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View Full Version : What is the "best" American Blended Whiskey?



Gillman
11-17-2003, 12:27
Recently I passed through Rochester, N.Y. and stopped in Century Liquors on Ridge Road. It has a good selection of bourbon and ryes, not as good of course as Sam's in Chicago. Interestingly, its selection of American Blended Whiskey was excellent; there must have been 12 brands at least on the shelves. I saw Barton's, Calvert's Extra, Lord Baltimore, Corby's, PM (I thought that name belonged to history and ads in 1950's magazines, but it is still going strong), Fleishmann's, Seagram's Seven Crown and 10 or so others. Maybe this category is popular in the area. I noticed that each bottle indicates the percentage of neutral spirits and straight whiskey. I knew old-time labels did so for Blended, but not current ones. Anyway, some brands have as little as 20% straight whiskey; one (Calvert's Extra) has 30% (or very close), the highest in this particular range.

I decided to try just one and opted for Lord Baltimore. I thought the name suggested that the blend would be rye whiskey-influenced. Rye of course was a major product of Maryland until the 1970's. However the straight whiskey in there seems to be bourbon, judging both by the taste and also the fact that after I bought it, I saw in another store a bourbon sold by the bottler in question. So I think they use that bourbon in this blend, not rye. Lord Baltimore is a decent blend, but not what I hoped for. I thought it would be more assertive, like Barton's is (in fact there are two American Blended Barton's). It mixed well with cola, but I found it hard to drink straight. The taste of the neutral spirits (it reminded me of the odour of swabbing alcohol in hospitals) was fairly strong although it seems somewhat contradictory to say so. (In a sense, alcohol of any kind is rarely tasteless).

What this showed me was a number of things. First, of course the amount, type and age of the straight whiskey used will influence quite strongly the taste. Second, the taste of neutral spirits (at least in this brand) differs quite noticeably from most vodka I know. So even though vodka is distilled at (I understand) about 95% abv., there clearly are differences from how neutral spirits are made to taste, relating of course to residual congener content. Canadian whiskey, produced to about 95% abv. in a triple distillation, still tastes like whisky, mildly, to be sure, but Canadian does not taste like the neutral spirits in the Lord Baltimore blend.

Next time I'll try the Calvert's Extra. Possibly with its higher straight whiskey content - and higher price - it offers a richer palate.

Sure, one doesn't expect all that much from American Blended. However its price is very low ($8.00-$10.00) and it has uses that are valid, e.g. to spike coffee, to use in certain cocktails, and for those who find straight whiskey too strong a taste (or whose pocketbook does not allow the purchase of straight whiskey). I believe some brands of American Blended are well worth buying for such purposes.

A comparative tasting would be instructive.

Gary

Buckky
11-17-2003, 18:46
It has been my experience that Calvert's makes a decent Manhattan. Seagram's 7 is frequently used around here as a mixer. Some other brands are sold locally but I personally don't know of anyone who buys but these two.

cowdery
11-18-2003, 17:54
I don't have enough experience with American blends to venture a "best," but I can provide the information that Seagram's Seven Crown is far and away the most popular representative of the species.

The seven-and-seven (7 Crown and 7Up) was very popular when I was coming of age 30 years ago.

kitzg
11-20-2003, 05:29
Back when you were five years old, eh Chuck? http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/wink.gif

I'm a bit partial to Four Roses only because of all of the other wonderful products they produce. Their yellow label is so smooth many consumers would think it is a blend -- it is just highly mingled. And I suppose their blend (it's been awhile since I had any) seemed very passable.

TNbourbon
11-20-2003, 19:34
I haven't tried too many American blends (as an old farm boy with experience with a siphoning hose,I can say Early Times resembles kerosene), but I enjoy the Four Roses once in a while when I want a change from straight bourbon or Scotch.

Gillman
11-20-2003, 23:23
Early Times was changed a few years ago into a non-Bourbon. It is not quite a blend in that it does not, I am quite sure, contain neutral spirits. However it is not aged in new charred barrels, that or not for the requisite time Bourbon is aged. I find it not a bad drink but kind of in a category of its own. Maybe it is parallel in this respect to the new "unblended" Michter's American whiskey.

Gary

Blackkeno
12-06-2003, 21:28
I'm actually quite fond of many blends, but they are all Canadian, Irish, Scotch, or even Japanese. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/shocked.gif

I've heard Ancient Age Preferred is considered one of the better US blends. I have a bottle of it, but have not really taken a strong liking to it yet myself.

Gillman
12-19-2003, 16:02
Continuing my intermittent survey of blended whiskeys, here is some comment on Fleishmann's Preferred Blended Whiskey. It is subtitled, very well, "Premium Taste Through The Years". The neck label states the whiskey is made from, "a blend of straight whiskeys aged 48 months and 75% neutral spirits distilled from pure grain".

The maker is indicated as "Fleishmann Distilling Company (of) Owensboro, KY * Bardstown, KY * Los Angeles, CA * Atlanta, GA". Hmm, a pretty wide swath, I can figure the Kentucky connections but Cal and Georgia? What's that all about? Who is behind the brand, in a word?

Anyway this is a fine shot of whiskey, trust me. The straight spirits dominate the taste almost completely, and more than that, are either all-rye whiskey or rye-dominant, plus heavy-bodied and well-flavoured. This is the kind of whiskey I have been trying to confect at home by adding straight rye to light-bodied Canadian whisky. The pros know their stuff though, I have some way to go to equal Fleishmann's. I believe it is made from something like a century-old recipe for rye-type blended whiskey, and the quality shows.

Tasted blind next to many bottom shelf bourbons and ryes it would trump them and by a good margin, in my view, yet is half the cost of those brands. It tastes better than many bourbons I have paid 3 or 5 times for, in fact.

For those whose budget is tight due to the holiday time or who simply want to taste something very good, I recommend this classic of American Blended Whiskey. It drinks very well neat and shows considerable length and complexity - a sign of the blender's skill.

Gary

bobbyc
12-19-2003, 16:20
Who is behind the brand, in a word?



Barton

bluesbassdad
12-19-2003, 16:52
For lots of color and dash, but little useful information, see this web page (http://www.bartonbrands.com/fleischwhiskey.html) and this one (http://www.bartonbrands.com/fleischmannrye.html) .

Yours truly,
Dave Morefield (The Original DaveM)

Gillman
12-19-2003, 17:05
Thanks Dave, that's a nice spread, and I don't know if I'm being suggestible but the graphics have a 1930's flavor which is appealing and apposite.

Thanks too, Bobby, for indicating Barton's as the source (but where do L.A. and Georgia figure into it??). I know Barton's other blended whiskey brands and they are excellent too. Where Fleishmann's impresses, even amongst this range, is in its assertive, rye-oriented profile. I am assuming, that is, that Barton's does not make a bourbon-oriented Fleishmann's for some markets and a rye oriented one for other markets (my bottle was sourced in N.Y.C.), that it all tastes like mine from New York. Anyway this is very good whiskey, tops in its class and as I said better than many all-straight whiskeys out there regardless of price.

Gary

cowdery
12-20-2003, 22:28
When you see multiple locations on a label it means that, at times, they use facilities in those locations to produce it. In other words, although Barton produces the aged whiskey component of the product in Bardtown, the blending and bottling may, always or from time to time, be done at one of their other facilities, or some other component, such as the GNS, comes from one or both of these other facilities. Again, they might not always use all three facilities in combination, but by having them all on the label they have that flexibility.