Kentucky Bourbon Round 3 – Jefferson’s Reserve VS Maker’s 46 (Champ)

It’s been a few years since I’ve done a Kentucky Bourbon battle so let’s get to it! The winner of the previous round was Maker’s 46 and now it’s up against Jefferson’s Reserve.


1) Jefferson’s Reserve (Challenger) (Hand numbered 1800/2400 bottles, batch #90) – 45.1% ABV – 750ml, (Louisville, KY, USA), $73 CAD (5/2011) @ BCLiquor Stores

  • a blend of 4 bourbons of differing ages
  • the real wood bottle stopper and rubber cork came apart after the 1st opening, 5 years after I purchased the bottle…

2) Maker’s 46 – 47% ABV – 750ml, (Loretto, KY, USA), $60 CAD @ BC Liquor Stores

  • made with corn, red winter wheat, barley malt.
  • patented hand-dipped wax sealed top
  • 10 toasted French oak staves are added to the barrel and aged for 2-3 months to impart a spicier, more intense caramel and vanilla flavour profile while maintaining their signature “tip the of tongue” finish.
  • Back_To_The_Barrel_2_266

Criteria:

Nose: Jefferson’s Reserve (JR) has a subdued nasal tingliness with gentle toffee-caramel and rubbing alcohol. Only mildly offensive. Maker’s 46 (M46) is about 2 levels more aggressive in both nasal attack and aromatics. JR is definitely more approachable whilst you could argue that M46 has more character. Verdict = JR edges it out, the caramelness is more appealing.

Taste & Texture: One sip of JR, and then a sip of M46 – wow the difference is like night and day. JR comes off as a thin-but-smooth with toasted light caramel-oak, sweet honey, cinnamon, mild vanilla, lacking length and punch. M46 is thicker on the palate, has a bigger caramel profile whilst being more numbing and carrying more heat. JR clearly has more sippable subtle complexity while M46 comes across as bold and harsh, more suitable in a cocktail. Verdict = JR comes across as more refined and palatable


Final Notes:

  • Jefferson’s Reserve has a sweet & SMOOTH, toasted light oak, caramel, honey, sippable quality
  • Maker’s 46 has a straightforward throat-burning, tongue numbing, oak, vanilla, spicy, off-dry, and harsh alcohol.
  • Jefferson’s Reserve to sip, Maker’s 46 in a cocktail

WINNER = Jefferson’s Reserve

Kentucky Bourbon Round 2 – Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve (Challenger) VS Maker’s 46 (Champ)

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Round 2 of Kentucky Bourbons. Round 1 was here. Tonight we have a somewhat disparate comparison of the Knob Creek Single Barrel 9YO to a possibly-single barrel w/ oak staves 6-8YO+several months, Maker’s 46.

1) Knob Creek Single Barrel 9YO (Challenger)– 60% ABV – 750ml, (Clermont, KY, USA), $59 CAD @ BCLiquor Stores

  • made with corn, rye, barley malt.
  • each barrel is somewhat unique in flavour profile due to its placement in the warehouse and duration of barrel aging, 9 years being the minimum.
  • Double Gold @ 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition

2) Maker’s 46 – 47% ABV – 750ml, (Loretto, KY, USA), $60 CAD @ BC Liquor Stores

  • made with corn, red winter wheat, barley malt.
  • patented hand-dipped wax sealed top
  • 10 toasted French oak staves are added to the barrel and aged for 2-3 months to impart a spicier, more intense caramel and vanilla flavour profile while maintaining their signature “tip the of tongue” finish.
  • Back_To_The_Barrel_2_266

Criteria

Nose: Knob Creek is up first, and only a medium tingly nasal sensation accompanied by a medium alcohol detection; surprising for 60% abv. Mainly oaked caramel, but otherwise rather muted. In comparison, Maker’s has a noticeably rounder, denser, more aromatic nose consisting of sweeter caramel/toffee, mixed with a toastier burnt wood backdrop. KC = light-caramel+alcohol, Maker’s = thick toasted caramel. Clearly Maker’s 46 is more aromatic.

Taste & Texture: KC flavour builds up softly, starting with a lot of sweet cornmeal up front, spicy hot oaked caramel (rye), intense alcoholic heat + nasal warmth, licorice tongue numbness, extra-long smooth warm finish, all the way down to the very depths of the throat. After drinking KC @60%, Maker’s at a paltry 47% almost seems like water, no joke. Maker’s has a markedly sweeter start(winter wheat), transitioning into a much less spicy toastier oaked caramel with sourness, and about 1/2 the heat and numbness, but surprisingly jagged and unclean compared to KC. KC = light fruity caramel +HEAT, Maker’s = sweet-tangy toasted caramel. It was a hard choice, but KC edged it out with its clean finish. After a month of back-and-forth casual re-tastings, my drink of choice is Maker’s 46. 60% ABV is just way too much; you gag if you don’t swallow properly and half the time it gives me sore throat…

Final Notes:

  • Going into this I actually liked 46 more at first, but actually in essence it depends on what you like. KC is like a bullet train that rips off your toupée, while Maker’s is like a local train that has a lot of activity at every stop (sip).
  • Go Maker’s for flavour, Knob Creek for clean, round smoothness.
  • Knob Creek Single Barrel gives me occasional hiccups and a sore throat.

WINNER = Knob Creek (New Round 2 Champ) Rescinded. Maker’s 46 is still champ.

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Kentucky Bourbon Round 1 – Maker’s 46 VS Buffalo Trace

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Round 1 of Kentucky Bourbons. Strictly made in Kentucky just to keep things simple but I think I’ll mix up the price ranges from low to high just to get an idea of what’s good out there.

1) Maker’s 46 – 47% ABV – 750ml, (Loretto, KY, USA), $60 CAD @ BC Liquor Stores

  • made with corn, red winter wheat, barley malt.
  • patented wax sealed top
  • why the name 46? This is the 46th variation of 125 recipes attempted to create something new.
  • 10 toasted French oak staves are added to the barrel and aged for 2-3 months to impart a spicier, more intense caramel and vanilla flavour profile while maintaining their signature “tip the of tongue” finish.
  • my dated review of Maker’s Mark original here (C+)

VS

2) Buffalo Trace – 45% ABV – 750ml, (Franklin County, KY, USA), $40 CAD @ Aristocrat Liq 82nd (Edm)

Criteria:

Nose: Starting with Maker’s 46, I immediately get toasted oak, burnt rubber, thick caramel with a touch of honey, vanilla, and a medium level of alcohol detection, though not much nasal burn. Buffalo trace seems more “watered down” in comparison; perhaps it’s the lighter colour that’s throwing me off. In any case, BT has kind of a orange-marmalade citrus-caramel going on, but not as much caramel intensity, and a noticeably more nasal burn. Maker’s = caramel candy, BT = fruity caramel, kinda soapy. My preference is Maker’s 46.

Taste & Texture: Maker’s has boatloads of sweetness up front, mainly caramel, toasted oak, bold vanilla, lots of alcohol heat and nasal warmth, licorice numbness, followed by hot spiciness at the finish. BT feels less thicker, but a gradual build up of apple-pie fruity yet cinnamon/nutmeg-spiced, mild sourness, huge licorice/nutmeg numbness, light-medium heat, somewhat drier finish than 46. Maker’s = bold caramel + heat/length, BT = fruity-floral +numbness. It really depends on what you like in a bourbon, but I like Maker’s 46 more.

Final Notes:

  • Maker’s 46 is more expensive than Buffalo Trace ($60 vs $40, which are both OVERPRICED anyways here in BC…)
  • Maker’s has bolder flavours, and longer length, but more burn and heat.
  • Buffalo Trace is slightly smoother when sipping, and exhibits more composure,
  • Bottom line: Maker’s 46 will definitely hold up better when diluted as a mixer. Both are decent sippers, but Maker’s will stay on your palate longer.

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WINNER = Maker’s 46 (Round 1 Champ)

Maker’s Mark Kentucky Bourbon (USA)

Maker’s Mark Kentucky Bourbon, 45% ABV – 750ml, (Loretto, KY, USA)

On the side label:

“Maker’s Mark is America’s only handmade bourbon whisky-never mass produced. Each batch is small-less than 19 barrels-which means we can be choosy about everything we use and everything we do to craft our whisky. That’s why we use the old-style sour-mash method; each new batch of fermentation begins with a little of the last. The results are a more consistent whisky which is unique and full-flavoured.”

  • Style: Kentucky Bourbon
  • My Rating: C+
  • Taste Profile: Alcohol/Sweetness -> maple/caramel/vanilla/cinnamon -> tingly/warmth finish.
  • Where I got it: BC Liquor Stores
  • How much: $41, Summer 2012
  • Do I love this enough to drink it again: no
  • Would I recommend this to whisky aficionados: yes

Tasting notes: pours clear caramel copper brown. A nice bright sweet vanilla maple nose. Drinks with a high alcoholic/numbness up front, nice caramel 8/10-persistent sweetness, cinnamon, vanilla, nutmeg, maple, ending with heat, warmth, tingliness, and light burn. Sweet, not terribly complex or dynamic – a solid mixer, not quite a sipper.