Confession time: I have a problem. Like many of you, I enjoy drinking whiskey. There’s so much to drink out there, but I’m just one guy with limitations, like anyone else. I love whiskey…it doesn’t always love me. I thrive on trying as many new expressions as possible, which has made me look at folks with collections of dozens of bottles in a different, more understanding light. This excitement in trying anything—even if it’s bad—unfortunately extends to me trying stuff that should come with red flags for neck tags. Why? The same reason we watch movies like The Room and Samurai Cop: Because it’s fun to see how low the bar goes…until you’re actually there.
Whenever I noticed the brand Ten High on shelves, it always blended in with its similarly ranked cousin, Ancient Age. I’d point attention to Ancient Ancient Age as well, but I’ve never actually seen that on shelves, which is of little to no loss on my end. Why do I refer to Ten High and Ancient Age as cousins? Because they’re from the same parent company: Sazerac. I’m here to reward my curiosity with former, which touts itself as “bourbon whiskey with natural flavors.” To quote the legit level 69,420 Mooch Supreme himself, “I hope so, it’s whiskey.” Just how natural is it? Let’s find out.
Nose: Brown sugar, grain, and lemon citric acid. Whispers of banana. Caramel corn seems to dominate here, but that lemon citrus backbone undermines the pleasantness of the whole experience. Really tough to get past the astringency. After sipping I get Diet Vanilla Coke and/or Diet Dr. Pepper Cream soda…not in a good way.
Palate: Bananas, bubblegum, and melted vanilla ice cream swiftly followed by aspartame/Stevia. Has some honest promise upfront only to soil it. I like how it starts off, but by god this kills any saving grace on the finish.
Finish: Chemically. Artificial sweetener without actual pleasant, lasting flavors to help mask it.
I know what you’re thinking, looking at this scoresheet and reading my notes: Ken, you pulled some not awful notes out of this, how can you give it an F and designate it as a Drain Pour? I’ll answer that two ways. One, this stuff sucks. Two, I hate being misled. My purchase of a nip of this substance came with certain expectations. I had an idea of what I might be in for, but I just had to know for my own insanity. After saddling up and expecting a rough ride, I sniffed and sniffed and eventually sipped. That stretch of time, up through the first second or two of sipping, made me think “oh, this isn’t all bad. Perhaps I’ve found a cheap, viable option that could hold me over when money gets especially tight. Maybe I can sit back and relax with a shut-my-brain-off pour and…”
Ten High played a cruel trick. My guard was lowered and it proceeded to deck my precious halls with Lucille’s bald, rust-skinned daddy. And then asked me to lick it, which I obliged since I’m about as bright as Heaven Hill’s rickhouses on November 8, 1996. The experience is vile and pains my soul. I wanted to see how low the bar went, and that’s precisely what I got. After getting my hopes up one inch. Ten High is bad enough to make me momentarily consider sobriety, even as I longingly stare at my special occasion bottles. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go take a shower so I can’t tell if I’m crying or not.