Sitting alone at a bar with just a glass or two of whiskey can be a very intimate experience. Spending time with a whiskey and trying to figure out what makes that whiskey unique. Smelling it, feeling it, tasting it. Trying to learn about it – learn its personality and secrets. In a way, it’s like writing a letter to someone in the old-fashioned hand-written way when you sit down with a pen and paper and spend a half hour or hour with someone in your mind as you write to them.
It can be frustrating when you are trying to express what you feel – or taste – but can’t quite find the words. That moment when you are on the edge of a memory that you are trying unlock. That taste, that familiar but elusive taste, what is it? Why do I know it? The experience can be, oddly, emotional.
My challenge to myself is to taste – really, spend time with and taste – 33 whiskies in less than 30 days. They are whiskies I think I should know and have either never properly met or just don’t quite remember. And along the way I want to learn to nose, to taste, to articulate the flavors so they are no longer just “tastes like a bourbon,” “tastes sweet,” but instead they are living memories in my mouth and my mind. I like most whiskies, so it’s not really about discovering what I like or don’t like, but what I like about each one. And why.
Is it possible? We’ll find out.
Today’s new acquaintances:
Michter’s US-1 Bourbon and Old Grand-Dad 114.
Starting with Michter’s:
What I already know – it’s a traditional bourbon, small batch.
What I discover - It’s light on the nose, but as I drink, that nose turns to candy corn. It’s soft and sweet, and drips off the insides of my mouth with a honey feel. I think of light spice, cotton candy, and wood. And slightly floral, like a perfume that I would definitely wear. My image – like opening a door to an attic.
At the same time: Old Grand Dad 114
What I already know – it’s high rye (and high proof)
What I discover – It’s richer on the nose and the alcohol makes my eyes water. With no water, the taste makes me think of wood and bamboo (even though I have never tasted bamboo) and cinnamon. With a little water, the spices open up – maybe some nutmeg? It lingers on the tongue, leaves the tongue hot, and has the whiff of gum drops. It also has a chalky feel, like powder. This one had a taste right after the tongue and before sliding down the throat that I couldn’t quite put my mind around. It was a place between tart and sweet, something like those chocolate oranges I used to get in my stocking that would break into pieces except doused with a big puff of cinnamon. My image – stiff-backed chairs. Sort of gave me a dusty feel. Like an old granddad, I suppose.