Showing posts with label Grand Traverse. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grand Traverse. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Grand Traverse Distillery Islay Rye Review & Tasting Notes - Updated 5-18-2021


I love peated whiskeys. Peated American whiskeys are so rare that when I stumble upon one, I just feel like a kid at 4:30am on Christmas morning who can't wait for Mom and Dad to wake up so I can bust into my presents. I have samples that I have to review, but sometimes I shove something to the front of the line because it is so unusual that I must satisfy my curiosity.

That's exactly what happened when the FedEx dude dropped off a package of Islay Rye from Grand Traverse Distillery.  I couldn't psych myself up too much, otherwise, it would bias my opinion before I had a chance to try it.

"Islay Rye is a small-batch Rye Whiskey that takes two of our favorite things and combines them ton something awesome and unique!  [T]his is a Rye Whiskey with a heavy nod to Islay Single Malt Scotches." - Grand Traverse Distillery

The first thing to know about Grand Traverse is they're not sourcing anything.  It is a grain-to-bottle distillery located in Traverse City, Michigan.  It utilizes a custom-built Arnold Holstein still.  All of the grain is supplied by Send Brothers Farm in nearby Williamsburg. The Rye itself is distilled from a mash of 80% rye and 20% peated malted barley. It carries no age statement, which means it is at least four years old and is non-chill filtered, then proofed to 90°.  A 375ml bottle runs about $50.00.

How's it taste?  Well, before I get to that, I thank Grand Traverse Distillery for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, let's #DrinkCurious...

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Islay Rye appears as a bronze amber.  It created a medium rim that left a heavy curtain that fell back to the pool. Behind that were fat, slow drops. 

Nose:  The smell of peat filled the room, so much so that Mrs. Whiskeyfellow commented how strong it was. But, as I raised the glass to my face, that peat was surprisingly muted. Aromas of grass, oak, malt, caramel, nutmeg, and rye.  When I inhaled through my lips, I discovered brine and grass.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and oily.  I had no issues having it fill every corner of my mouth. The first flavors were peat, dry oak, and earth. Mid-palate, mace, allspice, caramel, and dill take over. Then, as it approaches the back, banana, citrus, tobacco leaf, and rye spice round things out.

Finish:  The long, dry, and sweet finish was a blend of clove, dry oak, raisin, citrus, and rye bread. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Let's talk about a few things. I really, really enjoy Islay Scotch. This isn't it, it isn't even close, and to be fair, I didn't expect it to be.  The peated malt was a nice addition but the rye overwhelmed the barley. This was absolutely unique, and that's something I find attractive. Value is part of the recommendation process. At $50.00, that's not obnoxious. But, this is also a 375ml, so in reality, this is a $100.00 bottle comparatively speaking. For me, the return on investment wasn't there. I enjoyed this, I'd enjoy it a lot more if it were less painful on the wallet. I'm giving this one a Bar rating - you should definitely try this for yourself before making the commitment. Cheers!

Update - 5/18/2021:  Grand Traverse reached out to me today after taking my recommendation above to heart. Islay Rye is now available in 750ml packages with a retail price of $68.00. As an added bonus (you're going to love this), it is now a Bottled-in-Bond whiskey! That drives the proof up a full 10 points to 100°, and, moreover, that means a minimum four-year age requirement. All three are big deal issues and I'd be very interested to try this new version, which is now called Isles O Rye

This is one of the reasons I try to provide details in my overall rating, especially with Bar and Bust ratings - to give the distiller a chance to revise and improve.  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 that you do so responsibly.

Monday, September 21, 2020

Ole George 100% Straight Rye Review & Tasting Notes


I'm not all that into backstories. Truth be told, I don't take them at face value. Everyone has a grandpappy's grandpappy who was a moonshiner or distiller, had a secret family recipe that was lost for however many years, and then it was magically found behind an old cabinet that had been passed down from family member to family member, waiting to be resurrected. Or something like that.

So, when I read the story on the back of Ole George and saw the words "Grandpa George" jump out at me, I had to roll my eyes a bit. I discovered the backstory doesn't go back too many generations. There is no talk of secret recipes. Here's what it says:

I grew up on a family farm in Michigan. One day, in the hayloft, I discovered three well-used whiskey jugs. Grandpa George, a Polish immigrant, was putting grain to good use. Fast forward to 2005. We opened Grand Traverse Distillery, Northern Michigan's first craft distillery. We use only local grains. We distill and bottle every spirit we sell. No. shortcuts. Grandpa George would be proud. 

Those words are from Kent Rabish, grandson of George, founder of Grand Traverse Distillery. Ole George is their 100% Straight Rye Whiskey, and that's what I'm reviewing today.

Kent's son, Landis, is the Master Distiller. It is a grain-to-glass operation. The mash starts with, as the label suggests, 100% rye.  95% of it is unmalted, the remainder malted. It is triple-distilled in a copper pot still and then placed in new, charred oak to age. And, while the bottle carries no age statement, we know that means it is at least four years. Interestingly enough, it is bottled at 93° but does not get proofed down. That's right, despite that low number, this is barrel-proof whiskey. It is also non-chill filtered, so you're getting every bit of flavor the whiskey has to offer. A 750ml bottle will set you back about $54.00.

I'd like to thank Grand Traverse Distillery for sending me a sample of Ole George in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Ole George presented as a deep, copper color and was clear, despite being non-chill fitered. It created a thin rim that offered thick, heavy legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Things started off with floral rye, and was joined with cinnamon and oak. Caramel took over, and after some serious exploring, I found sweet fruity notes. When I inhaled through my lips, I tasted black pepper and vanilla - an interesting combination indeed. 

Palate:  This whiskey had a very airy mouthfeel. I don't say that lightly. This was a step above drinking vapor!  Flavors of cocoa, nutmeg, and allspice were the first flavors to hit me. As it moved mid-palate, orange zest, oak, and dense rye bread took over. Then, on the back, a marriage of black pepper and barrel char.

Finish:   The barrel char stuck around in the finish. Clove, smoked oak, and tobacco added to a long-lasting, spicy, smoky completion. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  How on earth you create barrel-proof whiskey offering an almost lighter-than-air mouthfeel eludes me. The smoke quality on the finish should not be confused with peat, it comes from the char. This is wonderfully balanced and interesting. Take into account the mid-tier price for craft whiskey, and Ole George snags my Bottle rating - you'll love this. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It