Saturday, August 11, 2007

Last Night's Tipple

I have to believe that Heaven Hill's Fighting Cock Bourbon is at least partially intended as an ironic send-up of Wild Turkey. WT is known colloquially as the Kickin' Chicken, and, to be honest, the chicken on the label of Fighting Cock looks not only like it's kicking but also a bit like the WT logo turkey after a fire cracker had gone off underneath it. Fighting Cock is bottled at 103 proof, which sounds a lot like WT's trademark 101 proof, only 2 better! And I'm sure that the Heaven Hill marketing department has amplifiers that go up to 11, too. Anyway, it's a time-honored tradition for companies to copy the marketing of their successful competitors; and perhaps there's a bit of that going on here. However, it's just a bit too over-the-top to take seriously, which is why I'm pretty sure that Heaven Hill didn't intend for it to be.

Whatever the goal of the marketing, what really matters is the quality of the Bourbon in the bottle and the value that it offers. I bought Fighting Cock because I had read some favorable comment about it and because it seemed to have a good price-point (around $18 a fifth) for a Bourbon of its age (6 years) and proof (103). Like the other higher-proof Heaven Hill Bourbon that I've tried recently (JW Dant Bottled-in-Bond), Fighting Cock has a nose that is dominated by char -- not vanilla or caramel or other aromas that derive from barrel charring, but the char itself. With some time in the glass, that char burns off a little, and what's left is some vanilla and some more fresh mintiness (another widely-commented-upon characteristic of Heaven Hill Bourbons). There's a lot of wood on the palate, but also an oily graininess that isn't as bad as it sounds. What really dominates everything, though, is that this is one fiery whiskey. The alcohol on the nose doesn't ever really burn off like it does on most spirits that I've tried, and a sip will burn. I don't regret buying this, and I don't think that I'll have trouble finishing the bottle. However, I doubt that it will be a mainstay in my collection.

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