Showing posts with label American Single Malt. Show all posts
Showing posts with label American Single Malt. Show all posts

Friday, September 23, 2022

Doc Wahl Straight Single Malt Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


We are so close to having American Single Malt becoming an official, legally-defined whiskey category. That is good news because many distillers have been slowly coming into their own and proving their talents. American Single Malts don’t have to age nearly as long as Bourbon or American Rye nor as long as European whiskies.


In Wisconsin, we have some of the most fertile cropland in the country. If you head up to Door County, you’ll find drop-dead gorgeous scenery on top of that farmland. Door County is quite rural but also a tourist destination that attracts millions of people each year.


In Door County, a village called Egg Harbor is home to slightly over 200 people. Chris Roedl and his wife, Emily, founded Hatch Distilling Co. in August 2017. The Roedls were beekeepers, and as their hives grew in size and number, they dreamed of distilling their raw honey. They didn’t just think of mead; they were distilling gin and vodka from honey.


Hatch Distilling added brandy, liqueurs, Mezcal-style agave spirit, and whiskey to its repertoire. Most of everything is grown locally in Egg Harbor, and the Roedls do their own foraging, fermenting, distilling, aging, barreling, and bottling in-house.


Today I’m sampling Doc Wahl American Single Malt Whiskey. It begins with three varieties of malted barley and is aged in new American oak barrels for at least two years. Packaged at 90°, a 750ml bottle retails for about $40.00.


Who was Doc Wahl? Robert “Doc” Wahl was born in Milwaukee in 1858 to German immigrant parents. He studied chemical engineering in Hanover, Germany, and earned a doctorate in philosophy. He then moved back to the United States.


Doc Wahl invented gelatin used to clarify beer, and that discovery guided him to found the Scientific Station for Brewing of Chicago with his partner, Max Henius. Wahl traveled back and forth between Chicago and Germany and introduced the American brewing industry to using pure yeast. Doc Wahl was considered the Godfather of American Brewing.


Unfortunately, with the passage of the Volstead Act and Prohibition, Wahl’s brewing businesses were shuttered. Wahl then moved to Door County and became a bootlegger for the next 13 years.


Now that you know the background, it is time to #DrinkCurious and discover what this whiskey is all about. But first, I must thank Hatch Distilling Co. for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this single malt looked like liquid gold. A thicker rim formed on the wall and released wide, slow tears.


Nose: Doc Wahl was extremely aromatic while I allowed it to rest. Fruity malt notes escaped the mouth of the glass, reminding me of apples and pears. As I brought it to my face and inhaled, the fruit dissipated while the malt flourished. Caramel and oak tried to grab my attention, and even beneath that, there was something floral. When I breathed in through my lips, peach rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  Out of nowhere, a dark chocolate-covered expresso bean exploded in my mouth before I could even ascertain this single malt’s weight or texture. On the second sip, I nailed down an oily, medium-weight mouthfeel. The front and middle consisted of chocolate and expresso. The back hinted at caramel drizzle added to the coffee, then black pepper and oak followed. I could swear there was a splash of vanilla creamer.


Finish:  There are long finished, and then there are freight trains. Doc Wahl possesses one that traveled for miles before coming to a halt. It was a blend of chocolate, expresso, and black pepper.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I am not a coffee drinker, but despite that, I kept coming back to additional pours of Doc Wahl. I will say this much; if you enjoy expresso, you’re going to go ga-ga for this American Single Malt. If you’re less into coffee (like me), you’ll still find this one exciting and attention-grabbing. The pepper at the end adds a complementary layer that simply works. And, yet, the nose gave no hints as to what the mouth would expect.


The $40.00 price is at the sweet spot for authentic craft whiskey, bolstered more so by its stated proof. I loved Doc Wahl American Single Malt. I believe you will, too, and that means it has earned every bit of 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.


Saturday, September 17, 2022

The First Ever Wisconsin Whiskey Fest Recap and Review


Everything has to start somewhere, and last night was the inaugural year of Wisconsin Whiskey Fest in Milwaukee. In full disclosure, I was comped a VIP ticket.


When founder Zack Farrar first announced the festival, I was publicly skeptical. Tickets were sold when it was still just an idea in Zack’s head, and no venue had been secured. As far as I knew, there weren’t any distilleries lined up. Finally, there was less than a year between that announcement and the actual event.


Some doubters felt Wisconsin Whiskey Fest would be a duplication of Distill America, which has been held in Madison for the last 14 years. Distill America is a wildly successful event that fans look forward to again and again. Yet, Distill America is not a whiskey event; it is a celebration of the American distilling industry that includes whiskey as a significant component. On the other hand, Wisconsin Whiskey Fest was centered solely around whiskey, both American and otherwise.


The Hilton City Center was eventually selected as the venue. Many Wisconsin distilleries, including Dancing Goat, J. Henry & Sons, Driftless Glen, and Great Lakes Distilling, supported the event. Heaven Hill, Bardstown Bourbon Company, Buffalo Trace, Luxco, and other big names also poured their whiskeys.

I went to the Wisconsin Whiskey Fest with an open mind and an almost #DrinkCurious mood. I was willing to give Zack the benefit of the doubt and take a look-and-see attitude.


I drank hardly anything, but I planned my evening that way. Aside from having a long drive home afterward, I wanted to keep a clear head during the festival.


I spent my evening talking to distillers, friends, and reps I knew. I met new-to-me distillers and reps (even at least two brands I'd never heard of before) and talked to random folks in the crowd. I did four Facebook Live sessions. People were smiling, laughing, drinking, and seemed to be having a good time.  I ran into many guests I knew (including a trio from the Janesville Bottle Club), and they told me they were enjoying themselves.


Plenty of food was available between the appetizers, carving station, and desserts. I didn’t engage in much eating because I hate standing in lines. But, I did sample some of the tasty appetizers.

Mistakes were certainly made, the biggest being the event’s timing. Wisconsin Whiskey Fest competed against the Kentucky Bourbon Festival and Bourbon and Beyond. Several brands did not put on their A-game as resources were likely directed to those events. But, it showed. The brands might have approached things differently if the festival had been scheduled differently in either direction for a few weeks. Zack must be more mindful of long-standing, competing events to limit the cannibalization of distillery resources.


In visiting with some of the reps there, I learned a few things that should be changed. I won't go into details because they were said to me in confidence. But I'm sure they'll give their bosses or Zack feedback.


Another issue was the VIP access. Special bottles were supposed to be poured for those who purchased VIP tickets. What was poured wasn’t what many expected or hoped for. If you were looking for Blanton’s, that was there. Other near-impossible-to-find whiskeys were missing, and that’s something that people who pay for VIP access to whiskey events not only expect but demand.


The Wisconsin Whiskey Fest must grow into something bigger for 2023 than last night to justify the price of admission at $150 for general admission and $200 for VIP access. In Wisconsin, we’re a little spoiled by what Distill America has to offer for half the price (to be fair, Distill America is a not-for-profit event).


The Wisconsin Whiskey Fest also needs a different venue for 2023, even if it does not grow in size. Once the general admission guests came in, there was hardly room to walk around. I felt bad for the brands blocked from view by the line of people getting food. I also don’t believe The Hilton City Center’s ballroom was set up for as many people that were there. I’m not talking about fire code issues; instead, it was uncomfortably warm inside.


Wisconsin Whiskey Fest was not a bad event. I had fun and I enjoyed myself. It just needs further work per my suggestions above. And, especially considering the fact that for whatever reason, people in Milwaukee will not travel to Madison, a big whiskey event (this or something else), Wisconsin Whiskey Fest is something whiskey fans in Milwaukee desperately need.



Friday, August 26, 2022

Crater Lake Spirits Whiskey Reviews & Tasting Notes

There is more to whiskey than just what’s poured into your glass. If you go beyond the backstories, many of which are nothing more than entertaining tall tales, there’s the process behind the whiskey, the people who make things happen, and the values and mantras those people consider essential.  


“Anyone can create a quick and dirty spirit. Luckily, we’re not just anyone. At Crater Lake Spirits, we know that our intense commitment to quality, taste, and sustainable practices means we’re not going to be everybody’s top choice. And that’s ok.


We’re here for the spirit enthusiasts who care about what they’re drinking, how it’s made, and its impact on the planet. By purchasing Crater Lake Spirits, it shows that you share our goal of doing right by our employees, our community, and our shared future.” – Crater Lake Spirits 


Crater Lake is big on sustainability and focuses on three areas: materials, facilities, and community. The glass used is made of at least 30% recycled materials, the plastics for 50ml bottles at 25% or more, and the ink is all plant-based, making their bottles 100% recyclable. Packaging is 100% recyclable and uses at least 90% recycled materials. The facilities are using water and electricity responsibly and recycling them whenever possible. And, with an eye on the community, they reuse returned packaging from customers, offer employees 24 hours of paid volunteer time, and participate in roadside cleanups.


Founded by Jim Bendis in Bend, Oregon, in 1996, the craft distillery boom hadn’t yet happened. There were fewer than 20, whereas today there are close to 2000! In 2005, he founded Bend Spirits to offer private-label spirits. And in 2015, he created Ablis, a CBD-based beverage.


Today I’m sampling four whiskeys from Crater Lake:  Estate Rye Whiskey, Black Butte Whiskey, Reserve Rye Whiskey, and Straight American Rye.  I’ll be sipping these in order of proof, from low to high, which I recommend whenever you do more than a couple of pours.


Before I get to my tasting notes and recommendations, I wish to thank Crater Lake Spirits for providing me samples of each in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. It will be a #DrinkCurious adventure.


Straight American Rye Whiskey



The lowest proof is the Straight American Rye Whiskey. It is made from a mash of 100% rye and aged in new, charred American oak for two years. It is packaged at 80°, and a 750ml bottle costs about $27.99.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this two-year Rye presented as a light gold. A thin rim formed a wavy curtain that dropped down my glass wall.


Nose: Rye spice was easy to pluck from the glass, as were toasted oak, stone fruit, and vanilla. When I drew the air past my lips, I tasted toasted oak.


Palate:  The texture was watery, yet the palate was flavorful, with vanilla, caramel, and nutmeg on the front and milk chocolate and toffee in the middle. The back was peppery with rye spice, clove, and oak.


Finish:  Clove, toffee, and oak stayed for a medium-length finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Straight American Rye Whiskey was an easy sipper for sure. I believe there’s a tightrope to walk to younger Ryes, not to have the flavors become too sharp but still maintain the classic Rye experience. This Rye might be proofed down a bit too much for my liking, but it could be a great toe-dipping whiskey for someone interested in 100% rye mashbills. My recommendation is to try this one at a Bar first.




Estate Rye Whiskey



Next up is the oldest of the quartet:  Estate Rye Whiskey. It is farm-to-bottle, meaning the rye was grown at the distillery. Only a handful of new, charred American oak barrels are filled each year with the 100% rye distillate, then allowed to rest for six years. Packaged at 93°, a 750ml bottle runs $54.99. 


Appearance: The Estate Rye appeared as an orange amber in my Glencairn glass. A fragile rim released fat tears that inched their way back to the pool.


Nose: Rich oak notes wafted out of the glass, and the rye spice smelled mellowed. Mint and stone fruits combined with vanilla and a bit of menthol. When I inhaled through my mouth, mint, and vanilla were evident.  


Palate:  The mouthfeel was oily and coated my tongue. Honey, almond, and mandarin oranges were on the front, while the middle consisted of nutmeg and mocha.  The back featured allspice, oak, and clove.


Finish: Medium-to-long in duration, the finish continued with the notes of allspice, oak, and clove from the back of my palate.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The flavors in the Estate Rye were not shy, they were easy to pick out, and none overwhelmed another. I found this whiskey to be well-balanced, enjoyable, and very much a classic Rye. Considering its age and limited quantity, I believe the price is at the very least fair. Crater Lake Spirits could charge another $10 and still be reasonable, and I’m happy to crown my Bottle rating for it.




Black Butte Whiskey



Black Butte Whiskey is an outlier as an American Single Malt versus the others being Ryes. It is also a collaboration whiskey, where the folks at Crater Lake distilled Black Butte Porter before placing it in #4-charred, new American oak, where it sat for five years. You can expect to pay about $74.99 for a 94°, 750ml package.  


Appearance: Black Butte Whiskey was the color of burnt umber, leaving a thick rim on the wall of my Glencairn glass. Sticky droplets remained, taking several minutes to collapse.


Nose:  A gorgeous nose always concerns me, and Black Butte has one. Mocha and old leather rose from the glass’s chimney, and I just kept sniffing, relishing the moment. Green apple kissed my nostrils. Mocha rolled across my tongue when I drew that vapor into my mouth.


Palate:  A creamy mouthfeel helped erase whatever worries I had from the nose. At the front, I discovered chocolate, nutmeg, and vanilla. The middle featured almond, leather, and tobacco leaf, while the back released mocha, toasted marshmallow, and oak.


Finish: Rich mocha, marshmallow, old leather, and charred oak hung around for what seemed to be forever, and I wasn’t complaining.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’m not a beer drinker, and I don’t know if this whiskey represents what a Porter offers, but I believe I’ve fallen in love with Black Butte Whiskey. I don’t care what it costs, this is one you don’t want to pass up given the opportunity, and that’s a slam-dunk Bottle rating.




Reserve Rye Whiskey


The final pour is Crater Lake Reserve Rye Whiskey. It starts with a mash of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, which is a bit more classic than the 100% rye mashbills this distillery has offered so far. It aged in new, charred American oak for three years and weighs in at 96°, making it the heavyweight of the four. A 750ml bottle will set you back $39.99.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, the Reserve Rye looked of dark amber. A medium rim released long, fast legs.


Nose: Vanilla, mint, and oak joined a smell of rye spice. When I pulled the air into my mouth, it was as if a vanilla bomb had exploded in my mouth.


Palate:  A creamy, weighty mouthfeel introduced my palate to more vanilla and milk chocolate. Rye spice, toffee, and cinnamon formed the middle. The back had flavors of oak, black pepper, and tobacco leaf.


Finish:  My tongue was left with a tingly feeling as the spices lingered for what seemed to be eons. Tannins, black pepper, and rye spice each took a turn.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The more familiar mashbill was enjoyable and easy to drink. I could encounter more of what this whiskey had to offer with the higher proof. It is only three years old, but it tastes more mature. This one is priced right, and this is a classic Rye whiskey that I’m sure you won’t have a second’s worth of buyer’s remorse. I’m giving Reserve Rye Whiskey a Bottle rating.


Epilogue:  If I were staring at all four of these on the shelf and wondering which to grab, it would be a no-brainer. The Black Butte Whiskey takes Best in Show. But the two older ryes are great pick-ups, too, and you won’t complain about the price. 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, July 1, 2022

Whiskey Del Bac Dorado American Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes

I get on whiskey kicks. Sometimes, it’ll be Bourbon and Rye. Other times, it could be Scotch or Irish. Lately, I seem to hone in on American Single Malts. I find the category fascinating because while it is currently undefined, there is a ton of creativity going into it while lobbyists are trying to have the category defined legally.


One of the American Single Malt category players is Whiskey Del Bac. It is distilled and aged at The Hamilton Distillery in Tucson, Arizona, where temperature swings can vary 40 degrees in a single day. Whiskey Del Bac also uses 15-gallon barrels versus the standard 53-gallon used for much of the American whiskey universe. When you marry those two facts, an accelerated aging process is achieved.


“Whiskey Del Bac uses the Scottish model of whiskey-making. Made from 100% barley that is malted, mashed, fermented, copper pot distilled, aged and bottled on-site, creating a single malt whiskey portfolio that represents the true character of the American southwest.” – Whiskey Del Bac


A few weeks ago, I reviewed The Classic from this distillery. I loved it, and I am not someone who typically appreciates American whiskey aged in small cooperage.


Today I’m sipping Dorado.  It is similar to The Classic, except the malting process occurs over a fire using velvet mesquite, a type of tree native to Southern Arizona, before going through the distillation process. Dorado is non-chill filtered, naturally colored, and carries no age statement, making it at least four years old. A 45% ABV (90°), 750ml bottle costs about $60.00.


Although my bottle was very recently acquired from a friend, Whiskey Del Bac’s website suggests this is 46% ABV. I ran into the same conflict with The Classic. I attempted to get clarification from Whiskey Del Bac, but the distillery did not respond to my request.


Will Dorado be another winner? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious. Let’s get to it, shall we?


Appearance: Poured neat into my Glencairn glass, Dorado was as orange as amber gets. A medium rim formed, which released thick, fast legs.


Nose: As you would imagine, the first smell that hit my nostrils was mesquite smoke. However, with effort, I also found vanilla, strawberry, and some sort of citrus. When I pulled the air into my mouth, the citrus revealed itself as orange peel.


Palate:  I encountered a thick, creamy mouthfeel, while the front of my palate tasted of grilled meats and orange peel. The middle had notes of berries and vanilla, while the back tasted of leather, clove, and nutmeg.


Finish:  You might wonder where the mesquite went. Never fear; it was all over the finish and complimented the black pepper, old leather, and orange peel.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: One might be wary of grilled meat transitioning to vanilla. If I had read those notes, I would have wrinkled my nose. Believe it or not, it worked. I was expecting mesquite on the palate and was surprised it was missing. I poured myself a second glass to make sure I didn’t misread things, but, no, it was only regulated to the finish. I found Dorado to be unusual in a good way, I appreciate what Whiskey Del Bac did with this single malt, and I’m happy to report 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.



Thursday, June 30, 2022

My Visit to The Whiskey Biscuit Restaurant and Bar


When we were running an errand last week for my Mom, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I drove past a place called The Whiskey Biscuit. The fascinating name grabbed our attention. As we continued our business, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow read up on what it was.


The Whiskey Biscuit is a whiskey bar that serves food. Something that we honed in on was how gluten-free friendly the menu is. Pretty much anything on it can be made gluten-free, and there were plenty of options from which to choose.


Last night, we took the opportunity to visit Whiskey Biscuit and, well, let’s say if we ever moved back to Denver, I might consider direct-depositing my paycheck there.


The bar is fully stocked with most of what you’d be interested in, including all the allocated stuff (Pappy, Blanton’s, Weller, etc.). It is primarily American whiskeys, although my eye also caught some of my favorite Scotches. They’ll also make craft cocktails as well as the basics.

I opted for a flight of Colorado-only whiskeys. It included a pour of A.D. Laws Four Grain Bourbon, Distillery 291 Small Batch Rye, and Boulder Spirits Peated American Single Malt. Did I have a favorite? Sure, but the contest was unfair. After all, Boulder Spirits Peated took my 2021 Best American Whiskey of the Year award. My second favorite was the Distillery 291 Rye, followed by the A.D. Laws Bourbon.

With everything on the menu, I was craving a good burger. I selected a mushroom swiss burger and fries. The patty had a Bourbon glaze and didn’t come with any of the annoying stuff I hate (lettuce and tomato); that was a plus. The bacon came from Mrs. Whiskeyfellow’s Chicken Club, which she enjoyed (but doesn’t like bacon – yes, I know, but she’s absolutely a keeper regardless).

Considering everything we had, the bill was reasonable for Denver. We’ll definitely be back. If you’re interested in visiting, The Whiskey Biscuit is at 3299 S. Broadway in Englewood. Cheers!

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

Saturday, June 25, 2022

5280 Whiskey Society American Single Malt Whiskey Event


When I came out to Denver, I wasn’t expecting to do much that was whiskey-related. However, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I were unexpectedly invited by Ryan Negley of Boulder Spirits and the 5280 Whiskey Society to attend an American Single Malt Whiskey tasting event. It was held at Bacon Social House of Littleton (a south Denver suburb). This was a true #DrinkCurious event!


First, there was a buffet dinner, including Kobe beef hotdogs, pulled pork sliders, potato and chili bar, and tater tots. That was, of course, to get everyone’s body prepped for the whiskey. Not just a pour or two, but eleven different selections from six distilleries! Each gave some background of their distillery and what makes them unique in the market.


From Stranahan’s, we tasted Diamond Peak, a 90° limited-edition whiskey partially aged in former Bushmill’s casks, and a 10-year Mountain Angel, packaged at 94.6°. Then, to surprise everyone, the 2021 edition of Snowflake, a nearly impossible-to-obtain whiskey, was poured. Snowflake is 94° and aged two years before finishing in wine, sherry, tequila, rum, and cognac casks.

From Cedar Ridge Distillery, we had The QuintEssential, which was my runner-up for the Best American Whiskey of 2021. It is a 92° non-age-stated whiskey.

Boulder Spirits offered its flagship Single Malt, then a pour of its Sherry Cask Finish.  I had my fingers crossed the Peated version (the whiskey that beat out The QuintEssential) would be poured, but that didn’t happen. The flagship is aged at least three years and weighed in at 92°, while the Sherry Cask added a nine-month finishing process.

Next up was Deerhammer Distillery, which was likely the most unusual of the bunch. There was a Single Barrel Single Malt, packaged at 86°, and a Port Cask Finish at 100°. The Port added a definitive chocolate note to the expresso flavor of the flagship Single Malt. Neither were age-stated.

Westland Whiskey presented its flagship Single Malt, followed by Colere Edition 2 from its Outpost Range, made from two-row Talisman barley. The flagship was 92° and carried a 40-month age statement, while the Colere, a very limited edition whiskey, has a minimum maturation of four years and 357 days. It weighed in at 100°.

Finally, Old Line Spirits served up its flagship Single Malt and a cask-strength version of that whiskey. The flagship rested in oak for two years and was bottled at 86°, while the cask strength was 124.4°.  

The Bacon Social House was an eclectic, fun atmosphere, and the food was delicious. The panel made things fun and even interacted with the Stanley Cup game broadcasted on various televisions. The whiskeys were tasty, and no two were alike, even the ones from the same distilleries. Did I have a favorite? Duh! Will I say what it was? Nope. But I’ll say this was an enjoyable evening, and I am grateful for being invited. Thank you again, 5280 Whiskey Society and Boulder Spirits.



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