Showing posts with label Bardstown Bourbon Co. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Bardstown Bourbon Co. Show all posts

Friday, February 19, 2021

Chicken Cock Kentucky Straight Rye & Bourbon Reviews & Tasting Notes


If you hopped in a time machine and set it for 1856, you'd stumble on a brand new whiskey called Chicken Cock. Distilled in Paris, Kentucky, it had a rich history. Fast forward about 64 years, and you'd find Chicken Cock in speakeasies around the country during Prohibition, including the famous Cotton Club in Harlem. 

“During the prohibition period, you could always buy good whiskey from somebody in the Cotton Club. They used to have what they called Chicken Cock. It was a bottle in a can, and the can was sealed. It cost something like ten to fourteen dollars a pint.” - Duke Ellington

Then, in the 1950s, the distillery in Paris burned down, and the brand vanished into history. That is until it was resurrected in 2011 by Matti Anttila while he was researching older distilleries and he purchased the rights to the brand. His company, Grain & Barrel Spirits, entered into a collaborative distilling agreement with Bardstown Bourbon Company in 2017. 

The 13-year-old boy in me just adores the name. It is the holy grail of immature jokes. Will the mature (yeah, right) adult in me feel the same about the whiskies behind it? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.

Before I get to the tasting notes, I'd like to thank Grain & Barrel Spirits for providing samples in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews.  

First up is Chicken Cock Kentucky Straight Rye.

Chicken Cock Kentucky Straight Rye starts with a mash of 95% rye and 5% malted barley. It then rests for at least two years.  Non-chill-filtered, it is diluted to 90° and has a suggested retail price of $69.99 for a 750ml bottle.

You may be wondering why the bottle is empty. Well, there was an accident during shipping, and while the bottle didn't break, it did crack and leak (but thankfully, not that much). I had to transfer the remainder to a decanter. This, of course, has no bearing at all on my rating.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Chicken Cock presented as an unmistakable orange amber color. It produced a thinner rim, but with amazingly long, thick legs that fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  I found Chicken Cock to be aromatic as it was oxidizing in my glass. The spearmint was obvious, but it was joined by citrus and root beer. When I inhaled through my lips, the root beer continued.

Palate:  The mouthfeel comprised of a medium body and was warming. On the front, unsweetened tea dominated, along with undertones of rye spice.  At mid-palate, I tasted dill, honey, and spearmint. Then, on the back, flavors of grapefruit and tobacco leaf competed with each other.

Finish:  The more I sipped, the longer the finish became. Overall, it wound up as what I'd describe as medium-long. Sweet tobacco leaf, cinnamon, mint, and grapefruit carried all the way through.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Strangely enough, I encountered no wood notes while tasting Chicken Cock Rye. Unfortunately, unsweetened tea and grapefruit are not my favorite flavors. I'm a fan of young Ryes, and Chicken Cock was far more mellow than others. It lacked any sharp notes, and, again, there was that lack of wood.  Someone who wants to pour a less-spicy Rye may find Chicken Cock desirable. My concern is with the price. The market is crowded with more mature Ryes for $70.00 or less. Chicken Cock isn't doing anything, in particular, to stand out and convince me to buy it. As such, I believe this one deserves a Bar rating. You'll want to try this one first before committing to a purchase. 

Next up is Chicken Cock Kentucky Straight Bourbon.

Chicken Cock Kentucky Straight Bourbon is a blend of two mashbills. The first is 78% corn, 12% rye, and 10% malted barley. The second, older mash is 74% corn, 18% rye, and 8% malted barley.  Non-chill-filtered, it is bottled at 90° and has a suggested retail price of $59.99 for a 750ml.  It carries no age statement, but we can assume since it is straight, it is at least two years old, and because there's no age statement, it is at least four.

Appearance:  The Bourbon was the color of dull gold. It created a thick rim that didn't hold the weight of the heavy, fast legs which crashed back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  If bananas are your thing, you're going to love the nose on Chicken Cock Bourbon. The aroma was unmistakable. But, vanilla, corn, cherry, and plum weren't hidden, either. There was also an earthy quality that I couldn't quite nail down. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, the banana continued.

Palate:  A light, creamy mouthfeel greeted me as I took my first sip.  The front of my palate tasted caramel and corn. In the middle, it was butterscotch and apple. Oak, caramel and black pepper constructed the back.

Finish:  A medium-long finish started with caramel-coated apple, oak, and black pepper.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This Bourbon is a very easy sipper. Nothing on the palate stole the show, and while there aren't a lot of notes, it seems to make sense. There is, however, nothing that particularly screams for attention. I would love to revisit this after a few more years in wood. Like the Rye, this Bourbon will get lost at its current price point. The Bar rating seems best for Chicken Cock Kentucky Straight Bourbon. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Thursday, January 16, 2020

My Not So Aimless Wander Around Kentucky

I've been to Kentucky several times. To me, it is the Promised Land. The distilleries, the great people, the Bourbon culture, the gorgeous scenery - it all gets my blood racing. This time around, the purpose was for a Bourbon & Banter barrel pick and some handshaking, and Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I decided to make it an extended trip. 

Our first stop was on the way to Kentucky, in Borden, Indiana.  If you're wondering what's in Borden, it is the home to Huber Winery and Orchard and Starlight Distillery

When I was taking part in some barrel picks recently, I was introduced to Starlight via Huber's Old Rickhouse Indiana Straight Rye. Now, I know what you're thinking... Indiana Straight Rye means that this is MGP distillate. I made that same assumption and I was absolutely wrong. Huber's has been around for 170 some-odd years. The distillery is newer, but it is all their own.

Anyway, for $15.00, you get a tour of either the winery or the distillery. Either one includes seven samples. As luck would have it, they had several whiskeys from which to sample, and the only one they were sold out of was the Old Rickhouse.  That's okay because I had a chance to sample their other whiskeys, as well as a Blueberry Port and a Bottled in Bond Apple Brandy.  Reviews of the whiskeys will follow.

I will say this much:  Starlight is a distillery you should pay attention to. I predict big things once people learn about it.

Our next stop was to Louisville Distilling Company, a/k/a Angel's Envy. This working distillery was opened in an ex-elevator and sawblade factory. For $18, they put on a very nice tour that gives you a lot of ins-and-outs and provided some good transparency. What you don't get is a glass to keep at the end of the tour. We had a fantastic guide named Peter who knew his stuff and had a great sense of humor. Honestly, a lot of these tours give you the same basic information on the distilling process. Each has some unique aspect of what makes them special. But, the tour guide makes or breaks these tours, and if you get Peter, you're going to have a very enjoyable one.

We sampled their standard Bourbon finished in Port barrels. Once the tour ends, you're invited to their bar where you can order cocktails or their Rye finished in rum casks.

The gift shop was gorgeous, but things were more on the pricey end of the spectrum.

Then, it was off to Old Forester.  This is a working distillery re-opened original location on Whiskey Row. What makes Old Forester unique is they have a working mini cooperage on-premises. I've been to cooperages before and building a barrel is a fascinating process. Being Sunday, the staff was off, but the equipment was still there. Our tour guide was McKenzie who was full of energy and animated. She made it fun. At one point, after she was done explaining where the various flavors come from, my buddy Jim Knudson and I asked her, "Where does the marzipan come from?" Kudos to McKenzie for not missing a beat and getting halfway through her explanation before she stopped and asked, "Is this some sort of set-up?" We admitted it was and had a great laugh.

We sampled the workhorse, Old Forester 86, then 1897 Bottled in Bond, and then their brand-new release of their Rye. For $14 it is a nice tour that, again, does not include a tasting glass to keep at the end. The gift shop has very fair pricing.

Monday morning was the crown jewel.  We met up with Eddie Russell at Wild Turkey to do our barrel pick of Russell's Reserve.  If you're curious, Eddie is very down-to-earth and an all-around gem. We didn't tour the facility, but we did hang out in one of the rickhouses to sample directly from the barrels. We settled on an absolutely delicious one, but until it is time for release, I'll withhold details.

Next was probably the most unusual tour I've ever been on. We were able to tour the Castle & Key distillery on a private tour. Our guide was Abigail, and she knew everything about everything. What made Castle & Key fascinating was how they're still renovating things on the campus. This distillery used to be the Old Taylor Distillery and was left abandoned and severely neglected. They've done a marvelous job restoring things to their original condition as much as possible while ensuring things are safe and up to code. When they're finished, I predict Castle & Key will be like Woodford Reserve or Maker's Mark, where the campus itself will be a destination beyond the distillery.

Castle & Key is not sourcing anything. Currently, they've got vodka and a couple of gins, but we were able to sample some of the newmake that is aging in one of the original rickhouses.  They've also got a gift shop that is well-stocked with variety and was surprisingly affordable.

From there, we went to Michter's Fort Nelson for a private tour. Our guide was Jacqueline, who had an amazing sense of humor and put up with a lot of our silly jokes, including the marzipan one (and then joined in on the fun). We wound up skipping some of the basics since she knew we were not distillery newbies, and really enjoyed the tasting, which included the Michter's 10 Bourbon and Rye as well as the 20 Bourbon. For the record, the 20 is stupidly amazing. 

Michter's also has a very interesting bar at the end of the tour. Here, you can try pretty much anything Michter's has ever produced, including the famed Celebration. You may need to take out a small loan for that, though. Their gift shop is very nice and what I browsed seemed affordable.


The next day was our two final distillery tours, starting with Lux Row DistillersOne of the burning questions I've had was Lux Row's relationship with Limestone Branch. I discovered that these are sister organizations under the Luxco parent company.  Thank you to our host, Vincent.

Lux Row is another one of those drop-dead gorgeous campuses. This was erected on a farm near Bardstown and the scenery is amazing. Too bad I didn't catch much of it on film. We were able to sample Rebel Yell, Ezra Brooks 90, and David Nicholson Reserve. We were then given the choice of their Double-Barrel Bourbon and Blood Oath V for our final. I recently reviewed the Double-Barrel Bourbon and fell in love with it, but have a bottle at home and opted for the Blood Oath. 

Lux Row also has a beautiful and affordable gift shop.

The final distillery tour was at Bardstown Bourbon Company.  This distillery landed on the Kentucky scene with one plan and wound up with something completely different. They set out to do their own distillate and took on some clients for contract distilling. From there, the contract distilling business apparently went gangbusters. Every client has their own completely customized mashbill and is then distilled by BBC. I don't recall the exact number, but our guide, Sam, told us it was somewhere around 43 different mashbills they distill. 

The campus itself is very modern, from the distillery to the guest center to the rickhouses. One curiosity for me was the feasibility of the rickhouse design. The inside was fine, it was the outside. Rickhouses grow a lot of lovely mold on the outside as the angels take their share, but the way the BBC ones were designed with glass walls and wood plank siding, looks like they'd need to be regularly cleaned to maintain the appearance of the campus. Of course, I could be way off base here. 

When you come through the front door of BBC, the lobby is their restaurant which, if you're curious, has a very nice menu and the food is well-prepared. Their bar has much more than what you'd find at bars of other distilleries. It is fully stocked with a variety of brands. Their gift shop was minimalistic and could best be described as "new retro-modern" in design. They sold not only their house brand of whiskeys but also those of their clients.

On a side note, in the photo below (the overview of them loading barrels), this guy in the warehouse was very talented. He would spin and flip the barrels to get them in the right place. Spinning and rolling I could understand. Flipping? That looked like it required a lot of practice!

And with that, my time with my fellow Bourbon & Banter colleagues came to a finale.

This was, overall, a really fun experience. As I stated at the start, I've been to Kentucky several times. But, it had been five years since I'd been, and there has been a lot of growth in Bourbon Country. Aside from the wonderful fellowship with my colleagues (and seeing many of them in person for the first time), except for Wild Turkey, these were all distilleries that were new to me.

If you've never been to Kentucky, you should go. And, if it has been several years since you last visited, maybe it is time to consider a return.  As for me, I will not wait another five years.