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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Spick and span


Wathen's on the Birch
I took to drinking Wathen's earlier this year. The proof – 94 – is up around the zone at which you may begin to lose some complexities that seem to please some people. In fact, at this proof, you are beginning to lose enough of the temptation to render bourbon as a kind of alcohol-based syrup that you will please other people: like me. Wathen's is not built to overemphasize complexity anyway; at least I don't think it is. The point seems rather to allow the drink to come at you as cleanly as possible, emphasizing its surprise smoothness at the wattage.

Other tasters talk of vanilla and hot peppers; if so, that is vurrry clean vanilla and those are not overly hot peppers. And still other tasters are down on it for its compact palate, something that I like about it. We don't need to drink brown sugar oaken casked cherry bombs all the time; some of us, in fact, grew up not knowing how to do this at all.

There is some justification in my mind to those who say you don't know what you're getting. But only some. I'm inclined to de-emphasize provenance and folklore, and I automatically dismiss anything printed on a folded card tied to the string around the neck of a bottle. But I will say with Wathen's that whatever you are getting, you are definitely getting across the barrels something calibrated to a specific taste. Those who guess that the barrels may be markedly different are not guessing correctly to my mind; I've had three bottles (so I must like something about it – and of course I do) from three different barrels, and the bottles have all been dependably similar to each other, enough so that I could taste and say, "Oh, that's the Wathen's taste."

When do you want a clean-tasting weapon's grade bourbon? That's the broader question, I think. I don't like one for breakfast, for instance. But I do like one in all those times when bourbon ordinarily doesn't fit the circumstances; say, on a hot afternoon, in the shade. And though most don't mix bourbons above $30, this works well in a Boulevardier, a drink that's got other crazy flavors going for it and needs a little alcohol lift for you to be satisfied with just the one, thank you. But ultimately what in the end I do like about Wathen's is this: it's 94 proof and yet you could say it's refreshing. That's my ticket, and that's why I've had a good amount of the stuff.

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