An Evening of Whiskey and Companionship

The idea was that bunch of guys get together with the idea of tasting a few  bourbons and hanging out. We all worked in restaurants and have had our share of whiskey.  We showed up with a bottle each–something decent, maybe even good for a Thursday night. That was before Dan showed up. Dan has run several bars, been an owner in a local restaurant group, and now worked as a liquor representative.  He knows drinks and drink making. He arrived with a roller bag filled with bottles, glasses, and a ham. It got real when he pulled out the ham.

Our host Kelly found some rolls and mustard, so we started cutting up the ham and making sandwiches. Kelly rounded up his girls, who patiently let their dad get his guests settled before asking for their bedtime rituals. Most of us were dads, so we had advice on corralling the kids, except for Dan, who as their uncle, chose to let Kelly deal with it. Dan set up shop and started teaching. The first lesson was about the distilleries. That most bourbon comes from one of a dozen or more distilleries. Once you know which distilleries makes which brands, finding a bargain was a matter of asking the right question.  Armed with that knowledge, we divided the whiskies into flights (less than .5 oz per whiskey), to better discern the differences and similarities. The commentary comes from my notes.

Bottle of JW Dant Special Reserve Bourbon. From
JW Dant Special Reserve

Three 4-year, 100 proof Flight

These were high-alcohol, hot bourbons.  We got these out of the way early, to be responsible and all. JW Dant Special Reserve is hot, sweet, with a short finish; Old Fitzgerald has a surprisingly smooth finish, with a light,  sweet taste; Medley Bros., spicy, full rich with a strong finish (high barley content). The JW Dant comes via the Heaven Hill distillery.  You can get it in 1.5 liter bottles (or “handles”)for less than a shot of Willet at a bar. The Old Fitz was tasty, and Medley Brothers comes from the recently reactivated Charles Medley Distillery and made for a good mixing whiskey.
12-year, 90 proof Flight

The Very Special Old Fitzgerald 12-Year is a wheated bourbon, which means the secondary grain is wheat as opposed to rye. This means it’s softer, with fewer spice notes and less sour taste. The Old Fitz had a nose of  musty wood, with brown sugar notes, but no funk; W.L. Weller 12-year, another wheated had vanilla and light spice notes, with a long finish; Elijah Craig 12-Year had a funky sugar taste, with wood, and a subtle hint of vanilla; Old Medley was vanilla notes, with coconut-spicy finish.

WL Weller 12 year bourbon
W.L. Weller 12-Year;

Weller Flight

By coincidence, we collectively brought multiple types of the W.L. Weller line, from the Buffalo Trace distillery in Frankfort, KY.  We all found the Weller bourbons to be pretty damn good across the board. The Special Reserve 90 was fruity, filled with of spice, with a smooth finish; Special Reserve 100-10 year had brown sugar, all types of spice notes, and a woody funk (in a good way); we tried the Weller 12-year again, for continuity (see above).

In between flights, we talked about music (Kelly was a guitarist and bassist; the other guys played with him at some point, except for Dan), like the Minneapolis Sound that preceded Prince, and the DC alternative scene in the late 80s and early 90s, which ranged from Minor Threat to Bad Brains to Velocity Girl, with some go-go thrown in. It’s weird to talk about the DC music scene in the past tense. But hell, that was 20+ years ago and no one under 30 knows half of the bands or clubs we were reminiscing about.
Then, we reached the last flight, which was really interesting.
Single Barrel

Wathen’s 94 proof is made at the Charles Medley Distillery. It’s 70% corn, with a smooth

Wathen Single Barrel
Wathen Single Barrel

vanilla taste and slightly funky; McKenna 104 proof, is a Heaven Hill product that was possibly the weirdest tasting whiskey I’ve ever had and I’m not sure if I actually liked it. It had hints of pineapple/tropical fruit, and wood notes; Four Roses was a  bourbon snob’s special for a while; spicy, with  brown sugar notes, and a long finish, it was 35% rye. This  group was the weirdest just from its variety.  The lack of blending with other barrels created some singular tastes.

Eventually, the ham ran out and no amount of water was going to dilute that much alcohol, even with the 3 hours that passed since the first sip. We helped Kelly clean up, said our goodbyes, and committed to a scotch tasting before the winter. Next time, cigars and poker may be involved.