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View Full Version : Epiphany or Momentary Aberration?



bluesbassdad
07-13-2003, 15:04
Late last night I had my first drink of bourbon of the day, and I settled on Kentucky Spirit, a generous two ounces in a Rare Breed glass.

As I settled down to take a look at Fox News on TV, I casually sniffed my drink. I found it very pleasing, even though no vivid descriptors came to mind.

A few sniffs later, I took a sip. It was disappointing. It simply didn't provide a continuation of the enjoyable aroma that had impressed me earlier.

As I pondered my sensations, I couldn't help but wonder whether I was being fair. Did my emotional attachment to the Wild Turkey image and my knowledge that I was drinking their top-of-the-line bottling in the domestic market cause me to expect too much? Or could it be that the bourbon delivered too little?

I tried to imagine (a risky approach, at best) encountering KS in a blind tasting. Never mind whether I would recognize it; after careful tasting, would I conclude that I was drinking a special bourbon, one worthy of a $40 price label? Absent any knowledge of its source, and without the recent memory of feeling the hefty weight of that magnificent stopper in my hand, would I find this bourbon more enjoyable than any number of others that sell for half the price, or a bit more?

What causes me to favor any bourbon over another? Complexity? Hardly. I seldom identify more than two or three flavors (never coriander, candlewood or cattails http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif ). Lack of burn? Yes, to some extent, but it can't be too sissy-fied, either. A vague sense of a quality of richness in the flavor? Frequently. Yet on occasion I find a quality of focused clarity appealling. (Think "Virgina Gentleman, 90 proof, six year-old".)

I'm not sure where all this leads, but I have a sneaking suspicion that Kentucky Spirit may end up on my do-not-replace list, joining such disparate entries as Jefferson's Reserve, Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel, Kentucky Pride, Evan Williams Single Barrel '92 and Benchmark.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

bobbyc
07-13-2003, 15:33
Don't feel bad about that Dave, I am not so fond of Kentucky Spirit. The way this bird flies for me is, WT 12, best they make that I've had and in short supply and getting shorter. The plain vanilla 101 , the one with a picture of a turkey on the label. Russells Reserve is fine but I think if I wiegh a cost factor in , I'm back to the plain ol' 101. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/drink.gif

jeff
07-13-2003, 15:38
Dave,

Was this your first experience with KS? If not, what has been your previous conclusion? I must admit I almost passed out when you put it in the same catagory as benchmark http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif

ratcheer
07-13-2003, 15:59
Dave, I agree. I have a bottle of Kentucky Spirit. I like it fairly well. But, is it one of my top favorites? Not really. Is it worth $46? I don't know. Will I buy another bottle when this one runs dry? I sort of doubt it.

My two faves are Rare Breed at $31 and Old Forester Birthday Bourbon at $37 (but, the last time I bought it, it was on sale for $33).

I'm not even 100% positive that I'll replace my bottle of Blanton's at $45 when it runs out. Even though I voted for it in the recent "Favorite Single-Barrel Bourbon" poll.

I am fickle, too. Just yesterday, I posted about my current inclination to go more upscale with my bourbon purchases.

Tim

bluesbassdad
07-13-2003, 16:55
Jeff,

The reference to Benchmark was intended to dramatize my point that I may not buy KS again, not to imply that there is any similarity between the two bottlings. I extend my apology to anyone who sustained an injury while reading my post. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif

Yes, I have had some prior experience with Kentucky Spirit. This is my second bottle, which is about half gone.

Back on Super Bowl Sunday I did my own Super Bowl of Bourbon by switching back and forth between KS and WT 12-year, which I found to be far more enjoyable. Up until that day I had regarded KS as the king of the rye-formula bourbons. I was stunned at the magnitude of the difference between it and the 12-year.

I took another sip of KS just moments ago, and I have to admit that it tasted better than it did last night. However, considering price vs. enjoyment, it's still on the bubble.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

OneCubeOnly
07-13-2003, 19:03
I know I'm sounding like a broken record, but Wild Turkey products just don't do it for me. It's really weird, because I can't really put my finger on exactly what it is I don't like. I imagine it's the mashbill, because whatever I taste in their midshelf bottlings I also get in the top-shelf.

I got my bottle of KS during a Montgomery County, MD sale for only $29.59, so I wasn't entirely heartbroken when it became a dust-collector.

http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/deadhorse.gif

jeff
07-14-2003, 06:11
I took another sip of KS just moments ago, and I have to admit that it tasted better than it did last night. However, considering price vs. enjoyment, it's still on the bubble.




It's good to see you're comming around http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif I completely understand the value argument, as it is an expensive pour. But IMHO, Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit is the ultimate reflection of the Distiller's artwork. Perfectly balanced with the full spectrum of tastes and nuances. This is just how bourbon should taste. Now, we talk from time to time about extrordinary releases like Stagg and the Birthday Bourbon, but for a general production-run bourbon Kentucky Spirit is king http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif

cornsqueezins
07-14-2003, 10:31
I agree...about plain ol' 101 that is.

I'm a big fan of Wild Turkey in all its shapes and forms but the difference in quality and taste between Kentucky Spirit and the plain 101 does not even come close to justifying the dramatic price difference (KS is $45 here while 101 is under $20).

I might've mentioned this before in another thread but the last bottle of 101 I had was incredible. It was actually better than my current bottle of KS. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/drinking.gif

-Troy

Gillman
07-14-2003, 14:33
One of the things I find in the WT line-up is their more-than-usual charred taste, resulting from heavy (nos. 3 or 4) firing of the new casks. Also, WT tends to have a rye-oriented palate. These two factors, or either, may explain your approach to these products. I find them all very good, very traditional in the senses indicated. It took me some time to accustom to the barbecued wood effect, but now it seems part of the traditional bourbon taste. I can't seem to get away from history and must note that old Doc Crow from Scotland is said to have devised barrel charring for bourbon. Even if he didn't do it singlehandedly, he surely (by virtue also of being a chemist) promoted a systematic approach to whiskey aging and maturation. And, in the early 1800's, whisky in Scotland meant malt whisky (unblended) and most of that would have been smoky in taste. A pet theory of mine is that Dr. Crow developed or systematized charred barrel aging in Kentucky as a way to emulate the peat smoke effect he was used to back home. And in truth, peat smoke infused in the kilned malt lends complexity to malt whisky, just as a good layer of wood smoke does to bourbon whiskey. And then too, the Scots (maybe returning the favour) came to like American bourbon casks to age their own whisky in, so it kind of all ties together - maybe. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif

Or, what goes around comes around... Come to think of it, isn't that an old Scots-Irish expression? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif

Gary

bluesbassdad
07-14-2003, 15:39
Jeff,



... but for a general production-run bourbon Kentucky Spirit is king.


Perhaps. If so, it's only because the previous king (the magnificent WT 12 year-old) has abdicated and gone into exile in Japan.

If you've never tasted the rapidly-disappearing-from-USA-shelves 12 year-old, perhaps you shouldn't. It may ruin you, too, for Kentucky Spirit.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

jeff
07-14-2003, 15:48
If you've never tasted the rapidly-disappearing-from-USA-shelves 12 year-old, perhaps you shouldn't. It may ruin you, too, for Kentucky Spirit



Dave,

Look here (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Board=Tasting&Number=11718&p age=2&view=collapsed&sb=5&o=&fpart=1) for some tasting notes I posted a while back. I love the stuff http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/yum.gif I have recently aquired a second bottle to backup my open one. They are neck and neck in my opinion, but IMHO Kentucky Spirit reigns supreme. And it costs me about $10 less too, and you can find it. Did I mention cost? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

bluesbassdad
07-14-2003, 16:01
Jeff,

Oh yeah,... I had forgotten about the famous "Gobble, gobble!" review. In it you said, in part:



Overall: Take Kentucky Spirit and add a little more barrel and a little more time, and you've got Wild Turkey 12yo. I think that this one is at least as good as Kentucky Spirit, if not even a tad bit more complex.


I take it that you have since shifted slightly in favor of Kentucky Spirit.

I forget (What's new, eh?), is KS a single barrel, or at least sufficiently small-batch so that the well-trained palate will notice differences between bottles?

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

Paradox
07-14-2003, 16:11
If you 12 year lovers ever do get the chance to happen across more 12 year, be sure to be willing to spend if it is an older bottling. I've tried 3 different 12 year expressions now (The very new 12 year that is out overseas, the 12 year that is in the pic below and out about 98' and a bottling out from about 91-92' also included in the pic below) and it seems to me that the older bottlings were truly better. I mean the older bottlings have a smoother finish and a more refined overall quality about them.

Paradox
07-14-2003, 16:21
Yes Dave it is a single barrel. I've probably not had as many bottles of KS as Jeff, but enough to say that there is a definite difference between bottlings that are from different warehouses etc... One thing, that some time ago, prompted me to try bottles from different locations was a post made by someone (hehe) in which they said they really loved the bourbons that came out of warehouse 'E'. That post can be found here. (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Board=smokes&Number=9976&For um=All_Forums&Words=kentucky%20spirit%20wild%20tur key%20like%20warehouse&Match=And&Searchpage=0&Limi t=25&Old=allposts&Main=9976&Search=true#Post9976) Also, if you want a laugh from a truly unique taster, read more here. (http://www.straightbourbon.com/ubbthreads/showthreaded.php?Cat=&Board=Tasting&Number=3090&Fo rum=All_Forums&Words=kentucky%20spirit%20wild%20tu rkey%20like%20warehouse&Match=And&Searchpage=0&Lim it=25&Old=allposts&Main=3090&Search=true#Post3090)

jeff
07-14-2003, 16:51
I mean the older bottlings have a smoother finish and a more refined overall quality about them.



But one butt-ugly label http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif

ratcheer
07-14-2003, 17:04
That all makes pretty good sense, but who knows?

Tim

Paradox
07-14-2003, 17:06
http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif Man, you're not kidding! When I first saw it (Stacy found it and brought it home for me) I was like, "What the hell did you buy! It's probably gonna taste like p***! that's been sitting around way to long, all cork tainted etc..." http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/lol.gif How looks can be deceiving.

MurphyDawg
07-15-2003, 09:24
Russell's Reserve ($23) is only $5 more than WT 101 ($18 sumthin') in these parts, so while I like them both I would have to say that RR is the better deal.



TomC

cornsqueezins
07-15-2003, 11:08
Hey Gillman, not trying to argue here, but I thought Dr. Crow introduced the sour mash process to bourbon making rather than introducing barrel char. I had thought, from reading various sources, that the origins of charring barrels is still somewhat unclear and was already in common practice by the time Dr. Crow began his experimentations with backset. I was not aware of any tests he possibly performed with char levels. Any more details on that?

Anyway, what you say about his Scottish origins and a desire to approximate peat smokiness in bourbon does make sense.

-Troy

bluesbassdad
07-15-2003, 12:56
Tom,

My last purchase of WT101 was for $12.99 on special at Rite-Aid, and I got a set of WT cufflinks to boot, packaged in a strange-looking collar around the neck of the bottle. (I last wore cufflinks in 1978, but they're cool, anyway.) That was the only bottle I ever saw that had that promotion attached.

Rite-Aid repeats their liquor specials in some kind of a cycle. I get most of my WT101 at that price. In a pinch I can get it at Trader Joe's for $13.99.

That makes the step up the price ladder to Russell's Reserve a big one for me. Even so, I know I'll try another bottle of RR someday. Even when I'm not totally sold on a particular WT bottling, something -- whether flavor, advertising image, or legendary mystique -- keeps drawing me back.

Is there any other distiller that applies a single brand name to every bottling from top to bottom? I can't think of one offhand. Maybe that has something to do with the power of the turkey in my mind.

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield

Gillman
07-15-2003, 18:12
Thanks very much for this salutary and informed comment on my earlier post! In truth, I think I conflated authentic Scots names (Crow and Craig, the common "cr" contributing to my error), and meant in fact to refer to Rev. Elijah Craig, who is said to have originated bourbon by devising its keynote characteristic, charred barrel aging. I don't know if Elijah Craig was a Scottish immigrant, but when he was active in the 1780's, the Scots-Irish immigration to America (people of Scots descent who came to America via what is now Ulster (Northern Ireland)) had been in full flow for about two generations. Thus, Elijah Craig possibly tried to make whiskey tasting "smoky" like his Scottish ancestors had known. Dr. Crow, through methodical development of the backset process, put a now essential bourbonic stamp on the final product. I should add though that Dr. James Crow is associated with charred barrel aging too: e.g., see www.atasteofkentucky.com (http://www.atasteofkentucky.com) where it is stated Dr. Crow was responsible both for adding backset to mash and aging whiskey in charred barrels (click under "Front Porch Stories"). See also e.g. the article, "The Baffling World of Bourbon" by Gary Regan reproduced at www.maltadvocate.com (http://www.maltadvocate.com), where the author states Dr. Crow "insisted" on using charred barrels. Perhaps these references are making the same error I think I did - confusing Elijah Craig with James Crow - or maybe not... Anyway, thanks again for noticing I may have got the historical figure wrong - but (perhaps) the overall story right.

Gary