July 2019 - USA
Not breaking from tradition – we held our annual US themed night in homage to 4th July (or should I say; July 4th!) including another of Jonny’s fantastic BBQs.
After the less than positive reception we got when putting the idea of having three bourbons to the club, it was decided that we would seek out some all American Malt Whiskey (deliberate ‘e’ this month) to stick with the club’s core interest.
However the night panned out a little differently than expected...
1. Blanton's - Original Single Barrel - Barrel #349
RRP: £49.25 (Master of Malt)
We opened with the sole bourbon; Blanton’s. Held in high regard by bourbon enthusiasts, proved tricky to track down, but Eddie eventually managed to source one!
Blanton’s Original Single Barrel was the first Single Barrel bourbon to be commercially mass market. Every bottle’s label contains the date it was bottled, the barrel number it came from and the rickhouse number where it lay to age. This particular bottling was drawn from barrel #349, and was bottled without chill-filtration or additional colours.
The horse and jockey atop the bottle stoppers are now a recognised trademark of Blanton's Single Barrel Bourbon. The rich heritage and tradition of horses in Kentucky parallel that of bourbon. This is our way of paying homage to this Kentucky heritage. Beginning in 1999 a collector's set of eight different stoppers was produced. The set features a horse and jockey in different strides and poses resembling the stages of a horse race, from beginning to end. Each stopper is marked with a single letter that spells Blanton's when the set has been completed. The final stopper, marked by “S” always finishes the race in victory!
Tasting Notes (Master of Malt):
Nose: A creamy vanilla nose features hints of orange peel, nutmeg, caramel, and light spices.
Palate: A soft but rich flavor of burnt sugar, cloves in harmony with strong caramel and corn sensations.
Finish: A strong and lasting finish that brings back nutmeg and corn above everything else.
As we were less than excited about the prospect of bourbon, this really took everyone by surprise. It was received near unanimous approval, with many members rating it a 5 out of 5 (very rare indeed!) I think given the opportunity many of us would snap up a bottle of this, as it was incredibly easy to drink, yet tasted absolutely divine with a full, rounded flavour.
2. Westland - Sherry Wood
RRP: £66.62 (Master of Malt)
The second whiskey of the month was an offering from the much lauded Westland distillery. An American single malt whiskey from the Seattle-based craft distillery Westland (Craft Producer of the Year - Icons of Whisky 2016) matured in casks that previously held Oloroso and Pedro Ximénez Sherry.
Now with an unexpectedly tough act to follow…
Nose: Raisins, milk chocolate and fresh malt, with a little bit of honey too.
Palate: Pancakes with honey, icing sugar and fresh red fruits. A few more raisins for good measure.
Finish: Crème de Cassis and vanilla-y malt.
This went down as a very mixed reception. The aromas and tastes very much dominated by raisins, it felt a little one dimensional when compared with the beautiful predecessor. Certainly nothing offensive here though, the whiskey was generally well received. It was observed that a little more aging may well have been needed in the original casks, and that the heavy sherry influence was perhaps a little too strong – dominating the composition of this dram.
Other offerings from Westland have received very high praise indeed, certainly worth revisiting another in the range at a later date. But for now the memory of the Blanton’s doesn’t allow us to get too excited about this one!
3. Balcones Texas Single Malt
RRP: £79.99 (Master of Malt)
Finally onto the third offering of the evening - A very interesting single malt American whisky from Texas, this was distilled at Balcones and was "yard-aged" in ex-bourbon American oak before bottling. We were expecting big things from this as there were droves of reviews which had us quite excited about the complexity considering the age of it - less than 3 years in the barrel - so wouldn’t even be legally sold as whisky by Scotish Malt Whisky Society law! Unfortunately we didn’t agree with these accolades, and very much agreed that a few more years in the barrel were in fact a necessity!
Tasting Notes (Master of Malt):
Nose: Freshly baked banana bread with undertones of honey and vanilla and just the faintest hint of cedar wood at the back. Suggestions of roasted chestnuts and heavy cream.
Palate: Ester-y with apple and orchard fruits. Brown sugar makes an appearance and transforms into molasses.
Finish: Warm, woody spices and some breadiness, but not necessarily maltiness, completes this luscious single malt.
This seemed to divide the club, most weren’t keen, but also some were declaring it ‘harsh’ while others declared it ‘smooth’ – the 53% bottling strength was certainly masked – completely throwing our resident alcoholmeter who was very proud up to this point of guessing the ABV spot on of the first two! But one thing everyone agreed on was that this was too young and it showed. It possessed quite an abrasive profile that really didn’t live up to expectations. Nonetheless it was interesting, but not one that we will be seeking out any time soon!
We rounded off the evening with two different moonshines for £1.50 a measure – Roasted Apple Flavour, Blackberry Flavour and Pink Marshmallow Flavour. The Roasted Apple went down rather well, notes of toffee apple, almonds and Bakewell pudding, however by all accounts the marshmallow was just sickly sweet to the point of being near undrinkable!
Another fantastic night for the Ponderers, with special thanks to Eddie again for sourcing the whiskeys, Jonny for manning the BBQ, and Gavin, Mary and anyone else who contributed for the salads and sides.