Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Whiskey Wednesday: Oh Honey, Honey

Posted By on Wed, Mar 21, 2012 at 7:50 AM

Honey is hot right now. Always a favorite secret flavor weapon for mixologists, bee vomit is also the main ingredient of a particular favorite cocktail of mine that was in heavy rotation in my home bar last year, the Brown Derby. Seriously, stop reading this right now, click that last link and go make yourself one.

Now liquor producers are introducing a taste of honey directly into their products to add a little sweet to their sting. Last year's launch of Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey was the first new product from that old established brand in a generation, and it has been a rousing success for Brown-Forman. Their strong sales have encouraged other distillers to get in the game with their own versions.

Personally, JD Honey isn't my favorite of the category. The 70 proof product is technically a liqueur, but it is still thinner and less syrupy than many other liqueurs. I've also heard a rumor that the actual honey comes from Kentucky, so maybe I'm a little biased. To me, the honey version just isn't unique enough compared to regular Jack Black, so even though it is ubiquitous in local bars, especially those with shot-dispensing machines, I tend to stick with the original recipe over the extra-sweet. But I have found some success sipping Jack Daniel's Tennessee Honey with a little lemon microwaved until warm to treat a tickle in the throat.

More successful to me is Wild Turkey's American Honey. More syrupy smooth than the Jack Daniel's products, American Honey really puts the honey flavor to the forefront. Utterly smooth, American Honey glides down the throat like a nice warming hug to your liver.

As Mr. Pink mentioned in a recent comment here on Bites, it could easily replace Nyquil as a cold and flu treatment for the adults in your household. Just don't drink it from those little plastic dosage cups; that would be gauche.

Jim Beam has recently entered the fray with their new Red Stag Honey Tea. I'll be the first to admit that I've never been a huge fan of Red Stag's original Black Cherry flavored whiskey. In an especially unkind moment, I might have used the word "abomination," but I can be something of a purist at times. And America has spoken — the original Red Stag is widely and wildly popular among the shot-drinking set and benefits from a celebrity endorsement from Nashville resident Kid Rock.

Fortunately, Red Stag Honey Tea has a much subtler and more logical flavor profile than its Black Cherry cousin. Unlike their other new release, Red Stag, Spiced which is overpowered by both the original black cherry plus cinnamon, Honey Tea reminds you that this is a whiskey-based product with just a hint of sweet honey and tannic tea to add to the party. It's really a nice alternative to your typical corny whiskey, and at the price point of Jim Beam instead of premium bourbons, it's a pleasant and affordable change of pace.

The final honey-based product I've sampled lately comes from across the pond, Bushmill's Irish Honey Reserve. Bushmill's primary competitor in the Irish whiskey space is Jameson's, which has long been noted for having a golden honey aspect to its complex flavor profile. Rather than adjust their centuries-old recipe, Bushmill's has released a new formulation of a 70-proof honey offering. Although it's still easily recognizable as Irish whiskey, Bushmill's Irish Honey Reserve exhibits the bright tang of lemon along with the sweetness of the honey. The combination of the rich roundness of the original Bushmill's and these restrained additional flavors makes for a remarkable bottle of spirits which, I must confess, did not survive the St. Patty's Day weekend festivities at my household. And I didn't even share it with anybody. But at least there are no more snakes in my house ...


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