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How to pick Whiskey and Bourbon

Discover Whiskey
Photo by Dylan de Jonge on Unsplash

How to pick Whiskey and Bourbon

Are you a Whiskey or Bourbon lover or just beginning to discover the many varieties of Whiskey with their own unique aromas and flavors?  In either case, Whiskey can take on so many different characteristics similar to wine, you can spend a lifetime tasting hundreds of blends.  You may find a few that you enjoy more than others, you may also prefer one over another based on the occasion or meal you will be drinking it with.  Let’s learn a little about what makes whiskey and bourbon different and the different characteristics they possess to assist you in selecting the appropriate bottle for your occasion.

Discover Whiskey Bourbon
Photo by Dylan de Jonge on Unsplash

Whiskey is a generic name that encompasses Scotch whisky, Irish whiskey, American whiskey, and Bourbon which is a style of American whiskey.  It is distilled from fermented grain mash (wheat, rye, barley, or corn) and aged in wooden barrels.  The type of barrel used has a big impact on the flavor and color of the Whiskey.  The difference between American whiskey and Bourbon is that Bourbon is produced in the US and is made from 51 percent corn, and whiskey can be made with different grains combinations.  The other difference is that Bourbon is stored in new charred oak barrels, whereas whiskey barrels do need to be oak nor new or charred this is where the distinct flavor of Bourbon comes from.

Below are the common flavors whiskey takes on based on how it was made and stored.  Review the flavors and start tasting the different brands that fall into the different flavors; if you want to track the different brands you drink, you can use the spreadsheet at the bottom of this post to track the different flavor profiles you experience, or you can download an app to do the same thing.

  1. Cereal
    Aromas from the malted barley, are usually modified by the later stages of production (fermentation and distillation).
  2. Fruity (or estery)
    Desirable sweet, fragrant, fruity, solvent-like scents from fermentation and distillation.
  3. Floral (or aldehydic)
    Leafy, grassy or hay-like scents, sometimes like Parma Violets or gorse bushes.
  4. Peaty (or phenolic)
    Almost all phenols are imparted to the malt during kilning. The scents are famously abundant in Islay malts and range from wood-smoke to tar, iodine to carbolic.
  5. Feinty
    Feints come in halfway through the spirit run, beginning as biscuity, toasted scents, then through tobacco-like and honeyed to sweaty. Feints are mellowed and transformed by maturation in good casks.
  6. Sulphury (from organosulphur compounds)
    Arise during distillation and maturation. Copper plays a crucial role in removing such aromas, which can be considered unpleasant.
  7. Woody
    The vanilla related aromas in this group derive from American white oak. Some aromas are directly related to age. Oak increases complexity, enhances fragrance and delicacy, lends color, and develops roundness.
  8. Winey (or extractives)
    If the cask has previously been filled with wine (mainly sherry, but sometimes others), the wood absorbs wine residues, which are extracted by the spirit and become part of its flavor.

Let’s get started tasting, To start with let’s compare two distinct Bourbons that fall in opposite spectrums of the flavor profiles.

Basil Hayden's
Images provided by Basil Haydens

Basil Hayden’s is a great bourbon with a smooth taste, this is a great drink for those who like a lighter body. The hint of spice is just the right amount without overpowering the taste buds, which really allowed me to enjoy this high quality bourbon. I usually drink mine neat with a few drops of water but Basil Hayden’s is an enjoyable straight out bottle.

Learn the exclusive recipe of bourbon manhattan and you won’t be disappointed with its taste.

This year, Basil Hayden’s partnered with Wildsam Field Guides to create a limited-edition gift offering for fans this holiday season. The new release, called “Points of Interest,” features a bottle of Basil Hayden’s Bourbon wrapped in a Wildsam Field Guide that includes fun facts, hidden spots, and drink recipes from across the U.S. You can now enjoy Basil Hayden’s signature bourbon with a bespoke conversation guide at an SRP of $39.99

Knob Creek Quarter Oak is a great addition to Knob Creek family. I had the chance to try it, and it was amazing. The smooth start to finish made me want more. With hints of brown sugar, vanilla, and nutmeg, giving that smooth bold finish.

Whiskey Tasting Sheet

As you begin to taste different Whiskeys you can use the tasting sheet below to record your impression and save for a latter date.  You can also find an app that does the same thing, where you can record each Whiskey you sample. This will give you a good idea of the types of Whiskey you enjoy most and help you to remember which ones they are.