A Single Barrel Battle between 1792 and John J. Bowman
1792 Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey
The 1792 Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey has an undisclosed mash bill but is required to be at least 51% corn. It is believed to be a “High Rye” mash. While 1792 Single Barrel does not have an age statement on the bottle, it must be at least 2 years old to earn the Straight Bourbon designation. This selection is 98.6 proof/49.3% Alcohol by Volume (ABV) and can be purchased at any North Carolina ABC store in the 750 ml size for $39.95 plus tax. Check out our previous review of 1792 Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey for a detailed history of the Barton 1792 Distillery and our original tasting notes.
John J. Bowman Single Barrel Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey
John J. Bowman Single Barrel Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey, like its counterpart, also features an undisclosed mash bill but must also be at least 51% corn. John J. Bowman does not come with an age statement, however, the North Carolina ABC system lists the product as a 10 year bourbon. This bourbon was bottled at 100 proof/50% ABV. In North Carolina, the ABC stores sell John J. Bowman for $49.95 plus tax for a 750 ml bottle. If you’d like to read a detailed history of the A. Smith Bowman Distillery and our review of this bottle, check out our previous posting.
The Blind Tasting Procedure
In order to ensure that this tasting remained entirely blind, our assistant (affectionately known as Mike’s wife) took 4 Glencairn glasses and the 2 bottles of Sazerac Single Barrel Bourbons out of the room. The glasses were returned without any identifying information that could tip us off as to what was contained within each glass. Our trusty assistant then left the room while we tasted, to make doubly sure that no accidental facial expressions could be read during the tasting and subsequent discussion. Only after the completion of the tasting and declaration of a winner, did the secret identity of each bottle get revealed.
The Blind Tasting
Christian: Glass A – This pour presents with a sweet and rich nose that is aromatic and delightful. Generous hints of brown sugar and caramel permeate out of my glass. As I continue to swirl and nose the bourbon, a very slight hint of bananas begins to become apparent. Glass B – The first thing I notice about Glass B is that the aromatics are a lot less pronounced than the other offering. It was difficult to really pick up much in the nose, however, I was able to pick up a slight hint of bananas, some floral notes, cedar, and honey. The notes are there, you just have to work hard to find them.
Mike: Glass A – Upon my initial nosing, Glass A presents as slightly woody. A quick swirl releases a punch of a scent that is reminiscent of model airplane glue followed by a more pleasant and delicate aroma of brown sugar. There are traces of banana that struggle to establish their existence but linger in the background. Nosing in deeper brings about soft ethanol aromas, but not enough to dissuade the palate. Glass B – Glass B presents with a restrained nose of ethanol and a sweetness of bananas. Swirling the whiskey in the glass really permits the banana aromas to develop amazingly. As I nose in and pull back, a strong bouquet of honey emerges that mingles fantastically with the banana aromas.
Christian: Glass A – Glass A had a mouth feel that was a bit thick and honestly, quite oily. Upon first taste, my mouth was overcome with a sweetness that was expected, given the nose. As I continue to sip and taste this bourbon, I notice a sweet bread-like flavor, similar to that of a breakfast pastry. Continued tastes bring forth a burst of sweet caramel sauce, walnuts, and cinnamon. The thought of a nice warm cinnamon bun comes to mind. Glass B – The mouth feel on Glass B was surprisingly thin and and light. As I take my first sip, I notice a flavor profile that seems more earthy in nature. A very unassuming and plain flavor profile. Honey is the predominate flavor profile with hints of graham crackers or animal crackers. This glass lacks a depth and complexity in the flavor profiles.
Mike: Glass A – The mouth on Glass A was initially light and fruity. There was a sweetness of honey on the tip of the tongue and brown sugar developed mid palate. This pour was remarkably smooth, yet crisp in the mouth. Towards the end, tantalizing banana notes materialize as the whiskey slides to the back of the tongue. Overall, Glass A presents with very well-balanced flavors. Glass B – Glass B’s mouth starts off a little tangy and bitter. This is not what I was anticipating, based on the aromas from the nose. Sharp bites of pepper expand mid tongue. This pour was fairly smooth and velvety in the mouth, overall, but not a lot of depth as far as flavors go. Again, this is very surprising based on the flavorful nose.
Christian: Glass A – Glass A has a nice smooth and soft finish. There is not a whole lot of hug or burn on this one. The sweetness continues through the finish with a slight hint of berries and vanilla present. Glass B – Glass B also has a gentle soft finish, but ends with a late arriving hug deep down inside. Hints of hay and honey are present, but only lightly. This glass really just doesn’t bring a lot flavor wise to the party.
Mike: Glass A – Glass A’s finish can best be classified as a short to medium finish. I was a little disappointed that there was no lingering burn down into the chest. This was soft on the back end, with a mild peppery bite and undertones of soft new leather. I would classify this as a pleasant experience, as far as finishes go. Glass B – The finish on Glass B was medium to long. There was a nice warmth all the way down the throat into the chest. I picked up a slight tannic bitterness on the back end that faded into a muffled banana bread flavor. I’m really surprised and intrigued by the immense presence of bananas in the profile.
Christian: This taste off really was the tale of two completely different straight bourbons. Glass A – Glass A really brings a pop of flavor and overall complexity that is truly enjoyable. The journey from nose, to tasting, to the finish, are all thoroughly enjoyable and memorable. Glass A was a strong contender throughout this entire blind taste-off. Glass B – Glass B is different in the fact that it doesn’t pack the sweetness of Glass A. This bourbon comes with unadorned flavors that left me feeling underwhelmed. My Winner: This race wasn’t even close for me! Glass A is the clear winner. The complexity, flavor profiles, and finish are well rounded and balanced in comparison with Glass B. The bottom-line: I would love to keep the contents of Glass A on my bar–enjoying neat, on the rocks, or mixed in a tasty cocktail.
Mike: Glass A – The nose was pleasing but overshadowed by the nose of Glass B. The mouth, however, was more complex and very balanced as was the finish.This has all the flavor profiles of a classic bourbon but it’s a single barrel. This is an offering that I would keep on the shelf regularly, to enjoy with close friends and family. Glass B – I thoroughly enjoyed the nose on this offering; it was reminiscent of a slightly famous product straight out of Tennessee. The mouthfeel and flavors fell flat, but the finish was respectable enough. Generally speaking, this was an average to slightly above average pour for me. My Winner: For this single barrel head to head, my winner is Glass A! While the nose wasn’t as enjoyable as its competitor, the complexity in the flavor profile and overall experience were considerably more enjoyable than that of Glass B. I wouldn’t turn my nose up at the offering in Glass B, but if I had to choose only one, it would be Glass A.
Blind Taste Winner
And the winner of the Sazerac Single Barrel battle is…Glass A (John J. Bowman Single Barrel Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey)