Before I really got into whisky, my spend on liquor was mainly split between blends (mainly Jameson) and bourbons (mainly Jim Beam). Nowadays, as I discover more and more whiskies I predominantly purchase single malts. However, I do make sure I have a blend and a bottle of bourbon stocked on my shelf. When I started to get into whisky I was excited by trying the array of bourbons on the market. I enjoy the general flavour profile or Bourbons. You will notice from my reviews, especially the earlier ones, that I have covered many of the widely available bottles and bottlings that are not so easy to find.
Out of my first 60 reviews, 21 are for bourbons. That’s 1 in 3 bottles I had purchased in the first year of taking tasting notes were bourbons. At the time of writing this article I have another 140 reviews to put on this site and I can only spot 2 bourbons amongst them. This is partly due to vast amount of single malts on the market in comparison to bourbons. However, it is mainly due to the lack of variety in flavour that I am finding with each new one that I try. There are only so many variations on vanilla you can get. The only progression I have noticed from drinking entry level bourbons to higher proof singe barrels is that you get more intense flavours and some additional notes (maybe menthol, cherry, leather, tobacco etc.). Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan this flavour profile, but I can’t see where else distillers can go with it. Not that it must go anywhere, but for me I struggle to see bottles that I have not tried on the market that I would want to try.
There are a couple of bourbons that provide a slight variation on the typical bourbon flavour profile. The most notable of which is Maker’s Mark due to wheat content. The other is Basil Hayden’s, which is heavily rye influenced I believe. Angel’s Envy is another one that sticks in my mind for all the wrong reasons. This one is matured in port barrels for part of the maturation process and I found this influence a bit too sickly for my liking. It just didn’t appeal to me and has put me off whiskies aged in port casks.
There is a bottle on the market that I have yet to try but intend to purchase a sample and that is Jefferson’s Ocean Aged at Sea. This one has been matured on a boat with the idea that the bourbon would take some of that coastal influence. I am sceptical but am willing to give it a try due to my fondness of coastal flavours.
Another one to note is High West’s Campfire which is a blend of peated single malt form Bruichladdich (I think), rye and bourbon. I have not tried this yet but it does sound intriguing, although I have not read or seen any reviews that rate it highly.
There are distilleries out there trying to experiment and push the boundaries of what bourbon can offer, however I am not convinced that any of these will push bourbon to another level on par with scotch single malts in terms of variety and complexity of flavours. Nevertheless, I will always have a bottle of Eagle Rare 10 to hand for whenever I need my bourbon fix.