Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The 5th Annual #30DaysofBourbon Challenge is almost here!



Get your liver checked, because the 5th Annual #30DaysofBourbon challenge starts September 1st!  This is an amazing, fun month-long event that grows by leaps and bounds every year.  Details will follow, but if you've never taken part, it is harder than you think and has a charity angle. Cheers!

Sunday, August 11, 2019

Bardstown Bourbon Co Fusion Series #1 Review & Tasting Notes



There's a new sheriff in town... well maybe not so new, but it is one of the newer distilleries:  Bardstown Bourbon Co. of Bardstown, Kentucky. Bardstown Bourbon Co., or BBC, claims to be "the first Napa Valley-style destination on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail to combine distilling, culinary, and beverage expertise to create a modern, authentic Bourbon experience."  BBC offers both their own distillate as well as a Collaborative Distilling Program. According to their website, they produce around 40 different mashbills, and some of their clients include Jefferson's, High West, Belle Meade, Calumet, James E. Pepper, and Cyrus Noble


One of the house whiskeys they offer is Fusion Series #1.  Because BBC has only been around a few years, they had to reach out for help and source a portion of the whiskeys. The blend is comprised of 42% BBC's 2-year, 1-month 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley, 18% was BBC's 2-year, 3-month 68% corn, 20% wheat and 12% malted barley. Both of those are married to an 11-year, 7-month mash of 74% corn, 18% rye, and 8% malted barley from an undisclosed Kentucky distillery making up the final 40%. That marriage resulted in a 98.9° Bourbon that will set you back about $59.95 and is currently available only available in Kentucky, but the planned distribution includes Indiana, Tennessee, Illinois, Northern California, and Southern Florida. 


I'd like to thank Bardstown Bourbon Co. for sending me a sample of Fusion Series #1 in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review. And now, let's get to it.


In my Glencairn glass, Fusion Series #1 appeared as a coppery (almost like a new penny) liquid.  It left a thin rim on the wall that produced fat, wavy legs to drop back to the pool of Liquid Sunshine.


Aromas of berry fruits, cinnamon and nuts filled the air. I really didn't need to hold the glass to my face to pick those up, it was that aromatic. The only other note I picked up was oak.  When I inhaled through my mouth, flavors of berry and vanilla raced over my tongue.


The mouthfeel was thin and light. At the front of the palate, leather was predominant but there was also a suggestion of cherry. Moving to mid-palate, it was a combination of creamy caramel and nuts. On the back were aggressive rye spice and dry oak. 


The finish was very long-lasting and spice-heavy. It just kept building and building with pepper and was fairly complex with how it increased and rolled in my mouth and throat.  The 98.9° had my hard palate buzzing pretty well, and that's something usually how a barrel-proof whiskey reacts on me.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:   I found the nose enticing and I definitely relished the finish.  I'm a big fan of high-rye Bourbons. I know several folks who aren't and prefer the gentle caress of a wheater. This isn't that despite the wheated component. The palate was fairly subtle beyond the dominating leather and rye and I struggled to pick up the other flavors. I've had a few pours of Fusion Series #1 to see how oxidization affected it and the notes never really changed.  Fusion Series #1 is good, but it isn't great, and in my opinion, it will appeal to a segment of folks who crave those high-rye mashbills. As such, this is rated a Bar and I suggest you try it before committing to the bottle. 


Cheers!

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Traverse City Whiskey Co. American Cherry Edition Review & Tasting Notes



I'll be completely transparent here... Flavored whiskeys are a crap-shoot with me. They're either good or they are terrible. The terrible ones taste very artificially-flavored and I'm usually under the impression the goal is to hide an otherwise bad whiskey. The good ones don't let the flavoring get out of control. 


Recently, Traverse City Whiskey Co sent me a selection of whiskeys to try in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review of each. One of them was their American Cherry Edition, which is a Bourbon that has been infused with "Traverse City Cherries and Natural Flavor." The Bourbon carries no age statement and comes from a mash of corn, rye, and malted barley. The finished product is bottled at 70°, forcing it to lose the legal definition of whiskey, which is required to be no less than 80°. It has a suggested retail price of $30.  The flavor is advertised as whiskey with a hint of cherry, not the other way around. The batch number I was provided is 013.


Those cherries?  I'll talk about them more at the end of the review. And, speaking of the review, let's get down to it, shall we?


In my Glencairn glass, the appearance was a reddish plum. It left a very thick rim that created fat, slow legs to drop back to the pool. 


An aroma of black cherry hit my nose. That was the end of it. It was a curiosity, especially with the suggestion that there was only "a hint of cherry, not the other way around."  When I inhaled through my mouth, I picked up that obvious cherry, but rye spice and vanilla followed. This at least gave me some hope.


The mouthfeel was very thick and oily. Up at the front of the palate, flavors of cherry and vanilla morphed into a creamy vanilla mid-palate. On the back were notes of rye spice and a hint of dry oak. Very dry oak. 


A longer than expected finish consisted of mostly cherry, but that very dry oak hung around to keep the cherry from becoming overwhelming.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Here's where the rubber meets the pavement. As a reminder, this is not a legal whiskey. When considering the rating, I take into account the category, what it offers, and is the price worth it.  In the case of American Cherry Edition, this is a solid flavored spirit and it does live up to its advertisement of being "not the other way around."  It is priced fairly with respect to similar items in this category and it is enjoyable. As such, it earns a Bottle recommendation. 


No, I haven't forgotten!  Those Traverse City Cherries are decadent and luscious. They come in very thick syrup and will blow away any maraschino cherry in a cocktail. I chomped some dark chocolate and then stuck a few cherries in my mouth and it was almost orgasmic!


Cheers!

Be a Better Whiskey Ambassador



Do you remember the first time you really got into whiskey?  How did you go about learning more?  Did you reach out to friends?  Liquor stores?  A social media group? 


When someone who is obviously new to whiskey (usually they'll volunteer that information) tells the world about their favorite pour, you can take it to the bank there will be folks who chime in.  Much of it is congratulatory because most people are decent. 


The remainders are the haters.  Haters come along and just ruin the day for everyone. Haters aren't like trolls, who try to simply stir the pot for their own amusement. Haters are under the impression their opinions are fact and who will make you feel horrible for even asking a question or making a statement.


As an example, someone posts to a group and says, I just picked up Bib & Tucker for $39.99!  I'm so excited!  There are a variety of supportive comments: Congratulations!  Nice find!  I love that!  and others. 


The haters chime in with their responses:  That's the worst whiskey I've ever tried!   You wasted your money on that!  Why would you buy that garbage? and similar, less-than-positive statements.


If someone posts, Hey, I found Bib & Tucker on the shelf for $39.99, should I buy it?  Then, at least one of the haters might be giving a correct response. My own might include, Set the bottle down, turn around very slowly, then run away.


What's the difference?  Aren't the haters just giving their opinion?  Sure they are, but the problem is the poster in the first scenario wasn't asking for opinions on Bib & Tucker, they were excited about what they considered a find and wanted to share their joy. However, the haters had this compelling need to rain on the original poster's parade.  In the second scenario, the poster was specifically asking for opinions.  Even so, the haters could have at least provided responses that don't shame the poster. But, haters gotta hate.


In May 2017, I wrote a piece for Bourbon & Banter entitled The Life and Times of a Whiskey Reviewer, and I explained the most cringe-worthy question posed to me is, I have a favorite whiskey. What do you think about _____?  The reason for that is the haters who will attack once they learn I don't like whatever that favorite whiskey happens to be. 


Another example can be someone in the business who makes an innocent, minor error. I'll use myself as an example. I wrote a review on a locally-distilled whiskey earlier this year. I made a very minor error defining a sub-category of whiskey. Two people, both in the business and neither with the distillery involved, pointed out the mistake.  One approached me in a comment and told me about my error. I thanked him and fixed it.  The second took the opportunity to tear into me and then berated me for having the audacity to write and talk to people about whiskey since I was so stupid.


As you can see, these are two very different approaches to pointing out my error. I know both of these people. I respect Respondent One and value his advice and knowledge to this day.  Respondent Two is also very knowledgable, but I feel like I need a shower whenever we interact.



Interestingly enough, as I'm writing this, one Facebook user asked in a group, What is MGP? and another chimed in with an easy-to-understand complete answer. I was ready for a bloodbath that, thankfully, never came. 


At some point, you were new to whiskey. You asked questions. If the liquor store owner gave you an answer that made you sound stupid, would you keep going back?  If you asked in an online forum and were treated like a moron by morons, were you quick to ask another question?


We have choices in life. We can choose to be nice. We can choose to be helpful.  We can choose to act like a schmuck online in an effort to prove how knowledgable we are, while if they said that same thing in public, they'd likely be trounced. Whiskey is meant to be enjoyed with friends and I believe it brings people together in a positive way. I've been blessed with a plethora of great people and opportunities in my life because of whiskey. 


Go forth upon the world and spread the whiskey love. Don't be a hater. Be a better whiskey ambassador.


Cheers!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Blaum Bros. Rye Review and Tasting Notes



Unique whiskeys are an adventure. They can either be amazing or you wind up, for kicks and giggles, finding an unsuspecting friend to pawn it off on and eagerly anticipate the reaction.


A week ago, I drove out to Galena, Illinois for the Blaum Bros. release of their Rye.  This is not a Knotter (MGP) product, rather, it is Mike's and Matt's own distillate.  As I was recently impressed by their four-year Bourbon, I had some fear of missing out on the Rye, particularly since this was the first release.


If you're unfamiliar with the Blaums, they have been distilling since 2013.  They started off releasing MGP products and went from there. And, whether you find their whiskey to be good or bad, you'll find that the brothers have a sense of humor that finds its way to everything in the marketing end, from their About Us link to the labels on the back of their bottles.





All the humor in the world, however, won't make a whiskey taste any better.  In the case of their Rye, it is distilled from a mash of 92% rye, 5% smoked malt and 3% malted barley. Smoked malt? That certainly is different, and that piqued my curiosity. It is then aged four years and non-chill filtered before being bottled at 100° (50% ABV).  And, despite that proof, this is not a Bonded whiskey.  It retails at the distillery for $50.00, and my experience with Blaum Bros. whiskeys is the retail at stores is about the same.


On a side note, Mike informed me that going forward, they will age all of their whiskeys at least four years before being released.


How did the Blaums do on this newest whiskey?  Time to #DrinkCurious.


In my Glencairn, the Rye presented as a deep amber. It left a thin rim on the side of the glass, and the rim created a wavy curtain to drop back to the pool.


Aromas of dried fruit and honey hit my nostrils first. Underneath that was charred oak and, finally, floral rye.  When I inhaled through my lips, it offered a complex blend of vanilla, spice and very dark chocolate. 


There was a light and airy mouthfeel when the whiskey first past my lips. It continued as light throughout the remainder of the glass but became less airy and more coating. On the front was vanilla and creamy caramel. In the middle were raisin and cocoa.  The back ponied up toasted oak, rye spice, coffee, and white pepper.


At this point, I thought the Rye was enjoyable but not overly unique. But then there was the finish...


It began with smoke (obviously from the smoked malt). That was followed by a short tenure of rye spice, the smoke returned thereafter and then came the dark chocolate freight train that just rolled on and on for what seemed an eternity (like waiting at a railroad crossing). The smoke and dark chocolate made for an almost natural, complementary combination. 


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Craft whiskeys. That $50 price point is a crowded field at the liquor store and something must make itself a stand-out product.  Blaum Bros. Rye does exactly that.  It marries a complex nose with a solid palate and an incredible finish.  I've been steadily increasing my American Rye and this one is something I'm really digging. It earns a very strong Bottle recommendation. Cheers!

Saturday, July 27, 2019



As some of you know, FB and Instagram have cracked down and shut down many secondary-market groups. Of course, this was against the TOS anyway, but it seems Sazerac stepped in due to a growing concern of the counterfeit market, which, in reality, is a legitimate concern.

I wrote about this subject several years ago over at Bourbon & Banter.

Cheers!




Monday, July 22, 2019

Traverse City Barrel Proof Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes



I'm often suspicious of a marketing backstory as it pertains to whiskey. There is so much twisting and the invention of "truth" and sometimes I'm left wondering just how stupid the marketing team at the distillery thinks I am. There is one of my favorites:  someone's great-grandpappy's recipe that's been hidden away tucked behind an old picture somewhere, just rediscovered and magically resurrected from someone who doesn't even have a working still. 


Traverse City Whiskey Co. starts off along this path. The Bourbon recipe was "lingering in our family heirlooms for three generations." The difference here is Traverse City Whiskey Co. does have its own stills and the great-grandfather's recipe and techniques were patented in the 1920s. This information lends credibility to the backstory.


The distillery is located in, you guessed it, Traverse City, Michigan. They've been in operation since 2015, and for the three years prior, they were selling MGP distillate. That then moved to a blend of their own distillate with their MGP-contracted distillate, and then to where they are today with their own. They currently distill about 800 barrels a year. They're growing, and their distribution is as well, as they are now in 21 states and the District of Columbia. 


Recently Traverse City Whiskey Co. provided me with a sample of their Barrel Proof Bourbon in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review. This Bourbon is distilled from a mash of 71% corn, 25% rye, and 4% malted barley. It is aged for four years and hits the bottle at 117.44°.  Retail on this is $75.00 at the distillery. On a side note, their Bourbon is kosher-certified. 


And now that I've presented you with the backstory, I'll get on to what's important:  the tasting notes and whether this is worth the investment.


In my Glencairn glass, this liquid sunshine has a deep, dark amber. It left a very thin rim but generated thick, long, wavy legs to drop back to the pool.


The nose is shockingly soft.  Keep in mind this is barrel proof. Aromas of black cherry were upfront and behind that was vanilla. There wasn't much else, and when I inhaled through my lips, it was pure vanilla.


The mouthfeel started off light and thin, but subsequent sips brought out a creamy texture that coated my entire mouth. At the front, it was a mix of brown sugar and warming vanilla. Black pepper, cherry, and cream joined in mid-palate. On the back, it was charred oak. 


A long, building blend of clove, oak and cherry created a finish that got my salivary glands running hard for another sip.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I may have given it away with the description of the finish. I was impressed with how gentle the nose was and really enjoyed the taste. Are there cheaper barrel proof Bourbons out there? Of course. Is this one worth $75.00? I'm rating this one a Bottle and would pick this one up with no questions asked. Cheers!