Eight & Sand Blended Bourbon Whiskey

I’d like to thank Gregory + Vine for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. All notes and thoughts are my own.

I came to a realization over the course of the last month. In this country, blended whiskey has a bad rep. And for good reason. Most of it is crap. Two things crystalized it for me. The first is that I’ve been getting a lot of comments on an old post that reviewed Kentucky Gentleman. In case you were blissfully unaware, Kentucky Gentleman is a blend of 51% bourbon and 49% Grain Neutral Spirits. Yet, it is labeled as “Kentucky Gentleman Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey.” Sadly some of the commenters didn’t bother reading the next line on the label which describes the components of the blend. Let’s just say they were unhappy with their purchase. On the other hand, I also had people saying I was a snob because I didn’t like it so…yeah.

But the other thing that crystalized the bad reputation that blended whiskeys get was the sample I received of Eight & Sand, a Blended Bourbon Whiskey from the folks at MGP in Indiana. MGP makes damn fine whiskey. Yet, I saw ”blended” on the label and even though the label explicitly said “No GNS or coloring added,” I still felt a moment’s hesitation when I poured my first glass.

Eight & Sand is a Blended Bourbon Whiskey which, according to labeling regulations, means that it is at least 51% Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The other 49% can be almost any other spirit, but is usually GNS. So yeah, it was that other up to 49% that worried me. They must have been expecting questions like this though because when I asked I was very quickly assured that the non-bourbon portion was composed of rye whiskey, corn whiskey and light whiskey (in case you are curious, light whiskey is whiskey that has been distilled to higher than traditional whiskey’s 160 proof limit but lower than the 190 proof limit which would render it neutral grain spirits. It is then aged in used or uncharred new containers). So this is an all whiskey blend.

The Eight & Sand blend creation actually reminds me a lot of the way many Canadian Whiskies are created. Canadian Whiskies often start with a delicate “base whisky” which is similar to US Light Whiskey. To that they blend in “flavoring whiskeys” made from other types of grain: rye, malt, bourbon-style corn whisky, etc. (but never GNS). Our Neighbors to the North rely on (and acknowledge) their blenders to make a particular whisky what it is. They form an idea or feeling they want to capture or evoke and blend the whisky to that. Which is why I say that Eight & Sand reminds me of a Canadian Whisky in some ways. Sure, in Eight & Sand’s case, the base whiskey is bourbon. But they also set out with the idea to showcase their four primary whiskeys (Bourbon, corn, rye, and light) and then blended a whiskey that can show off what can be done with them.

Eight & Sand Blended Bourbon Whiskey

Purchase Info: I was graciously provided a 750 mL sample from Gregory+Vine for review purposes. Suggested retail price is $29.99 for a 750 mL bottle.

Details: 44% ABV. Blended Bourbon. No GNS or coloring added. A blend of Bourbon, Rye, Corn and Light whiskeys.

Nose: Mint, cinnamon and caramel.

Mouth: Bubblegum, mint, and cinnamon spice.

Finish: Warm and of medium length. Lingering cinnamon, clove, bubblegum and mint.

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Thoughts: If you had handed this to me with no explanation as to what it was, I would have said it was a pretty tasty bourbon. Knowing that this is a blend, it really shows of the MGP blender’s skill. I mentioned above that the process to create this was similar to the process used in Canadian Whisky. The reason I thought of that is that during our tasting, this reminded me a lot of a really good Canadian Whiskey. I’m thinking something from Wiser’s.

In fact, it shows my biases that when I saw the suggested retail price was roughly $30, I baulked a little. It seemed odd to charge that much for a Blended Bourbon. Yet if someone had handed me this same whiskey and told me it was Canadian, I would have thought the $30 price tag was ludicrously low. I would have bought three or four bottles before they '“wised up.” I guess what I am saying is that you should probably give this one a shot. It is quite good and well worth the asking price.


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Evan Williams Master Blend

I like blending bourbons. I've mentioned that ad nauseam here on the blog. I think that blending what you have on hand to make "new" bourbons is fun and lends variety to the bourbon shelf that isn't always there otherwise.

Blending is an art celebrated by whiskey producers in other countries. Master Blender is an important title, and media outlets interview those that hold it.

Here is the States? Not so much. We assume that a blend means it contains vodka (mostly because American Blended Whiskey is allowed to be blended with vodka) and so, with a few notable exceptions, we rarely talk about blending. 

So when I was walking through the liquor store and saw a $50 bourbon, from a large manufacturer, with "blend" in the name...well I had to take a look. It turns out that it was a bourbon that was intended to be an exclusive of the Evan Williams Experience. Due to a quirk in Kentucky law, liquor stores are allowed to order them as well, and this one had.

So what was it? Well, it is a blend of various Evan Williams expressions: Black label, Bottled-in-Bond, 1783, Single Barrel, and 23-year-old. That last one possibly to justify the price, because it is a little pricey. I paid $54 for a bottle that is made up of things that normally cost right around $20. Good thing it was a souvenir. Some people overpay for T-Shirts while on vacation, I overpay for whiskey.

Evan Williams Master Blend

Purchase info: $53.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Westport Whiskey and Wine. 

Details: 45% ABV. A blend of 5 Evan Williams products. 

Nose: Floral with vanilla, caramel, nutmeg, dried grain, some oak and a hint of soap. 

Mouth: Good Spice with nutmeg, vanilla/caramel, dried grain, and oak.

Finish: Nice length with a gentle warmth. Lingering baking spices.

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Thoughts: I like this. It is a nice blend that captures the essences of its constituent parts. The grain is there from the younger varieties of Evan Williams, but some of the oak is there as well.

So is it worth the price? Not a chance. Evan Williams Master Blend is an interesting souvenir bottle, but nothing more.


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A Whiskey Vatting Experiment

I try to never dump out whiskey. Not even when it is really bad. I always figure that there is something I can use it for. Even if I don’t want to drink it neat, I might use it in a cocktail. If it isn’t able to stand up in a cocktail, maybe I’ll use it for cooking. If I don’t even want to cook with it I try to see if I can blend it with something. 

Which is the thought that inspired my latest experiment. 

I had a lot of whiskey on hand after the Bottom Shelf Bourbon Brackets. A lot of whiskey that was ok but not great. As the bottles were reaching their conclusion I was struck by a little inspiration. Why not start a giant vatting of American whiskey and see what I got after I filled a liter bottle? I mean I wasn’t starting with anything crazy. I think Jim Beam white and Johnny Drum 80 proof were the first two in the bottle. 

After a while I decided that if this was ever going to be anything worth drinking that I would need to dip into the better tasting, and higher proof, whiskies as well. So I decided to put one ounce of everything I had opened (or would open in the future) into the bottle no matter if it was a Willett Single Barrel or a Mellow Corn. If it was American Whiskey, it could contribute to the final vatting. It took a couple months but I finally filled the bottle. And after I let it sit for a few weeks to mingle, I decided to see what I had created.

Here is a list of what ended up in the bottle (and it’s proof). One ounce of each.

  • Jim Beam White (80°)
  • Johnny Drum (80°)
  • Dad’s Hat Vermouth Finished (94°)
  • 1783 Evan Williams (86°)
  • Blue State (80°)
  • Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel Rye (94°)
  • Old Weller Antique (107°)
  • Very Old Barton (86°)
  • Maker’s Mark (90°)
  • Old Grand Dad 114 (114°)
  • Booker’s (128.7°)
  • Willett Single Barrel Rye (115.6°)
  • Willett Single Barrel Bourbon (118.4°)
  • Wild Turkey 101 (101°)
  • Woodford Reserve (90.4°)
  • Four Roses Small Batch (90°)
  • MB Roland Single Barrel Bourbon (106.5°)
  • Hochstadter’s Vatted Rye (100°)
  • Michter’s Barrel Strength Rye (108.8°)
  • Parker’s Heritage Collection: Promise of Hope (96°)
  • 1792 Single Barrel: Ace Spirits (93.7°)
  • Rendezvous Rye-finished in Bourbon Barrels (104.8°)
  • Rowan’s Creek (100.1°)
  • Mellow Corn (100°)
  • Four Roses Single Barrel OESF (112.6°)
  • Knob Creek 2001 (100°)
  • 1792 Single Barrel: Ace Spirits (93.7°) - accidental repeat
  • 1792 Port Finish (88.9°)
  • Russell’s Reserve Rye Single Barrel (104°)
  • Old Scout Rye (99°)
  • Larceny (92°)
  • Elijah Craig 12 Year (94°)
  • IW Harper 15 Year (86°)
  • Maker’s 46 Cask Strength (108.8°)

So the final make up was 34 ounces of 33 different whiskies. It ended up being 95.54° proof. But how did it taste?

Arok’s Vatted Whiskey

Purchase Info: Too many to list or remember…see above.

Details: 47.77% ABV

Nose: Caramel, vanilla, spearmint, baking spices and oak

Mouth: Warm and spicy with vanilla/caramel, cloves, mint, bubble gum and oak

Finish: Warm and of decent length. Lingering bubble gum and rye spices.

Thoughts: More than anything this reminds me of some of the higher end Four Roses bourbons I’ve had. It shows a lot of rye character which isn’t terribly surprising since there are a lot of straight ryes in there. This is quite tasty. Overall, I’d say this was a successful experiment.

Now you might be wondering what comes next. Well, I like this experiment and I think I might keep going. I poured off 500 mL and am drinking that. The other 500 mL will be the starter for the next vatting. I’m thinking of doing it sort of solara style where nothing in the blend is truly ever gone, it’s just there in diminishing proportions. Eventually I’ll get bored, but if I keep at it (and make sure I put in the good stuff too) I shouldn’t run out of something that is decent enough to have as an everyday bourbon as long as I am running this site (needless to say I go through a lot of whiskey). 


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My new favorite “Small Batch” bourbon

Last week I decided to try something. I’d read an article describing a recipe for peach infused bourbon. Having had a few peach and bourbon cocktails, I was excited to try it myself. I love making infusions, though as I have stated on more than one occasion, I like making them more than drinking them. I almost always end up dumping them out after about a year in the cupboard.

Being the geeky obsessive type, I decided that I really needed the right bourbon to infuse. It had to really capture the caramel and vanilla flavors as well as present a nice spiciness that could stand up to the peach.

I did a little looking through my notes and decided that Maker’s 46 would be darn near perfect…except I didn’t have any. So after thinking about it for a bit I decided to actually look at what I did have in the house. I’d decided that a nice soft wheater would probably be perfect. Looking at my selection of wheated bourbons I landed first on Larceny, but I wanted the proof to be somewhere in the 100 proof plus range (as higher proof alcohols will absorb the other flavors faster) and Larceny was only 92. Then I looked at Old Weller Antique. It had the proof, but was also a bit too hot for what I was thinking. 

I eventually decided that I was going to blend the two. This way, maybe I could have the best of both worlds. As I was standing there though, I had another thought. This year’s Evan Williams Single Barrel was pretty caramel and spice forward as well. And then I looked over at the Booker’s on the shelf. That batch, though strong, also presented those flavors well.

I was recently asked how I go about deciding what to put into a blend. This is a perfect example of how I go through the blending process. First I start with a goal. In this case I had a flavor profile in mind. Caramel forward with a nice spice. Then I go about finding those ingredients that will give me that flavor. Of course there is often some trial and error. I normally start with equal parts and move from there should the need arise. But in this case, everything just clicked right from the start at equal proportions. 

I really think this is the best blend I’ve made. And that includes the experiments I did with all the Four Roses Single barrels. But here is the best part: all of these bourbons are readily available in most parts of the country. 

Arok’s Small Batch - Mix of distilleries edition

Details: Equal parts of Larceny (Heaven Hill), Evan Williams Single Barrel 2006 vintage (Heaven Hill), Old Weller Antique (Buffalo Trace) and Booker’s Batch# 2013-6 (Beam). Approximate final ABV is 51.44%.

Nose: Initially the nose on this is very closed. It really benefits from some time in the glass. After sitting for a bit, there is a very strong caramel and vanilla presence. Subtle hints of fruit follow along with a nice almond scent. Overall this is the type of very sweet nose that I could sit and smell all day.

Mouth: Some nice heat. Strong caramel and vanilla presence again along with black pepper, almond, hints of cherry and some nice oak tannins.

Finish: Long, spicy finish with lingering black pepper and oak tannins. 

I’ve already stated my thoughts above. I think this is the best blend I’ve created to date and it is one that I will probably be coming back to on more than one occasion. But I’m guessing you are asking how it worked with the peaches…and to be fair, I really don’t know. It was too good to use in that way. So if you have the ingredients on hand I really recommend trying this. And if it isn’t quite right for you think about what will make it better and adjust it. See if you can’t dial in your new favorite small batch bourbon.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!