Showing posts with label MGP. Show all posts
Showing posts with label MGP. Show all posts

Monday, April 19, 2021

Stellum Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


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

Last week I reviewed Stellum Rye, and you can learn more about the brand from what I wrote there. Today, I'm going with Stellum Bourbon.

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

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

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Stellum Spirits Straight Rye Review & Tasting Notes


Many of us have heard of Barrell Craft Spirits. They're blenders out of Louisville, Kentucky, and they experiment with Bourbon, Rye, and Rum to create some rather marvelous adult beverages. You can imagine my interest when I found out that BCS launched a new brand called Stellum Spirits

"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

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

Monday, April 12, 2021

Obtainium Single Barrel 14-Year Light Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


What isn't shown in the photo above is the massive snowflakes coming down. Yeah, it is snowing again. A very fair question would be, Why is this Whiskeyfellow character out in a snowstorm taking a picture of whiskey? Keep looking at the photo, specifically where it mentions the proof. That says 147°, and this would be one of the highest-proof whiskeys I've ever tried.

Another fair question is, What is light whiskey? Is that diet whiskey?  Well, no.

Light whiskey came into existence in 1968 because consumers were moving away from Bourbon and more into clear spirits such as vodka or gin. Light whiskey is distilled between 160° and 190°.  Contrast that with Bourbon or American Rye, which tops out at 160°.  It must be aged in used, charred oak barrels or new, uncharred oak. Most distilleries didn't let it age very long, but then light whiskey fell out of favor, and the stocks were left hanging around, mostly ignored and forgotten.

What we have here is a light whiskey distilled by MGP of Indiana and bottled by Cat's Eye Distillery out of Bettendorf, Iowa. Packaged with its Obtainium label, this barrel sat in the MGP warehouse for 14 years. That's not all, this is a single barrel offering, and as such, it is the pure experience of what light whiskey can become. It retails for $54.99.  

I'd like to thank Cat's Eye Distillery's Wisconsin distributor for providing me a sample of this whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let's #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey presented as a rich, caramel color. The rim was so faint, I had to squint to pick it out. A wavy curtain of legs, if you could call them that, dropped back to the pool.

Nose:  Aromas of brown sugar and caramel hit my olfactory senses. I also smelled orange peel, nutmeg, and cinnamon. When I drew the vapor in my mouth, I tasted butterscotch.

Palate:  Shockingly, my tongue was not set on fire while sipping this. I admittedly psyched myself out preparing for it. It was definitely warm and thin. I also found it to be a caramel bomb from start to finish. The front added butterscotch and brown sugar. At the middle, I experienced only vanilla. The back featured notes of oak and cinnamon.

Finish:  I felt like I was sucking on a cough drop, a menthol blast literally cleared my sinuses. The finish lasted for what seemed to be forever. Caramel and butterscotch continued until the very end. Toasted oak made a brief appearance and cinnamon red hots carried the remainder. While spicy, I need to stress it wasn't hot.

With Water:  I don't normally add water to my whiskey unless I'm curious what would happen. Something that pushes the Haz-Mat envelope is an opportunity I didn't want to pass up. Some people add a splash of water. I'm pretty Type-A when it comes to adding water and I use an eyedropper, and I always measure out two drops of distilled water.

Nose with Water:  The brown sugar and butterscotch were magnified, as was the caramel. The spice completely fell off, and the orange peel became candied. Overall, the nose got sweeter.

Palate with Water:  The mouthfeel became thick and creamy. The caramel bomb vanished, while the cinnamon spice and oak took center stage. 

Finish with Water:  Black pepper, clove, and cinnamon spice created a very long finish. Absolutely shocking was the finish got both hotter and spicier, almost painfully so. My hard palate was buzzing despite the fact I only took a simple sip.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  With water, I did not enjoy this light whiskey at all. The water ruined it. But, drunk neat, it was tasty and surprisingly easy to drink. I got past the menthol blast and was able to savor the flavors, perhaps because my sinuses were cleared. If you drink whiskey neat, I think Cat's Eye has a winner here. If you are into adding water, this may be one to avoid. I'll stick with the way I normally drink whiskey and crown it with a Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Monday, April 5, 2021

Sisterdale Distilling Co. Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Whiskey in Texas simply ages faster. Between the heat and humidity, it matures faster than more well-known whiskey venues such as Tennessee, Kentucky, and Indiana. Whiskey out of Texas also tends to have its own terroir. Terroir is defined as a characteristic taste and flavor from a certain region due to that region's climate.

Even blind, it is relatively easy to pick out a Texas whiskey over others from around the United States. When you take distillate from another region - say, Indiana - and then bring the barrels down to Texas, that throws a wrench in the works, and trying to pin down the terroir becomes challenging.

Today I'm sipping on Sisterdale Straight Bourbon. What's that? You've never heard of it? That's not surprising since this is the distillery's inaugural release.

"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.

Sisterdale starts off the same way many craft brands do - they source whiskey from MGP of Indiana. The Bourbon is a blend of four grains and five different distillates, including a high-wheat recipe. After distillation, the whiskey was transported down to Texas' hill country, where the distillery sits on a 1200-acre cattle ranch on Sister Creek. It then aged 3-1/2 years, then was blended and proofed using Texas rainwater. 

Packaged at 93.4°, you can expect to pay about $78.00 for a 750ml bottle. I obtained my sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review, and I'd like to thank Sisterdale for providing that. Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Sisterdale presented the color of bright copper. It produced a medium rim that, try as I might, didn't create legs. Instead, it left sticky droplets that continued to build. Eventually, those legs got so heavy they fell back into the pool.

Nose:  The Bourbon was not fragrant from across the room, but that doesn't mean it isn't aromatic. When the glass got closer to my face, I picked out nutmeg, popcorn, cinnamon, and strawberry fruit strips. When I breathed the vapor into my mouth, I experienced vanilla and lemon peel. 

Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be very thin and somewhat oily. Subsequent sips added a bit of weight, but it never became what I would describe as thick. On the front of my palate, I tasted caramel and creamy vanilla. Mid-palate flavors consisted of cherry, plum, malt, and nuts. The back featured cinnamon red-hots, oak, and clove.

Finish:  The finish proved this was aged in Texas. It was spicy and very, very long. It began with clove and nutmeg, then toasted oak and nuts, and then cherry with black pepper. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I said at the very beginning, whiskey in Texas ages faster. One of the more interesting aspects was how hot the finish was. If you blindfolded me and asked me to tell you what proof I was drinking, I'd put this about 15 points higher. My hard palate tingled without drinking much volume at all. The finish was fascinating. And, while I thought this was a tasty pour, the challenge is value. Is this worth nearly $80 a bottle?  There's nothing wrong with this Bourbon, I believe Sisterdale, overall, did a good job. However, it doesn't buttress the price. As such, I'm awarding this Bourbon my Bar rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Monday, March 22, 2021

Obtanium "Beautiful Swan" Single Barrel Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


MGP is the big boy on the block when it comes to sourced whiskey in the United States. There are some other big names who provide whiskey to brands, but no one really does it at the same level. A handful of years ago, brands were shy to admit their whiskey was really MGP distillate. Folks frowned on MPG.  Oh, wonderful, another MGP Bourbon. Yawn. 

But then, something almost magical happened. It isn't that MPG necessarily got better, but it developed a cult following. Now, when someone bottles MGP whiskey, they either come right out about it or they make it obvious in some other way. Excited consumers now ask, Is this MGP? and hoping the answer is Yes. 

In Bettendorf, Iowa, there exists a place called Cat's Eye Distillery. It buys a lot of MGP distillate. Sometimes it is Rye, sometimes Bourbon, sometimes Light Whiskey. Gene Nassif of Cat's Eye is prolific on social media and doesn't hide the facts. 

If you cross over the Mississippi River into Wisconsin and head into Appleton, you'll find Niemuth's Southside Market. Niemuth's picks a lot of interesting barrels and uses The Secret Midnight Whiskey Club to do its barrel selection. In full disclosure, I've been involved with a handful of their picks. Not all, not most, just a handful.

Today, I'm reviewing Obtanium Bourbon Whiskey, which is a Niemuth's pick called Beautiful Swan.  The Obtanium label is owned by Cat's Eye.  It consists of an MGP Bourbon utilizing its 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley mash and was aged for six years. It weighs in at 118.2°, and you can expect to pay $29.99 for a 375ml bottle.

I'd like to thank Niemuth's for providing me a sample of Beautiful Swan in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. I'm ready to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Beautiful Swan was, well, a beautiful burnt umber color. It produced a medium rim and watery, fast legs that sped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  In an unusual fashion, the first aroma to hit my nose was nutmeg. Nutmeg is typically a comparatively subtle smell against others, but this time it jumped out quickly. I found cinnamon, charred oak, cherry, and plum as well. When I breathed the vapor in my mouth, I got a cherry vanilla blast.

Palate:  I discovered a creamy, full-bodied mouthfeel that offered a distinctive Indiana hug. Fruity flavors of cherry, plum, and berries were on the front of the palate. As it moved to the middle, I tasted caramel, nutmeg, and English toffee. Then, on the back, I experienced rye spice, cinnamon, toasted oak, and sweet tobacco leaf.

Finish:  Things started off sweet with cherry, then earthy with dark chocolate, and finally spicy with cinnamon and rye. As those two faded, clove came in late and offered an overall longer finish.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  In my experience, six years seems to be a nice sweet spot for MGP 36% rye Bourbons. That's not to say they're all good because they're not. But, Beautiful Swan fits the bill and I sure enjoyed the heck out of it. I'm confident you'll find this to be a good Bourbon, and as such, it earns my Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Niemuth's Southside Market is located at 2121 S. Oneida Street in Appleton, WI.

Friday, March 19, 2021

Barrell Bourbon Batch 28 Review & Tasting Notes


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

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

Monday, March 8, 2021

Four Gate Batch 11 "Ruby Rye Springs" Review & Tasting Notes


Blenders take someone else's spirits, sometimes along with their own distillate, and create something special. Blending whiskey is an art form.  Some Master Blenders in Scotland do amazing things. Here in the United States, there are some good, respected blenders out there. Names like Smooth Ambler, High West, J. Mattingly, Barrell Craft Spirits, and Four Gate Whiskey Company.

I've reviewed Four Gate before. I've been impressed with what they've done with both The Kelvin Collection II and River Kelvin Rye.  When I was presented with an opportunity to review Batch 11, called Ruby Rye Springs, I was very interested. Ruby Rye Springs starts with a seven-year MGP straight Rye whiskey, then finishes it in casks with an unusual heritage.

Initially, the casks held ruby port wine. Once the barrels were dumped, they were filled a second time with a blend of rums and left to age.  Once the rum matured, the barrels were filled with the Indiana Rye, where they rested for 45 days.  The end result, a whiskey weighing in at 113.4°, yielded 1444 750ml bottles. Retail is $185.00.

I'd like to thank Four Gate for sending me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious and learn what this one is all about.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Ruby Rye Springs presented almost as you'd expect - the color of red mahogany amber.  How it interacted with the glass was novel. It left a thick rim that created a heavy curtain which raced to the pool. Yet, that husky rim never evaporated. It just stuck there.

Nose:  Aromas of cherry, plum, and citrus offered a fruity smell. Mint, rye, and oak provided spice. Molasses seemed to glue them together. When I sucked the vapor into my mouth, mint, plum, and brown sugar ran across my palate.

Palate:  A syrupy mouthfeel featured flavors of brown sugar, plum, black cherry, and raspberry on the front. As it traveled down my tongue, cinnamon and blueberry hit the middle, and on the back, I tasted black pepper, tobacco leaf, and molasses.

Finish: Rye spice, oak, citrus, and plum were embraced by molasses in a medium-long finish.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Ruby Rye Springs was certainly different. I've had port-finished whiskeys and I've had rum-finished whiskeys, but I've not, until now, had a port/rum-finished whiskey. It was a unique experience, it was quite enjoyable, but no matter how divergent it may be, this is a serious investment. This earns a Bar rating, you'd want to try it before buying it. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Redwood Empire Haystack Needle "AngelSpace" 14-yr Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


There are some bewitching MGP barrels out there, just waiting to be picked out by "craft" brands looking for something special. When you get into a dozen or more years old, those barrels get somewhat scarce. That becomes more exciting. More tempting than that is when someone is offered an opportunity to purchase one for a private pick.

Out in Cal-I-For-Nigh-Ay, there exists a distillery called Graton Distilling Company with a brand named Redwood Empire. The spirits arm of Purple Wine & Spirits was founded in 2015, and it came up with its own schtick. The brand says for every bottle sold, they'll plant a tree. At the time of my penning this review, it has planted roughly 185,000 trees. That's a lot of bottles sold!

The distillery is housed in a former apple canning and processing facility that was called Redwood Empire and sold apple products under that brand name. Fast-forward to the present, Redwood's product lines are all named after iconic redwood trees in the area. The distillery's private barrel program is called Haystack Needle.

I'm drinking Haystack Needle Barrel #2236.  It is a 14-year Bourbon distilled by MGP.  This particular barrel is distilled from MGP's 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley recipe. Some Haystack Needle whiskeys are finished in former wine casks, but #2236 was not. It is bottled at barrel proof of 105.2°.

The Secret Midnight Whiskey Club selected this barrel and it is sold at Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton, Wisconsin. While I have picked for The Secret Midnight Whiskey Club, I was not involved in this pick (and as such, it will be rated on my Bottle, Bar, or Bust scale). Retail is $129.99, and it is lovingly named AngelSpace

I'd like to thank The Secret Midnight Whiskey Club for providing me a sample of AngelSpace in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let's #DrinkCurious and find out what this one is all about.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, AngelSpace appeared as a deep orange. I was a bit surprised that, for its age, it wasn't darker in color. It left a thin rim on the wall, and that rim generated thick, fast legs that fell back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Sometimes as I'm allowing a whiskey to breathe, I can smell it from across the room. This was not one of those instances. Like the color, for a 14-year whiskey, I would have assumed it would be very fragrant. I did find aromas of toasted oak, vanilla, toffee, coconut, and berry. When I inhaled the vapor, caramel rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was super-oily and full-bodied. On the front, I tasted toffee, cherry, and vanilla cream. As the liquid inched across my tongue, flavors of caramel, cinnamon, and nutmeg were on the middle, while cherry (again), oak, and tobacco leaf took control of the back.

FinishAngelSpace had one of those freight-train finishes. It would not quit. Barrel char, dry oak, cherry, brown sugar, and rye spice all stuck around until the very end and fell off together. The proof wasn't huge, but it did leave my hard palate tingling.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  We're talking about an expensive bottle of Bourbon here. I found AngelSpace to be delicious and full of character. I enjoyed the finish enchanting. I'm a bit torn on the price. On one hand, this is a 14-year barrel-proof whiskey. On the other, my standard-bearer of MGP Bourbon is a Backbone Bourbon pick I did with The Secret Midnight Whiskey Club called Unicorn Slayer, which was about half the age and almost half the price, and I felt it was superior.

AngelSpace is wonderful. For the price, I'm going to suggest you give serious thought before making a purchase. If Niemuth's can offer a taste, try it. This one falls under a Bar rating. Cheers!

Niemuth's Southside Market is located at 2121 S. Oneida St. in Appleton, Wisconsin.

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Friday, February 19, 2021

Redemption "Rusky Business" High Rye Bourbon Tasting Notes


MGP makes some incredible whiskeys. It is the big boy on the block as it pertains to providing sourced Bourbons, Ryes, and Light Whiskeys to various "craft" labels you'll see on your local store shelf. One of those brands is Redemption Whiskey, whose story began in 2010 when Dave Schmier secured some high-end barrels of Rye from Old Seagram's Distillery, which is now known as MGP. 

In 2015, Schmier sold Redemption to Deutsch Family Wine & Spirits. They've redesigned the bottle and label, but the whiskey inside remains the same as it is all distilled by MGP.

Fast forward to 2020, and The Speakeasy_WI had an opportunity to choose a private barrel of Redemption High Rye Bourbon with its partner, Neil's Liquor of Middleton. The selection committee consisted of Troy Mancusi, Dan O'Connell (the owner at Neil's), Mike Rusk of Cask & Ale, and me, your friendly, neighborhood Whiskeyfellow.

We settled on Barrel #20-185, which was bottled at 105°.  The mashbill was 60% corn, 36% rye, and 4% malted barley, and aged for five years.  Dave Schmier will tell you this is, in his opinion, the best mashbill that MGP makes. We decided to honor Mike with the label and called it Rusky Business.  A 750ml bottle of Rusky Business is $44.99.

Last year I stopped rating barrel picks that I've been involved with.  My standards are very strict and I'm perfectly happy to reject all samples and walk away with nothing. If I'm involved in the pick, you can count on it being special.

I'm sure you're interested in the tasting notes, so without further ado, here they are.

Appearance:   In my Glencairn glass, Rusky Business was the color of orange amber. It created a medium-thick rim that formed fat, slow legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  The first thing you'll experience is a giant punch in the nose of caramel. Aromas of dill, mint, sawdust, toasted oak, and orange peel follow. If you inhale the vapor in your mouth, orange peel and vanilla will roll across your tongue.

Palate:  You'll find the mouthfeel thin and oily. Right off the bat, you'll taste bubble gum, nutmeg, and corn puffs. At mid-palate, flavors of caramel and oak will be obvious. The back will highlight cinnamon, vanilla, and mint.

FinishRusky Business has a finish like a freight train with a fully-open throttle.  It begins with candied orange, then leads into bubble gum. Cinnamon Red Hots explode and it ends with mint and barrel char.  Don't be scared, because everything in the finish just works beautifully.

Final Thoughts:  You definitely want to let Rusky Business breathe before delving into it, otherwise it is just going to be hot and you'll miss out on the flavors. Obviously, there are a limited number of bottles available. Neil's is located at 2415 Allen Road in Middleton.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Obtanium 5-Year Single Barrel Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Despite the fact I've been writing about Obtainium whiskeys for the last year, I've never really thought about what obtainium means. Curiosity got the best of me and I looked it up. It is a slang term that represents things that have been taken or stolen that others have discarded. When you consider what Cat's Eye Distillery does, the name is fitting (no, they don't steal). They've been grabbing up MGP Light Whiskey, which is something many non-distilling producers (NDPs) have overlooked.

Today I'm reviewing Obtanium 5-Year Single Barrel Bourbon out of Cat's Eye. This, too, is MGP-distillate, although which Bourbon mash is undisclosed. It is from barrel SC-88, which aged five years and is bottled at 118.3°, which is barrel strength.  It is non-chill filtered. You can expect to pay about $50.00 for a 750ml bottle.

I'd like to thank the Wisconsin distributor for Cat's Eye for a sample of this Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, the color presented as orange-amber. It generated a heavy rim that collapsed into thick, fast legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  I found the nose corn-forward, along with aromas of nutmeg, caramel, and boysenberry. When I inhaled the vapor in my mouth, salted caramel rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was coating and full-bodied. On the front, I tasted caramel and corn. On the mid-palate, some complexity was added with black cherry, cocoa powder, and almond. The back consisted of rye spice, clove, and toasted oak.

Finish:  The longer finish offered toasted oak, nutmeg, rye spice, and more of that salted caramel. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  While not an overly complicated Bourbon, this was very tasty. I loved how the caramel switched between classic and salted and then blended with the rye spice and oak at the end. It also doesn't drink at its stated proof, I would have guessed it to be about 15 or so points lower, which made it an easy drinker. Considering everything, including the bang for the buck, I have no issues handing over my coveted Bottle rating.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Saturday, February 13, 2021

Oak & Eden Spire Bourbon and Rye Reviews & Tasting Notes


Distilling whiskey is an expensive undertaking. First of all, you need a facility to do the whole process. You need a warehouse of some sort to age.  You invest in barrels. And, you're earning exactly $0.00 while your product is aging in those warehouses until they hit the market. Waiting can take years. Decades, even, if you're talking about Scotch. That's a long time to have money tied up.

There are other options, of course. You can buy someone else's distillate and then slap your label on it and sell it.  You can distill unaged spirits to keep a cash flow going. Or, you can try rapid-aging what you have to get it on the store shelf as quickly as possible.

There are a variety of ways to rapid-age whiskey. You can use smaller barrels. The smaller the barrel, the faster the whiskey ages. You can create artificial seasons - in the summer you can air-condition your warehouse and simulate winter. And, in the winter, you can heat the warehouse and simulate summer. You then quickly vent out the artificial season and let Mother Nature take over. 

Or, you can do what Oak & Eden does:

"Oak & Eden In-Bottle Finished Whiskey is a first of its kind, pioneering a patented technique called in-bottle finishing™, where we place a 5” long spiral cut piece of wood into every bottle of our fully aged whiskey. This technique “inspires” our whiskey, breathing new life, flavors, and aromas that couldn’t be achieved in a single barrel alone." - Oak & Eden

The "fully aged" whiskey is sourced, meaning, they didn't do any distilling. There's nothing in the world wrong with that, and I appreciate Oak & Eden's transparency in that regard.

Today's reviews are on Oak & Eden's Bourbon and Rye. Both are sourced from MGP of Indiana.  Both were aged for two years.  Both were bottled at 90°.  The wood spires were medium-toasted and remain in the bottle for six months prior to shipping them to stores.  Obviously, the longer a bottle remains on the shelf, the longer it "ages." The Bourbon retails for $39.99 and Rye for $49.99.

How does this technology pan out? The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious. For the record, I obtained these samples from a third-party that is not connected with MGP or Oak & Eden.

The first one up is the Bourbon.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon presented as a very dark brown. It created a very thick rim that generated slower legs.

Nose:  Not unexpectedly, oak was dominating. I also smelled sawdust, corn, and pumpkin spice.  When I inhaled the vapor in my mouth, there was a mineral quality, similar to what you'd expect out of George Dickel

Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy and had a medium body. On the front, I tasted bitter oak and what I could only describe as artificial wood. The middle offered a mix of baking spice and brown sugar. Then, on the back, the flavors of clove and oak came through.

Finish:  Massive wood tannins ended this tasting. The finish was very brief.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Oak & Eden's Spire Bourbon was absolutely awful. There's no getting around that.  When something has an artificial flavor, that's an immediate turn-off. I don't care if it is whiskey, cola, or anything else.  If I had to say something positive about it, the finish was thankfully short. Obviously, this is a Bust.

Next up is the Rye.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, the Rye was the color of mahogany. It produced a thin rim, but the legs were much thicker and slowly crawled back to the pool.

Nose:  There was a blast of spearmint and menthol that, once I got past them, turned to rubber. When I breathed the vapor in my mouth, there was vanilla. 

Palate:  The palate was thick and creamy. Then I tasted tires. Not just rubber, but everything I've imagined a tire tastes like. There was also an artificial wood quality just like what the Bourbon had. The middle was cinnamon and nutmeg, while the back consisted of pepper and burnt caramel.

Finish:  I found a combination of wet oak, nutmeg, and rye spice in the salty finish that was medium-short in length.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Ufdah. I thought things wouldn't get much worse than the Bourbon, and boy was I wrong. The finish was too long. I can't see anyone spending $50.00 for a bottle of this under any circumstances. Another Bust.

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

The Clover Single Barrel Straight Rye Review & Tasting Notes


A four-leaf clover has (obviously) four leaves. Each leaf is said to hold four different meanings:  Hope, faith, love, and luck.  To Bobby Jones, those four words were his life.

What's that? You have no idea who Bobby Jones is?  Born on St. Patrick's Day in 1901, he was one of the world's premier golfers. He was the only one to ever win the original grand-slam. He was a scholar. He obtained degrees in English from Harvard, in Mechanical Engineering at Georgia Tech, and was admitted to law school at Emory University, He was a war hero. When presented with a ceremonial command during World War II, he declined and instead went to Normandy Beach as an infantry captain. He was a mentor. Bobby Jones set the standard of what a sportsman should be. Ethics were important to him, so much so that he wound up losing a golf tournament by a single stroke because he noticed he earned a penalty when none was assigned. He made such an impression that Emory has the Jones Program in Ethics, and in 1955, the USGA created the Bob Jones Award to recognize distinguished sportsmen in golf who emulate his spirit, personal quality, and attitude. Jones passed away in 1971.

"Golf is the closest game to the game we call life. You get bad breaks from good shots; you get good breaks from bad shots - but you have to play the ball where it lies." - Bobby Jones

The Clover is not just another celebrity whiskey. With Jones gone, there is no ego to feed. Instead, The Clover was founded to sustain the legacy of golf's greatest gentleman and champion. There are three expressions under the umbrella of The Bobby Jones Whiskey Collection: Straight Bourbon, Straight Rye, and Straight Tennessee Whisky. All three are single barrels, and while not overly easy to obtain, they can be purchased from a variety of golf course gift shops and online retailers. A handful of retailers also have them available for purchase. The Clover provides a link on its website with a listing of which courses carry it.

Today I'm reviewing the Straight Rye.  It is bottled by Piedmont Distillers (the creators of Midnight Moon) but was actually distilled in Indiana (meaning, MGP), this is a four-year-old single barrel that is diluted to 91°. It is described as a high-rye mashbill which would translate to MGP's 95/5 recipe. Expect to pay about $50.00 for a 750ml bottle.

I'd like to thank The Clover for providing me a sample of this whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  I'd also like to compliment them on the attractive package.

Appearance:  While the included glassware was gorgeous, consistency is vital to me and as such, I tasted this in my Glencairn glass. It appeared as caramel in color and offered a thick rim with sticky, fat droplets that took their time falling back into the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  As I opened the bottle, the fragrance was immediately noticeable. Mint, citrus, cherry, and brown sugar were simple to pick out. The toasted oak was less so, and beneath everything were soft, floral notes. When I took the vapor into my mouth, cherry vanilla rolled over my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy and had a medium body. On the tip of my palate, flavors of cinnamon, vanilla, and brown sugar gave it a sweet, slightly spicy tingle. The middle was cola, dark chocolate, and almond. On the back, I tasted black cherry, rye spice, and toffee.

Finish:  Originally, I thought the finish was medium-to-long, but as I continued to sip, it grew in length. Black pepper, leather, and dry oak were the first qualities, then rye spice and cocoa powder followed.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Clover is very much an MGP rye, with the single barrel giving it some uniqueness. This rye is not overwhelming and is something that could easily be sipped after a round of golf, even on a hot summer day. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and the price is quite fair especially considering it is marketed to golfers. All of that translates to a hole-in-one and I'm happy to award it my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It

Friday, January 29, 2021

Nassif Family Reserve Review & Tasting Notes

What happens when you try to create something special - a one-off - for a major life event, and it turns out so well you decide to bottle it for everyone? Gene Nassif of Cat's Eye Distillery did that with his Nassif Family Reserve. The backstory on this is that he wanted to blend something for his wedding guests to enjoy during his nuptials. Usually, with cute stories of how a whiskey came about, I smirk because I know better. But, Gene is also not a stranger - I've known him for a few years, and I know he married last year.

Gene sources off-the-radar whiskeys to tinker with. If you've never had a Polish Rye, Cat's Eye has one.  Last year I reviewed an MGP-sourced 13-year Light Whiskey. he seems to be a fan of Light Whiskey from MGP and keeps going to them for more.

With Nassif Family Reserve, he went with a 14-year MGP Light whiskey and blended it 50/50 with a 3-year 10-month MGP Bourye (a blend of 95%/5% Rye and a 60%/36%/4% high-rye Bourbon). That was then diluted to 107°, and a 750ml bottle of this American whiskey runs about $39.99.

I'd like to thank Wisconsin's distributor for Cat's Eye for providing a sample of Nassif Family Reserve in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. For the record, I'm going to #DrinkCurious with Batch 4.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey presented as burnt orange in color. It wasn't quite clear, but it also can't be described as cloudy. A thicker rim was produced, and that generated heavy, slow legs to drop back to the pool.

Nose:  While not overly aromatic sitting by itself, once I brought the glass to my mouth, it was effortless to pick out toffee, corn, butterscotch, and floral notes. What I didn't find was anything spicy. As I inhaled the vapor through my lips, the butterscotch continued.

Palate:  A creamy, medium-body mouthfeel led to caramel, almond, and tobacco leaf on the front. At mid-palate, sweet vanilla, honey, and muted peach took over. Then, on the back, clove, rye, and cinnamon.

Finish:  At first, Nassif Family Reserve the finish began as a toffee bomb. That morphed to spice with cinnamon and black pepper. It was cooled by toasted oak, and then very late in the finish, I tasted cherry. There was nothing quick about it.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Nassif Family Reserve is touted as something approachable for beginners yet nuanced enough for more experienced sippers. Overall, I'd have to agree, although I'm left wondering if the 107° is a tad too aggressive for newbies. Regardless, I appreciated the nice balance between sweet and spice. The price offers no real barrier to entry. Do the math and this one winds up snagging a Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System
  • Bottle = Buy It
  • Bar = Try It
  • Bust = Leave It