Sunday, July 28, 2019
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!
Saturday, April 13, 2019
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!