Larceny Small Batch KSBW; Old Fitzgerald Distillery; Bardstown, KY; $25/btl
Some whiskies jump out at me right up front. The first time I try them, I know they’re winners. I feel the same way about wine and beer. I have a taste for great booze. Well, at least for great booze that I like. What other people like is up to them, although I did spend 12 years working in fine-dining establishments honing my skill, and sort of know what I'm talking about. But, the purpose of Ken’s Bar is not to tell you what you like, but to tell you what I like.
And I know what I like.
Typically, I prefer to tell a fun story that lead to a fun alcohol-laced thing. And, sometimes, there's just simply no story behind something I’ve tried. It was just there. The tale of Larceny Small Batch KSBW is about as simple a story as it gets. I was looking for Larceny Barrel Proof, saw this stuff, and grabbed the bottle thinking I’d just hit pay-dirt. And that’s all there is to the story. It was just an accident.
Unfortunately, that accident doesn’t have a terribly happy ending. This stuff is just kind of average to me. When I first tried it, I remembered being let down, possibly because I was looking for something highly sought after and wound up with a commodity. The thing is, this isn’t expensive stuff at just $25/bottle. But, Jim Beam Black Label is $22/bottle and about 10 times better! Larceny is just missing … something. Something extraordinary that makes it jump out at me, like a swift kick in the rear. Anything! But it doesn’t jump out at all. It’s not bad, it’s just not great, either. I suppose I would describe it as being a bit flat, like a beer that’s been sitting opened — in the sun — for too long, and you come back to it and you think, “Well, that’s disappointing.”
Oh, I’ll drink the stuff until it’s gone, but I won’t be tempted to buy it again. In fact, this bottle is going out in the trailer where it will become my camping bottle. And when I’m done camping for the year, it will take it’s place in the “get rid of it” station next to my Bottom Shelf. That’s where I keep the bottle that I most want to just "get rid of", but which isn’t rot-gut enough to get dumped down the drain. It’s just not good enough for my bar, and so it won’t have a home on the shelf.
Too bad, too. It comes highly rated from a friend whose taste in whiskey I respect. But his taste is not my taste.
Larceny Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14-year Single Malt Scotch Whisky; The Balvenie Distillery Company; Scotland; $90/btl
I don’t know about you, but I love honey! All kinds of honey. Bee honey, other bee honey, some honey I found under the house that had been sitting there for ten years. And I love my honey, too! She’s pretty awesome. Sometimes she even says she loves me back, although that usually involves liquor, which is appropriate, don't you think?
I bet you didn’t know that the first time my honey tried Scotch she looked at me like death was coming, and then danced around like the bees were making a hive in her bra! Yeah, it went over that well. And boy did I enjoy it. Watching her dance around with that sour-apple look on her face and all the commotion and colorful language. It was fun. Like the kind of fun you have when you get your pickup stuck in three feet of thick mud out in the middle of the desert where there’s no cellphone coverage.
However, the next time she tried Scotch, it scared me even more. Wanna know why? I’ll tell you why: Because the next time she tried Scotch she dipped into my Aberlour … and she liked it! It was one of those conundrum things where you are both elated and saddened at the same time. Oh, I was elated, because my honey now liked Scotch. But, I was saddened because she liked the expensive stuff, and that meant sharing my good stash with her. In other words, I suddenly realized she was going to be drinking all of my 5-star hooch!
But, out of that came a certain … what shall I call it? … how about “an elevated sense of discovery”. I say that because it occurred to me that my honey had very good taste in Scotch, and was all of a sudden finding some delightful gems. Which is what this rant is all about. For some incredibly wonderful reason, she decided that she wanted to try the Balvenie’s 14-year old Caribbean Cask Single Malt. And boy, howdy!
There’s something wonderful in combining whiskies with the casks of other things. Like for instance, Westward’s use of stout beer casks from BridgePort Brewing (now closed; sad panda!), or Aberlour’s use of sherry casks for their delightful A’bunadh. In the same vein, the Balvenie has distilled and aged a true masterpiece with their 14-year Caribbean Cask from which this blog entry gets its name. And before you tell me, “Hey, that’s not in the title!” let me tell you that you’d be wrong, and that you ain’t paying no good attention!
I said she wants honey, and the Balvenie Caribbean Cask is absolutely loaded with it. Where it comes from, I have no idea — maybe they stuff some bees down in there at casking, I don’t know. I just know that honey is what jumps out at me when I pour the stuff down my throat. Right there on the backend as the alcohol dances about on that dangly thing at the back of the mouth — the uvula, or something like that — and just as it swirls down the old sinking drain, it kicks back with sweet, delicious honey!
Apparently that’s what caribbean casks do to Scotch. They honey it up!
And I’m okay with that, because it makes for some jim-dandy Scotch that I can easily recommend to anyone willing to shell out their life savings. Just kidding. It’s not that much. More like a month’s income. Still kidding. Seriously, some lawyers make enough in a given hour to snag a bottle. Thus, it’s a rare treat for me, and I treat it like one, only dabbling a bit in a glass whenever my honey isn’t looking.
The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14-year Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Eagle Rare 10-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey; Buffalo Trace Distillery; Frankfort, KY; $35/btl
I have a simple philosophy. Whenever someone offers to buy you a bottle of whiskey, always choose something expensive! Make sure it’s a hard-to-find, rare gem. That way, it will always be special! You see, the harder they have to work for it, the more fun you get to have when you drink it. You get to sit down with that wonderful sipping-sauce in your hand and enjoy every last drop because you know that they went way out of their way to get it for you.
Sounds fun, am I right?
Especially if it’s your mom.
So, yeah, my mom wanted to buy me a bottle of whiskey for some reason or another and, naturally, I got on the interwebs and started hunting for something neat. As is my tradition, I was looking for an interesting label that said, “Hey, we paid our intern a ton of money … well, er, um, we paid this college kid a nice sum of ramen noodles to design a label.” And wouldn’t you know it, I found Eagle Rare 10-year.
Now, who can resist that gorgeous bald eagle swooping down to yank some poor, unfortunate fish out of the lake? Or maybe he’s reaching out to snatch a glass of Kentucky Bourbon from his handler? I don’t know, and it doesn’t specifically say. As with all good art, there’s a bit of room for interpretation. All I know is that the label stood out to me, and anyone who reads my stuff (which is pretty much no one) knows full well that I’m a sucker for a well designed label.
“Mom,” I say, “I want a bottle of Eagle Rare.”
“Okay,” she says as if she knows better.
Turns out, Eagle Rare is named specifically for us Idaho folk, because finding it here is like some kind of reality TV show challenge or something. It seems a bit strange that a whiskey like this would be so hard to find, but in this state it is. Well, outside of McCall, anyway. Why they get it and none of the local liquor stores do is beyond me, but I suspect it has something to do with snobs. At least, that’s what I’m going with. And I don’t drink no snob whiskey! At least, I don’t drink no snob whiskey that requires a 2-hour drive.
Couldn’t get it. That’s the short story. The long story required a trip to Portland back in March of 2021 whence my wife found it (along with three of its pals) at a liquor store in some booneyville metropolitan village south of Portland where my friend lives. They had four bottles of the stuff just sitting on the shelf like they owned the place. And to think those silly girls only brought back one bottle?
Anyway, they found it and bought it. That evening we opened that skinny little turkey up and poured a couple glasses and went to work on it. We learned that Eagle Rare’s finest characteristic is its uncanny smoothness, which is a bit like licking a butter dish. It drinks easy with a subtle front end, a sharp slide across the sides of the tongue, and a pleasant, oaky kick to the back of the throat. It’s the kind of whiskey you want to get drunk on, but that would be silly, because after two or three shots what’s to enjoy? No, get drunk on the easy to find, cheap stuff. Eagle Rare is for sipping and tasting and sipping and tasting and … you get the picture.
Here’s the funny thing. I had my friend, Mike, from the Whiskey Wonder Podcast over and we did a blind tasting with eagle Rare 10 year, Uncle Nearest 1856, and Longbranch, and I knew which one of those three was going to win, because Eagle Rare is just that good. And then wouldn’t you know it, the winner wasn’t Eagle Rare, which is weird. Longbranch won that night, with Eagle Rare sitting in the middle. So, why is Eagle Rare on my Bottom Shelf and not Longbranch? Because stories matter, and they have a great deal of affect when it comes time to sit in front of a favorite.
While my mom wasn't able to find it, she did try, and that means something to me. Had she found it, she would have bought it for me. What I got instead was a rather middling bottle of Four Roses Small Batch, which isn't all that special. And when I was able to find Eagle Rare I learned that it was worth the hunt. Winner of a tasting or not, it's good stuff, and I'll take it any day of the week!
Eagle Rare 10-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Who is this guy?
I'm just an average, ordinary, everyday Ken, and nothing more. I like wine, whiskey, and beer. I write when I'm bored (and to prove it I've published three books). I like to garden, work with wood, and laugh with family and friends. Ken's Bar is an expression of my enjoyment of adult beverages of all shapes and sizes, but especially whiskey. My tasting notes are as much about stories and connections with people as they are about fluffy, snobbish adjectives. I've tasted a lot of whiskey (including the costs-way-too-much Rip Van Winkle stuff) and decided to start writing about it. Or something. So, sit back and read. If you can.
How do I rank?
Cost per Bottle:
$ - $0-$25
$$ - $26-$50
$$$ - $51-$75
$$$$ - $76-$100
$$$$$ - Over $100
* - Swill. Dump it out.
** - Mix it with coke
*** - A good sipper
**** - Straight from Heaven.
***** - Heaven called and wants its whiskey back!
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