I’ve got two great reference books that I keep returning to, one for liquor and one for fragrance. The liquor guide, F. Paul Pacult’s Kindred Spirits 2 ($50, 652p.) is a recent purchase, one recommended to me by David Wondrich. I had cornered him at the Ultimate Cocktail & Spirits Blast and asked him what book to buy (I already had his), and this was the one.
Kindred Spirits 2 is essentially a collection of 2,400 liquor reviews from F. Paul Pacult’s Spirit Journal (published quarterly, $55/year sub.) from between 2000 and 2007. It’s fantastic, but even with a couple thousand entries, there are still odd gaps: no Martell cognac; Linie, the only aquavit I could find, is categorized as a vodka; no Del Maguey mezcal; Laird’s Applejack appears in the whiskey category (it is one, technically), and two of Laird’s apple brandies are in a catch-all grappa/eau-de-vie/pisco/arak/marc/slivovitz/brandy–world section, but where is Laird’s Bottled-in-Bond Applejack? This book begs for an index. That aside, it’s an invaluable resource for connoisseurs, and I’d like to periodically quote a review from it.
I buy Jim Beam bourbon because, for the price–$22 for a liter at my local store–it’s pretty damn good. For the budget-conscious home bartender who wants something that mixes well but tastes good straight, it’s a great value. So I was pleased to read a similar sentiment (abridged here) from someone much more learned:
Jim Beam (White Label) Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey; 40% abv
Entry is clean, gently sweet, toffee-like, and reserved; the midpalate stage features succulent tastes of light caramel, honeywheat bread, caramel corn, and toasted almond. Concludes as fruity and corny as it begins. For the price, a better American whiskey you cannot find. Hint: Taste Jim Beam White Label head-to-head against Jack Daniel’s Black Label and those consumers with more than 10 functioning brain cells will go “white” for the rest of their drinking days. This is simply the finest big volume, frontline American produced bourbon for the money.
2007 rating: three stars/recommended
Of course, if you want to spend a little more (half again as much), you can get Maker’s Mark bourbon, which is quite a bit better–Pacult calls it “one of America’s benchmark spirits.” But both Maker’s Mark and Jim Beam have gone up in price significantly over the last few years. For a liter, Maker’s Mark is $36 to Beam’s $22.
For more on whiskey from Pacult, see his iWhiskey app for the iPhone ($10.99), with 600 reviews of world whiskeys, including scotches.