Winchester Straight Bourbon
There are times, dear reader, when I go out of my way to try things just because I have a sneaking suspicion that they will be less than tasty. I consider it to be part of the job that I have assigned myself not just to try things that are amazing, but also those things that may appeal on price alone. To see which of the inexpensive bourbons are hidden gems and which are just fossilized dog turds.
Winchester Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a TerrePURE bourbon from Total Wine. TerrePURE whiskeys are whiskeys that start with whiskey of a certain age. In this case, two years old. They then subject them to a "rapid aging process" that supposedly makes them taste like an average "commodity" bourbon of a greater age. The goal is better tasting bourbon without spending the time and money to wait it out.
I've had one TerrePURE bourbon in the past. Needless to say, Hayes Parker Reserve was not a big hit in this house. So why on Earth would I go back to that particular well again? Well, unlike the last one of these I tried, this one has "straight" on the label, meaning that it is at least two years old. And I was curious if starting with an older whiskey would help the process out. It's easy to make broad conclusions based on a single data point, but honestly, we all know it needs more than one piece of data to start to define a trend.
Winchester Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Purchase Info: $1.99 for a 50 mL bottle at Total Wine, Burnsville, MN
Details: "Aged a minimum of two years in new oak." 45% ABV.
Nose: Grain, bubble gum, menthol, and cinnamon.
Mouth: Cinnamon red hot candies and honey.
Finish: Medicinal menthol notes combine with cinnamon spice and bubble gum.
Thoughts: I was fully prepared to admit that I was wrong about this. That I was wrong about how not awful this was. But then I swallowed. And I felt like I was tasting oral anesthesia mixed with candy. The finish kills this one, which is too bad because the nose and mouth, though young, aren't bad for a two-year-old whiskey. I don't know if it is the whiskey they started with or the fact that it is then "uniquely ultrasonic filtered" that introduced the medicinal anesthetic flavors to the finish. Because they note how the process changes the finish, I'm willing to blame the process, but that is just a guess.
So I got a lot of blow-back the last time I reviewed a TerrePURE whiskey. Folks had purchased it because it was an attractive price and I was essentially called a snob for not liking it. So here's the thing about Winchester. At the store where I bought this, a 750 mL bottle of Winchester runs $24.99. At that same store, I can get the same size bottle of Four Roses Yellow, Evan Williams (Black, Bonded, and Single Barrel), Elijah Craig, Old Weller Antique, Larceny, Bulleit, Woodford Reserve and Old Forester for less than this. I can get Knob Creek for the same price, and I can buy 1792, Maker's 46, Eagle Rare and Four Roses Small Batch for just a buck or two more. I can honestly find no reason to recommend trying this. If you have tried it and you love it, great! That just means more traditional bourbon for the rest of us.
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