This week we’re doing a two-part series called Bees vs. Trees, in which I taste a bunch of honey whiskies (the Bees) and maple whiskies (the Trees). Today, the Trees get the spotlight as maple is a fairly new whiskey flavor that’s gaining popularity. Just as an educational note, there is a very blurry line between whether these are, by definition, flavored whiskies or strong liqueurs, since they usually have added sugars as well.
I imagine you’ve experienced the fact that the smell of maple really dominates the air when you’ve got some out. These whiskeys are no different: just an open bottle of one of these is enough to fill your entire house with the smell of maple. Surprisingly, though, while maple gets all up in your senses, the flavor that gets delivered to your tongue is much more tame, which may also be because most of these (unlike their Bee brethren) are 40% ABV or higher.
Cabin Fever Maple
- Cost: $20
- Description: “A 3 year old whisky that is infused with real grade B dark maple.”
- Alcohol: 40%
- The flavor experience with Cabin Fever can be summed up in one word: butterscotch. It dominates your palate, it’s creamy, it’s rich, and from start to finish, this is a butterscotch experience. It seems like a great fit in a hot, boozy tea this winter – I’m working on a recipe right now.
Crown Royal Maple Finished
- Cost: $25
- Description: “Fine DeLuxe Maple Flavored Whisky.”
- Alcohol: 40%
- Truthfully, I am not a fan of Crown Royal and generally don’t have it in my home bar. This variety is nice and strong, and sweet maple is all in the smell. The whiskey itself is more of a drier, nuttier experience, and does not align with the initial smell, since it’s much more subtle and strong. We liked it better than “regular” Crown, and I imagine this pairing well with a cigar. The bottle comes is a cool brown version of the iconic Crown bag, too. #bonus
Knob Creek Smoked Maple
- Cost: $30
- Description: “Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey with natural flavors.”
- Alcohol: 45%
- Alright, tell the kids to leave the room, because it’s serious whiskey time. Knob Creek is the highest % alcohol of any of the Bees or Trees, and it delivers. While there is certainly the maple smell wandering out of the bottle, this is a serious whiskey at a serious alcohol level. There is only the faintest trace of maple on the finish, and drinking this reminded me some of my Maple Old Fashioned: good whiskey, a little maple. Knob Creek may be the only option from this whole series for stuffy or serious whiskey sippers.
Jim Beam Maple
- Cost: $16
- Description: “Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey infused with natural flavors.”
- Alcohol: 35%
- The only brand in this series to play for both teams, Beam delivers a maple version of their classic bourbon. While the label says maple, we found it carried more of a toasted marshmallow experience through the senses – less maple, and more…..just sweet. I imagine there will be several appearances of Beam Maple in Fall cocktails, and it’s probably a better fit as a mixer than a sipper.