Thursday, April 30, 2020

Four Gate Whiskey Company's The Kelvin Collaboration II Bourbon Review

When Bourbon or Rye approaches $200, it better be damned good. For that matter, any whiskey at that price better blow my mind. 

Today I'm reviewing The Kelvin Collaboration II from Four Gate Whiskey Company.  Perhaps you're wondering who the heck Four Gate is and what kind of cojones they have to charge $200 for something they've not even distilled themselves. Let's get this out of the way.  Four Gate is a blender. They source great whiskeys from wherever and create something special - or at least, that's the theory.

Blending is an art form.  Yeah, I know, blended whiskeys suck, right? Not all of them, not even close! With regard to American whiskeys, a blend can mean several things. But, I'm betting some of your favorite Bourbons and Ryes are blended. Unless it says, Single Barrel on the label, guess what? Its a blend - a blend of several barrels, a/k/a Small Batch. 

If you've ever done a barrel pick, you know that no two barrels are the same.  You can have the same distillate, distilled on the same day, placed in two identical barrels from the same cooperage, coopered immediately after one another, then placed in the same warehouse, set next to each other on the same rick, aged for the exact same amount of time under the exact same conditions, and they can have amazing variances. 

To get consistency, distilleries blend a bunch of different barrels together. That's a small batch.

But, let's get beyond the small batch. The true Master Blender is an artist with a target in mind, and the puzzle is, How do I get there?  The answer to that is, you take different barrels, different whiskeys, different grains, malts, or whatever, and blend them together to reach your goal. Sure, you could start randomly dumping this into that and hoping for the best - and that's an excellent way to ruin potentially good whiskey. Rather, it is an artistic science. I have a ton of respect for good Master Blenders, no matter what type of whiskey they work with.

Now we come back full-circle to Four Gate, which has been blending since 2018.  Bill Straub and Bob D'Antoni have been working hand-in-hand with the folks at Kelvin Cooperage in Louisville. Bill and Bob are Louisville natives and really know their whiskey. Kelvin, of course, is one of the nation's premiere cooperages with a long, rich heritage going back to Scotland. They definitely comprehend wood. And, all of that requires some decent knowledge of science.

But, we're back to $200 per bottle.  What do you get for two Benjamins?

It starts with 12-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon.  While the distiller is undisclosed, I know it is a mash of 74% corn, 18% rye, and 8% malted barley. It leads me to assume that's 1792 Barton since that's their standard recipe. Four Gate then finishes that Bourbon in ex-Cognac and ex-dark rum casks. The yield is only 2,474 bottles, and it weighs in at a hefty 126.4°. Distribution is limited to Kentucky, Tennessee and online at Seelbach's.

So, is it any good?  The only way to find out for sure is to #DrinkCurious. Before I start, I'd like to thank Four Gate for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

In my trusty Glencairn glass, Batch 6 has the color of a deep, dark, orange-amber. It left an almost microscopic rim that generated thick, speedy legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

As I let the Bourbon breathe, aromas of rich, sweet, dark fruit filled the air. Once I brought the glass to my face, there was a definitive coupling of molasses and stone fruit. As I continued to explore, I discovered cinnamon and oak.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was all brown sugar.

The mouthfeel was thick and viscous, giving it a luxurious quality. It wasn't overly warm despite the significant proof. At the front, I experienced sweet molasses and a dominating oak. Then, at mid-palate, it was like I was in an orchard of black grapes and sweet apricots. Before it worked its way to the back, I tasted thick caramel that seemed like it stuck. On the back, it became a rather complex marriage of dark chocolate, old leather, dry oak, clove, and tobacco.

The medium-to-long finish consisted of caramel, dry oak, and clove. It was interesting to encounter all the complicated notes on the back and have them funnel into three precise flavors.  And then, something interesting happened. Remember how I started off saying that despite the proof, it wasn't overwhelming?  Well, it may not have been at first, but my hard palate absolutely tingled by the time I figured things out.  

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Asking $200 is asking a lot of me. I felt very weird last year, naming a $150 whiskey my Bourbon of the Year, but I did.  When you consider BTAC, Four Roses Small Batch LE, Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, and some other heavy-hitters at much less (at least at retail), that's challenging. However, I believe Four Gate knocked this one out of the park. I really, really enjoyed this pour. I loved the nose, how crazy the palate got, and then how all the loose ends were tied up in the finish. Yeah, it is a lot of money. In this case, I believe it is worth the price and snags my coveted Bottle rating.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

Bottle = Buy it
Bar = Try it first
Bust = Leave it

Monday, April 27, 2020

Maker's Mark Private Selection Review and Tasting Notes

The whole idea of customization in whiskey is pretty awesome. To me, that goes beyond the basic barrel pick, where you simply choose the best barrel you can find. While I've never been on a Maker's Mark Private Selection pick before, I'm fascinated by the notion that by adding staves, there is a potential for 1,001 combinations. That's what Maker's Mark claims.

The Private Selection program works as follows:  You have a fairly basic Maker's Mark 46 and then there are ten barrel staves available for customization. The choices are, Baked American Pure 2 (P2), which offers notes of sweet honey and vanilla with soft oak, Maker's 46 (46), which brings dark fruits and baking spices, Roasted French Mocha (Mo), which brings tobacco and cocoa,  Seared French Cuvée (Cu), leading to caramel and molasses, and Toasted French Spice (Sp), with ripe fruit and baking spices. You select any combination of those five.

Where do these barrels and staves come from? None other than Independent Stave Company, so this isn't any wacky cooperage no one has ever heard of. 

Maker's Mark is made from a mash of 70% corn, 16% wheat, and 14% malted barley. Its entry proof is lower than average at 110°. It rests about six years more or less in new, #3-charred oak barrels. That's the standard release. 

From there, the Maker's 46 program comes into play, and that's interesting in its own right. First, Maker's Mark only fills Maker's 46 barrels between October and February. It is strictly a finishing program. Bottling happens in May. The idea is that the Bourbon is not exposed to the very hot temperatures in the spring and summer months, which limits the volume of tannins the whiskey absorbs. Maker's prefers to work with Maker's 46 when temperatures are 60°F or less.

Today I'm reviewing a customized version by Mahen, with six stores in Wisconsin. They're located in Sauk City, Lodi, Oregon, and three stores in Madison. Store names and addresses are provided at the bottom of this review. Mahen chose six 46, three Mo, and one Sp stave.  It was bottled at 111.6° in January 2020. The barrel number is 20-0034, carries no age statement, and a bottle will set you back $78.37 after taxes. There is no pretty sticker or a fancy name.

That's approaching the pricey end of Bourbon. Is the Private Selection program worth it? Time to #DrinkCurious and find out. But first, the disclosure. I was not involved in any way with this pick and, in fact, I'd never heard of Mahen's before being presented this bottle by their distributor, Frank Liquors. I'd like to thank them for a sample of this Bourbon for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

In my Glencairn glass, Mahen's 46 presents as a deep, dark amber. It left an ultra-thin rim on my glass that produced very, very fast legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Here's where things became interesting. It was a complete caramel bomb on my olfactory senses. But, hidden under the caramel was a definitive oak and cinnamon. And as I kept sniffing, I picked up berry fruits and new leather.  When I inhaled through my lips, flavors of cocoa and smoked oak ran over my tongue.

When I sipped the Bourbon, it offered a thick, viscous mouthfeel. There was no harshness from alcohol burn, which was pleasant considering the proof. The front of my palate enjoyed an unusual marriage of coffee, old leather, and nutmeg. As the whiskey moved to the middle, flavors of chocolate, plum, cherry, and cinnamon. Then, on the back, it became cocoa and tobacco leaf.

But it wasn't done there. A finish of plum, leather, clove and very dry oak refused to give up. In the end, the clove hung around the longest, until cocoa came in for a brief encore.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  To say that this Maker's Private Selection was complex would be an understatement. There was so much going on, each time I sipped I thought I'd miss something, and that kept me coming back for more. Not only was I simply enjoying this Bourbon, but I also became engaged in trying to identify everything. This is one of the more unusual, delicious Bourbons I've had in 2020, and I've had some great ones.  Obviously, this runs away with my Bottle rating.  Cheers!

Mahen's locations:

  • Liquor Baron, 813 Phillips Blvd, Sauk City
  • Mahen’s Liquor East, 4276 East Towne Blvd, Madison
  • Mahen’s Liquor University Ave, 2909 University Ave Ste D, Madison
  • Mahen’s Liquor Oregon, 905 N Main St, Oregon
  • Main Street Liquor, 216 Main St, Lodi
  • Sadhana Wine Shop, 36 S Bassett St, Madison

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Beginner's Guide to Whiskey Review

Sam Green holds the honor of being the first person to earn the title of Whiskey Sommelier in Southern California. Despite that, he's not spent decades dealing with whiskey. After all, he's only in his late twenties. But, don't let his age fool you - Sam is passionate about whiskey and spent his entire adult life studying it.  

As always, I'm big into disclosure. I've known Sam for a couple of years. We've never met face-to-face but we do converse from time to time. The circle of whiskey writers is smaller than you'd think and we tend to know one another. Saying all of that, friendships are irrelevant when it comes to my composing reviews. It is my reputation on the line, and for me, my reputation is everything.

Shortly after publishing my most recent book review, Sam approached me and asked if I'd be interested in reviewing his brand new book, Beginner's Guide to Whiskey: Traditions, Types & Tastes of the Ultimate Spirit. Like I tell everyone, I'm always interested in reviewing anything whiskey-related, so long as the person making the request is prepared for me to write an honest review. Sam agreed, and he sent me a copy of his book. 

With that, the necessary disclosure is done.

You can get your own copy from Amazon. It is a shorter read at 144 pages and will set you back $14.99. It is a smaller paperback and the font size is large enough to see without eye strain. There is a Kindle edition available as well for $9.99.  Spending $15 on a book isn't much, but what matters is, is it any good?

Here's the thing. I'm far from a beginner. I've been reading and writing about whiskey for several years. I was curious if this book would be interesting or bore me to tears. 

Sam's book is divided intuitively. It starts with a brief history of whiskey. He then talks about how whiskey is made, with the first half dealing with grain and fermentation, and the second with distillation, aging, and finishing. He then talks about the major whiskey categories:  Scotch, Irish, American, Canadian, and Japanese. Then, he finishes with proper nosing and tasting methods and pairing whiskey with food. There are a few cocktail recipes as well.

This is a primer for beginners. Sam does a good job of writing at a level where things are easy to understand without treating the reader like an idiot. That's much more difficult than you can imagine and, as someone who writes educational pieces myself, I know it requires rewrites and revisions as you wonder if it is insulting or over someone's head. At the same time, as an experienced reader, it flows easily and naturally.

He even managed to teach me a new way to explain Bourbon with his ABC's of Bourbon. I've never seen it put together like that but it made a ton of sense. 

The font used was the proper size and offered no eye strain. 

Bottle, Bar or BustI appreciate non-fiction books written in a conversational tone rather than instructional. I believe that's because I write similarly. I also find it to be a more effective writing style than the latter. If you write the way people talk, the flow is better and the mind is open.

If I was I a whiskey newbie or at least someone fresh to learning whiskey basics, Beginner's Guide to Whiskey is a very easy read. I finished it in three fairly short sessions. I don't fathom anyone is going to finish it and remain confused. Sam touches on all the important points and I was left with the impression someone will walk away with newfound, useful knowledge, able to communicate with experienced whiskey connoisseurs without feeling left out of the conversation. As such, I believe Sam accomplished his mission, and happily hand over my Bottle rating.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:
  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it

Monday, April 20, 2020

Evan Williams Green Label Review

Today is a two-fer special!  Not only did my review of Cinder Dick Straight Bourbon go live this morning, but so did my review of Evan Williams Green Label at Bourbon & Banter!

I’m Mr. #RespectTheBottomShelf and when you enter the realm of $10 whiskeys, there’s no doubt where you’re looking – right at the bottom shelf. Evan Williams Green Label is the most basic expression of the brand and is sold in fewer markets than you’d ever guess...

The remainder, including my Bottle, Bar or Bust recommendation, is at the Bourbon & Banter website. Cheers!

Cinder Dick Straight Bourbon Review

I have the maturity level of a grade-schooler. Well, let's get real - it isn't quite that mature. I love sophomoric humor - the more immature the better. 

When I first saw the name Cinder Dick I knew I had to have this Bourbon. The first words out of my mouth were, "Good, bad or ugly, I need to review this. It would be a ton of fun."  Durango Craft Spirits proprietor, Michael McCardell, responded and told me this would be the best Bourbon I've ever had.

The fact that I'm a serious reviewer makes me want to tone down poking fun of the name. But, I'm going to do it anyway. Cinder Dick?  What's that, a burnt woody?  And then my mind went to Cinderella and it devolved from there into stuff I don't even want to put in print.

On a far more serious note, Cinder Dick is slang for a railroad detective. The name is relevant to the Durango, Colorado area where it is distilled because of the world-famous Durango-Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad. Cinder dicks rode the rails to protect valuable cargo such as building materials, bullion, and, of course, cash. On a very brief segway, this railroad offers one of the most beautiful scenic train rides you'll ever experience. I used to live in Colorado and it is something you should have on your must-see list.

Durango Craft Spirits is located in (you guessed it) Durango. It is the first post-Prohibition grain-to-glass distillery in the area. It handles everything from mashing to distilling to barreling on-premises. Grains come from the surrounding area. In the case of Cinder Dick, it is a mash of 66% non-GMO white corn from the Ute Mountain Tribe, with the remainder using wheat, rye, and two-row malted barley, all from Alamosa (about three hours away). Cinder Dick is a single-barrel Bourbon, aged two years in 53-gallon, #4-charred oak from Kelvin Cooperage. It is bottled at 94°. Retail is $57.00 and the current distribution is limited to Colorado. There are plans to expand to New Mexico very soon.

I'd like to thank Durango Craft Spirits for providing me with a sample of Cinder Dick in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious...

In my Glencairn glass, Cinder Dick appears as a deep burnt umber with red highlights. It looks like it could have been finished in an ex-Cabernet cask, however, we know that's not true because the rules of Bourbon wouldn't allow it. That would be the #4-char helping out.  It left a very heavy rim on the wall and generated fat drops that didn't really go anywhere.

Aromas of oak, coffee, and sawdust were prevalent. What was noticeably missing was any ethanol, especially considering how young this Bourbon is. Beneath those notes was a suggestion of cherry and plum - until I brought the glass directly under my nostrils, and then the stone fruits really jumped at me along with spearmint. When I inhaled through my lips, it was a blend of caramel and mint leaf. 

I found the mouthfeel to be light and airy.  On my palate, Cinder Dick was very oak forward, with a light caramel underneath. But, at mid-palate, all that oak went away and it was an explosion of chocolate-covered espresso beans.  When I say explosion, I mean exactly that. It completely took over. On the back, the espresso toned down and tobacco leaf was left behind.

The finish was originally short and started with dry oak and black pepper. When I wondered what happened to it, it returned and became the Energizer Bunny, and brought back the espresso bomb.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I wanted this to be a fun review. I hate to admit it, but I was secretly hoping Cinder Dick would be bad because that would give me so much more ammunition to make juvenile jokes. Unfortunately (or, rather, fortunately), Cinder Dick was a very nice surprise. I'm not a coffee drinker, and I enjoyed the heck out of it. So did Mrs. Whiskeyfellow, and she's not much of a coffee drinker, either. If you are, this is going to be your mojo. The price is not offensive for craft whiskey and when you take all of this into account, Cinder Dick earns my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it 

Monday, April 13, 2020

Blood Oath Pact 6 Review and Tasting Notes

The human body has, at least in theory, an average temperature of 98.6°F.  That's how hot the blood is that churns through our veins. A blood oath was a serious promise between two parties to adhere to an agreement. And, those promises were sealed by blood:  the parties involved would cut their hands and their blood would mingle together. 

But, these days, we would probably not be too keen on participating in a blood oath. There's just too much ickiness and risk involved.

Speaking of risk, Lux Row Distillers takes one on annually with their Blood Oath series. They're always doing something out of the ordinary in an attempt to create something new.  I've reviewed Pact 4, which I found to be good but questionable for the price, and Pact 5, which I disliked the finish but enjoyed the remainder. Both took Bar ratings from me. So, when Lux Row sent me Pact 6, I was curious if this would eclipse the others or be another maybe whiskey.

Pact 6 is a blend of three Kentucky Straight Bourbons:  one at 14 years, one at 8 years, and the last, 7 years. However, the 7-year is finished in ex-Cognac casks before the three are married. The mashbill and cooperage are undisclosed. Legally, any age statement must represent the youngest whiskey in the blend, but Pact 6 doesn't carry one. And, in the tradition of a real blood oath, the proof is that of blood:  98.6°.  It is packaged a nice bottle with a collectible wooden box and retails for $99.99. This is a limited edition run with 17,000 cases produced.

How does Pact 6 hold up?  Will it get something besides the Bar rating? The only way to find out for sure is to #DrinkCurious.  But first, I'd like to thank Lux Row for sending me a sample in exchange for an honest, no-strings-attached review.

In my Glencairn glass, Pact 6 appears as a deep amber.  It created a medium rim which led to fat droplets that slowly worked its way back down to the pool.

Aromas of caramel and brown sugar greeted my nostrils. Beneath that was a bouquet filled with apricot, vanilla, and oak. When I inhaled through my lips, it was thick butterscotch. 

The mouthfeel was oily and warming. At the front, I discovered caramel, oak, and a big punch of leather. As the liquid sunshine moved across my palate, I found sweet apricot, spicy clove, and toffee.  Then, on the back, a return of the oak and, finally, crème brũlee. 

A long-lasting finish of rye spice and dry oak was uncomplicated but pleasant. Pact 6 did offer much more of the Cognac profile than I would have expected, especially since only one component was finished with it.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Here's where the pedal hits the medal and we fly down the road smoothly or wreck in a fiery mess. The blending was well-done, and I am intrigued by Cognac-finished whiskeys. It adds a completely different nuance to the profile - if done correctly. I enjoyed the heck out of both the nose and the palate. They were complex and enticing. The finish made me feel like I was drinking Cognac, which is a positive. Pact 6 is, in my opinion, the best of the series so far and I believe a good return on a $99.99 investment. As such, I'm pleased to offer it my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it 

Thursday, April 9, 2020

"W" Wisconsin Wheat Whiskey "Grand Master Flan" Review

Sometimes the world hits you over and over with the "same" thing trying to deliver a message. Just two days ago, I was sipping Dry Fly Washington Straight Whiskey and here I am today trying 45th Parallel's "W" Wisconsin Straight Whiskey. Normally, trying the same category of whiskey is no big deal. I'll go several days in a row doing Scotch, Bourbon, or Rye. But, the wheat whiskey category isn't all that deep. To have an opportunity for multiples in a short period of time is unusual.

To set the record straight, there's a big difference between wheated Bourbons and wheat whiskeys. Wheat whiskey is, generally speaking, just that. Wheat. Distilled wheat lends a softening quality to what it is mixed with (corn, rye, barley, etc.) but for the most part, it is tasteless. People who enjoy the "sweetness" of wheated Bourbons are tasting more of the corn. The wheat itself isn't sweet.

Today's whiskey is a Niemuth's Southside Market pick called Grand Master Flan. You've probably read several of my reviews about various Niemuth's picks. They're located in Appleton, Wisconsin, and do a good job overall. In full disclosure, I was on the selection committee for this pick. And, I also want to say that I've been impressed with much of what 45th Parallel does. Not only do they distill their own spirits, but they also do contract distilling for several brands. 45th Parallel is in New Richmond, Wisconsin and has been distilling since 2007. They're not newbies to the distilling world.

Grand Master Flan is the first "W" release that is available at cask strength. In this case, that translates to 104°. It carries a 70-month age statement which differs greatly from the standard release. On average, "W" is four years old or a bit more. It is distilled from a mash of Wisconsin-grown wheat and aged in new, 53-gallon #3 charred oak barrels. Grandmaster Flan comes from Barrel #31, and retail is $49.99, which is right around average for craft whiskey.

Is Grand Master Flan another great pick? Time to #DrinkCurious and find out!

In my Glencairn glass, Grand Master Flan appears as a deep amber. On the wall of the glass, it left a heavy rim that created fat, slow legs that stuck in place before eventually giving up and dropping back to the pool.

Aromas of grass, wheat, and fresh bread were immediately identified. As I continued to explore the nose, oak and mint came about, and then, finally, red apple. When I inhaled through my lips, crème brûlée rolled across my tongue.

A thin but coating mouthfeel took me aside, especially after considering the rim and legs. It was also quite spicy. The first flavors to hit my palate were dark chocolate and what I initially thought was red grape, but after subsequent sips, became more meaty and ashy like Merlot wine. Then, in the middle, was the namesake flavor: flan. That gave way to cinnamon and honey on the back. The Merlot quality continued over my entire palate before fading.

The medium-short finish was a blend of flan, dry oak, black pepper, and prunes. It was absolutely a unique combination that did take some acclimation.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Grand Master Flan was definitely out of the ordinary. If you've been following me for any length of time, you know I get excited over different. As I say that, however, it is important to know that different isn't always great and has to work. The flan was strong. Perhaps it was a subliminal message that caused me to pick it up. I can also see how Grand Master Flan would make a stimulating base to a number of cocktails. There's enough going on with it that would be delectable and certainly stand out from a basic Rye or Bourbon.

Grand Master Flan is, especially for a wheat whiskey, very complex on both the nose and palate. Those reasons, along with the distinctive finish is why I selected this barrel. I believe you'll enjoy it as well, and as such, it takes my Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it 

Monday, April 6, 2020

A.D. Laws San Luis Valley Bottled-in-Bond Rye Review

Just outside of downtown Denver is a fairly nondescript building. It looks like many of the other warehouses in the neighborhood. You could drive right by it and never know that inside one is Laws Whiskey House.  

A.D. Laws, as it is known, is not a newcomer to the whiskey scene. They've been doing this since 2011. Al Laws, with mentor Bill Friel (formally of Barton, and a member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame), share a philosophy of using local grains to create unique whiskeys. They source all of the grains from two family-owned farms:  Colorado Malting Company in Alamosa and the Ohnmacht's in Eastern Colorado. They're using only heirloom lower-yield grains, making mass-production difficult. However mass production isn't something that excites Laws.

On a side note, Laws brought the first Colorado Bottled-in-Bond whiskey to market.

Today I'm reviewing their six-year San Luis Valley Bottled-in-Bond Rye. There has been a four-year version, but this year they upped the age statement. Bottled-in-Bond is a category that always gets my engine roaring. I love it for its purity and lack of shady backstories. The Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 requires truth in advertising. Any whiskey carrying this label must be aged at least four years in a federally-bonded warehouse, must be bottled at 100°, must be a product of the United States, must be a product of one distiller from one distillery in one distilling season, and the label must state who distilled it, and, if different, who bottled it. 

The mash is made from 100% rye.  Half of it is malted and the other is raw. That's it. It ferments in an open-air environment using a sour mash method. It is then distilled through their four-plate pot still, and aged in new, charred oak 53-gallon barrels. Retail is about $54.99 and A.D. Laws distributes in 16 states plus the District of Columbia. At this time it is available in California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, and Texas have received a distribution. 

How does this Bonded Rye taste?  Is it worth the price?  The only way to find out for sure is to #DrinkCurious. But first, I'd like to thank Laws Whiskey House for sending me a sample of San Luis Valley Rye in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. 

In my Glencairn glass, San Luis Valley Rye presents as a definitive orange amber. It left a medium rim that generated medium-fast legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

To suggest this whiskey was fragrant would be an understatement. From across the room, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow stated as much. It was an aroma of orange blossoms and honey, which upon closer inspection revealed mint, oak, and floral rye.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was grassy and orange citrus.

The mouthfeel started off thin, but as I continued to sip, it became thicker and creamy. The first taste was brown sugar and orange peel. As it moved across my palate, I picked up sharp rye spice and mint. Then, on the back, a blend of tobacco leaf and barrel char.

It culminated in a very, very long finish. This is one of those whiskeys that make you think it is done but fools you. Initially, it was toasted oak, sea salt, and clove. It was both warm and spicy. Round two was short-lived and full of coffee.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Craft whiskey normally runs between $40 and $60.  So long as something doesn't cross that, it doesn't raise my eyebrows. But, if a whiskey doesn't taste good, even a rock-bottom price doesn't make it a bargain.  Fortunately, I found San Luis Valley Rye to be a tasty, complex Bottled-in-Bond Rye. It offered a lot from the nose to the palate and the palate to the finish. This one fits the bill, and I'm happy to rate this one as a Bottle. Cheers!

Friday, April 3, 2020

O.Z. Tyler Kentucky Rye Review & Tasting Notes

I have tasted many whiskeys that use some sort of rapid aging technique. Some distilleries go for smaller barrels. Others try to create artificial seasons by cooling their rickhouses in the summer and heating them in the winter. Others add staves, chips and other wood inside the barrels.

When I was shopping around Kentucky, I saw a 50ml of O.Z. Tyler Kentucky Rye Whiskey. I saw the TerrePURE Fast Filtered label and didn't think much of it. Fast filtered and rapidly aged sound like two entirely different things, yet as it turns out, they are one and the same. What TerrePURE is, exactly, I don't know for sure, but when I did a web search, it came up as Terressentia Corporation. And, as that turned out, they own Terrepure Kentucky Distillers.  Then, if you go to their webpage, you discover they are really Angostura, the company famous for making bitters. If you go to O.Z. Tyler's website, they'll tell you absolutely nothing about their spirits. So much for transparency.

What O.Z. Tyler will provide is a history of their distillery, starting with 1880 when founded as the Eagle Distillery, to its relocation in Owensboro and subsequently renamed Green River Distillery to a host of hurdles including bankruptcies, Prohibition, changing of hands, etc.  They'll also tell you about brands the distillery used to make but lost the rights to, but, again, don't talk about their own distillate.

What some sleuthing did tell me was that TerrePURE is a patented system of somehow replicating three years in the barrel, but having it actually age only twelve hours. That's interesting, except that O.Z. Tyler states their Rye is aged a minimum of six months.   This becomes a curiosity... if you can simulate aging three years in twelve hours, how does that translate to six months in #4 charred oak?

This and several other questions will be answered shortly. O.Z. Tyler Kentucky Rye retails for about $20.00 and is bottled at 90°.  The mashbill is undisclosed, but we know it must be at least 51% rye.  How does this super-aged whiskey hold up?  Time to #DrinkCurious.

In my Glencairn Wee Dram glass, this Rye presents as a very pale amber, almost like what you'd expect in a naturally-colored Scotch. It left a medium-thick rim and fat, slow legs that worked their way down to the pool.

Aromas of oak and sawdust were predominant, which was followed by mint and then, finally, anise. When I inhaled through my mouth, it was a blend of wintergreen and mint.

The mouthfeel was thick and creamy.  The palate was difficult to discern. It started with a slight citrus, a dusting of oak and... that's it. There was nothing really going on with it. The medium-length finish was creamy and was mostly white pepper with again, that slight citrus.  

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  When you race a product to market, very rarely does it mimic Mother Nature. In the case of O.Z. Tyler Kentucky Rye, the TerrePURE process may have been productive but the results were not attractive. It did not taste like a well-aged whiskey at all. As such, this one is an easy Bust