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Kentucky Rye & Bourbon

by Gavin D Smith, 07/07

Born in the USA? Gavin D Smith on four Bourbons and a Rye.

Heaven Hill, Elijah Craig Kentucky Straight Bourbon (USA)
The Reverend Elijah Craig was a Baptist minister widely considered the ‘father of bourbon,’ and this expression from Heaven Hill is produced from a dumping of 100 barrels or less. It can justifiably be considered the first ‘small batch’ bourbon, although it predates the introduction of that term. Elijah Craig is a classic Bourbon, with sweet, mature aromas of caramel, vanilla, spice and honey, plus a sprig of mint. Rich, full-bodied and rounded on the mellow palate, with caramel, malt, corn, rye and a hint of smoke. Sweet oak, liquorice and restrained vanilla dominate the finish. 47.0% ABV, 70cl, £22.99, specialist whisky merchants.

Maker's Mark is produced at Loretto in Kentucky, where distilling has been taking place on the Star Hill Farm site since to 1805. The present brand was developed by Bill Samuels Snr, who bought Star Hill in 1953, and the Scottish spelling of 'whisky' has been employed since the outset in recognition of Samuels' Scottish ancestry. Since 2005 maker's Mark has been owned by Fortune Brands, who are also responsible for Jim Beam.

Maker's Mark, Kentucky Straight Bourbon (USA)
Samuels chose to create a Bourbon using a proportion of red winter wheat instead of the more common rye, in order to reduce the ‘burn’ left by many Bourbons of the time. The result is a comparatively soft and gentle spirit, which becomes very mellow as it matures. A subtle, complex, clean nose, with vanilla and spice, a delicate floral note of roses, plus lime and cocoa beans. Medium in body, Maker’s Mark offers a palate of fresh fruit, spices, eucalyptus and ginger cake. The finish features more spices, fresh oak with a hint of smoke, and a final flash of peach cheesecake. A delicate and circumspect Bourbon compared to some of its more redneck cousins. Very drinkable. 45.0% ABV, 70cl, £21.00, specialist whisky merchants.
Buffalo Trace, Kentucky Straight Bourbon (USA)
Distilled by the Sazerac Company Inc at Frankfort in Kentucky, Buffalo Trace Bourbon was released in 2001, two years after the distillery’s name was changed from Ancient Age to Buffalo Trace. An aroma of gum, vanilla, mint, and molasses. Sweet, fruity and notably spicy on the palate, with emerging brown sugar and oak. Water releases intensive, fruity notes. The finish is long, spicy and comparatively dry, with developing vanilla. 45.0% ABV, 70cl, £19.95, specialist whisky merchants.
Buffalo Trace, Eagle Rare Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon (USA)
Also produced in the Buffalo Trace distillery, Eagle Rare is 10 years old, and the Bourbon equivalent of a single cask Scotch malt whisky. Soft and delicate on the nose, with honey, leather, vanilla and mild oak. Sweet corn and stewed fruits on the palate, with spices, vanilla and developing rye notes. The finish is long and quite sweet, with a hint of ginger. 45.0% ABV, 70cl, £27.99, specialist whisky merchants.
Buffalo Trace, Sazerac Straight Rye Whiskey (USA)
The oldest rye whiskey on the market at 18 years old, Buffalo Trace’s Sazerac is big and spicy on the nose, with molasses, sultanas, vanilla and lanolin. Mouth – and glass! – coating, intense and oily rye, with dry spices and a hint of liquorice. Becoming sweeter, with developing ripe bananas. The finish is long, with a sprinkling of pepper, lightly oaky and determinedly dry. A lovely, complex and confident example of America’s true Classic whiskey style. Good to see rye undergoing a modest revival, and spirit as good as this can only help the cause 90.0% ABV, 70cl, £29.99, specialist whisky merchants.


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