Category Archives: News and Info

Just a hint of pheasant blood…

In the latest (Winter 2011) edition of The Whisky Advocate, Dave Broom (one of the world’s finest whiskey writers) wrote an entertaining article describing a tasting experience with a woman that really knew her whisky. She noted that mature sherry aged whisky has a touch of the same aroma that an indigenous ant (in her area) gives off when crushed. Dave, who has been known to have some wild descriptors, was initially perplexed by hers.

Soon after the discussion, Dave found himself in the woods observing the very ant the woman described. For the good of whiskey geeks everywhere, Dave expedited the ants journey to its maker. He gave the ant a crush and noted the same aroma the woman had mentioned, and clarity was achieved…at least for him.

Dave used this story to illustrate what a big wide world it is, and how important it is to get out there and take it all in. “We all have ants to crush”, he wrote.

Taken figuratively, he’s absolutely right. All whiskey lovers (or aspiring ones) owe it to themselves to get out there and educate their noses and palates. Open up your spice cabinet. Put a flame to a sugar coated banana and find out what it smells and tastes like (you’ll find this type of aroma and flavor in MANY bourbons). Crush sweet southern spearmint and cloves in your hand and see what the combination brings. No doubt this will educate your senses. But crushing ants in the hopes that you can log it away in your sensory rolodex? Is that just a bit too far?

Here’s my ultimate point – if a crushed ant has a slight sweet-sharp acidity to it much like vinegar (which it does according to Dave), why not describe it as such in tasting notes? Would that not be a clearer and much less remote (“out there”) descriptor for the reader? And if so – think of all the ants that would be saved!

Dave argues his approach by stating his reviews would be all too similar in descriptive language if he didn’t push things a bit. He used another example of describing something as “fruity” vs. describing the actual fruit the whiskey smells or tastes like. I agree there also. A red apple and a green apple have very different aromas and flavor profiles – no doubt, but fruits and ants are vastly different in terms of how likely a reader can relate to them. And who is the review for?

For clarification, I believe Dave Broom is as good as it gets in whiskey writing. He is someone I respect a great deal, but as a whiskey reviewer myself I found this article tough to agree with. A point he did make late in the article is using Twitter to write short reviews that worry less about tasting notes and more about the attitude and mood of the whiskey. That I can get behind as it helps the reader get a picture for how the whiskey delivers flavor across your palate.

In closing I pose this to you folks, are whiskey reviewers taking things a bit too far with some of this stuff? What is your take?

Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project

I am ashamed to call myself a whiskey geek today. Very ashamed indeed. I say this because I cannot tell a lie – no matter how hard I make myself, I can’t get excited about the Buffalo Trace Single Oak Project. Honestly I have tried like hell to get into it. To date, I’ve sampled three bottles (different barrel numbers). They’ve been good, don’t get me wrong, but not mind blowing. I still wonder if it will even be worth the effort. Let me explain my thoughts……

For those that don’t remember, Buffalo Trace embarked on one of the most aggressive “projects” in whiskey history earlier this year. That’s not an understatement. You can read more about the experiment here. To summarize, Buffalo Trace has gone right to the barrel making source to isolate the components of the wood that impact the finished whiskey more favorably in the eyes of the general public. You can purchase a bottle, log onto the website, enter your thoughts on the whiskey, and see what components/factors impacted the bourbon you tasted. The goal, simply put, is to figure out what sections of the tree (top or bottom cuts), what char levels, grain type (course to fine grain), and other factors yield the best results when mated with either a rye-based bourbon or a wheated bourbon. To date, Buffalo Trace has released 36 Single Oak Project Bourbons (3 releases of 12), each representing 192 possible combinations of flavor factors.

This is cool stuff right? On the surface I agree – it’s very cool. Buffalo trace is going to lengths no other distillery in the world has gone (to my knowledge) in order to improve consistency, and perhaps find the “holy grail” bourbon.

Here’s the thing – I think they have little or no chance of finding what they seek. Is that based on fact, research, or anything concrete? Nope, not a all. Still, I believe they are looking at this in a one dimensional way, focused on isolation of components. What if it’s a combination of top and bottom tree oak that yields more balance? What if variances in grain type actually help? What if it’s a combination of rye-based bourbons blended together that yield the best finished whiskey? What if my brain explodes as I think of the myriad of options that could yield the best results?

Also, and perhaps more critically, what are Buffalo Trace’s plans to execute on the “perfect” bourbon as per the Single Oak Project ratings? How does a distillery scale in such a way as to isolate top tree sections with tight grain (for example) and still produce an affordable bourbon? Does Buffalo Trace intend to buy their own cooperage to control those costs? Will it end up being a $150 bottle? The folks behind this endeavor are a hell of a lot smarter than me, but these are the things that run through my head, and keep me from jumping up an down with excitement.

Bottom line, I feel this will end up being a fun, cool experiment for the whiskey geeks in all of us. And there’s nothing wrong with that as long as we all don’t get our hopes up.

What about you? Share with me what you think about Buffalo Trace’s Single Oak Project. Perhaps I’m alone in my opinion here.

Happy Holidays!

I’m not sure where the time has gone, but it has been a wild year for sure. I hope this post finds you all getting ready to enjoy the holiday season with family and friends. I would like to thank you for taking time and visiting Sour Mash Manifesto, for commenting, and for sharing stories and insights on whiskey. I appreciate each of you for those contributions to the site. It’s clear a lot of people share a passion for whiskey.

As for me, I don’t plan on hibernating over the next 2-3 weeks. Coming up we have a series of Rye reviews – the 2011 Sazerac 18 year, Sazerac Rye Whiskey, and Willett 3 year Single Barrel Rye. In addition I will be reviewing a new one from High West called Son of Bourye, which is a blend of a younger bourbon and rye than it’s father – Bourye. I’ll also take a look at High West’s newest “silver” whiskey, OMG Pure rye, a nod to the Old Monongahela. Finally, we’ll get back to some entry level products with some reviews of Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7, Jim Beam “White Label”, and George Dickel No. 8. I’m sure there will be some others here and there as well, and it will be a fun few weeks. I hope you agree.

Lastly, I plan on joining the fray with some awards for a few specific categories for 2011. Like the whiskey world needs more awards, but there are some distilleries and bottles that deserve acknowledgement. Be on the look out for that very soon.

Drink well, but responsibly, this holiday my friends. All the best to you and yours!


Happy Thanksgiving!

I am very thankful for the opportunity to have a place to spout on about something I love very much. Even more so, I’m thankful to have great folks that visit often and contribute. I honestly cannot describe how much fun I have interacting with all of you. The fact that you take time to stop by and hear me out is a blessing for me.

I wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving, and hope it will be filled with great family, friends, fantastic food, and of course great whiskey.

This holiday I have a boatload of family coming into town, like every year. It’s my favorite holiday for that very reason. I love to cook and so this holiday just fits right in. Each year we make 3 turkeys (one fried, one roasted, and one smoked) with some of the best sides (or fixins as we say in the south) you’ll ever eat. This year, after the dust settles on a meal that takes 2 days to prepare and 30-45 minutes to eat, I’ll pull all the willing participants into my dining room and we’ll make our way through my liquor cabinet. I’ve got some special ones in store for them – an older Pappy 15s, a 2009 Stagg, the 2011 Parker’s Heritage Collection, and probably a few gems from across the pond as well.

Whiskey, like a lot of things, is best when shared with people. It was meant to be enjoyed any time of course, but it just always seems to taste better with others. Share a bottle with someone this Thanksgiving and you’ll be glad you did. Also, I would love to hear what you’ll be sipping this week – please let us all know!

World Whiskey Review

For those that may not know Dominic Roskrow, he is a former editor of Whisky Magazine, one of the largest whisky publications in the world. Today he writes about World Whisky for John Hansell’s magazine, The Whisky Advocate, as well as popular titles like New York Daily. In addition to editing Whiskeria and The Spirits Business, Dominic has also published a number of books. His best in my opinion was released about 18 months or so ago titled, “Worlds Best Whiskies: 750 Drams from Tennessee to Tokyo”.

Dominic’s latest project is an online magazine called World Whisky Review (WWR). This eZine is published through Whisky Connosr, an online whisky community of sorts. Originally intended to focus on whiskey outside of the top-five producing countries/areas around the globe, Dominic quickly recognized the need to feature the occasional article on the exciting U.S. Craft Whiskey scene in WWR.

Enter yours truly. Earlier this year I struck up a conversation with Dom online, and was quite pleased (and very honored) to be invited to contribute an article for his latest project. You can take a look at World Whisky Review HERE. I have an article on white whiskey. Perhaps he’ll invite me back for another contribution, but regardless it was quite fun. Be on the lookout for new WWR releases bi-monthly, with the next one coming before the end of the year.



Public Service Announcement

We interupt your regularly scheduled whiskey drinking to inform you that Van Winkle bourbons are close to shelves. According to Chuck Cowdery, The Van Winkles have informed him that their highly anticipated line of whiskeys will hit stores after Turkey Day, but just before the end of the year. Chuck’s a more than reliable source.

My recommendations, like earlier this year, are to to call your local liquor stores and get your name on a list. Make nice with your merchants and they’ll be kind to you. If you want to know which ones to get, I’d suggest the 15 year old Pappy Van Winkle, and the 12 year old Van Winkle Special Reserve. The 13 year old Rye is solid stuff, but there’s better out there for the dollar. The 20 and 23 year old Pappy are expensive. If your budget allows purchasing those, great, but they can’t come close to touching the 15 year old.