The main tasting session featured –
Blanton’s Original Single Barrel Bourbon
Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whiskey
James E Pepper 1776 Rye
Bernheim Small Batch Wheated Whiskey
All of these are multiple award winners and are all worthy of a place in our whisky collections. I look forward to trying them again in the not too distant future.
Blanton Original Bourbon – The world’s first single barrel Bourbon. Distilled by Buffalo Trace in Kentucky, the traditional home of Bourbon, with a ‘mash bill’ of approximately 80% corn, 15% rye and barley making up the remainder. Bottled at 46.5%ABV into a quirky bottle with a horse and jockey astride the cork, this is aged for around 9 years in new fill charred American Oak barrels. The aroma and taste bear all the characteristics of a full-fledged Bourbon with plenty of vanilla, lingering sweetness, a little spice with hints of citrus and caramel. A medium length finish to this very palatable whiskey. This has won 4 double golds at the San Francisco World Spirits competition.
Balcones Baby Blue Corn – A very interesting, smooth and quaffable whisky all the way from the “Lone Star” state of Texas and the first to be legally distilled there. Made from 100% Hopi blue corn (not sure what that is, but it sounds impressive) and the recipient of a double gold at the San Francisco World Spirits association. Bottled at 46% ABV. Initial nose of caramel with some vanilla and a little bit of harshness, but very pleasant on the palate with dark caramel, apples, some pear - and just a touch of smokiness. A medium length finish with warming spices and sweetness coming through at the end.
James E Pepper 1776 Rye – A straight Rye with 90% rye in the mash bill this is bottled in Kentucky at 50% ABV. James E Pepper is one of the oldest & most legendary whiskey brands in both Kentucky and American history going back to 1780, just after the American revolution of 1776 from which the bottle takes its name. Big and spicy with citrus flavours, some watermelon and cinnamon woodiness with a long and spicy finish. An altogether different dram from the previous whiskies A worthy gold medal winner at the San Francisco World Spirits convention
Bernheim Small Batch Whiskey – A 7YO straight wheat whiskey from the Heaven Hill distillery in Kentucky. A very different mash bill here with 51% wheat, 39% corn and 10% barley malt, bottled at 45% ABV. A crisp and light aroma with lemon, spice, vanilla and oak - all of them also present in the taste. A fairly long finish ending in oakiness and spice. Overall a very well balanced and pleasing whiskey. A double gold award winner at the San Francisco world spirits awards.
Following the tasting everyone was asked to nominate their favourite whisky of the evening. Opinions were very mixed, but applying the usual formula the result was:
1st place – Bernheim Small Batch
2nd place – Balcones Baby Blue
3rd place – James E Pepper 1776
4th place – Blanton’s Original
The evening finished off with an optional tot of Elijah Craig 12YO. This was named for a reverend who lived in Virginia. He kept a warehouse where he stored barrels and one day experienced a devastating fire. He used the charred casks regardless and found they imparted a lovely character. This is a great 12-year-old small batch bourbon, named in his honour. Additionally there was a bottle of "Old Grandad" bourbon which is always a popular "easy drinker".