It is time for my first side-by-side review. In this review I take on Dane Huckelbridge’s Bourbon: A History of the American Spirit and Austin Nichols’/Wild Turkey’s Wild Turkey 101: Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. These have been a great pairing over the past few weeks. It was hard to put either of them down. They are both American Classics in my mind’s eye. So, let’s get to the specifics:
BOURBON: A HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN SPIRIT by DANE HUCKELBRIDGE
This is the first book I have read on bourbon in its entirety. I have picked up books on the subject while perusing at the local book store, but never read one from cover-to-cover until now. And, I have to say this is a different kind of book. In all reality it is a history book and while much of the history contained on its pages is in regards to bourbon (or a spirit somewhat resembling bourbon) it is also largely about the history of the United States of America. It begins with Old World Europe and the Aztecs by discussing the birth of the spirits (distilled that is, not ghosts). Then it jumps forward to the founding of our nation and how the Founding Fathers (especially George Washington and George Thorpe) loved whiskey albeit not quite bourbon at that time. From the Sugar Act of 1764 to the Boston Molasses Disaster of 1919, whiskey in America slowly began to shape into what we now know as, and so fondly love, bourbon. From the Scotch-Irish settlements to the Civil War, from the settlement of the Wild, Wild West to the era of gangsters and prohibition, Huckelbridge weaves a tale with well written words and humorous anecdotes. You will even learn about the origin of some classic phrases (I won’t spoil them here, you should really read the book). It is well-rounded and has great depth like a good, barrel-proof bourbon with just a bit of folklore along the way to please and compete with the likes of an iteration in the Diageo Orphan Barrel Series. In the end, I was not disappointed in a single element (besides maybe how far the definition of bourbon was stretched) and I learned a whole lot about bourbon and America (are they really different).
94/100 (An Excellent Text)
WILD TURKEY 101
Wild Turkey has taken some flack lately. While I do believe they have stalled in the realm of creativity (Diamond Anniversary is good but doesn’t hold weight with the likes of developments at Four Roses, Heaven Hill, and Buffalo Trace), they consistently put out their regular line-up with great results. Your grandfather might have drunk this very dram but it is by no means a nasty, old man’s pour. This is one fine tipple.
Distiller: Austin Nichols/Wild Turkey
Age: 6-8 year old blend
Medium-to-dark copper. An orange tint.
Vanilla is the first thing I get here. Then, it is quickly followed by a ton of carmel. This is a very spicy bourbon. You can tell it is a high-rye mashbill. Some barrel char notes and alcohol burn. When water is added a lot of sweet honey notes appear. For me, it gets almost too sweet. I like this one neat.
Sweet carmel is the first note. Loads of sugar. This is followed by vanilla and some cherry fruit leather. This is a very smooth yet thick tipple with a decent, but not too strong burn. You know it’s there. Again, honey is added to the palate with the addition of water. And, yet again, I find it too sweet. I like this one neat when it comes to the taste as well as the nose.
Long. This one stays with you for a while. It goes from carmel and fades into some oaky notes.
I absolutely love this pour. It is by no means gut-rot. This is an everyday sipper in my opinion. And, while I prefer my whisk(e)y neat, this would make a mean cocktail. I was first introduced to this bourbon last year by a good friend. I liked it immediately. So, I recently picked up a bottle. It didn’t take me long to finish it and I doubt it will take me long to replace it. This will be a staple in my bar.
93/100 (An Excellent Tipple)