Happy World Whiskey Day!
So let's talk about Cognac! I mean bourbon.
When I think about spirits I look for two things: complexity and balance. If one component is overdone: too much alcohol? over-oaked? – I’m out. If it’s too simple – I’m bored. I will always search out truly contemplative spirits; the ones that make me ponder the craft, artistry and time that has gone into producing every drop of the liquid I’m consuming. I want to sit and think as I savor it with no chaos, no electronic devices and, if I’m honest, no company. But it takes a truly special drop to get me to that place.
I’m drawn in particular to Cognac; a spirit that one might think is over-priced but, when you realize the artistry that goes into blending the “Eaux-de-vie” and the sheer amount of time it spends in a damp cellar in the French countryside to reach its full potential (up to 50 years or more in some cases), it begins to seem like an absolute bloody bargain!
The end results of this patience, attention to detail and sheer artistry are irreplicable by any other means and the rewards are great. Layer upon layer of otherworldly aromas and flavors you didn’t know existed that can embed themselves deep into one’s memory for all time. So when I found a bourbon that brought me the same kind of joy and excitement as my beloved Hors d’ Age Cognacs I could barely wipe the smile from my face.
W.B. Saffell is part of the Whiskey Barons' lineup from Campari. It pays tribute to William Butler Saffell, who began distilling as a teenager and built his first distillery in 1889. This bourbon is inspired by the delicate spirit he produced at the time and is the first in the collection to have legendary Master Distiller Eddie Russell working on the spirit. A blend of 6, 8, 10, and 12-year-old Kentucky straight bourbons, it's non-chill filtered and bottled at 107 proof. The distillate is all made at Wild Turkey in Lawrenceberg, KY with their 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley mashbill. (Stats from our friends at K&L Wines)
Boy, is this good stuff! This might just possess the most complex nose of any whiskey I have ever tasted - and I include some incredibly fine Scotch on that list! Over a rich base of caramelized orange peel are layers of spices, herbs, brown sugar, vanilla, sweetcorn, burnt toffee - even earth and wild grasses; each of the many components revealing themselves differently with each sniff. I could spend five minutes just nosing this bourbon before even putting lips to glass, but when that first sip comes it fills every corner of the mouth with impeccably balanced, complex flavors that echo the nose: Full-bodied, sweet, earthy, and incredibly satisfying. Unlike many offerings in the increasingly-trendy “cask-strength” category this bourbon is perfectly weighted. Its 107-proof serves only to deliver its rich flavor to the palate with an insanely long and satisfying finish without setting one’s mouth or throat alight in the process.
Balanced. Complex. Contemplative. This whiskey is most definitely the result of the patience, craftsmanship and meticulous attention to detail of a master craftsman. To him and his kind I am most grateful.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to be alone.
What's your favorite whiskey, and why?