Like it or not, we are all cogs in the hype machine, slowly turning towards the tipping point where “I’ll never try that garbage” gets crushed between the gears of curiosity and mob mentality. When it comes to drinking, the assimilation sometimes catches you by surprise, and more often than not, resistance is futile. Such is the scenario in which we found ourselves when a recent trip to the liquor store led to a cart full of cinnamon flavored whiskeys. Antifreeze recalls be damned, we had to see what the zealotry was all about, and whether or not the reigning cinnamon whisky shot champion, Fireball, could be dethroned by a couple well-known whiskeys trying to get in the game.
ABV: 33% (66 Proof)
Tagline: Tastes Like Heaven, Burns Like Hell
Shot Glass with Purchase: Yes
Tasting Notes: We “enjoyed” each of these flavored spirits as intended, in shot form, lest we give too much legitimacy to any of them. First up was Fireball. If this is what heaven tastes like, I’m strongly considering going back to church. Although whiskey is the backbone of each of these flavored spirits, Fireball--with its lower ABV--tasted nothing like whiskey. Don’t get me wrong, I prefer my whiskey at cask strength and full of peat and smoke, but that’s typically if I’m in the mood to sip. When I’m in the mood for quick delivery, I’ll reach for this moving forward. It was basically like drinking liquid Red Hots candy, something else we had a hard time putting down as children until our hands and faces were bright red with shame and Red Dye #40.
Challenger: Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Fire
ABV: 35% (70 Proof)
Tagline: None, but a story about the Jack Daniel Fire Brigade on one side of the label and claims of a smooth, intense finish on the other side.
Shot Glass with Purchase: No
Tasting Notes: There is a slightly more pronounced whiskey flavor with the Tennessee Fire, and the cinnamon flavor delivers more heat than sweet. Of the three, I would probably mix this one into a cocktail, but Fireball still has the edge.
Challenger: Jim Beam Kentucky Fire
ABV: 35% (70 Proof)
Shot Glass with Purchase: No
Tasting Notes: I’m pretty happy we decided not to get too caught up in this whole experiment and limited ourselves to a couple miniatures of the Kentucky Fire. There was little to no cinnamon in this one. The liqueur infusion had more of a Beam and Coke flavor than a cinnamon flavor, which is how I typically like my Jim Beam, so I’ll probably stick to the regular bourbon and avoid the premium for the artificial flavor and flaming Guy Fieri label.
Verdict: Both Jim Beam and Jack Daniel’s are going to have a hard time beating Fireball’s first mover advantage. They have the marketing firepower, but it will take more than a propylene glycol smear campaign to douse Fireball’s sales fury. Plus, Fireball’s formula is much more shot-friendly, and while we probably won’t be seeking it out on a regular basis, if Steve from sales shoves a shot of Fireball in our face at the next company outing, we will definitely partake.
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