Monday, February 28, 2022

Broken Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Reviews & Tasting Notes

Established in a California garage in 2012, Infuse Spirits is the brainchild of Seth Benhaim. He was only 25 years old, but he had ideas about what was missing in the spirits world – infused spirits. He started with vodka and was the youngest distiller to win Best-in-Show and Double Gold at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.


Seth then directed his attention to whiskey. Rather than just aging distillate in a barrel, he wanted his whiskey to go through a finishing process. While most distillers and blenders would use a second barrel to accomplish this, Seth wondered what would happen if used barrel staves were thrown into a mass of liquid.


He took the aged whiskey from several barrels and transferred it to large, stainless steel tanks. Seth then took broken staves and placed them inside the tanks, believing that the whiskey would interact with a larger surface area than a barrel could accomplish.  Thus, the Broken Barrel Whiskey brand was born.


Today I’m sampling two of its expressions: Small Batch Kentucky Straight Bourbon and Cask Strength Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Both start with the same mashbill from Owensboro Distilling Company: 70% corn, 21% rye, and 9% malted barley. Both have aged a minimum of two years in new, charred oak before adding those broken staves. Seth calls this his signature oak bill, comprised of 40% former Bourbon barrels, 40% new French oak, and 20% sherry cask oak.


Before I get started on my tasting notes and ratings, I’d like to thank Infuse Spirits for providing me samples in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Let’s get down to business and #DrinkCurious


First up is the Small Batch Bourbon. It is packaged at 95°, and you can expect to spend about $36.99 for a  750ml package.


Appearance: This Bourbon was medium gold in color in my Glencairn glass. It formed a medium-weighted rim that led to long, thick legs that crawled back to the pool.


Nose: Aromas of buttered popcorn blended with toffee, cinnamon, nutmeg, and oak tapped my olfactory sense. When I pulled the vapor into my mouth, I experienced dry popcorn that rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thick and creamy. I tasted corn, berries, and roasted coffee on the front of my palate. The middle offered marshmallow, vanilla, and honey, while the back had flavors of French oak, cinnamon spice, and clove.


Finish:  Long and lingering, the French oak, cinnamon, and roasted coffee stuck around and was accompanied by cocoa powder, leaving my tongue a tad dry.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The finishing staves reminded me a little of what Maker’s Mark does with Maker’s 46 and Private Selections. I half expected this whiskey to taste young, but I’m assuming the stave finishing eliminated that concern. Some tasty flavors gave me a pleasant experience, and I enjoyed this Bourbon. For $37.99, very few people would balk at the price, and this has all of the makings of a Bottle rating. Cheers!



Next up is the Cask Strength Bourbon. This one weighs in at 115°, and a 750ml bottle costs about $45.99.

Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon version was the color of bronze. It created an almost invisible rim that generated fat, slow tears.


Nose: Butterscotch was the first thing I smelled. Popcorn, English toffee, cherry, raisin, and French oak followed. When I inhaled the air into my mouth, raisin was easy to taste.


Palate: An oily texture with a medium body led to corn, caramel, and nutmeg on the front of my palate. Flavors of honey, raisin, and maple syrup were next, with clove, cinnamon spice, and French oak on the back.


Finish: The finish began with cherry pie filling, clove, and nutmeg, which faded off while cinnamon spice and French oak stuck around. It was long-lasting.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Like the Small Batch version, the Cask Strength did admirably masking its age. It drank under the stated proof, but my tongue did sizzle a few moments after the finish ceased. Overall, I’d say this one is an easy sipper. Considering cask-strength/barrel-proof whiskeys are often more expensive, there’s a good value here. I believe this deserves a 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.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

Johnnie Walker Red Label Blended Scotch Review & Tasting Notes


Usually, I go into a grandiose introduction, and I give a history of the brand and background on the type of whisky. I’ll include some information, but today I’m exploring the best-selling Scotch whisky in the world: Johnnie Walker Red Label.


I want to skip the typical introduction because Red Label is the standard-bearer for bad Scotch if you listen to folks in social media groups. But, at the same time, it is the best-selling Scotch in the world. While everyone’s palate is different, this is one of those things that you can’t have both ways. Either it is a terrible whisky, or it is drinkable. I would expect some back-peddling from the naysayers who will then suggest, Well, it is a mixer.


I’ll take that comment at face value because even Johnnie Walker’s website says, Made for Mixing. However, if you’ve followed me for some time, you’ll remember that I don’t do the mixer game. Whisky has to stand on its own – good, bad, or ugly to rate on the Bottle, Bar, or Bust scale. And, for the record, there are perfectly drinkable made-for-mixing whiskies that require no accompaniments.


Let’s talk about Red Label. It is the entry-level Scotch under the Johnnie Walker brand and has been in production since 1909. It is a blend of 35 malt and grain whiskies sourced from various distilleries around Scotland. It carries no age statement, and you can expect to pay about $22.99 for a 750ml package. You can find this at pretty much every liquor, grocery, and convenience store – at least in the United States.


I’ve never had Red Label before. I snagged a 50ml for about $2.99 at some random liquor store for the express purpose of a review. So, let’s #DrinkCurious and learn the truth about it.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Red Label was presented as golden, forming a medium-thin rim. Fat, slow tears fell back into the pool.


Nose: I smelled lemon zest, lime, and floral notes. The aroma was straightforward. When I drew the air into my mouth, there was no flavor I could identify, but it was decidedly dry. I’ll say that’s something I’ve never experienced with a whisky.


Palate:  I didn’t expect the creamy texture; I figured it would be thin. There’s a lesson for you – expect nothing and keep an open mind. Red Label had one of the most unusual palates I’ve experienced. The front was spicy and bold with freshly-cracked black pepper and cinnamon. Mid-palate offered flavors of pear, vanilla, and barley. The back featured raisin, citrus, and mild oak.


Finish:  You might expect the finish to remain fruity. Instead, the spice from the front of the palate carried into the finish. Moreover, it was slightly smoky. There was some citrus, but that was overwhelmed amongst the other flavors. The whole thing was long and lingering.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Johnnie Walker Red Label is drinkable neat. Frankly, there’s nothing wrong with it. It is a simple whisky that could work well in a cocktail with its spicy front and finish, and I’m not talking “and Coke.” Would I buy a 750ml for my whiskey library? No. For me, it lacks the depth and character I crave. Would I refuse a pour from a friend? Also, no. Red Label earns a Bar rating; it is something that would work well for the Scotch curious but would likely bore the connoisseur. 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, February 21, 2022

Sheildaig 12-Year Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

Shieldaig is not an actual distillery. That’s not unusual in the Wonderful World of Whisky – most of us know that brands source barrels and then slap their label on the bottle. We call the folks that do that an Independent Bottler. Some independent bottlers have earned incredible reputations, they charge a tidy sum for what they market, and they’re worth every penny. Others are far less skilled, and even if they sell at rock-bottom prices, you still feel ripped off after you’ve tried it.


Shieldaig is part of the Spirits Direct program of Total Wine & More. Some Spirits Direct offerings are house labels – stuff exclusive to the store. Others, such as Angel’s Envy, fit in some other way.


Today we’re going to explore Shieldaig Single Malt Scotch Whisky. The label states it is a dozen years old, it comes from the Speyside region, and is bottled in Scotland by William Maxwell & Co., Ltd. It is bottled at 40% ABV (80°), and you can buy a 750ml from Total Wine for about $23.00.


Now, Shieldaig doesn’t disclose who the distiller of this bottle is, but we can do some extrapolation. William Maxwell & Co., Ltd. is a legitimate independent bottler, sourcing barrels from various well-respected and coveted distilleries and owning about 42 some-odd labels. That company is a subsidiary of Peter J. Russell. Who is Peter J. Russell? The founder of Ian MacLeod & Co., which happens to be the 10th largest Scotch whisky company globally.


Ian MacLeod & Co. owns two distilleries:  Glengoyne, from the Highland region, and Tamdhu, from Speyside.  A single malt whisky means that everything comes from a single distillery. In theory, Ian MacLeod could purchase many barrels from an undisclosed distillery to keep the Shieldaig brand going. It is more likely and more logical that Tamdhu is the source.


I picked up a 50ml taster from Total Wine for $2.99 in Minnesota. Did I do okay, or should I have snagged a full 750ml? The answer to that question lies in the tasting. Let’s #DrinkCurious and find out.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Sheildaig gold in color. It formed a thicker rim which yielded slow, sticky legs.


Nose:  It was easy to pick out apple, pear, vanilla, and honey notes. With a bit more effort, English toffee was also present. As I drew the air into my mouth, raisin and apple danced across my tongue.


Palate: The mouthfeel was watery and medium-bodied. Honey and vanilla were on the front, while flavors of butterscotch and oak took up the middle.  On the back, astringent overwhelmed anything else that might have been there. No matter how many sips I attempted, nothing changed.


Finish:  The finish continued with that medicinal quality and featured toasted oak, vanilla, and malt. It also left tannin on my tongue that wouldn’t go away.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The nose convinced me this came from the Tamdhu Distillery. So did the front and middle of the palate. The back and finish, however, made me second-guess the whole thing. I’ve had Tamdhu single malts, and none had the medicinal Band-Aid quality to them. I realize some folks enjoy that note; I can tolerate it and usually dismiss it, but not when it is so dominant. I went into this review hoping I discovered another opportunity to #RespectTheBottomShelf, but this wasn’t it. I simply cannot give anything but a Bust rating for 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.



Friday, February 18, 2022

James Ownby Reserve Tennessee Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

My guess is you’ve heard of Ole Smoky Distillery. Located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, it is known for its flavored whiskeys and moonshine and is widely available in most retail liquor outlets. You may not know that it has a traditional whiskey in its portfolio. Its name is James Ownby Reserve Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey.


Who was James Ownby?


“One of the original settlers of Tennessee - who beat back the British in the Battle of Kings Mountain and faithfully fought for freedom as an Overmountain Man in the Revolutionary War, this treasured family secret is now my pleasure to share with you.” Joe Baker, Co-Founder of Ole Smoky Distillery


What’s the family connection?  Joe is James Ownby’s fifth great-grandson.


As you can gather from the name, this is a Bourbon that was distilled and aged in Tennessee. Ole Smoky chose not to call it Tennessee Whisky, although, at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. The Lincoln County Process (LCP) was used to mellow the distillate before aging in new, charred oak barrels. There is no age statement, and both the distillery and mashbill are undisclosed. We do know it is at least four years old.


Bottled at 94°, you can expect to spend about $40.00 for a 750ml package. Ole Smoky indicates this whiskey is limited to only select markets. If you hit its website, you can check availability nearby or buy it online.


Ole Smoky was gracious enough to send me a sample of James Ownby Reserve in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious and learn what this is all about.


Appearance: Poured neat in my trusty Glencairn glass, this Bourbon appeared as deep caramel. Bold, slow legs fell from a medium-thick rim.


Nose: Just like the color, the aroma began with huge caramel. Oak came next, and it had a dusty quality to it. Freshly shredded tobacco mixed with raisin and cherry evened things out. When I inhaled through my lips, the oak and tobacco carried through.


Palate: I found the texture to be light and airy. Salted caramel and vanilla filled the front, while tobacco leaf and nutmeg controlled the middle. The back featured clove and oak. It wasn’t overly complicated.


Finish: Clove, black pepper, and soft oak crescendoed with caramel and tobacco leaf for a long, easy finish. For the record, I didn't come across anything remotely Flintstoneyish. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I found James Ownby Reserve an easy sipper. I didn’t try adding water, and I’m unsure it’s even necessary. As I said earlier, the palate didn’t offer many flavors, but the spicy finish was a fascinating way to end the experience. If Ole Smoky never crossed your mind as a serious whiskey brand, perhaps it is time to rethink that because I’m giving James Ownby Reserve my coveted 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, February 16, 2022

Barrell Craft Spirits Gray Label Whiskey (2021) Review & Tasting Notes

I say this with pretty much any Canadian whisky I’m about to review:  I am on a mission to find a Canadian whisky I enjoy. So far, that’s been a losing proposition. There have been some that are stunningly horrendous and others that are tolerable. But, nothing to date has been good, let alone great.


I have high hopes for today’s pour. It is from Barrell Craft Spirits, and it has a long history of knowing what it is doing. It is called Gray Label Whiskey; this is its second release and is a 24-year blend.


“Gray Label Whiskey began with two selections of 24-year Canadian whiskey barrels: one set was fruit-forward and tropical, and one was woody, with a light floral aroma. A portion of the fruit-forward blend was transferred into Oloroso Sherry barrels and a portion of the floral and earthy blend was transferred into Armagnac casks. The remaining whiskey from the two groups was then combined to mingle. When the timing and flavor from the finishing casks peaked, the three components were carefully blended together.” – Barrell Craft Spirits 


Aging took place in both Canada and the United States. The final product was bottled in Kentucky at its cask strength of 60.82% (121.64°). In line with other Gray Label releases, you can expect to pay $250.00 for a 750ml package.


Based on everything I’ve read from Barrell, I still have high hopes. I love XO Armagnac. I enjoy whiskeys finished in Armagnac casks, as I do with Oloroso sherry butts. And, to my knowledge, I’ve not had a 24-year Canadian whisky before. The equation for success is there. Will Gray Label be my holy grail?  Before I #DrinkCurious, I appreciate Barrell’s generosity in providing me a sample for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Gray Label Whiskey presented as the color of golden straw. I had to hold the glass at a weird angle in front of a light to pick out the fragile rim. The droplets that stuck to the wall like glue were much easier to find.


Nose: This is a 24-year whiskey, and for whatever reason, corn was the first thing I smelled. But, it was quickly subdued by apricot, citrus peel, ginger, fennel, nutmeg, and vegetal notes. When I thought I identified everything, crushed red grape and toasted bread grabbed my attention. When I drew the air into my mouth, I found vanilla.


Palate: The texture was thin and oily. I tasted melon, raisin, and vanilla custard on the front. The middle offered cherry and plum, along with oak. The back featured rye spice, fresh rosemary, and green pepper.


Finish:  The finish was earthy and consisted of walnut, ginger, mint, green pepper, a dash of oak, mushroom, and rosemary. There was some candied fruit that I could not put my finger on, try as I might. It was a long finish, with the mint and fennel lasting the longest.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’m at the point where I don’t even care what the price is. All I want is a good Canadian whisky. It was one of the more interesting Canadians I’ve tried, but I still can’t say I’ve found a winner. It is something I could see fans of Canadian whiskies enjoying. It just didn’t work for me, so I’m tossing a Bar rating at 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, February 14, 2022

Mayor Pingree Black Label Batch 6 15-Year Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Valentine Distilling has been around since 2007. What’s that? Have you not heard of it? Founded in Detroit, Michigan, by Rifino Valentine, it bills itself as one of the first microdistilleries in the country before the distilling craze took hold.


The centerpiece of the distillery is Sherbert, a custom-made, 1500 gallon copper pot still, the first to be imported to the United States by Frilli, a 100+-year-old Italian still maker. Valentine is eco-conscious, having developed a 10-year climate sustainability initiative, concentrating first on reduction, recycling, and reuse, and once achieved, looking to wind and solar energies to power the campus.


“Everything that I do must be done with quality in mind above all else. I’ve always appreciated the American craftsman; working by hand, making one-of-a-kind items that stand the test of time. I take great pride in using old-world techniques that haven’t changed in centuries. There are no computers controlling the stills, just our sense of taste and smell to determine the cuts.” – Rifino Valentine


Its Master Distiller is Justin Aden. He started his distilling career straight out of college at Michigan State University, where he majored in Microbiology and Molecular Science. He concentrated on fermentation science and worked for the MSU Artisan Distilling Program, where he distilled full-time and acted as a researcher and industry consultant. He joined Valentine Distilling in 2014.


Today I’m sipping on Mayor Pingree Black Label Straight Bourbon. This one is Batch 6, utilizing a mash from only seven barrels of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley sourced from MGP/LDI and aged 15 years! A portion of the aging process occurred in a climate-controlled warehouse in California before being transferred for final aging in Michigan. It is non-chill filtered and weighs in at a hefty 114°. There are only 684 bottles available, and you can expect to spend about $159.99 on a 750ml package.


If you’re curious who Mayor Pingree was, you’re not alone. Hazen Stuart Pingree was a socialite and storied mayor of Detroit elected in 1890. He was a trust-buster, targeting monopolies and corruption, and was a champion of the poor, taking vacant lands and turning them into vegetable gardens to feed the needy. Pingree was re-elected three times before becoming Michigan’s two-term governor.


Before I get to the tasting notes, I wish to thank Valentine Distilling for providing me a sample of Mayor Pingree Black Label in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. I’ll #DrinkCurious and discover what this is all about.


Appearance: Inside the bottle, the Bourbon looked almost like cranberry juice. Poured neat in my trusty Glencairn glass, Mayor Pingree was reddish amber. It formed an almost microscopic rim that generated thick, runny legs.


Nose: I spilled a drop on my hand while pouring the whiskey into my glass. I sniffed the droplet, and it was rich dark chocolate. That remained in the glass, along with thick caramel, butterscotch, nutmeg, berry, and old oak. The oak wasn’t dry; it just smelled ancient. Caramel and the old oak rolled across my tongue when I pulled the air into my mouth.


Palate:  A massive oil slick filled my mouth, yielding flavors of dark chocolate and heavy caramel on the front. The middle tasted of butterscotch, roasted coffee, and cocoa. Oak, clove, nutmeg, and leather filled the back of my palate.


Finish:  Nutmeg, cocoa powder, butterscotch, black pepper, and old oak began the journey's end. Fresh leather stuck around for what seemed to be forever.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Mayor Pingree Black Label drank way under its stated proof and was about as easy a sipper as one could imagine. That shocked me. It is a 15-year pre-MGP-sourced Bourbon, and, simply put, you don’t run into those every day. There are plenty of spicy and savory notes, but the sweeter ones prevented them from dominating the experience. I just loved it, and considering what it is, I believe its price tag is reasonable. I’m sure you’ll agree it deserves a 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.



Friday, February 11, 2022

Middle West Spirits Double Cask Collection Review & Tasting Notes

Last April, I had the opportunity to review three whiskeys from Middle West Spirits out of Columbus, Ohio. They consisted of a Pumpernickel Rye, a Wheated Bourbon, and a Straight Wheat whiskey. I was a fan of the Bourbon and Wheat whiskeys but didn’t overly enjoy the Rye.


When Middle West Spirits approached me to review its new Double Cask Collection, it piqued my interest. The goal for the distillery was to take these expressions and marry them with something else to highlight the terroir of both casks used in each expression.


“We were founded in 2008, and opened our distillery for commercial production in 2010. Building on four generations of distilling traditions, we added our own deep experience in marketing and manufacturing, and focused on elevating the distinctive flavors of the Ohio River Valley. Our artisan spirits honor our roots; and reflect our originality as makers, our integrity as producers, and our passion for the craft of producing spirits from grain to glass.” – Middle West Spirits


The Bourbon was finished in solera sherry casks, the Wheat was finished in Oloroso sherry casks, and the Rye was finished in Port pipes. All of these should give a new dimension to each of the originals.  Middle West Spirits is distributed in 32 states and offers direct-to-consumer sales from its website.


Before I get started, I’d like to thank Middle West Spirits for providing samples in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Now, let’s #DrinkCurious and learn more.


Up first is the Sherry Cask Finished Bourbon. It started with a mash of sweet yellow corn, Ohio soft winter wheat, and two-row barley, then spent six years in Ohio-sourced heavy-toasted American white oak cooperage before being transferred to sun-blackened Spanish solera sherry butts for finishing. It is packaged at 97.25°, and you can expect to pay about $99.00 for a 750ml bottle.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon presented as the color of burnt umber. It left a medium rim which generated sticky, slow tears.


Nose:  The sherry influence was evident. Aromas of raisin, chocolate, date, and pipe tobacco tickled my nostrils. Date rolled across my tongue when I took the air into my mouth.


Palate:  A silky, full-bodied mouthfeel led to raisin, plum, and dried apricot on the front. The middle was a blend of chocolate-covered cherries, dates, and nutmeg. Then, I tasted honey, oak, clove, and black pepper on the back.


Finish:  Initially short, additional sips transformed that to very long and warming. Chocolate, cherry, plum, honey, tobacco, and clove stuck to my tongue and throat.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  My first taste made me say, “Wow,” and that didn’t change after my second or third (or fourth). This was a very impressive Bourbon with a ton of flavor. To me, it is a great way to start the adventure of the Double Cask Collection and earned every bit of my Bottle recommendation.



Second up is Ported Pumpernickel Rye. If you’re like me, when you see “Pumpernickel Rye,” you wonder if anyone else has done that. There are a couple; it just isn’t widely used. Made from a mash of dark pumpernickel rye, sweet yellow corn, Ohio soft winter wheat, and two-row barley, the distillate aged six years in new, charred American white oak barrels. The finishing barrels were French Tawny Port casks. It is packaged at 99.5°, and you can expect to pay about $99.00 for a 750ml bottle.  On a side note, my whiskey sample leaked in transit, and the label was damaged.

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this whiskey featured a red mahogany color. It formed a thin rim and sticky droplets.


Nose:  The first thing I smelled was leather, followed by old oak, plum, and dried cherry. Overall, the nose was very understated. When I pulled the vapor in my mouth, I tasted plum.


Palate:  An oily, dry mouthfeel led to nutmeg, cherry, and vanilla on front. I listed nutmeg first because that was the most potent flavor. As it approached the middle, a combination of chocolate and pumpernickel bread gave way to leather, dry oak, and cinnamon on the back.


Finish:  Medium in length and relatively dry, it had pucker power. Old leather, rye spice, cinnamon powder, cherry, and plum created an old-world finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I stated in my introduction, I wasn’t a fan of the Pumpernickel Rye. I can safely say that a few more years in wood combined with the tawny port changed my mind. Like the original, there were no bold flavors, but in this case, it worked well, and I enjoyed it.  Would I pay $99.00 for it? I’m not entirely convinced. Were it $30.00 less, I’d jump all over this. For now, I’m granting a Bar rating.




The final entry is the Oloroso Wheat Whiskey. Made from a mash of Ohio-grown red soft winter wheat, the distillate aged five years in new, charred American white oak barrels. The finishing barrels were Oloroso sherry butts. It is packaged at 100°, and you can expect to pay about $99.00 for a 750ml bottle.

Appearance:  Drank neat from my Glencairn glass, this wheat whiskey was a dark, brassy amber. It created a medium rim that made thick, syrupy legs.


Nose: The first thing that I smelled was pecan and roasted almond. It started before I got the glass anywhere near my face. Stone fruits aromas such as cherry and plum were also present. Finally, dark chocolate made a brief appearance. When I drew the air through my lips, vanilla crossed my mouth with slight, bitter oak.


Palate: The mouthfeel was creamy. The first sip was unpleasant, but as I always say, never judge anything on that first one. That was proven true as the second was more (pardon the pun) palatable. I found roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and vanilla on the front. The middle featured cocoa powder and nutmeg, while the back had dry oak, clove, and roasted almond flavors.


Finish:  I discovered a long finish that warmed my mouth and throat. Dry oak, roasted coffee, dark chocolate, nutmeg, and cocoa powder stuck around.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I understand what Middle West Spirits wanted to accomplish here, and I commend it. It may have been the most unusual wheat whiskey that I’ve come across. It was flavorful and quite pleasant. Saying that this one isn’t worth $99.00 to me, and that equals a Bar rating.


Final Thoughts: My favorite was the Sherry Cask Bourbon Finish of the three, and it wasn’t even close. The real contest was between the Ported Pumpernickel Rye and the Oloroso Wheat Whiskey. The Ported Pumpernickel Rye wound up being my second favorite. There wasn’t much wiggle room between the Rye and Wheat whiskeys. 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, February 9, 2022

Clyde May's Whiskey Reviews: Original Alabama Style Whiskey, Straight Bourbon, and Straight Rye


I remember when Clyde May’s Conecuh Ridge Alabama Style Whiskey hit Florida. Mrs. Whiskeyfellow was working at a liquor store, and I was there when the brand rep was there talking it up. I was so excited; the story was remarkable, and it was pretty affordable. I was, unfortunately, disappointed.


A lot has changed since then. We left Florida several years ago and relocated to Wisconsin. Since joining the team at Bourbon & Banter, I embraced the #DrinkCurious lifestyle. And, part of that philosophy is you come back to stuff you’ve tasted in the past but didn’t initially love.


I’ve had my mind changed a few times. Probably the biggest surprise was Old Weller Antique. I was not a fan until the last few years. I didn’t revisit the entire time that stuff sat on the shelves. Nope, I waited until no one could find it. I’m still kicking myself for waiting so long.


I stumbled upon a three-pack of Clyde May’s whiskeys when traveling in northern Wisconsin. It included the original, a Bourbon, and a Rye. Hey, for the $8.00 investment, I figured this was a perfect opportunity, plus I hadn’t had the latter two.


The history of the brand is rather tumultuous. It is named for Lewis Clyde May, a talented moonshiner from Alabama. He was a World War II Purple Heart recipient. He was a peanut farmer. He was also caught and convicted for illegally making his shine.


In 1998, Clyde’s son Kenny started the Conecuh Ridge Distillery in Troy, Alabama. Because distilling in Alabama was still illegal, the whiskey was sourced by Kentucky Bourbon Distillers (more popularly known as Willett). In 2004, the Alabama Senate passed a resolution making Conecuh Ridge Fine Alabama Whiskey the official spirit of the state, which was curious since it was illegal to distill!  The governor vetoed the resolution, the House and Senate overrode the veto. Soon after, Kenny was arrested for selling alcohol without a license, selling alcohol to a minor, and possessing an “excess” amount of alcohol in a dry county.


If that’s not crazy enough, Conecuh Ridge Distillery lost its license to sell Alabama’s Official Spirit in Alabama! 


A holding group then purchased the brand, reorganized it in 2014, and called it Conecuh Ridge Distillery, Inc.  In 2017, the brand announced it would build a new distillery in Troy. Whiskey was still sourced from Kentucky, although it is unclear if that’s still Willett. The bottling facility is in Cocoa, Florida.


Today I’m sipping on the three standard releases. One thing I do want to point out, which does not affect the outcome of my review, is quality control of its taster set. Two of the three screw tops were defective. One was cut incorrectly, and the other stripped and required a can opener to remove.

Up first is the namesake, Clyde May’s Original Alabama Style Whiskey. On the bottle, it states Batch 001. Made from a mash of 55% corn, 30% rye, and 15% malted barley, it is estimated to have aged between six and seven years in charred oak barrels and finished with a “hint” of apple. It is packaged at 85°, and a 750ml retails for about $40.00.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Alabama Style was coppery. It formed a thick rim which created sticky, fat drops that worked their way back down the wall and into the pool.


Nose: The apple influence was evident and, in fact, was green apple. That was joined by corn, cinnamon, and caramel. When I inhaled through my lips, the green apple continued.


Palate:  I found the texture to be thin and watery. I picked up caramel, vanilla, and corn on the front of my palate. The middle offered only cinnamon spice. Fennel, oak, and black pepper rounded things out on the back.


Finish: Medium in duration, what remained was corn, fennel, toasted oak, and black pepper.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  My opinion all these years later isn’t changed. Clyde May’s Original Alabama Style isn’t bad; I want to make that clear. It just is… there. I found nothing distinctive about it sans the nose. Considering bang for the buck, this one takes a Bar rating.


Next up is Clyde May’s Straight Bourbon Whiskey, a/k/a Recipe 002. This one indicates it was distilled in Indiana. In other words, MGP. It is non-chill filtered and aged five years in new, charred oak. A 92°, 750ml package runs about $40.00.

Appearance:  Sipped neat from my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon appeared as golden amber. A medium rim led to weak legs.


Nose: Aromas of corn, toasted oak, cherry, and brown sugar were easy to discern. When I drew the air into my mouth, vanilla rolled across my tongue.


Palate: The mouthfeel was thin and oily. Peach, pecan, and vanilla were on the front, brown sugar, corn, caramel, and cinnamon formulated the middle, and on the back, clove, oak, and of all things, cherry pie filling.


Finish:  The finish was a combination of clove, allspice, cinnamon, toasted oak, and more cherry pie filling. It was medium in duration.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This Bourbon was tasty, easy to sip (perhaps a little too easy), and overall, enjoyable. The 92° worked nicely, and for $40.00, I believe this is well-priced for the market. I place the Bottle crown on the head of Clyde May Straight Bourbon Whiskey.


Last but not least is Clyde May’s Straight Rye Whiskey. It is labeled Batch 003. Similar to the Bourbon, the Rye was distilled in Indiana. Non-chill filtered, it offers no age statement but rested in new, charred oak for at least four years. This one weighs slightly higher at 94° but maintains that same $40.00 price tag.

Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, the rye was the color of ginger ale.


Nose: Wintergreen smacked me in the face before I had brought the glass to my nose. Beneath it was rye, vanilla, and oak. The wintergreen muted to mint as I pulled the air past my lips.


Palate:  A thin, oily mouthfeel greeted my tongue. There was also a significant bite of alcohol, despite giving it about 15-minutes of breathing room. The front offered apple, rye spice, and molasses. Toffee and vanilla formed the middle, while mint, oak, and black pepper completed the trip across my mouth.


Finish: The long finish featured mint, rye spice, and freshly-cracked black pepper. There was something bitter that remained.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I have an overall positive opinion of MGP’s Ryes. You can expect them to be above-average in most cases. Yet this four-year-old, MGP-sourced Rye whiskey was wholly off-profile and not in a good way. Rye matures faster than Bourbon, but for whatever reason, it was overly green in this case. Clyde May’s Straight Rye Whiskey needs more time in oak, or perhaps proofing it a few points lower. Taking price entirely out of the equation, this one is a Bust.


Final Thoughts:  I found it interesting these three whiskeys covered my rating spectrum. The Bourbon was by far the most enjoyable. The Original Alabama Style was unremarkable, and the Rye was unpleasant. Nevertheless, Clyde May’s has its fanbase, and so long as that remains, the brand has no reason to worry. 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.