American whisky: a tasting to celebrate Bourbon Heritage Month

In 2007 the US Senate declared September to be Bourbon Heritage Month. So in celebration of this, some American whisky distillers descended on London bringing with them their wares. This was a really interesting opportunity for me, as a wine specialist with a curious interest in other booze, to explore American whisky, and specifically to focus on Bourbon. These whiskies were from a mix of large and small distilleries, and two of them weren’t Bourbon because they were based on rye as the ‘mash bill’: legally, Bourbon has to have 51% corn. I really enjoyed these whiskies, and some were very special indeed. These are my notes.

Arizona Distilling Copper City Single Barrel Series #4 Bourbon
59% alcohol
This Arizona whisky finishes regular Bourbon ageing and then goes into used Cabernet barrels of French oak from Larkmead winery in Napa. Complex, spicy and very rich with the alcohol making itself felt. Powerful with notes of apricot, marzipan and spice, as well as toffee and wood spice. Lovely stuff. 9/10

Whistling Andy Bourbon
40% alcohol
From Montana. 60% corn, 35% barley/wheat, 5% rye. Concentrated and ethereal with lovely spic, cherry and wax notes. There’s a hint of tequila here, and notes of toffee and spice. Really complex, with some wood on the finish. So interesting. 9/10

Catoctin Creek Roundstone Rye Whisky
46% alcohol
This rye whisky is from Virginia, and is 3 years old. This is powerful and intense with a spicy edge to the sweet honeyed pear, peach and apple fruit. There’s even a touch of raisin, and it is slightly saline on the finish. 9/10

Jim Beam Single Barrel Bourbon
47.5% alcohol
Orange, spice and vanilla here, with a particular spiciness on the nose. In the mouth this is concentrated and rich with lovely intensity, some marmalade hints and lots of woody spiciness. It’s pretty refined and I like it a lot. 8.5/10

Makers Mark 46 Bourbon
47% alcohol
6.5 years of maturation, then it is taken out of the cask, and seared French oak staves are added, and the whisky goes back in for 9 weeks. The result is powerful, spicy and intense with lovely woody notes. Lots of flavour here. 8/10

Jim Beam Bookers Bourbon
62.7% alcohol
This is a small batch Bourbon that is unfined and uncut, and spends 6 years and 11 months in cask. Very intense, spicy and vivid, with some woody notes. This shows real power, with marmalade, spice, caramel and cedar. So complex and intense. 8.5/10

Woodford Reserve Bourbon
43.2% alcohol
72% corn and 18% rye (quite high). This is distilled in pot stills, not column stills, which gives a slightly oily texture. Aged 6-7 years (this goes a long way in Kentucky). This is sweet and juicy – a lovely fruity style with mandarin, green apple and honey notes. Pretty and expressive with accessibility. 8/10

Wild Turkey 101 Bourbon
51.5% alcohol
This is from Kentucky. 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% barley. Level 4 char (the highest) for the barrels. 7-7.5 years ageing. This is warm, rich, spicy and sweet with notes of peach, vanilla and pepper. Mellow finish. 7.5/10

Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon
58.4% alcohol
This is a blend of 6, 8 and 12 years. Very rich, warm, spicy and intense with real power. According to the distiller, this is a traditional expression of Bourbon, and it has lovely intensity and is really vivid. 8.5/10

Wild Turkey Longbranch Bourbon
43% alcohol
Longbranch is a collaboration between master distiller Eddie Russell and actor Matthew McConaughey. The distinctive thing about this 8 year old is the barrel ageing. It’s filtered with charcoal made from mesquite wood, which is a Texan touch (Matthew is Texan). This is fruity, rounded and layered with honey, caramel and spice. There are some nice woody characters, too. Very fruity and lively, and also harmonious and drinkable. 9/10

Angels Envy Bourbon
43.3% alcohol. This is aged for 4-6 years in white oak and then goes to Port wine barrels. Seamless and pure with nice spicy notes. Very accessible with some vanilla, spice and pepper. Appealing and sleek with a sense of harmony. 8/10

Bulleit Bourbon
45% alcohol
68% corn, 28% rye and 4% malted barley. Sweet, harmonious and with a spicy edge. Shows some vanilla and sandalwood from the oak, as well as honey and spice. Very stylish. 8/10

Bulleit 10 Years Old Bourbon
45.6% alcohol
Same mash bill as the regular Bulleit, just longer in oak. It’s great for old fashioneds apparently. Very spicy and intense, and quite savoury. Concentrated flavours of orange peel, honey and crystalline citrus. Maybe even some raisin? Rich and seductive with lots of personality, and persistent notes of sandalwood and cedar. 8.5/10

Bulleit 95 Rye Whisky
45% alcohol
This is lively and spicy with marmalade, vanilla and green apple. Vivid and quite fresh with lovely weight. A really expressive whisky. 8.5/10