Showing posts with label Minnesota. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Minnesota. Show all posts

Friday, November 12, 2021

Stearns American Avon Rye Review & Tasting Notes

Are you familiar with pimento wood? You may be if you’re a fan of jerk chicken, beef, or pork. You see, in order for it to be considered “jerk”, it must be cooked over pimento wood. It is used for barbequing and grows primarily in Jamaica. Pimento wood comes from an allspice tree, of which the berries make the namesake spice. The wood is very hard, and, unfortunately, was placed just this year on the international endangered species list. As such, the only current legal way to obtain pimento wood is to harvest it from already felled trees. No live cutting is allowed, and Jamaica is already limiting its export.


Why am I giving you background on pimento wood? Because I just got done trying Stearns American Avon Rye, which is finished in – you guessed it, charred pimento wood. I can safely say I’ve never had a whiskey aged or finished in that before. I’m assuming you probably haven’t, either.


Stearns American begins with a mash of 95% rye and 5% malted barley. I know what you’re thinking – it is sourced from MGP. Well, I thought the same and we’re both wrong, it is sourced but not from them. The newmake is then aged for 21 months. Currently only available in Minnesota, the suggested retail for a 750ml package is $49.99, however, I’ve been told by Jeremy Blankenship, the head distiller, that some retailers are selling it for a buck or so less. He said that he gets so engrossed in the distilling process and loves hearing his still sing.


“STEARNS AMERICAN stands with free spirited people who live life on their own terms - like the people of central Minnesota who were responsible for the infamous and legendary whiskeys of the 1920's and 30's Prohibition era. The whiskeys were crafted by farmers in barns and cellars across the rural communities to help weather the economic hardships of the times. The call for 'free kittens' on the radio alerted the community to get the next batch of whiskey ready for market.” – Jeremy Blankenship


As I’m getting ready to #DrinkCurious, I’d like to thank Stearns American for providing me a sample of this Avon Rye in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Rye was a light, orange-amber. It formed a thin rim that created sticky droplets that never really went anywhere.


Nose:  Dill was easily sniffed out. Beneath that were allspice, rye, dry oak, something slightly soapy, and a big blast of clove. As I drew the air into my mouth, dill and clove rolled across my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was oily and thin. The front of the palate started with caramel and mild peppers (I suppose it could be pimento, I’ve never had a raw one). The middle offered flavors of dill, cinnamon, and old leather. On the back, I tasted allspice, oak, rye spice, and clove.


Finish:  The finish was elusive. I don’t mean it wasn’t there, but initially, I felt it was medium in length. Clove, allspice, oak, and cinnamon stuck around for a bit, and then everything went away. But, the leather and mild pepper rose from the ashes and stuck around for several minutes on my hard palate, reminiscent of jerk.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Stearns American Avon Rye was unusual in a good way. The nose was weird, particularly with that soapy note midway through. But I’m a fan of clove and that was the strongest clove influence I’ve ever come across in a nosing. The palate was also unusual in a great way. I enjoy pimentos in olives, but they’ve also been soaking in brine. I’m guessing some of what I tasted was raw pimento, but I can’t swear by that. Regardless, for $49.99, this is a heck of an adventure, and well worth 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 you do so responsibly.



Friday, January 15, 2021

Pike Street Wheated Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

One of the things I really enjoy about traveling (aside from the traveling part) is stumbling upon very local whiskeys. As you know, I'm always in a #DrinkCurious mood, and that means diving deep into the unknown.  On a recent trip to visit family in Minnesota, I stopped in a store I was somewhat familiar with and scouted their local spirits section. As I was perusing the various offerings, a sticker on a bottle caught my eye:  Only Available in Minnesota.  Well, there you have it, that was what I was grabbing!

The bottle said Pike Street on it, and as I looked it over, I saw it was a Wheated Bourbon (meaning, the second major ingredient is wheat). I also noticed it was distilled (not produced) by Panther Distillery. I have heard of Panther before but had never tried anything they've made. 

Panther is located in Osakis, Minnesota on Pike Street (hence the name). Founded in 2011 by Adrian Panther, the distillery utilizes three 500-gallon USA-made copper stills. Grains are sourced from an area of 30-miles or less from the distillery. The Master Distiller is Brett Grinager. Panther is Minnesota's oldest operating distillery since Prohibition and was also the first Minnesota distillery to release a whiskey.

Pike Street is aged four years and is diluted to 92°. I did notice the word straight isn't used and am unsure why. A 750ml bottle will set you back about $29.99.  But, it Pike Street a hidden gem? Time to find out!

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Pike Street appeared as a bronzish amber. I found it left a thicker rim that generated fat, fast legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Aromas of toasted oak and corn quickly gave way to candied orange peel and vanilla. When I inhaled through my parted lips, I could swear the flavor of Corn Chex ran across my tongue. 

Palate:  There was some warming sensation but no ethanol burn. The body was amazingly light and almost airy. 

Wheated Bourbons typically are sweeter than more traditional Bourbons because the distilled wheat lacks flavor, and while it softens the palate (and contributes to that airy mouthfeel), it allows the sweetness of the corn to shine through.  I was, however, unprepared for how candy-sweet this Bourbon was. Vanilla exploded on the front, which was joined by toasted oak. At mid-palate, thick caramel took over, soon to be overtaken by birch wood. And then, on the back... nothing. Try as I might, the back of my palate picked up zilch.

Finish:  A warm, long-lasting finish helped me identify what I experienced. It started with toasted coconut, which led to pecan, then oak, and finally, white pepper. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  There are a few things to consider with the rating. The first thing that comes to mind is the price.  Craft whiskey retailing at $30.00 yet not bottled at 80-some-odd proof is very affordable. Stick a four-year age statement on it, and that becomes even more attractive. However, the perceived value only goes so far. 

I found Pike Street to be different but sans the sweetness, there was nothing remarkable about it. Don't get me wrong, this isn't a bad Bourbon, it simply didn't shine for me. As such, this one takes a Bar rating. See if you can snag a sample before making the commitment. Cheers!

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