By Martin Isark
Ever asked for a Bourbon and been poured a Jack Daniel’s instead? It’s a common mistake: JD is actually a Tennessee whiskey, while bourbon is synonymous with Kentucky – all but a couple of brands of bourbon are made there, and Kentucky is the only state allowed to put its name on the bottle.
Apart from that, though, is there any difference between the production of Jack Daniel’s and its whiskey neighbours to the north? Well, only JD is charcoal filtered, which is supposed to alter both the aroma and flavour spectrum. Judging from this tasting and many others, there is more difference in smell and taste between two bourbons like Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark than between Jack Daniel’s and your average bourbon. As is the case with Scotland’s whiskies, the style of the distillery has a much more important influence on the eventual flavour.
After 30 years of prohibition in Kentucky, the booze industry had all but collapsed. Before, there had been around 2,000 distilleries; today there are just 11. After prohibition, to kick-start the barrel-making industry, a law was passed that all whiskey had to be matured in new American oak barrels. This imparts to the spirit the full force of new oak, those assertive coconut and creamy vanilla flavours that explain why so many of today’s drinkers prefer it mellowed with a mixer.
The law also meant there was a superfluity of second-hand barrels, which our own whisky industry was very happy to make use of. The bourbon distillers like to claim it’s the flavour from their whiskey that makes ours so good.
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Maker’s Mark Bourbon Kentucky Whiskey
A palate warmer which charms the tastebuds with a sweeter style of bourbon that, once swallowed, dispatches real heat to the palate, throat and beyond. If the style, size and price fits – put a bottle in the trolley. Tasted by Martin Isark
Woodford Reserve Bourbon Kentucky Whiskey
This is the Macallan of bourbon whiskeys – rich and smooth, with sweet red and yellow fruits blending with delicate coconut and new oak to perfection. If the price fits – put a bottle in the trolley.
Bulleit Bourbon Whiskey Kentucky
Not as flavoursome as Wild Turkey or as elegant as Woodford Reserve, but it will hit the spot if you are looking for a silky smooth sipping dram. Tasted by Martin Isark
Wild Turkey Rare Breed Bourbon Whiskey Kentucky
A high octane, palate warmer that charms the tastebuds with honey, coconut, peel fruit and American oak notes from sip to swallow. Want a top notch bourbon? If the price fits – put a bottle in the trolley. Tasted by Martin Isark
Old Samuel Blended Bourbon Whiskey Kentucky
Old Samuel is one of the blended bourbon brands on the shelves. Typically, these blends deliver red fruit, vanilla, spice, coconut and new American oaky notes. Tasted by Martin Isark
ALDI Clarke’s Old Kentucky Straight Sour Mash Whiskey Bourbon
This smooth Bourbon delivers notes of spice, red fruits, coconut, vanilla and American oak. At this price, it’s a steal – put a bottle in the trolley. Tasted by Martin Isark
Competing Brand: Makers Mark, Jim Beam, Wild Turkey & Woodford Reserve.
Blantons Straight from the Barrel Bourbon Whiskey
Blantons bourbon typically delivers notes of cereals, peel fruits, vanilla, spice, coconut and American oak. Too good for mixing with cola. Tasted by Martin Isark
Four Roses Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Four Roses is bourbon from Kentucky that typically delivers notes of cereals, peel fruits, spice that are complemented with vanilla, coconut and an American oak lick. The older the whiskey the more melded the notes are on the nose, palate and the swallow. Tasted by Martin Isark
Knob Creek 9 Year Old Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey
Knob Creek is a high octane premium bourbon whiskey produced by Jim Beam brands. Want a flavoursome fiery bourbon whiskey with a charred coconut oak lick for sipping or mixing? If the size and price fits – put a bottle in the trolley. Tasted by Martin Isark