Tasting Whiskey Demands Food

WARREN BOBROW (this article was first published in September 2012)
On Whiskey is a monthly column on whiskey and whiskey drinks by Warren Bobrow. For more of this great column, click this logo.

On Whiskey is a monthly column on whiskey and whiskey drinks by Warren Bobrow. For more of this great column, click this logo.

I just gobbled up a cast iron pan griddled Black Forest Ham and Cheddar Cheese Sandwich on crusty whole wheat bread. I ate this sandwich to illustrate a point. Bourbon needs rustic/hearty food to be enjoyed to its fullest potential.  Good smoky ham and cave-aged cheddar are my preferences for tasting good strong bourbon whiskey.

Personally speaking, I think most professional tastings need food, especially when the tastings involve spirits north of 100 proof!  But even more importantly for the imbiber like myself, I won’t be drinking alone – I like to drink with food!  And this changes the flavors in the glass.  No one is fooling anyone about palate and nasal fatigue in a professional tasting.  I don’t care who you say you are.  If you’re tasting spirits that are strong, there is- there HAS TO BE – palate fatigue. It’s just the name of the game. Thus, I like to eat a sandwich or munch on some cornbread- or best of all inhale the aromatics of wood smoke while tasting Bourbon!

The Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project involves the 105 Proof Warehouse L. Release.  According to the press release that accompanied the tasting bottles, all these bourbons in this release entered into the barrel at 105 proof.  This allows this release to focus on three other variables.  (According to the documentation) These are the recipe, rye vs. wheat; the char level, the number three vs. number four char; and wood grain size, tight, average, or coarse.   All of the other variables such as stave seasoning, aging warehouse, entry proof, and tree cut, (top or bottom) remain consistent.

I did this tasting using the Neat Glass: http://theneatglass.com/ The Neat Glass is a revolutionary way to taste liquor.

Whiskey demands food. Photo by Warren Bobrow

The barrel number and the proof mark each 50ml taste. Tasting notes as follows:

  1. Barrel 126- 90 Proof.  Wildflower Honey gives way to stone ground grits. Fried Chicken mid-range with citrus notes. Taste the heat!  Golden in color. Nice long finish.  Wheat  #3 Char
  2. Barrel 128- 90 Proof.  Soft in the mouth. Sharp on the finish.  Candy sugar and freshly cut grains with honey on the mid-note.  Dark gold in color.  Finish is honey and chocolate and fire! Wheat #4 Char
  3. Barrel 158- 90 Proof.  Fire and honey whip around on my palate.  Notes of white flowers and vanilla syrup. Citrus in the nose and candy corn on the finish. Elegant and Cinnamon tinged.  Rye #3 Char
  4. Barrel 160- 90 Proof.  A bit lighter in the palate, this slurp still has the stuffing to compete with the other expressions.  Sweeter, darker and more vanilla on the finish. Cinnamon and spice nose giving way to caramel and peanut brittle with toasted sesame seed finish.  Rye. #4 Char
  5. Barrel 190- 90 Proof.  Thick, rich and spunky with the color of freshly cut wheat.  Sharp finish that reminds me of cooking cornbread in a cast iron pan that is a bit too hot.  Has a toasty-sweet char that goes on and on in the mouth.  Fabulous stuff.  Wheat. #3 Char
  6. Barrel 192- 90 Proof.  This expression really surprised me.  It tastes the hottest on the tongue, yet it, like the others is still (just) 90 proof.  Spicy and sharp like freshly stir-fried Thai food served Thai spicy.  Enthralling and mystifying.  I can taste the grain.  In this case the grain is wheat with a #3 Char

In conclusion of this tasting – each expression has very specific flavors that linger long after the glasses are emptied.  Buffalo Trace and all the other products from this distillery consistently impress me.

The deeper of the deepest flavors.


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