Showing posts with label Blaum Bros.. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Blaum Bros.. Show all posts

Saturday, December 14, 2019

And, the 2019 Whiskey of the Year is...

It seems like everyone and their brother hands out whiskey awards. While I'm no exception to this rule, the Whiskeyfellow Awards are different from any other list. Before you roll your eyes and say, "Whatever," let me explain. My list is geared toward the average whiskey drinker.

I don't put out my list in October. Why?  Because this is a list of the Best Whiskeys of 2019, and there exists something called November and December. Except for the need to be first with a list, I really don't understand the need to rush the release.  

To even contend for an award, it has to be something that's actually crossed my palate. I don't have a team of interns who vet everything for me and then present me with their best of what they've tasted. If you're following me because you agree with my palate, then it is my palate on the line, not some intern's palate.

Because my demographic is the average whiskey drinker, here's what you won't find on my list: 

  • Anything allocated.  That means nothing Van Winkle, no Buffalo Trace Antique Collection, no Birthday Bourbon, etc.  The average whiskey drinker isn't getting his or her hands on an opportunity to a bottle unless they're very lucky.
  • Anything unaffordable.  This one is more subjective, but it means no Johnnie Walker Odyssey and no Macallan M.  The average whiskey drinker isn't spending thousands on a bottle. Heck, because even a few hundred is out of reach of many, everything on this list is well below $200.00.
  • Anything you can't reasonably expect to get your hands on.  The average whiskey drinker in Florida isn't getting a store pick from Wisconsin that's already gone by the time they get there, and I'm not a big fan of the secondary market. 

In my opinion, for one of these Best Of lists to be worth anything is when it contains things you can actually buy for yourself and enjoy.  Otherwise, what's the point other than to post a Ha Ha! Look What I Have! Sucks To Be You! article?

Unfortunately, due to our silly, fractured distribution system, I cannot guarantee that everything on my list is available in your market. But, everything on this list is on the market and reasonably available, even if it means having to travel to another state (meaning, when you get there, it isn't magically gone).

Finally, I'm not hitting every possible whiskey category. If you don't see something in the category you're looking for, it means I either didn't drink anything in that category that comes to mind or if I did, it wasn't worthy of a Best Of award.  So, without further ado, here we go.

Best Bourbon of 2019 - Lux Row Double Barrel Bourbon - $149.99

Lux Row's Double Barrel Bourbon may be the most difficult one to obtain, as you'll have to travel to Kentucky to get it.  It is also the most expensive. But, this one is going to be around for at least the near future, so if you head there in the next several months, you should be able to pick up a bottle. Lux Row told me it is at the distillery and at least one other retail outlet. 

While this is the most expensive whiskey on my Best Of list, it is worth every penny you'll pay. The distillate is likely Heaven Hill's, but it is unlike anything they've put out before, which is how it made my best Bourbon of the year. I reviewed Lux Row Double Barrel Bourbon in October.

Best Rye of 2019 - Blaum Bros. Straight Rye - $49.99

Mike and Matt Blaum are known for their Knotter whiskeys. Knotter is a play on words (sound it out). They picked some great barrels from MGP.  But, that was while they were waiting on their own distillate to mature. In July, they released their four-year Straight Rye Whiskey.

I had their four-year Straight Bourbon released in May, and after enjoying it, I was admittedly looking forward to the Rye. As you can read in my review, this one had a finish that was very eye-opening, and that's what solidified its spot as my best Rye. It is also the most affordable whiskey on this year's Best Of list.

Best Scotch of 2019 - Bunnahabhain Toiteach Single Malt - $69.99

This category was very difficult. I've had some lovely Scotches this year and, until November, I thought I had my winner figured out. But, then a friend gave me an opportunity to try Bunnahabhain Toiteach, and this one made the other contenders take a back seat.

This one is a peated Scotch, and if you're not a fan of peat, this one may be the one to change your mind, as the peat is not front and center. And, moreover, in the land of very good Scotch, this one is easy on the wallet. You can read my review to read more about it.

Best Irish Whiskey of 2019 - Powers John's Lane Single Pot Still -  $72.99

I didn't get to try a ton of Irish whiskeys this year, but the ones I did have been excellent - I don't believe I had anything under a Bottle recommendation all year.  The shining star was easily Powers John's Lane, which I first tasted in November and, because of my lack of preparedness, had to sample again in order to pen a review. 

This one grabs your attention from the start with a wonderfully complicated nose and somehow getting an entire orchard of fruits in your mouth. You can learn more from my December review to read more about why this was so good.

Best World Whiskey of 2019 - Fukano Whisky Vault Reserve #1 - $74.99

This year I tried some very interesting whiskeys from around the world:  Europe, Australia, Africa, India, South America, and Japan.  I considered splitting "World Whiskey" into separate categories but some of it was very difficult to obtain, very expensive, or you'd have to buy from an overseas retailer.

Fukano Whisky Vault Reserve #1 was so interesting that it became a stand-out from the others. And, again, when the price comes into the picture, it became even more attractive.  This one's distilled from white rice, and you can read my review from November to learn more about it.

Best Whiskey of 2019

Now that you've seen my best in each category, it is time to crown this year's best of the best. Choosing my favorite was not easy. I danced between three of the category winners several times before making my final decision. The winning whiskey comes from distillers who pawn themselves off as just two guys making whiskey with no prior experience, they've managed to take a very serious attitude toward distilling something that isn't a me-too product and is very special.

Congratulations to the Blaum Bros. Distillery Co. for the most unique American Rye I've ever tried. That smoked malt put this one over the top and earned the Whiskeyfellow 2019 Whiskey of the Year Award. Cheers!

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Blaum Bros. Rye Review and Tasting Notes

Unique whiskeys are an adventure. They can either be amazing or you wind up, for kicks and giggles, finding an unsuspecting friend to pawn it off on and eagerly anticipate the reaction.

A week ago, I drove out to Galena, Illinois for the Blaum Bros. release of their Rye.  This is not a Knotter (MGP) product, rather, it is Mike's and Matt's own distillate.  As I was recently impressed by their four-year Bourbon, I had some fear of missing out on the Rye, particularly since this was the first release.

If you're unfamiliar with the Blaums, they have been distilling since 2013.  They started off releasing MGP products and went from there. And, whether you find their whiskey to be good or bad, you'll find that the brothers have a sense of humor that finds its way to everything in the marketing end, from their About Us link to the labels on the back of their bottles.

All the humor in the world, however, won't make a whiskey taste any better.  In the case of their Rye, it is distilled from a mash of 92% rye, 5% smoked malt and 3% malted barley. Smoked malt? That certainly is different, and that piqued my curiosity. It is then aged four years and non-chill filtered before being bottled at 100° (50% ABV).  And, despite that proof, this is not a Bonded whiskey.  It retails at the distillery for $50.00, and my experience with Blaum Bros. whiskeys is the retail at stores is about the same.

On a side note, Mike informed me that going forward, they will age all of their whiskeys at least four years before being released.

How did the Blaums do on this newest whiskey?  Time to #DrinkCurious.

In my Glencairn, the Rye presented as a deep amber. It left a thin rim on the side of the glass, and the rim created a wavy curtain to drop back to the pool.

Aromas of dried fruit and honey hit my nostrils first. Underneath that was charred oak and, finally, floral rye.  When I inhaled through my lips, it offered a complex blend of vanilla, spice and very dark chocolate. 

There was a light and airy mouthfeel when the whiskey first past my lips. It continued as light throughout the remainder of the glass but became less airy and more coating. On the front was vanilla and creamy caramel. In the middle were raisin and cocoa.  The back ponied up toasted oak, rye spice, coffee, and white pepper.

At this point, I thought the Rye was enjoyable but not overly unique. But then there was the finish...

It began with smoke (obviously from the smoked malt). That was followed by a short tenure of rye spice, the smoke returned thereafter and then came the dark chocolate freight train that just rolled on and on for what seemed an eternity (like waiting at a railroad crossing). The smoke and dark chocolate made for an almost natural, complementary combination. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Craft whiskeys. That $50 price point is a crowded field at the liquor store and something must make itself a stand-out product.  Blaum Bros. Rye does exactly that.  It marries a complex nose with a solid palate and an incredible finish.  I've been steadily increasing my American Rye and this one is something I'm really digging. It earns a very strong Bottle recommendation. Cheers!

Monday, May 27, 2019

Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. Straight Bourbon Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

Dangerous waters exist when a distillery has sourced its own whiskey, has earned a reputation for selecting great barrels, and then releases their own distillate. Fans can fall in love with the known, sourced product, but can easily be lost when the unknown is fair, perhaps substandard, or even undrinkable. That can destroy an investment of money and time that may never be recovered.

Blaum Bros. Distilling Co. of Galena, Illinois has a reputation of selecting excellent MGP barrels they sold under the Knotter Bourbon label (there is a play on words there, Not Our Bourbon). The brothers, Mike and Matt, have been doing this since 2013. While they were selling their sourced Bourbon, they were busy distilling their own and waiting for it to age.

And now, that time has come. The release of Blaum Bros. Straight Bourbon Whiskey has hit the market. Made from a mash of 72% corn, 23% rye, and 5% malted barley, this non-chill filtered whiskey was distilled to 130° on their hybrid pot still, then proofed down to 117.5° before resting four years in barrels that were air-dried 18-to-24 months. Eight barrels were then selected for each batch, and then bottled at 100°. Suggested retail is $49.99, and it is distributed only in Illinois, Wisconsin, Colorado, Tennessee, and Kentucky. 

I'd like to thank Blaum Bros. for providing me with a sample of their Straight Bourbon Whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached honest review. And now, let's get to it... time to #DrinkCurious.

In my trusty Glencairn glass, this Bourbon presented as a bright amber that left a thick rim on the wall. That rim yielded fat, slow droplets that eventually worked its way back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Initial aromas of thick caramel and ripe berries permeated the air. As I worked my way through the nosing zone, I was also pulled apple pie spice and honey.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was a fruity combination of apples and berries.

The mouthfeel was oily and coated my entire mouth. Up front, a splash of caramel danced on the tip of my tongue. As the Bourbon worked its way over my palate, the caramel drifted to apple pie spice and orange peel midway through, and then, on the back, it was toasted oak, rye spice, and peanut butter. 

The finish was long and lingering with rye spice and, strangely enough, thick, chewy bread. The tip of my tongue tingled with nutmeg, and my palate kept picking up a hint of sweet berries.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  If I re-read the "ingredients" listed on the nose and palate, I might think this was a dessert whiskey. That's not the case at all. Instead, these flavors complimented each other, and the finish really tied everything together into a complete package. Blaum Bros. Straight Bourbon Whiskey is very enjoyable, is fairly priced in line with many "craft" Bourbons, and leaves me with a smile on my face. Matt and Mike mastered the feat of making the transition in a positive manner, and I happily rate this one as a Bottle.  Cheers!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Blaum Bros. Distillery Visit

When I'm on the road, I try to make it a point to visit with friends. In this instance, I was in Iowa for a week and heading home. I'm usually knowledgable with regard to geography, but in the case of Illinois, that's apparently not so. I thought Galena was near Chicago. It isn't, it is near Dubuque, somewhere I find myself at least a couple of times a year.

What's in Galena?  It honestly is a gorgeous, historic town. But, it is also home to a single distillery owned by the Blaum Brothers, Mike, and Matt. Conveniently, the distillery is called Blaum Bros. Distilling Co., and I'm kicking myself for missing out on a bunch of prior opportunities. For a product that is only distributed in Illinois, Colorado, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, Blaum Bros. enjoys a ton of national respect.

I've met the brothers more times than I remember. These are genuinely great guys who love distilling and love talking about (and enjoying) whiskey. Moreover, they actually know what the hell they're talking about. Plus they're both hilarious. This is the first time I had a chance to really sit down and talk to them and get to know them.

Aside from getting a tour of the place (and not taking enough photos), we enjoyed some great whiskeys and shot the breeze. Matt is the CEO and distiller.  Mike (he's the one with the long flowing beard), is the COO and chief distiller. Both are funny and were easily the smartest guys in the room.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a review on a Light Whiskey from La Crosse Distilling. I found it impressive. Matt and Mike poured me their Light Whiskey, aged for years instead of a day, and it blew me away. You could easily put it up against many non-Light Whiskeys and choose it as a winner. Unfortunately, this was one of those one-offs under their experimental label Galena Reserve.

I was also treated to their 100% Rye and their MGP-sourced Old Fangled Knotter Bourbon. They're aging their own distillate now in a non-temperature controlled warehouse and they aren't trying to duplicate the MGP-recipes. What's out there now is simply called Blaum Bros. Straight Bourbon. I can tell you it is 100°, runs about $50 a bottle, and was delicious. No, I didn't take tasting notes. That will happen in the future when I can sit down and concentrate.

If you head out to the tri-state area (Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin), you have to swing by the distillery. It is located at 9380 W. Highway 20 in Galena. Cheers!