It seems like I’ve been doing a lot of blind tastings recently, and I have to say, I’ve become a huge fan. Removing labels, marketing, and preconceived notions of what I think I like is such a fun way to experience whiskey. While at first there is definitely the fear of “man, what if I pick the cheap one as my favorite”, I’ve come to realize something: who gives a shit? For example, let’s pretend I prefer a blind pour of Four Roses Yellow Label to one of Elijah Craig 18… well that would awesome! It would save me a shitload of money going forward, it would be an interesting discussion point, and it would mean I prefer a bottle that is way easier to find.
So, Kate and I had been talking about doing a blind tasting with a couple of friends, and we decided it would be fun to do one with line up of expressions all using Mash Bill #1 from Buffalo Trace. Well we got the bottles lined up and went to work. In the mix was, in no particular order: Eagle Rare 10 Year, Old Charter 8 (just 8, not 8 year), Benchmark, E.H. Taylor Small Batch, Buffalo Trace, and Stagg Jr. #3.
We all took our own notes, but I was too lazy to get everyone’s before I left, so my notes are below with all of our final rankings at the bottom (except Kate since she was nice enough to be my designated driver and do the pouring for us. Love you, baby cakes!).
Alright, let’s do it.
Nose: Oh my god it’s so hot. There’s an almost gasoline astringency, but luckily it fell off fast and turned into cinnamon heat, vanilla, sweet rye, and black pepper. A bit of a rubbery scent hung around though which isn’t great.
Taste: Lots of cinnamon spice like the on nose. Dry oak and light brown sugar come in as it opened up a bit more but the balance never really got to a good place.
Finish: Somewhat astringent and dry with rye heat and black pepper and oak.
Nose: Much more mellow than A with sweet vanilla, light oak, light brown sugar, some ethanol, nice rye. The balance is much better on this one.
Taste: Not as abrasive as A. The balance is way better with rye spice, honey, brown sugar, and some light oak. The mouthfeel is a bit thin, which is the biggest knock on this one.
Finish: Fruity with green apple, brown sugar, and dry oak.
Color: Light Honey
Nose: This one is very sweet with tons of brown sugar, grape Jolly Ranchers from the 50’s, cotton candy, and some straight up corn.
Taste: Load of vanilla here with honey, more Jolly Rancher (but this time they are green apple, but are still from the 50’s) and some fairly nice oak to balance things out.
Finish: Sweetness carries to the finish with honey and oak taking over. It drops off fast and dries out with the oak ending things, wrapping up the sweetness from the taste with great oak which rounds out the whole thing fairly well.
Color: Deep straw
Nose: Werther’s Original, butterscotch, caramel, super sweet, so sweet. Sweet, sweet, and sweet.
Taste: It’s just straight butterscotch, caramel, and vanilla. Crazy sweet. Willy Wonka probably has a river of this flowing through his crazy-ass factory.
Finish: Not great, a weird bitter, perfume-y thing comes out with the lingering butterscotch sweetness.
Color: Deep amber, the darkest of them all
Nose: The fruitiest aroma by far. Red apple, raspberry, caramel, vanilla and oak. Best balance so far.
Taste: Now this is what I want. Big fruit, oak, caramel, and vanilla. Everything is amplified, almost like it….like it came straight from the barrel….hmmmm. Wonder what it is?
Finish: Rye heat, oak, fruity barrel and cinnamon as this one fades away.
Color: Straw, the lightest of them all
Nose: Weirdest nose so far. There’s a straight up motor oil note I’m getting loud and clear. Everything feels very far apart, like all the aromas are fighting and not working together. I realize that may sound pretentious, but I can’t think of a better way to explain it. There’s astringent ethanol, some red fruit, oak and vanilla.
Taste: Alright stay with me here. When I was a kid I went to work with my dad every now and then. He was an Electrical Engineer at an oil company and his office was in a building full of heavy machinery and always smelled like oil and gas. That’s what this shit tastes like. That and band-aids and rubber. This HAS to be oxidized or something, there’s no way this is what’s intended.
Finish: Gasoline, rubber, latex, bandaids, fuck.
Man these are fun. I’m so excited to hear the reveal on what each pour is. That last one was so bad though. The only expression I haven’t had in this line up is the Old Charter, which we bought on the way to this tasting, so I’m guessing it’s the terrible one. Other than that and it being pretty obvious which one was Stagg Jr. (the only barrel proof in the bunch), I didn’t take any attempt at guessing what each pour was. The 3 of us participating in the tasting ranked them from best to worst, so let’s get that out of the way then we can see what they are!
Me: E, C, B, D, A, F
Jennifer: A, E, B, C, F, D
Jeff: C, F, A, D, E, B
A: E.H. Taylor Small Batch
B: Buffalo Trace
C: Old Charter
E: Stagg Jr.
F: Eagle Rare
Whoa, Eagle Rare was the disgusting one!? So it just worked out that Kate and I took over a fairly fresh bottle of Eagle Rare 10 Single Barrel that was a local Oklahoma barrel selection. This, however, wasn’t the bottle we used in the tasting. The blind Eagle Rare was a bottle that was about a quarter full and had been opened last May (it’s actually the same bottle that we reviewed here). The time and air had really done a number on this one and when compared to Kate and I’s bottle it was night and day. So crazy what time can do to a whiskey. Stupid time.
No surprise that Stagg Jr. was my favorite, but Old Charter coming in at #2 is fun treat. It’s less than $20 a bottle and it beat some other well-regarded labels. Hell yes. See, that’s why these things are so fun. Can’t wait for the next one!