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Whiskey with Wes: A blind taste test to reveal the best whiskey for the Grove

We picked out eight whiskeys, tasted them and scored them.

To be completely unbiased and to prove to my readers that I just don't sit around drinking limited-edition, Poland only Blanton's (I actually have two bottles of that), I decided that this week I would do a feature on what people drink in the Grove. At my tent we've been known to drink $50 half gallons of W.L. Weller 12, which are now going on the secondary market for around $340 a bottle. I have also had Yellow label Four Roses, W.L. Weller special reserve, Eagle Rare 10, Knob Creek, and Bulleit at my humble but wonderful Grove spot.

These whiskeys I am reviewing are not necessarily the ones at everyone's tent, however, these are the ones that I have seen the most. I chose several whiskeys I like and several that I don't.

Doing a tasting like this blindly really gauges the whiskey that one likes to drink and I highly recommend doing blind tastings. Marketing and Advertising has a lot to do with what people like and dislike. Going in I was excited and yet terrified about what my tastes says about me. It turns out, we didn't do too shabby.

The rules

My friend EL Jefe poured nine whiskeys for me and my close friend, The Reaper, to taste blindly. Each of the whiskeys were assigned a number. We did not know which whiskeys are which, only what number they were.

We gave each whiskey a score from 0-30. We awarded 0-5 points for aroma, 0-5 points for color, and 0-20 points for flavor or taste (at the end of the day, if it is not pretty and smells bad, but tastes good, I'll drink it). We then took the average of both of our scores and ranked them from best to worst.

I just hoped I didn't make an ass of myself and rank Evan Williams over Knob Creek.

The contenders

The following whiskeys are listed in no particular order.

  • Bulleit frontier whiskey
  • Four Roses Yellow Label
  • Knob Creek small batch
  • Jim Beam white label
  • Crown Royal
  • Evan Williams black
  • Makers Mark
  • Jack Daniels No. 7
  • W.L. Weller special reserve

The competition

The Reaper and I walked out of the room whilst El Jefe poured the whiskey. Once we were allowed to enter the room the tasting began.

whiskey tasting

Here's what our scoring chart looked like after we averaged our two score cards:

Whiskey Color Aroma Taste Total
1 2 2 7.5 11.5
2 3 2 7.5 12.5
3 2 1 5.5 8.5
4 3 2 6.5 11.5
5 2 2 8 12
6 3 2.5 9.5 15
7 4 3.5 11 18.5
8 4.5 3.5 9.5 17.5
9 3 3.5 6 12.5

And here are the whiskeys that corresponded with each number:

  1. Four Roses
  2. Maker's Mark
  3. Crown Royal
  4. W.L. Weller Special reserve
  5. Jim Beam
  6. Evan Williams Black label
  7. Bulleit
  8. Knob Creek
  9. Jack Daniels

The final score

Whiskey Points % of total pts possible
Bulleit 18.5 62
Knob Creek 17.5 58
Evan Williams Blk 15 50
Makers Mark 12.5 42
Jack Daniels 12.5 42
Jim Beam White 12 40
W.L. Weller SR 11.5 38
Four Roses 11.5 38
Crown Royal 8.5 28

Crown Royal was a clear loser, prompting comments like, "Do they make a 40-proof whiskey?" and "Tastes like old hotel ice water that has been sitting in a plastic bucket". The big surprise to me and clearly the real winner when considering cost to benefit is Evan Williams Black label. It cost like 12 or 13 bucks a fifth and was right behind two bourbons that cost almost triple that. When I say right behind, I mean on a 100 point scale it rated a 40%. Only one Whiskey made a D and that was Bulleit.

I will give credit where credit is due: Evan Black is what you should buy if you're on a budget. I am not to the point of drinking it, however, should God smite me like Job, I'll be drinking Evan Williams.

The Reaper and I agreed on most of the whiskeys -- we were within a point on almost everything except Weller. I liked it so I gave it an 11, but The Reaper, who doesn't like that particular Weller, gave it a 2. Personal tastes always differ.

Jack Daniels surprised me because I just knew I could pick it out, but I missed it on the first try. Nailed it on the second try though. It smells like banana taffy on the nose and I'll never forget that smell again (neither will my Kappa Kappa Gamma Halloween Date Party date -- I'm picking up a hint of college mistake on the nose and bad decision on the palate).

At the end of the day, no whiskey here passed with flying colors, but for Grove whiskey I'll take Knob Creek and Bulleit. You can also get all of these in half gallons, which is important in the Grove. I know I missed "your" favorite bourbon/whiskey. I left out Jameson too and I drink a lot of it in the morning with my coffee in the Grove but we could only soberly taste so many whiskeys.

Happy Friday and cheers.