Bourbon Review: Woodford Reserve versus George T. Stagg versus A.H. Hirsch

sunny_bourbon_connaisseur_resize.JPGMany people buy wine or champagne to celebrate (including me). My Kentucky husband buys bourbon. There was a ton of hype for the A.H. Hirsch, so he splurged and purchased it. We decided to save it a few months and sip it to celebrate our new back porch and little Ainsley’s arrival.  We did just that a couple of weeks ago.

While preparing the tasting tray, Sunny decided that surely there was food involved- so she hopped on the tray and parked herself until we moved her!

Instead of just sipping, we decided to compare it to our favorite premium bourbon, George T. Stagg uncut, and to our favorite lower-cost bourbon, Woodford Reserve. We expected the Stagg and Hirsch to be much stronger in flavor but wanted to use the Woodford as a “control.”

All of them were a standard one ounce over ice, with one ounce of Ty Nant still water to dilute. I wanted to use a little more water on the uncut Stagg, but I was overruled. We started with the Woodford (I hadn’t had bourbon of any kind in ten months, so I started slowly!). As always, it was smooth and clean, with a mild carmelized woodsiness that is perfectly sippable. Next, the Stagg.

It was toward the end of the bottle, and the Stagg had some carbon that made it into the glass, so the color was off. The aroma was thick and bursting with cherries. I tasted it- BLEH!  It was definitely too strong.  I swished some Pellegrino in the hopes of saving my palate from destruction.  I haven’t had a stiff drink since before I was pregnant so I thought I might be losing my affection for bourbon.  Oh no!

Finally, we tried the Hirsch.  We sipped, swirled, sipped again.  We cautiously looked at each other.  My thought was…”that’s it?!?”  We were both thinking the same thing.

The Hirsch was smooth, with a saltwater-limestone finish.  Carlton identified a walnut flavor which I liked and he didn’t.  It had little carmel or cherry character and tasted more like a salty (not peaty) scotch than a bourbon.  We were nonplussed.  I compared it to the Woodford directly.  Woodford had more complex flavors than Hirsch but the same smoothness.

The result?  We’ll save our precious income and buy 3 or 4 bottles of Woodford instead.  Even a bottle of Stagg is more economical than Hirsch and, once we’d cut it with the right amount of water, was delicious with its pipe-tobacco overtones.