Corner Creek Reserve Bourbon

Well, my readers, I must begin by apologize.  I’ve gone dark, slightly.  Not really, but my frequency dipped.  Anyways, that being out of the way, let me give you a little glimpse of your narrator, author—vice-roy, perhaps.  I have a little bit of a process on these articles.  Usually it starts by getting a bottle of hooch.  You probably could have guessed that.  If it’s a good bottle, I’ll stretch it out a bit; start out nights with a single pour.  I start to think on it, find the tastes, get an angle, if I can.  In this case, I have no angle really, but we’ll let that slide.  Once I’ve gotten down to a good bottle, usually I’ll leave that last couple drinks un-drunk.  Basically, I’ll grapple with the base impulses which are always at war within me.  The one that wants to do something creative, that wants to let my mind breath, if just for a couple meaningless paragraphs or a quick solo—and the lazy son of a bitch who just wants to lay back in his chair watching the X-Files for the 15th time and take the edge off with a light buzz.  Usually that lazy bastard wins, because, well, life is goddamn exhausting.  Occasionally the ambitious dude escapes, grabs up that last few pours—puts the bottle in front of him and starts to think.

He tries to rework that angle that ran across his mind on the way to work one day.  He looks at the website of his subject, tries to get the feel for how they present themselves, and tries to get their vibe.  Often, I’ll look at other reviews, amateur and otherwise—see if they’re just bullshitting notes or if maybe they caught something I hadn’t noticed.  A little bit of research, fact-checking, plagiarism.  That kind of shit.  Well, this has been my process tonight. In my research, I’ve found something quite interesting.  There are a lot of people who don’t have much to say about Corner Creek.  Some people have negative things to say.  Now, granted, maybe some of these people are snobs, who treat Blanton’s as their daily drink and occasionally do filthy things with bottles of Pappy Van Winkle.  Wretched perverts.  But then again, a lot of these people seem to be normal bourbon enthusiasts, and more to the point, they’re pulling the exact same notes out of this that I do— and they ain’t diggin’ it.  Before I go into it further, let me give you the rundown, the notes.

Starting on the nose, as any drunkard worth their slug is wont to do, we find Corner Creek is almost self-contradicting, with something like cola on leather underneath being overpowered by a light floral chamomile bouquet with warm vanilla and just a touch of dry oak.  It’s quite a lovely nose, unusual but inviting, and something I would consider splashing in my beard before a date.  If I had what could respectably be called a beard.  I’m trying, goddammit.  The first taste, too, is rather unusual.  While the flavor profile—light vanilla on the entry, a touch of rye, spice, some warm caramel and a nice crisp orange oil near the end—is not unusual itself, there is something unusual, which seems to be a sticking point in each review.  This bourbon is quite dry, almost like the mouthfeel of an old cabernet.  It’s quite unusual, and among the forum folks, quite controversial—but then again, I like cabernet.   The finish, upon which I can agree with some of my fellow tasters is a bit short, is not unpleasant, leaving you with a touch vanilla on a slightly dry palate that seems to ask for a splash more…

Corner creek

With the right Instagram edits it looks even drier!

So, for the most part, many of us tasters find a similar thing with this bottle.  But how do these tasting notes translate into a person’s feeling on the bourbon?  In the case of Corner Creek, quite greatly.  Some reviewers were offering to give their bottles away, some saying they didn’t understand it, but they liked it.  Quite a few people considered it undistinguished, but yet others seemed to find the dry notes distinctly and unwelcomingly out of style?  To be honest, I usually don’t put much stock in the other reviews when I do my “research,” but I found the controversy here quite interesting, and since I clearly have no other angle to this (un)creative ejaculation, I wanted to put in my two centavos down on this $26 argument.

My take on Corner Creek?  Distinct, and refreshingly so.  What makes Corner Creek so interesting to me, is that somehow it fits the mold of an almost quintessential bourbon in the flavors you find on the nose, in the taste, even on the finish—and yet, that touch of dryness to the wood has made a beautiful nose, and a highly controversial, and, in my opinion, interesting, flavor profile.  So while many reviewers out there found this to be flawed as an undistinct and dry bourbon, I find that in being dry it has a unique, and enjoyable distinctness.  Corner Creek may be just another band playing an old song, but there does seem to be a bit of a new twang to their sound.

Single Shot, Bam!—Jameson Black Barrel

The newest member (I’m pretty sure) to Jameson’s diverse line of Irish whiskies.  I have previously noted the role of the Irish in introducing me to the wonderful world of whiskey, and I’ll admit to quaffing my fair share of their main spirit, which is perhaps America’s best known Irish.  But I’m not reviewing that.  I’m reviewing the Black Barrel, Jameson’s more rebellious and slightly more expensive next step up the ladder.  I say next step up because there are so many products in their line that I have really lost track. Anyways, what distinguishes the black barrel is its considerable age jump over your standard Jame-O to 12 years, and the time that it spends its hibernation time splitting time between a bourbon barrel and a sherry barrel…like a somewhat damaged child of divorce.  That got dark (pun intended.)  So yeah, full disclosure, this is a single shot review, because dear ol’ dad and I drank the rest.  In the spirit of the single shot review, and in the furtherance of ending my sober rambling, down the hatch!

Jameo

Nose: Sweet, with vanilla, cherries, a bit of must, partly from the barley I suspect.  Maybe some spice too.

Taste:  The entry is very soft with some light vanilla and some nice round fruity notes, maybe that cherry I smelt, I suspect, and maybe something a bit lighter…apple? Pear? The flavor fades out clean with a bit of grainy grassiness before leaving just the slightest tad of oak on the tongue.

Final thoughts? A worthwhile jump from the $23 standard to the $35 Black barrel.  It’s delicate, infinitely quaffable, and while it has a level of complexity it’s very approachable, both in flavor and price; which I think is the point.  If you’re used to thinking of Irish Whiskey as a shot, perhaps this could be a nice next step on the ladder to appreciation for you.

Author’s note: I don’t actually down drinks for the single shot series—I’m a liar and a phony, and kind of need to take a few sips to get my thoughts straight. 

Embitterment: Phase one in which Doris gets her oats.

So, tonight is the beginning of something special, the first part of a multi-part review.  Bonus points if you get the reference.  Let me begin by introducing the subject of tonight’s profile:  Embitterment.  This company, if you lack basic reasoning skills, is a fresh new brand from the District of Columbia which sells—ding, ding, ding, that’s right—bitters.  Embitterment is a very new company, and a very small company.  So small and new I would have no idea they existed if it weren’t for the fact that one of the founders of the company is a fella I used to drunkenly jabber about the Clash and revolution with in college. Good guy.  Anyways, Ethan approached me when his company was getting ready to release their first commercially viable batches of bitters, undoubtedly familiar with the fact that I am now the #1 google search result for “E&J XO Brandy Reviews” and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse: either he sends me some delicious bitters, I make a lot of drinks, get jolly and write about them; or he murders my prize steed.  Not one to be intimidated, I woke up with a horse’s head in my bed and bitters in my mailbox.  Over the course of this sloshy mini-series I will go more into the profile of the company, their values, their goals, and their personal financial information.  Now, however, I feel it is appropriate to begin the series with a kind of control testing.

Embittered

For my first experiment I have Embitterment’s Aromatic Bitters and Orange Bitters serving up alongside two big boys of the industry, Angostura and Peychaud’s.  Ethan had recommended I conduct a baseline test before throwing these puppies in some cocktails, as a way of really getting to understand the profile of the product.  He had suggested I do this by putting a few dashes in some seltzer water to really let the flavors open up, and I agreed—it seemed logical, scientific and all that jazz.  Then I realized I rather loathe seltzer water.  I thought about doing it with a bit of tonic, or even some sprite or something—Angostura does actually make a lemon lime soda.  Then I thought, screw it, this blog is all about blues and booze—I’ll put it in a clear liquor.  Since vodka is icky I decided I will do variations on a theme: pink gin.  Traditionally pink gin is Plymouth gin and a dash of Angostura.  I went with Beefeater’s 24 and tonight’s challengers.  So, welp, here it goes.  First off, the established brands:

Angostura Bitters: Classic Aromatic

First off let me mention two things.  Yes, I screwed up, I wasn’t supposed to use London Dry Gin.  But Plymouth was more expensive.  Second, this isn’t pink at all; it’s kind of brackish looking.  Okay three, I didn’t chill it enough. The good news is that this is actually a pretty good medium for testing, as long as I put a ton of bitters in.  Anyways, if you’ve had any experience with bitters, it likely it was with the Caribbean classic Angostura.  The recipe from Angostura bitters, like most of the genre, came about first as some kind of digestive cure-all in Venezuela in 1824.  Basically, a lot of people assumed that mashing up a bunch of herbs and roots and shit with some hooch might make you feel better.  Remember, these were people who thought your health was controlled by humours.  Anyways, said Venezolano amigo’s recipe has been a long guarded secret, it’s oversized label a trademark, and the little drops themselves a classic cocktail additive.  Angostura’s flavor profile is dominated by a variety of root flavors, foremost among them in my mind is gentian root.  Can’t place that flavor?  New Englandah’s will recognize that flavor as the principle ingredient in Moxie soda.  On it’s on (yes, I just splashed bitters on my tongue) angostura is, as you’d expect, is bitter, spicy—think cinnamon and nutmeg, and a bit  vegetal, with a finishing note that seems to leave that part of my tongue numb.  Added to drinks, such as my brown gin, it really opens up with caramel and tons of that moxie flavor, with a bit of something I can’t place…juniper?  Oh, that’s right, gin.

Second up, Peychaud’s.  Peychaud’s bitters are just about as old (about 1830) as Angostura, and came about in much the same way—the crock of shit school of medicine.  Peychaud’s were my first entrée to the world of bitters, as at one point I tried to master the Sazerac, and Peychaud’s were a crucial part.  Rather quickly I resorted to putting endless dashes into my bourbon on a nightly basis, and even one night slugging them down on some kind of bet.  I may have bet myself I’d do it.  It wasn’t particularly pleasant.  When mixed with the proper accompaniment, however, Peychaud’s are quite pleasant.  Though similarly packing with gentian root, to my taste Peychaud’s are far more floral, are quite sweet in a very cane sugar type of way, and have a bit of licorice / anise—which make it clear why they’re the classic Sazerac, jiving perfectly with the Absinthe or Herb Saint.  The Peychaud’s also go perfectly for my whole pink gin thing—first because they actually make the gin pink, looks like a goddamn Cosmo pink, and second because the clean sweetness of it makes a perfect foil to the dry gin, and the licorice note seems to perfectly meet the juniper and grapefruit so prevalent in Beefeater’s 24.  I can see drinking this again, though not in public.  It’s pink and in a martini glass.

Now, ladies and gentlemen, it’s star time! Tonight, the stars of our show: Embitterment!

First off, it’s automatic, diplomatic, enigmatic, and aromatic. Aromatic bitters, that is.  First thing of note, these bitters are stealthy!  They have very little color compared to the older contenders, which I imagine means these are a bit more au natural.  Now, it’s hard to say if I just put more bitters in, or if these just pack more of a punch, but wowww.  Anise is huge here, with a lovely bit of root spice, a tad of citrus and a very light, soft sweet note that kind of remind me of elderflower liqueur.  In the world of bitters varieties are opportunities, and these offer a distinct interpretation that undoubtedly will offer some delicious new twists to some of the classic cocktails I will tackle later.  Also, note to self, a little goes a long way—isn’t that the point of bitters in any cocktail?

The closer for tonight’s performance, another original, is Le Orange.  They don’t call it that; they just go with Orange Bitters.  I’m going to be honest here—I have very limited experience with orange bitters. I’ve had Regan’s once or twice, but these are a lively new experience for me.  They’re warm and round with maybe some brown sugar on the entry and then rich oily orange peel expressed vibrantly.  Little sweet vermouth and I’d have a perfect martini here.  I taste a world of opportunities, a new world to me…and I can’t wait to see what this does to an old fashioned.

Let me remind you folks, this is just an introduction, a teaser, a taster…if you will.  I haven’t really thought it through, but there’s going to be at least one more (possibly many more) installment(s) in the Embitterment review series, with more to come on the company, the mission, and the bitterness.

PS: Special perks to tonight’s medium, Beefeater’s 24, a lovely, floral and balanced gin.

Hot Shots, Volume I : Redemption Rye Whiskey

Usually when I write these reviews I buy a bottle, stretch it out for quite a while, coming back to it every once in a while until I realize it’s almost gone and, goddammit,  I need to write that review before I polish the bottle off.  Not tonight. Tonight I have one shot to get it right. or wrote…writ? Anyways, let’s let this 30 cl little sample speak for itself:

Nose: Little but a tad astringent, with a little honey sweetness, some very mild rye spice, and some not unpleasant woody must, which very well could be from the glass I put it in.

Taste: That honey is there initially, but is quickly overtaken by a hot dose of cinnamon that dances and sparks on the tongue, and heats the the throat as it winds it’s way down the hatch.  A little more burn than you’d expect at 92 proof, which is just bully by me.

Afterburn (finish):  That cinnamon sits just right and damn does than burn hang on, my throat is still toasty, and I’m finding that slight musty woodiness was, perhaps, in the bottle after all.

Thanks to Ben Winston for the Drinks by the Dram set!

Overall this was a lovely little taste, and has left me hankering perhaps for a touch more.  Alas, that little shot was all I had, but the little bugger had some spicy fury to it!  So, what’s the point of this single shot tasting method?  It’s to drink the little single shots and decide if I want more dammit, and I do.  Also, this good be a good training trick for my palate so I’ll stop being so damned lazy and get it right the first taste from now on.  (Not likely)