Bar Belle's Tasteless Tastings bar

Tasteless Tastings: Deck the Halls 2019 holiday edition

Tasteless Tastings bottles of bourbon

Let the tastings begin!

Welcome to another edition of Tasteless Tastings, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about said sample.

This month’s iteration is holiday-themed, so let’s deck those halls with the bowels of someone named Holly. Let’s get to it …

 

What are we drinking today?:

Two Bitch BourbonTwo Bitch Bourbon Eureka Gold

What the hell is it?:

Straight out of Eureka, Nev., this straight bourbon whiskey (aged at least two years) comes from a new Nevada-based spirits company named after the owners’ love for their two newfound dogs. Along with this product, named for the old Wild West town the owners reside in, they offer the Pack Leader Reserve and a Small Batch with Bite. Apparently, Eureka sits in the Diamond Mountains on the “loneliest road in America.” So what else is there to do than to make bourbon?

Give me the nerdy numbers:

92 proof, $45

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: I can tell this isn’t an older bourbon because of its light color. It’s a straight bourbon, which means it’s at least two years old. So there’s that.

Kat: I can sip on this one! It’s light and subtle.

Heather: It’s the color of beer.

Tracy: It’s not memorable, but it’s OK. I mean, I’m not going to stop talking to friends and go, “Oooooh, wow!” But it’s something I could sip on all night long and not become overwhelmed.

Elizabeth: (Added a few drops of water) Water changed it for the better actually. You can actually smell something now.

Amber: Yes! I detect vanilla, and it’s sweet! It’s definitely a smooth bourbon — doesn’t burn, goes down well.

Bar Belle: That’s what she said?

Tracy: It would be good in cocktails because it’s sort of nondescript and won’t overpower.

Elizabeth: This could be the White Claw of bourbon.

Bar Belle: They also sent me a sample of the Small Batch product, and it was so delicious, I’m keeping it all to myself. Sorry not sorry.

 

If this bourbon was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A standard, frosted ball ornament

Heather: I think you all are describing an ornament I made in kindergarten — I made it from a used pantyhose container! I think I still have it.

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What are we drinking today?:

Knob CreekKnob Creek Quarter Oak

What the hell is it?:

This new, limited-edition release uses a secondary finishing approach, taking fully mature Knob Creek and then finishing it for a minimum of four years in a quarter cask (a smaller-sized barrel). This juice is then blended with regular Knob Creek for this product.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

100 proof, $49.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: This is a new release from Knob Creek, which is made by Jim Beam. Think “double oaked,” and you get the idea. I’m a big fan of finished whiskeys for sure.

Tracy: Wow! We’re moving up the tree with this one! It’s nice. I like it!

Kat: This isn’t bad at all! It’s well-rounded, smooth.

Heather: I like this one, too! It starts off with a little heavier vanilla and then finishes off spicy. It’s the perfect bourbon for sipping in the winter.

Amber: The nose reminds me of fruit — dark cherry.

Bar Belle: It’s definitely a cherry bomb. Wow! I could sip on this for days if I didn’t have a job.

Heather: It would make a lovely Manhattan.

 

If this bourbon was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A fancier ornament on the tree — possibly a snow globe featuring a bowl of cherries sprinkled with brown sugar.

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What are we drinking today?:

Heaven HillHeaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond

What the hell is it?:

This Bottled-in-Bond product was recently launched — or somewhat re-launched — by Heaven Hill, replacing the 6-year-old BIB product it had on the market for about $9.99 until 2018. The BIB label actually dates back to 1939 for Heaven Hill, when the company first released it and it shot to the No. 1 best-selling bourbon in Kentucky. Now, with a fancier bottle and label and an extra year of aging, the BIB label is a solid choice — although some longtime Heaven Hill BIB fans lament the uptick in price.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

100 proof, 7 years old, $39.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: This is Heaven Hill’s latest Bottled-in-Bond product, which replaced a cheaper version that was discontinued last year. The Bottled-in-Bond Act was passed in 1897 to kind of guarantee that what you were buying was legit.

Let me read you what Wikipedia has to say: To be labeled as bottled-in-bond or bonded, the liquor must be the product of one distillation season (January–June or July–December) by one distiller at one distillery. It must have been aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision for at least four years and bottled at 100 (U.S.) proof (50% alcohol by volume). The bottled product’s label must identify the distillery where it was distilled and, if different, where it was bottled. Only spirits produced in the United States may be designated as bonded.

Elizabeth: Whoa! This is like a sucker punch!

Amber: It has such a sweet smell, and then it bites you when you’re not looking.

Tracy: Holy hell, Batman! This will put some hair on your chest!

Kat: Shooo!

Elizabeth: This is like one of those candles on your birthday cake that won’t blow out! It just keeps burning and burning.

Heather: I’d put it in eggnog.

Bar Belle: I like the spiciness. It’s definitely characteristic of the Heaven Hill mashbill. Not everything can be covered in caramel, you all! Embrace the spice, because it’s nice.

Tracy: This is one I’m not going to finish, if that tells you anything.

 

If this bourbon was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A Snoopy driving a firetruck ornament … maybe that even makes a siren noise when you push a button.

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What are we drinking today?:

291291 Colorado Rye Whiskey

What the hell is it?:

This single barrel rye whiskey was made by Distillery 291, based out of Colorado Springs, Colo. It is distilled in a copper pot still and aged in American white oak barrels for one year, and then finished with aspen staves. Distillery 291 is a small batch whiskey-making company owned by distiller Michael Myers (not the one with the creepy mask), who aims to replicate the taste, smell and folklore of the Wild West. This rye whiskey was recently named World’s Best Rye by the World Whiskies Awards and has received similar accolades from all over the world. It is now available in Kentucky.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

101.7 proof, $59.99, Mashbill: 61% malted rye, 39% corn

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: Rye whiskey from Colorado! And there is no barley in the mashbill, which is uncommon.

Amber: This smells smokey, almost like a Scotch.

Elizabeth: Or feet.

Kat: It definitely smells different. But it doesn’t bad.

Heather: It has a malty taste.

Tracy: Well, it tastes better than it smells, that’s for sure. It’s like fruitcake!

Kat: I really like this!

Bar Belle: Me, too! It’s different than a high-rye bourbon, but displays a great smoothness and finishes nice. I want to chew on it.

Elizabeth: If you can get past the nose, it’s actually quite tasty.

Heather: I’m not sure I’d put this in a cocktail, but I could sip on it.

 

If this whiskey was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: A pine cone with glitter on it.

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What are we drinking today?:

Larceny Barrel ProofLarceny Barrel Proof

What the hell is it?:

Although Larceny Bourbon has been out now since 2012, this is the first new line extension of the Heaven Hill product. Larceny is a wheated bourbon usually bottled at 92 proof. And now, HH is releasing it with a barrel-strength proof. In fact, the bottle we sampled was 123.2 proof, but you’d never know from its crazy smoothness and sweet finish. I’ve liked Larceny since it was launched, but I never loved Larceny — if that makes any sense. However, after tasting the Barrel Proof, I’m smitten of the brown nectar that flows from the pearly gates of Heaven’s Hills. Shoo. I guess we should see what the others say …

Give me the nerdy numbers:

123.2 proof (proof will vary from bottle to bottle), $49.99

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: I hope you all are ready for some heat!

Amber: Wow! I like that. It pops, and then it’s smooth.

Kat: This is my favorite so far! Tastes like candy!

Amber: I agree. Right now it’s the topper on the tree!

Tracy: This is the bomb. A caramel bomb. It would be good to sip on by the fireplace.

Heather: (Added a few drops of water) It’s actually better neat. The water increased the burn.

Bar Belle: I feel like I’m licking a pole of caramel taffy. I wouldn’t even mind if my tongue got stuck to it at this point. It’s amazing how proof can make such a difference! This Barrel Proof just exceeded my expectations of this brand and elevated it to a whole new level! I mean, I feel like I know who let the dogs out now.

Tracy: Who? Who-who-who?

Bar Belle: John E. Fitzgerald, of course. The guy this bourbon is named in honor of. He was one of the only dudes with a key to the rickhouse back in the day, and they say a few of the better-tasting barrels would always come up a little short from year to year. They’d call them the “Fitzgerald barrels” because the juice was always quality, but also, there wasn’t much of it left. Can you blame him?

 

If this whiskey was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: This isn’t an ornament, it’s for when you’re watching the tree after it’s been decorated, sipping on a great bourbon while the fireplace crackles behind you.

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What are we drinking today?:

Skrewball WhiskeySkrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey

What the hell is it?:

Huh? Peanut butter whiskey? Yes, you heard that right. Peanut butter-flavored whiskey made — where else — than nutty California. There isn’t much about the distilling process on the label or website, but what we do know is it’s an invention by a married couple from Ocean Beach, Calif., who owned (or maybe still own) a bar. It’s also made with real peanuts, so if you have an allergy, this whiskey won’t cure all that ales you.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

70 proof, $26.99

What do we think?:

Tracy: (Takes a whiff) Well, I do smell the peanuts! (Takes a sip) Oh no! No no no!

Amber: It’s like drinking peanut butter.

Kat: I actually might enjoy sipping this on ice.

Bar Belle: It’s weird. Too syrupy and fake flavor-y to me. But I’d be willing to try it in a cocktail of some sort. Something with either jelly or chocolate.

Heather: Might be good in a chocolate shake — like a boozy milkshake.

Elizabeth: It would it be the popcorn ball ornament!

Amber: It’s the pickle ornament kids try to find in the tree! You know, the only one that’s different from all the others.

Heather: Come the first of the year when the diet starts, I might want to dip celery in it.

Bar Belle: That’s not a bad idea.

 

If this whiskey was a Christmas tree ornament, what would it be?:

Group consensus: It’s actually the drink of choice on the Island of Misfit Toys.

samples with pumpkin

Tasteless Tastings: Halloween 2019 Edition

samples with pumpkin

Let’s all gather round for this here Tasteless Tasting …

Welcome to another edition of Tasteless Tastings, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun or to forget the world around you. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about said sample. So let’s do it …

What are we drinking today?:
Mount Gay Rum

The Wizard!

Mount Gay Rum Master Blender Collection: Pot Still Rum

What the hell is it?:

This is the second edition of the Mount Gay Rum Master Blender Collection, created by Master Blender and Badass Trudiann Branker. This small batch of rum was matured in American oak barrels for 10 years and then placed into used whiskey barrels for six months prior to bottling. The pot still process honors the original method of rum-making, as Mount Gay dates back to 1703.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

96 proof, $170, only 1,002 bottles available in the U.S.

What do we think?:

Anna G.: This is the twister taking us to Oz! That scary lady is riding by trying to take our dog, and then we land in world of Mount Gay color!

Bar Belle: Wow, those woody, oaky are crazy! It’s like we’re in that forest where the trees are throwing apples at us.

Anna G: We’re not in Kentucky anymore.

Bar Belle: Indeed, we are not. We’re in Barbados!

We add a cube of ice to our samples.

Anna G.: Holy hell! We’ve just gone to Munchkin Town with Glenda the Good Witch!

Bar Belle: Ice changed this thing’s life!

Anna G.: This is the world of sweet, sweet color.

 

Halloween Costume:

The Man Behind the Curtain … The Oz Himself

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What are we drinking today?:
Yellowstone Bourbon

Cajun Sasquatch!

Yellowstone Limited Edition 2019

What the hell is it?:

Straight from the Limestone Branch Distillery, this hand-picked batch includes barrels of extra-aged 9-year and 12-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. It’s the oldest barrels yet used in a Limited Edition.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

101 proof, $99.99, 12,500 bottles available in the U.S.

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: This is like a warm embrace from a vampire. Definitely a cinnamon bomb, with a little Heath Bar at the end — toffee, brown sugar and that lovely caramel, of course.

Anna G.: Do Heath Bars have caramel?

Bar Belle: No, but they should!

Anna G.: Vampires are sterile — this is a warm hug from a sasquatch! The after taste comes from his backwoods muskiness.

Bar Belle: I don’t want to think about sasquatch musk, because in my mind I’m unwrapping those cubed caramels for caramel apples. Good stuff!

 

Halloween Costume:

Cajun Sasquatch

———————————— 

What are we drinking today?:
Maker's Mark RC6

Han Solo!

Maker’s Mark Wood Finishing Series: RC6

What the hell is it?:

This cask-strength Maker’s Mark has been finished with proprietary wood staves that go by the name of R2D2 … er, I mean RC6. These unique staves are American oak that was first “seasoned” for an extended 18 months outside and then toasted in a convection oven. Since Maker’s Mark technically only makes one type of bourbon, the stave process — adding different staves to fully matured Maker’s Mark — allows them to experiment and release one-offs like this one. And not all will be one-offs, as Maker’s 46 is technically part of this new Wood Finishing Series.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

108.2 proof, $59.99, this limited-edition small batch was made from only 255 barrels

What do we think?:

Anna G.: This is delicious!

Bar Belle: I swear it reminds me of a backyard barbecue … on the Millennium Falcon!

Anna G.: It’s Han Solo after being frozen in carbonite, then being delivered to Jabba the Hut, and then saving the day!

Bar Belle: Princess Leia looked hot in that scene, when she was strapped to that fat blob.

Anna G.: Remember before Han gets all froze, she runs to him and says, “I love you,” and he responds, “I know.”

Bar Belle: Typical man. But man, this stuff is legit! Quite smooth for 108 proof.

Anna G.: I want to say “I love you” to this sample, but I’m afraid it’s just going to say, “I know.”

 

Halloween Costume:

Han Solo

———————————— 

What are we drinking today?:
Booker's Bourbon

Jaws!

Booker’s “Country Ham” Batch 2019-03

What the hell is it?:

They say Booker enjoyed curing ham almost as much as he did making bourbon. Almost. This batch pays tribute to his proclivity for pork, and like his bourbon, he kept it simple — pairing the pork with only a cracker or biscuit.

Give me the nerdy numbers:

124 proof, $79.99, 6 years, 4 months and 2 days old

What do we think?:

Bar Belle: Wow, this bites without being provoked. Like Jaws let loose in Sea World!

Anna G.: The flavor is really nice, but the after effect is chaos! It’s making my nose run and it’s burning my mouth! Dammit!

Bar Belle: You better get your mouth out of that Kentucky water! This warms my palate like it warms my heart when I stumble across “Jaws 3-D” on TV on a lazy Sunday morning.

 

Halloween Costume: 

Chief Brody (or shall we say Chief Booker?) from “Jaws”: “You’re gonna need a bigger glass!”

Tasteless Tastings: Basil, Beam, Michter’s, Overholt and … scotch (!?)

The fab five.

Welcome to another edition of Tasteless Tastings, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun or to forget the world around you. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about said sample. So let’s do it …

What are we drinking today?:

Basil Hayden’s Two by Two Rye

Jim Beam Repeal Batch

Michter’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Toasted Barrel Finish

Old Overholt Bonded Straight Rye Whiskey

Glenfiddich Fire & Cane

What the hell is it?:

Basil Hayden’s Two by Two: This is a blend of two Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskeys and two Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskeys.

Jim Beam Repeal Batch: This limited-time product was made to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. The bourbon is non-chill filtered and bottled at a higher proof (86) than regular Beam (80).

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish: After a three-year hiatus, Michter’s released another Toasted Barrel expression in August. It’s their standard US*1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon that is aged for an additional period in a second custom-made, toasted barrel.

Old Overholt Bonded Rye: It’s a new addition to the Old Overholt family, which dates back more than 100 years. It’s a bonded rye whiskey, meaning it’s aged for four years, bottled at 100 proof, and from a single distiller and distillation season.

Glenfiddich: This is the fourth and latest expression in the scotch’s Experimental Series. It’s a blend of both peated and non-peated scotch whisky, which was then finished in Latin rum casks, sourced from South America, for three months.

Give me the nerdy numbers: 
  • Basil Hayden’s Two by Two: 80 proof, $44.99
  • Jim Beam Repeal Batch: 86 proof, $17.99
  • Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish: 91.4 proof, $60
  • Old Overholt Bonded Rye: 100 proof, $24.99
  • Glenfiddich: 86 proof, $49.99
What do we think?: 

We did this a bit different, since we had five samples to taste. Instead of breaking them up and offering one at a time, here is the dialogue of the entire session. We picked the order based on proof, going from low to high — except the scotch, which we saved until the very end.

As you might assume from a panel of Kentucky bourbon drinkers, they did not care for the scotch whatsoever. This DOES NOT mean the scotch is bad or unworthy. It just means these bourbon snobs are quite prejudice when it comes to the broad category of whiskey. Sipped on its own, not after four tasty bourbons, the scotch is actually quite flavorful and unique, especially with the rum finish.

So, don’t hate them for hating the scotch. I’d just thought it’d be fun to throw in a curve ball.

And here we go, starting with the Basil Hayden’s Two by Two

Britany: (Looking at the color) It makes me want to paint! (After taking a sip) It’s hitting the back of the roof of the mouth. I’m going numb down the throat … I’m going to have trouble with these.

Cara: It’s OK … I”m not feeling excited about it. I find it boring. I don’t feel the hug.

Britany: I find it subtle … I could drink it all day. It does feel kind of thin, though.

Anna: I really like it. It’s caramel-y and delicious. Even better cold (after adding an ice cube). This is a glass of trouble.

Bar Belle: It’s buttery and spicy. If it was a Spice Girl, it’d be Butter Spice.

Next up was the Jim Beam Repeal Batch

Cara: It tastes oaky, like you’re sucking on a popsicle stick. It’s OK, it’s not my favorite. A little boring.

Britany: It’s spicy! It’s making my eyes water and it feels like I have a sore throat. And it’s not getting any better with ice.

Anna: I’m gonna grow a beard here in a minute drinking this! It’s not bad, though. I call this the “Welcome to Kentucky.” I like it better with ice.

Tracy: This is old man whiskey. It’s not bad, there are just no sweet overtones. The ice blands it out.

Bar Belle: If this was a Spice Girl, it’d be Spicy Spice.

Next it was on to the Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish 

Anna: It toasted my tongue! It’s burning my mouth, but I love every minute of it. Notice that beautiful amber color — it’s like the Jurassic Park bourbon amber! It’s sweet and nice and sippy … I’d trade my half my liver for a bottle.

Britany: Wow! This is so much better than any bourbon I’ve ever had. And the ice makes the flavor expand all over my mouth, all the way to the end of my nose.

Anna: I want to finger this glass like it’s frosting.

Cara: I must like a solid A- bourbon: 90 proof or above. It’s my favorite so far.

Tracy: I love it! It’s smoky but sweet. We know my love of Michter’s, but this would be nice just sitting around the house on a cold winter day — well, any day really.

Bar Belle: It’s like sucking on a Werther’s Original! If this was a Spice Girl, it’d be Werther Spice.

Next up was the Old Overholt Bonded Rye 

Britany: I think it smells sour. I did expect to hate it, but it’s pretty damn good! It hits the sides of tongue … and my left nostril. It’s actually better with ice — retains the spice, just smooths it out.

Cara: I’m not mad at it. I like it with a splash of water.

Tracy: Smells really good! A little sour aftertaste, but it’s not too sour — it’s a vague sour.

Anna: It smells a little floral. Does this come in a three-wick?

Bar Belle: The spice is quite nice. If it was a Spice Girl, it’d be Old Spice Spice.

Finally, it was time for the scotch curve ball with the Glenfiddich Fire & Cane 

Tracy: Holy hell, this smells like the Loch Ness Monster! I have to say it tastes better than it smells.

Anna: Smells like the back of a closet.

Britany: The dusty back of a wet closet!

Bar Belle: That’s the peat you’re tasting and smelling.

Anna: It reminds me of the time my grandma put soap in my mouth.

Britany: You can smell it from 10 feet away! It smells musty, like an antiseptic — a numbing antiseptic. You could pour this on a wound and perform surgery.

Cara: Ack! It tastes like a hospital. It tastes like soap and scotch tape.

Bar Belle: It tastes like eighth-grade science class when we had to dissect frogs. If it was a Spice Girl, it’d be Peaty Spice.

After the crew was nice and buzzed from all the samples, I asked them to come up with high-school yearbook superlatives for each whiskey we tried.

Basil Hayden’s Two by Two:

  • Most likely to become an accountant.
  • Most likely to become my accountant girlfriend.
  • Most likely to be fashion forward.

Jim Beam Repeal Batch:

  • Most likely to leave you with the tab.
  • Most likely to drive a Prius.
  • Most likely to push for punches.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish:

  • Most likely to live happily ever after.
  • Most likely to be the first snowfall of the season.
  • Most likely to give up an organ for.
  • Most likely to snuggle.

Old Overholt Bonded Rye:

  • Most likely to succeed.
  • Most likely to be the cherry on top.

Glenfiddich Fire & Cane:

  • Most likely to dissect a frog.
  • Most likely to end up on the compost heap.
  • Most likely to end up in a job you hate.

Tasteless Tastings (Take 4): Michter’s 10 Year Rye

Welcome to the fourth Tasteless Tastings installment, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun or to forget the world around you. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about said sample. So let’s do it …

Yes, please!

What are we drinking today?Michter’s 10 Year Rye

What the hell is it?: It’s the 2017 release of Michter’s 10-year single barrel Kentucky straight rye whiskey.

Why do we care?: Not only are these 10-year releases usually incredible, but this whiskey marks the first 10-Year Rye release from Michter’s new master distiller, Pam Heilmann (whom I had a chance to interview a few months back).

Give me the nerdy numbers: The whiskey is 92.8 proof, and it retails for $150.

What do we think?: It’s no surprise this shit is delicious! It’s Michter’s, after all, and it’s 10-year-old whiskey! The panel I put together loved it as well, although they had trouble correctly pronouncing Michter’s — which is a combination of the founder’s children, Michael and Peter, and should be pronounced “Mickter’s.” Here’s how this whiskey blew their minds …

Erik: (Admiring the bottle) The mix of the bourbony color and green is always nice.
Britany: I like the shape of the bottle, the colors, but the A needs some kerning.
Cara: Smells fruity.
Britany: Look how much I got! You’re quite generous with your pours.
Cara: It tickles my nose.
Tracy: It smells divine. (Takes sip.) Oh my gosh … that’s sooo good.
Britany: I like that it doesn’t burn.
Erik: It’s got some spice but doesn’t have bite. It’s kinda buttery.
Cara: I’d like this in the winter, when it’s snowing outside.
Britany: It reminds me more of an Irish whiskey than a bourbon.
Tracy: I can see why she (Pam Heilmann) released this. It’s fantastic. I didn’t realize I liked rye!
Britany: I prefer rye.
Cara: I’m just gonna put one little ice cube right in the middle. … The ice definitely brings out more flavor.
Tracy: It’s good with the ice.
Britany: Wow, it brings out some flavor that wasn’t there before. It has a dessert flavor to it now.
Tracy: I taste butter.
Sara: It hits you in the back. I like it.

The group all agreed: Michter’s Rye is a winner!

Britany: This one is very buttery. The ice brings out the greasy-ness.
Tracy: It’s the perfect whiskey for when you’re just sitting around with friends … like now!
Cara: It’s like safe crack — or socially acceptable crack.
Tracy: It’s a nice piece of toast.
Erik: It’s like the tannins in wine, and I don’t even know what tannins are.
Tracy: Is this the first one we’ve all agreed on?
Sara: Yes, I believe it’s the first one we’ve all unanimously loved … now give me that bottle back!
Erik: It places high on the Michter’s Scale.

Tasteless Tastings (Take 3): Best Damn Cream Soda & Best Damn Sweet Tea

Welcome to the third Tasteless Tastings installment, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun or to forget the world around you. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about said sample. So let’s do it …

What are we drinking today?: Best Damn Cream Soda & Best Damn Sweet Tea beers brewed by Anheuser-Busch’s Best Damn Brewing Co. in St. Louis.

What the hell is it?: It’s beer … flavored beer, of course! The cream soda is an ale that is aged on real vanilla beans during the brewing process; the sweet tea is an ale aged with real black tea leaves. It’s fizzy, sweet and (I believe) delicious.

Why do we care?: Both products should be making their way to the Louisville market soon. If you’re tired of beer and the same-old, same-old, these might give your taste buds a quick pick-me-up.

Give me the nerdy numbers: Both products are 5.5% ABV, and there is no caloric content on the bottles, unfortunately. I’m guessing they have a lot of sugar, but we’re not worrying about that at the moment, are we?

What do we think?: I didn’t interject too much this time during the candid and lively discussion because I was too busy sipping and laughing. I think as an alternative to beer, these products are quite tasty, but I’m not sure I could have more than one in one sitting unless they were used as a mixer for a cocktail. Both were very sweet and made your spit thick — like when you eat a couple Starbursts or a handful of Skittles.

Here’s what the group thought …

Best Damn Cream Soda

Tracy: It’s not bad.
Britany: I like beer — I don’t want to count this as beer.
Tracy: It’s sugary.
Britany: Tastes like burnt sugar — like it has a caramelized kind of flavor to it, but it went too far.
Cara: Tastes like buttercream icing.
Sara: Tastes like Grandma?
Erik: I wouldn’t order it at a bar, but after two days of drinking, and it’s Sunday … Sometimes water just doesn’t cut it. This might work.
Britany: I’m over-salivating to try and make it go away.
Cara: I could drink this and not be upset.
Erik: If you could get some bourbon to mix with it, it might work.
Cara: It’d be good on ice cream.
Erik: A bourbon float!
Tracy: It’s making me burp a lot.
Britany: That’s your body rejecting it!

(We added Jack Fire to Britany and Cara’s samples.)

Cara: It’s not terrible … it balances it out nicely. It feels like I’m 18 and drinking for the first time.
Britany: It’s Big Red gum. I can taste the aluminum foil! Now Big Red gum has some relation to Big Red soda in my brain.
Tracy: I don’t think I could drink a whole one.
Cara: I think it would be good in a cockital, like a Best Damn Cream Soda Float.
Erik: Or with a cheeseburger.
Sara: I think there are people who would enjoy this, they’re just not in this room.
Cara: If I didn’t know what a good drink is, I would like this.

Best Damn Sweet Tea

Cara: It smells like roses!
Sara: I think it tastes a more like sun tea than sweet tea.
Tracy: Now this one I would drink on a Sunday. It’s less sweet.
Britany: Maybe at a baby shower that’s more like a brunch.
Sara: It’s like a Southern mimosa.
Cara: I’d like it to be a little less fizzy. (Puts an ice cube in her sample.)
Erik: It tastes like a holiday drink you left sitting around.
Cara: I don’t hate this one at all, and I don’t even like sweet tea.
Erik: I liked the Cream Soda one, but this one is a little better.
Cara: It makes me feel Southern … like I should be eating a finger sandwich and my colors are blush and bashful.
Erik: Her colors are pink and pink.
Britany: It might make a good Arnold Palmer if you added some lemonade.
Erik: Or Absoute Citron!
Cara: I bet the hangovers are horrible.
Erik: That’s just conjecture.

Next time, the Tasteless Tastings group tackles Michter’s 10-Year Rye Whiskey release. Stay tuned …

Tasteless Tastings (Take 2): Sagamore Spirit Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

Welcome to the second Tasteless Tastings installment, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun or to forget the world around you. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about said sample. So let’s do it …

Sagamore Spirit is from Baltimore.

What are we drinking today?: Sagamore Spirit Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

What the hell is it?: Sagamore Spirit is a new Baltimore-based distillery that specializes in rye whiskeys. They’ve released a Rye American Whiskey at 83 proof and now the Cask Strength Rye Whiskey at anywhere from 111-113 proof. It is now available in Kentucky.

Why do we care?: Baltimore has a storied history in distilling, and Sagamore uses an interesting method to produce its whiskeys. According to the press release:

“Sagamore Spirit ages two different rye mash bills – a high rye and a low rye – and then blends them to make their proprietary recipe. A ladle of Sagamore Farm spring-fed water is added for a touch of smoothness. Sagamore drives this water 22 miles from the limestone spring at Sagamore Farm to their bottling facility at City Garage in Port Covington. 100 percent of both Sagamore’s 83-proof rye and Cask Strength Rye uses this distinct water.”

Give me the nerdy numbers: The regular Sagamore Rye is 83 proof, while the Cask Strength is 111-113 proof. The whiskey is aged at just under four years old, and the Cask Strength retails for $73.99 for a 750mL bottle.

What do we think?: First, let me start by saying what other people have thought about the whiskey. According to the press release, since hitting the market in May of this year, Sagamore has won five national awards and will continue to enter its products in competitions.

Cask is whack.

So what did my panel of primarily bourbon drinkers think of this Baltimore whiskey? It wasn’t good, but that’s not to say it’s bad. Remember: These people just came off a tasting of Woodford Reserve’s Master Collection and a couple other semi-sweet bourbons. It was probably my fault for placing the rye whiskey at the end of the session.

For lovers of high-rye bourbons and rye whiskeys, you must try Sagamore for its complex spiciness and peppery undertones. And the Cask Strength is strong. Very strong. So strong, some of my panelists were complaining of a sinus infection induced by whiskey consumption.

Here’s a snippet of the conversation:

Tracy: It’s smooth, but there’s an underlying metallic taste. Oh wait … here comes that warm afterglow.
Britany: Whoa! I feel like it’s doing something to my sinuses!
Me: It kinda tastes like Grandpa’s attic. Or how I imagine George Washington’s breath to smell like.
Erik: I don’t love this at all. It feels rushed.
Britany: My mouth won’t stop making saliva. Make it stop!
Tracy: It’s not bad, but I don’t think I’d buy it.
Britany: I don’t want this anymore. Goodbye!

Next time on Tasteless Tastings … we’ll tackle Michter’s new 10-Year Rye Whiskey and two products just hitting the Kentucky market called Best Damn Sweet Tea and Best Damn Cream Soda. That should be interesting. Stay tuned …

Tasteless Tastings (Take 1): Papa’s Pilar Rum

Welcome to the inaugural Tasteless Tastings, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun or to forget the world around you. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about said sample. So let’s do it …

pilar_bottles_combo-x650xWhat are we drinking today?: Papa’s Pilar Artisan-Crafted Rum

What the hell is it?: It’s two different super-premium rums (Blonde and Dark) made in Key West and inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s spirit of adventure. Ernest’s nickname was “Papa.” The rum is hand-selected from the Caribbean, Central America and America, and then solera aged and blended using used bourbon, port wine and/or Spanish sherry barrels.

Why do we care?: Papa’s Pilar has recently made its way into the Kentucky market, and there is, indeed, a connection with the bourbon industry. The late, great Lincoln Henderson of Angel’s Envy served as an advisor on this rum’s early creation.

Give me the nerdy numbers: The Blonde is 84 proof, contains rums 3-7 years old, and finished in Spanish sherry casks. The Dark is 86 proof, contains rum up to 24 years old, and touches bourbon, port wine and sherry casks as well.

What do we think?: We had five panelists who each got a half-ounce pour (or more, if we had a larger quantity and the person liked it). As the host of the session, I tried to keep my tipsy tasters on task, covering the basics of a scientific spirits report: color, aroma, taste and finish. The panel included two artists (Britany B., Erik U.), a person who sells air (Tracy K.), an artsy museum nerd (Cara H.) and myself.

First up was the Blonde, because — well — we all know they have more fun, and we wanted to start out our first Tasteless Tasting having lots of that.

Me: Let’s all check out the Blonde!
BB: Looks like a white wine with no legs.
Me: Smell her.
EU: It smells like syrup. Alcoholic syrup. I want to put it on pancakes.
TK: I smell butterscotch. And vanilla.
CH: It’s like the Back Door — I feel like if I just continue to smell it, I’ll get drunk.
Me: Taste it.
EU: Ooooh, it’s sweet! It kinda tastes like Christmas — or those candles my mother has in her house.
BB: It tastes a little like high school.
TK: Butterscotch.
Me: I think it’s pretty smooth, and the finish is quite pleasant. It doesn’t linger like an awkward conversation.
BB: I would drink that again. It is more flavorful than I remember rum being.
TK: It would be good in pina coladas.
CH: It would get you lost in the rain.
BB: I think it’s caught in the rain.
CH: I get lost in the rain.
TK: If you’re not into yoga …

Our first session involved cheese ... and lots of it.

Our first session involved cheese … and lots of it.

Me: Alrighty then. Let’s go to the Dark side. This guy is a little higher in proof, so he might bite. And at one point he mingled with port wine casks.
BB: Did you say pork rinds?
Me: Port wine — not pork rind.
EU: It looks like bourbon but smells like regret.
BB: It’s the bourbon of rum.
TK: It smells the same as the other one — caramel, vanilla.
BB: The first sip is a doozy. It has much more bite.
CH: It feels like a terrible memory — like I’m going to make very bad decisions tonight.
EU: It feels like an apology.
BB: I would sip this one by itself, but probably mix the other in a cocktail — if I was near a beach.
CH: This makes me want to live near water and listen to Buffett.
Me: It’s got that spicy rum feel, but it’s quite sippable. The finish is long and warm, like I’m wrapping my tongue in velvet.
EU: Do girls like that?
Me: They don’t not like it.

Next time on Tasteless Tastings … the group tries the new Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection and Jefferson’s Reserve finished in rum casks, as well as rye whiskey from Baltimore called Sagamore Spirit.