Friday 13 September 2013

Bourbon Derby: 21 Days Off: Blanton's

My whiskey for September 12th: Blanton's.

Taste is inextricably linked with our other senses, and, more importantly, our overall perceptive abilities. When we feel alert and interested, our tastes may change; in times of stress, some unfortunate sensitivities are heightened. In times of pleasure, things might overall "feel" better. Our ability to review situations is reflective of our mental state -- when I think back to my favorite meals, for example, they were often on happy occasions (birthday dinners, anniversaries, so on). It's a bit of a self-perpetuating conceit -- I often go to a nicer/more novel place because of a special event, but eating a meal when the moment already feels significant may already make the meal seem better than usual, pre-confirming my desire for things to be special. Later meals at the same places are typically enjoyable, but may not have lived up to that first experience, either because they were novel or because I was particularly receptive to positive feedback.

One of my fondest memories in recent years is sitting and drinking Blanton's with my dad. Because of that, it's difficult to really review it completely objectively outside a blind tasting. After all, the situations I'm drinking bourbon these days -- exhausted, late at night after a bar shift, as my wife and the world sleep around me -- aren't exactly the perfect tasting scenarios. That said, Blanton's is good enough to lift my spirits. The nose is nothing to write home about, but when it hits my tongue, it reminds me of the lovely honeyed taste Scotch aficionados write about. The mouthfeel isn't exactly thick, but it's not really thin or anything. The final taste and finish is a thing of beauty, one of the great back-of-tongue flavors and finishes in the world of bourbon, and whisk(e)y in general. The finish is what brings me back to bourbon -- a peaty scotch has a lovely finish, but nothing matches a beefy bourbon finish, save for a really exceptional (and/or old) American rye. The wood gives so much to the back of the tongue and the lingering taste on the throat. 

I'm trying to avoid looking up outside information as I drink these whiskeys, but, unless my memory fails me, I think that Blanton's is part of the higher rye/lower corn mashbill that BT uses for some of its bourbons. That rye definitely kicks in that "back of tongue" grain interplay I keep harping about.When I want to tell people about the crazy tingling and "dancing-grain" tastes I get in some bourbons, I usually use the Weller bourbons as a point of reference. However, this freshly-cracked bottle of Blanton's is giving me the same thing, but with a rye profile. While Van Winkle is no doubt a great distiller, Blanton's (and Stagg) are the big arguments for how Harlan's mainline BT stuff can go toe-to-toe with the hyped Pappy (and its little bro Weller).

I'm trying avoid dipping too much into my stash of rare (mostly-US-only) bourbons, to keep mostly to whiskies that will be available at the Derby. I'm worried, drinking Blanton's now, that it will be hard to feel as enthusiastic about another bourbon as I do about this whiskey. That said, there are some lovely whiskies lined up on my shelf -- EC12, Wild Turkey, and the entire Four Roses line -- and a lot of them should offer some nice alternatives. Especially when it comes to the nose -- as I finished the last few drops, I can't help but notice how I quickly skip past nosing the whiskey (normally one of my favorite parts of the drinking experience) and just jump to the finish. I do have to say that's a clever way to get me to down my drink quick.

1 comment:

  1. My favorite bar in the quarter is just off bourbon. It's the Dungeon. It's a little tucked away, but it's worth hunting for it. They always have loud, heavy metal playing and the DJ on the 2nd floor takes requests.