The next in our series of wheated bourbon reviews will be a blinded tasting with three arms:
- Van Winkle Family Reserve Bourbon 12 years old (Lot B) 90.4 proof ($60)
- Old Fitzgerald 12 year ($33)
- W.L. Weller 12 year old bourbon 90 proof ($24)
The VSOF pictured is a sample bought from Master of Malt, whose "drinks by the dram" sample program is just incredible and in sore need of replication this side of the pond. Such samples are likely to crop up from time to time on this blog as it is all self-funded, and I can't/should not finish bottles fast enough to keep delivering content, and I don't hate money.
Tasted blind, using the same method as previously I found the following:
Nose has butter (diacetyl), popcorn, cereal grains, vanilla (most like cake frosting), acetone and dry wood that reminds me of an attic. The palate is medium weight, dry, and hotter than I would like. I notice vanilla, caramel, grain, oranges (and their rinds) and there is a definite bitterness that detracts from an otherwise simple but pleasant palate. The finish starts well with grains and sweetness but trails into faint bitterness. I guessed (correctly) Lot B.
This nose is very different. Menthol/eucalyptus is here in a small but unmistakably amount that I have found in a number of HH products. The nose also has notes of butterscotch, vanilla and (oddly) what I identify from a childhood memory as gummy worms. The palate is heavier and very smooth; the alcohol is very nicely tamed. Also on the palate, I get banana nut muffins, faint citrus and a touch of pine. The finish is simple and warming, leaving finally with mint. This was obviously not a BT wheater, so I guessed (correctly) VSOF.
This nose was obviously similar to #1, but with more dried wheat and less acetone and butter. The nose also brought Crème brûlée. The palate, compared to #1 was sweeter and not as hot. It was lighter than #2. Overall it had a nice balance of caramel, vanilla and toffee notes and tasted "bright" overall. The finish was quick, but clean. I guessed Weller 12, mainly in the hope that I liked Mr. $25 better than Van Winkle.
The first thing I learned is that I am not insane and can discriminate between drinks. Second, despite the "gummy worm" issue and thrashing OF products get from many reviewers, I actually quite like the VSOF and will get more. As for the BT stablemates: I think I may be finished with Lot B. I will continue to buy it for gifts as many seem to love it (but would they love it without the magical Van Winkle name on the bottle?), but for myself I will either go with the 10/107 ($40 and awesome) or PVW15 ($100 and classic). The most stunning thing, which I suspected but am glad I confirmed blindly, was how much I enjoyed the Weller 12, a $25 bourbon, which I continue to think is one of the best values in the bourbon world.
To be clear: all of these were very nice drinks that I will happily enjoy in the future. Further, in a world where the buy-in for serious scotch and wine is rapidly nearing the 3 digits (and the latter only lasts for a night) I would even go so far as to say they are all bargains. However, I liked this Weller 12 better than the Lot B, and not just for the price.
Next, we will find out if spending even more money on a bottle of brown liquor gets you anything...