Recently I led a bourbon tasting for a friend. The goal was to intorduce the attendees to the wonderful world of bourbon.
We spent some time discussing the process of making whiskey and what makes bourbon different from all the others. One of the points we discussed was the mash bill the combinatiion of grains) used to make bourbon. Bourbon must have a mash bill of at least 51% corn. The rest of the mash bill is malted barley and either rye or wheat, generally.
We then worked our way through six bourbons, each building on the one before.
We began with a good, basic rye based bourbon…Jim Beam White Label. The is “about” four years old and is among the best selling bourbons in the world. To show the effects of the barrel on the bourbon our next bottle was the Jim Beam Extra Aged Black Label. This one is the same as the White Label but has spent twice as long in the barrel. Sure, is it slightly higher in alcohol content but you can truly taste the difference the additional aging makes.
The next expression was also from the Jim Beam Distillery, Basil Hayden’s. This has a slightly higher rye content and is a small batch. The small batch means that a smaller number of barrels are combining to make the product). This has great taste with the true spicy notes coming through.
Now for an attack on the taste buds……Four Roses Small Batch. This whiskey brings the rye content way up to 27.5%. This is another small batch with fantastic taste and a reasonable price (less than $30).
Then there was a twist. We went to a bourbon that does not use rye in the massh bill. Maker’s Mark 46 uses wheat rather than rye. This offers a more mellow experience. Great flavor with less spiciness.
And finally, Angel’s Envy! A rye based bourbon that spend many years in the barrels used for all bourbons (a new, charred oak barrel) but was then transferred to a used Portuguese port barrel for a while. The port wine left in the barrel wood works its way into the bourbon for a fantastic creamy, fruity taste.
At the end of the tasting the attendees ranked the whiskies and her are the top three:
3rd: Maker’s Mark 46
2nd: A ngel’sEnvy
1st: Basil Hayden’s
I had a blast at this tasting. Oh, did I mention the band? The Mustard Seed Faith Shaker’s played throughout the evening. They were great!
Thank you to our host, Lisa for a wonderful evening!