If last year’s party was a campfire, warm and slow burning, this years was more like a fireworks show, big and loud and then it was gone. Was it the inclusion of the women? Was it the high proof whiskies? The introduction of cocktails? We may never know, but it was still fun. Here’s a quick rundown of the whiskies that were sampled and the response. I put out a bunch of ryes to compare with our main selection, Sazerac 18, and some other folks brought other styles.
Rittenhouse Rye 100
This was a hit. Being a “cheap” whisky can help or hurt a whisky’s image, but if you think more in terms of value, there are none better. It has a rich, chocolate-like flavor to complement the rye spice and alcohol burn. Those that indulged in the manhattans seemed to like it in that format, as well. For the record, the manhattans featured Dolin sweet vermouth and Fee Brothers whisky barrel aged bitters.
Willett Family Estate Rye (110 proof)
This is a young rye (3 years), but it doesn’t lack character or flavor. One party guest in particular was raving about it. At 30 dollars, another stud value.
High West Rendevous Rye
This was barely tasted. But I know some folks tasted it back at the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ fest and others on other occasions. It’s a great rye, minty and crisp. Who knew good rye could come from Utah?
Penderyn Welsh Whisky
Another bottle that barely got touched. It probably didn’t help that the first person who tasted it ripped it pretty hard. With others to choose from, it seemed silly to get intoxicated on one that was inferior. I myself thought it a bit aloof, and am eager to give it another run.
Clynelish 14 year
This one didn’t go over that well. A coastal highland whisky, this has all the flavors of scotch—smoke, mellow sweetness, and so forth, but somehow comes across as harsh. I tried it again a couple of days later, it grew on me, but not a whole lot.
Sazerac 18 year (2011)
This was supposed to be the star of the show. Supposedly the first release of this came out when Buffalo
Trace “found” barrels in their rickhouse of 18 year old rye and it was great, so they bottled it. I love it. It’s like drinking bread. I usually think 90 proof is a bit low for most American whiskies, but I really like the mellow and subtle nature of this one. I think others really liked it but didn’t rate it as the best of the night. For those that felt it lacked bite, I would recommend the Thomas Handy Sazerac, which is also from the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection and is barrel proof.
William Larue Weller (2011)
Another entry from Buffalo Trace Antique collection, it’s their wheated bourbon. It’s in the vein of the Van Winkle bourbons. It has a ton of flavor, it’s very sweet and round but packs a punch at 133 proof. This one probably was more liked than the Saz 18, or at least about the same.
George T. Stagg (2010)
This is like drinking bourbon concentrate. George will probably always be the star of any party he is invited to, but he kind of ruins it by getting folks too drunk at 144 proof.
Parker’s Heritage Collection Cognac Finished
This whisky is the same recipe as Evan Williams Black Label, Single Barrel, and the Elijah Craig 12 and 18. After 10 years traditional aging, they move the whisky to cognac barrels for a few months. The result is distinctive. The cognac mellows the whisky and adds that “wineyness” to it, but not in a bad or overpowering way. The Heritage Collection has some cool entries, one from a couple of years back mingled whiskies from all five decades of Parker Beam’s distilling career.
Throw in a couple of Bell’s Best Brown Ales, a gin and rosemary cocktail called the Rubicon, and you have one hell of a night.