Nose: So….maybe you’d expect the worst bourbon I’ve ever tasted to also smell like crap. As it turns out, it has almost no smell. It is very light and has a small amount of moonshiney/corn smell. There’s also the tiniest amount of mint. The scent is so light that I thought maybe this wasn’t going to be as bad as I thought. If only that were true…... Palate: This has heat right off the bat and that heat intensifies as it goes into the finish. It almost singes the tongue when you put it in your mouth. It makes you want to swallow it quickly, which I don’t like. I like a whiskey to invite you to swirl it in your mouth for a while. This doesn’t . The heat is harsh. The first taste impression is a bitterness combined with pepper and cinnamon. It tastes young, so it has an undercurrent of moonshine/raw corn going on, which I think would come across more if it wasn’t so hot. After a sip, this leaves what I find to be an unpleasant aftertaste for quite a long time. I think this might be why I don’t like this very much. It doesn’t seem like it wants you to drink some more. And….that aftertaste lasts WAY too long. Later sips bring out some burnt flavors, but not good ones like char or burnt sugar….just burnt….something else…..like maybe old sneakers? And that aftertaste never seems to go away. I can’t wait to finish this glass and rinse my mouth out. Comments: I will gladly admit that I was not looking forward to this. At all. I’ve never liked this bourbon, even from the start. When people ask me, what’s the worst bourbon you’ve ever had, I always say, “Cleveland”. SO….there’s a chance that my taste buds were a bit biased. I will also readily admit that, while I was not looking forward to this, it ended up being…..well, not AS bad as I thought it was going to be. Don’t get me wrong…..I still don’t like it and would choose not to drink it. But…..it wasn’t so horrible as to make me spit it out (which, by the way, I’ve never done…..but other reviewers have). I think that is part of the magic of whiskey…..even really bad whiskey….well, can be drunk. (OK, maybe that isn’t ENTIRELY true…..) This is a very early bottle of Cleveland and they are still making bourbon, which gives me pause. I wonder if they just didn’t have their stuff together at first and now maybe have gotten better? How else to explain that they are still in business? Cleveland, after all, isn’t THAT far from Kentucky, so it isn’t like this is the only whiskey available. That said, “once bitten, twice shy”….I would never PAY to drink more recently released Cleveland. I am curious, but someone would have to GIVE it to me to get me to try a newer release of this. [NOTE: Just to be clear…..This is NOT a solicitation for gift bottles of Cleveland. I do NOT want any more of this.] This is 100 proof. That may explain the heat, but there are plenty of 100 proof whiskies out there that do NOT have this heat. I think one of the other reasons I’m not crazy about this is because they use a crazy “accelerated aging process” to “age” their bourbon. I have yet to taste a bourbon made with “artificial” aging techniques that was any good. (Although, using smaller barrels can SOMETIMES result in some decent stuff.) This “accelerated process” includes some type of proprietary process of rapid pressure changes, oxygen infusion and using charred oak pieces in with the juice. The whole thing takes 6 months. Here’s a more detailed description: First the whiskey is aged in traditional oak barrels for six months so that it meets the legal definition of bourbon. Then the whiskey is put in steel vats, the barrel is chopped up and added to the mix. It then goes through agitation and pressurization to force age the bourbon over the course of a week. The guy who makes this stuff, Tom Lix (yeah, seriously, Tom Lix!) challenges people to compare this to Knob Creek in a blind taste taste. Since I’m not a big fan of Knob Creek either, I suppose that would be a torturous venture for me. “Hey, don’t you have anything good to say about this?” Well, I do give them credit for trying….and sticking with it. They are now putting out bourbons finished in barrels made of other types of wood (i.e. not oak) and they sell small “bricks” of wood for smokers. I like the idea……if only they were using decent bourbon to start with. Nuff said. Bottom Line: This is ~$40 that I’ll never get back. AND….if you ever have too much to drink at the Flying Aces, you will be switched to this…….without the bartender telling you…….
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