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Tuesday 21 May 2013

Makers Moe: The Simpsons, Makers Mark and Balcones Straight Texan Bourbon Whiskies

I've always been a huge fan of cartoons and from my uncle who learnt his English by reading Donald Duck comics first in Norwegian and then again in English, through to my older brothers who always had copies of The Beano lying around, it's been a consistent family trait.

Starting with the aforementioned Dundee-based comic (which has been the subject of a post before) I graduated to the excellent Tintin series of works, but that's where my interest waned in favour of books with less illustrations and more words.

However, I've still maintained a love for graphic art and, of course the odd relaxing cartoon on the telly from time-to-time.

One of my guilty pleasures in life is to set the Sky+ box to series link for The Simpsons and, once the working day is over, to sit back with a nice dram and an episode or two of this now iconic American show. So, imagine my surprise when I heard that in the latest season (season 24) one episode, called Whiskey Business, was to feature the down-at-heel local bar owner, Moe Sizlack landing venture capital investment to sell his own bourbon, Maker's Moe.

Amid the growing craft distillation movement in the US, we shouldn’t forget those staple bourbons which populate our backbars and supermarket shelves, so this gives us a nice chance to have another look at Maker's Mark whisky.

Maker's Mark – Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whisky – 45% abv – 70cl £22.95 here

Nose: a bourbon which doesn’t shout but gets its point across well with few words. Vanilla pods and oak spices are backed with some subtle honey and red apple, all wrapped in parma ham.

Palate: soft brown sugars are mixed again with vanilla pods and some red cherries. There is a hint of ginger and a mixed dried fruits. Oaky drieness kicks in, but this is, overall, soft and subtle on the palate.

Finish: Some spices, but not over powering. Softness again.

Overall: A really great whisky for mixing or pouring, this is a classic example of a great American bourbon which has established itself as a go-to brand for all the right reasons.

It's no secret that craft distilling is in a boom-time in the US and it has reached such a height that even The Simpsons is featuring it. Quite the accolade for those already set-up and distilling.

Of those making interesting spirits, Chip Tate at Blacones in Texas has to be right at the top of the tree. From his crazy creations such as Rumble (a distillation of figs, honey and sugar) through to his Baby Blue and the 2012 Best In Glass award-winning Texan Single Malt, Chip has now delved into the world of bourbon, making something which we would describe simply as ‘extraordinary’. We tried a sample at this year’s Whisky Live...

Blacones – Straight Bourbon Whisky – Single Cask – 64.2% abv - 100 bottles approx. worldwide

Nose: A classic “yee-haa” of a bourbon nose with rich toffee apple, light wood varnish (Pledge?), rich vanilla pods, some freshly laid garden wood chippings and that wonderful delicate drying note provided by the corn.

Palate: As is becoming traditional with Chip’s offerings, this is stout, strong and robust, with elements of charred meats, heavy oak and red cherries, yet there is a complexity on the back of the palate where spices dance around hand-in-hand with those vanilla pods from the nose, with hearty red berries and cinnamon spices providing a velvety backdrop.

Finish: Cigar box and leather with those red berries finishing off and a drying tone of menthol to end the experience.

Overall: Another great whisky from Chip Tate. I hope, unlike Moe Sizlack, that Chip maintains his independence and can play around with ideas and flavours at will. It’s a great bedrock on which to build a business.

How unusual be reviewing two American offerings and not have to put an ‘e’ in my whisky. However, when you pour yourself a dram of the Balcones Straight Bourbon, you’ll certainly be putting the ‘you’ into flavour...