Tasteless Tastings: Basil, Beam, Michter’s, Overholt and … scotch (!?)

The fab five.

Welcome to another edition of Tasteless Tastings, which is exactly what it sounds like: tasting notes from the riffraff. If you follow the liquor industry to any capacity, you probably have come across snooty tasting notes from classy people who make the new spirit sound more like a science experiment than something you consume for fun or to forget the world around you. I want to shoot gayly forward from the hip and tell you how it really tastes. So each time the nice mailman brings me a sample to try, I’ll gather up some friends and we’ll have a candid, lively and unpolitically correct discussion about said sample. So let’s do it …

What are we drinking today?:

Basil Hayden’s Two by Two Rye

Jim Beam Repeal Batch

Michter’s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Toasted Barrel Finish

Old Overholt Bonded Straight Rye Whiskey

Glenfiddich Fire & Cane

What the hell is it?:

Basil Hayden’s Two by Two: This is a blend of two Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskeys and two Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskeys.

Jim Beam Repeal Batch: This limited-time product was made to commemorate the 85th anniversary of the repeal of Prohibition. The bourbon is non-chill filtered and bottled at a higher proof (86) than regular Beam (80).

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish: After a three-year hiatus, Michter’s released another Toasted Barrel expression in August. It’s their standard US*1 Kentucky Straight Bourbon that is aged for an additional period in a second custom-made, toasted barrel.

Old Overholt Bonded Rye: It’s a new addition to the Old Overholt family, which dates back more than 100 years. It’s a bonded rye whiskey, meaning it’s aged for four years, bottled at 100 proof, and from a single distiller and distillation season.

Glenfiddich: This is the fourth and latest expression in the scotch’s Experimental Series. It’s a blend of both peated and non-peated scotch whisky, which was then finished in Latin rum casks, sourced from South America, for three months.

Give me the nerdy numbers: 
  • Basil Hayden’s Two by Two: 80 proof, $44.99
  • Jim Beam Repeal Batch: 86 proof, $17.99
  • Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish: 91.4 proof, $60
  • Old Overholt Bonded Rye: 100 proof, $24.99
  • Glenfiddich: 86 proof, $49.99
What do we think?: 

We did this a bit different, since we had five samples to taste. Instead of breaking them up and offering one at a time, here is the dialogue of the entire session. We picked the order based on proof, going from low to high — except the scotch, which we saved until the very end.

As you might assume from a panel of Kentucky bourbon drinkers, they did not care for the scotch whatsoever. This DOES NOT mean the scotch is bad or unworthy. It just means these bourbon snobs are quite prejudice when it comes to the broad category of whiskey. Sipped on its own, not after four tasty bourbons, the scotch is actually quite flavorful and unique, especially with the rum finish.

So, don’t hate them for hating the scotch. I’d just thought it’d be fun to throw in a curve ball.

And here we go, starting with the Basil Hayden’s Two by Two

Britany: (Looking at the color) It makes me want to paint! (After taking a sip) It’s hitting the back of the roof of the mouth. I’m going numb down the throat … I’m going to have trouble with these.

Cara: It’s OK … I”m not feeling excited about it. I find it boring. I don’t feel the hug.

Britany: I find it subtle … I could drink it all day. It does feel kind of thin, though.

Anna: I really like it. It’s caramel-y and delicious. Even better cold (after adding an ice cube). This is a glass of trouble.

Bar Belle: It’s buttery and spicy. If it was a Spice Girl, it’d be Butter Spice.

Next up was the Jim Beam Repeal Batch

Cara: It tastes oaky, like you’re sucking on a popsicle stick. It’s OK, it’s not my favorite. A little boring.

Britany: It’s spicy! It’s making my eyes water and it feels like I have a sore throat. And it’s not getting any better with ice.

Anna: I’m gonna grow a beard here in a minute drinking this! It’s not bad, though. I call this the “Welcome to Kentucky.” I like it better with ice.

Tracy: This is old man whiskey. It’s not bad, there are just no sweet overtones. The ice blands it out.

Bar Belle: If this was a Spice Girl, it’d be Spicy Spice.

Next it was on to the Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish 

Anna: It toasted my tongue! It’s burning my mouth, but I love every minute of it. Notice that beautiful amber color — it’s like the Jurassic Park bourbon amber! It’s sweet and nice and sippy … I’d trade my half my liver for a bottle.

Britany: Wow! This is so much better than any bourbon I’ve ever had. And the ice makes the flavor expand all over my mouth, all the way to the end of my nose.

Anna: I want to finger this glass like it’s frosting.

Cara: I must like a solid A- bourbon: 90 proof or above. It’s my favorite so far.

Tracy: I love it! It’s smoky but sweet. We know my love of Michter’s, but this would be nice just sitting around the house on a cold winter day — well, any day really.

Bar Belle: It’s like sucking on a Werther’s Original! If this was a Spice Girl, it’d be Werther Spice.

Next up was the Old Overholt Bonded Rye 

Britany: I think it smells sour. I did expect to hate it, but it’s pretty damn good! It hits the sides of tongue … and my left nostril. It’s actually better with ice — retains the spice, just smooths it out.

Cara: I’m not mad at it. I like it with a splash of water.

Tracy: Smells really good! A little sour aftertaste, but it’s not too sour — it’s a vague sour.

Anna: It smells a little floral. Does this come in a three-wick?

Bar Belle: The spice is quite nice. If it was a Spice Girl, it’d be Old Spice Spice.

Finally, it was time for the scotch curve ball with the Glenfiddich Fire & Cane 

Tracy: Holy hell, this smells like the Loch Ness Monster! I have to say it tastes better than it smells.

Anna: Smells like the back of a closet.

Britany: The dusty back of a wet closet!

Bar Belle: That’s the peat you’re tasting and smelling.

Anna: It reminds me of the time my grandma put soap in my mouth.

Britany: You can smell it from 10 feet away! It smells musty, like an antiseptic — a numbing antiseptic. You could pour this on a wound and perform surgery.

Cara: Ack! It tastes like a hospital. It tastes like soap and scotch tape.

Bar Belle: It tastes like eighth-grade science class when we had to dissect frogs. If it was a Spice Girl, it’d be Peaty Spice.

After the crew was nice and buzzed from all the samples, I asked them to come up with high-school yearbook superlatives for each whiskey we tried.

Basil Hayden’s Two by Two:

  • Most likely to become an accountant.
  • Most likely to become my accountant girlfriend.
  • Most likely to be fashion forward.

Jim Beam Repeal Batch:

  • Most likely to leave you with the tab.
  • Most likely to drive a Prius.
  • Most likely to push for punches.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Finish:

  • Most likely to live happily ever after.
  • Most likely to be the first snowfall of the season.
  • Most likely to give up an organ for.
  • Most likely to snuggle.

Old Overholt Bonded Rye:

  • Most likely to succeed.
  • Most likely to be the cherry on top.

Glenfiddich Fire & Cane:

  • Most likely to dissect a frog.
  • Most likely to end up on the compost heap.
  • Most likely to end up in a job you hate.
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