The Best Bourbon Balls

Bourbon Balls are an easy way to incorporate your love of bourbon with the Holidays, especially if you have a cheaper bourbon that would otherwise be a drain pour. Use the recipe below, take a photo and tag us on Instagram (@BourbonSippers) and we’ll update this post with your photos!  That’s right, we want to see your (bourbon) balls!

Bourbon balls

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter (melted)
  • 3 1/2 cups confectioners sugar (yes that’s “powdered sugar”)
  • 2-3 oz wheated bourbon (Maker’s Mark, Rebel Yell 10yr, Old Weller)
  • 3 oz of sippin’ bourbon
  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons whole milk (skim is white water, and not milk anyway)
  • 30 pecan halves or so. 

Directions

1. Pour your favorite bourbon into a glass and start sippin’

2. Combine butter, sugar, and bourbon in a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon or an electric mixer on low speed until smooth.

3. Refrigerate mixture for one hour.

4. Using a melon baller, form mixture into 1-inch balls. Place bourbon balls on a baking pan lined with parchment paper.

5. Refrigerate until firm (roughly 30 minutes). Remove bourbon balls, wrap individually with plastic wrap, and freeze for 2.5 hours. No need to parafilm these. 

6. Combine chocolate chips and whole milk in double boiler over medium heat, stirring until melted. One at a time, use a fork (or toothpick) to submerge the balls in chocolate, covering them on all sides. 

7. Place on baking pan lined with parchment paper, garnish with pecan half. Allow bourbon balls to completely harden before eating.

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Head-to-Head Tennessee Titans: George Dickel Bottled in Bond vs. Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7

George Dickel Bottled In Bond

Joe Cornwall, a guest contributor for the Slurred Speech blog shares a side-by-side review of George Dickel Bottled in Bond vs. Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7. Grab a glass and follow along!

In May of this year, I saw an announcement about the imminent release of a new whiskey.  It was a bottled-in-bond expression, and that always gets my attention. What really grabbed me was the age statement on this new release; 13-years with a suggested retail under $40! There was no way this wasn’t ending up in my liquor cabinet!

George Dickel Bottled In Bond
Photo by Joe Cornwall

Until I purchased this bottle, I don’t think I’d ever tasted any George Dickel Tennessee Whisky (Dickel stands by the traditional Scottish spelling).  To give this review some perspective I needed to compare the George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond to a reference whiskey. The reference brand couldn’t have been more obvious.

Almost every serious whiskey drinker has at least tried Jack Daniel’s.  When the words “Tennessee” and “whiskey” are in the same sentence it’s almost always a reference to the 4th bestselling spirit in the world.  While I’d never had any George Dickel before this bottle, I’ve had some Jack over the years. I enjoy Gentleman Jack on ice a few times a year, and a Jack & Coke is a safe bet on a flight.

Is Jack Daniel’s Bourbon?

Let’s get something out of the way right upfront.  Tennessee whiskey is bourbon.  It meets all the other requirements including a mash bill of a least 51% corn, aged in new, charred American oak barrels, distilled to no more than 160 proof, bottled at 80 proof or higher, etc.  Both expressions examined here are classified as Tennessee whiskey, hence they are also bourbons.

Although Jack Daniel’s meets the regulatory criteria for classification as a straight bourbon, the company disavows this classification and you won’t see “bourbon” written on the bottle.  Brown Forman sells Jack Daniel’s solely as a Tennessee whiskey. As defined in the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Tennessee Whiskey is classified as a straight bourbon authorized to be produced in the state of Tennessee. Tennessee law (57-2-106) further requires most (there is at least one exception) producers of Tennessee whiskey filter the spirit through charcoal made from maple wood prior to aging.  This is called the “Lincoln County Process.”

The Lincoln County Process is an additional manufacturing step in which the whiskey goes through a charcoal filtration while it’s still White Dog, prior to barrel aging. For several days the distillate drips through sugar maple charcoal, removing impurities to ensure a “smooth” drinking experience.  The whiskey may be charcoal filtered again after aging and before bottling. This dual filtration is what sets Gentleman Jack apart from its more pedestrian sibling.

Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 has an interesting story behind its name.  According to legend, Jack was originally assigned a district tax assessment number of 7. But while consolidating districts within Tennessee, they arbitrarily gave him the number 16. So as to not lose his customers, nor bend to the law, Jack began labeling his bottles ‘Old No. 7’. Officially no one knows if this is the true story, including Jeff Arnett, the seventh master distiller of the brand. Today Old No 7, is the jewel in the crown of the Brown-Forman portfolio.

The History of George A. Dickel

George A. Dickel the man was a German immigrant who founded the George A. Dickel and Company wholesaling firm in the latter half of the 19th Century.  Victor Emmanuel Shwab, Dickel’s brother-in-law brought the company into distilling whiskey at the turn-of-the-century, only to see the business die with the onset of Prohibition.

The George Dickel we know today was established as a deliberate market competitor to Jack Daniel’s by the  Schenley Distilling Company. Its first mash was produced in 1959 and its first bottles filled in 1964. Dickel’s home is in Cascade Hollow at what is now called the Cascade Hollow Distilling Co. which is part of the Diageo group, the largest producer of spirits in the world.

Bottled-in-Bond means that this whiskey must be distilled by the same distillery, in the same distilling season, aged at least four years in a federally bonded warehouse, and bottled at 100 proof.  George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond, a 13-year old whisky, is the first product to originate from the creative mind and prodigious skills of master distiller Nicole Austin who came to Cascade Hollow Distilling from scotch whisky legend Tullamore D.E.W. in 2018

Onto The Notes

Now that we know a little of the fascinating backstory of these Tennessee titans, let’s explore what’s in the bottles.  I compared these whiskeys neat from a Glencairn glass after allowing them to sit for 10 minutes after the pour. Let’s start with the Old No. 7

Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 is bottled at 80 proof with no age statement.   The mash bill includes 80% corn, 12% barley and 8% rye.

Both liquids are similar, with Jack Daniel’s being just slightly lighter in color.  It is more gold than brass to its tone.

On the nose, I get a distinct acetone (nail polish remover) aroma over a banana-flavoring note.  It’s not offensive, but it smells artificial to me. I don’t find the nose complex or involving. In a world where highly processed fast foods are a core dietary complement, this fits right in.  Like the Big Mac of alcohol. Its weakness is evident upon comparison to a more mature, more complex liquid.  

Tasting Jack Daniels Old No. 7, I get elements of sweet cinnamon gum, circus peanuts candy, and a slight warmth at the back of the throat.  It has a short, weak finish with some vanilla and a little bite. Nothing about this is challenging. I might even call it boring.  

I scored one of the first bottles of the George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond to make it to the Tampa region.  It was released in select states in May and started showing up across the country by late June. Bonded Dickel comes from a mash bill of 84% corn, 8% rye and 8% malted barley. It is aged 13-years and bottled at the prerequisite 50% ABV.

Compared to Jack Daniel’s, the Dickel shows a slightly darker tone with a rich, rose-brass coloration.  

On the nose, I get caramelized sugar, oak, and barrel char.  It’s got some interesting things going on.

On the tongue, the increased proof of the Dickel is readily apparent.  There are a nice bite and an engaging strength. The mouthfeel is creamy, almost oily.  The oak barrel notes are forward without overpowering the flavor; no small thing for a whisky this old.  I find it to be beautifully balanced. The flavor palate includes cherry cola, bananas, dark rum, cinnamon, and white pepper. There are notable banana and rum notes, reminiscent of a Bananas Foster dessert. 

The finish is nicely tapered sweet, and warming. 

Perhaps it was unfair of me to compare George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond with Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7.  After all, Jack Black is almost exactly half the price. At 2/3 the price we have Gentleman Jack. I didn’t taste them side-by-side for this review, but I’ve found the Gentleman Jack tends to push the acetone notes aside and focusses more clearly on the underlying JD flavor profile. It’s sweeter, softer and less aggressive. 

An even more apt comparison would be Jack Daniel’s Bottled-in-Bond, but that’s only available at duty-free travel shops and its 35% more expensive.  Or at 25% more expensive we have Jack Daniel’s 100 proof Single Barrel. The closest current analog to Bonded Dickel is Jack Daniel’s Legacy at 43% ABV and $30.  I’ll be sure to give it a go and continue the research.  

There’s a reason Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 is the best-selling American whiskey in the world.  It’s approachable and easy to drink. It’s a whiskey for people who don’t really like whiskey (or at least don’t like a strong whiskey).  You know how it tastes, and if you don’t you can get a pour at nearly any stocked bar in the world.

George Dickel Bottled-in-Bond is a horse… er, whisky… of a different color.  It’s well-aged, full-flavored and legitimately complex. It is an excellent whisky, and it’s not a limited release.  That means it might even sell for MSRP, unlike some other well-aged bottled-in-bond expressions that owned the $35 space for decades only to end up on the ‘tater list at double the retail and then some.  

Make no doubt about it, I’m getting another bottle or two of this Dickel soon.  You know, just in case… – JC

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Buffalo Trace Announces E. H. Taylor Amaranth

E.H. Taylor Amaranth

Buffalo Trace Distillery honors former distillery owner with Colonel E. H. Taylor Amaranth. Amaranth will be used as the flavoring grain instead of rye for this 100 proof special release.

Amaranth is similar to wheat and offers a complex profiles of butterscotch, spearmint, pecans and dark berries. The other grains used in this recipe are corn (Buffalo Trace Mashbill #1) and malted barley.

E.H. Taylor Amaranth

E. H. Taylor Amaranth will be Bottled-In-Bond small batch bourbon, aged over a decade and will only have one release.

Fresh spearmint on the nose, followed by honey, with a hint of cherry. On the palate, coffee and vanilla come through.The finish is long, with oats and honey.

Via the Buffalo Trace Press Release

The Colonel E. H. Taylor collection was first released in 2011. Like some of the previous releases, this onetime-only bottling is a limited release. Also consistent with past releases, the Amaranth Bourbon displays a vintage label and is offered inside a distinct tube.

The six-bottle cases will be shipped in the wooden box first used for the Cured Oak release which were modeled after the wooden crates used by Taylor to transport goods during the days before Prohibition.

Colonel Edmund Haynes Taylor, Jr. is widely considered one of the founding fathers of the bourbon industry, fighting for the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897, nearly three decades after he purchased the distillery that is known today as the Buffalo Trace Distillery.

During his time, Taylor implemented several innovative methods still used today by Buffalo Trace, such as climate controlled aging warehouses.

In addition to his bourbon interests, Taylor had political ties. He was the great-nephew of President Zachary Taylor and elected the mayor of Frankfort, state representative to the Kentucky General Assembly and a member of the State Senate.

– Buffalo Trace Press Release

This special bottling of Colonel E.H. Taylor Amaranth Bourbon Whiskey will be available starting in late July 2019 in limited supply.

The suggested retail price is $69.99, a suggestion that will likely be disregarded by most retailers.

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Holladay Distillery

Holladay Distillery

Holladay Distillery in Weston, Missouri, is shaking up the bourbon industry and proving firsthand that good bourbon doesn’t have to come from Kentucky. With a rich history dating back to 1856, Holladay is home to a pure limestone spring first discovered by Lewis and Clark on their 1804 expedition. Kentucky natives Ben and Major David Holladay recognized the full potential of limestone springs and knew the site was perfect for one thing: making bourbon.

Weston Missouri Bourbon Climate

As most Bourbon Sippers know, temperature swings throughout the year play a significant role in the maturation of bourbon. This is one of the main claims for why Kentucky has such a great climate for aging whiskey. Because Missouri doesn’t have as many distilleries, most people don’t realize that Weston, Missouri is (on average) three degrees hotter in the peak of Summer and six degrees cooler in the depths of Winter than Bardstown Kentucky, which is home to some of the best bourbon in the world.

Holladay Distillery Warehouse
Holladay Distillery Warehouse

Nestled on a scenic Missouri hillside, Holladay’s barrel-aging warehouses collectively hold up to 22,200 barrels and are situated on a high and dry location that allows for the most possible sunlight and complete circulation of air. In early 2019, Holladay barreled its 10,000th barrel of bourbon and will continue to expand this production even further, allowing Master Distiller Kyle Merklein to experiment with different mash bills and aging times.

Holladay Distillery Tours

Holladay Distillery Whiskey
Holladay Distillery

In 2015, Holladay reopened its doors to tourism, giving the public the opportunity to see, smell, taste, and touch Real Missouri Bourbon being made. Guests peer into the limestone spring, step inside the stillhouse that dates back to the mid-1800s, walk among aging barrels, and take an insider’s look at the world-class bottling facility. Over 160 years of history are packed into each hour-long Holladay Distillery tour.

Holladay Distillery
Holladay Distillery

Recently, the company introduced a new tourism opportunity called “The Distiller Experience.” This special tour for two runs one Friday a month from 9 am to 2 pm, and, during that time, guests work side by side with Holladay’s Master Distiller, taste freshly pulled bourbon samples, and take home a used 53-gallon Real American charred white oak Holladay Bourbon barrel.

For more info and to book a tour, visit holladaydistillery.com

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