A roundup and review of some of America’s most enjoyable whiskies.
Ducky’s Pub has once again proved that they are the leaders of the Sackville whisky scene. Following their Whiskies of the World event in October 2014, the pub recently hosted a bourbon tasting led by self-described “whisky geeks” Johanne McInnis and Graham MacKenny.
The event featured five bourbon whiskies and a cocktail made with Tennessee whiskey, together offering a carefully curated tour of the distinctive corn-based spirit of our neighbors to the south. McInnis and MacKenny also walked those in attendance through the process of whiskey tasting, as well as the fascinating history of bourbon production that differs greatly from that of Scotch, Irish or Canadian whiskies. Here I have condensed my general thoughts on the featured liquors – as well as their prices – in case one is inclined to pick up a celebratory bottle after essays and exams:
Buffalo Trace ($39.99, 45% ABV) – a crowd favourite that MacKenny referred to as the “gateway bourbon.” Sweet, smoky and accessible, this spirit offers aromas of pipe tobacco and saltwater taffy and a rich palate of maple syrup and maraschino cherry. With the addition of a little water, this bourbon reveals its hidden vanilla flavours and something reminiscent of old leather-bound books. Simple in some ways and complex in others, Buffalo Trace is perfect for both the bourbon newcomer and the seasoned sipper.
Knob Creek ($45.99, 50% ABV) – a cask-strength whiskey, this bourbon needs a bit of water to skim off the alcohol burn and truly shine. I struggled to pinpoint what exactly struck me about this one: maybe it’s the full-bodied flavours of spices, overripe fruit and brown sugar, or perhaps the unique scent of black forest cake. Either way, this bourbon will have you securely hooked after the first sip, as it only gets better from there.
Woodford Reserve Select ($46.99, 45.2% ABV) – this whiskey doesn’t mess around. With its harsh lacquer afterburn and a smoky, almost peaty flavour, Woodford Reserve is perhaps best for a dusty saloon or for brooding over the next Great American Novel with a cigar in hand.
1792 Ridgemont Reserve ($59.99, 46.5% ABV) – named for the year Kentucky achieved statehood, this bourbon smells like a cinnamon bun and tastes like a chocolatey fruit and nut bar dipped in Disaronno. Worth noting is the spicy, warming feeling that this whiskey imparts into your stomach – keep this one in mind for next year’s frigid snowstorms.
Basil Haydens ($54.99, 40% ABV) – unfortunately, the most spectacular thing about this bourbon is its label and bottle design. With its light honey and grassy notes infused with a little citrus peel, Scotch lovers might liken this to a young Highland blend. However, I’ve personally had Canadian whiskies – such as Forty Creek Barrel Select – that navigate Basil Haydens’ dual rye and corn flavours even better for a fraction of the price. Save your precious student dollars and buy Canadian in this category.
George Dickel No. 12 Tennessee Whiskey ($34.99, 45% ABV) – while this was served in a classic Manhattan cocktail, its spicy and oaky elements shone through the other ingredients and perfectly complimented the bitterness of the muddled fruit. Although not a true bourbon, this whiskey still bears the corn sweetness and charred oak flavours of its Kentucky cousin. Try reaching for this instead of Jack Daniel’s next time to further glimpse the diversity of America’s rich distilling tradition.