Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Yes, I'll admit it... I've been sipping a lot of barrel-finished whiskeys lately. It doesn't matter if it is Scotch, Bourbon, Rye or even Irish whiskey. Barrel-finishing is the big thing right now and has been for a couple of years and distillers are jumping on the bandwagon. Barrel-finishing is so fascinating that I'm hosting my own Whiskey Workshop and Tasting Event on this very topic in a little over a week.

Whiskey Acres Distilling Company is a farm-to-bottle distiller. They grow and harvest their own grain, distill it, age and bottle it in Dekalb, Illinois. Their whiskey ages in 15-gallon barrels. What they distill is their own and with those 15-gallon barrels, can bring them to market relatively quickly.

Last year, I had the opportunity to visit with the folks at Whiskey Acres. I put together a review of their Artisan Series 5.5 Grain Bourbon which earned a Bottle rating based on how unusual and interesting it was as that's something that excites me.

Today I'm sipping their Artisan Series Bourbon Finished in Maple Syrup Casks. This is a limited edition whiskey and is not the same as the 5.5 Grain Bourbon. The Bourbon itself was aged normally in the 15-gallon barrels. What happened next was the Bourbon was dumped and then transferred to ex-maple syrup casks, where it was allowed to absorb the flavor and aroma left behind by the syrup, and once dumped, bottled at 87°. My understanding is that distribution is limited to the distillery in Dekalb. While I don't have a retail price on this, the 5.5 Grain Bourbon was $29.99 for the same sized 375ml bottle. 

In full disclosure, Whiskey Acres provided me with a sample bottle for a no-strings-attached honest review. And now, time to #DrinkCurious.

The appearance was a deep, dark amber. If you've ever had a good barrel-proof whiskey, such as Elijah Craig or Stagg, Jr., this was similar in color. It left a very thin rim on my Glencairn with medium legs that slowly dropped back to the pool, suggesting a heavier body.

Interestingly enough, the predominant aroma while resting in my glass was not maple, but corn. As I went through the various nosing zones, I picked up raisin, throughout and beneath that, honey and much lighter corn. That was surprising considering how heavy the corn was in the air. Only when I held the glass directly under my nostrils did I pick up evidence of maple. When I inhaled through my mouth, raisin and vanilla raced across my palate.

The initial mouthfeel was thin and watery and subsequent sips did not add any thickness to it. At the front, flavors of corn and pepper dominated my palate. Mid-palate, the vanilla came out, followed by dry wood. On the back was the raisin, which cleared out both the pepper and dry wood. 

The finish was long and heavy on the raisin. Some of the dry wood came for a return visit. While only at 87°, it drinks much heavier, likely a product of the smaller barrels. It also gave me one heck of a buzz. What's conspicuously missing? Remember, this Bourbon is finished in ex-maple casks. While it appeared on the nose, it was nowhere on the palate. That's not a terribly big deal, but it does miss out on expectations. It isn't fair to judge a whiskey based upon expectations, that's all part of the #DrinkCurious lifestyle. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust: This is where the pedal meets the metal. I found the Bourbon Finished in Maple Syrup Casks to be unusual. But, I found it unusual only because it was lacking any maple flavor. The Bourbon itself wasn't particularly unusual, and I've got to admit I was a bit disappointed when I think about how special the 5.5 Grain Bourbon was. Saying all of that, this isn't a bad whiskey. This is definitely one to try at a Bar, or in this case, at the distillery.


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