Jefferson's Ocean Aged At Sea; McLain & Kyne; Louisville, KY; $80/btl
Westward American Two Malts Whiskey; Westward Whiskey; Portland, OR; $90/btl
The title sounds impressive, right? Here we are in 2021 and we are deciding the world championships of Feast Whiskey. And, because this blog is so widespread, and because I have — at minimum — two readers, there will be a whiskey for both of them to love. That’s right, this championship pits two of this world’s 8 million, nine hundred and sixty seven thousand contenders in a head-to-head contest to determine which one is worthy of the coveted “FW” trophy.
And who are the contenders? Well, if you’re smart and you looked at the picture you already know. For those of you who would rather find out after reading two or three thousand words of fluff, well boy howdy I’ve I got some fluff for you!
To begin, it's the Feast of Tabernacles. Many of you haven’t got a clue what that is, and that’s okay. I do, and that’s all that's important right now. In Sunday night’s post I went into very minor detail of this joyous event, and that will have to do for now. After all, this is a whiskey blog, not a sermon.
But, if you paid attention to my last post you’ll know that I sometimes find a whisky at the Feast that is so special that it gets the coveted label of Feast Whiskey, a drink so delightful that I set it aside and only imbibe during one of God’s seven annual feasts (well, six, actually, since one of them is a day of fasting). This year COVID struck hard and I sit at Ken’s Bar rather than some shmarmy snob-bar in Steamboat Springs sipping the good stuff whilst watching the sun set amongst the Rocky Mountains.
Okay, so what to do? Well, as it turns out, I bought two bottles of whiskey in advance since I couldn’t be certain that the two I wanted to take would be available at the liquor store in Steamboat. They were all set to make the trip with me and get their “opening” upon arrival. Since I couldn't make the trip, neither did they. Thus, I happen to have them right in front of me, and I opened both on Monday evening as the Feast of Tabernacles got underway at sundown. I tried both, and both are worthy contenders. In fact, both are very worthy contenders.
And they are as follows:
Jefferson’s Ocean Aged At Sea KSBW, and Westward American Two Malts Whiskey. Now, I've never tried anything from Jefferson’s before, but Westward’s American Single Malt quickly — and definitively — found its way to the top of my Bottom Shelf, a place that is hard to get to no matter how good it is. Ever since I first found Westward, I’ve been coveting their Two Malts, which is a partnership between Westward Whiskey and Bridgeport Brewing. And, when I first read the story behind Jefferson’s Ocean Aged At Sea Bourbon I had to try it. It just sounds … fun!
So, what to do with these two? Oh, I know, drink the stuff and scribble some notes. And then decide which one jumpstarts the truck!
Oh, dear. Decisions sometimes just aren’t my strength. Which means this is actually very tough.
Here’s the thing: Both of these whiskeys are very unique. Jefferson’s Ocean is smooth, stuffed with vanilla and caramel and some woody things happening out on the edges of the ol’ tongue, and the finish has that nice bite of alcohol scraping the back of the mouth as it dumps on down into the liver. It’s absolutely gorgeous, if that word can be used to describe a flavor.
The Westward is a different nut altogether. Westward’s signature bottles are all single malts derived from a common malt and aged in different barrels with marked histories amongst the wineries and breweries of Oregon. But, the Two Malts is, well, two distinct malts: 68% Bridgeport Brewing malted barley, and 32% Kingpin Red Ale malted rye. It’s a single barrel concoction, and mine is bottle number 1427. It’s loaded with nutty goodness, butterscotch rye, and pepper. It’s absolutely beautiful, if that word can be used to describe a flavor.
Both of these bottles is pretty, and the two nectars are nearly identical in color. But it ends there. They’re separated by blend, process, region, and style, and neither is better than the other, although both are better than most. The Westward is more unique — born of Westward’s genuine zeal to stand out from the crowd, while the Jefferson’s is more typical of Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. But, even then the Jefferson’s is special. They say that the sea-aging process rolls the barrels and the whiskey thus comes into contact with the oak more consistently. Great! Sure! Whatever you guys are doing, just keep doing it.
Westward is bonkers fun. It tastes like Westward, but it doesn’t taste like Westward. I mean, these guys are just wonderful daddy-juice artists, and they continue to swing for the fences, with at least one home-run and a number of RBI’s.
So, whose the winner in this taste-off?
I can’t decide based simply on the merits of the goodness within each bottle. Both are just too good. But, I have made a decision, and it may come as a surprise. So, here it is:
Westward American Two Malts Whiskey!
Why? Well, the answer came easy once I thought about it. Both are special, but there is something very special about the Two Malts. You see, this bottle represents a partnership between Westward Whiskey and Bridgeport Brewing. But, Bridgeport Brewing was too badly affected by COVID, basic economics, and just plain bad luck. Recently they were forced to close their doors permanently, and no longer exist as a business. Bridgeport is no more. The exact details are beyond this average, ordinary, everyday Ken’s capacity, but it matters not. They are closed for business, which means that the bottle I sip upon will never be produced again.
And that makes it special! In fact, it makes it special enough to crown it with the coveted “FW” trophy. It will be marked with my sharpie, set upon the shelf, and only brought out for a few days each year. It will disappear very slowly, and I will enjoy every drop, and probably stuff a paper towel in the empty bottle so I can wring out every last molecule of tasty goodness.
And of the Jefferson’s Ocean? Well, I was just in the liquor store unloading a small quantity of my stored tithe on something my heart was desiring: whiskey! The shelf was devoid of anything Westward because it simply is not available here in Idaho. But Jefferson’s Ocean was there six deep. I’ll be able to get more of it, but I’m not so sure about Westward Two Malts. I may get online and order another bottle if it’s still in stock.
So, it really is that simple. Westward Two Malts wins this race on a combination of form and function. It’s a beautiful bottle packed with a beautiful whiskey, and it may be hard to find in the future. But it is that one, single enduring quality that sets it apart from it’s Kentucky cousin: Simple availability. I want the Two Malts to last, because I may never see it again. The Jefferson’s is so good that I know it will be there tomorrow. Westward Two Malts is very good, but it may never be there again.
And that’s how I choose a good Feast Whiskey World Champion.
Jefferson's Ocean Aged At Sea
Westward American Two Malts Whiskey
Aberlour HSMSW 16-year; Aberlour Distillery Company.; Scotland; $80/btl
This week’s write-up is both very special and very depressing. Most of my readers will not understand the context, and certainly might disagree with the religious overtones, but I am not going to hold back simply because some of you don’t understand. it’s okay. I won’t hold it against you.
So, as part of my religious faith, I honor God’s commanded Feast of Tabernacles. Once every year, in the seventh month on the Hebrew calendar, God commands that His chosen people travel to a designated place and celebrate a feast before Him for seven days. Say what? you ask? An annual feast!?!
Yes. It’s like a vacation, but with religion!
For those of us who do celebrate this Feast of Tabernacles before God, it becomes the most anticipated time of the entire year. We set aside ten percent of our income for the entire year for just this seven-day period, and we get to use it for “whatever your soul desires” (Deu 14:26). For a nice vacation home, for delicious food, for great wine, and — you guessed it — great whiskey!
Sometimes as we navigate our way through this difficult life, we find things that we want, but cannot afford. It might be something big and beyond our reach no matter what (a vacation in Bora Bora, pehaps?) or it may be something that is just within range maybe once a year. And once per year there are certain things that are within reach for those who faithfully save our 2nd tithe for use at this Feast of Tabernacles. For me, one of those things is a great bottle of whiskey. Not the drink-a-day $20/per stuff, but the nice, $100+ top-shelf whiskies that beckon to us from, well, the top shelf.
When I attend the Feast, sometimes I buy one or two or three of these things (depending on how blessed I am through the year). And, sometimes I mark one of these bottles with two letters: FW. “FW” stands for “Feast Whiskey”, and Feast Whiskey can only be consumed during one fo God’s annual Feasts (there are seven of them, but that is not the purpose of this blog). I literally do not drink it any other time. I reserve said bottles for special occasions, and those occasions are not designated by me, they are designated by God. That’s it. Deuteronomy 14:26 continues by saying, “for oxen, or for sheep, or for wine, or for strong drink, or for whatever your soul desires.”
Whiskey is “strong drink”, right?
Several years ago — and I forget the year — my family and I were attending the Feast of Tabernacles in the Bend, Oregon area (we were staying in Sun River). On the way into town we dropped into the liquor store and a bottle jumped out at me. The first scotch I really enjoyed was the Glenlivet 12-year. The second was Aberlour 12. Aberlour stood out to me as the scotch whisky. Brilliant in absolutely every way. And that particular year its older brother jumped into my arms.
So, Aberlour 16 is this weeks topic. And man, is this a nice whisky. Smooth, glorious, and start-the-truck-and-go-off-roading bold! It is loaded with caramel and oak and apricot and fire all the way down the throat. 16 years this stuff sat around and begged for me to try it, and now the bottle I sip from is better than 20 years beyond the harvest. Its glorious amber glow just demands respect, and I respect it just enough to dump it down the hatch! Man, I tell you it’s nice.
It isn’t cheap, though. $80-plus in most locales, more in others. I’ve had this bottle under the house for years while I waited for Ken’s Bar to become a reality, and there’s only about three shots drained. Which means I still have about $70 worth of good booze left in there. Considering I pop the bottle about once a year and have maybe one drink, I expect it will be around well into the immediate future. And a good thing, too, because big things come to those who wait!
So, why this topic now? Well, the Feast of Tabernacles 2021 begins tomorrow evening, September 20. As I type this it is September 19. I was supposed to be in Steamboat Springs, Colorado enjoying the Feast with my family and the extended group of fellow believers that I call family. But that is not the case. Instead, I type this from my keyboard at home, unable to attend this year’s Feast because COVID has struck my beloved wife. We are quarantined, and we must remain home.
When I was looking over the bar to determine what I would select for the write-up, I really wasn’t in the mood. I mean, who would be? It’s been a rough year filled with human political nonsense and loss of life, and I was really looking forward to the Feast and the physical/spiritual reset it provides. Depression is a funny thing, and sometimes a little reminiscing can really pick you up. So, I looked up there in the far upper left corner and there was Aberlour 16 with those two letters — FW — written on the label in Sharpie black, and I knew.
So, that all said, I give praise to God for His blessings, His love, His mercy, and His whisky. After all, He is the author of Whisk(e)y. We have only recently discovered it. So, Rejoice!
And may we all find peace in this crazy world.
Aberlour Single Malt Scotch Whisky 16-year
Bushmills Black Bush Irish Whiskey Sherry Cask Reserve; The "Old Bushmills" Distillery.; Ireland; $40/btl
For obvious reasons, there will be no joking permitted throughout the entirety of this post.
Some people will tell you that the only good whiskey is made in [fill in the blank]. That place could be Canada, or Scotland, or Tennessee. It could be Kentucky, or Russia, or Japan. It could even be Ireland, but I suspect saying that would start a fight, or maybe a civil war.
Well, I’m not a believer that any one area makes the best whiskey. Some have longer traditions, others have more modern methods, and most have learned to do it quite well at some level or another. And, while I’m no expert at being able to pick out a whiskey’s location with my taste buds, I’m as good as anyone at picking it out by looking at the label. This week’s subject is called Bushmills Black Bush Irish Whiskey, and from the label I can tell that the stuff is made in — you guessed it — Great Britain!
Yep, I’m that good at deciphering things.
So, I was over at my friend Mike’s doing an episode of the Whiskey Wonder Podcast and he pulled this bottle out of a hat. We tried it, and then he gave me the bottle. Knowing Mike, that means one of two things. Either A) He was feeling generous, or B) He didn’t like the stuff. I’m going with B, because Mike loves his whiskey, and there’s no way he’s just gonna hand me a bottle of good hooch because he’s being nice. No way! While I do forget what we tried with the Bushmills, I distinctly remember him turning his nose up and coughing.
No, actually, he’s a really good guy and handed me over a wonderful bottle of Ireland’s finest. Bushmills has been around for a very long time, and like to pride themselves as being the “world’s oldest licensed whiskey distillery”, with the caveat hidden amongst the word “licensed”. Yeah, every other distillery on earth is older when you remove that consideration.
Seriously, though, they’ve been at the game for a few minutes, and they make a rootin’-tootin’ dandy good whiskey. This average, ordinary, everyday Ken thinks the stuff has a nice little kick, is smooth and easy drinking, and stands delightfully well entirely on it’s own. There’s a subtle touch of smoke and honey, something a bit peaty, and a color reminiscent of liquid gold. That last part sounds a bit snobby — which isn’t my style — so it’s important to note that it’s not that *BLING* kind of gold that hip-hop types would wear. Rather, it's a cool, refreshing gold — the kind you want to drink, like good beer. And the bottle is cool, too. It fits nicely in the hand so you can pour another drink. And it says “1608” right on it, which is either a long time ago, or how much gold is per ounce. It doesn't specify which.
Oh, I almost forgot! This stuff is aged in sherry casks, and you know how I feel about that! Sherry casks are known for offering up a touch of sweetness and rich, red fruit. Important note: Those little, red berries you find in the forrest are "rich, red fruit" … and they'll kill you dead! This stuff should be consume with as much caution. It's so good it's dangerous.
I love pointless analogies.
Either way, I’d give this two thumbs way on up, but that would get me in trouble with the trademark people. So I’ll just call it “really good” and then call it good.
Bushmills Black Bush Irish Whiskey Sherry Cask Reserve
Bulleit KSBW 10-year; Bulleit Distilling Co.; Louisville, KY; $35/btl
I don’t know why I have this stuff. Honestly, I just don’t remember what drove me to buy it. But, there it sits, up on the shelf, waiting for me to take it down and swirl a sip around in my mouth.
So I did.
Regardless the reason why I bought Bulleit 10-year KSBW in the first place, each time I drain a shot I’m reminded that it always makes me smile. From the subtle popcorn bite to the rich, caramel gleam, Bulleit just hits the spot. It’s genuinely good bourbon, with a genuinely good heart, and a genuinely good finish. That there is no story behind my purchase just shakes me to the core!
Well, not really, but it’s fun to say that.
And, since there is no story, that’s it for this blog entry thing.
No, wait, we can’t do that. I need to have at least ten paragrahps of fluff. It’s just tradition. So, since there’s no story, I’ll make one up.
The dame sat at the bar staring at me with a set of dark, piercing eyes. Her dress was a bit less than it should have been, perhaps a bit more than I would have liked. Either way, she was a looker. But there was something in her gaze that made my skin crawl. Something stirring, like a cat ready to spring on an unsuspecting mouse.
What does she want? I asked myself. What possible reason does she have for that cold stare?
Perhaps she knew what I was carrying? But how could she? I’d never seen this woman before, and I had told but one person of the gold ingot I had found in the gutter. One person, and he would never betray me.
Suddenly, the woman rose from her place at a lonely table in the corner and began to saunter toward me. She wore high heels and black gloves, and her left hand was in her purse as if she were hunting for lipstick. As she drew closer, however, I recognized the butt of a handgun — a small .38 with a chromed barrel. Her demeanor changed and I could see the hunger in her eyes. The rare ingot was worth millions, and I was no one.
She came closer and the gun began to slide from her purse, the barrel drawing upwards and toward me.
What she did not know was that I was no stupid man. I knew what I was carrying, and as my Gloch barked in her direction she was quickly reminded that one should never underestimate the enemy. She had underestimated me, and now she lay dead on the floor of a back-corner bar in a back-corner neighborhood. I stood from my seat and sauntered past the bartender as if I owned the joint and tossed him a twenty.
“Sorry for the mess,” I said, channeling my inner geek. “By the way, what was I drinking?”
“Bulleit,” he answered, “Bulleit 10-year.”
I nodded. “I’ll have to remember that.” And then I thought to myself, What a coincidence. Bulleit.
And I smiled.
Yeah, it’s Labor Day and I’m bored. That aside, Bulleit 10-year KSBW is an inspiring bourbon that clearly drives the imagination. It’s clean, smooth, and easy drinking, with just that subtle hint of corn, rugged oak, and that nutty thing that some folks like to say when drinking whiskey. Whatever. It’s good.
Bulleit Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 10-year
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!
Shoot me an email with comments, suggestions, or hate mail!