An excellent article at CraftBeer.com on the subject. Seriously: I don’t have anything to add to it beyond telling you it’s worth reading.
Last Saturday I was able to do a small vertical tasting of Clear Creek‘s McCarthy’s whiskey. I had bottles from ’08-’10 and was able to pour samples for me and some fine tasters, while we chatted and generally had fun.
The ’08 was the most mellow of the whiskeys; a very strong peat flavor but so smooth that even those of us who aren’t fond of the peaty flavor still enjoyed it. Of the three, this is the one that I felt didn’t need any water to bring out any other flavors but of course doing so was very nice.
The ’09 had the sharpest flavor to it. Of the three it was the one that had the largest whiskey bite at the end and sensation of alcohol to it. A drop of water really brought out some nice aromas and let the hint of vanilla in there shine a bit more. One person liked it the best because it was so bold and I have to say, that position holds a lot of merit for me. Be what you are, I say, and be bold about it.
Finally, the ’10 batch of McCarthy’s seemed to split the difference between the ’08 and ’09. It was a hint sweeter than the ’09, which helped take an edge off the bite at the end and with a drop of water, nearly had the smoothness of the ’08 batch.
All of these whiskeys were really good but I am mildly surprised at how easy it was to notice differences between the batches. Consistency is something I value when I’m trying to make beer-and I’m not suggesting that McCarthy’s isn’t consistent because it was easy to tell that the liquor was from the same family, just that small batches seem to allow for some variance that makes for an interesting whiskey, to me.