Yeah, a whiskey review on a gun blog. Sue me (please don't, actually). I live in Iowa, and for 11 months of the year is it about 30 degrees below zero, with no sunshine and lots of rain or snow or both. If I can't get out to shoot or hunt, I like to relax by the fire (or oil-filled heater in this case) with a glass of whiskey (traditionally spelled "whisky" but if I spell it this way the spell checker lights up like a Christmas tree). Below are my favorites. Enjoy responsibly--put the guns away, lose the car keys, and turn on some Top Gear. Don't forget the ice.
#1. Maker's Mark bourbon.
Maker's has a traditional smoky bourbon flavor, but is really mellow on the way down. It brings some heat, but in a pleasant way. The flavor is quite good when served neat, and gets even mellower over a few ice cubes. If you want a mixer, get some Jim Beam or something cheap that you can defile with Coca Cola with a clean conscience. This stuff is only a dollar or two more than Jack Daniels, and oh so much better. All Jack has going for him is a fantastic advertising firm. I've read on a whiskey snob blog that you should keep JD in the liquor cabinet on the odd chance your teenager should get into it. They'll go for the JD first, given the brand recognition, and leave your good stuff alone.
#2. J&B's Blended ScotchI was recently turned on to J&B's while at dinner with my father-in-law. I was blown away by how mellow yet flavorful it was. It tastes like....good whiskey. There is only a warming sensation as it finds its way home. The flavor is light, but still bold enough to make itself known. Honey and grains really stand out in the taste. Served neat, it is great. Served over crushed ice, it is sublime. Consider that it is CHEAPER than Jack Daniels (which is the gold standard around here, despite the fact that I wouldn't clean my spark plugs with JD), and this is a real bargain for "everyday scotch". I had it with some chicken alfredo at a fancy-ish restaurant and it was awesome. It's a good starter for someone just getting into whiskey snobbery.
#3. Chivas Regal Scotch WhiskeyYou want good scotch? Here it is. Plain and simple. Serve it neat or over just a little ice....or I'll find you. This one's a bit more expensive at $40-ish for the 18 year vintage. The 12 year stuff goes for a bit less. Both are good, but I find them a little sweet on the finish, and I think that gets old after the second glass. Still fantastic stuff though. Probably pretty good with a cigar.
Honorable Mention (haven't had enough yet)
Knob Creek small batch bourbonI had a glass of this at a restaurant the other day. I had it neat, because I'm the paradigm of manhood. It had a really enjoyable spicy and smoky flavor, but it goes down with some serious heat!! I imagine a couple of ice cubes would calm it down a bit, but I don't know that. So it goes in the honorable mention category. I think Maker's Mark is a bit better, but I haven't had more than a glass of this yet.
Templeton RyeI had quite a bit of this once, and I'm ashamed to admit that I mixed most of it with Coca Cola. I'd never heard of Templeton before that fateful day, and I've wanted more ever since. This stuff hails from Templeton, Iowa, and is probably the only reason to live in Iowa willingly. Templeton Rye is truly "small batch" and only so much is released every year. It is not in wide circulation yet, but Templeton is slowly pushing into the rest of the country. Templeton has a very strong scent of vanilla and spice, but it is very understated and mellow tasting. There is very little burn, and the flavor is really great--not overpowering like most rye blends. If you must mix it, it is THE original ingredient in a Manhattan (not bourbon as is popular today). Templeton Rye was Al Capone's favorite drink and has survived prohibition to become a "legit" label today. Al evidently had good taste. This only goes in the "honorable mention" category because I've only had about four glasses of it in my life--but I just acquired a bottle of it tonight. Here's to Iowa's cold, crappy climate.