Wednesday, November 30, 2022

I Bourbon Straight Bourbon Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


True or not, I love whiskey backstories. The most believable tend to come from Scotland, while the tallest tales are American. Perhaps it is my fondness of folklore, my admiration for Samuel Clemens, and my value of creativity. And, no matter how fascinating the background, it and how a whiskey tastes are separated into two distinct universes.


Today, I’m exploring I Bourbon, which has aggressively hit my social media feeds. I’d never heard of it, but I always am on the prowl for something new, so I reached out to the company to learn more.


“When I set out to start my own business, my goal was to create a bourbon for everyone. I wanted to create a bourbon so special – but also, so accessible – that you could enjoy it neat, on the rocks, or in your favorite whiskey cocktail. The concept of ‘I Bourbon’ was born! I hope you enjoy it. This is I Bourbon, and it’s yours.®Tripp Whitbeck, Founder


Tripp was a lawyer, a political consultant, and a corporate salesperson. But, since his childhood, Tripp has always been intrigued by complex smells and flavors. He wanted to get involved in craft spirits and became a TAM (Techniques of Alcohol Management) certified bartender to learn as much as he could about the trade. Finally, in 2019, he ditched everything and dove head-first into creating his own company.


Tripp’s story is interesting (and believable). When he and I spoke, he explained that he came up with the blending profile in his living room. His living room? If you’re like me, you immediately picture him with hoards of samples, bottles everywhere, and scientific equipment. But that’s not what happened. Instead, he had little sample bottles from distilleries around the country, and he added a little bit of this whiskey to a little bit of that until he was satisfied. He said this process took a few weeks before I Bourbon was born.


The components of I Bourbon all come from Tennessee. He started with a 13-year Bourbon, and while he felt it was delicious, it didn’t fit his goal of creating a Bourbon for everyone. He added 5- and 6-year Tennessee components before things came together. Tripp doesn’t disclose what distilleries he sourced from, but he states it is a high-corn mash that includes rye and malted barley bottled at 43% ABV (86°). I Bourbon is labeled as straight, meaning what’s inside is unadulterated by additional ingredients.


The packaging is gorgeous and different from most anything else on the store shelf. It has plenty of embossing, with a giant “I” on the back and written BOURBON vertically on the front. The stopper is clear acrylic with a synthetic cork and a gold “I” on the top. BOURBON is even embossed on the punt.


I Bourbon is sold in nine states and can be shipped to 41. Tripp indicated the suggested retail price is $59.99, and that’s what he sells it for on his website. Tripp indicated he envisions I Gin, I Vodka, I Rum, and other “universal” spirits in his wheelhouse.


Before I #DrinkCurious, I must thank Tripp for providing me with this sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s taste how Tripp did…


Appearance: A neat pour in my Glencairn glass revealed a Bourbon with a deep golden hue. A thinner rim released syrupy legs that crawled back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose: The telltale smell of Flinstone’s vitamins forces me to suspect at least one component comes from Dickel. Plum, nuts, honeysuckle, and cherry blossoms had to be coaxed from beneath. When I pulled the aroma into my mouth, a wave of vanilla rolled through.


Palate: The mouthfeel could best be described as silky but weighty. On the front of my palate, I discovered big, bold vanilla offset by a tinge of butterscotch. The middle was more transitionary between the front and back and didn’t offer anything identifiable. It led to oak, nutmeg, and rye spice.  


Finish: The medium-length finish featured vanilla and rye.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: While the nose screamed minerality, it never materialized in my mouth. Instead, sweet notes commanded attention, balanced by spicy flavors. There was no ethanol burn; what heat exists comes from those spices. I Bourbon is an easy sipper that lacks anything people who claim they don’t like whiskey would find unappealing. And that’s the consumer Tripp has targeted.


I Bourbon can be a tremendous toe-dipping opportunity for those who don’t indulge in neat pours. The subtle spices should lend depth to a whiskey-forward cocktail. The more experienced palate will long for something more profound than what I Bourbon provides. I Bourbon is a nice pour, but there’s also something missing. Personally, I wish it possessed a few more proof points.


Regarding the value statement, I understand how expensive it is to launch a new brand, particularly when you put forward such a beautiful package. The eye candy is nice but what counts is what’s inside. I Bourbon isn’t bad; far from it. But I can’t see myself spending $60.00 on it. As such, I Bourbon takes my Bar rating. You’ll want to try this one first. 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, November 28, 2022

Templeton Rye Stout Cask Finish Review & Tasting Notes


Templeton Rye. If you had asked me a handful of years ago, I would have stated, ‘Nuff said. The statement had nothing in the world to do with how the quality of the whiskey it produced. In 2014, the brand had some legal snafus that I won’t rehash. The brand has since been sold and acquired by Infinium Spirits, and I’m satisfied that the subject of those claims has since been remedied.


Templeton Rye is located in Templeton, Iowa, a tiny town outside Carroll. I’ve been to Carroll many times. I’ve visited the distillery they built in 2018, which is a gorgeous, modern facility. Part of their tour involves going through its famous bootlegging history. They’ve put a lot of money and effort into the presentation, which is well worth a visit. I was stunned by how creative those bootleggers of the day were (and how the entire town was in on fooling the revenuers).


For the last four years, Templeton has released a Barrel Finish Series. As the name implies, the distillery takes its signature rye whiskey and finishes it in various vintage barrels. For 2022, it is the Stout Cask Finish, which involved taking its six-year 95% rye/5% malted barley whiskey sourced from MGP of Indiana (now called Ross & Squibb), and then placed in Imperial stout barrels for an additional three months.


“This year, our Stout Cask Finish expression provides a fresh perspective and has proven disruptive within our Barrel Finish Series, mixing subtle coffee tones with rye pepper and spice. This new-to-market release is sure to elevate any classic cocktail.” – Blair Woodall, Senior Vice President/General Manager


I don’t partake in beer, and I describe myself as beer-stupid. Any mention of beer-influenced whiskey requires me to research. According to


“Imperial stout, widely known as Russian imperial stout, is a strong and rich dark beer. Enthusiasts call this beer a history lesson in a bottle because there’s a rather interesting story behind the imperial stout. […] The story behind imperial stouts is usually traced back to a request made by Peter the Great. In 1698, when Peter the Great visited England from Russia, he is said to have tasted a black beverage called stout. He liked it so much that he had some sent to the court after returning to Russia.


However, the brewers realized that the stout was getting damaged during the journey, so they added more hops and alcohol to keep it fresh. The exact stout that Peter the Great drank in England is not known, but this was the beginning of the emergence of dark beer.”


Stout Cask Finish is bottled at 46% ABV (92°) and is available in limited quantities in both the US and EU. If I took a wild stab in the dark, I’d assume it is easier to obtain in Iowa than anywhere else. The suggested retail is $54.99 for a 750ml package.


Before I get going on the #DrinkCurious thing, I must thank Templeton Rye for providing me with a sample of Stout Cask Finish in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this whiskey appeared as bold caramel. It formed a thicker rim that generated slow, sticky tears.


Nose: An aroma of chocolate, toasted oak, and malted barley melded with caramel and fig. Cocoa powder stuck to my tongue when I drew that air into my mouth.


Palate: Stout Cask Finish had a rich, creamy texture that coated everywhere. At the front of my palate, I tasted cocoa powder, roasted almond, and vanilla cream. Midway through the sipping experience, I discovered dried figs and apricots, while on the back, there was ginger, dry oak, and roasted coffee.


Finish: The long, spicy finish consisted of ginger, dry cocoa, and roasted coffee.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I said, I’m not a beer drinker, and as such, I can’t tell you how much Templeton’s Stout Cask Finish reflects what you might expect. However, I can comment on my own experience with this Rye.


Stout Cask Finish carries a decent thump despite being only 92°. By that, I don’t allude to burn or heat. It was potent. I found the blend of cocoa, nut, and ginger spice pleasant. Incidentally, I was at a cousin’s house when I sampled this whiskey; she is a big stout fan.  I let her taste it, and she couldn’t stop talking about how much she savored this.


The $54.99 investment isn’t out of line and is on the lower end for many limited-run American “craft” whiskeys. Taking everything into account, I’m giving Stout Cask Finish 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, November 23, 2022

Devil's River Barrel Strength Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

During the summer of 2019, I had an opportunity to taste and review Devil’s River Bourbon Whiskey.  The brand had been advertising like crazy on social media, which prompted me to find a pour and see if it was worth it or not. Here is the summation of my review:


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  William Faulkner said, “There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskey just happens to be better than others.” Yeah, okay, whatever. For me to say that Devil’s River Bourbon is a bad whiskey is an insult to bad whiskey. You will not sin responsibly if you spend $20.00 on it, because this one’s a definite Bust.


Part of the #DrinkCurious lifestyle is to revisit whiskeys (or brands) you didn’t like in the past. I’ve done this many times, and my mind is changed every so often. Everyone deserves a second chance, right? Right.


Today I’m trying the Devil’s River Bourbon Barrel Strength version. It is the same mashbill of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley. It rested in #4 new, charred oak barrels for an indeterminate time and, as such, carries no age statement. The distiller is still Jus-Made/Southwest Bottling. What Devil’s River does differently is they proof it down with water from the namesake’s river.


Devil’s River Barrel Strength is bottled at 117° and retails for $39.99 on its website.  It is available in all but 17 states, and as such, should be pretty easy to get your hands on. Because of my previous experience, I chose to purchase a 50ml taster at a Minneapolis-area liquor store.


Proof definitely can make a difference between good and bad whiskey. The barrel strength version is 27 proof points higher than the original. That’s significant. Will I like this one better? Let’s find out!


Appearance: A bright, gold hue of amber, this Bourbon formed a skinny rim and gave up slow teardrops.


Nose:  The first smell I experienced was cinnamon spice. There was something sweet underneath, almost plum-like, then corn, and, finally, sawdust. As I drew the air into my mouth, I finally picked up the vanilla you’d expect in a Bourbon.


Palate:  An oily, viscous texture greeted my tongue and offered sweet flavors of vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch. And that was the end of anything sweet.

Do you remember as a kid taking toothpicks and soaking them in liquid cinnamon for a few days? Then, you’d stick one in your mouth, and it would be like fire! You’d watch your friends try to tough it out, but eventually, it would be too much to handle. They’d shed a tear or two. That’s the middle.


The back offered only black pepper and dry oak.


Finish:  Long, spicy, and bitter, the finish featured notes of black pepper, plum, and dry oak.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: It has been three years since I last tasted Devil’s River. I wasn’t a fan. Additional proof points did make a difference, but they didn’t improve the experience. I don’t like to say this about whiskey; I prefer to give some constructive feedback, but there just isn’t anything nice I can tell, so I won’t. Plain and simple, this is a Bust. 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, November 21, 2022

Trader Joe's 8-Year Speyside Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

If you delve beyond your neighborhood liquor and grocery stores, you have the opportunity to run into off-the-radar whiskies. They’re private label stuff, but well-known brands make them. Often, they come at a discounted price. However, these whiskies become a crapshoot because you don’t know if you’re finding a hidden gem or something that is gross.


I’ve had a mixed bag of luck regarding Trader Joe’s private-label Bourbons and Scotches. Islay Storm is one of my favorites and one that I keep on hand. The worst (by far) was Kentucky Bourbon Straight Whiskey.


Mrs. Whiskeyfellow likes to shop at Trader Joe’s. And, because she’s incredible, she takes photos of things I might find interesting in the event I want her to purchase them. She showed me Speyside Single Malt Scotch Whiskey at a $20.00 price. It was eight years old. I told her to go for it – after all, if it turned out to be a Bust, it isn’t as if we were out a lot of money.


As expected, this Scotch is packaged at 40% ABV (80°). I would have been shocked if it was any higher. It is produced and bottled by Alistair Duncan Ltd., which tells us nothing because even a Google search came up with barely any information beyond it being a dormant company founded 28 years ago. And, since there are more Speyside distilleries than the other regions combined, your guess is as good as anyone who distilled it.


Let’s #DrinkCurious and learn if I’ve discovered an opportunity to #RespectTheBottomShelf or if I bought a loser.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this Speyside Scotch presented as dull gold. A thick rim released watery legs that crashed back into the pool.


Nose: A big blast of butterscotch hit my nostrils, followed by apple, pear, and apricot. The apricot carried through as I drew the air in past my lips. So far, so good.


Palate: The mouthfeel was thin and lacked anything memorable. The front of my palate encountered butterscotch, dried apricot, and almond, while the middle featured brine and walnut. The back had flavors of oak and white pepper.


Finish:  There was a definitive bitter quality to the medium-long finish. Once it dissipated, oak tannins, walnut, and brine remained.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I have no clue who distilled this and couldn’t begin to hazard a guess. It isn’t that it reminded me of a handful of distilleries; instead, none came to mind. Trader Joe’s Speyside Single Malt Scotch would make a decent base for a cocktail. I don’t buy whiskies for mixing; my rule of thumb is good cocktails are made with good whisky. If you remind yourself that this is only a $20.00 whisky, you may convince yourself it was a good buy. However, this is not one I’d opt to drink again and pulls the Bust card. 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, November 18, 2022

Copperworks Distilling Releases No. 044 and 045 American Single Malt Whiskey Reviews & Tasting Notes

I’ve been sipping several American Single Malts from Copperworks Distilling Co. out of Seattle. I’ve found what this distillery offers impressive so far, and I appreciate how they’re willing to go above and beyond to create some genuinely unique releases. I loved Release No. 042, which was peated. Then, there was its charity release benefiting Kentucky tornado and Hurricane Ian victims, which I found delightful.


Copperworks was named the 2018 Distillery of the Year by the American Distilling Institute. It offers American Single Malts, vodka, and gins. Everything it produces comes from malted barley.


The owners (and distillers) are Jason Parker and Michah Nutt. Both are experienced brewers, and they went into distilling to see what they could do with turning craft beer into spirits. Copperworks utilizes traditional Scottish copper pot stills.


Today I’m exploring two whiskeys:  Release No. 044 and Release No. 045. Both samples were provided to me by Copperworks in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Without further delay, let’s #DrinkCurious and discover what these are all about.


Release No. 044 Single Malt Whiskey

Release No. 044 is a single malt constructed from a batch of eight casks. Half were distilled from Great Western Pale Malt and aged between 45 to 52 months in new, charred oak. Three came from a distillate of Baronesse barley and aged in new, charred oak for 56 months, while the last barrel came from a “Queen’s Run” and aged for 60 months in new, charred oak. As such, it carries a 45-month age statement. A 750ml, 100° package is priced at $69.99.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this single malt presented as a golden amber. The medium rim released slow, sticky tears that hugged the side of the glass.


Nose: A fruity bouquet of apple, pear, and lemon peel blended with rich vanilla. As I drew the air into my mouth, lemon oil was evident.


Palate: Initially, the texture was oily and warm, but subsequent sips transformed into a creamy mouthfeel. Flavors of apple, pear, and plum were on the front, with lemon and orange peels and pineapple at mid-palate. The back provided cocoa powder, butterscotch, and oak.


Finish: Coffee, lemon curd, plum, oak, and butterscotch provided a highly-unusual combination in my mouth and throat. It lasted only a short time before it fell completely off.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: A lot was going for this whiskey. I wish the finish was longer because I enjoyed what I was tasting. However, sometimes we don’t always get what we want. Fortunately, I wanted a tasty whiskey and Release No. 044 delivered. I’m happy to have this in my whiskey library; it has earned my Bottle rating. 


Release No. 045 Single Malt Whiskey

Release No. 045 carries a 36-month age statement. It, too, is an American Single Malt. This time, the varietal used was Fritz barley. Almost all of it resided in new, charred oak, while a tiny portion slept in Manzanilla sherry casks for 60 months. It was bottled at 100° and priced at $69.99 for a 750ml package.


Appearance: A neat pour in my Glencairn glass revealed a liquid representing an authentic orange amber. The medium ring it formed created slow, thick legs.


Nose: The aroma started pleasant with raisin, plum, and lemon, then took on a cardboard note. When I took the air into my mouth, crisp apple dragged across my tongue.


Palate: I found the texture to be thin and oily. The front of my palate deciphered vanilla, cinnamon, and apple, while the middle featured lemon peel and orange bitters. On the back, I tasted cocoa powder, oak, and new leather.


Finish: Medium in length, Release No. 045 offered apple, orange peel, new leather, and bitters.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I admit I was not a fan of the bitters, which is strange because I use them in cocktails. However, with a neat pour, it didn’t seem to work. It was an interesting experience sipping Release No. 045, but it doesn’t seem like it is one of Copperworks' better offerings. This one earned a Bar 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, November 16, 2022

McConnell's Five-Year Irish Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

Most of the time, whiskey is spelled with an e when referring to American or Irish versions, whereas the rest of the world ignores it. However, nothing states you must have (or lack) the e; it is simply a preference. In the United States, Maker’s Mark leaves it off, as does George Dickel. There is also a brand in Ireland called McConnell’s Irish Whisky that bucks tradition. 


“It all started in 1776, when the McConnell family of Belfast began selling their whisky to the public. It quickly became one of the most sought-after spirits in Ireland, and to keep up with demand, the McConnells built a distillery: a sprawling, buzzing compound on the banks of the River Lagan. The next 154 years would be spent dedicated to a single pursuit: producing the finest whisky in all of Ireland. Many whisky drinkers believed that they achieved their goal, making McConnell’s the most famous Irish whisky of the time.”Conecuh Brands


McConnell’s Irish Whisky is made from a mash of 70% grain and 30% malted barley that matured in former Bourbon casks for at least five years. It comes in an attractive bottle with an oval-shaped brass plate on top proclaiming it comes from Belfast. Proofed to 42% ABV (84°), you can acquire a 750ml package for about $29.99.


There is also a Sherry Cask Finish that I’ve already reviewed. I provided more background on the history of the brand there.


I thank Conecah Brands for providing me with a sample of their Irish Whisky in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s #DrinkCurious and learn more. 


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, McConnell’s 5-Year Irish Whisky was the color of straw. A medium-thick rim formed but couldn’t hold the weight of the tears, which turned watery.


Nose: The first scent I picked up was lemon zest. Vanilla, apple, and oak followed. When I inhaled the vapor into my mouth, I encountered more vanilla.


Palate: The texture was creamy and possessed a medium weight. At the front of my palate, I discovered vanilla, lemon peel, and bold apple flavors. The middle featured only butterscotch, but the back offered oak, clove, and white pepper.


Finish:  Medium-to-long in duration, the finish consisted of white pepper, clove, and a slightly smoky quality that lingered more than the former notes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  McConnell’s is a tasty Irish whisky with a lot to offer despite a lack of complexity. What flavors exist are far from muted and work well together. If you’re seeking a “soft” Irish whisky, look elsewhere. I particularly liked the smoke in the finish. As a $30.00, 42% bottle, I believe there is a good bang for the buck, and I’m happy to crown a Bottle 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.



Monday, November 14, 2022

Booker's Batch 2022-03 "Kentucky Tea" Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


The Beam family is Bourbon royalty. It started back in the 1780s with Jacob Beam, who moved his family (and his still) to Kentucky. His son, David, took over the family business when he was 18. Then came his son, David M., who relocated the distillery to Nelson County. His youngest son, James, took the helm until Prohibition shut everything down. However, once Prohibition was repealed, James (who preferred to be called Jim) revived the family yeast and reopened his distillery in about 120 days at age 70.


Jim had a son who went by his nickname, Jere. Jere built a distillery in Bullitt County and introduced his family’s Bourbon to Europe. Unfortunately (or for us, fortunately), Jere had no children, so he passed the business to his nephew Frederick “Booker” Noe II. Booker was the first master distiller of Beam whiskey with a different last name. Booker was the man behind Basil Hayden’s, Knob Creek, Baker’s, and Booker’s.


His son, Frederick “Fred” Booker Noe III, is Beam’s current master distillery. Fred took the brands his father created worldwide. While doing so, he further expanded the Beam product line to include Devil’s Cut and Double Oak.


Fred has a son named Frederick “Freddie” Booker Noe IV, following in his footsteps. But Fred and Freddie aren’t alone on the distilling family tree of Beams. They own and operate various distilleries, but they're all family at the end of the day.


Today I’m sampling Booker’s 2022-03, lovingly called Kentucky Tea Batch by Fred. It comprises Bourbons made on six different production dates and barrels aged in six rickhouses. Booker’s is made from the traditional Beam mash of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley and aged in new American oak with a #4 char level. It carries a 7-year, 4-month, 14-day age statement, is uncut and unfiltered, and is bottled at 126.5°. A 750ml package has a suggested retail price of $89.99.


“This batch is named after Booker Noe’s signature drink, which he called Kentucky Tea. Some people flavor their water with tea leaves, but Booker loved adding flavor with his namesake bourbon. He’d take one part Booker’s and four parts water and enjoy it with dinner, typically a country ham or fish - he said you needed to sip the right proportion of Kentucky Tea to really appreciate the food.” – Booker’s Bourbon


Before I get to the #DrinkCurious part, I must thank Booker’s for providing me with a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Kentucky Tea presented as a true reddish-amber. The finest of rims formed widely-spaced, thick legs that rolled down the side and back to the pool.


Nose: I smelled a lot of oak mixed with a heavy dollop of caramel, honey-roasted peanuts, nutmeg, and smoke. When I drew the air into my mouth, a wave of butterscotch flowed across my tongue.


Palate:  The texture was silky, with thick, rich caramel and bold vanilla on the front of my palate. The middle featured creamy peanut butter that felt like it stuck to the roof of my mouth. A blast of clove, charred oak, and black pepper evened things out on the back.


Finish:  There was no “burn” to speak of; it was warming but just that – warm. Spice notes of clove and black pepper remained, joined by almond, peanut, and smoky oak. There was no need to rush the next sip because those flavors refused to leave.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Believe it or not, this was the first batch of Booker’s that I’ve tried since its rebranding (of sorts). This Bourbon drinks way under its stated proof; if I didn’t know better, I would have guessed between 100° and 105°. For almost 127°, there wasn’t even a tingling on my hard palate.


This whiskey was uncomplicated, and that’s not a bad thing. As far as a value statement is concerned, its $89.99 delivered. I’m not a fan of traditional tea, but as far as Kentucky Tea Batch goes, I’m all in with 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 you do so responsibly.


Friday, November 11, 2022

J.T. Meleck American Rice Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


It is always (well, mostly always) cool to be first at something because if it turns out to be good, you get bragging rights. Some people may believe there are only so many things you can do with whiskey and that most ideas are already in production.


Just because you believe something to be true doesn’t make it so, and, as a reviewer, I see a ton of innovation. Of course, innovation doesn’t translate to something being good; it just means it is unique. I’ve run into some undrinkable stuff that was a product of a new-and-improved way of doing something.


J.T. Meleck Distillers traces its roots back to 1896 when John T. Meleck took 20 acres of Louisiana marshland and farmed rice. Fast-forward to 2022, and Meleck’s descendants are still growing rice on those same 20 acres. One day, Mike Frugé decided to distill that rice, bringing us full circle to this grain-to-glass whiskey.


Mike didn’t start with whiskey. The first J.T. Meleck spirit released was rice vodka in 2018. That earned him attention and a handful of awards from the American Distillery Institute in 2020.


“We´re proud to take our rice from grain to glass. We work the dirt and grow the seed, just like Uncle John did. That’s why we’ve named it J.T. Meleck. Because our crazy idea has managed to create a whole new Louisiana classic. One that goes straight from our farm to your front porch.” – Mike Frugé


Today we’re exploring J.T. Meleck American Rice Whiskey. It is distilled from a mash of 100% rice and rested for almost five years in 53-gallon American oak barrels. It does carry a four-year age statement, is packaged at 96°, and you can expect to pay about $47.00 for a 750ml bottle. Distribution is all over Louisiana and limited in Colorado. It is also the first American 100% rice whiskey produced on a commercial level.


I’ve had rice whiskeys; however, they were Japanese. I have fond memories of those tastings. Frankly, I don’t expect this whiskey to be anything like its Japanese counterpart. But I am ready to #DrinkCurious and taste what it is all about.


Before that happens, I must thank J.T. Meleck Distillers for providing me with a sample of this ground-breaking whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: J.T. Meleck presented as burnt umber in my Glencairn glass. Poured neat, it created a fragile rim. That, in turn, led to slow, thick legs that crawled back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose: Smells of vanilla and caramel are almost requisite of Bourbon. I wasn’t prepared for them to be in this rice whiskey. Toasted oak, coconut, and nutmeg followed, along with a bit of cherry. When I drew the air into my mouth, banana and custard tangoed across my tongue.


Palate: There was a silky texture that carried some heft. The front of my palate plucked butterscotch, cinnamon, and cocoa. At mid-palate, flavors of dark chocolate, leather, and torched caramel, while the back offered allspice, clove, and dry oak.


Finish: J.T. Meleck possessed one of those Energizer Bunny finishes. Allspice, dry oak, clove, berry, dark chocolate, and leather stuck around for several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: This rice whiskey drank at its stated proof and featured more flavor than I would have ever imagined. As I suspected, it was nothing like the Japanese versions I’d tried. J.T. Meleck American Rice Whiskey is kinda-sorta like a blend of Bourbon and Rye. The more I sipped it, the more flavorful it became.


I’m curious if American rice whiskey will catch on. If J.T. Meleck is an example of what the category becomes, it’ll be a winner. I commend Mike Frugé for doing something decidedly different, and I’m thrilled to have this in my whiskey library. If you’ve not figured it out, it takes my Bottle rating. Cheers!

EDIT TO ADD:  It has been brought to my attention that Golden Beaver Distillery of Chico, California, has also released 100% American rice whiskey. Per Golden Beaver, its release date was November 19, 2021. J.T. Meleck released its first batch on November 16, 2021.


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, November 10, 2022

Mammoth Distilling Northern Rye No. 01 Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

If you’re familiar with Rosen rye, you know it was once the dominant strain grown for Pennsylvania-style Rye whiskey. Michter’s had been using it since the 1950s. Unfortunately, after the 1970s, the Rosen varietal lost its uniqueness as it slowly crossbred with other strains and eventually disappeared.


There has been renewed interest in reviving the Rosen varietal. There is something called The Rosen Project designed to do precisely that. Michigan’s South Manitou Island is where the action is, with seeds procured from the USDA seed bank in Colorado, bred by the Michigan State University Bio Agriculture Research Center, and then certified by the Michigan Crop Improvement Association.


Mammoth Distilling is at the forefront of this movement, planting and harvesting the grain on National Park Service land (legally, of course). The distillery is located in Central Lake, Michigan, a village of fewer than 1000 residents. It was founded in 2013 by the husband-wife team of Chad Munger and Tracy Hickman.


“As you may know, Mammoth is obsessed with rye. Maybe it’s because we identify with the scrappy, hardscrabble grain that thrives in frigid weather or maybe because it’s the most characterful of American whiskey grains. Regardless, we think rye is where the action is – where innovation and experimentation are more welcomed than in the relatively traditional and constrained world of bourbon.”Ari Sussman, distiller at Mammoth Distilling


Northern Rye No. 01 is the brainchild of Collin Goddard, the head distiller, and Phil Attee, the spirits developer, distiller, and blender. It is a marriage of 14% Straight Michigan Wheeler Rye that matured in new, #3- and #4-charred Minnesota and Missouri white oak barrels and 86% 15-, 16-, and 17-year-old Canadian Ryes aged in second- and third-fill American oak. The blending was done in tiny batches, and French oak staves were included in this process.


Once the blending was completed, this whiskey was proofed to 50% ABV (100°). A 750ml package has a suggested price of $74.99.


The choices from top to bottom were not random. Wheeler rye is a locally-grown varietal known for minimal yields and is one of the spiciest varietals available. Minnesota oak has a tight grain pattern and more tannins, while Missouri oak is higher in lactones. The Canadian distillery is undisclosed, but it is stated to be one from Alberta, which is home to eight working distilleries.


Northern Rye No. 01, at least on paper, reads quite unique, which excites me. I thank Mammoth Distilling for providing me with a sample of this whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, let’s #DrinkCurious and determine if it lives up to the promise.


Appearance: A neat pour in my Glencairn glass revealed a golden amber, which created a husky rim. Sticky tears almost refused to drop back down to the pool and instead hovered about halfway between the rim and liquid.


Nose: A bold aroma of apples and pears almost drowned out the mint and ginger notes. A dusting of cinnamon and butter hid beneath those. It was as if the smells were built one at a time and then layered on top of the previous. When I pulled the air into my mouth, peaches and cream rolled across my tongue.  


Palate:  Flavors came from everywhere, and there wasn’t really a front, middle, or back. The tastes of nutmeg, cocoa powder, apple, pear, vanilla, brown sugar, dry oak, cinnamon, leather, and clove attacked me all at once. It took many sips to nail things down. The mouthfeel, however, was straightforward: It was oily and thin.


Finish:  Initially, I thought the finish was shorter. However, while pondering that, I noticed the spicy notes, notably the clove, remained and kept hanging onto my tongue, which went on for several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Before I began this tasting journey, I stated that Northern Rye No. 01 looked unique on paper. It followed through on that promise, offering me one of the most unusual palate experiences I’ve encountered. If you’re a fan of Rye, you’re going to go crazy here. If you’re not big into Rye, this may be the one that grabs your interest. I enjoyed every bit of this whiskey; I would describe it as entertaining. Northern Rye No. 01 earns every bit of its 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.