We started out the day at the Jim Beam American Stillhouse in Clermont, KY. It was a great experience, and a great chance to try some Bourbons that are not generally available in Oregon.
We were late for the guided tour and didn't want to wait for the next one, so we explored a little bit and then headed for the tasting room. We tasted four whiskeys that we had never tried before: Jacobs Ghost New Make, Knob Creek Single Barrel, Red Stagg Honey Tea, and the just released Jim Beam Honey.
The Jacobs Ghost was raw, as you would expect a short-aged whiskey to be. Strong citrus and corn notes without the mellow caramel and vanilla notes that you expect from a Bourbon.
The Knob Creek Single Barrel was beautiful. A wonderful dark caramel bourbon that tastes strongly of brown sugar and vanilla, with a smooth woody finish on the back end. Too bad this is limited release.
The Red Stagg Honey Tea was just far too sweet for me, with flavoring that was supposed to be tea but did not taste like any tea I've ever had. It might work mixed with sweet tea, but not on it's own.
The Jim Beam Honey was just released last week, and is smooth and delicious. This is a trend that started with Wild Turkey's American Honey, and has continued through American whiskeys with Jack Daniels, and now Jim Beam has brought theirs to market. Personally, it is too sweet for me, but is the best of the honey whiskeys I have tried. If you like the others, this will be love at first taste.
Our second stop of the day was at Heaven Hill. While the name may not be familiar to many, their brands definitely are. Heaven Hill makes Elijah Craig, Evan Williams, and the ultra premium Parker's Heritage bourbons among many others. Heaven Hill is the second leading producer of Bourbon in the world (behind only Jim Beam), and is the only distillery still family owned and operated. They love bourbon here, and do a great job educating bourbon drinkers new and old on their favorite spirit.
We took the deluxe tour today, and enjoyed it greatly. Our guide Deb took us through the rick house to see how bourbon is stored, and to explain the process of aging quality bourbon.
After touring the rickhouse we were brought back inside the heritage center for a tasting of two great bourbons, the Evan Williams single barrel and the Elijah Craig 12yo. Deb did a good job of walking us through the process of nosing and tasting to help those new to bourbon identify the flavors and methods that make bourbon such a unique whiskey.