September is Bourbon Heritage Month and we’re way late in dropping off our thoughts on that sweet Kentucky gold. To center our coverage where it rightly needs to be, Spirit.Ed takes a good look at offerings from Fistful of Bourbon and Hudson Whiskey in honor of Bourbon Heritage Month.
Bourbon Heritage Month was officially established in 2007 via a bill sponsored by the late Sen. Jim Bunning, owing to the fact that since the 1960s, bourbon was recognized as a product unique to the United States. Since then, the city of Bardstown in Kentucky hosts an annual celebration in support of the month-long recognition.
First up is Fistful of Bourbon, part of the sprawling William Grant & Sons portfolio, and the company is a powerhouse in the Scotch whisky world. Taking the approach perfected in blended Scotch whisky by William Grant & Sons, Fistful of Bourbon is a blend of five American whiskies, thus the name. The flavors break out on their own as “sweet, balanced, and smooth. Green and leafy with floral notes. Warm spice and hints of nutmeg. Notes of buttery toffee. Hints of cinnamon and licorice.”
All of that sounds like it could either go well or to pot but we have to admit here that Fistful of Bourbon delivers an amazingly complex sip for a so-called “budget bourbon.” The term “budget bourbon” is a bit of a misnomer as it tends to be reserved for bourbons that are cheap and flat in flavor. This pours and sips fine neat, on the rocks, or with a few drops of water.
We can freely admit that Fistful of Bourbon has a bit of heat on the finish but that isn’t unlike some blended Scotch whiskies we’ve had over the years. It also holds up in a cocktail due to its 90-proof label. While an official age statement isn’t given, the juice is reportedly aged for at least two years before it hits the market. Try it in an Old Fashioned, you won’t be upset at all. Also makes a refreshing Highball should the mood hit.
Whenever bourbon whiskey is made outside of its originating home of Kentucky, the skeptical eye of bourbon fans is hard to avoid. Hudson Whiskey, one of the early leaders in the still-burgeoning craft whiskey scene, is the first bourbon to be distilled and produced in the state of New York. Bright Lights, Big Bourbon is a nearly all-corn affair with its mash bill clocking in at 95% corn, and 5% barley. The juice is aged for a minimum of three years in new charred American oak barrels before hitting the market.
Hudson Whiskey was known for putting out younger bourbons and for some, that’s a line too far to cross. Since we’re not snoots here, all we care about is if the bourbon was blended well and tasted good in the glass, not how long it sat in a barrel. Some bourbons on the market aged for 8-10 years are straight awful in our opinion. Bright Lights, Big Bourbon doesn’t have that problem although it isn’t the most complex bourbon you’ll find at that price point.
At 92 proof, there is a touch of burn on the finish and lots of grain on the nose. The neat pour, however, leaned towards brown sugar and, oddly enough, chocolate malt. There is a sweetness that improves once you pour the juice over a big rock or throw in a drop of cool water in the glass. As a mixer, it did well in an Old Fashioned but perhaps not the best choice for a Manhattan, although it was serviceable. This is definitely a bourbon that might benefit from longer aging but that doesn’t mean it lacks merit. It’s straight bourbon and that is often enough.