Showing posts with label Colorado. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Colorado. Show all posts

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Winston Lee North American Blended Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

One of the really cool things about the #DrinkCurious lifestyle is that, when you're traveling and you stumble upon something you've never even heard of, you stop and try it. Even if the description is a little weird or off-putting, you try everything before passing judgment. Sometimes, you wind up with a nifty surprise. Other times, you just shake your head and mumble to yourself. But, either way, you keep an open mind.

Today I'm reviewing Winston Lee North American Blended Whiskey.  Yeah I know, you've never heard of it. Neither has most of the whiskey world.  It comes from Lee Spirits Co. in Monument, Colorado, a town almost halfway between Denver and Colorado Springs on I-25. It is run by cousins Ian and Nick Lee. Their philosophy is "Our Prohibition forefathers had an outlaw spirit, and so do we."

Blended whiskey has an undeserved bad reputation. Many people will automatically think neutral grain spirits (NGS) blended with Bourbon, Rye, or another type of whiskey.  However, in many cases, it can simply be different kinds of whiskeys blended together. Even in the sophisticated world of Scotch, blends can be fantastic. In the case of Winston Lee, it made from a blend of four-year Kentucky Straight Bourbon, corn whiskey, and unaged rye whiskey. That's proofed down to 94° using Rocky Mountain spring water. Retail is $14.99 and it is currently available only in Arizona and Colorado.

Is this an opportunity to #RespectTheBottomShelf, or did I throw out $15.00?  The only way to know for sure is to crack it open and taste...

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this blend had the color of yellow straw. It left an ultra-thin rim on the wall and fast, watery legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  I am unsure what the blend ratio is, but it is obvious the corn whiskey is a large component. That was evidenced by the aroma of sweet corn. The corn was joined by oak and sawdust. Sawdust generally suggests a younger distillate. Beneath those were vanilla, grass, and lemon zest.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was all vanilla.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was both buttery and oily. There was a distinct lack of ethanol which, considering the corn and unaged rye, threw me for a loop. I prepared myself for a punch that never came. Instead, I was greeted with vanilla cream and sweet corn on the front. Mid-palate, I found mild oak. On the back, the rye spice was a tad sharp.

Finish:  This whiskey is like the Energizer Bunny. It kept going and going and going. The unaged rye blasted through with spice, black pepper, and clove. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Despite having a very uncomplicated palate, I found Winston Lee to be full of flavor. This certainly isn't going to blow your socks off, but it had the potential to be rot-gut and it failed miserably at that. I found it enjoyable, and for $15.00, I believe you will, too.  As such, this one certainly earns both the #RespectTheBottomShelf label and a Bottle rating.  Cheers!

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

Monday, January 11, 2021

Mystic Mountain Outlaw Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


I lived in Colorado for just over twenty years. I loved almost everything about it. The scenery was gorgeous, the weather was mild, the skiing was great, the people were awesome, and, better than all of that, I met Mrs. Whiskeyfellow there. Colorado has a special place in my heart.  When I have a chance to get a taste of Colorado, I'm always excited.

I've had some fun trying Colorado whiskeys. It has been a ton of fun to #DrinkCurious and discover what the Centennial State has to offer, particularly since when I lived there, distilleries were few and far between. Nowadays, they have the Colorado Spirits Trail

On my last trip to Colorado, I did what I always do. I visited a few liquor stores I'm familiar with and buy whatever new (at least to me), local whiskeys I can get my hands on. One of those was Outlaw Whiskey, which is distilled from Mystic Mountain Distillery. The distillery is located in Larkspur, and it uses "sweet Rocky Mountain spring water" in the process. It claims it is crafted in small batches, taking advantage of lower temperatures and a slower distilling process. Yes, there is a backstory... its whiskey is perfected by a centuries' old family recipe. Of course it is. 

While doing my research, I was admittedly taken aback by something I read on Mystic Mountain's website:

"At Mystic Mountain, we take our whiskey seriously and will put our brand against any of the mass whiskey makers out there."

I try very hard not to let these types of claims influence my tasting experience. But, that's a big, bold statement!  You may have a "centuries' old family recipe" but the big boys have been in business for a hundred years or more because they know what they're doing.

Outlaw Whiskey is categorized as an American Whiskey and whose mashbill only states, "Made with grains."  That could pretty much encompass anything and everything. It carries no age statement, which means we know it is at least four years old.  Bottled at 80°, you can expect to pay about $36.00 for a 750ml. 

Let's see what this centuries' old family recipe is all about, shall we?

Appearance:   In my Glencairn glass, Outlaw Whiskey presented as the color of marigolds. It left a medium-thick rim and watery legs that fell back to the pool of whiskey.

Nose:  A huge aromatic blast of strawberries hit me before I brought the glass anywhere near my face. To explain how dominating it was, imagine yourself opening up a jar of strawberry preserves and taking a huge snort. I was able to pick up a light vanilla essence as well. When I inhaled through my lips, the strawberry stuck around and I also got a smidge of mint.  From there, I had high hopes.

Palate: The mouthfeel was thin and light-bodied. Sticking to the theme, I tasted strawberry jam. That was the front. It was the middle. It was the back. Try as I might, I could not find anything else.

Finish:  It had a pleasant strawberry start, and then it didn't.  If Vicks made a strawberry-flavored NyQuil, this would be that.  Thankfully, it didn't last very long, but dammit, while it did, it was not fun. I sipped again, hoping it was a fluke, and it was even worse the second time. Mrs. Whiskeyfellow started laughing at me and the face I was making.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I don't believe in being cruel when I come across a whiskey that doesn't perform well. Usually, I offer helpful hints, such as it needs to be proofed differently, or aged longer (or less), etc. However, rarely I taste something so godawfully offensive to my palate that a Bust rating is unfair to other whiskeys that I previously rated a Bust. Outlaw Whiskey should be outlawed. The only reason anyone should buy Outlaw Whiskey is for a white elephant gift. Hopefully, this is the worst whiskey 2021 has to offer. Cheers!

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

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Boulder Spirits American Single Malt/Bottled-in-Bond Single Malt Reviews & Tasting Notes

I've been having a lot of fun with American Malts lately. For a category I initially disliked, I've done a 180-degree turn and I'm at the point where I seek these out.  When Boulder Spirits sent me samples of both their standard American Single Malt and their new, Bottled-in-Bond Single Malt whiskeys, I raised an eyebrow. I mean, yeah, American Single Malt, but a Bottled-in-Bond one to boot?

Bottled-in-Bond is my very favorite category of American whiskey. And, yes, it is uniquely American. To qualify as Bottled-in-Bond (or Bonded), it must be a product of the United States, it must be distilled by a single distiller at a single distillery during a single distilling season (which runs January through June or July through December), it must be aged at least four years in a bonded warehouse, and must be bottled at only 100°, no more, no less.

I've had Bottled-in-Bond Bourbons, Ryes, a Brandy, and even an American Malt, but I don't recall ever stumbling upon a Single Malt.  I was very happy to have a standard release to try side-by-side to see how much the Bottled-in-Bond requirements would change the whiskey.

Today I'm going to review these as they were sent:  side-by-side. I'll start with the standard expression and then the Bonded.  If you'd like a bit of background on Boulder Spirits, I'll invite you to read my review of its Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon.  But, for background on the American Single Malt expressions, Boulder Spirits sourced its barley from the United Kingdom, and it was malted at Munton's Malt, also located in the UK. Once it was shipped to Boulder, the milling, mashing, fermentation, distillation, and aging were all done in-house.  The fermentation period was 36-hours, it was then twice-distilled in its copper pot stills and then aged in virgin #3-charred oak barrels in an uncontrolled environment. Proofing utilized locally-sourced Eldorado Springs water.

Before I get started, I'd like to thank Boulder Spirits for these samples in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

American Single Malt - Standard Expression 

The standard expression has aged a minimum of three years and is bottled at 92°.  The suggested retail is $53.99.

Appearance:  This whiskey presented as a bright orange-amber in my Glencairn glass. It created a thin rim and fast, watery legs to drop back to the pool. 

Nose:  Aromas of malt, apricot, and honey started things off.  It was both sweet and inviting. Milk chocolate then followed, and then, finally, plum.  As I inhaled through my lips, thick, heavy honey rolled over my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel had a medium-body and then became creamy, although it required effort to have it coat my palate.  A sweet blend of apple, pear, and vanilla introduced itself. Come mid-palate, things changed to raspberry, plum, honey, and crème brûlée.  Then, on the back, the spices took the stage with nutmeg, allspice, and white pepper.

Finish:  A medium-length finish started with toasted oak, then moved to cinnamon, and, finally, cocoa powder. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I enjoyed this Single Malt. It was everything you'd expect in an American Single Malt - it was fruity, and it had both sweetness and spiciness. There was nothing off-putting and while the malt notes were prevalent, they weren't overpowering.  The price is about average for American Single Malt, perhaps tapping a bit on the ceiling.  I'd buy this for my whiskey library, and as such, it takes a Bottle rating. 

American Single Malt - Bottled-in-Bond Expression

The Bottled-in-Bond version suggests four years but according to Boulder Spirits, it is closer to five. It is, of course, bottled at 100°. The retail price is $69.99.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey offered a deep, caramel color.  It left a medium rim that fostered slow, thin legs to drop back to the pool.

Nose:  Malt was the first aroma to hit my nostrils. It was joined by freshly-cut grass and brown sugar. What followed was orange, pear, and oak.  When I pulled the vapor through my mouth, there was a blending of honey and malt.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thick and full-bodied. It also tingled the heck out of my hard palate. On the front were spicy ginger beer and rich vanilla. Yes, that combination seems strange, but for some reason, it worked. As it worked its way to the middle, I got a punch of baked apples and thick cinnamon. When it moved to the back, sweet berries and clove took over. 

Finish:  A very long, very strong finish of barrel char, clove, coffee, and berry closed out the show. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I seemed like a game of tug-of-war was taking place between sweet and spicy. My palate tingled as I sipped this and 100° is usually no big deal to my mouth. The mouthfeel was almost dense and I felt like I was chewing through the cinnamon apple on the palate. The price is on the high side, yet at the same time, less expensive than other limited-release American malts I've tried. This one earns my Bottle rating.

Epilogue - My Choice:  Both of these malts were delicious, and shockingly, much different from one another. The standard expression had the benefit of allowing blending from various distilling seasons, was at least a year younger and proofed down eight points, which is significant.  It was sweet and sultry. The Bonded version was an attention-getter. It drank higher than its proof and was spicy and fruity.  It was also more intriguing than the standard release because it was something unusual compared to other American Single Malts I've tried. As such, the Bonded one comes out the winner, but in reality, you'll be a happy camper with either.  Cheers!

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

Monday, July 13, 2020

Boulder Spirits Bottled in Bond Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Some whiskey drinkers will poo-poo a certain region. Maybe they had a mediocre bottle from Texas. Maybe a sourced bottle from a Florida non-distilling producer (NDP) rushed something to market. One of those regions that, in my opinion, get an unfairly bad reputation is Colorado. 

I've tasted some amazing Colorado whiskeys and I've had some very mediocre ones. Like anything else, it becomes a bit of a crapshoot. You never know what you're going to wind up with. But no region is free of that risk.  There are some very boring Kentucky whiskeys. There are some very exciting Wisconsin whiskeys.  I even reviewed something rather amazing out of Nevada. What states a whiskey comes from is more of a technical detail rather than something I paint with a broad brush.

Today I'm reviewing a Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon from Boulder Spirits. Bottled-in-Bond is an attention-getter with me, as that's my favorite category of American whiskey. Colorado has a soft spot in my heart because I lived there for 20+ years. But, a whiskey has to earn its place into my Bottle, Bar, or Bust rating system and there are no free passes. 

Boulder Spirits is also known as Vapor Distillery. It is located in (you guessed it) Boulder. Their master distiller, Alastair Brogan, does not refer to himself as such, rather, he calls himself a Chieftain. Alastair is from Scotland, and he came to the United States with his Scottish style of distilling.  He uses a copper pot still from Scotland to distill his whiskey. 

In the case of this Bourbon, the mash consists of 51% corn, 44% barley, and 5% rye.  That's an amazing amount of barley!  Fermentation takes at least 36 hours, then the mash is run through the still twice. It is then placed in 53-gallon #3-char white oak barrels where it rests at least four years in a warehouse that is not temperature controlled. It was then proofed down to 100° (because that's all part of Bottled-in-Bond) using El Dorado Springs water.  Retail is $55.00.

Enough of the backstory, let's get on with the tasting, shall we?  First, I'd like to thank Boulder Spirits for providing me a sample of their Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon appears as a deep orange amber. It left a thin rim on the wall but generated fat, wavy, heavy legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. After the legs fell, small droplets stuck by the rim.

Nose:  It started off as corn, which was a bit surprising considering how low the corn content was. But, oak and a very definitive Granny Smith apple joined in, and that gave way to tropical fruit. Just when I thought I nailed it down, I found bubblegum. When I inhaled through my lips, thick, rich caramel danced across my tongue. 

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be light and airy. For 100° that was a bit unexpected. I also found a mild sizzle that wasn't quite heated but let you know it was there. At the front were toasted oak and roasted almond. That almond came through strong. As it moved to mid-palate, I tasted salted caramel and malted milk balls. Then, on the back, an interesting combination of green apple, smoked oak, and light spice probably attributed to the rye. 

Finish:  A medium-length finish featured smoked oak, light char, and creamy vanilla. I was frankly shocked that the vanilla never appeared on the palate itself because that's a quality most every Bourbon has. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:   There are a few things I want to discuss. First and foremost, this is dangerously easy to sip. I didn't taste the alcohol but it certainly made itself a known factor with how fast I drank it. Secondly, I was in love with the mid-palate more than anything else. I felt like a kid in a candy store.  Finally, I've had Bottled-in-Bond malt-heavy Bourbons before, they're always a bit weird, and this one was no different. But, I need to stress this one was weird in a good way.  If you like Colorado whiskeys, you're going to enjoy this Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon. If you're not a fan of Colorado whiskeys, I'm willing to bet this one will change your mind. This is $55.00 and I'm giving it a Bottle rating. Cheers!

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

Monday, May 4, 2020

AD Laws Henry Road Bonded Malt Whiskey Review and Tasting Notes

American Malt Whiskey is the future.  Oh, I don't have a crystal ball or anything. But, I do see the segment growing by leaps and bounds. Several years ago, I might have told you American Malt was an unmitigated disaster. But, as of late, this category has matured and I've really enjoyed a lot of what I've tasted.

When Laws Whiskey House approached me with their Henry Road Bonded Malt Whiskey, I was absolutely intrigued. First of all, it was Bottled-in-Bond. With me, that's an attention-getter. If you are unfamiliar with Bottled-in-Bond, it has some simple rules:  It must be a product of the United States. It must be from a single distilling season (January to June or July to December), distilled by a single distiller at a single distillery. It must be aged at least four years in a government bonded warehouse. It must be bottled at 100°, no more, no less. Finally, the label must state where it was distilled and, if bottled elsewhere, who bottled it.

Second of all, I've found Colorado Single Malts to be very hit-or-miss. I've not had an American Malt from Laws before and was curious how they'd handle it.

Laws' goal was to have a "terroir-driven, unapologetic whiskey." To accomplish that, it uses a mash of 100% heirloom malted barley from Colorado Malting Company in Alamosa. The grain is grown along Henry Road, hence the name of the whiskey.  Colorado Malting handles the malting of the barley as well. Laws uses open-air fermentation tanks and a copper pot-column still.  Meeting the guidelines of Bottled-in-Bond, it ages this whiskey for four-plus years in new, 53-gallon charred oak barrels. Retail is approximately $74.99 and distribution is currently limited to the Colorado market.

I'd like to thank Laws Whiskey House for providing me a sample of their Henry Road Bonded Malt Whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, let's #DrinkCurious and get to it, shall we?

In my Glencairn glass, Henry Road appears as a bronzed amber. It created a thin rim that shockingly generated no legs. The rim and the droplets it created just glued in place.

Aromas of chocolate filled the room while I was allowing the whiskey to rest. When I was ready to investigate further, honey and chocolate were dominating. Further exploration provided a light mint mixed with oatmeal. When I inhaled through my mouth, it was all Granny Smith apples racing across my palate.

The mouthfeel was thin and oily. Subsequent sips never thickened the viscosity. There was also nothing in terms of alcohol burn.  Flavors of almond and brown sugar started off, and as it moved mid-palate, I found a lovely combination of salted caramel and cocoa. On the back, it was a mixture of green apple and very sweet tobacco. 

A very long finish provided strong coffee flavor along with charred oak. While there was (again) no alcohol burn, it didn't stop my hard palate from numbing. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  As I started off saying, American Malts out of Colorado have been hit-or-miss with me. Henry Road Bonded Malt Whiskey had a very aromatic nose and complex, somewhat unusual palate. I really enjoyed this one and was a bit disappointed with how quickly I burned through my sample. But, I was also grateful for the experience. The cost is a bit shocking until you consider that single malt whiskey is typically more expensive than Bourbon or Rye. It is also a limited edition whiskey. I would prefer to see this priced about $10.00 less, but considering how much pleasure I received for Henry Road Bonded Malt Whiskey, I'd still rate it a Bottle. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

Bottle = Buy it
Bar = Try it first
Bust = Leave it

Monday, April 20, 2020

Cinder Dick Straight Bourbon Review

I have the maturity level of a grade-schooler. Well, let's get real - it isn't quite that mature. I love sophomoric humor - the more immature the better. 

When I first saw the name Cinder Dick I knew I had to have this Bourbon. The first words out of my mouth were, "Good, bad or ugly, I need to review this. It would be a ton of fun."  Durango Craft Spirits proprietor, Michael McCardell, responded and told me this would be the best Bourbon I've ever had.

The fact that I'm a serious reviewer makes me want to tone down poking fun of the name. But, I'm going to do it anyway. Cinder Dick?  What's that, a burnt woody?  And then my mind went to Cinderella and it devolved from there into stuff I don't even want to put in print.

On a far more serious note, Cinder Dick is slang for a railroad detective. The name is relevant to the Durango, Colorado area where it is distilled because of the world-famous Durango-Silverton Narrow-Gauge Railroad. Cinder dicks rode the rails to protect valuable cargo such as building materials, bullion, and, of course, cash. On a very brief segway, this railroad offers one of the most beautiful scenic train rides you'll ever experience. I used to live in Colorado and it is something you should have on your must-see list.

Durango Craft Spirits is located in (you guessed it) Durango. It is the first post-Prohibition grain-to-glass distillery in the area. It handles everything from mashing to distilling to barreling on-premises. Grains come from the surrounding area. In the case of Cinder Dick, it is a mash of 66% non-GMO white corn from the Ute Mountain Tribe, with the remainder using wheat, rye, and two-row malted barley, all from Alamosa (about three hours away). Cinder Dick is a single-barrel Bourbon, aged two years in 53-gallon, #4-charred oak from Kelvin Cooperage. It is bottled at 94°. Retail is $57.00 and the current distribution is limited to Colorado. There are plans to expand to New Mexico very soon.

I'd like to thank Durango Craft Spirits for providing me with a sample of Cinder Dick in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious...

In my Glencairn glass, Cinder Dick appears as a deep burnt umber with red highlights. It looks like it could have been finished in an ex-Cabernet cask, however, we know that's not true because the rules of Bourbon wouldn't allow it. That would be the #4-char helping out.  It left a very heavy rim on the wall and generated fat drops that didn't really go anywhere.

Aromas of oak, coffee, and sawdust were prevalent. What was noticeably missing was any ethanol, especially considering how young this Bourbon is. Beneath those notes was a suggestion of cherry and plum - until I brought the glass directly under my nostrils, and then the stone fruits really jumped at me along with spearmint. When I inhaled through my lips, it was a blend of caramel and mint leaf. 

I found the mouthfeel to be light and airy.  On my palate, Cinder Dick was very oak forward, with a light caramel underneath. But, at mid-palate, all that oak went away and it was an explosion of chocolate-covered espresso beans.  When I say explosion, I mean exactly that. It completely took over. On the back, the espresso toned down and tobacco leaf was left behind.

The finish was originally short and started with dry oak and black pepper. When I wondered what happened to it, it returned and became the Energizer Bunny, and brought back the espresso bomb.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I wanted this to be a fun review. I hate to admit it, but I was secretly hoping Cinder Dick would be bad because that would give me so much more ammunition to make juvenile jokes. Unfortunately (or, rather, fortunately), Cinder Dick was a very nice surprise. I'm not a coffee drinker, and I enjoyed the heck out of it. So did Mrs. Whiskeyfellow, and she's not much of a coffee drinker, either. If you are, this is going to be your mojo. The price is not offensive for craft whiskey and when you take all of this into account, Cinder Dick earns my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • Bust = Leave it 

Monday, April 6, 2020

A.D. Laws San Luis Valley Bottled-in-Bond Rye Review

Just outside of downtown Denver is a fairly nondescript building. It looks like many of the other warehouses in the neighborhood. You could drive right by it and never know that inside one is Laws Whiskey House.  

A.D. Laws, as it is known, is not a newcomer to the whiskey scene. They've been doing this since 2011. Al Laws, with mentor Bill Friel (formally of Barton, and a member of the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame), share a philosophy of using local grains to create unique whiskeys. They source all of the grains from two family-owned farms:  Colorado Malting Company in Alamosa and the Ohnmacht's in Eastern Colorado. They're using only heirloom lower-yield grains, making mass-production difficult. However mass production isn't something that excites Laws.

On a side note, Laws brought the first Colorado Bottled-in-Bond whiskey to market.

Today I'm reviewing their six-year San Luis Valley Bottled-in-Bond Rye. There has been a four-year version, but this year they upped the age statement. Bottled-in-Bond is a category that always gets my engine roaring. I love it for its purity and lack of shady backstories. The Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 requires truth in advertising. Any whiskey carrying this label must be aged at least four years in a federally-bonded warehouse, must be bottled at 100°, must be a product of the United States, must be a product of one distiller from one distillery in one distilling season, and the label must state who distilled it, and, if different, who bottled it. 

The mash is made from 100% rye.  Half of it is malted and the other is raw. That's it. It ferments in an open-air environment using a sour mash method. It is then distilled through their four-plate pot still, and aged in new, charred oak 53-gallon barrels. Retail is about $54.99 and A.D. Laws distributes in 16 states plus the District of Columbia. At this time it is available in California, Colorado, Illinois, New Jersey, and Texas have received a distribution. 

How does this Bonded Rye taste?  Is it worth the price?  The only way to find out for sure is to #DrinkCurious. But first, I'd like to thank Laws Whiskey House for sending me a sample of San Luis Valley Rye in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. 

In my Glencairn glass, San Luis Valley Rye presents as a definitive orange amber. It left a medium rim that generated medium-fast legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

To suggest this whiskey was fragrant would be an understatement. From across the room, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow stated as much. It was an aroma of orange blossoms and honey, which upon closer inspection revealed mint, oak, and floral rye.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was grassy and orange citrus.

The mouthfeel started off thin, but as I continued to sip, it became thicker and creamy. The first taste was brown sugar and orange peel. As it moved across my palate, I picked up sharp rye spice and mint. Then, on the back, a blend of tobacco leaf and barrel char.

It culminated in a very, very long finish. This is one of those whiskeys that make you think it is done but fools you. Initially, it was toasted oak, sea salt, and clove. It was both warm and spicy. Round two was short-lived and full of coffee.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Craft whiskey normally runs between $40 and $60.  So long as something doesn't cross that, it doesn't raise my eyebrows. But, if a whiskey doesn't taste good, even a rock-bottom price doesn't make it a bargain.  Fortunately, I found San Luis Valley Rye to be a tasty, complex Bottled-in-Bond Rye. It offered a lot from the nose to the palate and the palate to the finish. This one fits the bill, and I'm happy to rate this one as a Bottle. Cheers!

Monday, February 24, 2020

10th Mountain Rye Whiskey Review

I lived in Colorado for over 20 years. I have a lot of good memories from there. I loved the weather. I loved the scenery. And, best of all, I met Mrs. Whiskeyfellow there. I return at least once a year to see my family. Colorado has a special place in my heart.

One thing that Colorado can be iffy on is whiskey. I've had excellent whiskeys and I've had very mediocre ones. But, what I didn't know until very recently was Vail, where I used to ski quite a bit, has its own distillery:  10th Mountain Whiskey & Spirit Company.

Vail isn't the 10th mountain in Colorado. 10th Mountain refers to a storied Army Light Infantry division activated back in 1943. It was set up specifically for mountain terrain and arctic warfare.  After World War II, it had been deactivated and reactivated a number of times before relocating to Fort Drum. And, since 2001, it has been the most deployed unit in the Army. 

The actual distillery sits at an elevation of 6,312 feet in Gypsum. The tasting room is located in Vail at 8,150 feet. They curate their ingredients from the local area. They also actively support a few veteran charities. 

Today's review is 10th Mountain Rye Whiskey. It is distilled from a mash of 75% Rye, 21% Corn, and 4% Malted Barley. According to Founder Ryan Thompson, they aged it for a year in new, #4 charred oak, using 5, 10, 30 and 53-gallon barrels, most of which are 53-gallon barrels sourced from Barrel 53. Bottled at 86°, it retails for $45.00.  I'd like to thank 10th Mountain for providing me a sample of their Rye in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, time to #DrinkCurious.

In my Glencairn glass, the whiskey presented as a soft caramel in color. It left a thin rim that created fat, wavy legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Despite the fact that there is only 4% malt, you'd never know it from the nose, because that's the first thing that hit the olfactory senses. The malt was followed by peaches and oak. But, additional exploration yielded floral rye and cinnamon. When I inhaled through my lips, it was all floral rye.

The mouth had a medium feel that was oily and coated my entire mouth. If this was aged in smaller barrels, there are no telltale signs of it. Moreover, despite the young age, there was nothing harsh. At the front, that 4% barley became the headliner with milk chocolate. Immediately behind that, but still on the front, was plum. As the liquid worked to the middle, a blend of toffee, oak, and mint offered an interesting sensation of flavor. Then, on the back, it was an expected rye spice and a smidge of barrel char.

A medium-short finish consisted of rye spice, very dry oak, and black pepper. The closing note was definitely the pepper. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  When this whiskey was sent to me, I had to have a friend at a local liquor store facilitate the transaction due to shipping restrictions. As a token of appreciation, since he had never tried anything from 10th Mountain, we cracked open the bottle there for an introductory pour. We were shocked by how much of the malt dominated the nose and front considering its relatively low content. We also agreed this was proofed correctly. When you toss in a very affordable $45 price tag, 10th Mountain Rye Whiskey becomes an easy Bottle recommendation. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Leopold Bros Rare Stock Whiskey Review

I've been familiar with Leopold Bros for several years. It is located in my old stomping grounds of northeast Denver, Colorado not far from what was the old Denver Stapleton Airport. If you've never heard of Leopold Bros, they're quite unique. It is a family-owned distillery established in 1999, and they have their own malting floor. Yeah, you read that right, and it isn't just a malting floor, but it is the largest malting floor in the United States. Everything is done in-house, they even grow the botanicals that attract the wild yeast used in the secondary fermentation on the distillery premises.

To celebrate their 20th Anniversary, Leopold Bros released a very limited edition whiskey. By limited edition, only 250 bottles were produced. It has a simple name:  Rare Stock Whiskey.

Rare stock whiskey is distilled from a mash of 58% corn, 23% malted barley, and 19% rye. But, before setting it in wood, it soaked in charred sugar maple wood chips for several months. That, right there, prevents this whiskey from being Bourbon. Todd Leopold told me that they charred the wood chips themselves and he went for a very heavy char with the intention of having a smoky quality. After it steeped, it was filtered through a non-dyed, virgin wool blanket in the tradition of Appalachia. Then, the barreling took place. Leopold used 53-gallon, #3 charred oak barrels, let it rest for nine years before dumping. It was then bottled uncut at 114.6°. All of the bottles were sold via a lottery at the distillery for $125.00. As such, the only way to find it is on the (cough, cough) secondary market. I was given my bottle as a gift from very dear friends who knew I would appreciate it.

If you were to seek out a bottle of Rare Stock Whiskey, is it worth the quest? Let's get on to the tasting notes. Time to #DrinkCurious...

In my Glencairn glass, Rare Stock Whiskey presented as a deep burnt amber. That's the color Mrs. Whiskeyfellow used when I showed her my glass, and that works just fine for me. It created a medium rim that generated fast, thicker legs that raced back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

An aroma of candied fruits greeted my palate before the glass got close to my face. Once that happened, a marriage of smoke and vanilla took over before giving way to dark stone fruits. When I inhaled through my lips, the smoke and vanilla changed to smoked caramel and oak.

And then, there was the mouthfeel. It was thick and creamy, but it was also a smoke bomb in my mouth. That took me by complete surprise, enough so that I started coughing and Mrs. Whiskeyfellow wondered what happened. There was nothing bad about it, it was just unexpected. It also was a reminder of one of my standard lessons in classes I host:  Never judge a whiskey on the first sip. Once my palate was past the shock of the smoke, I was able to pick up flavors of plums and cherries. Past that, maple and tobacco leaf. Then, on the back, it was charred oak and clove.

The finish was long. Very, very long. It started off as heavy smoke and clove. The smoke dissipated, leaving the clove to carry on. Then, the clove faded off. 

When I write reviews, I have a pad of paper that I use to take notes. As I go through nosing and tasting, I jot things down. After my first glass, I start tweaking those notes. This is not a short process, it takes many minutes. I am taking this segway because it is illustrative of how long it took the finish to end. After the clove faded off, there was nothing. As I was tweaking my tasting notes, my entire mouth got walloped by dark cherries. I've had whiskeys take a hiatus in the finish, but nothing like this.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I want to say two things here.  First, let's not confuse smoke with peat. This is a smoky whiskey, it is not a peaty whiskey. Second, let's look at this one logically. You aren't finding this bottle on through conventional means. That means you're getting it one of two ways: Someone is going to gift it to you (like me) or sell it to you. I have no idea what Rare Stock Whiskey is worth on the secondary market. I can tell you this much - this is about one of the most unusual American whiskeys I've ever tasted, and that's a compliment. If you are offered a chance to buy this and it isn't offered at an obscene price, grab it. I'm enjoying the hell out of mine, and as such, it gets my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!