Sunday, July 28, 2019
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
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 75% corn, 21% 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
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
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.