Best of Bourbon

by Evan

We are cursed to live in interesting times.

The Canada/US border has not physically moved in my lifetime, but I cannot recall another era when we as a nation seemed further apart from our neighbours to the south.

The general climate of North/South relations has been much more frigid than usual, what with tariffs and economic intimidation being volleyed back and forth. The very concept of Free Trade possibly being rent asunder before our eyes by a tweet-happy orange man who would seemingly rather see us drink vodka instead of whiskey – especially if it has his brand on it.

But still, we march on.

Tariffs or no, Bourbon is hot these days with more and more people falling to its beguiling ways. I myself am one of the fallen. The good news is that means we have a reason to do more regular American Whiskey tastings here at Kensington Wine Market.

There are many excellent options for Bourbon and American Whiskey available here in Alberta with more variety arriving on a regular basis. Hopefully, this is something that won’t be affected by the current political climate. I would love nothing more than being able to hold a Bourbon tasting every few months while never having to repeat a bottle in the lineup.

This time around our focus was mostly on sourced whiskey bottlings, with two main exceptions coming from tried and true Kentucky Distilleries.

Before we into that, and so we are all on the same page: here is a quick rundown on what makes Bourbon… Bourbon:

  • Bourbon has to be made in the United States. It can not be produced in other countries.
  • Bourbon can be and is made in other states besides Kentucky. Kentucky just happens to be the largest producer of Bourbon by a vast margin.
  • Bourbon must be made from at least 51% Corn.
  • It must be initially aged in charred Virgin Oak containers. There is no minimum age requirement for Bourbon.
  • Straight Bourbon must be at least four years old unless specified on the label.
  • Straight Bourbon cannot contain any added flavouring or colouring.
  • Distilled to a maximum of 80% ABV.
  • Put in Barrel at a maximum of 62.5% ABV.
  • Bottled at a minimum of 40% ABV.

Now, let us jump into the lineup we tasted our way through:

The Burning Chair
The Burning Chair is a new KWM exclusive Bourbon from Savage and Cooke. This 4-year-old Bourbon is Dave Phinney’s highly anticipated first release. It is intense and expressive. This Bourbon is blended from hand-selected, new charred American oak matured whiskies, finished in wine barrels from Dave’s Napa Valley Cabernet projects. Mash Bill: 75% Corn, 21% Rye, 4% Malted Barley. $115

American Rockies
New for 2018 from the producers of Canadian Rockies. American Rockies is a Small Batch Bourbon. We believe the Bourbon is sourced from a Wyoming Whiskey distillery that we happen to be quite fond of. It is bottled at 44%. $86

Russell’s Reserve 10 Year
Russell’s Reserve gets its name from the father/son Master Distiller duo of Jimmy and Eddie Russell, both of which help run Wild Turkey Distillery near Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. At 10 years old, the bourbon is bottled at 45% ABV.

Wild Turkey was named such by an executive from Austin Nichols, who poured some barrel proof bourbon for friends on a wild turkey hunt. The whiskey was a hit and the next year he was asked to bring more of that Wild Turkey bourbon for the annual hunt.

Master Distiller Jimmy Russell and Associate Master Distiller Eddie Russell are the only father-son duo in the Bourbon Hall of Fame. $51

Bulleit 10 Year
The Bulleit 10 year is bottled at 45.6% ABV.

From 1997 until 2012, much of the Bourbon in Bulleit was originally distilled at Four Roses, which makes it likely that this still contains a good amount of Four Roses juice. The Mashbill for Bulleit is 68% Corn, 28% Rye and 4% Malted Barley.

The Bulleit Distillery officially opened on March 14th, 2017 near Shelbyville, Kentucky. $55

Woodford Reserve Double Oaked
From Woodford Distillery which is located near Versailles, Kentucky.

Double Oaked was introduced to the world in February of 2012. The Double Oaked is given a secondary maturation in deeply toasted/lightly charred Virgin Oak barrels for less than a year. Bottled at 45.2% ABV Mashbill: 72% Corn, 18% Rye, 10% Malted Barley. $75

Bull Run Barrel Strength
56.85% ABV / $116
This high proof, cask strength Bourbon was selected and bottled by Bull Run Distillery of Portland Oregon. The whiskey is sourced from Indiana and the mashbill is 65% Corn, 25% Rye and 10% Malted Barley. Aged for a minimum of 4-6 years. Bottled in small batches, the ABV of each batch may vary.

Jefferson’s Wood Experiment Collection
According to Castle Brands – owners of Jefferson’s – it was named after “Thomas Jefferson—known for his curiosity and experimental spirit.” Jefferson’s has typically sourced whisky from various Kentucky and Indiana distilleries since Jefferson’s Bourbon was first launched in 1997. Since 2015, Castle Brands has been a partial owner of Kentucky Artisan Distillery. The distillery currently supplies a portion of the whisky released in the Jefferson lineup.

Composed of five different 200mL sample bottles, the Jefferson Wood Experiment Collection gives you the chance to see how different ageing techniques have an effect on the whiskey. This Straight Bourbon was distilled in Indiana.
With all of the Bourbon bottled at 46% ABV, the collection contains:

  • New 60 Gallon American Oak barrel with a low, deep impact toast profile.
  • New, standard whiskey barrel with medium char infused with heavily charred American Oak cubes.
  • New standard whiskey barrel with a light-medium char infused with lightly toasted American Oak staves.
  • Custom 60 Gallon French & American hybrid oak barrel with a low, deep impact toast profile.
  • Original bourbon barrel with oak inserts that have been toasted over a long period of time to infuse the bourbon.

Because of the small size of the sample bottles, I could not pour the same sample for everybody. Instead, I poured a different sample for each of the three tables. $125

With the lineup tasted and the dust settled those in attendance voted the Bull Run Barrel Strength as the favourite of the night, followed by the Jefferson’s Wood Experiment Collection and the Russel’s Reserve.

Thank you to all who attended the tasting and a special thanks to Peasant Cheese for providing their always excellent cheese and charcuterie boards!

Cheers and until next time,
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