So I made my decision. I chose, based on the belief that years in a barrel meant a damn. I bought Old Charter 8 years. It was just under 15 dollars. Was it a bargain? I poured it into a glass full of ice and sat down to enjoy myself. I took a whiff of the fumes emanating from the bottle. I could smell the faint trace of rubbing alcohol. That's a bad sign. That means that they left too much of the tails, and there are fusel oils in there. That's the stuff that gives that burning kerosene flavor to booze, and gives you a hangover the next morning. I took a sip. It went down ok. It was sweet. It has some bitterness and that feint burning of kerosene. I knew it.
As the ice melted, the flavors eroded. The sweetness left, leaving only bitter and kerosene. Strange, because usually when you add a splash of water to whiskey the flavors open up. It is how Noel Sweeney recommends you drink your Irish whiskey:
God bless you Noel!
On the whole Old Charter was a let down. It was cheap, but there was cheaper. For a few dollars more, I could have bought one of Noel's creations: Irish Manor. I love that stuff. For a few dollars less I could have tried Old Fitzgerald or something else. So I guess the loser is Old Charter. I guess the loser is me.
To round out the day, I also bought Black Velvet reserve, also aged in oak for 8 years. This was a much cheaper booze, coming in at a mere ten dollars. I cracked it open and took a whiff. I could smell whisky, but less of the rubbing alcohol vapors. That was a good sign. I poured it into a glass full of ice. The flavors were very strong. It is a very dry whisky, with sharp rye flavors. It isn't a bad drink, but too dry for me to enjoy without a mixer.
Hello, what have we here? Sweet Vermouth? Now we're talking. The sweetness from the vermouth balances out the dry whisky, and makes a respectable Manhattan. The day is not lost entirely.
Now I think I've gone a good enough gambit down the Canadian whisky road. I know what to expect from them.
So that's my experience with bourbon. Lesson learned, I think. Next time you get bourbon advice from Kentuckians, you listen damnit. Next time I try bourbon I'll buy that Billy Idol bourbon.