Bourbons in Bombay – The mighty Stagg Jr 64.75%

Last of our explorations of American drams was another bourbon from Buffalo Trace… from Blanton’s we turned our attention to the mighty Stagg Jr.

What did we think?

Stagg Jr 129.5 proof / 64.75%

  • Nose – Fresh wood, sawdust, cherry, pepper spice, raisins, buttery, vanilla ice cream fruit cake, then back to cayenne, a citrus twist, strong sherry like qualities
  • Palate – Whoo boya! A full on bourbon, very sugary, nice mouthfeel, quite concentrated, a big boy bourbon
  • Finish – Long finish

First swig and one exclaimed “Me on the horse I rode in…” It was full on cowboy action.

We thought it might go rather well with ice… so out came the big balls. It did indeed work well, taming that bad boy to something rather drinkable with the citrus quality coming out even more.

And what do the folks over at Buffalo Trace have to say?

George T. Stagg built the most dominant American distillery of the 19th century, during a time known as the Gilded Age of Bourbon. Uncut and unfiltered, this robust bourbon whiskey ages for nearly a decade and boasts the bold character that is reminiscent of the man himself.

Rich, sweet, chocolate and brown sugar flavors mingle in perfect balance with the bold rye spiciness. The boundless finish lingers with hints of cherries, cloves and smokiness.

What all did we sample in our American whiskey night?

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Bourbons in Bombay – Back to our old friend Blanton’s 46.5%

We shifted from single malt back to Bourbon with the reliable Blanton’s… it was by no means most of our first brush with Blanton’s… a few shared when in doubt, it is always safe to reach out for this bourbon. From Buffalo Trace, Blanton’s is a traditional bourbon made of corn, rye and barley… from warehouse H.

What did we think?

Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon 93 Proof Dumped 5-25-17, Barrel No 424, Ruch No 47

  • Nose – Lemon tart, honey sweet, a hint of tobacco or sweet grass, light leather
  • Palate – Lovely sweetness, new American oak, caramel with a bit of orange marmalade
  • Finish – Soft subtle finish, walnut bitterness

Such an enjoyable easy drinking bourbon. The 1st hit wakes you up but is not even the least bit harsh. This was an easy pick to settle down for the night with a cigar…

And what do the folks over at Buffalo Trace have to say?

  • Nose – A deep, satisfying nose of nutmeg and spices.
  • Palate – Powerful dry vanilla notes in harmony with hints of honey amid strong caramel and corn.
  • Finish – A medium finish composed of returning corn and nutmeg flavors.

What all did we sample in our mostly Bourbon night?

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American Night – St. George Lot No 16 43%

We continued our explorations of American drams with a hard to find single malt – St. George. None of us had tried it before so it was a pleasure to discover together!

Which is in many ways surprising as St. George is not new to artisan spirits – founded in 1982 – however isn’t as they are newer to our favourite spirit – whisky. While their website does not specify when exactly they started to produce single malts, there is mention Lot 12 (from 2012) and so forth. With the latest Single Malt Lot 17, in honour of their 35th year of operations… if you can find it.

What they do say about their approach is compelling:

We’re passionate about distillation in all its forms, but we don’t release a spirit unless we feel we have something new and valid to contribute to the conversation. We want to be able to pick our spirits out of a lineup on smell and taste alone because they’re exceptional.

For us, all that matters is the whiskey…. so on to our experience.

St. George Lot No SM016 43%

  • Nose – Oily, almost like smelling baklava, rose, distinctly different, quite herbaceous, cherry, lemon pine sol, sugar coated saunf (fennel seed)
  • Palate – It tastes exceedingly… er… rather pronounced… er… hemp like quality… a potpourri of after mint like you get in packages on Jet Airways flights, once past the herbal dimension, there is an creamy malty almost chocolaty element
  • Finish – Quite a decent finish, more of that fennel, a bit of bitter almond

I can’t help it… there is no other way to say it… this could be a gateway single malt for (ahem) medical marijuana smokers…

Setting that aside, it is unusual, fresh, and frankly really quite enjoyable and well worth trying.

We set it aside for some time and with the revisit found:

  • Nose – Sour varnish, nuts, surf, packaged flowers
  • Palate – Sweet flowers, still very herbal but with enough substance to enjoy
  • Finish – Less bitter and continued the herbal theme

And what do the folks over at St. George have to say about this dram on the label?

For the better part of two decades, we’ve been handcrafting single malt in 65-gallon pot stills here in California out of love for what whiskey can be. The result is an uncommonly smooth and ethereal single malt with notes of cocoa, roasted hazelnut, and hardwood smoke.

Would we agree? Yes.

Our whisky host admitted this was the most expensive bottle of the evening array… hard to find and likely to set you back $150. We concluded that while for such a price point, you can have a superior single malt from Scotland, yet we had no regrets having an opportunity to try the St. George… and for those curious to see what the American’s can do whisky wise, it is worthy of tracking down.

What else did we sample in our mostly Bourbon night?

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Bourbons in Bombay – Jefferson’s Very Small Batch 41.15%

We kicked off our explorations of American drams with a Kentucky Straight Bourbon… In truth, Jefferson’s is a bourbon brand rather than a distillery per se… though the parent company Castle Brands did acquire a stake in the Kentucky Artisan Distillery.

But let’s not get hung up on details and pedigree… What did we think?

Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon 41.15%

  • Nose – Clear stamp of bourbon, then sour, citrus, lots of new wood, caramel, pine, varnish, musty, dry, paint thinner, acetone… then mellows into a light custard
  • Palate – Soft, a bit watery, and while not complex has some character, a bit bitter… as it sits starts to shift more into a light citrus honey
  • Finish – Soft after taste remains but not something you could describe as a finish

One remarked it could be described as a ‘ladies bourbon’… Speaking as a lady, not sure this would be my style of whisky at all! But I digress…

We set it aside for some time and revisit… it was like gripe water! Sweet and sour, cereals, ripe bananas, sour green apples and pears, then a nutty bitter close, softening into sweetness again. Not brilliant but not bad either.

And what do the folks over at Jefferson’s have to say?

Jefferson’s Bourbon is made in very small batches. Actually, ridiculously small batches. We take up to four different Kentucky straight bourbon whiskies of different ages and marry them together. Doing this, we get a lot of complexity and balance while maintaining the consistency needed in a bourbon (one of the blends comprising of at least 55% of the total). We wanted to make it big enough for the connoisseur, yet approachable for people just getting into the premium bourbon field.

Would we agree? It certainly is approachable…

While I can’t confirm, I suspect this bottle was purchased in the US of A… generally available for around $30. Which makes it mighty good value for money.

What all did we sample in our mostly Bourbons night?

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BMC’s Bourbon – Jefferson’s, St George, Blanton’s, Stagg

Our Bombay Malt & Cigar (BMC) gents are definitely going beyond the borders of Scottish Single Malts… the latest in this flirting with other drams was an evening devoted to bourbon… with an American single malt whiskey thrown in for good measure!

So what did we sample?

You can also find more North American whiskies in the “US & Canada” page!

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Rye Night – High West Whiskey Double Rye 46%

Last in the official pours from our original club’s rye night was a whiskey from High West. As I was off in Germany, notes were ably recorded by our guest writer Nikkhil… Read on!

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Pour ​3​: High West Double Rye Whiskey 46% | Batch No: 16I08 | Un-chill filtered

  • AppearanceDark brown caramel
  • Nose: Acrid,nail polish, solventy, metallic paint shop. A tiny hint of rose petals.Muted nose. We weren’t getting anything much from this one.
  • Palate: Sharp and bitter sweet but not rough. Palate as muted as the nose. Hints of coco,cinnamon and tobacco. With water it gets even sharper. Green tea and some black pepper.
  • Finish: Short and still solventy.
  • After 20min rest: Grassy notes and tobacco.
Official notes:
  • Nose: Mint, clove, cinnamon, licorice root, pine nuts,and dark chocolate, with a surprising dose of gin botanicals throughout
  • Taste: Rye spices up front, then menthol, mint, eucalyptus, herbal tea with wildflower honey and all spice
  • Finish: Cinnamon and mint, gradually sweetening through the finish, with a hint of anise

Double Rye: A blend of straight Rye whiskeys ranging in age from 2 to 16 years. Straight Rye whiskeys: 95% rye, 5% barley malt from MGP & 53% rye, 37% corn, 10% barley malt from Barton Distillery.

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The original’s rye night contained:

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Rye Night – Cascadia Rye (Portugues Port Barrels) 43.5%

Alas I again had to miss our session as was off gallvanting around Germany, however our resident guest whisky writer Nikkhil is back again to share our group’s impressions.

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Pour 2: Cascadia Rye Whiskey Port Barrel Finish | 43.5%

  • Appearance: A distinct pinkish amber hue
  • N​ose: Very jammy, over ripe fruit, orange oil, coco. A distinct note of gulkand (a sweet preserve of rose petals). Turmeric here as well. Strangely some sulphur notes. Mushrooms? A member even picked up mango pickle!
  • Palate: Mildly spicy. Dry coriander seeds, white pepper, vanilla. The jammy fruity nose was a lot subdued on the palate.The turmeric continues as well as the paan notes. Delicious actually.
  • ​Finish: ​Long with lingering notes of menthol/mint and warm spices.
  • With water it opens up beautifully. The soft fruits are back. Aniseed, rose, light tobacco along with that sulphury note created an interesting and a very unique flavor palate. The spices, though restrained keep the balance in check.
After 20min rest: Meaty notes, bubblegum and weirdly Lifebuoy soap! 
Official notes:
 
  • Aging: This Rye Whiskey was first matured in new American Oak barrels, then double barrel finished in French oak casks previously used for maturing rich, 20 year old Port in Portugal. The casks were transferred to the distillery’s No.I vault, the Isle of Whidbey’s oldest maturation warehouse. Located at sea level on the shores of Port Clinton, the spirit was left to mature under nature’s care. The straight Rye developed into one of the most incredible whiskies we have produced. With an aroma rich in port, cocoa, dark cherries, toffee, chocolate and mature oak on the palate, the concentration of flavors is inimitable.
  • Nose:  Rich and full, yet mild.  Lingers in the mind.
  • Tasting Notes:  Rich, delicately spicy and very smooth.

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The original’s rye night contained:

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Rye Night – Cody Road 100% Rye Whiskey 40%

In all our six years of sampling whiskies, our original Mumbai tasting group‘s adventures have only touched on rye every once and again… it has never once been a fully fledged featured evening… until now.

Alas I again had to miss our session as was off gallvanting around Germany, however our resident guest whisky writer Nikkhil is back again to share our group’s impressions.

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Pour 1: Cody Road 100% Rye Whiskey | 40% Abv

  • AppearanceCaramel
  • Nose: Spicy, citrus sour green tamarind on the tree, lemon drops, sweet poppins, orange mithai which gave way to a distinct raw turmeric (haldi root but not the dried one) note. Some ravalgaon toffee notes now in the glass. A very unusual flavour profile which was not yet experienced by the group. Certainly non-scottish!
  • Palate: Spicy and bitter. More turmeric/ginger notes on the mid-palate. Marigold flower petals! I’ve never experienced that before in any spirit. Some caramel popping its head up now. There was something plasticine about it which hit the back of the tongue. Almost like an off note. This I find commonly in first pours and usually settles thanks to oxidation as the level goes down in the bottle.
  • Finish: Spice and bitter stay at the back of the palate. A medium linger with a hint of cocoa notes.
  • With water sweet vanilla, a hint of mint. The bitterness stays. Overall a shy palate.

After 20min rest: The nose and the palate had completely opened up. It smelt and tasted like a cold sweet paan in a bottle! Lovely. The mouthfeel now had an oily consistency. Some cloves, cinnamon and over ripe bananas. Very fruity. The plasticine notes subdued significantly. Time in glass as important as time in cask. Every whisky tasting is a two way conversation and we must avoid the tendency to rush into our tastings in an effort to form or announce our impressions.

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What is interesting is how we have developed a clear slow down, sample, set aside and revisit approach (where we have enough Glencairn glasses!)… more often than not, the whisky will shift with more air – sometimes revealing additional quite interesting qualities, sometimes the opposite where once something that was quite appealing becomes “not” as it becomes sour or its aromas just vanish!

The original’s rye night contained:

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It twas a rye, rye, rye night!

As I was traveling when our original club’s October session happened, our guest whisky writer Nikkhil again stepped up to the occasion.

What made this particularly unique was our 1st ever session focused purely on Rye. As per our normal approach, the merry malters sampled completely blind before the reveal.  

The original’s rye evening contained:

Nikkhil’s comments on the evening:

The hostess revealed all three bottles together. She had chosen a Rye theme for her session and it was indeed a very interesting experience for all of us. It was a first for me. Turmeric and paan notes are not what one would normally associate with a whiskey yet there they were!

The group was divided between the Cody Road & ​Cascadia Rye​ with me preferring the former. High West was not up to the groups liking. I had never imagined a Rye to be “finished” in sherry/port casks.

The Cascadia Rye did have a distinct pinkish hue and that sulphur note. Could the sulphur be because of the port cask finish? Cask fumigation by burning sulphur candles or brimstone sticks has been used to preserve casked wine and to prevent bacterial contamination of casks stored empty. It can also creep up if batches are distilled too fast or in too warm climate​. Cask maturation can significantly mitigate the effect of sulphur after 3 years. But by law an American straight Rye can be bottled after 2 yrs in the cask. Could it be the latter than the former? The mystery continues!

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Brush with Bourbon – Elmer T Lee 45%

Last in our trio of bourbon’s at 1602 Dundas was a dram from Buffalo Trace distillery in Kentucky who produce Blanton’s, W. L. Weller, E. H. Taylor and Buffalo Trace among others. Elmer T Lee is named after their Master Distiller Emeritus Elmer T. Lee.

Elmer T. Lee Single Barrel Bourbon 45%

Image: LCBO

And what did we find?

  • Nose – Sweet mash, fruity cinnamon spice, over ripe fruits
  • Palate – Grape, raisins, bitter dry oaky, spicy
  • Finish – Slow bitter finish

Elmer T Lee has the clear and unmistakable stamp of Kentucky Bourbon character – lots of fruit, spice, bold and impossible to ignore.

While we split a 30 ml shot, a 750 ml bottle can be purchased at a Toronto LCBO for CND 54.95. Here what they have to say…

LCBO’s Tasting & Serving Notes

Complex and addictive. Scents of cinnamon, hazelnuts, and dried fruit precede big flavors: cinnamon spice, raisinated and plummy, like Madeira or Sherry. Long finish, with a bit of a bite. Score – 97. (Kara Newman, Wine Enthusiast, Sept. 2010).

Bourbon’s sampled at 1602 Dundas in Toronto in September 2017:

Other forays into American whiskies from Buffalo Trace:

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