Wednesday, June 30, 2021

Port Askaig 110° Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


I've talked about independent bottlers in the past. If you're unfamiliar with the term, that is a brand that does not distill but, instead, buys casks from working distilleries and packages them under their own label. They may do something unique once it takes possession of the whisky. An independent bottler may or may not disclose what distillery they acquire the casks from.  Independent bottling is commonplace in Scotland, it is done in the United States but we tend to talk about it in terms of sourcing

One such independent bottler is Elixir Distillers. Located in London, Elixir is a blender and bottler and owns a handful of brands, one of which is Port Askaig. Port Askaig is named for a port town on the island of Islay. While the source of the whisky is undisclosed, someone with a very talented palate can probably figure out which of Islay's nine distilleries is the source, and several have suggested Caol Ila

"Each expression within the range is bottled in limited batches. While recognising that each bottling will vary, the aim is to achieve a consistency of quality and character over time. To ensure each whisky maintains its original flavor and character, the whiskies are not chill-filtered and no colouring is added." - Elixir Distillers

Today I'm drinking Port Askaig 110°, a US-exclusive, non-age statement single malt. While we don't know much more about this Scotch, we do know that vintage Bourbon cooperage was used for aging, but the number of casks involved is another secret. Just like in the United States, small batch has no legal definition. You can expect to pay about $65.00 for a 750ml package.

Before I get to the tasting notes, I'd like to thank Impex Beverages for providing me a sample of Port Askaig 110° in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious! 

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this whisky presented as the color of golden straw. It created a medium-thick rim that formed sticky little droplets. As they gained weight, they slowly dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Aromas of peat, brine, toasted coconut and green apple caught my attention. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, the flavor of toasted coconut rolled across my hard palate.

Palate:  With an oily, medium-bodied mouthfeel, Port Askaig 110° started with sweeter fruit, smoke, and vanilla. On the middle was apple, and the back featured white pepper and smoked wood.

Finish:  Medium-long and warming, there was a blend of smoky and sweet peat, followed by apple, white pepper, and just as it falls off, clove. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Aside from proof, there's not a lot going on with Port Askaig 110°. And, despite that, it doesn't drink at its stated proof. This isn't a bad at all, but it does seem young. I can absolutely appreciate why the rumors point to Caol Ila as the distillery, there are reminiscent notes, but for about $5.00 more, I can pick up an excellent 12-year Caol Ila that has more depth, maturity, and flavor. Because of that, I'm going to suggest you try this one at a Bar. 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 do so responsibly.

Monday, June 28, 2021

Old Forester Straight Rye Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

When I took a tour of the Old Forester Distillery in Louisville, I found the tour itself was basic, although I have to admit they have stuff that you don't run into at other distilleries. Between the micro-cooperage and the all-black, steel, industrial rickhouse, it was fun. If you have a chance to go, do it.

But, this isn't a review of their distillery tour. Rather, it is a review of their Straight Rye Whiskey (sorry, Whisky, because Brown-Forman, the parent company, likes to spell it without the e). But I mention the distillery tour because this is the first time I was able to taste their Rye.  Made from a mash of 65% rye, 20% malted barley, and 15% corn, this is the first time in 40+ years that the Old Kentucky Distillery's Normandy Rye Whiskey recipe has seen the light of day. Brown-Forman acquired Old Kentucky in 1940 and the recipe eventually went away. Or, that's the backstory. You know how I feel about some of these backstories - everyone's great-grandpappy had some long-lost recipe that was discovered in an abandoned cupboard and resurrected to make the whiskey you're drinking today. True or not, this is a big step for Brown-Forman to create a unique American Rye and steer away from their standard mash. And, before you ask, yes, this is a completely different mash than sister company Jack Daniel's Rye.

There is no age statement, but we know it is at least two years old due to the Straight designation. And, while this is 100°, like their Old Forester Signature, this is not Bottled-in-Bond. The packaging is simple with a screw-top, metal closure. Retail is just over $20.00 depending on where you shop.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Rye appeared as a definite deep amber. It created a medium-thick rim which generated a thick curtain that slowly dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  A complex blend of oak, vanilla, and floral notes greeted me initially. As I continued to explore, I discovered toasted oak and cocoa. Below that was thick plum.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was a blend of rich vanilla and plum.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and coating.  The front of the palate was light, much lighter than I expected for 100°. I discerned brown sugar, allspice, and nutmeg. Mid-palate was more pronounced with toasted nuts, plum, and slight citrus. The back was even stronger with very heavy cocoa and dark chocolate.

Finish:  There was a deep finish if you are patient. Rye spice and cocoa begin the process. As it drops off, toasted oak and very long-lasting chocolate hang on. Then it falls off about a minute or so later.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is one of those #RespectTheBottomShelf moments that makes me smile. First of all, this is very affordable for everyone. Secondly, there's more complexity than you'd guess from a budget whiskey. I found it fascinating that while the front of the palate started off so soft, it finished with a crescendo. It also drank more closely to barely-legal ryes such as Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond than something with a much higher rye content. I'm chalking that up to the malted barley, which is what produced all of the chocolate and cocoa notes. Not only did I enjoy this, but I enjoyed it so much that I bought a bottle at the distillery (something I rarely do). This one's a definite Bottle.  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 26, 2021

Limousin Rye "Dancing Goat Fever" Barrel Pick is now available!


Got $40 burning a hole in your pocket? Well, fear not, because a brand spanking new barrel pick I was involved in just dropped! This is Limousin Rye at Barrel Proof of 51.9% ABV (103.8 proof) and rested six years. This is an amazing pour available only at McFarland Liquor!

The remainder of the selection committee consisted of Troy Mancusi, Adam Pritchard, Scott DeWerd, Fred Swanson, Nathanael Romick, and Mark Andrews, we enthusiastically settled on Barrel 554.

If you're unfamiliar with Limousin Rye, it is 95% rye/5% malt mash distilled by MGP and aged in vintage Limousin French oak casks for six years. It then goes through Dancing Goat Distillery's solera system, then again into former Wild Turkey barrels for another four months.

We called this pick Dancing Goat Fever and that's Mark Andrews showing off his best moves on the label. There were only 200 bottles, and when I was there to grab mine at 9am, Nathanael already sold 10 bottles. You're going to want this one, don't dawdle or you'll be out of luck. Cheers!

McFarland Liquor is located at 4716 Farwell St in McFarland.

Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Dancing Goat Fever presented as deep and dark. It formed a thinner rim but left heavy, fast legs that fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose: Aromas of toffee, caramel, molasses, and vanilla cream were enticing. When I took the vapor into my mouth, I found even more vanilla.

Palate: The mouthfeel was silky. On the front, I tasted corn, caramel, and molasses. The middle was molasses and vanilla, while the back offered flavors of cinnamon and clove.

Finish: The finish was long, with black pepper, toasted oak, cinnamon, nutmeg, and more clove on the very back.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Because I picked this barrel, I will not rate it, but you can rest assured my very strict standards guarantees this is awesome.

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 do so responsibly.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Cedar Ridge The QuintEssential American Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes


I've been drinking several American Single Malts the last few years. They're all over the place, partially due to distiller experience, venue, type of barley used, and the fact that this is a completely unregulated category, so distillers can pretty much do whatever they want, attempting various aging methods, casks, etc. They're allowed to call their whiskey a Single Malt even if the malts come from different locations.

The Quint family at Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery has been involved in the distilling business for nine generations. The Master Distiller, Jeff Quint, and his son, Murphy, the Head Distiller, have been long-time fans of Scotch whiskey and collaborated to create their own Single Malt, called The QuintEssential. Murphy learned how to distill from the folks at Stranahan's in Colorado. 

The QuintEssential starts with two-row barley imported from Canada. That barley then gets split between a peated and non-peated germination process. The peated portion's distillate goes through an aging process of between four to five years in former Cedar Ridge Bourbon barrels. The unpeated goes through a two-step process:  the first is aged in former Cedar Ridge Bourbon barrels for two to three years, and then finished in former rum, port, brandy, sherry, and wine barrels. Then, both are married in Cedar Ridge's solera system.  Entry proof is 120°, and the end result is a 92° bottling that retails for about $59.99.

“It’s during these two cask treatment phases that the whiskey develops its complexity and richness, and by never emptying the solera beyond the halfway mark, we gain a consistent complexity you can’t get from single barrels.” - Master Distiller Jeff Quint

How did Jeff and Murphy do? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious. But, before I do, I'd like to thank Cedar Ridge for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. 

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, The QuintEssential presented as pale gold in color. It created a thicker-than-expected rim on the wall which formed fat droplets. Those droplets grew until they became too heavy to sustain their weight and then fell back into the pool.

Nose:  I could swear the first thing I sniffed was fresh apple pie, including the filling, cinnamon, nutmeg, and crust. There was also a chocolate-covered cherry on top. When I pulled the vapor through my open lips, stewed peaches caressed my tongue.

Palate:  Offering a medium body, The QuintEssential started with creamy vanilla, peach, and raisin bread. That transformed to pear, caramel, and molasses on the middle. The back suggested brown sugar, cherry, and oak.

Finish:  Out of nowhere came the peat. It wasn't overwhelming, it was light and sweet. Dry oak followed, with molasses and chocolate. This finish was one that built its way into a long, satisfying experience.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The QuintEssential is a standout. I wish more American distilleries tinkered with peat. This American Single Malt is a great introduction to it because the peat is understated compared to the rest of this whiskey. I loved the fruitiness, I enjoyed the complexity, and I wish I could find something to complain about, but I can't. Even the price is attractive. This is what American Single Malt should be, and a slam-dunk 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 you do so responsibly.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Ardbeg Corryvreckan Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

I'm almost embarrassed to write this review. You see, Ardbeg Corryvreckan is probably my favorite, readily accessible, reasonably-priced, peated Single Malt Scotches. But, about two weeks ago, when I was at an Ardbeg Day Event celebration, I discovered I've never reviewed this whisky! I have no idea how that happened, but it is time to fix that oversight right now.

If you're unfamiliar with Ardbeg, that's one of the nine working distilleries on Islay (and if you've ever wondered how that's pronounced, say Eye-Lah). Founded in 1815 by John Macdougall, it was also the first Scottish distillery run by women (Margaret and Flora Macdougall). Sold in 1977 to Hiram Walker, Ardbeg was shuttered in 1981 and remained so until 1987 when it was purchased by Allied Lyons. Ardbeg was used as a source for blends instead of bottling its own. That didn't last long, as in 1991 it was shuttered again.  Finally, in 1997, Glenmorangie purchased the distillery and resurrected it to its former glory.

So now you know about Ardbeg. What's a Corryvreckan? It is one of the largest permanent whirlpools (as in the ocean, not a tub) in the world and the largest in Europe. It located between the islands of Jura and Scarba in Scotland. 

Ardbeg chose to name its peatiest core Scotch after the storied maelstrom. There have been others with stronger peated flavor, but they're all limited edition offerings.

Corryvreckan begins with a mash of 100% malted barley, with between 50 and 55 PPM of peatiness. It is then aged in former Bourbon barrels, some first-fill, and others more vintage, plus French oak barrels, rumored to be a mix of virgin wood and former wine casks. It is non-chill filtered, naturally colored, and bottled at 57.1% ABV (that's 114.2° for us Americans). It carries no age statement, and I'll explain later why that's important. You can expect to pay between $79.99 and $99.99 for a 750ml package.

What makes Corryvreckan special? I'll let my tasting notes explain that.

Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this Scotch is the color of golden honey. It presented a medium rim that formed long, wavy tears that fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  I smelled the smoky peat as it left the bottle and poured into the glass. As it sat for several minutes, it stuck around. Once I got the glass under my nose, aromas of toasted seaweed, brine, apple, pear, citrus, and French oak were evident. As I took the vapor into my mouth, pear was easy to pick out.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was slick and silky. The peat on the front was sweeter than you'd guess from the nose. That was offset by the darkest of chocolate, and the two were bridged by cherry and plum. Mid-palate flavors included coffee, almond, and hickory-smoked meat. Yeah, that's an actual flavor. The back tasted of old leather, sweet tobacco, and clove.

Finish:  The big finish was constructed of coffee, white pepper, leather, French oak, and that hickory-smoked meat that left my mouth and mind longing for more.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I stated at the beginning, this is probably my favorite, readily accessible Islay Scotch. That equals an obvious Bottle rating. But, why? It is amazingly complex from the nose to the finish. It has immense, bold flavors and drinks way under its stated proof. More importantly, it is one of the best explanations as to why an age statement is less important than many folks believe. This NAS whisky competes easily against its age-stated brethren, both within and outside of the Ardbeg family. If peated whisky is your jam, grab a bottle of Corryvreckan. You won't regret it. 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 do so responsibly.

Monday, June 21, 2021

A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


The A. Smith Bowman Distillery is Virginia's oldest, tracing its roots to before Prohibition. Originally distilled in Sunset Hills on the family dairy farm and granary, the Bowmans used their excess grain to distill spirits. In 1934, the Bowmans built a state-of-the-art distillery at Sunset Hills Farm. Then, in 1988, a new distillery was constructed near Fredericksburg.

A. Smith Bowman doesn't do large-scale distilling. In fact, if you visit the campus, you'd consider it a micro-distillery more than anything else. Owned by Sazerac (the parent company of Buffalo Trace and Barton), Bowman takes advantage of the relationship to craft its art.

This month, A. Smith Bowman is releasing a brand new, permanent expression to its lineup:  Cask Strength Bourbon.  This will be an annual release, likely limited in availability, it starts with a blend of Buffalo Trace's Mashbills #1 and #2, which is then sent to the distillery in Virginia, where it is distilled a third time on-site, using one of its two copper stills named Mary and George, honoring the Bowman Brothers' parents.  The Bourbon is then aged for a decade and bottled at, as advertised, cask strength.  In the case of this first batch, that's hazmat, weighing in at a tremendous 141.1°!  Suggested retail is $99.99, but my guess is you'll pay more than that if you buy anywhere aside from the distillery.

"We're excited to add another offering in the A. Smith Bowman line of bourbons, especially a Cask Strength, which we're sure will be really popular with our fans. This first release in this annual series contains barrels selected from the lower tiers in Warehouses A1 and A. We thought the flavor combinations resulted in a delicate sipping bourbon that drinks like a much lower proof. We hope you agree!" - Brian Prewitt, Master Distiller

I'm going to #DrinkCurious and explore this in greater detail, and plan to hold Prewitt to his words. But first, I'd like thank A. Smith Bowman for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. 

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, A. Smith Bowman was the a serious reddish-amber that could pass itself off as cherry juice. It created a medium-thick rim on the wall, and that produced husky, slow legs that fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Nose:  Not to be mistaken for the firecracker, this was a cherry bomb on the nose. Cherry crushed my olfactory senses and it took true effort to get past it. I eventually came across vanilla and cocoa. When I breathed in through my lips, apple and pear came from nowhere and raced across my tongue.

Palate:  My first sip slid across my palate with an oily mouthfeel. I tasted brown sugar, praline pecan, and toated coconut on the front. Plum, cherry, and fig then took over at the middle. The back featured charred oak, cocoa, and cherry syrup.

Finish:  Char and plum stuck around for the encore, and then the spotlight went to black pepper and dark chocolate. If you like long finishes, this was one of those unstoppable freight trains that went on for several minutes before eventually retreating.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This Bourbon was one heck of a treat. It was warming but I'd never guess it was 141.1° - Prewitt was correct, this one drinks way below its stated proof. It was amazingly approachable. The problem with that, however, is that as you're sitting there sipping this with a smile on your face, this bad boy is sneaking up behind you with a 2x4, ready to smack you in the skull. Or, at least that's what happened to me. 

Another problem is that I enjoyed A. Smith Bowman Cask Strength so much, it would be an easy contender for Bourbon of the Year,  except for the fact that it is immediately disqualified for being an allocated whiskey. If you see this on the shelf, just shut up and grab it. It is an excellent representation of a Bottle rating and you will be happy to hand over your money. 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. 

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Ardbeg #MonstersOfSmoke Tour Recap


Last week I told you about the #MonstersOfSmoke Tour that Ardbeg is putting on to celebrate Ardbeg Day, and highlight Wee Beastie and An Oa Single Malts. Well, on Saturday, I had a chance to check things out at its Menomonee Falls at Otto's Wine & Spirits venue.

First things first, you want to take part in this tour. To find a stop near you, head on over to the tour's official page. Tour dates on the north side of the Mason-Dixon line feature the Wee Beastie mega-truck and the south side has its twin An Oa truck. Tours run through mid-November, so there's plenty of time to get out and visit.

The Wee Beastie truck is above. I did get a peek inside, they had an amazing display of some lovelies...

As I wandered inside the store, I was greeted by these two nice Ardbeg ladies. They poured samples and handled the bottle engraving.

They also gave out some pretty cool Ardbeg swag. All you had to do was ask!

Once you decided which bottle of Ardbeg you wanted to bring home, that's when the engraving comes into play. Due to an amazing sale that Otto's ran during the event, I picked up a bottle of Ardbeg 10 for the stupid-low price of $42.88!  These sales are very common at Ardbeg events, so if nothing else, you have an opportunity to grab some amazing whiskies at a great price.

The engraving was quick and easy. The bottle is placed in a RayJet engraver. You can see my bottle on the left, the rest of the chamber is empty. But, they can do multiple engravings at once.

And then, voila!  It is done. As you can readily imagine, I had Whiskeyfellow engraved in mine.

Basically, they can do whatever you want as far as engraving goes. The only limitation is the number of characters... just look at these bottles just waiting to go home with someone (oh, yeah, that's Uigeadail on the left!).

In all, I had a great time. Social distancing is no longer required in Wisconsin, but the team is prepared if your area hasn't lifted restrictions. I put together some Facebook Live videos while I was there that you can feel free to peruse:

Let me know if you've been to one near you. I'd love to hear if your experience was similar. Cheers!

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

Revel Stoke Blended Canadian Whisky Review & Tasting Notes


I am Whiskeyfellow. I drink whiskey and I know things. I love whiskeys from around the world:  The United States, Ireland, Scotland, Australia, Israel, France, Sweden, India... you get the idea. But, there is one niche of whiskey I've not been fond of, and that's the stuff from Canada.

One of the first non-American whiskeys I tried was a Canadian. To my then untrained palate, it was horrible. I've tried a number of Canadian whiskies since then. I've had some that were upper-tier, such as from Alberta Distillers but there was never a wow factor to any of them. I know Canadian whisky has its fanbase, and I respect that. And, part of the #DrinkCurious lifestyle is the requirement to revisit stuff you didn't like in hopes that a more mature palate (your palate is always maturing no matter how experienced you are) might appreciate it more. To be perfectly frank, I'm looking for a Canadian whisky that will change my mind about Candian whisky.

Canadian whisky has to be mashed, distilled, and aged in Canada for at least three years in small wood barrels, must possess the aroma, taste, and character generally attributed to Canadian whisky, and, finally, can be colored and flavored with caramel.

I'm sure you've heard of Canadian Rye. That's a general term for Canadian whisky. Did you know that in order to be called Canadian Rye, there is no requirement for a single grain of rye in the mash?

After a fairly long hiatus, I'm back to trying something Canadian. In this case, it is Revel Stroke Blended Canadian Whisky. Named after the mountain resort Revelstoke in British Columbia, Revel Stoke is known for its various flavored whiskies. It is owned by Phillips Distilling Co. out of Minnesota. Phillips holds a lot of information close to its vest. The mashbill is unknown. The distiller is unknown. It makes no secret, however, that this is a blend of three-year and eight-year whiskies. A one-liter 80° bottle will set you back about $12.99, making it a very affordable choice.

While the affordability aspect is nice, what's more important is how it tastes.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Revel Stoke presented as pale gold in color. It formed a thicker rim that stuck to the wall while the watery legs raced back to the pool.

Nose:  The initial aroma was caramel, which didn't shock me considering the legally allowed caramel additive is a factor. Behind that was an ethanol punch. Once I got past that, I picked up a faint Jolly Rancher green apple smell.  I tried to pull the vapor into my mouth, but there was nothing.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was watery and light. It offered an almost immediate tingle to my tongue but left the hard palate alone. I picked up just two flavors:  corn and toasted oak. Try as I might there was nothing else to be had.

Finish:  The tingle continued into the finish, which was longer than I anticipated based upon the mouthfeel and palate. It consisted of toasted oak, clove, and raw almond.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This isn't the Canadian whisky to change my mind about Canadian whisky. What this really is is a mixer or something to slam as a shot. Or, it is a whisky to drink for someone who really doesn't like the taste of whisky because there's just nothing there whisky-like, at least in my opinion. I don't buy whiskies for the purpose of having a mixer. I'd rather use a good whisky to make good cocktails. Revel Stoke earns a Bust. You can do much better than this. 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 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.