Many of us love a good whiskey. More of us are trying to find a good whiskey to love. No matter which group you fall under, we’re all in search of a whiskey with an interesting (if not complex) nose, tantalizing flavor, desirable mouthfeel, the right amount of warmth and a finish that invites you back for more. But with so many whiskeys and so little time (and money) to drink them, often we resort to one or more of the multitude of media forms to find reviews from the “experts”. I’ll be the first to admit that I spend a lot of time researching spirits and cigars depending on my trusted resources to “guide me into the light”. In fact, maybe that’s why you’re reading this right now…
My question is: Are reviewers helping us make an informed whiskey purchase or are they just muddying the waters?
A medium burnt caramel color in the glass, Basil Hayden’s approximately eight years is apparent in its rich color.
Corn bread, menthol, and dark fruit hit first on the nose, followed by figgy pudding, stewed plums, and cinnamon, highlighting a very slight pepper and punch. A spiced, minty, delicate nose to be sure. Baking spice and Christmas scents are present, but do not overwhelm the light body.
The dram is silky, with roasted pear, baked walnut-stuffed apples, and baking spice warming the front of the palate. Neither corn, oak, or char pull Basil Hayden in one particular direction, making for an incredibly balanced drinking experience. A very soft, smooth mouth feel is rounded out by cinnamon and golden raisin. Both complex and balanced, the bourbon’s high rye mash bill doesn’t overwhelm it, rather making for a nuanced flavor profile.
The finish is vegetal, with celery and savory polenta present. A short, not too sweet finish. Again very soft and light.
Now I am in no way attempting to discredit the author, as it’s obvious that he has a pallet that far better trained than mine, but “figgy pudding” – REALLY?
I do pick up the menthol and a hint of sweetness on the nose, but after that, I’m out. As I read further, I can’t shake this haunting vision of a concoction of mamma’s apple pie, Cinnamon Toast Crunch and catawba grape juice fermenting in a charred oak barrel, hidden in a forgotten corner of her dank basement. Once I’ve finally dealt with that, where in the world did the vegetables come from?
In my humble opinion, Tasting notes like the ones from the article excerpt, are just too complicated for the average consumer. In fact, I think the folks at Basil Hayden’s would agree as their own description of their bourbon is as follows:
Aroma – Spice, tea and a hint of peppermint
Taste -Spicy, peppery, honey, light-bodied, gentle bite
Finish – Dry, clean, brief
Ahhh, now I get it and you know what, it sounds like something I would like to drink!
To be frank, I will often enjoy a Basil Hayden’s when I’m in the mood for a lighter bodied bourbon option. Although the reviewers description is a literary masterpiece, I personally think that the distillers description is spot-on, not to mention, all I really need to know.
Finding your go-to whiskeys is a personal journey. When you consider that the average person has close to 10,000 taste buds and 6 million olfactory receptors, it’s a miracle that any of us agree on what we smell or taste. My suggestion, Try Lots of Whiskeys; Read the Tasting Notes on the Bottles, then Read Some Independent Reviews. Now you’re ready to play the “Whats that Taste” game.