- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
American whiskey... what is it, exactly? The definition is vague and broad. Essentially, it is whiskey distilled in the United States from fermented cereal grains. It could include bourbon, rye, Tennessee whisky, corn whiskey, moonshine, single malt, light whiskey, or the blending of some or all those listed.
When I come across an American whiskey that I'm unfamiliar with, I assume it is not bourbon, rye, or Tennessee whisky. Those incarnations tend to brag about what they have. Single malt is starting to get that way, too.
As I was presented with an opportunity to review Hooten Young American Whiskey, I had no idea what to expect. What Hooten Young presented seemed straightforward and, to my great pleasure, transparent.
"Hooten Young was founded by former Special Operations Soldier, Master Sgt. Norm Hooten and Tim Young. Created as a brotherhood bonded by the love of freedom, family, and honor, Hooten Young is a tribute to the brave men and women of the armed forces who have gone above and beyond the call of duty." - Hooten Young
If the name Norm "Hoot" Hooten seems strangely familiar, he was portrayed by Eric Baca in the 2001 movie, Black Hawk Down.
Hooten Young is a 12-year whiskey sourced from MGP. It started as a mash of 99% corn and 1% malted barley and distilled at 189° before aged at 140° in second-fill barrels. If you consider all that, it becomes obvious this is a light whiskey.
The barrels were discovered by Master Sommelier George Miliotes, one of just 268 Master Sommeliers in the world. He educates and curates wines and spirits, and owns Wine Bar George at Orlando's Walt Disney World Resort.
Hooten Young is bottled at 92° and a 750ml package will set you back about $64.99. Distribution is in Florida, Colorado, Louisiana, Texas, and Kansas. As expected, you can order it online from various retailers.
Before I get to the tasting notes and rating, I'd like to take a moment and thank Hooten Young for providing a sample of their whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. I've reviewed several MGP light whiskeys, some are very tasty, others are a hot mess. Let's see where Hooten Young falls on the scale and #DrinkCurious.
Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Hooten Young was the color of gold straw. It provided a slim rim but yielded a curtain of husky, fat tears that dropped back to the pool.
Nose: The nose was soft and easy with candied corn and toasted marshmallow. As I drew the vapor into my mouth, I picked out vanilla.
Palate: The mouthfeel was thin-bodied, and the palate was fairly simple. On the front, I tasted caramel and brown sugar. Mid-palate featured marshmallow fluff and crisp apple. The back offered roasted corn and cherry cola.
Finish: Long and warming, Hooten Young was slightly numbing that reminded me of Mr. Pibb. When it fell off, I could swear I had freshly-charred marshmallows on a stick at a campfire in my mouth.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: This was not like other Light Whiskeys that I've had, and perhaps that's the influence of the lower proof. I liked the simplicity of the nose and palate. The charred marshmallow at the very end was a treat. I enjoyed what I smelled and tasted. I appreciate that Hooten Young is a dozen years old, and having one of 268 Master Sommeliers "discover" it is a fun backstory. I would have a tough time paying $65.00 for it, especially when there are several similarly-aged (and older) MGP light whiskeys bottled at barrel proof for about the same price out there. I give Hooten Young kudos for providing something lovely, but unless the price comes down, I'm recommending you try this at a Bar first. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
Have you heard the news? Barrell Craft Spirits has launched a new brand called Stellum Spirits. Stellum's mission is to be clean, straightforward, and polished. The name comes from a play on the Latin term stella, meaning star. Barrell will also tell you the name just sounded cool.
"Stellum stands with the modern American whiskey drinker. We respect the history of whiskey, but we're more interested in making spirits accessible to today's audience. With an eye towards innovation, minimalism, and inclusivity, Stellum Spirits is here for you, whoever you may be." - Stellum Spirits
One of the "cool" things about Stellum Bourbon is how it is made. It begins with a blend of three MGP mashbills: two that are high rye (60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley), and one that is 99% corn and 1% malted barley. The remainder consists of older whiskeys from Tennessee (George Dickel) and Kentucky (an undisclosed distillery). Stellum uses a multi-step blending process to make things "just right." It is non-chill filtered, carries no age statement, and is bottled at 114.98°. Available in 45 markets, you can expect to pay about $54.99 for a 750ml package.
Before I #DrinkCurious, I'd like to thank Stellum Spirits for providing me a sample of the Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.
Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, Stellum Bourbon was a chestnut-amber color. It formed a thicker rim that fabricated heavy, slow, sticky legs.
Nose: Aromas of allspice and tobacco were easy to discern. I also smelled rye bread, toasted oak, and almond. When I took the vapor into my mouth, I discovered a mixture of strong almond and muted caramel.
Palate: The mouthfeel was soft, light, and airy. This is just shy of 115°? I find that difficult to believe. On the front, flavors of vanilla, almond, and nougat gave it an almost candy bar experience. The middle featured cola, ginger, and honey. On the back, I tasted black pepper, clove, and cocoa powder.
Finish: A medium-length finish began with clove and cinnamon, and ended with toasted oak and a drop of honey.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: There are a few things I want to touch on. The first is that if you told me this was 90-some-odd proof, I'd believe you. To have something drink 20-points below its stated proof is crazy. It offered zero burn either on the initial sip or the finish. The second is that this is one of those dangerous whiskeys, meaning, if you were inclined to do so, you could probably drink dram after dram and not even realize you're getting plastered.
There was absolutely nothing I didn't enjoy about Stellum Bourbon. It wasn't overly complicated, it had interesting flavors. The only thing I'd be more interested in would be a long finish, as that would likely slow down the "dangerous" part.
For $54.99, you're going to be hard-pressed to not be pleased with your purchase. I'm thrilled to have this one in my whiskey library. As such, I offer my Bottle rating for Stellum Bourbon. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
"Stellum Spirits is devoted to bringing American whiskey into the modern age with simple, elegant blends and single barrels selected with care and intention. Our whiskeys are created through a rigorous process of study, observation, and experimentation. We are driven by progress, polish, and—above all—attention to detail. We will always think critically about how to make our whiskey better and more accessible." - Stellum Spirits
Currently, Stellum has released two core whiskeys: a Bourbon and a Rye. It sources from the same distilleries as BCS (MGP out of Indiana, George Dickel out of Tennessee, and an undisclosed Kentucky distillery). However, Stellum is more affordable than the BCS offerings. I could make a variety of assumptions why, but I'd rather not spread unsubstantiated rumors and come across looking like a moron. Both whiskeys have a suggested retail of $54.99 and are available in 45 different markets across the United States.
Today I'm sipping on the Rye. The label says it is distilled in Indiana, but the website suggests Tennessee and Kentucky are also involved. The majority, the MGP distillate, is a 95% rye mashbill. Smaller portions of barley-forward rye mashbill have been added and the entire concoction is non-chill-filtered. Like many BCS products, Stellum Rye carries no age statement and is bottled at 116.24°.
Before I get to the tasting notes, I'd like to thank Stellum Spirits for providing a sample of the Rye in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now it is time to #DrinkCurious and taste what this is all about.
Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, Stellum Rye presented as the color of old copper. A medium ring formed, which yielded slow, heavy legs that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine.
Nose: Mint was very easy to pick up, way before I brought the glass to my face. Fennel struck me as I pulled the whiskey closer. Beneath them, I smelled clove, apple, and peach. When I inhaled the vapor into my mouth, mint and oak were distinctive.
Palate: I found the mouthfeel both oily and spicy. I don't usually suggest a mouthfeel is spicy, but it made my hard palate start to tingle almost immediately, and on my tongue, it felt as if dry spice was rubbed directly on it. On the front, anise, nutmeg, and white pepper started things off. The middle offered flavors of oak, lemon zest, and green Jolly Ranchers. The back consisted of coffee, spearmint, and a healthy dose of clove.
Finish: Long, lingering, and spicy, the finish kept white pepper, clove, anise, spearmint, followed by pine, oak, and then, very late, char.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I'm not a fan of anise - at all. And, yet, Stellum managed to make anise work for whatever reason. This rye is a spice bomb. If you've never had American Rye before, but have a preconceived notion of what it would taste like, Stellum Rye fits that bill almost perfectly.
All the various spices mingled as if they were meant to be together (even the anise). The $54.99 price is more than fair, especially when you consider this is barrel-proof. I'm happy to convey my coveted Bottle rating for it. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
"Sisterdale Distilling Co. was formed by two longtime friends and entrepreneurs who set out to make the highest quality, small-batch bourbon for ourselves - bourbon that we truly love to drink with our friends and family. So that is exactly what we have done." - Sisterdale Distilling Co.
Some folks get hung up on single barrels, single malts, etc. I make it a point at any of my tasting events for my guests to keep an open mind - the whole #DrinkCurious philosophy is pushed hard. Single barrels and single malts can be awesome, but blending is a learned skill and unless you're very, very lucky, you don't just mix things together and wind up with a good finished product. Play around with an infinity bottle - you'll understand that many great whiskeys blended together do not necessarily make for a good blend. Believe me, I know. I've dumped my own attempts at infinity bottles down the drain because they were just horrific.
Today I'm sipping on Batch 28 Bourbon from Barrell Craft Spirits. If you're unfamiliar with Barrell, they aren't distillers, they're blenders. They're also, for the most part, at the top tier of American blenders. I won't say that I've loved everything Barrell has put out, but I will say that I've enjoyed most of it. A good example of Bottle and Bust ratings for Barrell can be found on my review of their Private Release Series. The nice thing about Barrell, good or bad, is that everything is bottled at barrel-proof. They dilute nothing.
Batch 28 is a blend of 10- and 11-year Bourbons distilled in Indiana (MGP), Kentucky, and Tennessee (George Dickel). I've stopped trying to nail down who Barrell sources their Kentucky components from. The proof is 108.86° and the suggested retail price is $90.00. Per the youngest whiskey in the blend, it carries a 10-year age statement.
I'd like to thank Barrell Craft Spirits for providing a sample of Batch 28 in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let's get to it.
Appearance: In my Glencairn glass, Batch 28 presented as a hazy orange amber. It offered a medium rim, but husky, slow legs that dropped back to the pool while leaving sticky droplets behind.
Nose: Batch 28 was fragrant before I pulled the glass anywhere near my face. A fruitful bouquet of orange zest, apricot, peach, and cherry started things off. They were joined by honey, oak, and a mineral quality that spoke Dickel. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, I could swear a Dreamsicle caressed my tongue.
Palate: I found the mouthfeel to be extremely oily and coated everywhere. As the liquid hit the front of my palate, flavors of orange citrus, cherry, apricot, and strawberry required no effort to discern. At the middle, I tasted a marriage of smoked vanilla and salted caramel. The back featured oak, walnut, orange peel, and clove.
Finish: Long and warming (but not hot), the finish seemed like a blending of Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, smoked oak, black pepper, and a dash of brine.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I loved the orchard of fruit on the nose and palate. The mouthfeel was deliciously oily. There was no Flintstone vitamin quality that can come from Dickel-sourced whiskeys. The finish reminiscent of two great liqueurs was a nice touch and unexpected. I believe Barrell has another winner with Batch 28, and I'm happy to tender my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!
My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System