Showing posts with label Iowa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Iowa. Show all posts

Monday, November 28, 2022

Templeton Rye Stout Cask Finish Review & Tasting Notes

 


Templeton Rye. If you had asked me a handful of years ago, I would have stated, ‘Nuff said. The statement had nothing in the world to do with how the quality of the whiskey it produced. In 2014, the brand had some legal snafus that I won’t rehash. The brand has since been sold and acquired by Infinium Spirits, and I’m satisfied that the subject of those claims has since been remedied.

 

Templeton Rye is located in Templeton, Iowa, a tiny town outside Carroll. I’ve been to Carroll many times. I’ve visited the distillery they built in 2018, which is a gorgeous, modern facility. Part of their tour involves going through its famous bootlegging history. They’ve put a lot of money and effort into the presentation, which is well worth a visit. I was stunned by how creative those bootleggers of the day were (and how the entire town was in on fooling the revenuers).

 

For the last four years, Templeton has released a Barrel Finish Series. As the name implies, the distillery takes its signature rye whiskey and finishes it in various vintage barrels. For 2022, it is the Stout Cask Finish, which involved taking its six-year 95% rye/5% malted barley whiskey sourced from MGP of Indiana (now called Ross & Squibb), and then placed in Imperial stout barrels for an additional three months.

 

“This year, our Stout Cask Finish expression provides a fresh perspective and has proven disruptive within our Barrel Finish Series, mixing subtle coffee tones with rye pepper and spice. This new-to-market release is sure to elevate any classic cocktail.” – Blair Woodall, Senior Vice President/General Manager

 

I don’t partake in beer, and I describe myself as beer-stupid. Any mention of beer-influenced whiskey requires me to research. According to draftmag.com:

 

“Imperial stout, widely known as Russian imperial stout, is a strong and rich dark beer. Enthusiasts call this beer a history lesson in a bottle because there’s a rather interesting story behind the imperial stout. […] The story behind imperial stouts is usually traced back to a request made by Peter the Great. In 1698, when Peter the Great visited England from Russia, he is said to have tasted a black beverage called stout. He liked it so much that he had some sent to the court after returning to Russia.

 

However, the brewers realized that the stout was getting damaged during the journey, so they added more hops and alcohol to keep it fresh. The exact stout that Peter the Great drank in England is not known, but this was the beginning of the emergence of dark beer.”

 

Stout Cask Finish is bottled at 46% ABV (92°) and is available in limited quantities in both the US and EU. If I took a wild stab in the dark, I’d assume it is easier to obtain in Iowa than anywhere else. The suggested retail is $54.99 for a 750ml package.

 

Before I get going on the #DrinkCurious thing, I must thank Templeton Rye for providing me with a sample of Stout Cask Finish in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

 

Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this whiskey appeared as bold caramel. It formed a thicker rim that generated slow, sticky tears.

 

Nose: An aroma of chocolate, toasted oak, and malted barley melded with caramel and fig. Cocoa powder stuck to my tongue when I drew that air into my mouth.

 

Palate: Stout Cask Finish had a rich, creamy texture that coated everywhere. At the front of my palate, I tasted cocoa powder, roasted almond, and vanilla cream. Midway through the sipping experience, I discovered dried figs and apricots, while on the back, there was ginger, dry oak, and roasted coffee.

 

Finish: The long, spicy finish consisted of ginger, dry cocoa, and roasted coffee.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I said, I’m not a beer drinker, and as such, I can’t tell you how much Templeton’s Stout Cask Finish reflects what you might expect. However, I can comment on my own experience with this Rye.

 

Stout Cask Finish carries a decent thump despite being only 92°. By that, I don’t allude to burn or heat. It was potent. I found the blend of cocoa, nut, and ginger spice pleasant. Incidentally, I was at a cousin’s house when I sampled this whiskey; she is a big stout fan.  I let her taste it, and she couldn’t stop talking about how much she savored this.

 

The $54.99 investment isn’t out of line and is on the lower end for many limited-run American “craft” whiskeys. Taking everything into account, I’m giving Stout Cask Finish my coveted Bottle rating. 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 you do so responsibly.

 


Saturday, June 25, 2022

5280 Whiskey Society American Single Malt Whiskey Event

 


When I came out to Denver, I wasn’t expecting to do much that was whiskey-related. However, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I were unexpectedly invited by Ryan Negley of Boulder Spirits and the 5280 Whiskey Society to attend an American Single Malt Whiskey tasting event. It was held at Bacon Social House of Littleton (a south Denver suburb). This was a true #DrinkCurious event!

 

First, there was a buffet dinner, including Kobe beef hotdogs, pulled pork sliders, potato and chili bar, and tater tots. That was, of course, to get everyone’s body prepped for the whiskey. Not just a pour or two, but eleven different selections from six distilleries! Each gave some background of their distillery and what makes them unique in the market.

 

From Stranahan’s, we tasted Diamond Peak, a 90° limited-edition whiskey partially aged in former Bushmill’s casks, and a 10-year Mountain Angel, packaged at 94.6°. Then, to surprise everyone, the 2021 edition of Snowflake, a nearly impossible-to-obtain whiskey, was poured. Snowflake is 94° and aged two years before finishing in wine, sherry, tequila, rum, and cognac casks.




From Cedar Ridge Distillery, we had The QuintEssential, which was my runner-up for the Best American Whiskey of 2021. It is a 92° non-age-stated whiskey.




Boulder Spirits offered its flagship Single Malt, then a pour of its Sherry Cask Finish.  I had my fingers crossed the Peated version (the whiskey that beat out The QuintEssential) would be poured, but that didn’t happen. The flagship is aged at least three years and weighed in at 92°, while the Sherry Cask added a nine-month finishing process.




Next up was Deerhammer Distillery, which was likely the most unusual of the bunch. There was a Single Barrel Single Malt, packaged at 86°, and a Port Cask Finish at 100°. The Port added a definitive chocolate note to the expresso flavor of the flagship Single Malt. Neither were age-stated.




Westland Whiskey presented its flagship Single Malt, followed by Colere Edition 2 from its Outpost Range, made from two-row Talisman barley. The flagship was 92° and carried a 40-month age statement, while the Colere, a very limited edition whiskey, has a minimum maturation of four years and 357 days. It weighed in at 100°.




Finally, Old Line Spirits served up its flagship Single Malt and a cask-strength version of that whiskey. The flagship rested in oak for two years and was bottled at 86°, while the cask strength was 124.4°.  




The Bacon Social House was an eclectic, fun atmosphere, and the food was delicious. The panel made things fun and even interacted with the Stanley Cup game broadcasted on various televisions. The whiskeys were tasty, and no two were alike, even the ones from the same distilleries. Did I have a favorite? Duh! Will I say what it was? Nope. But I’ll say this was an enjoyable evening, and I am grateful for being invited. Thank you again, 5280 Whiskey Society and Boulder Spirits.

 

Cheers!




Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.

Monday, January 17, 2022

Cedar Ridge Double Barrel Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery is a grain-to-glass craft distillery located in Swisher, Iowa. Founded in 2005 by Jeff Quint, Cedar Ridge is the first Iowa-licensed distillery since Prohibition. He came from a long line of farmers, and he began his operation to realize that it was time for Iowa to earn its way onto the Bourbon distilling map.

 

"Fine craftsmanship is a true reflection of Iowa’s mentality of doing the best with what nature gives them. No temperature control aging, minimal waste, and that Midwest resourcefulness put production first, favoring quality over quantity." - Cedar Ridge Distillery

 

Double Barrel Bourbon was distilled from Cedar Ridge’s standard 74% Iowa-grown corn, 14% malted rye, and 12% two-row malted barley recipe. While it carries no age statement, the regular Bourbon is aged three years. Once fully matured, it is then dumped and poured into a new, charred oak barrel for an undisclosed time. It is a limited-release Bourbon available in Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Minnesota, and you can expect to pay about $49.99 for a 750ml package.  Cedar Ridge plans to make this an annual limited release.

 

I want to thank Cedar Ridge for providing a sample of Double Barrel Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, I’ll #DrinkCurious to see how Cedar Ridge did with this whiskey.

 

Appearance:  I drank this neat in my Glencairn glass. It presented as rich caramel color. I gave my glass a gentle swirl, and it formed a thinner rim with fast, medium-thick tears that fell back to the pool.

 

Nose: The first aroma that hit was root beer, which was interesting. I also found clove, oak, vanilla, and berries. When I took the air into my mouth, I discovered more root beer.

 

Palate: The mouthfeel was warm and oily. I tasted caramel, corn, and vanilla cream on the front of my tongue. The middle featured cola, raw almonds, and nutmeg. On the back, I picked up butterscotch, clove, and smoke.

 

Finish: The duration ran between medium and long and consisted of charred oak (lots of charred oak), black pepper, clove, butterscotch, and root beer.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This pour was unusual and kept my attention as I tried to figure out what was happening in my mouth. The first sip was oak-heavy, but subsequent ones toned down. The root beer was fascinating because it is an uncommon note. It is a limited-edition, higher-proofed craft Bourbon and provides a ton of bang for the buck. I enjoyed Double Barrel Bourbon immensely and believe you will, too. A Bottle rating all the way. 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 you do so responsibly.

 


 

Monday, January 10, 2022

Cedar Ridge Bottled-in-Bond Rye Review & Tasting Notes


I’m no stranger to Bottle-in-Bond whiskeys. After all, it is my favorite genre of American whiskey. Bonded whiskey is fantastic because it carries certain guarantees that others don’t. The whole Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 came about because unsavory people did unpleasant things with whiskey before selling it to the public. Sometimes turpentine was added. Sometimes tobacco spit. Sometimes, who knows what. People were getting sick and dying because of the impurities in the whiskey. The result was a consumer protection law enacted by Congress.

 

The law requires several things. First and foremost, it must be 100% a product of the United States. A single distiller must distill it at a single distillery during one distillation season (January to June or July to December). It must age a minimum of four years in a federally-bonded warehouse, must be bottled at precisely 100°, and must state on the label who distilled it. Any deviations preclude the whiskey from being bonded.

 

I’m also no stranger to Cedar Ridge Distillery out of Swisher, Iowa. I’ve reviewed a handful of its whiskeys, sometimes carrying its own label, sometimes that of an independent bottler. The distillery has earned an overall good reputation with me, and as such, when they send me something new to try, I’m eager to get to it.
 

Distilled from a mash of 85% rye, 12% corn, and 3% malted barley, Cedar Ridge Bottled-in-Bond Rye carries no age statement and is bottled at an unsurprising 100°. The distillery states it is a seasonal release and intends to be ready every November.   Distribution is limited to Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Missouri. You can expect to spend about $50.00 for a  750ml package.

 

Before I get to my tasting notes, I’d like to take a moment and thank Cedar Ridge for providing me a sample of this whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s #DrinkCurious and see how it fares.

 

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this bonded Rye presented as reddish-amber. It formed a medium rim and slow, thick legs.

 

Nose: The first aroma to hit my nose was soft cedar. It was joined by cherry cola, bubble gum, vanilla, and floral rye. When I took the air into my mouth, that cherry cola intensified.

 

Palate:  I discovered a soft, airy mouthfeel. Flavors of toasted oak, salted caramel, and vanilla began the journey. In tow were bubble gum and cherry cola. The back featured cinnamon, caramel, and tobacco leaf.

 

Finish:  Things were on the dry side with cinnamon powder, pink peppercorn, tobacco leaf, toasted oak, and sassafras. It had a medium-length duration.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Your average craft whiskey runs about $50.00. I found this one tasted above average. The finish was atypical, especially that sassafras note, and the whole thing left a smile on my face. That’s worth a Bottle rating to me. 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 you do so responsibly.


 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Lost Lantern 2001 Fall Release #1 (Cedar Ridge) American Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes


Back in June, I had an opportunity to try The QuintEssential American Single Malt from Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery in Swisher, Iowa. It is one of my favorite things I’ve tasted in 2021. When Lost Lantern announced its Fall 2021 Single Cask collection and I found out Cedar Ridge’s American Single Malt was one of the whiskeys, I wanted one – badly.  

 

"The best whiskey reflects its origins, its craftsmanship, its ingredients, and its distillers. Inspired by the long tradition of independent bottlers in Scotland, Lost Lantern is a new, independent bottler of American whiskey. The company seeks out the most unique and exciting whiskeys being made all across the country and releases them as single casks and blends, always with a deep commitment to transparency." - Lost Lantern

 

Founded in 2018 by Nora Ganley-Roper of Astor Wine & Spirits and Adam Polonski of Whisky Advocate, the duo is committed to releasing whiskeys from distilleries they've personally visited. Nora handles production and operations, and Adam takes care of marketing, sales, and sourcing. Currently, Lost Lantern's whiskeys can be purchased from LostLanternWhiskey.com or Seelbachs.com

 

Cask 1 is the Cedar Ridge American Single Malt aged two years in 53-gallon, new, American oak coopered at Independent Stave Company, and then finished another two years in 500-liter Jerez Sherry casks. The total yield was 555 bottles and packaged at 115.3°. Retail is approximately $110.00.

 

How does the sherry cask finish affect the standard single malt?  The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious. But, before I do, I’d like to thank Lost Lantern for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

 

Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this American Single Malt presented as the color of caramel. It formed a thin rim that yielded husky, lightning-fast legs that crashed back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

 

Nose: The bouquet from the glass was sweet and overflowing with caramel, raisin, apricot, pear, and chocolate. When I drew the air into my mouth, it was as if I took a bite from a prune.

 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin, slick, and oily, and led to my front palate picking out raisin, fig, apricot, and honey. It moved to the middle as prune and cocoa. The back became warm and spicy with black pepper, oak, chocolate, and the slightest appearance of date.

 

Finish:  The finish was long-lasting and made it abundantly clear it was a high-proof whiskey. My palate, which is used to things with a much higher ABV content, numbed quickly. Black pepper, raisin, fig, dark chocolate, and bone-dry oak rounded it out.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Cedar Ridge makes an incredibly delicious American Single Malt. When you add a sherry cask finish to the mix, well, that just opened up a whole new dimension. Yes, it was a bit hot, but that didn’t take away from the experience. Is it worth $110.00 for a 750ml bottle? I’m not completely convinced. It blurs somewhere between a Bottle and Bar, and when that happens, I always opt for some wiggle room. Bar it is. 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 you do so responsibly.

 


 

Saturday, November 6, 2021

Obtainium 16-year "Dracarys" Light Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

 


I’ve reviewed several barrels of Obtainium Light Whiskey in the past. Some were excellent, one or two could better be described as a hot mess. So, when the Lake Country Bottle Club requested I review their barrel pick in conjunction with the Bottle Shop of Grafton, I was open to the adventure.

 

If you’re unfamiliar with the Obtainium label, that comes from Cat’s Eye in Bettendorf, Iowa. Cat’s Eye sources and blends whiskeys from various sources. In the case of its Light Whiskeys, those come from MGP. Except MGP wasn’t called MGP when this whiskey was distilled. It was working under the name of Lawrenceburg Distillers, LLC (LDI). Except, LDI wasn’t called LDI when this whiskey was distilled. Instead, it was Seagram’s.

 

Barrel SC-00191 was distilled May 3, 2005, when light whiskey had already fallen out of favor and rested 16 years in vintage, charred oak barrels until dumped on June 9, 2021. The Lake Country Bottle Club named this one Dracarys, the word Daenerys used to summon her dragons to breathe fire in Game of Thrones. It weighs in at a very hefty 140.6°, and is sold out at The Bottle Shop of Grafton. A 375ml was $34.99 and a 750ml was $54.99.

 


 

Before I get to the verdict, I’d like to thank Lake Country Bottle Club for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now I’ll #DrinkCurious to see what this fire-breather is all about. 

 

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Dracarys presented as the color of bronze amber. It made a sticky, medium-weighted rim that formed long, slow legs.

 

Nose:  At 140.6°, you’d expect this to punch the nose so hard it would draw blood. Nope, that didn’t happen. In fact, I struggled to pick up any ethanol whatsoever. It was a soft aroma that included cinnamon, nutmeg, toffee, vanilla, and lightly toasted oak. When I pulled the air into my mouth, I discovered crème de menthe.

 

Palate:  At 140.6°, you’d expect this to burn the hell out of your palate. Nope, that didn’t happen, either. The front palate featured caramel, chocolate, and nutmeg. The middle was all leather. Then, on the back, I tasted cinnamon, clove, mint, and oak.

 

Finish:  At 140.6°, you’d expect this to set fire to your throat. Nope, that didn’t happen.  Instead, flavors of caramel, chocolate, cinnamon spice, clove, and old leather came through.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’ve had several Haz-Mat whiskeys before, but I don’t believe any has ever drunk this far below proof. Could it pass for 100° or 110°?  Certainly. It was a pleasant surprise for sure. The nose and palate were well-balanced despite the single leather note on the middle. Dracarys is tasty, and I’m happy to crown a Bottle rating on it. 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 you do so responsibly.

 


Friday, October 22, 2021

Cody Road Bourbon Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

 


I've had some decent luck with Iowa distilleries. Forgetting the obvious one everyone has heard of, some of the others have been excellent. One may have even distilled something that has earned serious consideration for my Whiskey of the Year


Mississippi River Distilling Company is located in Le Claire, Iowa, which is literally on the banks of the Mississippi River. Established in 2010 by brothers Ryan and Garrett Burchett, it is a grain-to-glass distillery that utilizes a hand-made German still built by Kothe Distilling Technologies. They lovingly call the still "Rose."


"The still consists of a handmade German boiling pot and two tall copper rectification columns. Those columns house distillation plates that allow us to distill the purest vodka up to 95% alcohol. We can also turn off some or all of those plates to make whiskey in a traditional pot still fashion or anything in between. It gives us the flexibility to be as creative as we want to be with our distillates. We have affectionately named her 'Rose' as she has the curves of a beautiful woman and is the true 'River Rose' at our distillery." - Mississippi River Distilling Company


Its line of whiskeys is called Cody Road, named for the road it is located on. Today I'm sampling its standard Cody Road Bourbon, made from a mash of 70% locally-grown corn, 20% wheat from Reynolds, Illinois, and 10% unmalted barley from Davenport, Iowa. Once run through Rose, it aged "over two years" in 30-gallon new, charred oak barrels. It is bottled at 90° and a 750ml will set you back about $33.49.  As you can see from the photo, I picked up a 50ml at a random liquor store run.


So, how was Cody Road Bourbon? I'll #DrinkCurious and tell you more...


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Cody Road was the color of caramel. It formed a heavy rim with slow, fat legs.


Nose:  This put off a huge bouquet of apple and corn. Hidden beneath were caramel and nutmeg. All those aromas were shoved aside by sawdust. When I took the air into my mouth, I discovered sweet corn.


Palate:  The mouthfeel started thin but grew into a medium body. This was seriously corn-forward, which was joined by dusty cocoa powder. The middle offered light berry fruit and unmistakeable barley. The flavors on the back were oak, tobacco, and clove. 


Finish:  The sawdust was challenging to get past. Tobacco leaf and clove struggled to get through, and the barley flavor soon eclipsed them all. It ended with both dry wood and the return of that sawdust. The finish was medium in length and warming without a burn.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The problem with using smaller cooperage is that it is almost always obvious smaller cooperage is involved. That sawdust smell and flavor are dead giveaways. This isn't to suggest that smaller cooperage can't lead to very good whiskey, because Lord knows I've certainly given my fair share of Bottle ratings to whiskeys aged that way. Unfortunately, Cody Road isn't in that realm. There are a few things that would likely improve the experience:  Let this age another year in the smaller cooperage, switch over to 53-gallon cooperage, or blend malted barley in with the unmalted barley like the Irish and Scots to reduce some of the punch.


While I commend the Burchetts for thinking outside the box, it just isn't enough to save Cody Road Bourbon from a Bust rating. 


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 you do so responsibly.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Cedar Ridge The QuintEssential American Single Malt Review & Tasting Notes

 


I've been drinking several American Single Malts the last few years. They're all over the place, partially due to distiller experience, venue, type of barley used, and the fact that this is a completely unregulated category, so distillers can pretty much do whatever they want, attempting various aging methods, casks, etc. They're allowed to call their whiskey a Single Malt even if the malts come from different locations.


The Quint family at Cedar Ridge Winery & Distillery has been involved in the distilling business for nine generations. The Master Distiller, Jeff Quint, and his son, Murphy, the Head Distiller, have been long-time fans of Scotch whiskey and collaborated to create their own Single Malt, called The QuintEssential. Murphy learned how to distill from the folks at Stranahan's in Colorado. 


The QuintEssential starts with two-row barley imported from Canada. That barley then gets split between a peated and non-peated germination process. The peated portion's distillate goes through an aging process of between four to five years in former Cedar Ridge Bourbon barrels. The unpeated goes through a two-step process:  the first is aged in former Cedar Ridge Bourbon barrels for two to three years, and then finished in former rum, port, brandy, sherry, and wine barrels. Then, both are married in Cedar Ridge's solera system.  Entry proof is 120°, and the end result is a 92° bottling that retails for about $59.99.


“It’s during these two cask treatment phases that the whiskey develops its complexity and richness, and by never emptying the solera beyond the halfway mark, we gain a consistent complexity you can’t get from single barrels.” - Master Distiller Jeff Quint


How did Jeff and Murphy do? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious. But, before I do, I'd like to thank Cedar Ridge for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. 


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, The QuintEssential presented as pale gold in color. It created a thicker-than-expected rim on the wall which formed fat droplets. Those droplets grew until they became too heavy to sustain their weight and then fell back into the pool.


Nose:  I could swear the first thing I sniffed was fresh apple pie, including the filling, cinnamon, nutmeg, and crust. There was also a chocolate-covered cherry on top. When I pulled the vapor through my open lips, stewed peaches caressed my tongue.


Palate:  Offering a medium body, The QuintEssential started with creamy vanilla, peach, and raisin bread. That transformed to pear, caramel, and molasses on the middle. The back suggested brown sugar, cherry, and oak.


Finish:  Out of nowhere came the peat. It wasn't overwhelming, it was light and sweet. Dry oak followed, with molasses and chocolate. This finish was one that built its way into a long, satisfying experience.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The QuintEssential is a standout. I wish more American distilleries tinkered with peat. This American Single Malt is a great introduction to it because the peat is understated compared to the rest of this whiskey. I loved the fruitiness, I enjoyed the complexity, and I wish I could find something to complain about, but I can't. Even the price is attractive. This is what American Single Malt should be, and a slam-dunk Bottle rating. 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 you do so responsibly.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Lost Lantern American Vatted Malt, Cedar Ridge Bourbon, and Balcones Bourbon Reviews & Tasting Notes

 


Independent bottling is not something overly common with American whiskey. Oh, it is obtusely, but you don't really hear about it in the same terms as you do with, say, Scotch. In theory, folks who source whiskey from others and put their own label on it might be considered independent bottlers. But, few actually try to claim their niche as an independent bottler.


Then, there's Lost Lantern. You've never heard of them? Well, until very recently, neither had I. In its own words:


"The best whiskey reflects its origins, its craftsmanship, its ingredients, and its distillers. Inspired by the long tradition of independent bottlers in Scotland, Lost Lantern is a new, independent bottler of American whiskey. The company seeks out the most unique and exciting whiskeys being made all across the country and releases them as single casks and blends, always with a deep commitment to transparency." - Lost Lantern


Founded in 2018 by Nora Ganley-Roper of Astor Wine & Spirits and Adam Polonski of Whisky Advocate, the duo is committed to releasing whiskeys from distilleries they've personally visited. Nora handles production and operations, and Adam takes care of marketing, sales, and sourcing. Currently, Lost Lantern's whiskeys can be purchased from LostLanternWhiskey.com or Seelbachs.com


One thing that I'm passionate about is transparency. I respect that some things have to be held close to the vest. However, when distilleries lay most or all of their cards on the table, that gets exciting. The fact that Lost Lantern is also big on transparency is much appreciated.


Today I have an opportunity to explore three of Lost Lantern's whiskeys:  American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1, Single Cask #2 Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon, and Single Cask #8 Balcones Straight Bourbon. This opportunity is due to Lost Lantern's kindness in providing me samples of each in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. 


This will be a three-part review process. Up first is the American Vatted Malt.


Lost Lantern American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1




I've come to appreciate the American Single Malt category. Back in its infancy, I can say I was pretty pessimistic about its future. They seemed hard, rough, and lacking as compared to single malts from around the world. However, the category has matured, and distillers have figured out the magic behind distilling malted barley.


"[It] is one of the first blends of single malts ever made in the United States ... We brought together the founders and distillers behind some of the country's most distinctive single malts, all of whom hand-selected the barrels for this unique blend. Over the course of a single marathon day, we worked, tasted, and blended together. The result was this unique and special blend." - Lost Lantern


In the end, Lost Lantern wound up blending twelve barrels from Balcones (Texas), Copperworks (Washington), Santa Fe Spirits (New Mexico), Triple Eight (Massachusetts), Westward (Oregon), and Virginia Distillery Co. (Virginia).  When I saw the list of participants, my curiosity was piqued. I've tried whiskeys from several of those distilleries, they're unique in their own rights, and couldn't imagine what I was about to try. 


Aged for two years and packaged at 105°, naturally colored, and non-chill-filtered, American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1 has a suggested retail price of $120.00.  There were 3000 bottles produced. 


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this malt presented as the color of a deep copper. It produced a thick rim with heavy, fat legs that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Fruity aromas of plum, raisin and orange peel married caramel. I could imagine sherry casks being used. When I took the vapor into my mouth, I picked out citrus and milk chocolate.


Palate:  A medium-bodied, quite oily mouthfeel greeted the tasting experience. On the front, I found milk chocolate, malt, and brown sugar. The middle consisted of salted caramel and apple pie filling. Orange, charred oak, molasses, and nutmeg created the back.


Finish:  Long-lasting and continually building, flavors of barbeque smoke and barrel char yielded to nutmeg and salted caramel. Black pepper refused to give up for several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is one unique whiskey and also a bit of a curiosity. At one end, there is a two-year age statement, and at the other, the $120 price. This isn't unheard of: one of the more famous brands, Compass Box, works this formula of young blends with impressive price tags regularly and has been successful. I found American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1 flavorful, drinks way under its stated proof, unusual in a good way, and while I still think this is pricy, I believe this one is worth picking up and crown it with my Bottle rating. 


Single Cask 2:  Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon




Next up is Single Cask #2: Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon. This is the first Bourbon cask for Lost Lantern. I've reviewed the 86° standard release and found it enjoyable. This one is different - it is a single barrel Bourbon and bottled at its cask strength of 120.5°. Similar to the standard version, it started with a mash of 74% corn, 14% malted rye, and 12% two-row malted barley, then rested three years through the harsh summers and winters of Iowa, where it experienced, on average, 18% angel's share loss. Lost Lantern's release produced 213 bottles and carries an $87.00 price. It is non-chill-filtered and naturally colored.


Appearance:  Tasted neat in my Glencairn glass, this Cedar Ridge cask was the color of dark amber. A thin rim gave way to slow, husky legs that fell back to the pool. 


Nose:  Corn-forward, it was joined by candy corn, toasted oak, and cinnamon. When I breathed in through my mouth, bubble gum shot across my tongue.


Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be thin and oily, and the front was strictly corn. That bubble gum quality showed up at mid-palate and was joined by caramel for a very different affair. The back quickly warmed with toasted oak, rye spice, and black pepper.


Finish:  The Cedar Ridge cask had a freight-train finish, meaning it just wouldn't quit. It rode on (again) bubble gum and black pepper, and introduced cinnamon Red Hots. I'd estimate I got almost ten minutes out of the finish before either it fell off or my palate just said, "I give up."


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This one drank at least at its stated proof, it not hotter. Bubble gum is not something I come across regularly, so when I do, it is an attention-getter. When caramel was tossed into the equation, it strangely made sense, although I'd never think of mixing the two. I've seen other Cedar Ridge single barrels run at about $60.00 or so, and the Cedar Ridge Single Barrel  Collection cask-strength bottles retail at $69.00. This is where my hang-up happens because while this was definitely worth drinking, I don't see an additional $20.00 in value, and as such earns a Bar rating. 



Single Cask 8:  Balcones Straight Bourbon




Finally, I'm sampling Single Cask #8: Balcones Straight Bourbon.  Texas whiskey can be polarizing. There are folks who love and swear by it, and there are others who won't take a second sip of anything out of The Lone Star State. I can count on one hand and have fingers left over for Texas whiskeys I'd recommend. But that #DrinkCurious lifestyle encourages me to try them all, just like anything else.


Founded in 2009, Balcones Distilling hails from Waco. It is a grain-to-glass distillery that creates atypical whiskeys. In this case, the Bourbon comes from a mash of 100% Texas-grown roasted blue corn, then aged in 60-gallon new American oak barrels for two years in the formidable Texas heat. Non-chill-filtered and naturally colored, it was bottled at 126.8° with a suggested retail price of $90.00. Only 199 bottles came from the barrel. 


Appearance:  Experienced neat in my Glencairn glass, this Balcones cask was the color of dark caramel. A medium ring led to big, heavy legs that crawled back to the pool.


Nose:  I could smell this whiskey from across the room. It wasn't bad, rather, it was luxurious. Thick, rich caramel made me smile. That was joined by plum. It delivered a Wow! factor that you don't come across too often in whiskeys. As I drew the aroma into my mouth, it was like biting into a Heath bar. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel was Texas sweet crude. It may be the oiliest feel I've experienced. There was also something meaty about the palate. The front featured cumin, brown sugar, and liquid smoke. Coffee and dark cacao were on the middle, while the back consisted of paprika, oak, and tobacco leaf. 


Finish: A medium finish offered coffee, cinnamon, barrel char, and black pepper. It grew spicier and smokier as I waited and then it just vanished. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Balcones single barrel was unusual. It started off drinking under its stated proof. But, as the finish came along, that turned around and I had no doubt it was at least 126°. The latter is what I usually experience with Texas whiskey. The nose, despite the few notes, was stupendous. The palate was warming and a good blend of sweet and spicy notes. The liquid smoke threw me for a bit of a loop. The finish was hot but not overwhelming. Lost Lantern's selection was a good one, and I'm giving this Texas whiskey my Bottle rating. 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.