A Tale of Three Whiskeys

One of my favorite whiskies is Evan Williams Single Barrel. It’s a great bargain and a good bourbon. So, only having tried the EW green label in the past, I thought I might stack up the single barrel against some of the other EW labels. So, here we go…

Evan Williams Single Barrel

Evan William Single Barrle

86 proof, 7-8 years old

Aroma: smoky and woodsy
Taste: Single Barrel is smooth and lightly sweet with a hint of vanilla. a spicy note from the high rye content. It has a nice mouth feel, especially with an ice cube or a bit of water.

This is one of my favorite sipping whiskeys and can be found for under $30 if you look for it. I see it any where from $26-$30 in my area. As I’ve noted before, I like a high rye bourbon and EW Single Barrel doesn’t disappoint. Just the right amount of a peppery spice note keeps it interesting. It make a fabulous Manhattan.

Evan Williams Black Label

Aroma: Immediately you get the alcohol in your nose
First sip – neat: It’s definitely EW, the rye spicy note is there, a bit of caramel and vanilla. somewhat hotter than single barrel, but that’s to be expected from an 86 proof, probably 4-5 year old whiskey that only costs $12, I wasn’t expecting it to be Pappy.

2nd sip: Added a single small ice cube that sat for a few minutes
The aroma is still the same, but the taste is a tiny bit more mellow, if sipping this one, it’s definitely the way to go. I’d be more inclined to use this for cocktails though. Adding a couple more cubes to cool it down, smoothed it out even more, but there is still a bit of a bite at the end.

It makes a passable Manhattan, if in a pinch, but the hotness comes through in a big way. I expected the vermouth to tone it down a bit, but it really doesn’t.

Evan Williams 1783 Small Batch

86 proof, all EW says is that it’s “extra aged”, whatever that means, and claims it’s pulled from less than 200 barrels

Aroma: pleasant aroma, kind of a sweet woodsy smell
First sip, neat: Considerably smoother than the black label, but still a bit hotter than the Single Barrel. Nice spice notes.
2nd sip, single ice cube: Interesting that it tastes hotter with an ice cube than without.
3rd sip, more ice: smoothed it out a bit, vanilla pops out now.

Here’s my thoughts on 1783. It doesn’t seem to be a that much of a departure from the Black Label for a doubling in price. If I’m going to spend $24 (what I found it for) on 1783, I’d rather spend a couple more bucks and get the Single Barrel, it’s a much more enjoyable bourbon.

I just didn’t enjoy it in a Manhattan. It was off tasting for some reason.

The Verdict

And here’s what I think overall. Hands down, I’ll spend the money on Single Barrel, if I’m wanting a sipping whiskey. Nether of the other two were horrible, but there’s better whiskeys at the 1783 price point. But, if you’re making whiskey cocktails, the Black Label is a definite bargain.

Heaven Hill Distillery, one of my favorite distilleries, makes Evan Williams whiskeys. They also make Elijah Craig, which is another tremendous sub $30 whiskey.

Favorite Whiskey Cocktails

I love a good whiskey cocktail and prefer the classics: Old Fashioned, Manhattan, Sazerac, Boulevardier and the occasional sour. But my favorite, easily is the Manhattan. I’ve had, and made them with both rye and bourbon. Hands down, the way to go on any of these is to use a good rye. And currently, my rye of choice is Old Overholdt.

Old Overholt

Old Overholt is another one of those diamond in the rough finds. Smooth and spicy and very reasonably priced. Can easily find this for under $20. I think the last bottle I purchased cost me $16.

I rarely drink rye straight, but Overholt is smooth and balanced enough that I don’t mind a sip now and then. You’ll notice a different aroma from bourbon right off the bat, not near as smokey or woody as bourbon can be.

On the palette, the first thing I notice is that rye isn’t as like bourbon. You immediately get a spicy, peppery hit that follows all the way to the end. And this is what makes it a must in a Manhattan. That spicy note takes a cocktail from hohum to the next level.

Manhattan Cocktail

My sweet vermouth of choice is made by Gallo. The ratio I use is 2 to 1 rye to vermouth. Add 2-3 dashes bitters of choice. A maraschino cherry and a bit of juice. The top it off with a twist of orange or lemon peel – it’s a great refreshing cocktail.

I plan to try some other rye brands in the future, but for now, Old Overholt will do. I also would like to experiment with other bitters and vermouths. The offerings for those around here are slim, I think I can count the vermouths I can find on one hand with a wide ranging price. Other bitters I’ll have to order online most likely.

You can’t go wrong with Old Overholt, it’s a reasonably priced smooth and spicy rye. It would be a great choice to try if you’ve never ventured into ryes before. And if you haven’t tried many whiskey cocktails beyond a sour or a whiskey and coke, expand your horizons with a Manhattan or an Old Fashioned. You don’t have to spend a lot to get the ingredients and they’re just flat out delicious.

After you’ve played around with those two, then move on to the Boulevardier or the Sazerac. The ingredients cost a bit more, but they’re next level cocktails. Look them up at your local speakeasy.

Plantation Original Dark Rum

One of my favorite things is discovering unknown gems when it comes to whiskey or rum. Plantation Original Dark rum is absolutely one of those. Here’s how I came across this one. I was looking for a rum for Christmas eggnog and just didn’t want to go with a run of the mill mixing rum (you know which ones I’m talking about). Those just tend to taste like kerosene. I hoped to find something a little better but didn’t want to break the bank.

Plantation Original Dark Rum

I saw this one the shelf, and being familiar with the Plantation label, decided to try it. If you never tried their pineapple rum then go now and by that and this one.

Quick description from the Plantation web site. It’s a blend of 1-3 year Barbados rum and 10-15 year old Jamaican rum. After blending, it’s aged for 3-6 months in the south of France. Oh, and it’s a molasses based rum, as opposed to sugar cane.

I found this for under $20. It blew me away! I had a buddy who loves rum try it. It blew him away. It hits every note one is looking for when drinking a rum without any harsh notes of the aforementioned kerosene rums.

Taking a smell I get the caramel with a slight wood underneath. When trying a new drink, I always smell it first. I like the aroma.

The taste is thick with slightly sweet caramel. And when I say thick, I do mean thick from a mouth feel standpoint. If you haven’t sipped many rums, my favorites always have this mouth feel to them. Thick, but not like cough syrup thick, just the feeling you get in our mouth. Don’t know how else to describe it.

I don’t quite get the spicy notes the web site speaks of, maybe a touch of pepper, but in a good way. It’s smooth and goes down well. I do get a bit of a smokey oak taste on the back end. No harshness, no bite.

I do like my rums neat and cold and prefer no ice. Where as whiskey tends to like a little water, I don’t with rum. Chill it and drink it neat. I’ve tried whiskey stones, I’m kinda indifferent on them, I’ll do a review soon.

If you want to try a sipping rum and don’t want to get into a lot of money, this is a great one to start with. I have a feeling it just may become my house rum, with the occasional splurge on 1888.

1888 8 Year Old Rum

I do have a liking for a good rum. But it has to be good. One that can be enjoyed and sipped like a good whiskey. 1888 is up their, it’s one of the best rums I’ve come across.

1888

1888 is a smooth sipping rum that has been aged for 5 years in ex bourbon oak casks, then finished for 3 in sherry casks. It has a sweet aroma with a caramel mouth feel. It’s not overly sweet and has a slight floral finish.

I’m not a very good taster, don’t always know how to describe what I’m tasting. I just know this is dang good and everyone that’s tried it has loved it.

I prefer it neat but cold. Adding ice does change the mouth feel, almost thicker in the mouth after the ice melts a bit. Still a great drink, I just like it neat a bit better.

You can check out the 1888 site here for a bit more info. This falls into my highly recommend category.

Fly Fishing In New Mexico

Just got back from a much needed vacation in New Mexico and managed to go fly fishing for the first time while there. Thanks to the good wife, she booked me a quick 2 hour trip with Robert Fellows up in Red River, where we were staying.

I can’t say enough about how much fun it was! Robert is a great guide and I managed to even hook a couple of brown trout in the process. In the short 2 hours, Robert is a great instructor and was a hoot to hang out with on the Red River with. If you’re in the Red River area, look him up.

I’m hooked as well, pun intended. I’m now on the lookout for some fly fishing gear. It’s just such a fun way to fish. The Red River valley in New Mexico is truly a beautiful place. I’m really looking to getting back there soon. I’m totally in love with the place.

Many thanks for a great time Bobby! I hope to be back again next year.

Gear Review: Mora 612 First Impressions

Being a hunter and outdoorsman, I love good knives. I only wish I had the budget for a really great field knife. There are some sweet custom knives out there I see in the magazines that I would love to own someday. But one knife that I frequently see mentioned are those made by Mora of Sweden. Swedish steel seems to have a very strong following and their fans will tell you its some of the best steel out there. But the one differentiating thing about Mora is their affordability.

But how can a good knife be so cheap?

Mora has some great reviews, but I was still skeptical. That is until I saw Cody Lundin using one on Discovery’s Dual Survivor show on an episode. OK, I’ll bite. I’ll order one and see how they are. Besides, they’re cheap. If it isn’t any good, I haven’t wasted a lot of money on the thing.

So I ordered the Morakniv Classic 612. From what I could tell, Cody had the Classic #2, but I liked the finger guard on the 612, just for a little more safety. I read through all the reviews and knew what to expect.

Upon its arrival, I immediately checked the sharpness of the blade. Not bad. I could feel a little bit of roughness like it just needed some honing, but it went through a piece of paper OK. The first thing one notices is the difference in the bevel on the blade, it’s much wider than the short bevels of most American knives, more on this in a moment. The next thing I noticed was how good the knife felt in my hand. The handle was perfect for me. It has a great feel. The only thing I was initially disappointed in is the sheath. They aren’t giving away anything there and probably why their knives are so inexpensive, there’s nothing in that sheath. It’s made of some very thin plastic. The other noticeable thing is that the top of the knife is very rough and unfinished. Most people clean that up some, from what I’ve read.

The first thing I used the knife on was the pheasant and quail from my last hunting trip. I used it to clean the birds when I got home. It did a good job, but cutting through the wing bones seemed to rough the edge up a bit more. The shape of the knife blade is perfect for cleaning up small game. I don’t think it would do well on large game like deer, as the blade feels a little light for that kind of work. But I could be wrong there, we’ll have to wait and see. If you do your own butchering, it might do well for deboning. Maybe. I’ll need to ask my buddy that does his own butchering.

After I finished with the birds, I took a stone to the blade. This is where that bevel really comes in handy. This was one of the easiest knives to sharpen. Since the bevel is so wide, it easily lays across the stone, making it a breeze to sharpen. And it really takes an edge. After a few passes on the stone, it went through a piece of paper like butter. Easy sharpening is a big plus for me there.

So that’s the first impression. There’s some good things about it. It takes a great edge and its very affordable. The sheath is flimsy and the knife blade feels a little light for any type of heavy duty field use, but I really haven’t put it through its paces there yet. I’ll post some updates as I use this more. But really, for the price, less than $20 shipped, not sure you can really go wrong with this.