Under the “we taste them so you don’t have to” category comes this 5 bottle tasting of bourbon (and Jack Daniels) honey liqueurs. While flavored spirits are very popular now, the whiskey liqueur has a long history. In the early days of distilling in Scotland, the spirit (it would not qualify as whisky in the 21th
century) was usually sweetened with honey and flavored with herbs and spices to make it more palatable for recreational consumption. The popular Scotch whisky liqueur Drambuie is a marketed as a modern riff on that tradition. In the mid to late 20th century, many bourbon producers sold whiskey liqueurs as well, the best known and best being Wild Turkey Liqueur. It’s worth a purchase if you ever come across it. This current crop of whiskey liqueurs is only a few years old, but they’re already ubiquitous. They’re all over the place too.
I want to thank Mrs. Sipology Blog, Liz for being my co-taster in this exercise. In fact, it was her idea. So without further ado…
Wild Turkey American Honey, $21, 71°
L: Color like a golden apple. Butter, pear, whiskey. Thick but not sticky. Airplane sippable. Thumbs up.
J: Pale. Light vanilla and honey in the nose. Medium bodied. Sweet and slightly herbaceous with a little burn. Pretty good for what it is.
Evan Williams Honey Reserve, $13, 70°
L: Very, very light in color. Watered down apple juice. Sweeter nose, sweeter overall. More honey than alcohol. Sugary aftertaste. Too sweet to drink neat. Needs mixing, maybe with club soda.
J: Paler. Mildly sweet nose with some peanut butter. Honeyed water. No burn. Honeycomb finish. It’s big. Yeah, yeah, yeah. OK, but unbalanced.
Jim Beam Honey, $20, 70°
L: Bourbon-like in color (contains caramel). Strange smell, like peat, charcoal and corn. More burn than the EW, but not as complex. Honey, charcoal, nothing else. “I don’t think I finish this [1/4 oz pour].”
J: Much darker. Very weird nose, like white dog. Bland with a bit of sweetness and little else, not even honey. Finish like grape soda. Really bad. To the sink!
Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey, $25, 70°
L: Pretty light. Nose is honey, big time. No burn in the nose. Weird taste on the roof of the mouth toward the back. Smells better than it tastes. [grimaces] “Flat soda. I don’t like it. I don’t want to finish it.”
J: Wonderful jellybean nose. Waxy and perfumed on the palate like a scented candle. Not as bad as the JB, but not great either.
Red Stag Honey Tea, $20, 80°
L: At a loss for notes. More burn, less sugar but dull. Charcoal again. Nice bourbon flavor but too bland overall.
J: An improvement on the JB. Higher proof allows the bourbon to shine through a little more. Close in flavor to the EW until I get to the finish. A big burst of used teabags rounds things out. Better than the JD or JB.
Final results (unanimous)
Winner: Wild Turkey American Honey
Final standings: 1) WTAH 2) EWHR 3) RSHT 4) JDTH 5) JBH
(unanimous decision on both)
Parting words (Josh): This tasting surprised me a bit. The winner did not surprise me, but how bad JB and JD were did. Jim Beam honey was vile, disgusting stuff and Jack wasn’t much better. Another surprise was that Red Stag Honey Tea was not vile. I don’t see myself ever buying a bottle but a casual whiskey drinker might enjoy it on the rocks on a hot day with a slice of lemon.
If one is looking for a bargain, EWHR qualifies, but it’s so bland it hardly seems worth saving the extra $8. The only one on the list that I recommend is Wild Turkey Honey. It’s not as good as the old WT liqueur but it’s by far the best of this bunch. It’s best enjoyed in cocktails or as a digestif.