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Two Empties and reviews of them.

Posted on by Eric Burke

People who know me well know that I am a geek. Not just with bourbon. No, not just with whiskey. No, not just in the computer sense. No...

Will you let me finish? Goodness. 

Ahem. Thank you.

I am a geek because I love knowing how things work. I have this immense curiosity that leads me to want to explore variables. It's one of the reasons I was good at that whole sciencey thing when I was studying astrophysics at the University of Minnesota. You know, before I got even more curious and dropped out to explore a bit more of life.

For the longest time, as a geek, I could use up all my curiosity in the pursuit of technology. Computers, the internet, learning to build web sites, learning to build computers, following the evolution of communities and socialization. But after a while I realized that I wasn't curious about that stuff anymore. I had followed it from toddler stages all the way to young adulthood and I had a pretty good idea of the person it was going to be. I was still it's friend, I liked it's company, but I just wasn't curious anymore.

I've baked practically since I was old enough to read the recipes. I loved the way that you could put all these pieces together, pop it into the oven and have something so different come out. Once I became interested in sprits, I found that while cooking was interesting, it was flavor that I was really curious about.

Flavor is amazing. Flavor curiosity is the reason I have 34-odd flavor infused vodkas in a small dark refrigerator in my office. Curiosity is the only reason that anyone would infuse vodka with black pepper. (Which, by the way, starts out sweet...then a nuclear bomb goes off in your mouth.)

Curiosity about flavor variables is also one of the reasons I love whiskey. From relatively minuscule number of ingredients an almost infinite number of flavor combinations are made. But, while the actual food-style ingredients are important, the process-ingredients are just as much so. The container, the temperature and the time. These are all things that cooks have known for a long time. A dark pan in an oven that runs hot burns baked goods, sometimes before they can even finish baking. The flavor is much different than that of a baked good in a glass pan baked at an even temperature for given time frame. In whiskey speak: a new barrel in a hot warehouse provides a much different flavor profile than a used barrel in a cool one. (That's not an exact analogy, but it's the best I can come up with right now.)

Variables. There are so may variables in whiskey. But the problem with most whiskies is that you get to taste all the different variable at once. Maybe you'll get one or two that have the same "recipe" but they were stored in different places for different times in. To top it off the people choosing the barrels were looking for different flavor profiles when they chose the barrels to go into the whiskies. Too many variables. 

Which is why this particular set of empties was so cool. It was the same juice. Aged for supposedly the same time. One batch in a new barrel, one in a used barrel. You really got to taste exactly what the effect of each variable was. This experiment was expensive. It ran about $100. But if there is one thing that I will consistently spend money on, it's my curiosity.

Now, since I said there would be a review, here are some tasting notes:

Woodford Reserve Master's Collection New Cask Rye:

Color: dark amber to golden brown

Nose: Initially I found Apple Jolly Ranchers, but after a little while it began to take on more of a earthy caramel scent

Taste: A sweet woodiness mixed with the grassy flavors of rye

Finish: Not much burn, a grainy funk that lasts a decent amount of time.

Woodford Reserve Master's Collection Aged Cask Rye:

Color: a light straw color

Nose: Honey, apples, sweet clover

Taste: Grassy and sweet, very grain forward

Finish: Short and sweet, low burn

And just because I was curious, for a while I took to mixing them 50-50: strong spearmint on the nose. Not generic mint, wintergreen or peppermint. Spearmint. Grassy grain on the tongue. Long warm finish with more grassy notes.

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Overall I liked this whiskey. I didn't care for the price. $100 is a lot for this, but the experience and the satiated curiosity were worth it, even if the whiskey was not. Based on this, if Woodford released a permanent rye in the price range of their original bourbon, I'd give it the occasional look.