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Friday, September 13, 2013

Sipp’n Corn Bourbon Review – Four Roses Small Batch vs Hirsch Selection Small Batch vs. Maker's Mark

The Event:       I held a Sipp’n Corn tasting event for some diehard Maker’s fans, except they didn’t know that Maker’s would be on the blind menu.  Would they be able to pick Maker’s out of the pack?

Bourbons:        In order of blind tasting – Four Roses Small Batch (90 Proof); Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve (92 Proof); Maker’s Mark (90 Proof).

1st Glass:         The Four Roses Small Batch, to my surprise, unanimously scored the lowest marks on taste and finish.  A splash of water helped, but not nearly enough to these tasters.  The nose held up with promising hints of vanilla and pepper, but common notes on the taste and finish were “too peppery and bitter.”

2nd Glass:       The Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve started strong out of the gate, and as it was discussed and tasted more, it gained more steam.  Common tasting notes included butterscotch, creamy caramel and sweet warmth.  The long finish, in particular, really stood out, especially compared to the first glass.

3rd Glass:        Now it was time for the moment of truth – the Maker’s Mark.  Maybe it shouldn’t have been held out for last because of the slightly stronger proof of the second glass, or because of the rye mash bills of the first two bourbons, but it was a great chance to see if these fans could tell that this was their favorite bourbon.  They couldn’t.  There was even some criticism about initial bitterness before the sweet flavors and grains took over.  Overall the third glass reviews were very favorable, but everyone agreed that the second glass was better.

Winner:           Hirsch Selection Small Batch Reserve (unanimous)

Runner-up:      Maker’s Mark (unanimous)


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  2. This is why blind tasting are so instructive. More often than not, people who claim they can distinguish really subtle differences between bourbons find that they really can't even tell a rye bourbon from a wheater. Some find this a revelation. Some find it really, really annoying to have their pretentions unmasked.

    1. I couldn't agree more. I did a broad-based blind tasting to identify wheated vs. rye as secondary grain and performed respectably, and I can usually pick out Four Roses K yeast and the distinctive Beam yeast, plus some brands that are distinctive, but a blind tasting is the only way to get past preconceived notions. It can be humbling.

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