Monday, June 14, 2021

Introducing Hezekiah Crain Coachgun & Deep Oak Whiskeys - With Reviews & Tasting Notes


If you hang out with folks in the distillery industry long enough, you get a chance to get your hands (and palate) on something new and different. One of the folks I know is Sean Wipfli, who started the Secret Midnight Whiskey Club which has picked some impressive barrels. In full disclosure, I've done some barrel picks with them in the past. It has been a couple of years, though.

Sean has spread his wings into things beyond barrel picking and has even started his own label called Hezekiah Crain, which is now in its first releases and hitting store shelves as you read this.

Who was Hezekiah Crain?  He was one of the very first American patriots. He was a private in the Connecticut Light Horse Regiment during the Revolutionary War, survived it, but died at a fairly young age of 48 in 1796. 

The first two Hezekiah Crain releases are Coachgun American Whiskey and Deep Oak 14-Year American Whiskey. Both are sourced from MGP, the mega-Indiana distillery. Sean has been around long enough to understand that transparency is a big deal and he doesn't hold many cards close to his vest. 

Before I get to the reviews, I'd like to thank Sean for providing me with a sample of both in exchange for no strings attached, honest reviews. And, before anyone rolls their eyes, I've not been in love with everything that Sean has had me review. He knows he is taking a real risk with me.

Coachgun American Whiskey Batch #001

American whiskey can be pretty much anything that qualifies a whiskey and is distilled in (you guessed it) the United States. That can be Bourbon, Rye, Light Whiskey, Blended or Single Malt, Wheat Whiskey, or a blend of any of those. As such, the term is vague.

In the case of Coachgun, we're looking at a blend of Bourbon and Rye, often called Bourye. These are single barrel whiskeys, both sourced from MGP, and consist of its 36% rye content Bourbon aged four years and its 95% Rye aged five. There was no dilution, and as such, touts a Batch Strength descriptor that weighs in at 105.8°. There's been no added flavor or color and is particle-filtered, but not chill-filtered. You can expect to pay about $59.99 for a 750ml bottle. It is important to note that this is, by design, not sold by any retailers outside of Wisconsin.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Coachgun was gold in color. It produced a broad rim and fat, slow tears that fell back to the pool of whiskey.

Nose:  Sweet corn, caramel, toasted oak, and cinnamon hit my nose first, but hidden beneath was apple. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, vanilla caressed my tongue.

Palate:  I discovered an oily mouthfeel with a medium body. The first flavors were cherry and maple syrup. It was certainly unusual. As the whiskey worked its way across my palate, I tasted vanilla, caramel, and nutmeg. The back offered oak, cherry (again), and mint.

Finish:  Long and warming, the finish gave up toasted oak, cherry, rye spice, and mint.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  There wasn't anything overly complicated with Coachgun, but it was tasty. I've had Bouryes before at lesser proofs and for the most part, enjoy them. They often wind up spicier than Bourbons and softer than Ryes. As far as a value statement goes, $59.99 for something barrel-proof is under the "average" price. Good job, Sean, I'm tendering my Bottle rating for it. 

Deep Oak 14-Year American Whiskey Project #001

And now, for something a little different. Light whiskey at 14-years isn't overly uncommon. I've reviewed a few of these MGP Light whiskeys and some have been impressive, but I recently had one that was awful. 

What makes Deep Oak different is that once the single barrel was dumped, it was then placed in a hand-selected, freshly-dumped former whiskey barrel for extra-aging. Bottled at cask strength of 115°, Deep Oak is non-chill filtered and retails for about $74.99.

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Deep Oak presented as the color of bright gold. A medium rim was formed which yielded medium, slow legs that eventually dropped back into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Aromas of vanilla, oak, and mint were evident on my olfactory senses. As I breathed in through my mouth, I picked out a bold vanilla. 

Palate:  If you've ever wondered what the mouthfeel of an oil slick is, Deep Oak will answer that question. This may be the oiliest whiskey I've tried to date. It coated every crevice of my mouth. The front brought a single flavor: berry jam. The middle changed things up with rye spice and cocoa powder. The back was dry oak, tobacco leaf, and cinnamon Red Hots.

Finish:  Deep Oak was one of those whiskeys with a freight-train finish. It didn't build, it just rolled on and on for several minutes. You couldn't miss the oak, which was joined by black pepper, cinnamon, and clove. My hard palate was left tingling. You could feel the oily mouth well into the finish.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Light whiskey isn't everyone's thing and has its detractors. However, Deep Oak is unlike any light whiskey I've had before, and if you blindfolded me and didn't tell me what it was, I would not pin it down as light whiskey.  I found the mouthfeel and finish fascinating. I thought it interesting that the palate started off slow before adding complexity. I like the idea that it was twice-barreled, both times in vintage cooperage. If you want to drink something off the beaten path then this one's for you. It is for me, too. This snags my Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to drink your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Clancy's Krinkle Cut Kentucky Smoked Small Batch Bourbon Kettle Chip Review & Tasting Notes


No. You're not at the wrong place. No. I'm not looking to become a food critic. But, when something hits the market and ties itself to the Wonderful World of Whiskey, you can bet your bottom dollar that it will pique my curiosity. As such, today, I'll #EatCurious rather than #DrinkCurious.

I've been a big fan of ALDI for about four or five years. If you're unfamiliar with ALDI, it is a growing chain of compact grocery stores. The prices are amazingly affordable, the quality of food is shockingly good, and, if you're gluten-free like me, it has some of the best selection you'll come across anywhere, including (and especially) bread and bagels. They also have their own private label potato chips under the brand Clancy's

I buy Clancy's chips all the time. Earlier this month (June 2021), ALDI announced the availability of Krinkle Cut Kentucky Smoked Small Batch Bourbon Kettle Chips (that's a mouthful all by itself!). As soon as I saw it on the shelf, I knew I had to have it. I mean, I was going to buy chips anyway, right?

An eight-ounce bag, which is the only size offered, runs $1.89.  As I said, ALDI's prices are very good. Each bag contains eight servings, with each serving rated at 150 calories, 260mg of sodium, 1.5g of saturated fat, and no trans fats. As I checked out the ingredients that might constitute Bourbon-like flavors, I found corn oil, caramel, molasses powder, brown sugar, and smoke flavor.

Should you run out to ALDI and grab a bag (or a case) in the event this is a limited-edition run? Check out my tasting notes for the answer.

Appearance:  In my Boulder paper bowl (incidentally, another ALDI private label), these chips had a definitive crinkle-cut pattern. They were a reddish-brown that could be close to what you'd see in a glass of Bourbon or Rye. It looked like a good-quality chip, something that is typical of Clancy's.

Nose:  Garlic and liquid smoke were the first aromas picked out. There was a slightly sweet quality, likely from the brown sugar and molasses powder, potato (like most other chips), and something sour. This was my second round of tasting it and I came across that sour smell the first time, too. 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was a very good crunch. While it didn't look to be a kettle chip, it had the sensation of one. The flavor of liquid smoke dominated, then brown sugar followed by salt. I could not identify what the flavor was, but that sour note on the nose carried over to the palate. This was something I tasted in both rounds as well.

Finish:  Medium in length, liquid smoke and salt continued. There was also sweet paprika.

Bottle (Bag in this case), Bar, or Bust:  I realize this isn't whiskey and isn't Bourbon. But there was nothing Bourbon-like about this chip, "small batch" or otherwise. If I was involved in a barrel pick and these flavors in combination came up, I'd question the sanity of the distiller who chose it as a sample.  If this was small-batch Bourbon (or any other kind of whiskey for that matter), I'd be annoyed that I wasted money on it. This is a Bust even as a potato chip and I'm happy I only purchased one bag instead of being a tater and clearing the shelf.

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you to do so responsibly.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Lost Lantern American Vatted Malt, Cedar Ridge Bourbon, and Balcones Bourbon Reviews & Tasting Notes


Independent bottling is not something overly common with American whiskey. Oh, it is obtusely, but you don't really hear about it in the same terms as you do with, say, Scotch. In theory, folks who source whiskey from others and put their own label on it might be considered independent bottlers. But, few actually try to claim their niche as an independent bottler.

Then, there's Lost Lantern. You've never heard of them? Well, until very recently, neither had I. In its own words:

"The best whiskey reflects its origins, its craftsmanship, its ingredients, and its distillers. Inspired by the long tradition of independent bottlers in Scotland, Lost Lantern is a new, independent bottler of American whiskey. The company seeks out the most unique and exciting whiskeys being made all across the country and releases them as single casks and blends, always with a deep commitment to transparency." - Lost Lantern

Founded in 2018 by Nora Ganley-Roper of Astor Wine & Spirits and Adam Polonski of Whisky Advocate, the duo is committed to releasing whiskeys from distilleries they've personally visited. Nora handles production and operations, and Adam takes care of marketing, sales, and sourcing. Currently, Lost Lantern's whiskeys can be purchased from or

One thing that I'm passionate about is transparency. I respect that some things have to be held close to the vest. However, when distilleries lay most or all of their cards on the table, that gets exciting. The fact that Lost Lantern is also big on transparency is much appreciated.

Today I have an opportunity to explore three of Lost Lantern's whiskeys:  American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1, Single Cask #2 Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon, and Single Cask #8 Balcones Straight Bourbon. This opportunity is due to Lost Lantern's kindness in providing me samples of each in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. 

This will be a three-part review process. Up first is the American Vatted Malt.

Lost Lantern American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1

I've come to appreciate the American Single Malt category. Back in its infancy, I can say I was pretty pessimistic about its future. They seemed hard, rough, and lacking as compared to single malts from around the world. However, the category has matured, and distillers have figured out the magic behind distilling malted barley.

"[It] is one of the first blends of single malts ever made in the United States ... We brought together the founders and distillers behind some of the country's most distinctive single malts, all of whom hand-selected the barrels for this unique blend. Over the course of a single marathon day, we worked, tasted, and blended together. The result was this unique and special blend." - Lost Lantern

In the end, Lost Lantern wound up blending twelve barrels from Balcones (Texas), Copperworks (Washington), Santa Fe Spirits (New Mexico), Triple Eight (Massachusetts), Westward (Oregon), and Virginia Distillery Co. (Virginia).  When I saw the list of participants, my curiosity was piqued. I've tried whiskeys from several of those distilleries, they're unique in their own rights, and couldn't imagine what I was about to try. 

Aged for two years and packaged at 105°, naturally colored, and non-chill-filtered, American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1 has a suggested retail price of $120.00.  There were 3000 bottles produced. 

Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this malt presented as the color of a deep copper. It produced a thick rim with heavy, fat legs that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Fruity aromas of plum, raisin and orange peel married caramel. I could imagine sherry casks being used. When I took the vapor into my mouth, I picked out citrus and milk chocolate.

Palate:  A medium-bodied, quite oily mouthfeel greeted the tasting experience. On the front, I found milk chocolate, malt, and brown sugar. The middle consisted of salted caramel and apple pie filling. Orange, charred oak, molasses, and nutmeg created the back.

Finish:  Long-lasting and continually building, flavors of barbeque smoke and barrel char yielded to nutmeg and salted caramel. Black pepper refused to give up for several minutes.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is one unique whiskey and also a bit of a curiosity. At one end, there is a two-year age statement, and at the other, the $120 price. This isn't unheard of: one of the more famous brands, Compass Box, works this formula of young blends with impressive price tags regularly and has been successful. I found American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1 flavorful, drinks way under its stated proof, unusual in a good way, and while I still think this is pricy, I believe this one is worth picking up and crown it with my Bottle rating. 

Single Cask 2:  Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon

Next up is Single Cask #2: Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon. This is the first Bourbon cask for Lost Lantern. I've reviewed the 86° standard release and found it enjoyable. This one is different - it is a single barrel Bourbon and bottled at its cask strength of 120.5°. Similar to the standard version, it started with a mash of 74% corn, 14% malted rye, and 12% two-row malted barley, then rested three years through the harsh summers and winters of Iowa, where it experienced, on average, 18% angel's share loss. Lost Lantern's release produced 213 bottles and carries an $87.00 price. It is non-chill-filtered and naturally colored.

Appearance:  Tasted neat in my Glencairn glass, this Cedar Ridge cask was the color of dark amber. A thin rim gave way to slow, husky legs that fell back to the pool. 

Nose:  Corn-forward, it was joined by candy corn, toasted oak, and cinnamon. When I breathed in through my mouth, bubble gum shot across my tongue.

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be thin and oily, and the front was strictly corn. That bubble gum quality showed up at mid-palate and was joined by caramel for a very different affair. The back quickly warmed with toasted oak, rye spice, and black pepper.

Finish:  The Cedar Ridge cask had a freight-train finish, meaning it just wouldn't quit. It rode on (again) bubble gum and black pepper, and introduced cinnamon Red Hots. I'd estimate I got almost ten minutes out of the finish before either it fell off or my palate just said, "I give up."

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This one drank at least at its stated proof, it not hotter. Bubble gum is not something I come across regularly, so when I do, it is an attention-getter. When caramel was tossed into the equation, it strangely made sense, although I'd never think of mixing the two. I've seen other Cedar Ridge single barrels run at about $60.00 or so, and the Cedar Ridge Single Barrel  Collection cask-strength bottles retail at $69.00. This is where my hang-up happens because while this was definitely worth drinking, I don't see an additional $20.00 in value, and as such earns a Bar rating. 

Single Cask 8:  Balcones Straight Bourbon

Finally, I'm sampling Single Cask #8: Balcones Straight Bourbon.  Texas whiskey can be polarizing. There are folks who love and swear by it, and there are others who won't take a second sip of anything out of The Lone Star State. I can count on one hand and have fingers left over for Texas whiskeys I'd recommend. But that #DrinkCurious lifestyle encourages me to try them all, just like anything else.

Founded in 2009, Balcones Distilling hails from Waco. It is a grain-to-glass distillery that creates atypical whiskeys. In this case, the Bourbon comes from a mash of 100% Texas-grown roasted blue corn, then aged in 60-gallon new American oak barrels for two years in the formidable Texas heat. Non-chill-filtered and naturally colored, it was bottled at 126.8° with a suggested retail price of $90.00. Only 199 bottles came from the barrel. 

Appearance:  Experienced neat in my Glencairn glass, this Balcones cask was the color of dark caramel. A medium ring led to big, heavy legs that crawled back to the pool.

Nose:  I could smell this whiskey from across the room. It wasn't bad, rather, it was luxurious. Thick, rich caramel made me smile. That was joined by plum. It delivered a Wow! factor that you don't come across too often in whiskeys. As I drew the aroma into my mouth, it was like biting into a Heath bar. 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was Texas sweet crude. It may be the oiliest feel I've experienced. There was also something meaty about the palate. The front featured cumin, brown sugar, and liquid smoke. Coffee and dark cacao were on the middle, while the back consisted of paprika, oak, and tobacco leaf. 

Finish: A medium finish offered coffee, cinnamon, barrel char, and black pepper. It grew spicier and smokier as I waited and then it just vanished. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Balcones single barrel was unusual. It started off drinking under its stated proof. But, as the finish came along, that turned around and I had no doubt it was at least 126°. The latter is what I usually experience with Texas whiskey. The nose, despite the few notes, was stupendous. The palate was warming and a good blend of sweet and spicy notes. The liquid smoke threw me for a bit of a loop. The finish was hot but not overwhelming. Lost Lantern's selection was a good one, and I'm giving this Texas whiskey my Bottle rating. Cheers! 


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

What To Do With That "Bad" Whiskey?


Recently, I had someone approach me saying they bought a whiskey they didn’t like and asked if I could recommend a good cocktail they could make with it. This is more common of a question than you’d imagine. I believe it stems not just from buyer’s remorse but also that money was spent, and indeed there must be a way to salvage it.

Let’s get one thing out of the way: There is a big difference between a whiskey that is slated to be a “mixer” and one that is just not palatable...

You can read the rest of the article (and my advice) over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to drink your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Glenmorangie The Quinta Ruban Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

It isn't too often when Fortune is kind as it pertains to whisky. Last year, Glenmorangie changed one of its staple Scotches, The Quinta Ruban. You see, the good Dr. Bill Lumsen, Glenmorangie's master blender, who has a long track record of doing things right, opted to add another two years to what was a 12-year whisky. So, why is Fortune kind to us? Because the discontinued 12-year expression is still out there and, while supplies are dwindling, it isn't overly difficult to find.

If you're not familiar with Glenmorangie (a/k/a Glenmo), it is a Highland distillery that was founded in 1843 and located in Tain, Ross-shire. Mothballed twice, first from 1931 to 1936 and then again from 1941 to 1944, Glenmo has the tallest stills in all of Scotland, which are nicknamed giraffes. Hard water, high in mineral content, sourced from the local Tarlogie Springs, is used in the distillation process. The giraffe concept is so important to Glenmo that it pioneered a partnership with the Giraffe Conservation Foundation, with the goal of saving these animals from becoming further endangered.  

The Quinta Ruban 12-year used Glenmo's base single-malt distillate and aged it a decade in former Bourbon barrels. Those barrels came from Jack Daniel's, where they rested four years before being dumped and subsequently shipped to Scotland. Then, Glenmo placed the whisky in ruby Port pipes, where it matured another two years. These pipes, which are tapered barrels, came from the Quintas of Portugal. Quintas is Portuguese for wine estates. Ruban is the Gaelic term for ruby. Hence the name.

Bottled at 46% ABV (92°) and non-chill filtered, when you stumble upon it, you can expect to pay about $46.00 for a 750ml.

What can you expect from this Scotch?  The only way to tell for sure is to #DrinkCurious

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Scotch presented as deep mahogany in color. It formed a medium rim that created thick, watery legs that fell back down the wall.

Nose:  Fragrant and a bit challenging to nail down, aromas of honey, raisin, vanilla, cinnamon, and dried fig wafted from the glass. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, the dried fig slammed across my tongue.

Palate:  Creamy and full-bodied, The Quinta Ruban offered smoked oak, clove, and roasted nuts on the front of the palate. As it moved to the middle, it became a fruity assortment of fig, date, raisin, and blueberry. Then, on the back, I tasted dark chocolate, caramel, and marshmallow that could have made for a tasty candy bar. 

Finish:  Medium-to-long and mostly dry, the finish left flavors of charred oak, caramel, chocolate, raisin, and honey.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Do yourself a favor. When you see The Quinta Ruban 12-year on the shelf, perhaps in that clearance section of your local liquor store, grab it. Take two if you can. This is an excellent Scotch that features a beautiful nose, plus a delicious palate and finish at an attractive price. Yes, that's a Bottle rating from me. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.


Monday, June 7, 2021

Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Bourbon requires corn or at least 51% of the recipe must be made of corn. The state that produces the most corn is Iowa. Iowa has hot and humid summers and cold, frigid winters. It has a long, storied history of bootlegging. You'd think all of that would translate to the state offering some very good Bourbon.

I've had good Iowa Bourbon and I've had stuff that could be used to strip floors. To be fair, I could say the same thing about Kentucky. But, I'm not here to rehash the good and bad, I'm here to discover something new, or at least new to me, and that's Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon

The distillery was founded in 2005 and was the first Iowa-licensed distillery since Prohibition.  It is located in Swisher and is both a distillery and winery. Jeff Quint came from a long line of farmers and he began his operation with the idea that it was time for Iowa to earn its way onto the Bourbon distilling map. Everything is done grain-to-glass, and, in 2017, the American Distilling Institute named it Distillery of the Year. 

"Fine craftsmanship is a true reflection of Iowa’s mentality of doing the best with what nature gives them. No temperature control aging, minimal waste, and that Midwest resourcefulness put production first, favoring quality over quantity." - Cedar Ridge Distillery

The journey starts at the family farm in nearby Winthrop, where the corn is grown. That is the first 74% of the recipe. Next up is 14% malted rye. The remaining 12% is two-row malted barley. Everything is milled and distilled on-site. It is then aged for three years in new, charred oak in a naturally-aired warehouse with no temperature controls. Typically Cedar Ridge experiences about 18% loss to the angels. After being dumped, it is bottled at 86°.

You can expect to find Cedar Ridge in Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Missouri, North Carolina, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Colorado, New Mexico, Illinois, Wisconsin, Texas, Minnesota, and Kansas. A 750ml bottle runs around $30.00.

I'd like to thank the folks at Cedar Ridge Distillery for providing me a sample of Batch 0438 in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now it is time to #DrinkCurious and discover what this Bourbon is all about. 

Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Cedar Ridge is the color of brass. It presented a thin rim, but fast, large tears fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Nose: The aroma of roasted corn was difficult to miss. I also found vanilla, brown sugar, and toasted oak. When I took the vapor in my mouth, corn flowed across my tongue. 

Palate: As the liquid brushed past my lips, I experienced a thick, creamy mouthfeel. Corn was at the front and joined by caramel. A fruity sensation of plum and pear hit the middle, and on the back, I tasted oak, caramel (again) and clove.

Finish: Long, lingering, and dry, flavors of corn, plum, clove, and oak created an satisfying finish. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust: I believe Cedar Ridge is onto something here. Yes, it is a bit young and corn-forward. But it isn't overpowering and there's no slam of ethanol on the nose or palate, and that's important. Quint did a good job at judging the correct proof. It was high enough to pick up flavors without having them muted by too much water. When I take into account the affordability aspect, Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon is a winner and snags my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!

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

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Ardbeg Monsters of Smoke Tour is Coming to Greater Milwaukee


Today is Ardbeg Day! It is a day to celebrate all things Ardbeg. But, more exciting is what's happening this coming week in the greater Milwaukee area... Ardbeg's Monsters of Smoke Tour!

If you've never been to an Ardberg Day event, you have no idea what you're missing. Ardbeg puts on one hell of a show and everything is first-class. In the past, when I lived in Florida and Mrs. Whiskeyfellow worked at one of its premier liquor stores, I worked a few Ardbeg Day celebrations. The last for me was the release of Auriverdes in 2014. Since relocating to Wisconsin, these events have been unavailable.

And then, Ardbeg told me they were coming to Wisconsin!

The Monsters of Smoke Tour highlights Wee Beastie and An Oa. I reviewed Wee Beastie back in April. I'm a fan of An Oa (and am shocked that I've not reviewed it, I'll have to fix that). These are both excellent, affordable expressions out of this storied distillery. There are plenty of swag giveaways, bottle engravings, tastings, games, and augmented reality photo opportunities for visitors. You'll know you're at the right place when you see the two oversized all-terrain tactical vehicles named after the two whiskies.

The events last three hours, and you have to be at least 21 to participate. Best of all, they're free!

I'm slated to attend the event at Otto's Wine & Spirits in Menomonie Falls on Saturday, June 12th from 11am to 2pm. The address is N88 W15413 Main Street. Hit me up, I'd love to see you there!

If you can't make that event, here's the entire Milwaukee-land tour schedule:

  • June 10th, 11am to 2pm, Olsen's Piggly Wiggly, 6111 W Mequon Rd, Mequon
  • June 10th, 4pm to 7pm, Discount Liquor, 919 N Barstow St, Waukesha
  • June 11th, 11am to 2pm, Otto's, W63 N157 Washington Ave, Cedarberg
  • June 11th, 4pm to 7pm, Discount Liquor, 5031 W Oklahoma Ave, Milwaukee
  • June 12th, 11am to 2pm at Otto's in Menomonee Falls
  • June 12th, 4pm to 7pm, Aman's Beer & Wine, 262110 W Loomis Rd, Wind Lake
  • June 13th, 11am to 2pm, Total Wine, 8700 W Sura Ave, Greenfield
  • June 13th, 4pm to 7pm, Total Wine, 17330 W Bluemound Rd, Brookfield

If you live elsewhere and want to see the entire Monsters of Smoke Tour, you can visit the tour's website. Cheers!

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Hooten Young 12-Year American Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


American whiskey... what is it, exactly? The definition is vague and broad. Essentially, it is whiskey distilled in the United States from fermented cereal grains. It could include bourbon, rye, Tennessee whisky, corn whiskey, moonshine, single malt, light whiskey, or the blending of some or all those listed.

When I come across an American whiskey that I'm unfamiliar with, I assume it is not bourbon, rye, or Tennessee whisky. Those incarnations tend to brag about what they have. Single malt is starting to get that way, too.

As I was presented with an opportunity to review Hooten Young American Whiskey, I had no idea what to expect. What Hooten Young presented seemed straightforward and, to my great pleasure, transparent. 

"Hooten Young was founded by former Special Operations Soldier, Master Sgt. Norm Hooten and Tim Young. Created as a brotherhood bonded by the love of freedom, family, and honor, Hooten Young is a tribute to the brave men and women of the armed forces who have gone above and beyond the call of duty." - Hooten Young

If the name Norm "Hoot" Hooten seems strangely familiar, he was portrayed by Eric Baca in the 2001 movie, Black Hawk Down.  

Hooten Young is a 12-year whiskey sourced from MGP. It started as a mash of 99% corn and 1% malted barley and distilled at 189° before aged at 140° in second-fill barrels.  If you consider all that, it becomes obvious this is a light whiskey.  

The barrels were discovered by Master Sommelier George Miliotes, one of just 268 Master Sommeliers in the world. He educates and curates wines and spirits, and owns Wine Bar George at Orlando's Walt Disney World Resort

Hooten Young is bottled at 92° and a 750ml package will set you back about $64.99. Distribution is in Florida, Colorado, Louisiana, Texas, and Kansas. As expected, you can order it online from various retailers.

Before I get to the tasting notes and rating, I'd like to take a moment and thank Hooten Young for providing a sample of their whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. I've reviewed several MGP light whiskeys, some are very tasty, others are a hot mess. Let's see where Hooten Young falls on the scale and #DrinkCurious.

Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Hooten Young was the color of gold straw. It provided a slim rim but yielded a curtain of husky, fat tears that dropped back to the pool.

Nose:  The nose was soft and easy with candied corn and toasted marshmallow. As I drew the vapor into my mouth, I picked out vanilla.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin-bodied, and the palate was fairly simple.  On the front, I tasted caramel and brown sugar. Mid-palate featured marshmallow fluff and crisp apple. The back offered roasted corn and cherry cola.

Finish:  Long and warming, Hooten Young was slightly numbing that reminded me of Mr. Pibb. When it fell off, I could swear I had freshly-charred marshmallows on a stick at a campfire in my mouth.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This was not like other Light Whiskeys that I've had, and perhaps that's the influence of the lower proof. I liked the simplicity of the nose and palate. The charred marshmallow at the very end was a treat. I enjoyed what I smelled and tasted. I appreciate that Hooten Young is a dozen years old, and having one of 268 Master Sommeliers "discover" it is a fun backstory. I would have a tough time paying $65.00 for it, especially when there are several similarly-aged (and older) MGP light whiskeys bottled at barrel proof for about the same price out there. I give Hooten Young kudos for providing something lovely, but unless the price comes down, I'm recommending you try this at a Bar first. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

Kirkland Signature Islay Single Malt Scotch Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

If you're a Costco member, you've undoubtedly been to the liquor section of your local club to see what they have. And, you've likely stumbled across its Kirkland store-brand whiskeys and wondered to yourself, Can this be any good? Especially at that price? I know that thought has crossed my mind whenever I've perused the aisle.

Lately, I've been on a Scotch kick. I go through these cycles. Sometimes it is Bourbon, sometimes Rye, sometimes Irish, and for whatever reason, I gravitate toward them. I lost my whiskey virginity to Scotch, so it holds a special place in my heart. On the flip side of the coin, I'm not a wealthy man, and Scotch is an expensive part of an already expensive whiskey hobby.

A few months ago, I saw rumblings of Kirkland Signature Islay Single Malt Scotch hit the interwebs. There was a lot of excitement, and, as with anything, many naysayers who said an Islay single malt for $39.99 will taste like garbage. The #DrinkCurious lifestyle told me that's hogwash. After just enjoying a $38.00 bottle of Ardbeg Wee Beastie, I know good Scotch doesn't require a loan.

One of the frustrating things about buying Kirkland whiskeys is you have no idea where it comes from because they are very tight-lipped about it. However, Islay only has nine working distilleries and since this is a single malt, we know that means it isn't a blend of several. That's the first piece of the puzzle.

Other information we know is that it comes from Alexander Murray Co., which is an independent bottler. Independent bottling is pretty easy to explain. Distilleries have thousands of casks doing nothing but aging to perfection. An independent bottler selects casks they find special and bottles them on its own. There exist some superstar independent bottlers, and there are those who are mediocre at best.

This Kirkland whisky carries no age statement and is bottled at 100°. I picked up my bottle for $39.99.  I'm sure different distribution territories have different prices. But the key here is this is very affordable. And, that ponies up the second and third pieces of the puzzle.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Scotch was golden in color. The bottle suggests nothing regarding added caramel coloring or chill filtering. But, at 100° would negate the need for chill filtering. The rim was wide and yielded fat, fast legs that crashed back into the pool. 

Nose:  Peat was expected and it did not disappoint. That's the first note I picked up from the moment I poured my first glass.  Brine, citrus, barbeque smoke, and vanilla each held their places. When I breathed the aroma into my mouth, I tasted lemon curd rolling across my tongue.

Palate:  There was no mistaking the mouthfeel for anything but being full-bodied and viscous. On the front of my palate, I found smoked vanilla and pear. As it moved to the middle, flavors of salted caramel, ginger, and citrus were evident. The back offered marmalade, tobacco leaf, clove, and (again) ginger. 

Finish: Long-lasting but not overpowering, the finish features barbeque smoke, vanilla, clove, tobacco leaf, and freshly-cracked peppercorn. The smoke sticks around for the whole shebang.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Buying a bottle of Kirkland Signature Islay Single Malt Scotch for only $39.99 should be illegal. This can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with so many lovely Scotches and beat them on price. If peat is your thing, this will be, too. This may be one of the easiest Bottle ratings I've conveyed in a long time. I don't know how else to say this:  Buy it (and please, ye kind whiskey gods, let this be a permanent offering).

Final Note:  We've had three pieces of the puzzle that offer a hint to this whisky's origin. The tasting notes offer a few more. It is fairly obvious this is a heavily-peated Scotch. That barbeque quality from the nose and finish is also a clue. I can't swear to it, and this is purely a deductive guess, but I'm going to go out on a limb and say a 100°, heavily-peated Islay Scotch that is very easy on the wallet would be Port Charlotte out of the Bruichladdich distillery. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit, but begs you to do so responsibly. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

A-O "Come Hell or High Water" Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes

Every so often, I come across something decidedly different. I revere different when it comes to whiskey. It doesn't mean I always like it, but I respect the effort of any distiller willing to take a risk and think outside the box.

We've seen whiskeys that have been "aged at sea."  Jefferson's Ocean is probably the most well-known.  Each batch is known as a Voyage, and some voyages are definitely better than others. 

Founded in 2013, Pilot House Distilling of Astoria, Oregon, offers an annual, limited-edition whiskey it ocean-ages, called A-O Come Hell or High Water. The A-O comes from Astoria and Oregon. It starts with a mash of Northwest Premium two-row Pale Ale barley and utilizes A01 Imperial yeast. That's then distilled and aged for 18 months in the warehouse. From there, the barrels spend seven months on a South Bay fishing vessel. In the case of Batch 4, which Pilot House provided me in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review, the fishing vessel harvested shrimp.

Bottled at 80°, this limited-edition single malt commanded a $60.00 price tag but is now sold out. However, that doesn't mean you can't get your hands on one, it just may be difficult to come by. I'll #DrinkCurious and let you know if this is worth hunting.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Come Hell or High Water appeared as tarnished gold in color. It produced a heavy rim with fat, sticky tears that eventually worked their way back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Malt was obvious on the nose. But it was joined by strawberry jam and cinnamon. The aroma of seaweed took me a few takes to figure out what it was. There were both musty and saline qualities to it. When I breathed the vapor into my mouth, I tasted grapefruit and malt.

Palate: A thick and viscous mouthfeel greeted my tongue as it passed my lips. There was a very light briny tang that was married to apricot and cinnamon on the front. Mid-palate suggested flavors of cereal, vanilla, and white grapefruit. Toffee, oak, and white pepper created the back.

Finish:  Initially the finish was fairly short. A subsequent swallow fixed that and it became long, with white grapefruit, oak, nutmeg, cereal, and white pepper.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Come Hell or High Water is absolutely a unique pour and in a good way. I loved the mouthfeel. I believe it has been properly aged, perhaps the sloshing around of the barrels on the fishing vessel is more than a simple marketing gimmick. Yes, this is sold out and you'll have to wait for Batch 5 to be released if you're going to buy it at retail. But, if you do come across Batch 4, I'd suggest picking it up, you'll find it tasty and captivating. This one gets a Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Evan Williams 12-Year Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Evan Williams is perhaps one of the most iconic Bourbon brands today. That and Jim Beam (don't get me started on Jack) are the top players sales-wise. Most of us are familiar with the Black Label, which pretty much keeps Heaven Hill in, pardon the pun, the black. Then, there's my favorite budget Bourbon, the Bottled-in-Bond White Label. The lesser-known brethren are the Single Barrel, 1783, and Green Label.

But, a 12-year old Evan Williams?  Red Label?  What's that all about? In the United States, Red Label is a distillery exclusive. It even comes with a necker label that says Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which is their microdistillery in Louisville. My understanding is that Red Label is also sold in Japan. It is bottled at 101° and runs about $129.99. Whoa... isn't Evan Williams a budget brand?

It is born of the same distillate as any other Evan Williams product:  78% corn, 12% rye, and 10% malted barley. It is charcoal-filtered just like any other Evan Williams product. It is aged in the same #3, new charred oak barrels like any other Evan Williams product. The big difference is proof and age. But, is that worth a nearly 6-fold premium?  The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Red Label appears as your run-of-the-mill Evan Williams Bourbon. It offers a mellow amber color, and it left a medium rim with fat, wavy legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  This Bourbon produced initial aromas of nutmeg and caramel. Underneath those were corn and mint. Finally, a totally unexpected but distinctive bubble gum smell. When I inhaled through my lips, it was only bubble gum. 

Palate:  When the whiskey crossed my lips, it was much thinner and lighter than I would have otherwise expected. At 101° I'd assume there would be some warmth. Instead, it was soft.  On the front of my palate, it was the very familiar corn and oak. Mid-palate was also the predictable vanilla and caramel. The back was new:  clove, nutmeg, and cocoa.

Finish:  The finish was also atypical of Evan Williams. It started with toasted oak, then gave way to clove, which then almost immediately switched gears to sweet, creamy caramel. I found the finish to be long-lasting and pleasurable.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Was this Evan Williams expression good?  Most certainly. Was it $130 good? No, not to me. That's difficult for me to admit because I'm a fan of all things Evan Williams. But, I can't justify the mark-up over their standard expressions. I can't rate this a Bust because it is a good Bourbon. But, this is something you should definitely try before committing to, and as such, it takes a Bar rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

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

Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs that you do so responsibly.