Forward: This review is brought to you by Matt Lee. When he isn’t teaching our future leaders, he occasionally brings his A-game to Cranberry Liquors. A week or so ago, Matt was looking for a nice bottle of liquor for his cabinet and wasn’t sure how to proceed. With so many options, what to get, what to get?
So Joe gave the teacher some homework: “Try some “airplane size bottles” or “nips.” Then give me the lowdown!” Before we begin, an operational definition: Palate: “The palate is (1) the roof of the mouth, and (2) the sense of taste, and it’s also a fancy word for flavor, especially in writing on food [/] wine.” Without further ado, Whiskey: A Case Study – Thoroughly researched and eloquently summarized by Matt Lee.
So, you want to get a whiskey, but you’re not sure which? A fine whiskey can be a great investment for your home bar. They have a great shelf life, play well with others, and are perfect for watering your horses (Did I get that right, Toby Keith?)
If you are new to whiskeys, Jack Daniels can help introduce you to the flavor profile: Simply put, a basic flavor profile which whiskeys are known for is smoky, peaty flavor, albeit with a muted palette that won’t overwhelm you. Likewise, Jameson’s Irish whiskey might give you a similar clean sensation, a smooth finish, and a touch of fig for which whiskeys are often known.
Still, the simple flavor profile of Jack or Jameson might not be enough for a more complex palette. Dewar’s is layered more complexly, and introduces a subtle hint of apple and pear. Black Label is smoother and sweeter than Dewar’s, swapping out fruit for honey. Even more complex are some higher end whiskeys. Bulleit Bourbon prominently features barley and rye, which add to its bold taste. Less forthright and more elegant is Woodford Reserve, which combines that spicy, tingly sensation with vanilla, butterscotch, and hazelnut notes.
Dewar’s – Fruity apple or pear smell, a more bitter lingering taste, spiky taste on front of tongue, burning sensation in back. Austere: a nice word if you don’t really taste any flavors or complexities.
Johnny Walker Black Label – With a similar fruit fragrance, but a smokier (peaty?) taste. It is much smoother than the Dewars on first taste, slightly sweeter at front of lips, similar towards back of the palette, but much smoother overall, more honeyed than the Dewars? Definitely prefer the smoothness of this to the Dewars. One might consider both the Black Label and Dewar’s to have more of a medicinal taste, but this is less pronounced in the Black Label.
Jameson – Seems somewhere in between the first two. Smoother than Dewar’s. Less of the smoky flavor, fewer complexities in general. Some fig flavor.
Woodford Reserve – Far more of the substantial body than the Jack, some of that spicy, tingly flavor. Tastes like it is layered with lots of complexities. A subtle sweetness to it, can’t really place it though. At least to my palate, the smoky, peaty taste is less pronounced. Notes of vanilla, maybe butterscotch or hazelnut. My favorite so far. I like the smooth, subtle sweetness.
[Editor’s note: Although we appreciate his unbiased review…. *DING DING DING* – I think we found Matt L.’s favorite!]
Bulleit Bourbon – A fruitier profile than the Woodford. The sweetness is too obvious/prominent. More barley/rye flavor. Not bad, but I think I prefer the smooth balance of Woodford.
Jack Daniels – Right away, lighter, almost watered down body. At this point, this is by far my least favorite.