American whiskies tasting with our WhiskyMag panel

We had no Chevy to drive to the levee, as Don Maclean sang about in his classic Miss American Pie, but we did get to drink whiskey at the Cape Grace’s Bascule Bar – and felt vaguely like Good Ole Boys by doing so! Veteran of the whisky scene Dave Hughes led the tasting.

George Novitskas

It was a bumper tasting session for this issue. Like Topsy we just seem to keep growing! Our numbers climbed and climbed: we ended up tasting eight whiskies where we usually restrict ourselves to just six. And the number of tasters was boosted by the addition of three guests. Since we’ve adopted the Bascule Bar as our permanent tasting home we invited manager George Novitskas to join us, along with one of the staunchest members of the Bascule’s whisky club, Steven Delit. Toning down the testosterone was Charlotte Spicer of Liquidity, the Cape Town-based firm which brings in a number of fantastic American whiskies. All are experienced tasters and Delit summed it up when he opined that it’s not often one gets to taste a serious range of bourbon.


Charlotte Spicer

Before we kicked off Hughes reminded us that age is not a factor when it comes to American whisky. “To get an age statement – or even a 9 year old whiskey is unusual – and we’ve got one here in the Knob Creek.” One point Hughes picked up on was the difference in bottling strengths. Being American there’s a statement about each whiskey’s proof. Divide by two and you have the more common alcohol by volume percentage which is universally accepted. The whiskies range from the Wild Turkey’s 101 proof (or 50.5% alcohol) to 43% with a few other stops in between.

As Liquidity imports Buffalo Trace Charlotte Spice provided a bit of background. It’s one of the oldest American distilleries and managed to stave off closure during Prohibition by making medically prescribed alcohol, for stomach ailments. It’s also the distillery where a range of other fine bourbons are made – George T Stagg, Blanton’s, WL Weller and Eagle Rare, to mention a few.

Naturally this tasting provoked a lot of discussion, most of it positive about the category and its difference to Scotch and Irish whiskies. Publisher Shayne Dowling said that all of these had really enticing noses. “It makes you want to taste and drink them!” Novitskas and Delit both commented on the contrast between the broad similarities between the whiskies – and also the subtle differences which are very nuanced.

Steven Delit

Steven Delit

Delit also observed the huge differences in bottle shapes. Hughes’ riposte was that the Scots are canny: “If they can save money by just using one bottle shape, they will!” As ever, the final word belonged to Hughes who said he had been surprised at just how excellent the Jack Daniel’s single barrel tasted and was delighted to reacquaint himself with Buffalo Trace. “There was a time when I used to drink a lot of Buffalo Trace – and then I kinda forgot about it. Now I remember why I used to enjoy it so much…”

Our full tasting can be viewed here:

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Posted by on Mar 26 2012. Filed under Tastings. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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