It being Super Bowl Sunday, I headed to the nearest bar without a TV, but with an exceptional view: a wall o' whiskey.
Because this is it, folks. Final showdown in my 30-day challenge to drink 33 whiskies. And it all came down to Jim Beam soft red wheat bourbon against Jim Beam brown rice bourbon.
The match up seemed pretty even. Both 11 years. Both 90 proof. I can tell you right now this is not the Jim Beam you tipped back (quickly) during college, which I think is the last time I tried Jim Beam. These are more well-aged, refined, post graduate bourbons.
Everybody needs their escape sometime – whether it’s avoiding that final paper or avoiding football. And I would say that Jim Beam seems to be able to deliver in both categories.
Jim Beam Brown Rice Bourbon
What I knew: Straight bourbon with brown rice, 11 years, 90 proof
What I learned: So my first question is, can I consider this healthier because of the brown rice? My mind was already racing with food pairings, including some pineapple fried rice I had last night with brown rice, squid, chicken, and shrimp. Or maybe a farro salad?
This one had a caramel and toasted smell but was spicier, and a little earthier. It was rich like a meal or snack and softened up with a little water. It was recognizable, but with a hint of something different. Not bad, but...
Jim Beam Soft Red Wheat Bourbon
What I Knew: Straight bourbon with soft red wheat, 11 years, 90 proof
What I learned: It was deep caramel on the nose with a lot of wood. It smelled rich and definitely had a strong flavor on the tongue. But then it became more soft and floral. With a little water, it was even smoother…with a slight aftertaste of new car and grass. After a few minutes, it started to take on that fleece blanket appeal. Let me just curl up in your coziness. The last sip left me with a definite smile.
I give the soft red wheat the win. If drinking is about winning, but I tend to think about whiskey as more…everybody wins.
So that was #32 and #33. What happened to #31? Well, that was the Knob Creek bourbon I tried a couple of days ago. I tried it first in Colorado and tried it again in Brooklyn. It held up in both places. It’s a classic bourbon well done.
Knob Creek Straight Bourbon Whiskey
What I knew: 100 proof, aged 9 years
What I learned: It’s soft and classic with vanilla, caramel, and a little char. When you want a bourbon flavor, this seems like it would be along the lines of what you are thinking of. I guessed a less proof originally because it does not seem overproofed. It has a richness with an aftertaste of marshmallows. I can see this pairing extremely well with a caramel brownie.
So that's really it. 33 whiskies. Did I finesse my palate enough? That's inconclusive. I may have to make this my annual challenge. Is it January again yet?