Welcome to your at-home tasting kit from Urban Bourbonist. This page will guide you through the tasting from the comfort of home. A description of each whiskey can be found by scrolling down the page. BUT BEFORE SCROLLING DOWN PLEASE READ MY SUGGESTIONS BELOW.
How I suggest doing this tasting to get the most out of it:
- Taste these whiskeys blind (don’t peek below to see what they are). The samples are numbered 1, 2, 3. Start by pouring half of each sample into its own separate glass and reserve the other half for a follow up tasting. Let the samples sit for 5-10 minutes to allow them to rest, and for aromas and flavors to “open up” after being exposed to air.
- Print out or bring up a copy of my tasting sheet on your phone or computer and use the sheet as a guide to explore aromas and flavors in each whiskey. The aroma/flavor wheel will help you to think about what your tasting in a deeper and more detailed way.
- Grab a glass of room temperature water for clearing your palate between samples. Cold water can potentially numb your tastebuds. You can also use this water later to add to your whiskey (step 8). Also, included in your kit is a bag of plain unsalted nuts. Taking a small bite of an almond or cashew between samples will also help to clear your palate.
- Start with sample 1. Nose (smell) the whiskey by bringing the glass up slowly from your chin toward your nose and move the glass from one nostril to the other. Keep your mouth open while smelling and even breathe in through your mouth a bit, it will help enhance the olfactory experience. Take note if you are smelling different aromas from one side or the other. It’s possible! What are you smelling?? Use the wheel to help identify major aromas (middle) and work your way to the outer sections of the wheel that have more detailed descriptors.
- Now take a small sip. A small sip is key here. Move the whiskey around your mouth by CHEWING it. Yes, chew on the whiskey, and then swallow. Take note of the sensations but don’t dwell too much. That was a sip to acclimate and warm up your palate.
- Now take another sip, bigger. Repeat the chewing and now start to identify flavors/aromas/sensations. Swallow. Take note of what you tasted, where the whiskey is affecting your palate (roof of your mouth, front/back/sides of your tongue, etc.) and what is happening after you swallow. Breathe back out through your nose and then again just through your mouth. See if any new flavors and aromas develop as you breathe over the whiskey that has coated your mouth. What happens here is known as the “finish” of the whiskey, the flavors and sensations that continue to develop or stay on the palate after swallowing. Use the wheel again here to start with major flavors (in the middle) and move outward to identify nuances.
- Try also to connect flavors and aromas to memories that you have of food and drink or even to a time and place. These connections to “core” memories will take your experience deeper and beyond just thinking about the whiskey as “good” or “bad”.
- Now, if you’d like, take a couple drops of water and put it into the remaining whiskey in the glass. Repeat the nosing/tasting steps and see if any new flavors come out or “bloom” with the addition of a few drops of water. Often the whiskey changes, for the better, with just a few drops of water.
- Move on to samples 2 and 3 and repeat everything above.
- Scroll down to see more info about what you just tasted.
- Once you have studied each whiskey below, do another round of tasting with the remaining whiskey that you reserved.
Sample 1: • Redemption – Straight Bourbon Whiskey finished in Cognac casks •
Proof / % ABV: 99º / 49.5% abv | Origin/State of Distillation: Lawrenceburg, Indiana (by Ross & Squibb)
Mashbill (grains that make up the whiskey): 60% corn / 36% rye / 4% malted barley
Distillery: Redemption (non-distilling producer)
Age: Non-age stated (at least 4 years old) | Price: $66.99
This high rye content Bourbon is aged in new charred American oak barrels and then finished (aged for an additional period of time) in barrels that previously held Cognac, a type of brandy distilled from grapes grown in the Cognac region of France. Cognac (and Armagnac, another French grape brandy) finished Bourbon is one of my absolute favorite finishes and is very hard for a producer to get wrong. The flavors of Cognac meld very well with Bourbon and these finished whiskeys also tend to be very good partners with a cigar. A great pairing for this whiskey would be a cigar with some spice to balance the fruit notes of the whiskey.
NOSE: grape jelly, cranberry, grapefruit, warm baking spices.
PALATE: cooked peaches, plums, and pears along with cinnamon and dry/bitter oak.
FINISH: long lingering finish with nuts and more baking spices.
Sample 2: • Westward Whiskey – American Single Malt •
Proof / % ABV: 90º / 45% abv | Origin/State of Distillation: Portland, Oregon (by Westward)
Mashbill (grains that make up the whiskey): 100% malted barley
Distillery: Westward Whiskey
Age: Non-age stated | Price: $66.99
American Single Malt is a growing category in American whiskey that has gone unregulated for years. Distilleries making the whiskey were largely left to define it however they saw fit. Over the years a number of producers have come together and have proposed regulations so that the category can be recognized alongside other whiskeys like Bourbon and Rye. The proposed regulations are currently being reviewed by the TTB and it is anticipated that American Single Malt will be recognized as its own category sometime in 2023. Among many requirements, the main regulations producers will be required to follow are that the whiskey must be made from a mash of 100% malted barley, entirely at one American distillery, and must be aged in the United States. Westward has been a leader in the ASM category for many years and produces one of the best known and highest quality single malts. Even though the whiskey is made from only one grain, malted barley, the complexity is astounding. A cigar with citrus flavors or one with rich coffee flavors would pair really nicely with this whiskey.
NOSE: brown sugar, vanilla bean ice cream, orange peel, cocoa powder
PALATE: light honey, orange simple syrup, malted milk chocolate balls, fruit, toasted cereal
FINISH: pleasant and long, dark chocolate, tobacco, spicy cinnamon, light fruit, vanilla
Sample 3: • Koval 100% Rye Whiskey finished in Amburana barrels •
Proof / % ABV: 100º / 50% abv | Origin/State of Distillation: Chicago, Illinois (by Koval)
Mashbill (grains that make up the whiskey): 100% rye
Age: Non-age stated | Price: $59.99
This 100% rye whiskey is finished in a South American Amburana barrel, a super unique wood that is full of very potent spices and fragrances. Amburana is traditionally used in South America (largely Brazil) to age cachaça, a rum-like spirit that is made from sugarcane. Many distilleries in the U.S. that have gotten their hands on Amburana barrels and aged their whiskey in them have released those whiskeys as “cigar blends” because of the instant association with the aromas and flavors to those of cigar tobacco. This whiskey would definitely pair well with a sweet cigar that has some molasses flavors or one with some nutty flavors to play with the baked pastry notes of the whiskey.
NOSE: sweet perfumed wood (think wooden cigar box), cigar tobacco, rich cinnamon rolls, cake batter, green herbs
PALATE: confectioners sugar, iced cinnamon rolls, mint, sweet tobacco
FINISH: oak, baking spice, sweet cinnamon, brown sugar
I really hope you enjoyed these very unique whiskeys. I selected them to offer you a variety of flavor profiles and for their ability to pair well with a cigar.
I’d love to get your feedback and hear from you about what you liked or disliked about each whiskey. And please let me know if you found a cigar that went really well with one or all of these. Feel free to reach out to me at any time via email at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions, comments, feedback or give me a follow on Instagram @urbanbourbonist and send me a direct message.
If you enjoyed this tasting, please tell your friends, family, and co-workers and share my contact information with them. Word of mouth is the most important and effective way that people learn about me.
Thank you for participating in this tasting. I look forward to hearing from you.