The Event: The September Sipp’n Corn tasting event was for bourbon fans who tend to not venture past Woodford Reserve and Maker’s Mark. I didn’t put either of those on the blind menu this time. Instead, I brought back the winner of the August tasting event – Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve – and upped the pressure by replacing August’s Four Roses Small Batch with one of my favorites, Four Roses Single Barrel. Then I potentially threw everything into a tailspin by including Angel’s Envy. Although, admittedly, I was rooting for the Four Roses, I didn’t think that there was any clear pre-event favorite to bring home the gold because of the relative inexperience of the tasters.
Bourbons: In order of blind tasting –Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve (92 proof); Angel’s Envy (86.6 Proof); Four Roses Single Barrel (100 proof).
1st Glass: As with the August tasting event, Hirsch Small Batch started strong out of the gate. Common tasting notes included butterscotch and caramel, and everyone had favorable remarks about the smoothness and the long finish.
2nd Glass: The tasters could recognize the lower proof of the second glass right away, along with more fruit and candied flavors. The second glass also had more of a syrupy sensation, and tasted like bourbon more suitable for desert than for casual sipping or with dinner.
3rd Glass: Other than one taster who was really turned off by the higher proof of third glass, which he found made it less drinkable than the first two, the third glass was a big hit. Overall, the other tasters appreciated the more complex flavors and longer finish of the third glass. Tasting notes were dominated by honey, vanilla, toast and oak, with heat – not just warmth. A splash of water or a single ice cube opens up new flavors and makes it more drinkable for anyone skittish about the proof.
Winner: A tie! It was basically a dead heat between Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve and Four Roses Single Barrel. But Hirsch didn’t place lower than second for anyone, while Four Roses received a third-place vote. The continued strong performance of Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve, especially against clearly better bourbon like Four Roses Single Barrel, probably reflects the experience level of the tasters. Because of its sweetness and lack of complexity or heat, the Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve is an easier entry-level bourbon.
Runner-up: Angel’s Envy received all second and third-place votes so it was really a race between Hirsch Small Batch and Four Roses Single Barrel.