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.