This is the next in a series of lower cost bourbon reviews. Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond is a 6 year old bourbon which is sold only in Kentucky. It’s a standby as a budget bourbon in Kentucky, since it offers a quality taste at 100 proof for only $12 or $13. Onto the review:
A medium-dark copper color.
The nose is fairly sweet. Mostly brown sugar, with some citrus, plum, and of course some ethanol.
Up front I first notice the taste of oak and spice. As I hold it in my mouth the taste turns sweeter and I pick up sweetness. Tastes of plum, butterscotch, with some ginger.
The finish is medium-long and sweet. Brown sugar and butterscotch.
This is an enjoyable bourbon even without taking into account the low price. The mouthfeel is solid, which is often the downfall for a low cost bourbon. At first I noticed the oak notes as overly pronounced, but after coming back to the bottle the sweetness seems more balanced and I enjoy it more. Overall, you can’t go wrong with Heaven Hill Bottled-in-Bond if you’re lucky enough to live in Kentucky or be traveling through.
For the next few reviews I post I will review some budget bourbons as I try to gain experience tasting and sample a wider variety of tastes. A series of Bottled-in-Bond bourbon reviews will come up, since they are some of the best deals on the mid/bottom shelf. I will start off with a Heaven Hill product, Evan Williams Bottled in Bond AKA Evan Williams White Label. For the obligatory definition of bottled in bond I will quote the Evan Williams site:
“To be labeled as Bottled-in-Bond, a spirit must be the product of one distillation season and one distiller at one distillery, bottled at 100 proof and aged for at least four years under U.S. government supervision.”
The Bottled-in-Bond bourbons can be a good value for the higher proof they offer compared to other cheap bourbons. I paid about $15 for this bottle, which is almost as cheap as it gets for decent liquor.
A caramel color. Though Evan Williams themselves call it a “Bright Gold” so draw your own conclusions.
Not much ethanol on the nose. The overall impression is sweetness. Caramel and brown sugar stand out most. Trying to stretch my sense of smell and vocabulary I could pick up some banana, vanilla, and baking spices.
Sweet without too much ethanol burn. Not overly complex, I have trouble picking up much more than that impression of sweetness. Maybe some mild banana follows through there with some caramel flavor. Some oak comes around at the end to balance things out. Thinner mouthfeel compared to the Maker’s, but not as thin as some other bourbons I’ve tried.
A sweet finish with maybe some tinges of oak there too. Leaves a warm sweet taste in the mouth for a while.
Lives up to the billing I have heard elsewhere as a great value for money. Smooth bourbon without the roughness I would expect from alcohol on the cheaper end. The sweet taste is pleasant and the mouthfeel is not as thin as I had feared. Not a complex bourbon, or at least not that I could pick up on, but an enjoyable one.
Where better to start than by reviewing the most ubiquitous of all bourbons this side of Jim Beam? I will be adding posts in the future talking about the different aspects of a bourbon tasting and review in the future. For now, I wanted to start with a starting point review. I have read two quick articles (from Modern Thirst and Bourbon & Banter) on tasting whiskey, printed off a tasting wheel from the same source and jumped in. This is my first attempt at a bourbon tasting/review.
Weak coffee? Strong Tea? Light brown.
A fair bit of ethanol. Getting past that first impression I get a general idea of sweetness. If I try and push it, looking down at the wheel I could apply caramel, honey, and maybe brown sugar here.
After taking a sip and dutifully swishing the bourbon around a bit the first taste I notice follows the aroma closely. There’s a sweetness there, which could fit the honey/vanilla/caramel description well. After that, there’s a more bitter taste that I associate (correctly or incorrectly) with tannin and I would put this flavor down as oak. After that bitter burst the flavor mellows and tends back towards the sweet.
At this stage probably the most difficult thing to describe for me. After swallowing my mouth waters, I feel a warmth in my chest. It leaves a lingering taste of sweetness, but there are bitter notes there too.
A sweet bourbon (not surprising due to the wheat in the mashbill) that drinks fairly smooth. I picked Maker’s Mark to start with since it is often the first thing that comes to mind when most people hear the word bourbon. It is drinkable, sweet, and reasonably priced. It is also a less complex bourbon than some others which suits my lacking palette well at this point. After doing some more reading and drinking I hope to come back and improve on this first attempt at a review.