I've recently been introduced to Pennington Distillery's line-up of whiskeys. So far, I've reviewed its Genesis limited-edition Bourbon, its Four-Grain limited-edition Bourbon, and its Tennessee Straight Rye. Today, I'm pouring its Tennessee Straight Sour Mash Whiskey.
What is sour mash whiskey? Well, it isn't sour, that's for sure. When you distill whiskey, there are two methods used: sweet mash and sour mash. Sweet mash is when each batch of whiskey is brand new. It allows for variety in flavor. Sour mash, on the other hand, makes for a more consistent experience batch-to-batch. It does that by using some of the spent mash from a previous batch as a setback, which is blended into the new mash. It keeps the pH balance within a tight tolerance.
It starts with a mash of 70% white Tennessee corn, 20% white Tennessee cereal rye, and 5% malted barley. That's distilled twice. Pennington, like most Tennessee distilleries, then uses what's called the Lincoln County Process, which means that after the mash is run through the still and before it is barreled, the newmake is filtered or steeped through chips of maple charcoal. This is supposed to provide the whiskey a softer mouthfeel and flavor.
Pennington then ages this newmake for at least four years, and when dumped, it is proofed down to 96°. Once packaged, it sells for about $39.99.
I'd like to thank Pennington for sending me a bottle of its Tennessee Straight Sour Mash in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. It is time to #DrinkCurious.
Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey presented as a deep, dark, mahogany color. It left a medium rim on the wall, and that generated fat, slow legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.
Nose: Surprisingly, wood was not one of the aromas involved. Instead, nutmeg, vanilla, plum, and maple syrup is what I smelled. When I inhaled the vapor in my mouth, the flavor of berries raced across my palate.
Palate: The mouthfeel was very, very oily and, while not heavy, still had weight. The first thing I tasted was dark chocolate and toffee. Yeah, that sounds almost contradictory. As the liquid moved mid-palate, an enticing combination of cinnamon, brown sugar, and stewed peaches was evident. Then, on the back, it went savory to sweet with toasted oak, creamy caramel, and plum. It was an unusual experience, to say the least.
Finish: A warming, the medium-length finish began with expresso, which then became cocoa powder. That morphed to toasted oak and nutmeg. Then, at the end, it was all cinnamon.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I found this whiskey more complex than I would have guessed and I kept pouring just a little more while I was discerning the aromas and flavors. That creamy caramel on the back didn't materialize until my second glass, and then I was left wondering how I even missed it. I loved it. When I considered the low barrier of entry, this became a no-brainer Bottle recommendation. I can't imagine you wouldn't enjoy it, too. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It