Thursday, June 20, 2013

The Whiskey Oddysey

Update 6/27/13: I went back to Stella's this past weekend, and tried a couple more kinds. Notes below!

I'm going to get a little personal again today, though in a slightly different sense. When it comes to drinking, my preference is for liquor, typically rum, but especially whiskey. I got my start on the standard stuff, Jack Daniels No. 7, buying the occasional bottle of Gentleman Jack's or even the Single-Barrel Select. Sufficed to say, enough of the nicer stuff got me to start developing a taste for it.

On New Year's for 2012, right after getting back from my study abroad semester in England, I discovered a bar in Grand Rapids called Stella's. Turns out they serve over two hundred kinds of whiskey. The bar itself is very nice, too (I highly recommend a visit if you're ever in the area, and their fries and burgers are both amazing). I tried a couple different drinks that night, and afterwards resolved to go on a "Whiskey Odyssey" to try as many kinds as I could in the remaining year and some change I'd have in the area.

Each time I went, I (usually) brought my trusty moleskinne notebook and a pen, and took some notes. I recorded the individual drink, the type of whiskey it was, the strength, and had two shots of it, one straight, one mixed with Coke. Typically, I'd sip each, try drinking them quickly, and enjoy the ambiance in the process, even going with friends sometimes (or running into them there), not to mention making a few new friends with some of the discoveries I made.

Here's the notes I compiled, as best as I'm able to find them (I know a few times I had to use something else to record the notes, and those entries are probably lost, unless I want to dig through months of Facebook activity, which I kind of don't).

Ancient Age 10 Star - bourbon - 80 proof - modest strength. Dries quickly, not much after taste, other than a hint of sour. A little tingly on the way down. Much more potent as a shot. Almost overwhelming. Blends well, can barely even taste it. No sour aftertaste when mixed. Very reminiscent of rum and Vernors, even if the exact flavor is different. Should be careful though, seems to be strong for the stomach. Aftertaste if I chug it, though not a strong one. Definitely for sipping in either form.

Basil Hayley - bourbon - 80 proof. Potent strength, very similar to Jack. Strong fumes fill the mouth and nose. Smells nice, very warm on the way down. Almost too strong straight. Bitter aftertaste. Warms the stomach for a while. Definitely need to eat before drinking this. Not for doing as a shot; almost gagged. Better mixed, but tastes slightly funny. Still not too bad mixed, but Coke isn't the optimal mixer. Still leaves a bitter aftertaste. Still buzzing me, at least.

Buffalo Trace - bourbon - 90 proof. Strong flavor, some fumes again, but not many. Very warming. Modest aftertaste, sour flavor. Stings the throat slightly. Passable for sipping. Hits hard as a shot when it reaches the stomach. Better as mixed, subtle flavor. Kind of Long Island-esque, though not as potent... Only starts to leave a strong aftertaste if chugged. Bartender ninjaed my empty glass! Very Long Island-esque, I downed the whole thing in a couple minutes without noticing.

Evan Williams Single Barrel - bourbon - 87 proof. Very dry. Stings slightly, but not painful. Evaporates quickly, not a huge aftertaste, other than a slight numbness. Not bad, overall. Makes the throat tingle, too. Tolerable chugged, if barely. Lights a fire in the belly. Surprisingly sweet mixed. Very smooth flavor, though leaves a bitter aftertaste. No adverse effects if chugged. Definitely a good drink mixed, potent effect too. Not as good as Jack's Single, though.

Fighting Cock - bourbon - 103 proof. Smells nice. Very tingly. Light flavor, dries fast. Not much aftertaste. Still strong, difficult to chug. Very subtle mixed. Sweet flavor, only a hint of bitter/sour. Almost too sweet. Practically just tastes like regular Coke. Pretty easy to chug, at least if you have a sweet tooth.

Georgia Moon Fruit Jar - American corn - 80 proof. No corn flavor. Not much flavor at all, really. Almost like rubbing alcohol or absinthe, but weaker. Burns a little on the way down. Can't chug straight. Much better mixed. Still not perfect. The flavors kind of fight each other too much. Shouldn't have added the rest of the straight shot to the mixed. Overall fairly disappointing.

Bulleit Rye - 80 proof - American rye. Smooth scent, mellow flavor. Akin to Gentleman Jack. Fairly sour, but not overwhelming. Burns when chugged. Strong stuff. Very nice mixed, subtle flavor, easy to chug, but still tingles a bit. Noticeable aftertaste, even with food. Overall, though, good choice. Definitely not something to have on an empty stomach, already feeling it hard.

Redbreast - Irish - 80 proof. Strong smell, strong flavor. Lots of fumes, slightly creamy. Tingles on t he way down. Little aftertaste when sipped. Takes a little getting used to, but it seems to be getting better. That, or these fries are just awesome. Still very strong chugged. Pretty smooth mixed, but with a little kick still. Goes down easy, mixes quite well.

Aberfeldly 12 Year - Scotch - 80 proof. Wow what a kick. Scent borders on absinthe. Quick hit, doesn't burn. Not the best straight, just too strong. Virtually no aftertaste. Strange flavor mixed, sweet and bitter, but it kinda works. I can already feel it kicking in. Goes well enough with food. Might be best if mixed with something else.

Ballantine's Finest - Scotch - 80 proof. Low smell, Scotch-scented. Bit of a kick, kind of dry. Tingles a bit. Chuggable to my surprise. Burns an empty stomach a little. Mixes great. Very subtle flavor. Easy to chug. Already feeling it! Not much else to say, I definitely like this one. Even strengthened, it's not bad. A little sour, but still good.

Cutty Sark - Scotch - 80 proof. Noticeable scent, hard to identify. Kinda bland flavor. Nothing particularly memorable. Burns on the way down. Seems to be the definition of "cheap Scotch". Better blended, but only because it mostly tastes like Coke. Bad Coke at that. Can be chugged easily enough, even when strengthened. Definitely a pass. Also burns after a while. Very rotgut.

Dewar's White Label - Scotch blended - 80 proof. Little scent, little flavor. Very tingly. More "cheap Scotch". Huge kick on the way down. Churns the stomach. More subtle blended. Works with fries, at least. Not too bad mixed, but could be better. Maybe with Vernors. Not much change in flavor even when strengthened. Passable mixed, but no good straight. Also, hellloooooo bartender.

Glenfiddich 12 Year - Scotch - 80 proof. Sour scent. Smells like whiskey. Kick-in-the-mouth flavor. Almost like liquid fire. Can't chug, too strong. Much more balanced blended. Sort of a sweet-and-sour flavor I think. Never actually had that kind of sauce before. Anyway, it's an interesting contrast. Vernors would be a good substitute for a more unified taste, if desired. NOt as good strengthened. Needs balance. Also need to stop doing this on an empty stomach.

Glenlivet 12 Year - Scotch - 80 proof. Smells like Scotch, tastes like Scotch. Well, mostly anyway. Flavor is kinda meh. Could be affected by my cold. Not much reaction past the throat, i.e. no rotgut. A little off-balance mixed. Don't use Coke, the sweetness doesn't really work. Not much different strengthened. Yeah, not much good straight. At least I ate semi-recently this time, heh.

Glenlivet 18 Year - Scotch - 86 proof. Ok, let's give this a whirl. Pretty dry, I can feel it tickle the tongue. And the throat. And the stomach. Actually, burns the throat slightly, but nothing excessive. AS for the flavor, much more mellow than the 12 Year, but still kinda... I dunno, something still seems off. I can't place it, though. Maybe Scotch just isn't my thing. Can't afford a second shot, so no mixed testing. Yep, $14 for one shot. Sheesh.

There's at least five more I recorded elsewhere. If I find them, I'll update this entry. In any case, I hope this proves a useful resource for my fellow purveyors of fine whiskey. Actually, I do remember some other kinds I've had, just no notes. Here's a quick list and my one-sentence reviews.

Jim Bean - Decent enough for parties or if you just don't care.
Knob Creek - Strong and tasty.
Maker's Mark - Worth every dollar.
Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey - Sweet, like you'd expect, and decent overall.
Woodward Whiskey (A new kind, local to Detroit!) - Smoothest stuff I've ever had.


Henry McKenna's Single Barrel - bourbon - 100 proof. "Explosive" seems to be what comes to mind with this one. Strong flavor, and extremely dry, so you can feel it pretty well. Seems to keep it from being too harsh, too. Not too bad mixed either, obviously not as dry then. Still has a good kick to it. And, of course, being 100 proof, it's quite potent. I'm already feeling giddy, but maybe it's just the good company.

Old Grand Dad - bourbon - 86 proof. Had to try it for the name. Definitely not as good, being half the price, but actually still passable for a cheap bourbon. Nothing particularly special, but nothing particularly bad, either. Same deal mixed.

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