Sunday, May 9, 2010

Whiskey throw down – better late than never

Back late last year and then in the New Year I mentioned that I was going to attend a whiskey throw down. Well after snow storms, illness and conflicting schedules, we finally came together and completed the task of going head to head between bourbon and Irish whiskey. It all started when my wife's Aunt started talking smack about bourbon and how it was for mullet heads with wife beater shirts. She said Scotch and Irish whiskey were a more "dignified" drink. Of course, I stepped up nose to nose and accepted the challenge.

About 10 family members got together and I began the process of explaining the origins of bourbon and the different recipes one can encounter when purchasing bourbons. I started off the sampling with an '88 Weller Special Reserve. This particular bourbon comes from the famed Stitzel Weller distillery and is of course a wheated bourbon at 90 proof. A wonderful example of a soft yet flavorful bourbon. My second sample was Sazerac Rye (Baby Saz) in order to provide an example of the opposite end of the whiskey spectrum. Third offering was Old Charter 12 year "Classic 90" which is a high corn bourbon (86%) so they could experience this type of bourbon. The last was a Wild Turkey 101 8 year so they could taste a high rye bourbon. Going through this type of progression gave everyone a new understanding and appreciation for bourbon as their thinking was somewhat one dimensional (think mullet). Now, I know the Saz is not bourbon but my intention was to go from one extreme (wheat) to the other (rye) so they could understand the unique and diverse nature of American whiskey. After the first round, I brought out the big guns; 2007 George T. Stagg at a whopping 144.8 proof and a Thomas H. Handy a slightly less 134.8 proof. My wife's Aunt took a sip of the GTS and I think her eye's spun around inside her skull and I watched with muted satisfaction at her discomfort.

At the end of the evening, my wife's Aunt and others expressed surprise at the uniqueness of bourbon and declared undying allegiance to bourbon to the end of their days (ok, I made that last part up). So, in the spirit of fairness, we broke open the two Irish whiskey my wife's Aunt brought and I'll have to say, she too brought a big gun. The first was Paddy's Old Irish Whiskey which is triple distilled and aged in oak for up to 7 years. It's blended to ensure its softness yet deliver enough flavors to make it appealing. This it does in an engaging fashion as I instantly liked this particular whiskey. Unfortunately, Paddy's is not sold in the U.S. The second Irish presented was a Bushmills Millennium. Curse Auntie for bringing such a stellar example of an Irish whiskey. My thoughts of whiskey domination were now in serious jeopardy. The Bushmills Millennium is a 24 year old whiskey, distilled in 1975 and bottled for the Millennium in late 1999. This whiskey was unlike any Irish I had ever tried delivering heaps of honey and malt. It was never overpowering but well balanced and perfect. At the end of the evening Auntie generously gifted both the Paddy's and Bushmills to me and I in return, gifted her a Pappy Van Winkle 15 year. I've found my new favorite Irish whiskey; unfortunately, it can't be found anymore so I'll have to nurse this bottle over a long period of time.

I can easily declare victory over the Irish but only because that's how it is in my world, plus Auntie will never know that I did so.


  1. WOW! Tough competition from both sides of the it should be with a true throw-down! Congratulations to your rockin' Auntie for showing up with two kick-ass contenders, but our dorky friend was not to be deterred by the strength of the potato-eating competitors.

    Good stuff all 'round, with the winners being those who took home whiskeys they didn't arrive with...both of you! Man, I'd like to have me a snort of the Millenium Bushmills!

  2. You're in luck. Paddy is now available stateside, though I don't know exactly which expressions are going to be here.

  3. Sweet. I'll keep an eye out. Thanks for the heads up Sku.

  4. Great post. I just stumbled across your blog while doing some research on a dusty find I had today. This should keep me busy for a while.

    As SKU said, Paddy's is now in the US. We have it at the store I work at and I enjoyed it this past weekend. Still doesn't hold a candle to my bourbon, but it was good nonetheless.

    I can only say my family was that cool. Let's just put it this way, my dad drinks a reduced alcohol Canadian whiskey and my mother only wine. Luckily I at least have the guys over at SB.

    I'm looking forward to reading through your blog tomorrow!

  5. Thanks flsean....appreciate you stopping by.


  6. This sounds great Greg. Perhaps you could do a post some day explaining the differences between Bourbon, Scotch and Irish Whiskey. I haven't figured out what all the terminology means, Single Malt, Peaty, Do they age in old bourbon barrels? Etc. I know you know a lot more about it than me.

    BTW this sounds wonderful. Great to have such a generous Aunt!

  7. I need to provide an update and retraction to my comment in this post. At the time of the tasting, my understanding was that Paddy is not sold here in the U.S. Well, I was wrong as it just entered the U.S. market within the last couple of months. If you find a bottle, grab it and give it a spin. It should go for about $30 a liter.

  8. I am and thanks for asking. As some of you know, besides my day job, I also own a franchise and I'm ramping up to open my second location so my evenings are spent buried in paperwork and sending e-mails. Even my drinking has declined. I hope to have an exam-o-dram up this weekend along with a topic of interest (I won't say what just now). Thanks for your patience.

  9. Very interesting Irish / Bourbon throwdown but Auntie needs to bring some other Irish Big Dogs next time because Paddy cannot play nice in the sandbox with your best friends.
    I have been hoarding two bottles of the Bushmills Millenium since 2000.
    I will fix that problem by year end!
    I have only tried Makers Mark and found it to be just ok...needs some spice...hope there are other wheated bourbons with some crackle.

  10. I'm working on a Irish Whiskey blind tasting, maybe 6 selections or so. As for wheat bourbons, there are a number of fine selections that include Old Weller 107, Old Weller 12 year, Pappy 15 and the yearly release of William LaRue Weller; a barrel strength offering. You want crackle? WLW is your huckleberry.

    1. Thanks for the tip on WLW from the BTAC....Wow! Crackle and more...showed me that Bourbon like that is the equal to any Irish or Scotch I ever had...Got to the party late but will do my best to catch up
      on our greatnAmerican Whiskey.
      I have now enjoyed Rittenhouse 100 proof BIB,Whistle Pig and High West Double Rye along with Evan Williams 2001 Single Barrel Bourbon. I also have Thomas Handy and George T Stagg & Pappy 20 yr. waiting patiently for me.

  11. Hey Greg:

    I have been follow your blog for quite a while now, unfortunatley it is near impossible to find any "dusties" in Texas! Today, I actually came across something and at the time didnt think much of it really. I should have take more notes when I was at the Liquor store, but this is what I remember, and hoping you could tell me if it is worhty to go back and buy as a "good" dusty. It was a 1/2 gallon of Antique Weller 7yr 107 proof. The neck had 7 yrs printed, so it's not the current NAS. The shape of the bottle was not the current symmetrical bulb style of the current Weller Antique NAS and 12 yr weller. The back of the bottle was sort of sloped and if I can recall there was quite a bit of green in the label. Also it was not the old style bottle that resembles the current Old Rip Van Winkle 10 yr 90/107. Hope you have some good news for me as they were priced to sell at $40/each.

  12. My knee jerk reaction is that you need to grab those bottles if it is the age stated Old Weller Antique. As for the bottle, without a picture it's hard to provide feedback. You stated "Antique Weller" which I believe you meant Old Weller Antique. Also, if you flip the bottle over, you should see a two digit number on the bottom that denotes the year the bottle was produced. Since distilleries don't store bottles, the manufacture year is indicative of the bottling year. So, if you see "82" it's reasonable to assume 1982. Bottom line, you found some age stated OWA and just that alone is worth picking up. Let me know what happens.

  13. Hey Greg. Thanks for the quick reply. Maybe I got the proof wrong, as my intial intention was to find a bottle of the newest release of Pappy and I was just looking at the 10 year 107 ORVW before I saw the Weller. I am 99% sure it was the bottle shape in the below link, but with a GREEN neck stating 7 years and GREEN/WHITE front label. Hope this gives you a better idea of what I might have on my hands....