself a dram of Virgin Oak, one cannot help but notice the intriguing color of its contents; this whisky is lighter on looks than most, like wheat mixed with an old bookcase left out in the sun too long. And what the VO lacks in color is certainly compensated by its pungent aroma. Indeed if prohibition ever graces the land of Robert the Bruce, Deanson could simply turn into a scented candle factory and not miss a bob in profits. The oak stands out, and mixed with the slightest floral zest, makes it difficult to power through to the actual tasting. The flavor of the Virgin Oak is complex, especially for a distillery that was formerly a simple cotton mill.

The taste is certainly not disappointing, but James Bond would probably not be caught sipping it either. If Hugh Grant were drinking this whisky I imagine his first reaction would be “befuddlement” – the VO has a bite but is not remotely peaty and is easy to sip yet the 46.3% alcohol content can make the stairs as hard to conquer as Everest after a couple rounds.

Virgin Oak by Deanston – curious, captivating, and cost-effective at around $30 a bottle.

But as always, further research is needed…

Willett Bourbon

Read More

WillettBourbonCW

I have been wanting to try the Willett Bourbon for years.

Since I’ve been interested in drinking fine whiskeys, Willett Bourbon has stood out with its incredibly alluring shape, deep amber color, and individually numbered packaging. It is a bottle that immediately commands attention, one that you almost hesitate to drink from given the perfect proportion of whiskey that creates the luxurious visual aesthetic. But not to worry, dear readers. Drink I did.

I poured the Willett over one large cube, then gave it a few swirls to appreciate its rich aroma. The legs clung to the side of the glass very well, dripping almost like syrup back into the glass.

The taste is, and I do not use this word lightly, exquisite. Very rich notes of pear, caramel, and just a hint of smoke paraded across my palate. The finish was creamy and delicious, with absolutely zero harshness. Just a glowing warmth akin to a heated apple cider.

If you haven’t tried the Willett Bourbon, you are absolutely missing out. It is one of those rare cases where the fanciness of packaging accurately reflects the elegance of the drink therein. Pick up a bottle and let me know what you think. As for me, I’ve found one of my new favorite bourbons.