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. 


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!


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.


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.


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!

Monday, July 15, 2019

Rebel Yell 100 Wheated Bourbon Review & Tasting notes

Interestingly enough, sometimes the marketing team gets things wrong when they're trying to sell a whiskey. In their attempt to make something sound enticing, or different, when you try it yourself you're left wondering if you've got the same thing they are talking about.  "Sometimes" happens more than you'd guess.

Recently, Lux Row Distillers provided me with a sample of Rebel Yell 100 in exchange for a no-holds-barred, unbiased review. Rebel Yell is a label that always leaves me in a very #DrinkCurious mood whenever it is offered. I have been impressed with various releases of Rebel Yell 10, yet have been underwhelmed with their standard, 80° offerings.

Rebel Yell 100 is a wheated Bourbon, meaning that instead of using rye as the second major ingredient, they use wheat. Wheat does two things that rye does not. First, wheat has no flavor. What it typically does is allow the sweetness from the corn to shine. Second, the wheat provides a "softer" palate than rye, which oftentimes adds spice and/or sharpness to the palate. 

The complete mash bill is corn, wheat, and malted barley. It carries no age statement, but as it is marketed as a Straight Bourbon, it must be at least two years old, and since it carries no age statement at all, it must be at least four. Lux Row indicates it is "Distilled and Aged in Kentucky." It is bottled at 100° but is not designated as Bottled in Bond.  The suggested retail is $19.99, making it very affordable.

Price is nice but taste is king, and as such, it is time for the tasting notes.

In my Glencairn glass, the appearance was clear and brassy. It created a very thin rim and slow, wispy legs that crawled back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Typical of a wheater, aromas of sweet corn and light oak greeted me up front. But, behind that was a mix of mint and honey. When I inhaled through my mouth, everything changed to very creamy caramel.

The palate was interesting but not overly complex. Up front, there was a combination of berry fruit and creme brulee.  Then, there was an interesting blend of toasted oak and pine woods. I want to stress this was wood, not juniper. On the back of my palate was cinnamon. 

A long, rolling finish of vanilla and cinnamon kept the flavors going for several minutes after the swallow. 

Before I offer my recommendation, I'd like to touch on what the marketers got wrong. Maybe wrong is unfair. The website suggests Rebel Yell 100 is "hot on the tongue" and to me, that's something that can be a turn-off for many drinkers. Sure, there was obvious cinnamon, but there is a definite difference of opinion as to what qualifies as "hot on the tongue."

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Let me get down to business here. Unlike the 80° incarnation, which is, in my opinion, a mixer, this one stands on its own and needs nothing added to it. Rebel Yell 100 is an enjoyable daily sipper and, when you take price into account, this is a definite Bottle recommendation. Moreover, it earns my coveted #RespectTheBottomShelf designation. 


Friday, July 5, 2019

Niemuth's "Full Boar" Driftless Glen Straight Rye Single Barrel Review & Tasting Notes

I often find myself gravitating to "store picks" of certain brands of whiskeys instead of just buying standard releases.  Examples of this include Four Roses, Elijah Craig, Buffalo Trace, and Driftless Glen.

Driftless Glen? You've not heard of that?  If you've not, you soon will. Driftless Glen is a distillery (local to me) in Baraboo, Wisconsin. They've been in business about five years, they distill a variety of spirits, but the two that interest me are their Bourbons and Ryes because, you know, whiskey.  I've been involved with barrel picks from Driftless Glen and I've seen how quickly this little distillery has grown in popularity across the country.

To me, there are two major categories of American Rye. Oh, there are subcategories as well, but they all seem to boil down to young and old Ryes.  Older Rye is typically more mellowed and younger Rye is generally bolder.  I happen to enjoy both and don't compare the two against each other because that's really unfair.

Recently I acquired a bottle of a single barrel pick for Niemuth's Southside Market, located in Appleton, Wisconsin. This bottle was provided to me in exchange for an unbiased review, and I thank them for this opportunity. This comes from Barrel 380, where the Rye aged 49 months. It was bottled at a barrel proof of 123.6°. Like all Driftless Glen Ryes, it is made from a mash of 75% rye and 25% malted barley. Niemuth's sells this for $54.99 per bottle. 

In my Glencairn, this Rye presented as a deep, very dark amber. It created a thin rim that led to fat droplets to quickly work its way back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Aromas of fruity rye and floral notes were immediately evident, even before I brought the glass close to my face. Underneath those was light oak and cinnamon. There was also a hint of ethanol. When I inhaled through my lips, it was all dark chocolate.

The mouthfeel was thin but coating. Up front, there was the obvious spicy rye which gave way to strong walnut. Mid-palate, I picked up coffee and tobacco leaf, both of which continued on the spicy theme. But, on the back, it was the rich, dark chocolate to even things out. 

Clove, rye spice and smoked oak danced along the back of the throat for a very long finish. While the rye spice and oak eventually waned, clove continued to build well beyond. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  There are many people who have a rough time shelling out $55 for a four-plus year Rye. I would still consider this to be a younger Rye, and if that's not your thing, then you could take a pass but I believe that would be a mistake. You also aren't going to find this sitting at your local watering hole. I really enjoyed this "Full Boar" Driftless Glen pick and am very happy to have it in my library. As such, it earns the coveted Bottle rating.


Friday, June 21, 2019

Devil's River Bourbon Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

Devils River Bourbon Whiskey is advertising like crazy on social media. Most recently, they announced it is now available in Wisconsin and suggest that you should run out and get a bottle now. I've tried it, and before you get the #FOMO bug about this, you should read my tasting notes.

Sin Responsibly. That's their tagline. More on that later. The backstory is that Devils River is named for a waterway discovered by a Texas Ranger named John Coffee Hays. This is meaningful to the distillery because the Devils River is the source of the limestone water used to proof down this whiskey.

Devils River is distilled from a mash of 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley. It carries no age statement, and the actual distiller is Jus-Made/Southwest Bottling. Retail is right around $20.00, making this super-affordable and relatively low-risk, right?  The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious

Devils River appeared as a bright gold color that left a very thick rim on my Glencairn glass. That rim generated fat, wavy legs that slowly worked its way back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

There were dominant aromas of corn and vanilla. Once you got past that, it was easy to pick up charcoal. When I inhaled through my open lips, a flavor of candied corn rolled over my tongue.

The mouthfeel was thin and watery, and up front was pure ethanol. When you consider the bottle I poured my sample from had been open quite a while, that punch to the palate should have oxidized off long ago. Once I got past the ethanol shock, I was able to pick up corn. Mid-palate was all charred oak. While I was expecting something on the back, nothing ever materialized. 

I enjoy the flavor of barrel char, but not when it is so dominant. The finish was like chewing a charred stave. It was, thankfully, a short one.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  William Faulker said, "There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others." Yeah, okay, whatever. For me to say that Devils River Bourbon is bad whiskey is an insult to bad whiskey. You will not sin responsibly if you spend $20.00 on it, because this one's a definite Bust.


Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Woodinville Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

One of my favorite things about sipping whiskey is discovering something new and unheard of. Oh, it doesn't mean it will always be good, but it is exciting nonetheless. Some folks really enjoy drinking the same thing time after time, and I don't blame them, that's their thing. For me, the whole #DrinkCurious lifestyle is all about exploration into the unknown.

Woodinville Straight Bourbon is distilled in-house at the Woodinville Whiskey Distilling Co. in Woodinville, Washington (that's a lot of Woodinvilles!). The whiskey is then transferred to rickhouses on the other side of the Cascade Mountains in Central Washington where they are left to age. The barrels are created from wood seasoned in the open air for 18 months. The barrels are then slow toasted and are subject to a heavy charring. 

The Bourbon itself is distilled from a mash of 72% corn, 21% rye, and 6% malted barley. It is bottled at 90°, and while it doesn't carry an age statement, Woodinville suggests it is aged over five years.  Suggested retail is $55 for a 750ml.

Before I get started on the tasting notes, I'd like to thank Woodinville Distilling Co. for providing me with a sample in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review.

In my Glencairn glass, the appearance is a dark caramel. It left a thin rim that led to fat legs. Those legs slowly dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Aromas of cinnamon and vanilla initially permeated my nostrils. Underneath those were toasted wood and berries. When I inhaled through my lips, I picked up crème brūlée.

The mouthfeel was thick, oily and coating. The front of my palate picked up cherry and caramel. There was also quite a bit of heavy oak.  Mid-palate, it was very dark chocolate. That all yielded to black pepper and a return of the oak. 

All of that resulted in a long, steady, peppery finish that brought back memories of the long-gone Elijah Craig 12

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  There are a few factors going on here in my rating. I enjoyed the mix of cherries and dark chocolate on the palate and the finish that brought back good memories. When that's compounded with the suggested retail, which falls nicely into the rest of the craft whiskey category, there's really no downside and easily snatches up a Bottle rating. If you visit their website at, you can discover if distribution is near you.


Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Minor Case Rye Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

What's a Minor Case?  No, that's not the opposite of a Major Case!  Minor Case Beam was an actual person, part of the Beam family. His motto was Craft only the finest whiskey. Unfortunately, Minor Case Beam was put out of business thanks to that horrible American experiment called Prohibition. From everything I can gather, Minor Case's son Guy S. Beam distilled, then it skipped a generation until Paul and Steve Beam came around over at Limestone Branch

Minor Case Straight Rye Whiskey is produced by Limestone Branch. This one is actually distilled by the folks at MGP. It utilizes a mash of 51% rye, 45% corn, and 4% barley. It is aged two years, then allowed to finish in ex-Sherry casks from Meier's Winery. Minor Case is non-chill filtered and bottled at 90°. Suggested retail is $50, which is about average for "craft" whiskey brands. 

The bottle is drop-dead gorgeous. The lettering is debossed, then painted white so it really jumps out at you. It has a very rich, premium look and feel. Packaging can be pretty or ugly, but all that matters to me is the whiskey inside. I'd like to thank Luxco for providing me a sample of Minor Case Straight Rye in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review. As such, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

In my Glencairn glass, the appearance was a light amber, and, in fact, looked young. It left a thin rim on my glass, which led to a heavy, wavy curtain that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Aromas of cinnamon spice and floral rye filled my nostrils. Underneath those were bright, fruity notes, most likely from the sherry, along with an interesting touch of butterscotch. When I inhaled through my mouth, I picked up additional floral notes.

The mouthfeel was thin, light and airy.  Immediately up front, I tasted a combination of raisins and brown sugar. At mid-palate, the sherry became evident, along with dark chocolate, most likely from the malted barley, but I was shocked how strong it was considering the very low barley content. On the back, it was a marriage of citrus and rye spiciness.

The finish was soft, chocolatey, with cherries and dry oak. It was delicate but long-lasting, and something that almost begged for another sip.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Thankfully, the youngish appearance was the worst thing about Minor Case Rye. There was a lot going on with this whiskey, it is interestingly complex and offers some surprises. I would have assumed heavier fruitiness due to the sherry finish but was pleasantly impressed by the heavier chocolate notes, especially in the finish. 

While the price for this two-year may shy you away, it is on par with other "craft" whiskeys you'll find on the shelf. Minor Case isn't another Me Too whiskey that could get lost in a sea of other similarly priced whiskeys. When you consider what Minor Case has to offer, I believe you'll agree this one earns a Bottle rating. Cheers!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. Straight Bourbon Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

Dangerous waters exist when a distillery has sourced its own whiskey, has earned a reputation for selecting great barrels, and then releases their own distillate. Fans can fall in love with the known, sourced product, but can easily be lost when the unknown is fair, perhaps substandard, or even undrinkable. That can destroy an investment of money and time that may never be recovered.

Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. of Galena, Illinois has a reputation of selecting excellent MGP barrels they sold under the Knotter Bourbon label (there is a play on words there, Not Our Bourbon). The brothers, Mike and Matt, have been doing this since 2013. While they were selling their sourced Bourbon, they were busy distilling their own and waiting for it to age.

And now, that time has come. The release of Blaum Bros. Straight Bourbon Whiskey has hit the market. Made from a mash of 72% corn, 23% rye, and 5% malted barley, this non-chill filtered whiskey was distilled to 130° on their hybrid pot still, then proofed down to 117.5° before resting four years in barrels that were air-dried 18-to-24 months. Eight barrels were then selected for each batch, and then bottled at 100°. Suggested retail is $49.99, and it is distributed only in Illinois, Wisconsin, Colorado, Tennessee, and Kentucky. 

I'd like to thank Blaum Bros. for providing me with a sample of their Straight Bourbon Whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached honest review. And now, let's get to it... time to #DrinkCurious.

In my trusty Glencairn glass, this Bourbon presented as a bright amber that left a thick rim on the wall. That rim yielded fat, slow droplets that eventually worked its way back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Initial aromas of thick caramel and ripe berries permeated the air. As I worked my way through the nosing zone, I was also pulled apple pie spice and honey.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was a fruity combination of apples and berries.

The mouthfeel was oily and coated my entire mouth. Up front, a splash of caramel danced on the tip of my tongue. As the Bourbon worked its way over my palate, the caramel drifted to apple pie spice and orange peel midway through, and then, on the back, it was toasted oak, rye spice, and peanut butter. 

The finish was long and lingering with rye spice and, strangely enough, thick, chewy bread. The tip of my tongue tingled with nutmeg, and my palate kept picking up a hint of sweet berries.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  If I re-read the "ingredients" listed on the nose and palate, I might think this was a dessert whiskey. That's not the case at all. Instead, these flavors complimented each other, and the finish really tied everything together into a complete package. Blaum Bros. Straight Bourbon Whiskey is very enjoyable, is fairly priced in line with many "craft" Bourbons, and leaves me with a smile on my face. Matt and Mike mastered the feat of making the transition in a positive manner, and I happily rate this one as a Bottle.  Cheers!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"Jimmy Red" Revival Project Review & Tasting Notes

It is always fun to come across something in whiskey I've never heard of. When a friend approached me and asked if I've ever had Jimmy Red Revival Project, I had no clue in the world what he was talking about. He asked if I would be willing to review it if he provided a sample. My answer to this question is always a hearty "Yes" because that's the #DrinkCurious lifestyle.

The backstory behind Jimmy Red is that this variant of corn was known as a moonshiner's corn that went "nearly extinct" when the world's supply dwindled to an entire two cobs. The folks at High Wire Distilling Company partnered with Clemson University to bring Jimmy Red corn back to life. 

Founded in Charleston, South Carolina in 2013, High Wire Distilling was the brainchild of husband and wife Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall. Their goal is to distill "small batch spirits using specialized ingredients" utilizing a German copper pot still.

Jimmy Red Straight Bourbon is aged two years and then bottled at 102°. It is only released once a year. The sample I was provided is from the 2017 batch, and my research indicated it runs about $99.99 for a 750ml.

In my Glencairn glass, Jimmy Red presented as a deep, rich copper that left a very thin rim. When the rim released, a thick, wavy curtain of whiskey dropped down the wall.

Aromas of vanilla and sweet corn were up front. Underneath that sweetness was wet wood and plum. When I inhaled through my lips, it was all corn that rolled over my palate.

The Bourbon's mouthfeel was thin and oily and coated the entire inside of my mouth. Despite the fact I let the glass sit for almost ten minutes, it was heavy with a harsh ethanol burn that became a bit overwhelming.

Up front were just corn and that ethanol. Mid-palate the ethanol dissipated and became a spicy, white pepper and barrel char. Then, in the back, it subdued to dry oak.

The finish was long, with a mixture of pepper and oak. 

My impression was this was very corn forward and the alcohol burn was too hot (I know some folks dislike the term hot just like they dislike the term smooth, but hot is very fitting).

I drink barrel proof whiskey all the time. I do not shy away from high-proof spirits and, given the choice between higher and lower proofs, I tend to gravitate to the higher ones because they're often more interesting.

Wanting to make sure my palate wasn't off, I asked Mrs. Whiskeyfellow to take a sip. Her reaction was the same: the alcohol burn was formidable.

I've recently decided if I'm not sold on a whiskey, I'll try adding water to see if that opens up any flavors. In an effort to remain as consistent as possible from whiskey to whiskey, I add two drops of distilled water using an eyedropper. That's usually enough to bring out hidden flavors and aromas without over diluting the pour. 

Proofed down, the nose really opened up with the corn and ethanol almost disappeared. The plum changed up to stewed fruits. However, the palate didn't change much. Aside from still being corn forward, that ethanol burn was still there and added to it was an astringent quality. The white pepper remained, but the finish was much shorter.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I was excited for my friend and how much he seemed to enjoy Jimmy Red. I wanted to like this, too. Even taking price completely out of the equation, I did not find Jimmy Red, with or without water, to be something I would seek out again.  For me, Jimmy Red Revival Project is a Bust.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

J. Rieger Kansas City Whiskey Review and Tasting Notes

In this day and age in whiskey, it isn't overly difficult to stumble upon new brands. But, sometimes that "new" brand isn't so new after all. In the case of J. Rieger & Company, the brand has been around since 1887. At its heydey, J. Rieger offered more than 100 different spirits from its distillery in Kansas City, Missouri and was the largest mail-order whiskey house in the country. Unfortunately, when Prohibition reared its ugly head, J. Rieger was not one of the few, lucky survivors. It wasn't until 2014, under the guidance of Dave Pickerell, when the distillery reopened and launched their Kansas City Whiskey.

Rieger's Kansas City Whiskey is an interesting marriage of American Straight Rye, Light Corn Whiskey and Straight Bourbon. Then, that concoction is further blended with Dry Sack Especial Oloroso 15-Year Sherry. Rieger's carries no age statement, is bottled at 92°, and has a suggested retail of $43.00.

I'd like to thank J. Rieger & Company for providing me a sample of their whiskey for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, time to get down to business and #DrinkCurious.

In my Glencairn glass, the whiskey appears as a dark amber. It left a very thin rim on the wall and thin, fast legs that dropped back to the pool.

As a matter of practice, I normally leave my glass alone for ten or so minutes. Even before beginning the nosing, aromas of sherry filled the room. While that was obviously predominant, it wasn't overly difficult to pick out oak, maple syrup, and vanilla. When I inhaled through my mouth, very thick vanilla rolled over my palate.

The mouthfeel was thicker than I expected, perhaps from the sherry itself. And, that sherry was up front along with candied fruits, almost like a rich fruitcake. Mid-palate was a mixture of sweet corn, maple syrup, and toasted oak. On the back, it changed radically to very dark chocolate and rye spice. I don't recall too many whiskeys that transform from very sweet to spicy the way Rieger's did.

A long, spicy finish from the Rye mixed with dry oak and mingled with the familiar sweetness from the sherry. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Like a few other Pickerell projects (notably, Blackened), there is a lot going on with Rieger's and it is a challenge for the palate to nail down flavors. Considering the makeup of the blend, that's understandable. But, it also makes the whiskey interesting in a good way and I'm always game for something that isn't just another "me too" whiskey. When you further consider the relative affordability, Rieger's earns the Bottle rating and I'm happy to have it in my library. Cheers!

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Cream of Kentucky Bourbon Review and Tasting Notes

I first met Jim Rutledge back in 2013 when I was part of a Four Roses barrel pick. He is one hell of a nice guy, very knowledgable, and he is the man responsible for taking that distillery from junk to premium status. When he left Four Roses, I think a lot of us were disappointed. Nothing at all against Brent Elliott, but change is sometimes difficult to accept.

When it was then announced that Jim was starting his own distillery, I know that I was not the only one who was extremely excited over the notion. And, we waited. And waited. Suddenly, the news was out - Jim Rutledge bought the rights to Cream of Kentucky through the JW Rutledge Distillery and was releasing an 11.5-year-old Bourbon to market.  It was obvious from the moment of the announcement that the whiskey would be sourced and most folks believe Barton 1792 was the distiller.

Cream of Kentucky is a blend of 60 barrels, bottled at 102°, and has a suggested retail of $129.99. My assumption is only a few people paid retail, most more due to it coming from Jim Rutledge and folks looking to hold or sell on the secondary market. I was provided a sample by a friend who was interested in my thoughts. And, so, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

In my Glencairn, Cream of Kentucky had a dark, rich chestnut color. It created a thin rim that led to medium legs that quickly dropped back to the pool of whiskey.

Aromas of a myriad of citrus, cherries, and berries permeated my olfactory senses. Underneath that fruit was nuts and vanilla. When I inhaled through my lips, the nuts and vanilla changed up to butterscotch. It made my mouth water.

The mouthfeel was very thick and coated everywhere in my mouth. Up front was a blend of oak, vanilla and orange peel. Mid-palate brought tobacco leaf, leather, and nuts. On the back, I picked up a light but sweet berry quality.

The finish was a long and lingering dance of black pepper, tobacco leaf, and oak.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Once you get above $100, the landscape changes for me as to what I'll run out and grab for myself. Something has to be very, very good because there are a lot of very, very good whiskeys for much less. I went into this review biased with a desire to love Cream of Kentucky. As it turned out, Cream of Kentucky is an average Bourbon that offers nothing to stand out aside from the name and price. Regrettably, this one's a Bust for me.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Calumet Farm Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey Review

There is nothing wrong with sourcing whiskey. There are a variety of reasons why someone would want to source. Either they're waiting for their own distillate to mature and they want to offer something now, or they have no intention whatsoever to distill and want to be an NDP (Non-Distilling Producer). Regardless, if someone is sourcing their whiskey, in my opinion, they need to be transparent and not try to pull the wool over the eyes of the consumer.

Calumet Farm is produced by Western Spirits Beverage Company out of Bowling Green, Kentucky. These are the same folks that produce Bird Dog, Sam Houston, Lexington Bourbon, and Whitetail. They don't distill. They also keep a lot of information close to their vest, and if you go to their website, they don't even have an About Us link. Again, they can choose to disclose what they like as long as they aren't pretending to do something they're not.

A friend provided me a sample of Calumet Farm 12-Year Old Single Rack Black Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey. Western Spirits describes this as hand-selected barrels over 12-years old, all picked from a single, center rack of 19 barrels. What's that mean? Not much, it is more marketing-speak than anything else, especially since they don't disclose who the distiller is, where in Kentucky the rickhouse is, how many stories the rickhouse is, what the aging process (natural or climate controlled) is, etc., etc., etc. As I said, it is market-speak. Again, nothing wrong with that, market-speak is more common than not.

What do we know about Calumet Farm? Not much. The Bourbon is at least 12-years old. It comes from Kentucky. The mash is corn, rye, and barley, and it is aged in #4 charred, new oak barrels. It retails for $69.99, it comes in an attractive bottle and is 94°. Whether we get disclosure or not, the most important aspect is how Calumet Farm 12-Year Bourbon tastes. Time to #DrinkCurious

In my Glencairn, Calumet comes across as a brassy, deep amber. It left a very thin rim that generated very thin, fast legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

The nose started off with cinnamon and vanilla, which then morphed to a rye spice. That, in turn, gave way to toasted oak. When I inhaled through my lips, I picked up orange peel and caramel.

The mouthfeel was very thin and oily. The palate offered caramel up front with a heavy rye spice mid-palate. On the back, it was all clove. There was nothing overly complex involved.

The finish was spicy and lingering. It turned a smidge minty. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I enjoy high-rye Bourbons and, in fact, prefer them to wheaters. You'll notice there's not a lot of tasting notes here. It isn't that I wasn't trying, rather I found Calumet Farm to be very meh and a $70 Bourbon this is not. I could not determine who the actual distiller is, I suspect this may be a barely legal high-Rye Bourbon (meaning 51% corn, a hint of barley, and the remainder rye). There are much better selections at this price and, in fact, there are much better selections for half the price. As such, this one is a Bust and should be avoided. Cheers!

New Riff Bottled in Bond Rye Review

If you've followed me long, you'll know that I have a favorite category of American Whiskey:  Bottled in Bond. In my opinion, if the bottle makes that proclamation, you'd be hard-pressed to be disappointed. Of course, all rules have their exceptions, but for the most part, Bonded whiskeys are affordable, they represent American distilling in its purest form, and they're delicious. Until recently, the category was also largely ignored and regulated to the bottom shelf so much so, that when I first started reviewing whiskeys, I created a #RespectTheBottomShelf hashtag because I found so many gems down there.

For folks new to whiskey, or at least new to American whiskey, a common question is What is bond and why is something bottled in bond? In a nutshell, back in the old days, there were very unscrupulous renderers and resellers pushing spirits with a lot of additives. Some of those additives were simply disgusting, like spent tobacco "juice" and others were downright dangerous, such as turpentine. The additives were there not to help extend the inventory and make as much money from a barrel as possible.

The Bottled in Bond Act of 1897 addressed all of that. It was a consumer protection act. By calling something Bottled in Bond, certain guarantees were put in place:

  • It must be a product of one distilling season from a single distillery. A distilling season is either January to June or July to December;
  • It must have been aged in a federally bonded warehouse for at least four years;
  • It must be bottled at 100°;
  • It must state on the bottle the name of the actual distillery (versus just a brand name of a non-distilling producer); and
  • It must be a whole US-made spirit.

New Riff Distilling was created in 2014 by Ken Lewis and Jay Erisman in Newport, Kentucky. It is an independently-owned distillery that distills Bourbon, Rye, Malted Rye, and Gin.  New Riff Rye is a 100% Rye mash bill (95% rye and 5% malted rye) aged in 53-gallon new, charred oak barrels. It is non-chill filtered and retails for $49.99. It is four years old and, fulfilling the Bottled in Bond requirement, it is bottled at 100°.

All of this is well and good, but in the end, the important stuff matters... time to #DrinkCurious.

In my Glencairn, New Riff Rye was a very dark, inviting amber. It left a thin rim on my glass but produced thick, faster legs that dropped back into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Initial spicy aromas of mint and cinnamon permeated my nostrils. Once I got beyond the shock, orange peel, oak, and vanilla came through. When I inhaled through my lips, it was a complete vanilla bomb that made my mouth water.

The mouthfeel was very creamy. Up front, that thick vanilla from the nosing raced across my palate, and mixed into the vanilla was almost a perfect amount of cinnamon. Mid-palate changed to black pepper and sweetened condensed milk (a note I never thought I'd pen in a rye review). On the back, the rye spice shone through with a combination of toasted oak and clove.

A long-lasting finish of clove, dry oak and caramel hung around to bring a smile to my face.

New Riff Rye is a very complex, very different rye from start to finish. On my Bottle, Bar or Bust scale, this one is an absolute recommended Buy, and especially for the price, I don't see how you can go wrong.


Bain's Cape Mountain Single Grain Whisky Review

South Africa isn't exactly famous for whisky, despite the fact they've been distilling there for about 125 years. And, regardless of its history, there is currently only one commercial distillery on the entire continent!  That lone distillery is the James Sedgewick Distillery located in Wellington. Their Single Malt brand is Three Ships. But, they also distill a Single Grain whisky called Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky.

Bain's is a non-age statement 100% unmalted corn mash whisky that is first aged in first-fill Bourbon casks for three years, then again for two years in fresh first-fill Bourbon casks. It is bottled at 43% ABV (86°) and retails for $29.99. Bain's is not overly difficult to find, at least not in Wisconsin. 

One of the interesting things about South African whisky is that it ages similarly to Indian whisky. This is due to the very hot temperatures the two climates share. As such, it matures must faster than Scotch, Irish or American counterparts.

For the record, Bain's won Best Single Grain Whisky back in 2018 at the World Whisky Awards. If you're unfamiliar with my opinion of awards, for the most part, I find them to be money-making gimmicks rather than legitimate ratings of excellence. There are some exceptions. And, all awards aside, what matters is how it tastes. Let's #DrinkCurious.

In my Glencairn, Bain's appeared as a deep, rich gold. It left a very thin rim and created fast, thin legs that dropped back into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Aromas of many fruits lingered in the air. I picked up both tropical, such as pineapple and coconut, along with light berries, such as raspberry and blackberry. When I inhaled through my mouth, the tropical and berry gave way to citrus.

The mouthfeel was very light and thin. Up front on the palate was coconut and caramel, which was, to say the least, an interesting combination. As it drifted mid-palate, I picked up brown sugar and creamed corn. Further back was white pepper and oak.

Bain's offered nothing in terms of burn. The finish was very long with waves of pepper, dry oak and corn.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  The palate combinations may raise an eyebrow and come across to some as gross. But, for some reason, they meshed well and I found Bain's quite enjoyable. It is absolutely interesting and unusual in terms of what a whisky offers, and for $29.99, this is an easy one to want as part of my library. As such, it earns the Bottle rating. Cheers!