Showing posts with label Illinois. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Illinois. Show all posts

Monday, March 9, 2020

Whiskey Acres Bottled in Bond Bourbon Review


About 70 miles west of Chicago, in the middle of corn country, exists a little 2,000-acre seed-to-spirit outfit called Whiskey Acres Distilling Company. This was the first estate distillery in Illinois and the second in the nation, meaning the distillery uses only grains grown on its own land, grown by farmers Jim and Jamie Walter and Nick Nagele. It even uses limestone water from the ground beneath those fields. 




They've been distilling, on and off, and farming for five generations going back to (at least) 1897.



Arriving on April 4th is Whiskey Acres's inaugural batch of Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon.  If you're unfamiliar with the term Bottled-in-Bond, it is uniquely American and essentially a consumer protection law.


You see, back in the day (does that make me old?), store owners, rectifiers, and saloon owners wanted their stocks to stretch as much as possible. To accomplish that, they'd add very bad things to their booze. Things like tobacco spit and turpentine. Folks were getting sick (or worse) and wanted some sort of guarantee of quality. Also, as with any government "protection", it involved providing additional tax revenue.


The Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 created the following rules for any spirit carrying the Bottled-in-Bond label:

  • It must be entirely a product of the United States.
  • It must be a product of one distillery by one distiller in a single distilling season (January to June or July to December).
  • It must be aged at least four years in a federally-bonded warehouse.
  • It must be bottled at 100°, and the bottle must state who the distiller is if different than who bottled it.


Let's get back to the Whiskey Acres Bourbon. After distilling from a sweet mash of 75% yellow-dent corn, 15% soft red winter wheat, and 10% malted barley in their hybrid pot still named Flow, the newmake is brought down to an entry proof of 120°, then placed in #3-char, 53-gallon American white oak barrels from Kelvin Cooperage and then left alone to age for at least four years.





I've visited a lot of distilleries in my life, and I've seen some very unusual warehouses. Never have I seen one inside a grain silo! But, this is where the magic happens.






Choosing only seven barrels, the Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon is non-chill-filtered. The distribution will be throughout Illinois, with limited availability in Wisconsin and Nebraska. Retail will be $49.99.  


I'd like to thank Whiskey Acres for providing me with a sample of the Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious and get on with the review.


In my trusty Glencairn glass, this Bourbon appeared as a definitive deep orange. It left a medium rim and fat droplets took a bit to appear before gravity took them down to the pool of liquid sunshine.


The nose was very corn-forward. Oak was there, but nowhere near dominating. A floral perfume was also there, which I found completely unexpected due to a lack of any rye content. I also picked up orange peel and even a hint of peach. When I inhaled through my lips, it was pure vanilla.  


A thin, coating mouthfeel greeted my palate. Like the nose, corn was the first thing noticed. In fact, there was a ton of it. Mid-palate, I tasted both chocolate and cocoa. On the back, a cereal quality from the malted barley was evident and it married with oak, creamy caramel, and pink peppercorn. 


The medium-length finish was dry oak, white pepper, and thick, heavy, dark chocolate. Underneath that was the subtlest suggestion of mint. Overall, the finish was warming but lacked any real burn. There was also no numbing of my hard palate and lips. 


Bottle, Bar or Bust: I enjoyed Whiskey Acres inaugural Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon. It wasn't overly complicated and, despite the 100°, I'd classify it as an easy sipper. One word of warning: because it goes down so easy, that 100° sneaks up on you like an all-encompassing hug from a grandma who also wants to give you a kiss while she's wearing bright pink lipstick. When you take that and consider that $50 is about average for craft whiskey, this becomes an easy Bottle recommendation. 


On a final note, I appreciated this Bourbon so much, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I drove down to the distillery afterward to see it in person and discover what Whiskey Acres was all about. We were shown around by Colby, who did an amazing job as our guide.





The tasting room is about a year old and is inviting. While you're visiting (or waiting for the tour to begin), you can buy a few cocktails. For what it is worth, I highly recommend the Bourbon & Blues.







In all, this was a fun visit and I'm glad we made the drive. Sipping whiskey is great (obviously), but visiting distilleries and meeting some of the folks involved is always a blast. Do it whenever you can. Cheers!



Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey Alternative Review


I don't even have to say anything. I already know what some of you are thinking after just seeing the photo:  This Whiskeyfellow character is off his rocker! or Who the heck cares about a whiskey alternative?  For that matter, What is a whiskey alternative?




The very short answer to the final question is it is a non-alcoholic beverage meant to mimic whiskey. There's a rhyme to the reason of my reviewing a synthetic whiskey. First of all, there's the whole #DrinkCurious lifestyle. Second of all, some of us partake in Dry Januarys or Dry Weeks. Or, maybe we're on some medication and can't drink, or we're a designated driver but we want to enjoy a "drink" without impairment. Or, if the horrible thing happens, something comes up where we have to give up alcohol. Egad, that last thought just gave me the heebie-jeebies!





Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey Alternative is what I'm working with today, and this review is going to be different than others. I've already been warned by Ritual that a whiskey connoisseur won't be fooled into thinking it was real whiskey. If you look at the label, it also states Ritual Zero Proof is meant to be mixed in cocktails. The packaging even suggests cocktail recipes. And, that's exactly what I'm going to do - make one of their suggested cocktails - after I do a small neat pour.





But, I won't end the trial there. I'm going to put that cocktail up head-to-head with the exact same recipe, just substituting real whiskey for the whiskey alternative.





Before I get started, I need to provide you with some background on the Ritual whiskey alternative. It is made with some pretty simple ingredients:  filtered water, invert sugar, natural flavors, xanthan gum, citric acid, sodium benzoate, and potassium sorbate. That's it. A 1.5oz pour costs you an entire ten calories. It is also gluten-free. One caveat is that once opened, you have six months to finish the bottle or it needs to be disposed of. Retail is about $25 and you can even buy it off Amazon. Finally, there's no math to do when figuring things out. Ritual suggests a 1:1 swap-out on the real thing.





I'd like to thank Ritual for providing me with a sample of the Zero Alcohol Whiskey Alternative in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review.





For the first part of this review, I'm going the standard route and will sip this from my trusty Glencairn glass.



In my glass, Ritual Zero Proof appears as a cloudy amber, almost like a common beer. It didn't leave any sort of rim on the wall but did leave behind some globby droplets on the side of the glass. 




Barrel char and wintergreen fragrances smacked me in the face. There was also a definitive medicinal aroma along with green pepper. When I inhaled through my lips, it was all green pepper. 





It had a very watery mouthfeel. I'm going to stop this right now for a segway. I do not like green peppers. I pick them out of anything I ever find them in. Well, if green peppers are your thing, you're going to be in absolute heaven. Once I got past the palate shock, I was able to discern other things. I found green peppercorn (not to be confused with green peppers), and then a sour flavor I couldn't nail down.





The finish was long-lasting green peppercorn and char. By long-lasting, I mean it just sat there, it didn't build, it didn't fade, but it went on for many minutes.





For the next part, I'm going to make two Old Fashioneds:  One with Ritual whiskey alternative and the other with JW Dant Bottled in Bond Bourbon. They will be otherwise identical in every way, including using the same kind and design of glass. To make this simple Old Fashioned with Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters, Stirrings Simple Syrup, and Traverse City Whiskey Company's Premium Cocktail Cherries. On a side note, those cherries happen to be the best of any cocktail cherries I've ever had. Ever.




The recipe is easy:  2oz Ritual whiskey alternative, 1oz simple syrup, 2 dashes orange bitters, and garnish with a cherry. I may modify this with several cherries - they're so fantastic.




Because I do not want to give an unfair advantage to either cocktail, I'm even using identical cocktail glasses. I went as far as to use the same cocktail stirrers, one in each, so as to not contaminate one with the other.




So, how did these Old Fashioneds taste?  I could absolutely tell the difference between the two. But, in all honesty, that was expected. The Ritual wasn't bad at all and was, in fact, completely drinkable. I would have guessed it to be an Old Fashioned made with something from a bar's well draw.  I've had similar in my life many times over.





Bottle, Bar or Bust:  As a whiskey drinker expecting whiskey, this is an easy Bust. Drinking it neat, again, an easy Bust. However, this isn't whiskey and it wasn't meant to be drunk neat, this is supposed to give some semblance of whiskey for folks who aren't drinking whiskey. For my Pseudo-Old Fashioned, I think this passes the test. In a highly unusual move, I'm giving it a Bottle rating for performing as advertised. 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!