After I posted my blog on Blended Whiskey, Alan Bishop, the Master Distiller at the Spirits of French Lick Distillery, reposted with some comments about how American Blended Whiskey was horrible and the category needs to die in the market. My argument in the blog was that American Blends were much better 50 years ago and they need to come back to that point to keep from becoming a dead category. I invited Alan over to open a 1/10 pint bottle I had of an old blended whiskey from the 50s or 60s to prove my point. Alan agreed and we opened the bottle of Guckenheimer Blended Whiskey. Unfortunately the small bottle did not have details of the percentages of aged whiskey to GNS so we were left to speculate as to what we thought. We agreed that there was either less GNS or the GNS was of a better quality than that used today. What follows are our tasting notes.
Guckenheimer Blended Whiskey circa 1960
Age: No Age Statement
- Mike: Corn, oak, leather and light spice. A fairly simple nose with nothing overpowering or strong.
- Alan: Over-mature sweet corn (he said he meant this in a good way), starchy, roasted corn that verges on being scorched, a slight mothball (went away after a while – I call that old bottle funk). A bit flabby and non-delineated.
- Mike: Vanilla, sweet corn, oak and pepper notes. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the vanilla becomes more caramel and slightly buttery. Tasted with a pecan and the pepper spice comes forward.
- Alan: Starts with a little menthol but it is non-aggressive, mid-palate spreads. Black pepper on the sides of the palate with some caramel and a creamy mouth-feel. The dried cranberry brings out some apple fruit and notes of Oloroso Sherry. The pecan brought forward some grains of paradise and black pepper with a slightly bitter almond character.
- Mike: Clean dry oak and very short. The cranberry made the finish a little sweeter and longer. The pecan made the finish longer and spicier.
- Alan: Agreed with me about it being a short finish but found a little spice with the oak. The cranberry sweetened the finish and the pecan enhanced the oak and spice.
I picked a Nat Sherman Pan Americana Gordo cigar to go with this tasting. I like the rich tobacco with a little cocoa and cedar spice smoke that the cigar always has and thought it would pair well with this whiskey. Alan agreed with my assessment. I thought the cigar brought out a nice creamy citrus note in the whiskey that reminded me of orange soda. Alan thought it more of an orange creamsicle. The whiskey gave the cigar a bit more of that cedar/pine spiciness in the smoke. We both rather liked the pairing.
I did convince Alan that American Blended whiskeys could actually be pretty good 50 years ago. He liked the Guckenheimer. We did not do tasting notes, but we then decided to open a 1/10 pint of Schenley Reserve I had from about the same period, but maybe more 60s/early 70s. It was decent but not as good as the Guckenheimer. Still, the Schenley had more flavor and color than a modern blend. Alan left by saying that he agreed that blends could be done well, but he will never produce a blend at the Spirits of French Lick Distillery. Fair enough.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller