Seriously? Jack D. in a Can?

Not to offend anyone who's into this kind of thing, but I was a bit shocked, and saddened when I learned that Jack Daniels is releasing a line of pre-mixed cocktails in aluminum bottles, and in some states aluminum cans. I know the liquor business is driven by marketing, but I hate to see an American icon cheapened and literally watered down - these things clock in at a mighty 5% ABV.

If you can't mix your own Jack and Coke then I personally feel like you shouldn't be drinking at all - you haven't earned the right. For the price-conscious among us,  750mL bottle of Jack costs under $20 and a two liter of coke about $2. My rough calculations say that for about $24 you could make at least fifteen twelve-ounce Jack and Cokes, so unless these things sell for under $2 per bottle they're ripping you off.

I guess the world's best selling whiskey has to do something to keep growing the brand though, and now that Four Loko is off the market I guess college students need a new, disposable, easy to chug option for getting wasted. I can assure you this is one product you won't see reviewed on this blog.

Rant Over :)


New Products and New Rankings

First, in a follow-up to my post from last week there is yet another new whiskey on the market from one of the biggest of the big boys. Jim Beam's premium Knob Creek line has introduced its first single-barrel expression. The new bottling will be called Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve, and will be priced around $40 per bottle. Knob Creek is a nice sippin' bourbon, and one I think has a nice sharp bite to it. At 120 proof, this new single-barrel version should bring even more of that bite, and I look forward to sampling a bit.

While new whiskeys keep coming out, some classics are racking up awards from Malt Advocate Magazine. It was good to see a nice range of highly attainable (Evan Williams) and highly unattainable (Glenfarclas 40 Year Old) whiskeys on the list.


Oh Taste & See: Old Ezra 7 Year Old Bourbon

Ezra Brooks is one of those bourbons that tries to look like Jack Daniels - square black bottle, mention of charcoal filtering, etc. The other is Evan Williams and both are decent, value-priced bourbons produced by Heaven Hill in Bardstown, KY. I think the standard-issue Ezra Brooks 90-proof is a solid bourbon for the price, if a bit rough around the edges. So when I picked up a bottle of its older cousin - Old Ezra 7 Year Old Bourbon - I expected it to hold its own in the $20-$25 price range in which it competes. I can say that I wasn't disappointed, and that it is actually a fairly unique and enjoyable bourbon, although it could still be mistaken for a bottle of Jack if you weren't paying attention. My instinct is to compare it with a similarly priced bourbon like Maker's Mark or Buffalo Trace, but at 101 proof the Old Ezra 7 Year is a totally different animal than those smooth whiskeys, and might better be compared to other higher-octane bourbons.

Color: Old Ezra 7 Year Old has a very rich, reddish brown color that makes it easy to believe it is at least seven years of age. A very warm looking whiskey, no hints of lightness or wateriness.

Nose: For 101 proof the nose isn't super boozy. The first thing I picked up was a nutty scent like hazelnuts and then some vanilla and banana notes.

Flavor: 7 Year Old Ezra drinks nice and smooth, especially for 101 proof. It has a nice oaky warmth and all the nutty flavors that I picked up in the nose. There's some nice vanilla flavor and a thick feel to this whiskey. It's not at all fruity or light - again a serious, power-punch of a bourbon.

Finish: The finish is long and peppery. The 101 proof gives a nice warming sensation without any harsh burn.

Overall this is a nice sippin' whiskey for when you need a serious spirit.


Interesting Developments from the Big Boys of Whiskey

There have been a few interesting announcements from some of the big Kentucky-based distillers over the past few weeks. First came news that the Early Times name would be returning to the American bourbon bottles. For the past 30 years Brown Forman has produced Early Times Bourbon for overseas market, but limited the brand to the "Kentucky Whiskey" label in the U.S., the distinction being that the Kentucky Whiskey product spent some time in previously-used barrels, a no-no for bourbons. The new U.S. market Early Times Bourbon will be called Early Times 354 in reference to the Early Times distillery's original distilling license number. It is being launched first in select markets, and is competing in the $15-$20 price range. I'm not a huge fan of Early Times Kentucky Whiskey, but I'm hopeful that the bourbon will be an improvement and I look forward to sampling it.

The next piece of interesting news also comes from Brown Forman. The company is launching a new Canadian whisky to be called Collingwood. It's coming to market in four states (KY, FL, LA, and TX) in February with a target price of $26.99. After maturing in oak this whisky will be finished in maple wood, and Brown Forman claims it will be the only maple-finished Canadian whisky on the market. I think the increase in more distinctive Canadian whisky bottlings is a great development, and I look forward to comparing Collingwood with Forty Creek and Pendleton, two surprisingly good Canadian products that have come out in the past few years.

Finally, it's not a new product, but Old Pogue Bourbon is looking for a new home. To be more accurate the Pogue family is looking to move production back to its original home in Maysville, KY. Old Pogue, a Heaven Hill brand, is currently distilled in Bardstown, KY, but if everything goes according to plan Old Pogue could be made in Maysville starting in as little as one year. The town in Northeastern Kentucky is where the Pogue family originally began distilling in 1876.