It tastes pretty strongly like apple, along with the nice sweet vanilla and caramel stuff you get from barrel aging. When I've had it in the past, I haven't really noticed it as too 'hot', but I usually drank it in cocktails or on ice, so it was diluted anyway. I don't really care about the proof, the big thing that bugs me is that the cheaper applejack is blended- part apple, part neutral spirits, and Laird's doesn't say what the neutral spirits are. The bottled in bond is made from 100% apples, and has a much stronger flavor. Kinda like the difference between drinking Canadian Club and drinking any actual whiskey.