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