Close

Bison Ridge Special Reserve 8 year old Canadian Whisky plus a similar looking bourbon

Posted on by Eric Burke

Buffalo Trace Bourbon. Produced by Crosby Lake Spirits out of Princeton, Minnesota. This fine imported Canadian Whisky has been aged for 8 years…

Wait a minute! Bison? Minnesota? 8 Years? This isn’t Buffalo Trace! This label says 8 years on it and we all know Sazerac is working very hard to remove age statements from their products!

But I kid. (Mostly.) I make the joke because earlier this year, Buffalo Trace sued the importers of Bison Ridge for creating a product that looked and sounded too much like their flagship bourbon. There are similarities to the name and the label, but I’m not a lawyer so I won’t really get any further into it than that.

One of the things that I actually like best about living in Minnesota is that we have a lot of Canadian Whisky that crosses the border and doesn’t go much further. So when I hear a recommendation on canadianwhisky.org for a new one, I tend to wander into my local liquor emporium to see if it’s made it here.

I originally noticed this brand as a mini in the “99 cent” bin on the store counter. I picked it up and thought it was ok. So I looked it up to see what Davin had to say about it. He didn’t mention the one I purchased, but did have a review of an 8 year version. Since both were imported by a company in Minnesota, I made a note to pick it up the next time I stopped in.

Bison Ridge Special Reserve, 8 year old

Purchase Info: $15.99 for a 750mL at Haskell’s Burnsville

Details: 8 years old, 40% ABV  

Nose: Grassy, soapy, delicate hints of cinnamon red hot candies

Mouth: Fairly thick and chewy. Very sweet. Demerara sugar, hints of anise, cinnamon candy and Dawn dish soap

Finish: gentle heat, slight white wine aftertaste to go along with the ever-present soap

meh.gif

Thoughts: I love good Canadian Whisky. This, however, is not that. It’s not terrible, but I’m not partial to the dish soap flavor I got throughout. For me, this is just meh.

Partway through my tasting I found the actual bottle of Buffalo Trace up in the overflow closet and thought it might be fun to taste these together. See how disappointed someone would be if they bought Bison Ridge thinking it was Buffalo Trace as their lawsuit contends is possible.

Buffalo Trace Bourbon

Purchase Info: $15.99 for a 750 mL at Haskell’s Burnsville (on sale)

Details: 45% ABV

Nose: Citrus peel transitioning to an earthy garden soil. Damp earth and green plants. Under that is a sweetness tinged with faint baking spices.

Mouth: Maple candy and cinnamon red hots pair nicely with an acidic liveliness.

Finish: Nice and warm. Lingering caramel and baking spices that fade to reveal a stoney mineral flavor underneath.

like.gif

Thoughts: Even at full price I like this one. I may not agree with the decisions of Sazerac’s marketing department, but I have to say they make a damn fine bourbon.

If someone told me to buy Buffalo Trace and told me there was a drawing of a Buffalo on it and I bought Bison Ridge by mistake, I would wonder what the fuss was all about. Bison Ridge isn’t terrible, but Buffalo Trace is a really good whiskey for the price. Whether it was an intentional ploy to trick people or not is for the lawyers and/or the courts to decide, but I can see why Buffalo Trace sued. I gotta give Bison Ridge a little credit though. They at least got the name of the animal correct.

Dickel v. Dickel: 14 year and 9 year

Posted on by Eric Burke

George Dickel. The “other” Tennessee whisky. 

That’s how these articles always start out. Isn’t it? If it wasn’t for the fact that they are owned by Diageo, the world’s largest drinks company, you’d almost feel bad for them. Dickel can’t even get a mention without someone bringing up, normally the writer, the bland behemouth.

Somewhere around the middle of 2013, bottles of George Dickel “Hand Selected Barrel” began appearing in stores. It was initially available in both 14 and 9 year versions though the scuttlebutt is that there were very limited 14 year barrels available and, as can be expected, they sold out quite quickly.

My wife was visiting a friend down in New Orleans in March. I’d asked her to look around for a present for me since I was unable to go with her due to work. On a recommendation from Chris Mac on Twitter, I sent her to a grocery store in Metairie to have a look around. I got a call asking if I’d like a Private Selection Dickel Single Barrel. Oh, and did I want the 9 or 14 year?…

Really? I’d read that the 14 was limited and sold out and a grocery store in New Orleans had it?

…the 14 year, please.

I was visiting Ace Spirits here in the Twin Cities looking for some bitters that I was doing a blog post on when one of the guys working there offered me a taste of the 9 year Dickel private selection they had just done. Not being one to turn down a free sample, I gladly took the Glencairn that was offered and gave it a good nosing and a sip. Yep. I was buying that one.

Once I had both of these in the overflow closet, the only thing to do was to compare them. 

George Dickel Hand Selected Barrel, 9 year old

Purchase info: $44.98 for 750mL at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN

Details: 51.5% ABV, chosen by Ace Spirits. Bottle #087

Nose: Big hit of alcohol at first. After letting it sit: Brown sugar, vinegar and damp earth. With water: more sweetness and some clove

Mouth: Hot. Oak caramel and hint of vinegar. With water: still a lot of oak, but the heat is calmed and it becomes a bit sweeter.

Finish: Long and warm with lingering sweet caramel. Water didn’t affect the finish much.

Thoughts: This guy wants water. Don’t get me wrong, I bought it after tasting it neat in the store but water calms it a bit and allows more sweetness to appear. It’s quite good. I like this.

George Dickel Hand Selected Barrel, 14 year old

Purchase info: ~$90-$100 for a 750mL at Dorignac’s Food Center, Metairie, LA

Details: 53% ABV. chosen by Dorignac’s Food Center. Barrel# 98K24A36-3-9. Bottle 089

Nose: Lot’s of wood followed by cloves and a hint of sweetness

Mouth: Hot, but managable. Caramel, JuicyFruit gum, oak, ginger 

Finish: Nice and long. Good warmth. Lingering caramel and fruitiness.

Thoughts: I like this one alot. It is scary easy to drink at 106 proof. To be honest if handed this blind, I would have guessed it was a Four Roses, but given how much I like them, that’s a good thing.

like.gif

These are both quite good. For me, the 14 year wins hands down due to being less oaky, sweeter, fruitier and easier to drink. My wife on the other hand prefers whisky with more oak on it so she prefers the 9 year. Both are highly recomended.

A Competition of Canadian Clubs, Regular Release vs Sherry Cask

Posted on by Eric Burke

December 1, 2013 was an interesting day for me. I was driving from Indiananpolis to Minnesota. 

This is not the interesting part.

I had been scheduled to take part in an online Twitter tasting going by the name #DavinTT2 but obviously couldn’t take part due to that aforementioned driving. The group had two whiskies to sample and I had tasted mine the previous evening in order to have notes ready to tweet out during the event. I had really liked both of them and was excited to find out what they were, what other thought of them and most importantly if I could get them in the US.

Due to extremely intermittent internet connectivity (thank you AT&T for seemingly not building a tower along a large stretch of Interstate 94 between Madison and Eau Claire, Wisconsin) I found out what the second whisky was first. And that it was a Canada only release. Drat.

The first one, I didn’t like as much as the second, but I still liked it enough to search out if available in the US for a decent price. Imagine my delighted surprise when I found out that it was Canadian Club Sherry Cask. I’d seen that practically everywhere. 

I’d seen it everywhere but had dismissed it in large part due to the fact that it was Canadian Club. I had a vague recollection of not caring for Canadian Club back when I was young and very much not into whiskey.

It’s amazing how old prejudices stick with you even when you’ve forgotten why you have them. Isn’t it? But that’s the value of blind tasting. I knew these whiskies were from Canada but that was it. It got me to taste something I had literally passed over dozens of times. And I liked it. Now I just needed to find it so I could taste more than an ounce and see if I really liked it.

I ran to the store once I got home and…they were out. Odd. I looked at the other stores I frequent. They were out or didn’t carry it. What the hell? I looked every time I stopped at a liquor store. Nothing. It got so bad that I finally ended up grabbing a bottle at Binny’s on my next vacation. Of course, when I got home, it was everywhere. And cheaper. 

Knowing that this was a tasty drink got me to wondering what the regular release tasted like. Was it something that I might want to keep on hand? I mean, it’s cheap enough. I bought a bottle to sip on during the Mad Men season premier this year. It was tasty enough. So now I had two Canadian Club whiskies. One that went for almost $30 and one that went for about $15. Was one twice as good as the other?

Canadian Club

Purchase info: $14.99 for 750mL at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN

Details: 40% ABV

Nose: Delicate nose with notes of ripe cherries, wet stone and dusty old wood

Mouth: silky texture with a malt-like sweetness. It has strong floral notes. There is a bit of mineral flavor along the sides of the tongue.

Finish: Sweet and gentle, but with just enough heat to subtly remind you you are drinking whisky.

meh.gif

Thoughts: There is absolutely nothing wrong with this whisky. And, if you love delicate flavors, I can see this being a nice inexpensive bottle to keep on hand. I prefer my whisky to be a bit more in-your-face and not so eager to please so, although I wouldn’t turn down a glass if offered, I doubt I’ll be buying this one again.

Canadian Club Small Batch: Sherry Cask

Purchase info: $29.99 for a 750mL at Binny’s, Bloomington, IL

Details: 41.3% ABV. Batch: C12-232

Nose: Floral soapiness, wet stone, dusty wood, sweet caramel and raisins.

Mouth: Thick and sweet. Fruity caramel paired with dark chocolate. 

Finish: Sweet and of a decent length. Lingering fruitiness that fades to bitter. Dries the mouth nicely.

like.gif

Thoughts: This is a good conversation whisky. Buy it to have with your friends for those times you’d rather think about your friends than your whisky. It’s not a complicated whisky, but I like it. Just not for every pour.

In the end, the Sherry Cask is better than the regular release. Is it twice as good? No. But then whisky math is seldom that straightforward. If I pick this up again it will be as a change of pace whisky. It doesn’t perfectly line up with my palate, but it’s not far enough off that I wouldn’t want a glass now and then.

Read This: Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh

Posted on by Eric Burke

Tonight is a night for a cocktail. It’s a warm, but not too warm, summer evening and I’m in the mood for something a little off of the beaten path. Something cold and refreshing, but strong enough to cut through the last bit of the cold I’ve been fighting this week.

I have a lot of cocktail books on the shelf. It’s easy to get excited by them while I’m out shopping. Excited to the point that I forget that my prefered method of imbibing usually consists of only a whiskey and a glass. So yes, there are a lot there. And I’ll admit, most never end up getting read. Just as a cookbook doesn’t make a very interesting read, neither does a cocktail recipe book. Unless it brings something to the table beyond the recipe. 

To me a cocktail book worth reading has a few things between it’s covers. Obviously it needs tasty sounding drinks. That’s a given. To me it should also have a bit about each drink. It’s history, where it comes from or even why it works. I like to learn. It should also be entertaining. There is seriously no reason why you shouldn’t have fun reading about things that will help you have fun.

Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails by Ted Haigh is all of these things. It is entertaining. The preface hooked me. I loved the history section. And the anecdotes about the cocktails included often brought a smile to my face. I learned a lot. Both about the history of the cocktail and about why certain drink work as well as they do. And it has tasty sounding drinks. Though very few where I won’t need to go shopping before I start mixing. In fact, there was only one drink in the entire book that I could make for myself tonight. The Pegu Club. (Yes. I happened to be out of vermouth. So no, there were no boulevardiers. Which is ok as that is the only drink in the book I’d had before.)

like.gif

I enjoyed the heck out of it. Both the drink and the book. One thing I liked especially liked about the book was it's binding. It has a large spiral binding covered by a hard backing. This is a book designed to lay flat. This is a book meant to be used. I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in old cocktails, fans of historical bottles or advertisements or anyone who might want to make an extra special shopping trip to pick up the out of the ordinary ingredients that are included in almost every recipe. I look forward to a few of those trips myself.

Purchase info: $19.99 at The Afternoon, Mall of America, Bloomington, MN

Brenne French Single Malt Whisky and an Experiment

Posted on by Eric Burke

I could write an entire article about how much I admire Allison Patel. She’s a blogger at www.whiskywoman.com, entrepreneur, and a whiskey lover. She is also the person behind Brenne, a French Single Malt finished in ex-Cognac casks. 

It’s no secret that I love the people associated with craft spirits. I love the passion and the drive to create something new and innovative. The desire to not only bring people something they haven’t had before, but something that they will want again. In the world of craft spirits, it is commonly held that there are two categories. There are the distillers and the non-distillers. And while this is true, it is simplistic enough of a categorization that non-distillers often all get painted with the same brush. 

And this isn’t a good thing, necessarily. Certainly there are a lot of folks who just go buy something and pretend that it is their own product. But there is another whole group that I would call curators. They find/think up/get their hands on a good product, release it to the world and are justifiably proud of it. This is Allison. She exports American craft products to the world and imports a fantastic French Single Malt to the US.

I love supporting small businesses. Yes, I shop at Wal-Mart, Target, Amazon and Best Buy. I buy my groceries from one of the many SuperValue brands that happen to inhabit the Twin Cities of Minnesota. But I will go out of my way to support a small business if I can. I visit my local hardware store for everything other than a big project. I shop at small local liquors stores about 75% of the time. I like supporting small businesses for the same reason I like supporting craft spirits (also small businesses). Passion and a commitment to what they are doing that you can’t get at Target or Wal-Mart.

So it was with great excitment that as I was searching the Binny’s website before my last vacation I saw that Brenne was in stock in one of the stores I would be passing. I’d been reading about it for a while. the story was facinating and the product sounded intruiging. The main problems were that it wasn’t available in Minnesota and to that point, I hadn’t yet found a malt whiskey that I’d prefer over a bourbon. But I love supporting passion and Allison seemed to have that in spades. So when I saw it on the shelf, I had no hesitation about picking it up.

Brenne French Single Malt

Purchase info: $59.99 for a 750 mL at Binny’s in Bloomington, IL

Details: Barrel#: 257, 40% ABV

Nose: Very fruity with distinct notes of strawberry, melon and peaches followed closely by cooked cereal and honey

Mouth: Slightly syrupy with an initial burst of heat. Subsequent sips follow the nose with strawberry, melon, peaches and honey.

Finish: Lingering fruitiness along with bitter grapefruit pith.

like.gif

Thoughts: This qualifies as the first single malt that I liked instead of just tolerating. It is really sweet and as a bourbon drinker, I would like to see that balanced with a bit of spice. But that is just preference. This one is a winner and I plan to pick up another bottle next time I see it.

So ordinarily, this would be the end of the story. I’d pack up my keyboard and get ready to submit this article. But a while back, I noticed a similar melon note between this and the Old Forester Single Barrel that I have open. The rest of the flavors were different, but it got me to thinking. I wonder what these would taste like blended together. Based on the fact that I have multiple bourbons open at one time and that I have a short attention span, I combat the inevitable need to open a new bottle by trying to blend the ones I already have open and see if anything interesting shows itself. 

And this time, boy did it.

50/50 Blend of Old Forester Single Barrel & Brenne French Single Malt

Nose: Baked apple with brown sugar and baking spices along with muted mineral notes

Mouth: Sweet and floral with well balanced brown sugar, floral and spice flavors

Finish: Lingering ripe honeydew melon flavor. Medium length warmth, but long lasting flavor

like.gif

Thoughts: This was a really fun experiment. Having tasted both of these seperately before mixing them, it was cool to distinctly taste both of them in the blend. I found it odd that the melon note that brought them together in my head really only presented itself in the finish after blending them together. They played together very nicely though. And though it was not more than the sum of it’s parts, it was another cool way to experience them. Brenne brought fruity sweetness and Old Forester Single Barrel brought richness and spice. I liked it a lot and will be going back to it on occasion.