Friday, May 11, 2012

Bulleit vs. Knob Creek

In tonight's attempt at tasting something new I've decided to give bourbon a shot to work on my taste buds. For the taste test I've chosen between Bulleit and Knob Creek bourbons. Since I am not a bourbon drinker, I decided to have both with about one or two fingers of bourbon with a couple of rocks and a glass of water on the side. I started with the Bulleit.

According to the Bulleit Bourbon website:

In the 1830s, as a tavern keeper in Louisville, Kentucky, Augustus Bulleit set himself on a mission: to create a bourbon unique in flavor. Just as bourbon lovers today may sample many brands before finding their favorite, Augustus decided to experiment too — by creating bourbons of many different types and tastes. After countless small-batch trials, he came upon a bourbon with the character he had been seeking. While transporting barrels of his bourbon from Kentucky to New Orleans, Augustus Bulleit vanished.

Ok, so this story is interesting. I like that. An air of mystery and an awesome back story to enjoy while I sip on the Bulleit. At first smell the bourbon has a nice sweet aroma with a caramel color to it. At the first sip the Bulleit gave my tongue a pleasant burning tingle along the front and the sides. Especially along the left side of my tongue. But I really couldn't place the flavor behind it. On the second glass I could finally taste a bit of a smoky essence. A bit of a burnt wood essence. I would gather that it has to do with the casks that the bourbon undoubtedly sits in while maturing. For the record, the smoky flavor is due to the charred American oak barrels that the bourbon sits in until it's ready.

After a break of about an hour (to let my taste buds get back to normal) I gave the Knob Creek a try. Again, I had a couple of fingers worth with a couple of rocks in the glass with water on the side. According to the Knob Creek Bourbon website:
Knob Creek® started like most good things start, with a glass or two of bourbon. Booker Noe, late master distiller emeritus, started to wonder “What would happen if we made a bunch of special bourbons, in small batches, and made each one exceptionally different?” Not wanting to make “just another bourbon,” Booker started to think about what differences he could put into the crafting, and he landed on several truths. Pre-prohibition whiskies were made the way whiskey was always meant to be:

• Strong and rich in flavor
• Made in extremely small batches
• Crafted with care and patience

This was exactly what Booker wanted to capture when he created Knob Creek®.

Based on the recommendation of my friend Pete, I let the Knob sit for a few since it's 100 proof. I didn't realize that the Knob was stronger than the Bulleit (it's 90 proof). At first sniff I notice that the Knob doesn't have a strong aroma and is not too sweet as compared to the Bulleit. The Knob is definitely not having the same kind of "tingly" effect on my taste buds as the Bulleit did. Not that its a bad thing in any way, its just different. I have to admit that for it being a stronger bourbon in terms of proof, the Knob Creek went down smoother than the Bulleit. I didn't feel any type of harshness either on my tongue or down my throat. My tongue actually felt quite nice (that could be a combination of both bourbons) and that's not something that I've said after having a few drinks.

So where so I stand on the bourbons. Both are good and tasty bourbons that I wouldn't hesitate to recommend, though I have to give a bit of a nod to the Knob Creek Bourbon for my personal consumption.

Any recommendations? Suggestions?

Here are two recipes I found on the respective Bulleit and Knob Creek websites:

(Serves 12)
15oz of Bulleit Bourbon
30-40 Fresh Mint Leaves
Simple Syrup Solution (1 cup Sugar and 1 cup Water)

Wash mint leaves, pat dry and put them in a small mixing bowl. Cover with 3 oz of Bulleit Bourbon and let soak for 15 minutes.

Remove mint, then place in a clean cotton cloth and wring over bowl, bruising the leaves. Dip back into bourbon and wring again. Repeat several times to create mint extract. Set extract aside for one hour. You can also put the leaves back in the extract for a more concentrated mint flavor.

Combine mint extract (leaves included, if preferred) with simple syrup in a covered glass container or jar and refrigerate overnight.

Fill julep cups with crushed or shaved ice and insert a fresh mint sprig. Add 1 oz of Bulleit Bourbon to each cup. Add marinated julep mixture to taste.

2 oz Knob Creek
2 dashes Angostura® bitter
1 splash water
1 tsp sugar or sugar cube
1 maraschino cherry

Mix sugar, water and Angostura bitters in an old-fashioned glass.
Drop in a cherry and Muddle into a paste using a muddler or the back end of a spoon.
Pour in bourbon, fill with ice cubes, and stir.

Happy Drinking,
Sisco Vanilla