Whiskey Tasting on a Sunday Afternoon

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Tracy was asking for bourbon recommendations, and although this post is about more than just bourbon, it’s somewhat related.

My friend Ryan had me over for a pig roast this afternoon to celebrate his wife’s birthday, so I got to take a tour of his legendary liquor room. That’s right, while the rest of us have liquor cabinets, Ryan has a whole small room full of some extremely rare and wonderful liquors.

Ryan and his wife fled New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, and while they returned to an absolutely devastating scene months later, the one silver lining was that many of their bottles, while label-damaged, remained intact. And that’s good news for me, because when confronted with a roomful of liquor I’ve never tried before, I do what you would do: I find a glass.


The first bottle we cracked open was the Bush Pilot’s Private Reserve. Good luck finding this one at your neighborhood liquor store, kids! It hasn’t been made since 1997, as Anheuser-Busch threatened to sue the bejeezus out of the old man for trademark violation. This totally sucks because it’s, like, only the best Canadian whiskiey I’ve ever had. Period. Made with mostly rye, this one was aged in used bourbon casks for 13 years, so the color and caramel are both super duper light. Oh my God: smooth. And here I thought Canadian whiskey was all about Seagram’s VO – what was I thinking?


I didn’t even know they made rum in Louisiana, but I should have figured as much. The New Orleans Rum is made from sugar cane grown in Louisiana. It’s also bottled with a crappy little tin screwcap, which isn’t going to help much when the bottle is floating in raw sewage for several months. One sniff told us that this puppy was going to be headed down the drain. Smell ya later, rum


Hey, Old Charter 12-Year! You’re so affordable and easy to drink, but you’ve got a lot of character. You’re complex, with some burnt orange and leather on your long, lingering finish. Let’s be friends, Old Charter, I think you’re really cool.


Oh, crap, I forgot something: I live in Oregon where rare and exciting liquors are really hard to come by. Good thing this bottle of Sazerac Rye is on hand to remind me to get out more.

You know what’s really cool about a good rye? It lands on the two sides of the back of the tongue. I didn’t know that area even existed, because bourbon and scotch can’t even touch it. Thanks for teaching me about my body, Sazerac. You’re awesome!


And then sometimes a good bottle of rye will introduce you to things transcendental. This mind-blowing bottle of Thomas H. Handy Sazerac Rye was like one of those Tibetan religious experiences that opens up your third eye or whatever, but in this case the third eye was a sinus cavity and the sherpa was a Jewish guy named Ryan. This is easily the best American whiskey I’ve ever had. When you taste it you know that the wood used for aging was very carefully selected to complement the rye. And that’s some serious business.


Wow, I’d never even heard of this bourbon before and if you’d asked me, I would have said that Johnny Drum was one of John Hodgman’s 700 Imaginary Hobo Names.

But I would have been wrong. There are sort of two camps in bourbon: the sweet camp with its caramel and vanilla tones, and the savory camp with its leather and herbal flavors. Our friend John here is definitely sitting in the former camp, where most of the others I tasted today were in the latter. It’s a little sweet, lots of complex vanilla aromas, light wood flavor, tons of caramel… hell, it kind of tastes like Maker’s Mark.

I can only taste so much fantastic whiskey before my tongue files for a divorce, so it was time for me to shove off. Hopefully I can take another tour soon, and when I do I will post my findings.

And Tracy still wants to know about all of your favorite bourbons, so leave her lots of advice in the comments section. My two personal favorites are Basil Hayden and Woodford Reserve. But that’s just me.

7 Replies to “Whiskey Tasting on a Sunday Afternoon”

  • Daniel F. says:

    Has anyone ever tried 1792 Ridgemont Reserve? I just picked up a fifth for less than 25 bucks and it’s really spicy. Aged 8 years in oak, and has a nice smoothness to it.

    It’s put out by Barton Brands. I could hardly find a genuine flavor profile of it online. On the back of the bottle the distiller gives us his description, “Rich flavor, Velvety.” So if that doesn’t say it all…

    Regardless, it a bourbon I find similar to Woodford’s with a little rye influence.

  • Being on a student’s limited budget, and like you living in Oregon where my exposure is limited, when I CAN afford a fifth, I usually go with Bulleit.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Wow, that’s a great update, Camper, thanks!

  • FYI- New Orleans Rum was also wiped out in Katrina- the machinery was ruined but the rum was saved! They just relaunched as Old New Orleans Rum.

  • Dr, Bamboo says:

    I’ve always been kind of so-so on whiskey… I never entirely disliked it, but wasn’t crazy for it either.

    But I recently tried Sazerac rye, and I really liked it. I’m thinking rye may be what gets me on the whiskey train.

  • Jeffrey says:

    Agreed, Blanton’s is amazing – and definitely on the more savory side of things. Blanton’s doesn’t have that huge sweet tooth that you get from bourbons such as Knob Creek.

  • Jason says:

    Blanton’s is an excellent, excellent bourbon, though very expensive. My boss bought me a glass at an office party. Wow.

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