It isn't often that I have to pony up full disclosure so soon in a review, but you need to absolutely know where I'm coming from on this one. A website I write regularly for is Bourbon & Banter. B&B does it all - reviews of every alcoholic beverage you can think of, advice, gear reviews, a podcast, and even my annual #30DaysofBourbon Challenge (hint, hint, be on the lookout at the end of August).
Today I'm reviewing a private bottling of Deerhammer Rough & Tumble Corn Whiskey, picked by the folks at ABV Network, and specifically Steve Akley, owner of ABV Network.
I do not write for, nor have I ever written for ABV Network. Oh, I've been on one or two of Stephanie McNew Burton's podcast episodes, but I have no real relationship with it otherwise. In fact, ABV Network is a competitor, at least from a Bourbon & Banter perspective. My point is, I have no incentive to be nice or complimentary in this review. If I wanted to be a jerk, I could easily sandbag it.
Fortunately, that's not what Whiskeyfellow is about. This is a place for no-strings-attached, honest reviews, no matter whose juice it is or who is behind it. If I've panned a whiskey in the past, I'm happy to take on another whiskey from the same distillery (or producer). Every whiskey is a new opportunity and each stands on its own.
Frankly, I had no idea ABV Network did private bottlings. It certainly makes sense they would, as Bourbon & Banter does barrel picks, too. Someone asked me if I've had a chance to try ABV's Rough & Tumble pick, and as the whiskey world is smaller than you'd ever guess, I reached out to Steve and asked if he'd be willing to send me a sample. He was amiable and, well, here we are.
What's Deerhammer? You've never heard of it? Yeah, that doesn't surprise me. It is a microdistillery located in Buena Vista, Colorado. I had lived in Colorado for over twenty years, I'm very familiar with "Be-You-Nee" as the locals call it. That's the capital of white water river rafting. I had no clue this tiny town housed a distillery! Founded in 2010 by Amy and Lenny Eckstein, Deerhammer is a grain-to-glass operation. Interestingly enough, Lenny built the distillery himself using old dairy equipment and repurposed machinery. He then had a Scottish-style direct-fire 140-gallon pot still that was built in Arkansas. Coincidentally, Buena Vista is on the Arkansas River, although I'll assume one has nothing to do with the other.
Rough & Tumble is a hickory-smoked corn whiskey distilled from a mash of 100% Colorado-grown corn sourced from the Four Corners area. It is initially exposed for one day to a cold-smoking process, then, using a sour mash, spends four days in an open fermentation tank before being sent through that pot still... twice.
ABV Network chose Batch 12, finished in ex-Bourbon barrels, and weighed in at 98.76°. A 750ml bottle will set you back $45.00. But, is this (or any) hickory-smoked whiskey worth the investment? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.
Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Rough & Tumble presented as the color of brass. It formed a medium ring that generated long, wavy legs that fell back to the pool.
Nose: As you'd suspect, the first thing that hit my nose was hickory smoke. There was also something floral about it. I found corn, mineral oil, and marshmallow fluff. When I brought the aroma into my mouth, hickory was joined with vanilla.
Palate: The mouthfeel was oilier than I expected. The palate was uncomplicated, with vanilla and marshmallow on the front, corn and hickory smoke on the middle, and oak, hickory smoke, and clove on the back.
Finish: I timed just over six minutes on this finish! It was almost chewy with hickory-smoked meat and oak. There was nothing difficult about it, however, for being only slightly under 99°, this had my hard palate tingling.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: This is one unusual whiskey, and if you've followed me for any length of time, you know that's an attention-getter for me. I don't know that I'd purposefully seek out a hickory-smoked whiskey, it is far, far different from something that's peated. But, to be fair, prior to this, I've never even heard of a hickory-smoked whiskey. While drinking this, I felt like I was out with friends, hanging by the fire ring, munching on smoked brisket while sipping whiskey. Yeah, it was a good time despite the fact I was only drinking with my dog. This experience is worth a $45 admission fee, and I'm slapping a Bottle rating on 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.