Jack Daniels

American Whiskey Week draws to a close: what we’ve learned

Posted by: Nick and Ted

And so after seven days, the Whisky Waffle boys finally stumbled out of the endless Kentucky cornfields. Many interesting facts had gone in one ear and out the other (must have been something to do with the corn), and much sippin’ of spirits had been accomplished.

We scaled the (Brokeback) Mountain of American whiskies, and came out safely on the other side. So what did we learn?

Bourbon-Back Mountain Whisky Waffle

The story of forbidden love between two men… and bourbon.

  1. Not all cowboys drink bourbon. We met one in a bar the other night (right in the middle of bourbon week of all times. You couldn’t make this stuff up), and he preferred the moon to be shining hard on his liquor;
  2. We won’t be tracking down the Jack Daniels or the Jim Beam again any time soon. As with most things, you get what you pay for;
  3. We prefer a bit of character over easy drinking in our corn juice;
  4. It is possible for a bourbon to take a subtle approach;
  5. Sometimes it is ‘really hard’ not to create innuendo;
  6. You can take American whiskey out of Kentucky, but you can’t take Kentucky out of American whiskey; and finally:
  7. When it comes down to it, bourbon still tastes a lot like bourbon.
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Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon

Reviewed by: Nick and Ted

Jim Beam

When Jacob Beam first distilled some corn along the banks of Dicks River in Kentucky circa 1795, he probably cranked out some pretty rough and ready stuff. Well, it seems that over the years not much has changed. Jim Beam has its origins as a small family business plying their trade in the newly formed state of Kentucky, but since then the family has grown just a tad. In 2014 Jim Beam was involved in a shotgun wedding which resulted in it picking up the double-barrel name (geddit?) Beam-Suntory. And all this multi-national success only came at the low, low price of its soul. Well, it seemed like a good deal at the time.

Not that the brand was particularly struggling it must be said, as Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon is one of the most recognisable and consumed spirits on the face of the planet. Most often you can observe it in its natural environment being mixed with coke, or being shotted by teens trying to be tough (and then regretting it later).

The boys from Whisky Waffle are even tougher than that. They sipped it. Neat.

Ted and Beam

On the nose the Beam is surprisingly smooth. And sweet… you could be forgiven for the thinking that it’s a liqueur. Honey, pear and confectionery notes of red frog and fairy floss (“cotton candy” in Beam’s motherland) slide across the ol’ olfactory bulbs. Overall it’s not too bad actually.

But then like a Disneyland water-slide, things go down the tubes. On the palate the analogy is rather appropriate as the Beam is about as watery as the pool at the bottom of the aforementioned slide. It also tastes like quite a few people have been swimming in it before you. The quality is thin, with a hint of sour white grapes coated in a film of dish liquid. Once you’ve emerged from the murky waters, your mouth is left with the not altogether pleasant taste of ethanol, cheap Sav Blanc and tourists in Mickey Mouse swimmers.

In fact, drinking bog standard Beam is a lot like a trip to Disneyland in general. It’s exciting at the start, but at the end of the day you are left feeling hot, weary, annoyed, and like your personal space has been violated by hordes of Japanese tourists (Suntory joke). Jim Beam Kentucky Straight Bourbon is not a whiskey we would turn to regularly, but then again we’re not really doing it right. Coke anyone?

Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Tennessee Whiskey

Reviewed by: Nick and Ted

Jack Daniels Old no. 7

When you think of American whiskey, you probably think of Jack Daniels. That makes us a little sad. You’d be forgiven for such thinking of course, as it is the highest selling American whiskey in the world. This was not always the case.

Back in the mid 1800s a recently orphaned Jack Daniel found himself in need of a home. Fortunately he was taken in by a local lay-preacher who moonlighted as a moonshiner. Jack saw the light and so his path was set as a still man.

These days JD is famous for its blue-collar local hero vibe, placing itself as the everyman’s drink of choice. Unfortunately, while it may be heroic in terms of volumetric output and sales, there’s certainly nothing local about it any more.

While Jack Daniels is well within its rights to label itself as bourbon, it shuns this moniker, preferring to be known simply as Tennessee Whiskey. In reality, the name is really all that sets it apart: there’s certainly nothing special about the flavour, that’s for sure.

Nick and JD

Once you have steeled yourself enough to take a sip, you will be met with a concoction of molasses and cheap vanilla essence, as well as an undertone of raw spirits. It’s relatively broad and full-bodied, but with lots of harsh, jaggy edges.

After you have bravely taken a sip, you will find yourself amongst the vegetation. Unfortunately, rather than a meadow of flowers, it’s more like a pile of damp leaves blocking your gutters. It is pleasantly warm on your palate, although less so when you notice that someone has actually painted nail polish remover on your tongue. The finish is a combination of several elements that you don’t usually, or indeed ever, look for in a whiskey, including turps and blue heaven flavouring.

While there are many high alcohol percentage whiskies that give the illusion of being lower due to their smoothness, the JD deserves some credit for managing to achieve the opposite. While it’s only bottled at 40%, the rough and raw nature of this spirit gives it the impression of a distinctly unpleasant cask-strength.

While the stats may suggest that Jack Daniels is the most popular whiskey in America, the drink does not back it up. This is mass produced American whiskey at its best – or should that be worst?

Whisky Waffle Present: American Whiskey Week

Posted by Nick and Ted

Bourbon Week

Jim Beam: Hmm… Tastes like bourbon; Makers Mark: yup, that’s also bourbon; Woodfords Reserve: I’m detecting notes of… wait, what is that… bourbon?; Jack Daniels: technically they don’t even call it bourbon, but you know what, yeah it totally is.

In our admittedly (very) limited experience with the whiskies of the US, we both tend to agree that the overriding flavour is… well… bourbony. In Scotland a drive from one end of the town to the other can result in whiskies so different from each other that you would swear that they could not possibly be made with the same three ingredients. In contrast, across the 4500km from coast to coast in America, not much seems to change. Sure there are subtle nuances, but in the end it’s all just bourbon isn’t it?

Bourbon: The Facts You Probably Already Know But We’re Going To List Anyway: (Don’t Judge Us Ok?)

  1. Not all American whiskies are bourbon, but all bourbons are whiskies.
  2. Almost all bourbons are made in the state of Kentucky. Tennessee is too cool and narcissistic to use the term ‘bourbon’ and instead likes to go with the rather unoriginal ‘Tennessee Whiskey’.
  3. Bourbon is made using one of Nick’s favourite foods… Pizza!… no, wait, the other favourite… Corn! By law, bourbons must contain at least 51% corn, and no more than 80%. The remainder is usually made up of a mixture of rye, barley or wheat.
  4. By law, bourbon must be aged in brand new charred oak casks, thus keeping coopers in a job.
  5. They must all taste like bourbon.

Meme Ygritte

Ok, before you all go on the warpath, we fully admit that we don’t really have a leg to stand our lofty opinions on. We have inadequate, shall we say, ‘practical knowledge’ on the subject. Therefore, we will be embarking on a week long quest to explore the amber offerings of the U.S. of A and educate ourselves about the subtleties of Scotch’s redneck American cousin. And who knows, we may even discover a flavour in there that’s not bourbon.

#AmericanWhiskeyWeek