As I sit here on a dreary Sunday morning, I probably would have been doing just fine had I not decided after hosting a bourbon tasting last night that piling on a number of additional drinks was a good idea...but, when in good company an extra beverage...or five, just sometimes happens. Hosting a bourbon tasting is one of my absolute favorite things to do, as it combines my love of drinking good bourbon with my love of sharing good bourbon and my love of talking about good bourbon. It's like book club but for cool adults...we dig into the "story" of each dram, dissecting the nuances of each bourbons character and debate what we really think is going on as we group think our way through each pour.
One thing that we've found is that pairing food with any bourbon tasting is a must, and you can really draw out some of the subtleties of each pour with the RIGHT foods. If you've not seen it, take three minutes to read our post on Foods That Pair With Bourbon for the full scoop on the Bourboneur recommendations on foods for your next or first bourbon tasting. There were a couple times last night where a bite of cheese for example changed a pour completely and really accentuated some of the flavors the group was picking up.
As with all our bourbon tastings at my garage bar speakeasy, we sampled six bourbons which were blinded to the group, so they had nothing to go on but the knowledge that these were selected from the hundred thirty or so bottles sitting behind the bar, which isn't terribly helpful. We score three categories, aroma, taste and finish using the Bourboneur Tasting Sheet - a must have. So, lets get to the scoring...
Our six bourbons we sampled are pictured above and to be honest, selecting a lineup is usually the most difficult thing when hosting a bourbon tasting as it takes some time winnowing down what I want to explore with the group. These bourbons, I felt like expressed a whole variety of different things that would keep folks on their toes and were not things most would have necessarily drank before. I do like to throw in a cheap bottle here and there, though didn't this time, as you'd be surprised at where a Benchmark Full Proof for example would land in comparison to much more expensive bottles! With that said, lets break down folks' thoughts on the various bottles and how they ranked from the least loved to the most favored below.
Although nobody hated Hancock's President's Reserve, it didn't really wow most of the Bourboneurs sitting around the garage bar. The consensus was that it wasn't terrible, but it fell a bit flat on the palate for most. It overall was an easy drinker, which makes sense given the whopping 88.9 proof of the bottling. On the nose, it has a very floral aspect that most in the group picked up, likening the aroma to a fresh cut rose. The nose however didn't translate across to the pour.
Surprisingly, nobody in the group picked up on this as being a Booker's despite having the classic peanuty Booker's note. Granny's Batch delivers on the peanut note in a big way too and is a super-rich pour overall. At a bit over 126 proof, it packs a punch which I feel like often times disadvantages some of the higher proof bourbons in these lineups as palates vary and for those who don't love a jet-A type heat they tend to score them lower.
The 2XO pour just barely eked out a win over the Booker's, averaging just a quarter point higher in the rankings. I'd almost consider it a tie, but technically it's our number four pour in the lineup. At 104 proof this double-barreled bottling was enjoyed by most with a tobacco spice and oaky warmth coming together nicely with a very earthy overall pour. I think to me it really built well with a crescendo from beginning to end, having a good nose, a better taste and a great finish.
Out of all the pours, this was one of the toughest to land in terms of what was packaged into the profile of this bottling as it had a lot of complexity. It exhibited the typical bourbony vanilla and caramel notes and is pretty sweet on the nose, though admittedly the nose was probably my least favorite of the group and didn't provide much prelude to the potency of the dram. Once in however the spiciness of the barrel char pairs well against the backdrop of the sweeter notes in this high percentage corn mash bill bourbon.
This bottle I was sampling for the first time along with everyone else, being a fresh crack. A 2022 release these bottles are tough to come by. Bottled at 110 proof, it was dark, lending to the nearly 15 years it spent in the wood. The nose did a lot more than hint at the leathery nature of the pour, as one Bourboneur put it, "this smells like a cowboy." That said, the taste really had something special going on and that bore out in the results. It had a leathery sweetness with some honey-like undertones that were really seductive.
At the top of the order was Kentucky Owl's Batch 11 which dominated the evening's lineup. I had found this bottle out and about a number of months back priced at about a third of retail...I think someone had made a whoops and maybe confused the bottle with the more commonplace Confiscated offering from Kentucky Owl, but it certainly has added to my enjoyment of the bottle nonetheless! A common descriptor around the room was "buttery" and many suggested the nose hinted at some underlying sweetness, almost like maple syrup or cocoa depending on who you asked. The palate was fairly rich intermingled with oakiness backed up with allspice and a honey/toffee like sweet note. A lot going on but in a balanced way that clearly landed well with the group.
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Bourboneur Tasting Sheet