Thursday, March 29, 2018

World Whiskey Blind Tasting Event at Vom Fass


Last night's Blind Whiskey Event was a blast! I had 18 people show up at VOM FASS University Ave. / DelecTable had no clue in the world what they were getting except for the fact it was going to be whiskey. I poured eight flights:

  • Radermacher 5-year Belgian Single Grain
  • Two Casks (a blend of single malts from Speyburn and Caol Ila)
  • Benrinnes 13-year Speyside Single Malt
  • Bunnahabhain 29-year Islay Single Malt
  • Teeling's Brothers-in-Arms 14-year Irish Single Malt
  • Yahara Bay American Rye
  • Great Glen 8-year (a blend of single malts from the Highland region)
  • Amrita 6-year Indian Single Malt 

The big reveal came after all eight flights were discussed and compared. A big surprise was that the Bunnahabhain was the one the fewest people chose as their favorite (only one chose it), and, as no real shocker, how well the blends were received. Folks who had never tried an Indian whisky before really enjoyed it, and the one that received the most raves was, amazingly enough, the Radermacher Belgian Single Grain.

This was the first time I've done a blind tasting with this many people, and everyone loved the format. This is something I'll be offering on a regular basis.



Friday, March 23, 2018

Stillhouse Black Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


When I was at Distill America X last month, I had the opportunity to try some new releases of whiskey. That’s one of many reasons why I love tasting events – it is the whole discovery aspect and finding something new to enjoy.  One of the booths I stopped by was Stillhouse Spirits Company. The owners are very nice and were kind enough to provide me with a sample of Stillhouse Black Bourbon to review with no strings attached. 


The packaging is certainly unique, and it isn’t every day that you come across Bourbon in a can, although perhaps it is because I see Stillhouse cans in nearly every liquor store I visit. They’ve certainly done a good job of getting their product distributed and because of the can, it grabs a lot of attention. The Black Bourbon is a brand new product destined to hit shelves this summer. 


The can states it is “[a] masterful blend of corn, rye, barley and limestone water. Barreled in charred new American oak, charcoal filtered, rested and mellowed in roasted small batch coffee beans …”  It carries no age statement, and as such, it is at least four years old. The can also states it is produced and bottled by Stillhouse Spirits Co., USA, which tells me that the whiskey inside is sourced. Otherwise, it would say “distilled.” It is “bottled” at 80°. 


Speaking of proof, the proof is in the pudding, and as this is a unique whiskey, it allows me to really open my mind and #DrinkCurious. 


Black Bourbon comes in two packages: a 375ml with a suggested price of $19.99 or, for $10 more, you can get a 750ml.

In the glass, the appearance was an appealing amber. Swirling it created a medium rim with medium-to-thick legs that slowly crawled back to the pool. 


At my chin, aromas of corn and coffee permeated my nostrils. Lifting the glass to lip level brought a very subtle caramel. Letting it hover just under my nostrils returned more coffee. Inhaling through my lips yielded a candy quality. 


The mouthfeel was extremely thin, and for the most part, was smooth. That smoothness can be credited to the charcoal filtering process. 


The first sip brought nothing but coffee flavor. Being one of the six Americans who doesn’t drink coffee, it was a little on the strong side. However, I never judge on the first sip. A second toned down the harshness and becomes much smoother. Just like on the nose, there was very subtle caramel, but it is mostly overwhelmed by the coffee. Underneath it all is corn sweetness. Subsequent tastes yielded nothing but coffee and corn. 


The finish was soft but kept repeating coffee. I picked up no other notes. It did nothing at all in my throat, everything was in the mouth. 


Next was where things got interesting. The package is designed to be placed in a pocket while camping or some other activity. As such, you likely aren’t packing a Glencairn glass, and you’d drink it straight from the can. Well, I wouldn’t, but that’s what the design is. In an even greater attempt to #DrinkCurious, I did exactly that.

The spout, at least on the 375ml can, is fairly small. I was unable to get much volume in my mouth. The coffee flavor was there, but so was the metal from the can. That metal taste went all the way into my teeth (if that makes any sense). Subsequent sips didn’t change that much, although it did mellow the metal out. 


I figured at this point, I’d return to the glass, and even though it is 80°, I’d try water to see if that did anything. After all, this is a #DrinkCurious moment. If you’re familiar with my reviews, you know I use an eyedropper to add two drops of water. 


The result was that the coffee got stronger on the nose, so much so that I didn’t need it anywhere near my face to sense it. The mouthfeel built body and became creamier, but the coffee then turned almost stale and sour. I tried several times to pick up a finish, but it just dissipated quickly. 


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I’m going to be very frank. I’m a whiskey aficionado. I lead whiskey appreciation and tasting events. Drinking out of a can isn’t my thing and I teach heavily on the importance of the right glassware to enjoy whiskey.  I appreciate finished whiskeys, I love finished whiskeys, but I don’t drink coffee. Even if I liked coffee, finishing a whiskey should enhance the flavor, not make the flavor. This is like drinking a cup of coffee that has the secondary benefit of giving you a buzz. I really kept an open mind and I really wanted to like this, but my recommendation is a Bust.


Monday, March 19, 2018

Stagg Jr - Batch 7 Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


There are a handful of seasonal barrel proof whiskey releases I look forward to. They have, for the most part, been kind to me and as such, I'm willing to shell out my hard-earned money to acquire them. One such label is Stagg, Jr. Twice a year, Buffalo Trace sends out another batch to be tracked down. On the plus side, Stagg, Jr. isn't as difficult as some others to find.

Batch 7 was released in 2016 at 130° and its MSRP is $49.99. You'll likely find it closer to $54.99. Stagg, Jr. is created from a small batch of Bourbons using Buffalo Trace's #1 mash. Each barrel in the batch ranges from eight to nine years but carries no age statement.

My past experience with Stagg, Jr. gives an appearance of deep, dark amber on the glass. This may be the lightest amber of any batch I've had. Swirling it around produced a very thin rim with fat, wavy legs.

At chin level, an aroma of thick caramel is up front. Lifting it to my lips, brings honey, cinnamon, and tropical fruit. Hovering the glass under my nostrils changes it to apple. Inhaling through my mouth brings heavy vanilla and maple.

The mouthfeel is thin but coating. Something common with Stagg, Jr.'s later releases is a limited burn on the mouth, and Batch 7 doesn't stray from that commonality.

Vanilla is way up on the palate. Behind that is maple syrup. Underneath that is flavors of cinnamon spice and apricot. Honestly, it is crazy the way the palate is hit, from one flavor to the next.

Something you expect from Stagg, Jr., is some woodiness. It doesn't show up on the nose, the palate, or the finish... until later. Oak hides under the maple and apricot. The hard and soft palates tingle from the proof.

I drank this neat, just as I do with every whiskey. However, adding two drops of water turned this into a maple bomb on the nose. It thickened the mouthfeel significantly. Clove was added on the palate, yet the finish remained unchanged.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: Batch 7 doesn't compare to my favorite Batch 9. I need to say this isn't unpleasant, but I don't know that I would chase it down. As such I'm rating it as a Bar.


Thursday, March 15, 2018

Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond has a very limited distribution. At times you can get it outside of Kentucky, but mostly this is a Kentucky-only gem. It also is, surprisingly, not listed at all on Heaven Hill’s website, leaving you to wonder if they’re trying to keep one of the worst-kept secrets in Bourbon locked away.

Bottled in Bond is my favorite category of whiskey. Heaven Hill Bottled in Bond is one of the best representatives of that category. #RespectTheBottomShelf...

You can read this review in its entirety over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!