Showing posts with label Michigan. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Michigan. Show all posts

Monday, September 19, 2022

Dragon's Milk Origin Small Batch Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


New Holland Spirits is probably best known for its Dragon’s Milk beer. However, New Holland broke into the distilling market in the last decade and a half. Founded by Brett VanderKamp in Holland, Michigan, in 1997, New Holland has made a name for itself and employs a team of more than 500, making it a serious operation.


New Holland capitalized on the name of its famous beer and pulled that over to a line of whiskeys. However, that doesn’t translate to the same mash used.


“Origin is one of the most exciting projects we’ve taken on at New Holland. We’ve been sampling this product patiently for five long years and are continually impressed by its complexity of flavor, and delicate finish. As Michigan’s oldest whiskey distiller, we are immensely proud to be able to offer this bourbon to our customers. We feel that it is a landmark moment for us as a distillery.”Adam Dickerson, Brand Manager


Origin is a small batch Bourbon consisting of 100 barrels or less that were distilled from a mash of corn, rye, and a large portion of malted barley. It aged for at least five years in new, #3 charred American white oak before being packaged at 95°. It is available in California, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Texas, and Wisconsin.


A couple that Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I are friends with purchased their bottle for $46.00 and cracked it open with me while we did the #DrinkCurious thing.


Appearance: Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Origin presented as caramel in color. It formed a medium rim that released a thick curtain that crashed back into the pool.


Nose: I smelled crème brulee, field corn, tobacco leaf, and charred oak. When I pulled the air into my mouth, the crème brulee became thick.


Palate:  Origin had a thin consistency. The front of my palate tasted candy corn, pink grapefruit, and vanilla. Flavors of cherry, orange peel, and caramel were found midway through, while the back encountered tobacco leaf, charred oak, and clove.


Finish: Medium to long in duration, the warming finish started as heavy cherry cough syrup, charred oak, clove, and pink grapefruit.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The bottle was gorgeous. It was embossed with scales and had a small dragon etched on it. It would make a lovely decanter once you finished what was inside. The contents, however, were less exciting. I found Origin to be expensive for what it is; while $46.00 isn’t a lot for whiskey these days, I would have expected more from it. That seemed to be the consensus of the three of us trying it. I’ll toss Dragon’s Milk Origin a Bar rating; you’ll want to sample this before committing to a bottle. 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, April 11, 2022

Journeyman Last Feather Rye Review & Tasting Notes


I get a kick out of real backstories. Sure, the marketing stuff is fun, but most of us realize (or we should) that finding some long-forgotten recipe of my grandpappy's grandpappy's sippin' whiskey behind an old cupboard is a curiosity. Journeyman Distillery in Three Oaks, Michigan, doesn't offer a tall tale. But the story is still fun.

Flashback to 1883, and you have a gentleman named E.K. Warren. He built the Buggy Whip and Corsets Factory, which made, not surprisingly, buggy whips and corsets. Warren revolutionized corset production by incorporating featherbone in its construction versus the whalebone that other manufacturers utilized. Suddenly, his corsets gained worldwide notoriety. Interestingly enough, Warren was a serious prohibitionist.

Fast-forward to 2010, and Bill Welter founded a distillery in this same building. He pays homage to its roots, offering whiskeys with names such as Featherbone Bourbon, Corsets, Whips and Whiskey, and Buggy Whip Wheat. Before opening Journeyman, Welter was an apprentice distiller at KOVAL, located in Chicago. KOVAL's claim to fame is one of the first all-organic, kosher distilleries. 

Today I'm reviewing Last Feather Rye, made from a mash of 60% organic rye and 40% organic wheat, all locally grown. It is then placed in 30-gallon, new American white oak barrels for an undisclosed amount of time. Certified organic and kosher and packaged at 90°, you can expect to pay about $50.00 for a 750ml bottle.

I sampled a pour of Last Feather Rye at a local watering hole here called The Malt House. Time to #DrinkCurious and discover what this is all about.

Appearance:   Served neat in my Glencairn glass (The Malt House uses rocks glasses, so I brought my own), Last Feather Rye appeared caramel in color. It formed a medium rim and fast, watery legs that fell back into the pool.

Nose:  The first thing I smelled was varnish. That was not a good introduction. But, it was followed by pear, honey, caramel, and sawdust. When I breathed the vapor into my mouth, vanilla made me forget about the varnish.

Palate:  Offering a medium mouthfeel, the front of the palate featured banana bread, mint, and apple. As it moved to the middle, those changed to vanilla and rye spice. Then, on the back, it got spicy with black pepper and cinnamon.

Finish:  Medium in length, flavors of charred oak, banana bread, and rye spice stuck around.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  While I enjoy a good backstory, my hopes are always that the whiskey will match. There's not a whole lot to Last Feather Rye; indeed, nothing to stand out and make me take notice. It tasted a bit young, as evidenced by the varnish and sawdust, but carrying no age statement means it is at least four years old. I "get" the whole craft whiskey thing and how there are sunk costs to recover, but $50.00 for this one seems pricey. A Bar rating seems appropriate. 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, February 14, 2022

Mayor Pingree Black Label Batch 6 15-Year Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Valentine Distilling has been around since 2007. What’s that? Have you not heard of it? Founded in Detroit, Michigan, by Rifino Valentine, it bills itself as one of the first microdistilleries in the country before the distilling craze took hold.


The centerpiece of the distillery is Sherbert, a custom-made, 1500 gallon copper pot still, the first to be imported to the United States by Frilli, a 100+-year-old Italian still maker. Valentine is eco-conscious, having developed a 10-year climate sustainability initiative, concentrating first on reduction, recycling, and reuse, and once achieved, looking to wind and solar energies to power the campus.


“Everything that I do must be done with quality in mind above all else. I’ve always appreciated the American craftsman; working by hand, making one-of-a-kind items that stand the test of time. I take great pride in using old-world techniques that haven’t changed in centuries. There are no computers controlling the stills, just our sense of taste and smell to determine the cuts.” – Rifino Valentine


Its Master Distiller is Justin Aden. He started his distilling career straight out of college at Michigan State University, where he majored in Microbiology and Molecular Science. He concentrated on fermentation science and worked for the MSU Artisan Distilling Program, where he distilled full-time and acted as a researcher and industry consultant. He joined Valentine Distilling in 2014.


Today I’m sipping on Mayor Pingree Black Label Straight Bourbon. This one is Batch 6, utilizing a mash from only seven barrels of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley sourced from MGP/LDI and aged 15 years! A portion of the aging process occurred in a climate-controlled warehouse in California before being transferred for final aging in Michigan. It is non-chill filtered and weighs in at a hefty 114°. There are only 684 bottles available, and you can expect to spend about $159.99 on a 750ml package.


If you’re curious who Mayor Pingree was, you’re not alone. Hazen Stuart Pingree was a socialite and storied mayor of Detroit elected in 1890. He was a trust-buster, targeting monopolies and corruption, and was a champion of the poor, taking vacant lands and turning them into vegetable gardens to feed the needy. Pingree was re-elected three times before becoming Michigan’s two-term governor.


Before I get to the tasting notes, I wish to thank Valentine Distilling for providing me a sample of Mayor Pingree Black Label in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. I’ll #DrinkCurious and discover what this is all about.


Appearance: Inside the bottle, the Bourbon looked almost like cranberry juice. Poured neat in my trusty Glencairn glass, Mayor Pingree was reddish amber. It formed an almost microscopic rim that generated thick, runny legs.


Nose: I spilled a drop on my hand while pouring the whiskey into my glass. I sniffed the droplet, and it was rich dark chocolate. That remained in the glass, along with thick caramel, butterscotch, nutmeg, berry, and old oak. The oak wasn’t dry; it just smelled ancient. Caramel and the old oak rolled across my tongue when I pulled the air into my mouth.


Palate:  A massive oil slick filled my mouth, yielding flavors of dark chocolate and heavy caramel on the front. The middle tasted of butterscotch, roasted coffee, and cocoa. Oak, clove, nutmeg, and leather filled the back of my palate.


Finish:  Nutmeg, cocoa powder, butterscotch, black pepper, and old oak began the journey's end. Fresh leather stuck around for what seemed to be forever.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Mayor Pingree Black Label drank way under its stated proof and was about as easy a sipper as one could imagine. That shocked me. It is a 15-year pre-MGP-sourced Bourbon, and, simply put, you don’t run into those every day. There are plenty of spicy and savory notes, but the sweeter ones prevented them from dominating the experience. I just loved it, and considering what it is, I believe its price tag is reasonable. I’m sure you’ll agree it deserves a 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.



Tuesday, May 18, 2021

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 21, 2020

Ole George 100% Straight Rye Review & Tasting Notes


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Traverse City "Birthday Bu'rl" Barrel Proof Review

I've had a handful of opportunities to try Traverse City Whiskey's Barrel Proof Bourbons. All of these, with the exception of one, have been store picks. Each barrel, as expected, is different enough from one another to ensure each one is a new and different tasting experience. Today, I'm reviewing one for Niemuth's Southside Market of Appleton, Wisconsin which is called Birthday Bu'rl

Full disclosure time - I have been involved in a few barrel picks with Niemuth's. I was not involved with Birthday Bu'rl. However, I was provided with a sample for a no-strings-attached review, and I thank them for the opportunity. 

If you're unfamiliar with Traverse City Whiskey, it does have its own distillate, which is used in its American Cherry Edition and Port Finished whiskeys. In the meanwhile, their older whiskeys are sourced from MGP from Indiana, giving it a mash of 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley. All of their barrel proof whiskeys are aged at least four years. In the case of Birthday Bu'rl, it was Barrel #P421 and aged four years before being bottled at 117.6°. Niemuth's retails theirs for $68.99 and the yield was 210 bottles.

Is this one of the better Traverse City picks? The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious, so here we go...

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Birthday Bu'rl appeared as a definitive orange amber. It left a very thin rim on the wall, but created very heavy, wavy legs that crawled back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Nose:  Oak was very forward on the nose. But, that was joined with bright berry fruit. Further exploration brought cinnamon and vanilla bean.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was a berry blast. 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and coating. However, this definitely did not drink at its proof. Or, at least I didn't think so. My hard palate numbed up well enough, but there was no real burn to it, and as such, I didn't notice the tingling until my fourth or fifth sip. At the front were cedar and chocolate. Then, at mid-palate, I found pecan and coconut, making for a very interesting combination. The back was spicy with clove, coffee, and dry oak.

Finish:  Birthday Bu'rl's medium to long finish gave a warming hug. It started as toasted oak (versus the dry from the back of the palate), tart cherry, and cocoa. The more I sipped, the longer the finish grew. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  First and foremost, I enjoyed the heck out of Birthday Bu'rl. But, I've faith in Niemuth's selection process, based upon a number of different experiences. Secondly, I've yet to have a bad Traverse City pick, and Birthday Bu'rl is no different. I happen to love barrel proof whiskeys that drink under their stated proof. While there are certainly lower-priced barrel proof Bourbons in the market, $69 isn't obnoxious and it is difficult to put a price on personal enjoyment. I'm happy to have this one in my whiskey library, and as such, offer my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!

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

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Traverse City Whiskey Co. American Cherry Edition Review & Tasting Notes

I'll be completely transparent here... Flavored whiskeys are a crap-shoot with me. They're either good or they are terrible. The terrible ones taste very artificially-flavored and I'm usually under the impression the goal is to hide an otherwise bad whiskey. The good ones don't let the flavoring get out of control. 

Recently, Traverse City Whiskey Co sent me a selection of whiskeys to try in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review of each. One of them was their American Cherry Edition, which is a Bourbon that has been infused with "Traverse City Cherries and Natural Flavor." The Bourbon carries no age statement and comes from a mash of corn, rye, and malted barley. The finished product is bottled at 70°, forcing it to lose the legal definition of whiskey, which is required to be no less than 80°. It has a suggested retail price of $30.  The flavor is advertised as whiskey with a hint of cherry, not the other way around. The batch number I was provided is 013.

Those cherries?  I'll talk about them more at the end of the review. And, speaking of the review, let's get down to it, shall we?

In my Glencairn glass, the appearance was a reddish plum. It left a very thick rim that created fat, slow legs to drop back to the pool. 

An aroma of black cherry hit my nose. That was the end of it. It was a curiosity, especially with the suggestion that there was only "a hint of cherry, not the other way around."  When I inhaled through my mouth, I picked up that obvious cherry, but rye spice and vanilla followed. This at least gave me some hope.

The mouthfeel was very thick and oily. Up at the front of the palate, flavors of cherry and vanilla morphed into a creamy vanilla mid-palate. On the back were notes of rye spice and a hint of dry oak. Very dry oak. 

A longer than expected finish consisted of mostly cherry, but that very dry oak hung around to keep the cherry from becoming overwhelming.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Here's where the rubber meets the pavement. As a reminder, this is not a legal whiskey. When considering the rating, I take into account the category, what it offers, and is the price worth it.  In the case of American Cherry Edition, this is a solid flavored spirit and it does live up to its advertisement of being "not the other way around."  It is priced fairly with respect to similar items in this category and it is enjoyable. As such, it earns a Bottle recommendation. 

No, I haven't forgotten!  Those Traverse City Cherries are decadent and luscious. They come in very thick syrup and will blow away any maraschino cherry in a cocktail. I chomped some dark chocolate and then stuck a few cherries in my mouth and it was almost orgasmic!


Monday, July 22, 2019

Traverse City Barrel Proof Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

I'm often suspicious of a marketing backstory as it pertains to whiskey. There is so much twisting and the invention of "truth" and sometimes I'm left wondering just how stupid the marketing team at the distillery thinks I am. There is one of my favorites:  someone's great-grandpappy's recipe that's been hidden away tucked behind an old picture somewhere, just rediscovered and magically resurrected from someone who doesn't even have a working still. 

Traverse City Whiskey Co. starts off along this path. The Bourbon recipe was "lingering in our family heirlooms for three generations." The difference here is Traverse City Whiskey Co. does have its own stills and the great-grandfather's recipe and techniques were patented in the 1920s. This information lends credibility to the backstory.

The distillery is located in, you guessed it, Traverse City, Michigan. They've been in operation since 2015, and for the three years prior, they were selling MGP distillate. That then moved to a blend of their own distillate with their MGP-contracted distillate, and then to where they are today with their own. They currently distill about 800 barrels a year. They're growing, and their distribution is as well, as they are now in 21 states and the District of Columbia. 

Recently Traverse City Whiskey Co. provided me with a sample of their Barrel Proof Bourbon in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review. This Bourbon is distilled from a mash of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley. It is aged for four years and hits the bottle at 117.44°.  Retail on this is $75.00 at the distillery. On a side note, their Bourbon is kosher-certified. 

And now that I've presented you with the backstory, I'll get on to what's important:  the tasting notes and whether this is worth the investment.

In my Glencairn glass, this liquid sunshine has a deep, dark amber. It left a very thin rim but generated thick, long, wavy legs to drop back to the pool.

The nose is shockingly soft.  Keep in mind this is barrel proof. Aromas of black cherry were upfront and behind that was vanilla. There wasn't much else, and when I inhaled through my lips, it was pure vanilla.

The mouthfeel started off light and thin, but subsequent sips brought out a creamy texture that coated my entire mouth. At the front, it was a mix of brown sugar and warming vanilla. Black pepper, cherry, and cream joined in mid-palate. On the back, it was charred oak. 

A long, building blend of clove, oak and cherry created a finish that got my salivary glands running hard for another sip.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I may have given it away with the description of the finish. I was impressed with how gentle the nose was and really enjoyed the taste. Are there cheaper barrel proof Bourbons out there? Of course. Is this one worth $75.00? I'm rating this one a Bottle and would pick this one up with no questions asked. Cheers!