WOW 35 – Jim Beam Hot Punch Whiskey

WOW34 Title

JimBeamHotPunchBottle

This week it’s been rather chilly in the UK, certainly for the end of February, and so it seems appropriate that, as the Siberian winds swirl, I let you know of another way to keep warm: the whiskey way; namely, Jim Beam Hot Punch. Anyone who’s popped down to see the guys at The Whisky Exchange at London Bridge will probably have noticed their display of white-labelled bottles from a famous Lynchburg distillery (Jack Daniels Winter Punch), so it’s little surprise that this equally unusual bottle came from the same source.

We reviewed Jack Daniels Winter Punch here and it has been a firm favourite with various friends and family ever since. Jim Beam Hot Punch appears to be in a similar vein; both are bottled at 15%ABV and both appear to be made for the German market.

Here is the sidebar from Jim Beam Hot Punch:

JimBeamHotPunch Sidebar

The Taste

Cold
Nose: Whoa! I was not expecting that. Sugary notes of peach, pineapple and strawberry, all combined with a bubblegum-esque flavour and creamy, vanilla undertones. Without a doubt, this reminds me strongly of gummy/foam ice-cream cone sweets.
Taste: Smooth and very easy to sip. There’s a burst of sweet fruitiness to start that then dries out, but the vanilla and gummy/gelatine flavour remains. A tiny hint of warmth appears at the back of the throat, but nothing major (it’s only 15%ABV after all). The main flavours are, like on the nose, pineapple, peach, apricot, strawberry and apple. Despite this, it’s not overly sugary, but it definitely has a confectionery flavour to it that I didn’t expect.

JimBeamHotPunch HOT

Warm
Nose: The same gummy-ice-cream-sweet flavour, with notes of vanilla and fruit, only slightly more sickly than when served cold (mainly via the vapours).
Taste: More potent than the cold version. The sweet flavours transform into a fruity, tart flavour that’s almost sour, like gooseberries, or cooked fruit – pears or apples – with vanilla and a tiny hint of cinnamon. This serve is obviously much more warming, too.

In Conclusion
All-in-all, I thought this was a little odd. The broad sweep of sweet, fruit flavours reminded me more of summer than winter (in contrast to the packaging and concept) and, unlike the Winter Jack, it doesn’t have any seasonal, spicy notes. Additionally, unlike the Jim Beam Red Stag flavoured Bourbons, I couldn’t really get any whiskey notes after all of the fruitiness. Despite this, I’m sure many people will enjoy it; just not if they’re after a whiskey!

– Mrs. B.

Jim Beam Hot Punch is available in the UK but The Whisky exchange seems to be the only place that stock it. It is available online at £15 for 70cl.

For other sweet Jim Beam treats, why not check out our reviews of Jim Beam Honey or Cherry Red Stag and, if you happen to be in the US, the Red Stag Spice or Red Stag Honey Tea may be of interest.

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Cocktails with… Buffalo Trace Bourbon

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One of my very first whisk(e)y tastings (and definitely my first whiskey tasting) was at The Whisky Exchange and featured a range from the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky. Both distillery and its spirits were wonderfully introduced to us by two people lucky enough to work with them day in, day out, including the Master Distiller, Harlen Wheatley.

Now, the Buffalo Trace Distillery has a wealth of history about it that I will cover in more detail in another article, where we’ll look at the broader range of spirits that they make there, but I’m eager to get started tasting today’s whiskey and their namesake Bourbon: Buffalo Trace. It’s made with corn, rye and malted barley, and aged for at least eight years in oak barrels. For each batch, a number of barrels are selected, tasted and blended by the Harlen and his team, before being bottled at 40%ABV.

BuffaloTrace Bottle

#1) On its own
Nose: Quite sweet wood varnish, with a sweetness to it that’s halfway between syrup and honey. Also, after a few minutes, comforting hints of warm, sweet spice, orange, and dry cocoa, all drawing out to a final scent of chocolate-covered marzipan and light brown sugar.
Taste: Straightforward, solid and strong Bourbon flavours: corn to start, with vanilla, then weightier, sweet wood notes. The finish is lightly dry, but not bitter, and vanilla keeps reappearing. This also has a lovely, comforting warmth at the end and that finish – which reminds me ever so slightly of banana bread! – means that I’m constantly drawn to my next sip. This would be exactly the kind of Bourbon that James Bond would sit and savour at the beginning of the first chapter of Goldfinger, which has the rather exquisite title: “Contemplations over a Double Bourbon”.

I’ve also been rather looking forward to trying this in some cocktails, as I think that its rich, but relaxed flavour will work well with others. We decided to try some classic cocktails that are nonetheless pretty easy to make at home. The first? A Manhattan. But when DTS asked me whether I wanted it shaken or stirred, I hesitated just long enough for him to realise that I didn’t yet have an opinion. The result? Two (unlabelled) Manhattans and a comparative tasting.

#2) Manhattans
(i) Manhattan – Shaken
A vibrant, sweet, floral nose with notes of vanilla and red berries. The liquid is decidedly chilled, especially around the edges; it seems warmer in the middle. The flavour is light and easy to drink, with a good balance of sweetness and light oak.

(ii) Manhattan – Stirred
The nose is much less vibrant than the previous cocktail, and the liquid is noticeably warmer, with no icy chill to it. On the taste, however, the wood of the whiskey comes through a lot more, along with a generally warmer, lightly spiced taste.

#3) Old Fashioned
Silky smooth and top-notch; always very balanced, but nonetheless full of flavour, which gradually builds. The Bourbon adds weight and rich corn, rye and oak notes to the drink, whilst still sharing the spotlight with the playful, herbal notes of the bitters, which are allowed to shine through. To top it off, there’s a gradually building warmth and a very measured sweetness throughout. If you’re after a smooth, rich and complex cocktail, try this.

#4) Sazerac
Strong, sweet aniseed on the nose follows through to the taste. I was then surprised at how dry and woody the main body of the taste was, as well as how rich and dark it seemed – much more so than the Bourbon on its own. The finish was a neat combination of dry oak and sweet liquorice, like liquorice allsorts. Delicious!

#5) Whiskey Ginger
This starts off with the same good, solid Bourbon notes, including dry oak and vanilla, along with more of a salted caramel flavour, plus an unexpected, almost herbal twist. The ginger notes are light and add a sweetness and gentle warmth to the finish, which pairs neatly with the building warmth of the whiskey.

In Conclusion
Buffalo Trace is simply an excellent Bourbon that’s full of flavour, but also works brilliantly in cocktails; letting other notes really shine, whilst still adding its own rich, classic notes of oak, corn and rye. I was particularly fond of the Old Fashioned, which I’d highly recommend. It also has a wonderfully rich and complex nose, which is refreshing, and makes it great to enjoy neat, too (feeling contemplative, anyone?).

It was interesting to see the respective merits of shaking and stirring Manhattans. Upon reflection, I think I slightly preferred the shaken version, with that superb chill to it, although I’ll probably be tempted by a warmer, richer stirred version during Christmas.

All in all, Buffalo Trace is a tasty, complex whiskey that we keep coming back to again and again. A brilliant bottle to have handy over the holidays.

– Mrs. B.

 

Cocktails with… Jack Daniel White Rabbit Saloon – 43%ABV

2012 sees the 120th anniversary of The White Rabbit Saloon, the saloon that Mr. Jack Daniels owned and operated in Lynchburg, Tennessee. To celebrate this, the Jack Daniels Distillery have released a special version of their Old No.7 variety (for details on other variations of Jack Daniels, check out our comprehensive tasting here) named after this famed watering hole.

The main difference in this version is that it is bottled at 43%ABV, rather than the 40%ABV that’s common for the Black Label No.7 whiskey in the UK and US today. Funnily enough, going back thirty years, Jack Daniels No.7 was bottled at 45%ABV, which was then reduced to 43%ABV in the late 1980s and reduced further to its current 40%ABV in 2002.

The whiskey comes in a presentation box with very decorative labelling and verbiage relating to the experiences of customers in Mr. Daniels’ own saloon. The bottle is in keeping with the new, clean-line style of Jack Daniels in the UK and, frankly, I’ve not yet come round to it as for me it has less character.

But let’s get on to the more substantial and important matter of taste.

1) On its own
Colour: Amber, with a tinge of red.
Nose: Warm, soft and slightly sweet caramel and vanilla. Faint hints of banana toffee that lead to nail polish if your nose lingers too long.
Taste: Smooth to start, being sweet and woody, but this flavour is quickly overtaken by an artificial tasting, bitter, creamy note that lasts. The finish is then quite clean, dry and woody, with a pleasant, light note of banana toffee. It’s slightly warming, but not forceful. Overall, I couldn’t help but be disappointed with this whiskey; the beginning and finish were both so good, but that bitter note in between was just horrid. Interestingly, where I tasted bitterness, DTS didn’t taste much at all, finding it bland.

2) Old Fashioned
This has a lovely nose of smoky, charred banana toffee. The banana and toffee notes follow through on the taste, along with vanilla, but – oddly – this Old Fashioned isn’t at all sweet and there’s a notable lack of flavour at the front of the tongue. There are hints of bitterness before a finish of light wood. Although the nose and finish were good, the flavour of this cocktail left something to be desired.

As an interesting experiment, half of the Old Fashioned was decanted and placed in the freezer. This improved it greatly, adding a light, cherry note to the nose and stronger notes of wood and a hint of coffee to the taste.

3) Manhattan
A promising start of wood and caramel is quickly overtaken by that same, persistent bitter, dry note, which is distracting and artificial. The finish was odd, being slightly creamy, before becoming short and dry. Definitely not the best way to enjoy this whiskey.

4) with Ginger Ale
A light, traditional bourbon nose of wood and vanilla, tinged with a refreshing sweetness. Initially dry, this drink then fades into that bitter flavour. The finish is clean and short, with hints of sweet ginger. Although I still didn’t like the bitter aspects, this was my favourite of the drinks that I tried.

In Conclusion
I really wanted to like this whiskey. I adore the label and story behind the White Rabbit Saloon and think that the concept of “sippin’ whiskies” that people can enjoy with friends on its own, straight from the bottle, is a great one. Unfortunately, I just didn’t like the bitter taste of this one, either on its own or in cocktails; my favourite way of drinking it was with ginger ale or in the intriguing frozen Old Fashioned. We do, however, have some bigger fans of Jack Daniels in our family and I look forward to seeing what they think of this; when I do, I’ll update this post.

– Mrs. B.

Jack Daniel’s White Rabbit Saloon 120th Anniversary is available for around £26 for 70cl from The Whisky Exchange.

WoW 32 – Jim Beam Red Stag – Spiced with Cinnamon

Last week, I reviewed Jim Beam Honey Tea, which was kindly sent over by Seva (of Seva’s Sunday). This followed Jim Beam’s release of a cherry bourbon (Red Stag or Red Stag Black Cherry) and was close on the heels of their honey bourbon (Jim Beam Honey). Today, we are looking a companion release to Honey Tea: Red Stag Spiced.

Like Honey Tea, this is based on Jim Beam White Label and bottled at a very respectable 40% ABV and is flavoured with spices (the primary spice being cinnamon. Interestingly, Evan Williams recently released a Cinnamon Whisky Liqueur in the UK, which we reviewed here.

What did it taste like?

Nose: Like the Honey Tea, I was once again pleased to find the characteristically sweet (light caramel) and woody (vanilla oak) Jim Beam nose on this flavoured whiskey. This time, however, it was accompanied by the warmth of the kind of “red” cinnamon that you get in cinnamon candy; it also reminded me of aniseed balls. There were also some other spices in the mix, reminding me of spiced biscuits.

Taste: Exceptionally sweet and syrupy to start, followed by strong warmth from the cinnamon, which – again – came across as that more raw, “red” cinnamon flavour. I thought that the cinnamon was more gentle than the Evan Williams Cinnamon, but some of this may have been the additional sweetness.

The spicy warmth was met by a good warmth from the bourbon. The more traditional bourbon notes are definitely there (easier to find if you are familiar with Jim Beam), but the spice really does take centre stage.

Finish: There almost seemed to be two finishes to this (!): the first was very sugary, but this faded into a much drier one, more in line with cinnamon sticks or powder. Pleasantly, the warmth of the whisky continued after everything else had disappeared.

In Conclusion
I thought this was another good addition to Jim Beam’s range of flavoured bourbons and was surprised to find that I actually preferred it to the Honey Tea. DTS – a big fan of cinnamon – enjoyed it, too, and noted that it had very good Autumn/Winter cocktail potential, which I thoroughly agree with. It could put a fantastic twist on any cocktail that needs some bourbon along with sugar; I’m looking forward to experimenting with toddies, an Old Fashioned and possibly a Manhattan when we can get hold of a full-size bottle.

Cocktails with J.W. Dant Special Reserve Bourbon

Recently, on our latest trip to The Whisky Exchange in Vinopolis, DTS reminded me that we had nearly run out of Bourbon. Somewhat alarmed, we immediately set out on a quest to find a new one to try and the bottle that we eventually picked up was J.W. Dant Bourbon. Currently made by Heaven Hill Distilleries, J.W. Dant was named after Joseph Washington Dant, a Kentucky distiller who lived back in the 19th Century*.

Whilst I couldn’t find out much more about the brand itself, the bottle tells me that it contains a “Bottled in Bond” spirit, which is a term relating to the U.S. act of that name, issued in 1897. The act was supposed to ensure authenticity and states that the spirit in question must be:
–  produced in one season, at one distillery, by one distiller;
–  aged in a federally bonded warehouse for at least four years;
–  bottled at 50% ABV (or 100 proof in the US); and must
–  identify the distillery and bottling location on the label.

To its credit, our bottle appears to have been emptied rather quickly; before the very last drop left the bottle, however, DTS suggested that I write some notes on it, so here we go.

On its own
I found myself rather fond of the nose, which was light, but lively, with soft, but nonetheless vibrant notes of caramel. There was also a freshness there, which reminded me of freshly homemade mint sauce. The caramel sweetness and softness returned at the end.
The taste was initially sweet and soft, with light wood, vanilla and caramel. These soft flavours were then gradually overtaken by a rapidly building, more savoury warmth that got to be quite powerful. This sensation of warmth really lasted in the very pit of the stomach; very pleasant, indeed.

Manhattan
Very herbal, indeed, with a fruity richness behind it; the vermouth is really allowed to dominate the drink. This reminds me very much of our Red Vermouth Tasting. The bourbon appears only as that substantial, characteristic warmth afterward.

Old Fashioned
A light, sweet nose of vanilla-laced wood notes and faint cherry. To sip, this was remarkably smooth and easy to drink, with a distinct sugary start quickly balanced out by a more dry, light wood finish. Some might consider it a little watered down compared to other Old Fashioneds, but I have to say, I thought it was perfect for a summer day.

In Conclusion
I really enjoyed this and found it to be a good and balanced standard Bourbon that I would be happy to purchase again. Whilst there was nothing outstanding about it, and it certainly didn’t shine through either of the cocktails that we tried this evening, it played an excellent supportive role in each of them, producing wonderfully smooth drinks with that lovely warmth building up afterward. Good value for money.

– Mrs. B.

Bottled at 40%ABV J.W. Dent Special Reserve is available for around £28 for 70cl  from Master of Malt and Arkwrights Wine & Whisky.

* A good article on Joseph Dant can be found here.

Cocktails with… Dry Fly Gin, Vodka and Whiskey


A little while ago I came across the Dry Fly Distillery, based in Washington State, USA. After a pleasant phone call with one of the founders, Kent, I found myself in possession of a lovely care package of their products. Dry Fly Distillery was founded just over four years ago by fishing buddies Don Poffenroth and Kent Fleischmann; hence the name “Dry Fly”, after the fishing technique. Given the focus of our site, it was their gin that captured the majority of my attention. For further background why not check out this video.
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GIN

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Bottled at 40% ABV, the gin uses the same spirit as the vodka and has 6 botanicals:
Juniper
Coriander
Hops
Lavender
Mint
Apples
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The inclusion of the likes of apple and mint were an endeavour to use natural resources found close to the distillery. This is something that is becoming increasing popular in the American Gin market; another good example is Death’s Door.
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Own:
Nose: Creamy and floral with a hint of spice. There was also a certain jammy quality and a hint of juniper.
Taste: Incredibly, absolutely smooth, with no burn at all. The only way that I could tell that it was alcoholic was by a slight tingle on my lips at the end. This was quite floral (violet and lavender), with some sweet creamy citrus (maybe mandarin or lime). The juniper is there, but it definitely takes a back seat. Overall, I thought it was rather sippable. Upon a second inspection, I also noticed a slight saké-like quality to the gin, which was quite pleasant.
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From Freezer:
A viscous texture, alongside a nose of ginger, flowers and juniper. Very tasty, this was full of flavour, being slightly brandy-like with additional hints of juniper and vanilla.

Gin & Tonic
This drink had strong notes of mandarin and citrus on the nose. Alongside the citrus and floral notes, there was a herbal note akin to dry vermouth. The drink is also quite dry and has a crisp quality, which made it both thirst-quenching and refreshing. I would suggest having no garnish and using Schweppes or Fevertree; I think that Fentiman’s citrus profile would overpower the drink.

Martini:
This was very clean, with quite light flavours and some juniper. It had different characteristics to most Martinis, but was very good nonetheless: it was silky and slightly floral, with a long finish.

Pink Gin:
This Pink Gin was quite floral and herbal, but there seemed to be a slight clash between the gin and bitters. Of those that I tried, this wasn’t the best way to enjoy the gin.

Negroni:
Like the Pink Gin, the Negroni was floral and herbal, with some additional hints of citrus. There was a good balance between bitterness and sweetness. As a whole, the cocktail was complex, rich and quite tasty. Top notch.

Fruit Cup: Quite dry, but with an additional buttery richness, this was relatively light whilst still having some strong juniper notes. With as some citrus fruit, we thought this was delightfully refreshing.

VODKA

Room-temperature
nose: grain, vanilla cream and a hint of almond
taste: initially smooth then some warmth. Flavours of vanilla icecream followed by hints of coffee and dark chocolate.Frozen:grainy, vanilla icecream nose. Thicker than at room temperature but not that viscous. The light grain and vanilla note persist and there is also a hint of coffee followed by a very clean finish.Vodka Martini: rather lovely. Very clean, more flavour than a normal Martini but the flavour is a soft and subtle creamy vanilla. Despite this slightly confectionery taste it is not at all sickly. Overall very nice and rather unusual.

WHISKEY


This section is written by in-house whisk(e)y enthusiast Mrs. B.

Dry Fly make two types of whiskey: Bourbon (aged for 3 and a half years) and a Wheat Whisky (aged for 2 years); both are aged in New American Oak Casks.

Bourbon

This had a very sweet nose, reminding me of caramel, with a touch of vanilla and slight hints of a rawer alcohol at the end. To taste, it had a strong start that continued the caramel notes from the nose, whilst also being dry and woody in texture. DBS found it to be incredibly dry and was reminded of bread – wheat and oats. The finish was of honeycomb, with a distinct sweetness at the back of the throat.

After the addition of a touch of water, the nose opened up to reveal an oat-y, cake-y scent underneath the caramel. The taste was warmer and clearer, but followed the same profile as noted above. DBS also detected some fruity, jammy notes after water had been added; red berries in particular.

Wheat whiskey

The wheat whiskey had a very straightforward, dry nose of wheat and wood; there was no real sweetness or fruitiness to it. To taste, though, it was surprisingly complex. Again, it was very dry, although I found it to be slightly viscous on the tongue. This unusual combination is unlike anything I’ve tasted before. The main flavours were of wheat and other savoury cereals, freshly varnished wood, and maybe a hint of pine. The finish was spicy, with a heated, peppery sensation.

We found that this whiskey didn’t improve with water: it simply diluted it, making the flavours more disjointed. I felt it could be used very well in cocktails, however.

Cocktails with… Makers Mark

Cocktails with…  

 

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Maker’s Mark Bourbon Whisky

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Occasionally, people very kindly and generously donate whisky (or whiskey) for me to try, for which I am immensely grateful. The world of whisky is, without a doubt, a vast one and so any recommendations and/or suggestions are always gratefully appreciated. I’ve been focusing on Scotch whisky recently, so was intrigued to try Maker’s Mark when a bottle arrived in the mail (dramatically sealed with their distinctive red wax seal).Maker’s Mark is a bourbon that is handmade using corn, malted barley and red winter wheat (added instead of rye) in small batches at their distillery near Loretto, Kentucky. It’s aged in new, charred oak barrels that are routinely moved around during the aging process, so that the effects of different temperatures at different heights of the warehouse are evened out.  It’s not-worth that “Whisky” in their title is spelt with out an “e” which is unlike most American whiskies, I’ve not yet found an authoritative reason as to why, yet.Given that this is handmade, DBS was inspired to try it in a homemade whiskey liqueur recipe and a premixed mint julep. Here are my notes on these, along with those on the whisky itself.

Maker’s Mark

The nose is light and syrupy sweet – like golden syrup, rather than honey – but nonetheless has some evident strong alcohol behind it. There are also hints of corn and oak and, after ten minutes or so, the nose developed so that it was sweeter, with hints of spiced honey.

It was strong on the tongue, too, with a definite tingle from the outset that was followed by a warm, woody note. Given the nose, I was pleased to find that it wasn’t overly
sweet; any sweetness was quickly and neatly balanced by a woody dryness. The most significant aspect of this drink neat, for me, was the wonderful, lasting warmth.

Bourbon and Branch Water

OK so I didn’t actually use branch water but my supply is of the finest quality. The water seemed to accentuate the sweetness on the nose, but also made the drink itself an awful lot smoother. It also opened up the wood notes, introducing something that was almost smoky, but stopped just short of it as a weet, damp, slightly charred woodiness. As much as I preferred it with a few drops of water, I found it all too easy to put too much in, so add only a few drops at a time to avoid weakening your bourbon too much.

Home-made Maker's Mark Liqueur

Maker’s Mark Liqueur (Homemade)

The nose was distinctly sweet, with only faint hints of the original bourbon coming through, to be replaced with a more general nose of fresh, sweet alcohol.

The first iteration of this liqueur was rather bizarre with an oddly “disjointed” flavour: there were two very different flavours, one at the front of the mouth and one at the back. At the front, the sweet alcohol from the nose played alongside a fruitiness, reminding me slightly of sweet medicines from my childhood. At the back and along the top of the mouth, meanwhile, there was a duller, drier flavour.

Obviously, this recipe wasn’t working, so DBS adapted it slightly, adding some water and simple syrup. These straightforward ingredients brought out a strong peach note on both the nose and palate, and generally bridged the “gap” in the middle of the tongue. Definitely an interesting tipple – given the strange combination of sweet and dry at different points – and worth experimenting with.

Premixed Mint Julep (Homemade)

Some days, you just don’t have the time or equipment to mix yourself a mint julep. Inspired by a bottle of Maker’s Mark’s own pre-mixed mint julep, this was the second experiment that DBS set up for me to try. It was, essentially, a mint infusion of the whisky, that had been left for roughly a week.

The very start of the nose reminded me of a fresh mint julep, with the wood mingling with the mint, before it faded into a sweet, slightly vinegary note that reminded me of homemade mint sauce.

Smooth and light, the flavour was fresh and neither sweet, nor dry; I wouldn’t sweeten it at all, personally, because I think it takes away from the freshness. The charred wood is there again and I thought I got the slightest hint of coffee at the end. The mint, following on from the nose, again reminds me of mint sauce and so, whilst I don’t think this would ever replace a mixed julep (especially not a DBS deluxe julep, with at least three shots of bourbon), I thought this was very drinkable nonetheless and an interesting twist on a more traditional julep.

In conclusion…

What I really enjoyed about this tasting was its experimental nature and how we were inspired to try a couple of different ways of drinking bourbon. The liqueur, once tweaked, was lovely, and I look forward to trying a similar recipe with other bourbons. However, the premixed mint julep – which we will definitely be making another batch of – was definitely my favourite and worked particularly well with the Maker’s Mark, because its was so smooth and full of fresh, light flavours.

– Mrs. B