Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Last Night's Tipple

Continuing with this week's Wild Turkey theme, I had another pour of Wild Turkey Rare Breed last night. You will recall that Rare Breed is Wild Turkey's "barrel-proof" bottling, meaning that it is presented as Bourbon that has been bottled straight out of the barrel without any water dilution. Whereas most barrel-proof Bourbons are extremely potent (Booker's is over 125 proof; George T. Stagg is typically over 140 proof), this one is a relatively gentle 108.4 proof, and it is made up of 6 year old, 8 year old, and 12 year old Bourbons. It's true that Wild Turkey enters the barrels at a significantly lower proof than is standard among other Bourbon distillers, but I have my doubts that 108.4 proof (preprinted on the neck band) represents the precise alcoholic strength that the dump making up the batch exits the barrels at.

Regardless, this has consistently been one of my favorite Bourbons because it piles on the unctuous dessert-like flavors and aromas that I like so much. Unfortunately, it wasn't quite so enjoyable this time around. Even after a significant airing, it still smelled woody, and the taste was a bit harsh and unpleasant. Toward the end of the glass, it began to exhibit some buttered popcorn and some butterscotch, like I was accustomed to; but overall, this glass was a bit of a disappointment. Why? I'm not sure, but there are a few possible explanations. First, it could be that nothing whatever has changed in the whiskey or the manner in which I consumed it; that it was my mood and the vagarities of my palate that accounted for the difference in experience. Second, it could be that the manner in which I consumed it differed from the norm and that this difference accounted for the difference in experience. My ceiling fan is typically going while I pour and consume whiskey. Last night, it wasn't. I could certainly believe that that contributed to the quantity and quality of the air the glass got and consequently to the way the whiskey smelled and tasted. Third, it could be that the whiskey is getting oxidized. Yes, oxidized. The bottle has been open for well over a year, and it is getting pretty empty. Spirits don't fall apart from exposure to oxygen the way that most beer and wine do, but eventually they too will oxidize. It could be that that is what's happening with this bottle. Not to worry, though. I'll finish it up soon enough and buy a brand-new one.

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