Saturday, January 30, 2021

Boot Hill "The Gathering" and "Sweet Heat" (FVWS) Reviews & Tasting Notes


Every now and then, I'm asked by friends and whiskey clubs to review something special for them. I'm always happy to do that, and the only thing I ask is they provide a sample. This time, it was the Fox Valley Whiskey Society (FVWS) out of Illinois. They've selected two barrels from Boot Hill Distillery out of Dodge City, Kansas. 

Both of these whiskeys were aged in smaller barrels.  That can be a risky venture because it is too easy to have flat, over-oaked notes as the whiskey ages rapidly compared to slowly maturing in 53-gallon barrels.  

Because these bottles are not for sale, there's no real point in offering my Bottle, Bar, or Bust rating. However, I'll give a summation of each. I'd like to thank FVWS for this opportunity to #DrinkCurious.

The Gathering 100% Unmalted Barley Whiskey

I got excited when I found out one of the two whiskeys was a 100% unmalted barley mash. I'd never tasted one before, and according to the FVWS, the TTB hasn't received any registration requests for one, either. Because it isn't malted, we don't get to call it an American Malt.  The TTB also couldn't find a category that fit the mash, and as such, went with the very generic Whiskey genre.  It was nicknamed The Gathering which is based on a debunked photo of Wild West legends Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, and even included Teddy Roosevelt. 

The Gathering rested two years in 5-gallon, #3-charred oak barrels. It came out at a whopping 131.2°!  The yield was only 21 bottles, but, remember, this was a small barrel to begin with.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Gathering presented as the color of bronze. It formed a micro-thin rim that generated thick, fast legs to drop back to the pool of this very unique whiskey.

Nose:  I found the nose to be challenging. It wasn't that there was nothing there - rather, they were competing against each other. I found menthol, oak, chocolate, honey, and dried apple slices. When I inhaled through my mouth... well, the best way to describe this is Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups. 

Palate:  The mouthfeel made no attempt to hide the proof. It was very hot and quickly made the hard palate tingle. Pear and honey were on the front. The middle consisted of cooked peaches and tropical fruits. The back is where the sweetness fell off and cinnamon, clove, and dry oak took over.

FinishThe Gathering had an incredibly long finish.  I timed it, and it ran almost three minutes before petering out. There was a hint of walnut, which was immediately quashed by sweet tobacco leaf. Then the cinnamon Red Hots came around the corner looking to see who was in its neighborhood and it stuck around in case anything else wanted to show up. As it finally faded, the dry oak from the back made a brief encore.

Verdict:  The unmalted barley was fascinating. It was definitely not Scotch-like, nor Irish-like, and, for that matter, it was unlike anything else I've ever tasted. Unique is something that always gets my attention, and The Gathering did it in a very creative manner.  This is a winner.

Sweet Heat Wheated Bourbon

Next up is a wheated Bourbon called Sweet Heat.  Distilled from a mash of 51% corn, and 49% wheat.  If you're scratching your head wondering where the malted barley is, don't fret.  There isn't any. Instead, Boot Hill used an artificial enzyme to get the fermentation going.  It aged just shy of four years in a 10-gallon, #3-charred oak barrel. Weighing in just below hazmat with 137.6°, the yield was 31 bottles.

Appearance:  I was initially shocked by the color until I remembered only a 10-gallon barrel was used. Deep and dark, it formed a thin rim and medium-thick, sticky legs. 

Nose:  Dark chocolate was the dominating aroma, with thick caramel underneath. Then, I smelled cherry schnapps. When I brought the vapor into my mouth, the schnapps changed to cherry pie filling.

Palate:  A thin and oily mouthfeel lacked the expected heat from the proof. Oak was definitive on the front and carried across the palate. I struggled through it and tasted cocoa and cherry mid-palate, with leather and sweet chili pepper on the back.

Finish:  The finish was long and dry.  What stuck around was dry oak, barrel char, old leather, and black pepper. It had pucker power for sure.

Verdict:  As I mentioned with the palate, Sweet Heat drank much lower than its stated proof. Were I blind tasting this, I'd guess it was somewhere around 110° or so. The nose was intriguing, the palate certainly lived up to its name, but the oak was distracting and difficult to overcome. The finish was nice because I appreciate the qualities of a dry one. While I enjoy oaky Bourbons, I felt this crossed into being over-oaked.  This wasn't flat and one-note by any means, and if you gravitate toward heavily-oaked Bourbons, Sweet Heat satisfies that craving. Cheers! 

Friday, January 29, 2021

Nassif Family Reserve Review & Tasting Notes

What happens when you try to create something special - a one-off - for a major life event, and it turns out so well you decide to bottle it for everyone? Gene Nassif of Cat's Eye Distillery did that with his Nassif Family Reserve. The backstory on this is that he wanted to blend something for his wedding guests to enjoy during his nuptials. Usually, with cute stories of how a whiskey came about, I smirk because I know better. But, Gene is also not a stranger - I've known him for a few years, and I know he married last year.

Gene sources off-the-radar whiskeys to tinker with. If you've never had a Polish Rye, Cat's Eye has one.  Last year I reviewed an MGP-sourced 13-year Light Whiskey. he seems to be a fan of Light Whiskey from MGP and keeps going to them for more.

With Nassif Family Reserve, he went with a 14-year MGP Light whiskey and blended it 50/50 with a 3-year 10-month MGP Bourye (a blend of 95%/5% Rye and a 60%/36%/4% high-rye Bourbon). That was then diluted to 107°, and a 750ml bottle of this American whiskey runs about $39.99.

I'd like to thank Wisconsin's distributor for Cat's Eye for providing a sample of Nassif Family Reserve in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. For the record, I'm going to #DrinkCurious with Batch 4.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey presented as burnt orange in color. It wasn't quite clear, but it also can't be described as cloudy. A thicker rim was produced, and that generated heavy, slow legs to drop back to the pool.

Nose:  While not overly aromatic sitting by itself, once I brought the glass to my mouth, it was effortless to pick out toffee, corn, butterscotch, and floral notes. What I didn't find was anything spicy. As I inhaled the vapor through my lips, the butterscotch continued.

Palate:  A creamy, medium-body mouthfeel led to caramel, almond, and tobacco leaf on the front. At mid-palate, sweet vanilla, honey, and muted peach took over. Then, on the back, clove, rye, and cinnamon.

Finish:  At first, Nassif Family Reserve the finish began as a toffee bomb. That morphed to spice with cinnamon and black pepper. It was cooled by toasted oak, and then very late in the finish, I tasted cherry. There was nothing quick about it.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Nassif Family Reserve is touted as something approachable for beginners yet nuanced enough for more experienced sippers. Overall, I'd have to agree, although I'm left wondering if the 107° is a tad too aggressive for newbies. Regardless, I appreciated the nice balance between sweet and spice. The price offers no real barrier to entry. Do the math and this one winds up snagging a Bottle rating. Cheers!

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


Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Coalition Kentucky Straight Rye Margaux Barriques Review & Tasting Notes


Finished whiskeys are the "in" thing right now. Finishing involves taking a mature whiskey and then transferring it from the original barrel to another. Those finishing barrels can be pretty much anything, from Bourbon and Rye to beer, from sherry and wine to Tobasco sauce. The idea is the finishing barrel allows the whiskey to take on some of the characters from what was previously in the barrel.

Very new to the market (meaning just released this month) is Coalition Whiskey. The name is meaningful. It involved three industry experts,  Leonid Yangarber (formerly of Russian Standard), Ludwig Vanneron (an expert in wine), and Steve Thompson (president of Kentucky Artisan Distillery), coming together and forming a coalition.  Their goal was to create a great whiskey that would be finished in some of the world's finest wine barrels.

Kentucky Artisan Distillery provides the base product across the brand's spectrum. Located in Crestwood, Kentucky, it utilizes a 100% rye mash, of which 10% of the rye is malted. All of the rye comes from a farm located about a mile away. That mash was then sent through a copper pot still that dates back to pre-Prohibition days. It is then aged for four-to-five years before making the transition to the wine barrels.

I'm reviewing the Margaux Barriques expression today.  Margaux refers to the famed Margaux appellation, the wine-growing region in Bordeaux, the birthplace of many highly-prestigious marks of wine.  Barriques is the French term for "barrel."  The base rye whiskey, once matured, is then finished in these former Margaux barrels.  It does not carry an age statement and packaged at 90.8°.  It is available in NY, NJ, CA, FL, KY, IL, and CO, and you can also purchase it online. Expect to pay $89.99 for a 750ml bottle.

Speaking of said bottle, it is an absolutely gorgeous presentation. It has some heft and something you'd want to keep afterward as a decanter for something else. 

The only way to find out if Coalition Margaux Barriques is any good is to #DrinkCurious. Before I get there, I'd like to thank Coalition Whiskey for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Rye presented as a deep, dark amber. A thick rim left very thick, sticky legs that didn't want to move anywhere.

Nose:  A fruity aroma filled the air. As I brought the glass closer to my face, cinnamon and oak hit my olfactory sense first. Then the fruitiness returned in the form of currant, dried fig, and red grape. There was also a muted floral note. When I inhaled the vapor through my mouth, rye spice and Bordeaux wine danced across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was silky and full-bodied. On the front, I tasted chocolate and creamy vanilla. Then, on the middle, a fruit bomb of plum, currant, and black cherry exploded. The back was a blend of leather, rye spice, tobacco leaf, and coffee bean.

Finish:  Things started sweet and then transformed to spicy. Plum, then clove, then warming with rye spice. Finally, things got very dry with leather and oak tannins. It definitely had pucker power. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Coalition Margaux Barriques was, simply put, elegant. I've had several wine-finished whiskeys and this one is a stand-out. The whiskey is a quality base and the wine barrels were top-notch before the two even interacted. There was absolutely nothing not to like from nose to finish. Even the mouthfeel was luxurious. The fancy decanter was unnecessary - this could be packaged in a mason jar and I would still not have any problem dropping $90.00 on it. Obviously, this grabs my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!

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


Monday, January 25, 2021

Do You Love Barbeque? You'll Fall in Love With Port Charlotte!


While barbequing is done all over the world, it is a genuine American pastime. A rite of passage, even. Americans will dig a path through waist-high snowdrifts to use their grills and smokers. On any holiday weekend, folks pack parks and backyards for fun and to enjoy outdoor cooking. The summer air is full of delicious aromas. 

Some of the very best barbeques I’ve experienced are from run-down, roadside shacks in Kentucky. The smoky smell of grilled meats of every kind makes my mouth water.  Frankly, it doesn’t matter if the meat is hot smoked over fire or smoke cooked. I love it all.


The wood used is at least as important as the choice of the meat itself. Some woods impart a smokier flavor. Others create a sweeter taste. And, then, there are the rubs, marinades, and sauces. Anything can be done with these additives, giving the meat its own, distinct flavor.


The point is barbeque is awesome.  We love barbeque.


Today I’m here to let you in on a little secret:  If you love barbeque, you’re going to love Port Charlotte Scotch whisky.


Wait a second there, Mr. Whiskeyfellow… Bourbon and Rye are paired with barbeque. Heck, we use those in our sauces and marinades. And, we drink them with our grilled meat. What’s this Scotch stuff you’re trying to foist on us?

I've never led you down the wrong path yet... stay with me. 

First of all, I must offer you transparency. One thing I admire about any brand is transparency. I hold myself to that same standard. I was approached by Bruichladdich, the distillery behind the Port Charlotte brand, to publish sponsored content about the brand. A majority of this piece fits that bill. What is not sponsored will be my tasting notes and review.


Port Charlotte is a small village on the island of Islay. The village used to be home to the Port Charlotte Distillery (soon renamed Lochindaal Distillery) from 1829 to 1929 before it was shuttered and abandoned.


Two miles away from Port Charlotte is the village of Bruichladdich, home of the Bruichladdich Distillery. Bruichladdich acquired the defunct Lochindaal Distillery in 2007, but has, to date, not resurrected it.  However, it has brought the name of the town back to life as Port Charlotte for its heavily-peated whisky brand.


You might be thinking that you've tasted Islay Scotches and I am off my rocker. Trust me here, please.


The term appellation is one we hear a lot in wines and brandies:  champagne must come from the Champagne region of France, otherwise, it is sparkling wine. Cognac and Armagnac must come from their respective regions.  It works for spirits, too.


Port Charlotte versus Pretty Much Every Other Islay Whisky


Port Charlotte is different from every other Scotch that comes from Islay. Did you know that to be legally called an Islay whisky, all that has to happen is the malt has to be distilled on Islay? The barley itself doesn’t have to come from Islay. The malting doesn’t have to occur on Islay. The whisky doesn’t need to age on Islay. The water source doesn’t have to be from Islay. And, finally, it doesn’t have to even be bottled in Islay. In fact, most Islay whisky fits the minimum requirement of being distilled on the island.


Islay is an unforgiving place to cultivate barley. Until very recently, barley hadn't been grown on the island since World War II! Most distilleries get all of their barley from the mainland. The two that don’t are Kilchoman and Bruichladdich. The Port Charlotte brand uses 42% of its barley grown locally. In fact, Port Charlotte is the only heavily-peated brand to claim 100% Scottish barley content. While the barley isn’t currently malted on Islay, that will change in 2023. Once barreled, Port Charlotte spends its entire life aging on Islay. Again, that’s not something most other distilleries do. Instead, they spend a short time on Islay and then are sent to the mainland for the duration of the aging process. The water used is sourced from Islay natural springs. Finally, the whisky is all bottled on Islay.


All of the above contributes to Port Charlotte's very unique barbeque flavor.  Not traditional peat smokiness. Not ash. What helps enhance that special flavor comes from its very narrow-necked stills and its heavily-charred ex-Bourbon casks the whisky is aged in. 

Port Charlotte expressions are peated at 40ppm, the same as Ardnahoe and Laphroaig. That's higher than most, falling short only of ArdbegLaphroaig, and, of course, Bruichladdich's super-peated Octomore.

Bruichladdich's Vision

Bruichladdich's vision across its entire product line is to distill for flavor and not for consistency. Things change from batch to batch, and that's how they like doing things. The distillery maintains an inventory of over 200 different types of cooperage to add whatever variety is desired.  Everything they produce is non-chill filtered and retains its natural color. 

The final thing I want to tell you about Port Charlotte before I get to the reviews is Bruichladdich's B-Corp Certification. It is something they're very proud to be a part of. To be considered, a business must use itself as "a force for good."  A business is required to maintain the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and must remain accountable. There are currently 3327 companies in 78 nations that hold B-Corp status.

That Barbeque Thing...

Taste is king and is how the whole barbeque experience comes into play. As I stated earlier, what never changes, sponsored or not, are my reviews and tasting notes.

The first review is for Port Charlotte 10.  This Single Malt spent a decade in oak.  The largest portion, 65%, was in first-fill ex-Bourbon, 10% in second-fill ex-Bourbon, and the remaining 25% in French wine casks. It is bottled at 50% ABV (or 100°) and you can expect to shell out about $70.00 for 750ml.  The 10-year is the flagship release and is widely available.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, PC-10 presented as the color of dull gold, almost like a pale ale. While it created a thinner rim, it released thick, fat, watery legs that fell like a curtain back to the pool of whisky. 

Nose:  The first thing I smelled was smoky and the aroma was sweet and briny with grapefruit, ginger root, peach, and milk chocolate. It also offered floral notes. When I breathed the vapor through my lips, vanilla and toasted oak danced across my tongue.

Palate:  The texture was medium-bodied, and the whole smoky/sweet combination got things moving. At the front, I tasted smoked oak, toasted coconut, vanilla, and merengue. As it moved to the middle, pear, dark chocolate, ancho chiles, honey barbeque, and sweet tobacco leaf took over. Think of it almost as molé sauce. Then, on the back, a marriage of orange, lemon, and crème brûlée.

Finish:  It stuck around in my mouth and the back of my throat for several minutes, providing me flavors of smoked oak, brine, clove, orange peel, and honey. Before everything fell off, a brush of stewed peaches made itself known.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: There was no astringent quality, there was no earthiness to the peat. Sip to sip, it made my mouth water for more. I love traditional peated whiskies and this one was so different I was wowed. Port Charlotte 10 earns a Bottle rating. 

The second review is of Port Charlotte Islay Barley 2012 Vintage. This Single Malt is aged a mere six years in 75% first-fill ex-Bourbon barrels and 25% second-fill wine casks. Eight Islay farms came together in 2011 to harvest four varieties of barley:  Oxbridge, Publican, Propino, and Concerto. The 2011 harvest was particularly rough due to adverse weather conditions. Like the PC-10, Islay Barley is packaged at 50% ABV. This expression is more limited, and you should expect to pay about $90.00 for a 750ml bottle.

Appearance:  Islay Barley proffered a pale gold color that was reminiscent of Chardonnay. Fat, sticky droplets turned into long, slow legs that dropped from a medium-thick rim on the wall. 

Nose:  Smoky peat began the experience, which led to pear, citrus, peach, and brine. Beneath those, I found honeysuckle, vanilla, and golden raisin. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, I tasted coconut, vanilla, and barbeque smoke.

Palate:  I found Islay Barley to be surprisingly light-bodied and sweet. Honey, vanilla, and mocha were on the front. Flavors of apricot, peach, and pineapple were at the middle, and chocolate, clove, honey-molasses barbeque, and smoky oak fell on the back.

Finish:  Long and sweet, the finish was fruity with apricot, pineapple, and spicy with ginger and smoke. There was also a briny quality to it. This was a sweeter finish than the PC-10.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  For $90.00, I expect much more out of a whisky, and Islay Barley didn't disappoint. I loved how flavorful this was, how it reminded me of a few types of barbeque sauce blended together. The peat is subtle and offers a near-perfect balance of smoke, spice, and sweetness. This easily takes a Bottle rating from me.

Bottom Line:  While both were stunning, it wasn't much of a contest for me as to the better bottle, and that was the Islay Barley. While I'm not the grillmaster, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow knows what she's doing, and these paired fantastically with ribeye steaks and grilled asparagus. With food, they added a touch of caramel and molasses. If you want to taste something that will appeal to the barbeque fan, Port Charlotte is the Scotch that's going to make that happen. Finally, don't let heavily-peated scare you away. Even a newbie to peat can enjoy and appreciate these expressions. 

If you're interested in getting a bottle of either for yourself and you don't want to leave the comfort of your home, follow this link (note: I do not receive any sort of compensation for the click or purchase). Cheers!

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

Friday, January 22, 2021

M&H Elements Peated Israeli Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes


To prove the point that whiskey can be made pretty much anywhere, today's review highlights a peated single malt from M&H Whisky Distillery out of (wait for it) Israel!  That's right - based in Tel Aviv, M&H ages its whiskey at the Dead Sea, which is 1412ft (430.5 meters) below sea level. Aging whiskey in this climate, which sees about 300 days of sunshine a year, means things mature faster while they lose about 25% to the angels.

Established in 2012 as Israel's first distillery, M&H was originally called Milk & Honey Distillery, and they've recently moved to change the name to M&H in an attempt to alleviate confusion and assumptions that either milk or honey are used as ingredients. The Head Distiller is Tomer L. Goren. Using a 9000-liter (about 2377 gallons) Romanian pot still, a 3500-liter (about 924 gallons) German pot still, and lacking any legal requirements to define Israeli whisky, they've chosen to follow a traditional Scottish process for making whiskey. Everything has aged a minimum of three years.

The Peated Single Malt is part of the Elements series. 

"The M&H Elements Series is a composition of flavors and aromas assembled from meticulously selected casks that bring forward characters enhanced by the casks' wood, origin, and history. Each expression in this series begins with the M&H CLASSIC Single Malt Whisky and complimented with whisky matured in a variety of hand-picked, superlative and quality oak casks, culminating in a beautiful natural color, impressive flavors, and a well-balanced single malt." - M&H Whisky Distillery 

The mash is obviously 100% malted barley. It is non-chill filtered and naturally-colored. As far as cooperage goes, M&H chose ex-Bourbon, ex-Islay, STR (Shaving, Toasting, and Re-charring of wine casks), and virgin oak, and the blend is 41%, 40%, 15%, and 4% respectively. Once matured, it is diluted to 46% ABV (92°), and a 750ml will set you back about $65.00.

Before I start to #DrinkCurious, I'd like to thank M&H for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. 

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Elements Peated presented as honey in color. It created a thinner rim and very sticky, slow legs that crawled back to the pool.

Nose: The peat was evident but not overwhelming. Beneath it, I smelled sweet tobacco, crème brûlée, caramel, crushed grapes, and the slightest suggestion of citrus. When I inhaled the vapor through my mouth, I discovered a definitive briny quality, which I'm assuming comes from the Dead Sea.

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be warm and creamy. The first things I tasted were peat and brine, along with oak.  At mid-palate, it was fruity with apple, pear, and lemon. Then, on the back, the flavors of salted caramel and ginger rounded things out.  

Finish:  The long-lasting finish consisted of apple, ginger, brine, and smoked oak. When I thought it was finished, citrus made an encore and then faded.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Elements Peated did an admirable job of reminding me of an Islay Scotch while still offering something a bit different. While not as heavily peated, if you told me that Ardbeg was the distiller, I'd accept it as gospel and wouldn't balk at the price at all. The fact that it isn't Ardbeg makes it even more intriguing and as far as a rating goes, I'm sold!  M&H Elements Peated takes a no-brainer Bottle rating.  Cheers!

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

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Bib & Tucker 10 Year Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Let's talk about truth and bias. Bib & Tucker has been the butt of some of my jokes for a long time. The reason for that? I got together with a couple of buddies ("Made Man" Bob Howell and "Made Man" Brent Sehnert of Sips, Suds, and Smokes) several years ago, and I was allowed to choose a bottle of anything at Brent's house to try. I saw the fancy bottle, which I've seen many times before, and they both started giggling like schoolgirls. They then put on straight faces (or attempted to) while I took my sip, then couldn't contain themselves and busted out in full belly laughs as they watched my reaction. It wasn't pretty.

One of the first podcasts I was interviewed on was The Podcask with The Greeze and Will Haynes. They started joking around about Bib & Tucker, and yeah, I joined in on the fun. 

My point is, I didn't like Bib & Tucker and I wasn't really interested in ever revisiting it, my #DrinkCurious lifestyle be damned. But, a few weeks ago, as I was commenting on it in a Facebook discussion, I was approached by its brand representative who asked if I'd be willing to try the 10-year expression. I agreed, and the sample arrived the other day.

I sat there for a day or so staring at the bottle, wondering about how it would taste. One thing for sure was it couldn't taste itself, and dammit, this is what I do. Good, bad, or ugly it was time to review it! But, the absolute honest truth is, I'm biased.

What, exactly, is Bib & Tucker?  It is a sourced Bourbon from Tennessee. The distillery itself is undisclosed, but it is made from a mash of 70% corn, 26% rye, and 4% malted barley. I went through my stack of reviews but couldn't find a distillery with that same mash. Whoever does the distilling, it is twice-distilled, once in an extended column still, the second time in an old-fashioned pot still. The newmake is poured into #1-charred white oak barrels and is left to age a decade. Bib & Tucker states its entry proof is lower than the average of other Bourbons. The whiskey is non-chill filtered and bottled at 92°. You can expect to spend about $75.00 on a 750ml.

I've penned all of this while the Bourbon was relaxing in my glass, letting it oxidize. Before I get to the tasting notes, I'd like to thank Bib & Tucker for sending me this sample in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Bib & Tucker 10-year presented as chestnut in color. It left a thicker rim on the wall, and that led to watery legs to fall back into the pool of whiskey.

Nose:  A combination of sawdust and toasted oak hit my nostrils first. My guess is that was from the #1-char level. I also picked up aromas of orange and vanilla, but not what I would describe as a creamsicle. When I inhaled through my lips, it became cherry vanilla. 

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be oily and offered a medium body. On the front, I tasted vanilla and orange peel. At mid-palate, it was salted caramel. Then, on the back, toasted oak and clove.

Finish:  The medium-short finish consisted of toasted oak, caramel, and cola.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Here's the scoop. Bib & Tucker 10-year didn't deserve the loathing I anticipated. It wasn't bad at all. However, it also wasn't great. It was, in a term, Plain Jane. There was nothing exciting about it. If this was a $30 or $40 Bourbon, I could see myself saying, "Go for it." But, for $75.00, I expect more.  If you're a fan of the 6-year Bib & Tucker, the 10-year is something you'll probably want in your home bar. For me, though, I can't give it a rating other than Bar.  You'll definitely want to try this one before making the investment.  Cheers!

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

Monday, January 18, 2021

Jim Beam Signature Craft Whole Rolled Oat Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Experimental whiskeys are a blast. This happens when the distillers get funky and tinker around with wild ideas. Some of them are pretty darned amazing. I've also had some that have been dull and boring and you wonder what was going through his or her mind. Nonetheless, they're an adventure. 

Enter Jim Beam into the foray. It came out with the Harvest Bourbon Collection. These bottles have been around a while, the project is, as far as I can tell, discontinued, but bottles are still out there on store shelves. Sometimes, they're even on clearance (which is how I purchased mine). According to Beam, it is:

a series of hand-crafted Bourbons that celebrate the distinctive tastes imparted by the distillation of different grains. More than ten years of aging has brought out the nuances of each of these unique ingredients.

Today I'm reviewing the Whole Rolled Oat entry of the collection. It is a straight Bourbon. While the exact mashbill isn't disclosed, it consists of at least 51% corn, and the remainder whole rolled oats and malted barley. If we extrapolate a few things, the standard Beam mashbill is 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley. The other option, used for Basil Hayden and Old Grand-Dad, is 63% corn, 27% rye, and 10% malted barley. As such, I'm going out on a limb and suggesting the rolled oat content is substituted for the rye, then the oat content is between 13% and 27%. 

Whole Rolled Oat is aged for 11 years and bottled at 90°. We also know Beam is aged in #4 new, charred oak barrels and there is no reason to suspect this one was any different. Suggested retail is $49.99 for a 375ml bottle. I picked mine up for $19.99.

Was it worth the $20 purchase? You know how this works, it is time to #DrinkCurious and find out.

Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, Whole Rolled Oat appeared as a deep, dark amber. It left a thick rim on the wall, and that led to sticky, thick legs that didn't really do a whole lot except hold their position.

Nose: Fruity aromas hit even before I was done letting it rest. When I brought my glass to my face, coconut and berries started things off. They were joined by toasted oak and stone fruit. Beyond that, maple syrup and vanilla rounded things out. When I inhaled through my mouth, a delicious waft of vanilla sugar cookies raced across my tongue.

Palate: The mouthfeel was soft with a medium body. The first thing I tasted was a blend of toasted oak and toasted coconut. Mid-palate, that typical Jim Beam peanut flavor made an appearance, which married with cocoa and coffee. On the back, it was Nutella and vanilla. 

Finish: The Nutella worked its way into the medium-to-long finish and became a vanilla bomb. Once that wore off, toasted oak was left behind.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: There are a few ways to look at this one. The first is the $19.99 I paid for my bottle, and the other is MSRP of $49.99.

I enjoyed my pour and, in fact, kept pouring as I was writing down my tasting notes. For lack of a better word, it was smooth, it was flavorful, it was delicious. I've had oat Bourbons before, and this one blew them all away.

For an Andrew Jackson ($20.00), this was a steal. Remember, this is a 375ml, so you have to double the price to do a dollars-to-dollars comparison for value. I'd rate this a Bottle all day long. For a Ulysses S Grant ($50.00), this becomes a $100.00 bottle and while tasty, this is absolutely not worth that.

If you can grab this one on clearance, for, say, $30.00 or less, I'd jump on it. You're going to love it. But, I wouldn't go any higher than that. Cheers!

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

Friday, January 15, 2021

Pike Street Wheated Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

One of the things I really enjoy about traveling (aside from the traveling part) is stumbling upon very local whiskeys. As you know, I'm always in a #DrinkCurious mood, and that means diving deep into the unknown.  On a recent trip to visit family in Minnesota, I stopped in a store I was somewhat familiar with and scouted their local spirits section. As I was perusing the various offerings, a sticker on a bottle caught my eye:  Only Available in Minnesota.  Well, there you have it, that was what I was grabbing!

The bottle said Pike Street on it, and as I looked it over, I saw it was a Wheated Bourbon (meaning, the second major ingredient is wheat). I also noticed it was distilled (not produced) by Panther Distillery. I have heard of Panther before but had never tried anything they've made. 

Panther is located in Osakis, Minnesota on Pike Street (hence the name). Founded in 2011 by Adrian Panther, the distillery utilizes three 500-gallon USA-made copper stills. Grains are sourced from an area of 30-miles or less from the distillery. The Master Distiller is Brett Grinager. Panther is Minnesota's oldest operating distillery since Prohibition and was also the first Minnesota distillery to release a whiskey.

Pike Street is aged four years and is diluted to 92°. I did notice the word straight isn't used and am unsure why. A 750ml bottle will set you back about $29.99.  But, it Pike Street a hidden gem? Time to find out!

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Pike Street appeared as a bronzish amber. I found it left a thicker rim that generated fat, fast legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Aromas of toasted oak and corn quickly gave way to candied orange peel and vanilla. When I inhaled through my parted lips, I could swear the flavor of Corn Chex ran across my tongue. 

Palate:  There was some warming sensation but no ethanol burn. The body was amazingly light and almost airy. 

Wheated Bourbons typically are sweeter than more traditional Bourbons because the distilled wheat lacks flavor, and while it softens the palate (and contributes to that airy mouthfeel), it allows the sweetness of the corn to shine through.  I was, however, unprepared for how candy-sweet this Bourbon was. Vanilla exploded on the front, which was joined by toasted oak. At mid-palate, thick caramel took over, soon to be overtaken by birch wood. And then, on the back... nothing. Try as I might, the back of my palate picked up zilch.

Finish:  A warm, long-lasting finish helped me identify what I experienced. It started with toasted coconut, which led to pecan, then oak, and finally, white pepper. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  There are a few things to consider with the rating. The first thing that comes to mind is the price.  Craft whiskey retailing at $30.00 yet not bottled at 80-some-odd proof is very affordable. Stick a four-year age statement on it, and that becomes even more attractive. However, the perceived value only goes so far. 

I found Pike Street to be different but sans the sweetness, there was nothing remarkable about it. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad Bourbon, it simply didn't shine for me. As such, this one takes a Bar rating. See if you can snag a sample before making the commitment. Cheers!

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

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Roulette Straight Rye Review & Tasting Notes


I play Whiskey Roulette all the time. The UPS and FedEx guys call me Whiskeyfellow (as they should!) because this place is a revolving door of incoming samples. I never quite know what I'm going to get and if it is new to the market, that makes that wheel of fortune more chancy. 

I've reviewed whiskeys from Proof & Wood Ventures before. They're all sourced, either from MGP or Dickel, and Dave Schmier picks some true cream-of-the-crop barrels. I've enjoyed most of them and have a lot of respect for what he does.

Today I'm sipping on Roulette Straight Rye. This is sourced from MGP, utilizing its 95% rye, 5% malted barley mashbill. Aged for four years, it is proofed at a respectable 100° and available either in 200ml or 750ml bottles. You can expect to pay $11.99 and $29.99 respectively.

Before I get started with the tasting notes, I'd like to thank Proof & Wood for providing me a sample of Roulette in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Roulette Rye presented as the color of bronze. It created a medium-thick rim that produced a watery curtain that fell back into the pool. 

Nose:  An interesting blend of caramel, mint, and oak was fairly easy to pick out. Beneath those, aromas of citrus and nutmeg were more challenging. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, I tasted citrus and oak.

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be oily with a medium body. It wasn't overly coating, and I had to force it onto my mid-palate. For whatever reason, it kept going from the front to back and skipped the middle.

On the front, flavors of stone fruit and caramel started things off and were quickly discernable. The middle featured baking spices of nutmeg and allspice. I also experienced cinnamon, which also stuck on the back. That was married with cocoa powder, rye spice, and oak.

Finish:  A sizzling, spicy finish of dry oak, freshly cracked black pepper, clove, cinnamon Red Hots, and dark chocolate ended this game of chance. My hard palate was numbed before I even realized it.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The odds are definitely in your favor if a spicy finish is your jam. Roulette Rye is bold would absolutely make a great base for a cocktail. You won't lose it amongst other ingredients. Neat, you may think this drinks hotter than its stated 100°, but it doesn't really. There is no offputting alcohol burn. It is simply a spice bomb, and I happen to like spicy ryes. When you consider the ante, it becomes a jackpot and I'll cash out with a Bottle rating. Cheers!

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

Monday, January 11, 2021

Mystic Mountain Outlaw Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


I lived in Colorado for just over twenty years. I loved almost everything about it. The scenery was gorgeous, the weather was mild, the skiing was great, the people were awesome, and, better than all of that, I met Mrs. Whiskeyfellow there. Colorado has a special place in my heart.  When I have a chance to get a taste of Colorado, I'm always excited.

I've had some fun trying Colorado whiskeys. It has been a ton of fun to #DrinkCurious and discover what the Centennial State has to offer, particularly since when I lived there, distilleries were few and far between. Nowadays, they have the Colorado Spirits Trail

On my last trip to Colorado, I did what I always do. I visited a few liquor stores I'm familiar with and buy whatever new (at least to me), local whiskeys I can get my hands on. One of those was Outlaw Whiskey, which is distilled from Mystic Mountain Distillery. The distillery is located in Larkspur, and it uses "sweet Rocky Mountain spring water" in the process. It claims it is crafted in small batches, taking advantage of lower temperatures and a slower distilling process. Yes, there is a backstory... its whiskey is perfected by a centuries' old family recipe. Of course it is. 

While doing my research, I was admittedly taken aback by something I read on Mystic Mountain's website:

"At Mystic Mountain, we take our whiskey seriously and will put our brand against any of the mass whiskey makers out there."

I try very hard not to let these types of claims influence my tasting experience. But, that's a big, bold statement!  You may have a "centuries' old family recipe" but the big boys have been in business for a hundred years or more because they know what they're doing.

Outlaw Whiskey is categorized as an American Whiskey and whose mashbill only states, "Made with grains."  That could pretty much encompass anything and everything. It carries no age statement, which means we know it is at least four years old.  Bottled at 80°, you can expect to pay about $36.00 for a 750ml. 

Let's see what this centuries' old family recipe is all about, shall we?

Appearance:   In my Glencairn glass, Outlaw Whiskey presented as the color of marigolds. It left a medium-thick rim and watery legs that fell back to the pool of whiskey.

Nose:  A huge aromatic blast of strawberries hit me before I brought the glass anywhere near my face. To explain how dominating it was, imagine yourself opening up a jar of strawberry preserves and taking a huge snort. I was able to pick up a light vanilla essence as well. When I inhaled through my lips, the strawberry stuck around and I also got a smidge of mint.  From there, I had high hopes.

Palate: The mouthfeel was thin and light-bodied. Sticking to the theme, I tasted strawberry jam. That was the front. It was the middle. It was the back. Try as I might, I could not find anything else.

Finish:  It had a pleasant strawberry start, and then it didn't.  If Vicks made a strawberry-flavored NyQuil, this would be that.  Thankfully, it didn't last very long, but dammit, while it did, it was not fun. I sipped again, hoping it was a fluke, and it was even worse the second time. Mrs. Whiskeyfellow started laughing at me and the face I was making.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I don't believe in being cruel when I come across a whiskey that doesn't perform well. Usually, I offer helpful hints, such as it needs to be proofed differently, or aged longer (or less), etc. However, rarely I taste something so godawfully offensive to my palate that a Bust rating is unfair to other whiskeys that I previously rated a Bust. Outlaw Whiskey should be outlawed. The only reason anyone should buy Outlaw Whiskey is for a white elephant gift. Hopefully, this is the worst whiskey 2021 has to offer. Cheers!

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