First let me say I've never cared much for Bourbon from the time I was drinking age. I had the occasional Jim Beam and a few other "cheap" ones. My main goal back then was to get drunk, anyway. Moving on to the present, my explorations into Single Malts has inadvertantly crossed paths with Bourbon Aficionados who have enlightened me to the true taste of a great Bourbon. I started this new offshoot with a few reasonable bottles like Makers Mark, Knob Creek, and Wild Turkey Russells Reserve, but they still had that "Bourbon Face" reaction when I tried to get to know them. I did the research to find the top 2 rated bottles and came up with the following 2 pours to make a definitive conclusion of whether Bourbon was my thing. I am now well assured that these 2 are great Bourbons and wanted to let anyone who has been on the fence about these or Bourbon in general that they are worth every penny ($45US) if you can get them (They are both readily available in the US). Here's my notes on both and my choice of a favorite.
Booker’s 63.3% abv (age 8yr, 2 mo) Score 47
Color: Rich amber
Nose: Charred oak, cinnamon, cigar box
Palate: Sweet corn, tangy middle, burnt sugar
Body: Chewy, rich
Finish: Soft trailing after a biting sting
Quote: The first bourbon that said, “keep drinking me” after so many left me wishing I could wash that taste out of my mouth. Definitely an intense whiskey suitable for sipping on a cold winters’ night.
George T. Stagg barrel proof 65.9% abv (age 16yo) Spring lot A Score 46
Color: Blood orange
Nose: Polished new leather and wood, fruit cobbler, citrus zest, cigar box, pineapple
Palate: Bright citrus zing, sweet cooked fruit middle, meaty BBQ spices, tobacco leaf, dried oak, earthy, everything!
Body: Very firm, assertive, chewy
Finish: Robust, lively, balanced
Quote: A very complex nosing experience to say the least. The palate continues the ride. Now I know how bourbon is supposed to taste, not to take anything away from other good pours, but this hits its stride and keeps on running. I feel like I’ve ridden the winning horse in the Kentucky Derby. Anything better is nearly out of my score range, although a different batch may go + or - 1 point.
I score Non-Single Malts 0-50 and beer 0.0-5.0 to keep them separate from other scores, I don't know why, but as you can see these are both great and almost impossible to pick one over the other. They could just as easily be a tie with 2 different bottles since they are batched slightly older/younger, stronger/weaker, so my final conclusion is get them both, they are superb, top quality brands that anyone who appreciates such things would be glad to add to their collection. If they are not available in your area, well, now you can see how some of us feel about our Single Malt selections. Just kidding...
Enjoyed a Mackeson Triple Stout between sips and the chocolate cake/soy sauce/ fudge/ fresh coffee bean flavors of the beer really sits well with the Bourbons. All in all a very positive session.