Sip Bourbon? You can do that?

After a little progress trying to sip rums neat, I thought I’d revisit Bourbon. Now, mind you, I NEVER thought I’d be traveling towards this crossroads again, waiting for the devil to appear at midnight.

But dark rum and I are now friends and dark rum has some of the same characteristics of my mortal enemy of old, whiskey.

After one too many YouTube videos proclaiming how sweet and smooth various bourbons were, I decided to make a great sacrifice and try some.

I already have one, Evan Williams 1783, that I bought for mixing. But the purpose of this endeavor was to find something I could sip straight or over ice. To be fair, I hadn’t tried the Evan Williams straight. I also had a miniature of Larceny that was attached to a full size bottle of something else.

At my last visit to the ABC store, I asked the manager what he recommended. Without hesitation he said, “Maker’s Mark“.

I had learned that Maker’s was a wheated bourbon and that was supposed to yield a sweeter spirit.

Back to the web. I ended up with a list, and on the next trip, picked up miniatures of Knob Creek, Maker’s Mark, and Woodford Reserve. To be clear, Knob Creek and Woodford aren’t wheated, but they are popular bourbons in their price range.

Did I mention that bourbons seem to be pricey? A 750ml bottle of anything above the bottom shelf goes for $30 and up! Even the three miniatures ran me $12 and change!

My goal was to only sample each, so I poured 1/4 oz of each into separate glasses. I let them sit for a couple of minutes. I took in the aroma from each and tried to see what I could take away.

The aroma of all of the samples was sweet. Not surprisingly, corn. And some alcohol. Maybe a bit of oak. I’m not one who can start listing all of the fruits and spices. I get corn and some oak.

So, let the sipping begin! Again I find that the alcohol overwhelms my taste buds before I can get much. I had read to add a few drops of water and to let it sit. Doing so does  allow me to taste more than the alcohol, but I’m back to some sweetness, some corn and some oak. Not bad, since corn and oak should be in a bourbon.

I also read that being careful not to breath in helps with the alcohol burn. True, but even with these steps, I can only take a couple of sips before my tongue is numb. A few minutes later, try, try again.

With Evan Williams 1783 in the comparison, I learned some good news about my lack of sophistication. I can buy cheap bourbon and it tastes the same to me as something twice the price!

Along the same lines as my rum, I tried each with Coca Cola.

Makers, more burn, even with the cola. 1783 was quite good, with the oak forward. The Knob Creek and Woodford both added a peppery spice kick.

Larceny Bourbon


The clever label with the old style key and keyhole are a good match for the Larceny name. You can find the backstory repeated ad infinitum on every other website.

Larceny is a “wheated” bourbon, where wheat replaces rye as the second grain after corn. This tends to make for a less “spicy” and sweeter tasting bourbon. Wheated bourbons include Maker’s Mark, Weller, and the well known, if over-hyped Pappy Van Winkle.

Larceny is a very divisive bourbon. Some people absolutely hate it, but I think that for a bourbon with a shelf price in mid $20 range (for a 750ml), it is pretty good. I originally tasted this from a 50ml “collar” (a free miniature attached to a different bottle). I recall liking it compared to Maker’s Mark.

As always, I waited for a chance to catch this on sale. Sure enough, NC ABC runs sales on the 750ml or the 1.75l every other month it seems.

When revisiting Larceny, I again enjoyed it. It is sweet, given both the corn and wheat. Occasionally I taste cherry, a hint of oak, and a subtle cinnamon. At other times, I don’t get the cherry, and the oak comes across more as a tobacco. This goes more to my unsophisticated palate than to what’s in the bottle.

Proof: 92 (46% ABV)

Price: $24 for 750ml (on-sale, NC ABC)

Buy again: Yes

Fireball Cinnamon Whisky

I like candy as much as most overgrown kids, but this may be taking it a bit too far. Think Atomic Fireballs in an unholy alliance with whiskey. The taste is very reminiscent of Goldschlager, which I had taken a sip of many years ago.


I bought it out of curiosity, and now my curiosity has been satisfied. I believe I will find myself less curious in the future!

Proof: 66 (33% ABV)

Price: $1 for 50ml

Buy again: No

St. Elder Elderflower Liqueur

It turns out the delicate white flowers of the Elderberry plant produce a fine little liqueur when steeped in a base spirit, and with the addition of sugar. The taste is fruity and has been described as “peach, meets lychee, meets pineapple”.

St. Germaine is the top shelf Elderflower liqueur, with a decorative bottle to match, and at $35 for 750ml, I left it on the top shelf. I did, however, find St. Elder on sale, at a lower altitude. The reviews indicated that the two products were virtually the same.

It is sweet, and I have sipped it over ice.  I’ve only tried it one cocktail so far, and wasn’t a fan of the apple juice heavy drink, so the verdict is out on using it as mixer.

Proof: 40 (20% ABV)

Paid: $17 (on sale) for 750ml
(for those doing the math, that is half the price of St. Germaine)

Buy again: Probably (if I can find some cocktails that work well with it)

Fabrizia Limoncello

I first tried Pallini Limoncello, and being a fan of Lemonheads candy, I liked it. Fabrizia has an aroma more of lemon, than of lemon candy. There is less difference in the taste. Pallini feels thicker and sweeter than Fabrizia, but sipping them side-by-side gives a very similar experience. Speaking of which, for small amounts, I can actually sip limoncello.

Proof: 54 (27% ABV)

Paid: $16 (on sale) for 750ml

Buy again: Probably


Dekuyper O3 Orange Liqueur

I have to admit a certain fascination with orange liqueur in all of its forms. As soon as I read about Cointreau, I knew I was on the right track. I’m a fan of citrus, and my tastes lean to the sweet side, so orange liqueur fits the bill. There really isn’t any tart in orange liqueurs (at least the ones I’ve tasted). It’s more of an essence of orange, and some are candy-like in the extreme.

So, I have a problem. I see a new orange liqueur, and, I want to try it. And so it was with DeKuyper O3. This is sold as the upscale version of their bottom shelf triple sec. It is listed as being made from “Brazilian Oranges”. It is less assertive in  a cocktail thank Gran Gala, but also has a more natural aroma.

Proof: 80  (40% ABV)

Paid: $17 (on sale) for 750ml

Buy Again: Maybe

St Remy VSOP Brandy

This is what happens when one doesn’t know what one is doing. I was actually looking for something fruity. In my head, something like an apple brandy. Without doing much in the way of my usual, um, research, I simply learned that it was an acceptably good brandy and it was inexpensive.

Unlike a schnapps or liqueur, that is a base spirit with flavors added, brandy is apparently distilled from wine. So, booze, made from booze. Let that swirl around in your glass for a moment.

The aroma is very subtle, fruity, maybe grape-like with alcohol. I don’t think I sipped it; maybe I should. But it is 9AM, so that will have to wait. I’m sure I used it in a cocktail, although I don’t remember which. So far, it isn’t memorable.

There is French writing on the bottle, so I thought it would class up the Lair.

Proof: 80 (40% ABV)

Paid: $12 (I think) for 750ml

Buy again: Probably not

Carolans Irish Cream

I am interested in dessert drinks, especially as winter gets closer. Irish cream is used in quite a few dessert drinks like the Mudslide, Buttery Nipple, and Chocolatini.

Since I have not opened this yet, I don’t know whether it is a category I’ll like or use. Time will tell, and I’ll update this post soon.

Proof: 34 (17% ABV)

Price: $10 for 750ml (on sale)

Buy again: Don’t know yet


Dr. McGillicuddy’s Intense Apple Pie Liqueur

This is possibly the longest name for an alcohol product. Ever. The aroma is apple and cinnamon. The flavor is apple, cinnamon, and I would swear, buttery crust.

The problem I have with it, is that it is fine for what it is, but it doesn’t mix with much else. I think I will try it with Buttershots to see if I get the caramel apple pie flavor that I imagine.

Proof: 48 (24% ABV)

Paid: $13 for 750ml (If I recall correctly)

Buy again: No

DeKuyper Buttershots

Liquid butterscotch. Or is it caramel? Either way, it is a very sweet liqueur. A liquid dessert. I bought this on a whim. There are a number of equally sweet cocktails that can be made with Buttershots. If I didn’t have such a sweet tooth, there is no way I could drink much of it.

Proof: 30 (15% ABV)

Price: $11 for 750ml

Buy again: No