Showing posts with label Ohio. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Ohio. Show all posts

Friday, February 11, 2022

Middle West Spirits Double Cask Collection Review & Tasting Notes

Last April, I had the opportunity to review three whiskeys from Middle West Spirits out of Columbus, Ohio. They consisted of a Pumpernickel Rye, a Wheated Bourbon, and a Straight Wheat whiskey. I was a fan of the Bourbon and Wheat whiskeys but didn’t overly enjoy the Rye.


When Middle West Spirits approached me to review its new Double Cask Collection, it piqued my interest. The goal for the distillery was to take these expressions and marry them with something else to highlight the terroir of both casks used in each expression.


“We were founded in 2008, and opened our distillery for commercial production in 2010. Building on four generations of distilling traditions, we added our own deep experience in marketing and manufacturing, and focused on elevating the distinctive flavors of the Ohio River Valley. Our artisan spirits honor our roots; and reflect our originality as makers, our integrity as producers, and our passion for the craft of producing spirits from grain to glass.” – Middle West Spirits


The Bourbon was finished in solera sherry casks, the Wheat was finished in Oloroso sherry casks, and the Rye was finished in Port pipes. All of these should give a new dimension to each of the originals.  Middle West Spirits is distributed in 32 states and offers direct-to-consumer sales from its website.


Before I get started, I’d like to thank Middle West Spirits for providing samples in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Now, let’s #DrinkCurious and learn more.


Up first is the Sherry Cask Finished Bourbon. It started with a mash of sweet yellow corn, Ohio soft winter wheat, and two-row barley, then spent six years in Ohio-sourced heavy-toasted American white oak cooperage before being transferred to sun-blackened Spanish solera sherry butts for finishing. It is packaged at 97.25°, and you can expect to pay about $99.00 for a 750ml bottle.


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon presented as the color of burnt umber. It left a medium rim which generated sticky, slow tears.


Nose:  The sherry influence was evident. Aromas of raisin, chocolate, date, and pipe tobacco tickled my nostrils. Date rolled across my tongue when I took the air into my mouth.


Palate:  A silky, full-bodied mouthfeel led to raisin, plum, and dried apricot on the front. The middle was a blend of chocolate-covered cherries, dates, and nutmeg. Then, I tasted honey, oak, clove, and black pepper on the back.


Finish:  Initially short, additional sips transformed that to very long and warming. Chocolate, cherry, plum, honey, tobacco, and clove stuck to my tongue and throat.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  My first taste made me say, “Wow,” and that didn’t change after my second or third (or fourth). This was a very impressive Bourbon with a ton of flavor. To me, it is a great way to start the adventure of the Double Cask Collection and earned every bit of my Bottle recommendation.



Second up is Ported Pumpernickel Rye. If you’re like me, when you see “Pumpernickel Rye,” you wonder if anyone else has done that. There are a couple; it just isn’t widely used. Made from a mash of dark pumpernickel rye, sweet yellow corn, Ohio soft winter wheat, and two-row barley, the distillate aged six years in new, charred American white oak barrels. The finishing barrels were French Tawny Port casks. It is packaged at 99.5°, and you can expect to pay about $99.00 for a 750ml bottle.  On a side note, my whiskey sample leaked in transit, and the label was damaged.

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this whiskey featured a red mahogany color. It formed a thin rim and sticky droplets.


Nose:  The first thing I smelled was leather, followed by old oak, plum, and dried cherry. Overall, the nose was very understated. When I pulled the vapor in my mouth, I tasted plum.


Palate:  An oily, dry mouthfeel led to nutmeg, cherry, and vanilla on front. I listed nutmeg first because that was the most potent flavor. As it approached the middle, a combination of chocolate and pumpernickel bread gave way to leather, dry oak, and cinnamon on the back.


Finish:  Medium in length and relatively dry, it had pucker power. Old leather, rye spice, cinnamon powder, cherry, and plum created an old-world finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  As I stated in my introduction, I wasn’t a fan of the Pumpernickel Rye. I can safely say that a few more years in wood combined with the tawny port changed my mind. Like the original, there were no bold flavors, but in this case, it worked well, and I enjoyed it.  Would I pay $99.00 for it? I’m not entirely convinced. Were it $30.00 less, I’d jump all over this. For now, I’m granting a Bar rating.




The final entry is the Oloroso Wheat Whiskey. Made from a mash of Ohio-grown red soft winter wheat, the distillate aged five years in new, charred American white oak barrels. The finishing barrels were Oloroso sherry butts. It is packaged at 100°, and you can expect to pay about $99.00 for a 750ml bottle.

Appearance:  Drank neat from my Glencairn glass, this wheat whiskey was a dark, brassy amber. It created a medium rim that made thick, syrupy legs.


Nose: The first thing that I smelled was pecan and roasted almond. It started before I got the glass anywhere near my face. Stone fruits aromas such as cherry and plum were also present. Finally, dark chocolate made a brief appearance. When I drew the air through my lips, vanilla crossed my mouth with slight, bitter oak.


Palate: The mouthfeel was creamy. The first sip was unpleasant, but as I always say, never judge anything on that first one. That was proven true as the second was more (pardon the pun) palatable. I found roasted coffee, dark chocolate, and vanilla on the front. The middle featured cocoa powder and nutmeg, while the back had dry oak, clove, and roasted almond flavors.


Finish:  I discovered a long finish that warmed my mouth and throat. Dry oak, roasted coffee, dark chocolate, nutmeg, and cocoa powder stuck around.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I understand what Middle West Spirits wanted to accomplish here, and I commend it. It may have been the most unusual wheat whiskey that I’ve come across. It was flavorful and quite pleasant. Saying that this one isn’t worth $99.00 to me, and that equals a Bar rating.


Final Thoughts: My favorite was the Sherry Cask Bourbon Finish of the three, and it wasn’t even close. The real contest was between the Ported Pumpernickel Rye and the Oloroso Wheat Whiskey. The Ported Pumpernickel Rye wound up being my second favorite. There wasn’t much wiggle room between the Rye and Wheat whiskeys. 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, December 3, 2021

Lost Lantern Fall 2021 Single Cask #2 (Watershed Distillery) Review & Tasting Notes


In Columbus, Ohio, there exists a micro-distillery called Watershed Distillery. Initially thought up by partners Greg Lehman and Dave Rigo, they translated that plan into a working distillery in 2015. They started with a small still, then joined by a larger one from Headframe Spirits in Montana.


Watershed was the second post-Prohibition legal distillery in the state, and it maintains a restaurant on-premises. The distillery utilizes locally-grown ingredients, and some are unusual.


“We founded Watershed Distillery on the principles of community in 2010. We wanted to live in, work in and contribute to the community in which we grew up. We aimed to create spirits that stood apart in quality and character. Along the way, we set out to form a community of our own. One that could gather together to savor, celebrate and enjoy good spirits and company.” – Watershed Distillery 


That brings us to Lost Lantern, an independent bottler of American whiskeys. I’ve reviewed a handful of its releases, most of which earned Bottle ratings. Lost Lantern just released its Fall 2021 Cask program, and one of those casks is from Watershed.


Named Fall 2001: Single Cask #2, it is a five-grain Bourbon distilled from a mash of corn, rye, spelt, malted barley, and wheat. I’ve had whiskeys made from unusual grains, but I can say with confidence spelt isn’t one of them. Spelt is an ancient grain related to wheat, rye, and barley. The newmake aged five years in 53-gallon new, charred oak barrels coopered at Independent Stave Company. Non-chill filtered and naturally colored, Lost Lantern packaged it at barrel proof of 118.8°.  Only 160 bottles exist, and a 750ml will set you back $100.00.


Before I #DrinkCurious, I’d like to take a moment and thank Lost Lantern for providing a sample on Single Cask #2 in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, this cask strength Bourbon appeared as the color of dark chestnut. It formed a thinner rim that created thick, slow legs that fell back to the pool.


Nose:  Aromas of corn, nutmeg, caramel, toasted oak, and leather filled the air. As I drew that into my mouth, menthol caressed my tongue.


Palate:  I discovered an oily mouthfeel with a medium body. The front of my palate found caramel, corn, and candied orange slices. The middle featured vanilla, baked apple, walnut, and leather. Then, on the back, I tasted tobacco leaf, black pepper, and toasted oak.


Finish:  Medium to long in duration, caramel, candied orange slices, old leather, walnut, oak, and black pepper held out for a sweet and spicy finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Watershed Distillery’s Bourbon drank far beneath its stated proof. There is no way in the world you would convince me it was 118.8°, as it was such an easy sipper! While I wasn’t a fan of the menthol note from the nosing, that’s such a small part of the experience it is easily dismissed. Everything meshed as you’d want, and I’m not sure if that’s due to the unusual ingredient of spelt. Whatever it is, it works, and I’m happy to convey my Bottle rating for it. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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


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


Saturday, August 28, 2021

SN Pike's Magnolia Bottled in Bond Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


It is always exciting to see an old, defunct brand resurrected. Back in 1849, Sam Pike was a Cincinnati-based whiskey merchant who procured what he deemed to be the very best whiskeys and sold them throughout the United States and Europe. Much of what he sold was shipped to clients down the Ohio River and into the Deep South. His brand was called Magnolia Spirits

Sam was an interesting fellow, shrouded in secrecy. He claimed on a passport application that he was a native-born American, however, a biographer claimed he was born in Heidelberg, Germany, and his last name was Hecht. If you translated that from German to English, you'd wind up with pike. As such, it seemed obvious he would take that on as his surname.

Sam became enchanted with a traveling singer named Jenny Lind. If that name sounds a little bit familiar, she was the opera singer P.T. Barnum sponsored to tour the country. Sam was hopeful Jenny would come to Cincinnati, but as there was no opera house, it couldn't be done. Sam promised he would build one in Cincinnati, and a few years later, he fulfilled it with Pike's Opera House. A fire broke out in 1866 and the building was completely destroyed. He had it completely rebuilt a year later. For the record, that building was also decimated by fire in 1903.

After Sam died, Magnolia was sold to Fleischmann Distillers. The above story was provided by Jack Sullivan in January 2018, and I thank him for his dedicated research.

Fast-forward to today and Ed Carey, a retired real-estate developer and self-described Bourbon fan, brought Magnolia back to life. 

"Our goal in recreating the Magnolia Spirits brand is to act in the Samuel Pike tradition by seeking out and blending special quality bourbon and whiskey. I think the secret to the smooth taste is we import Kentucky Springwater and do a very slow multi-day trickle-proofing." - Ed Carey

Today I'm reviewing Magnolia Bottled-in-Bond Whiskey. Distilled by MGP utilizing its 95/5 rye mash, the whiskey is aged in #4 charred American oak barrels. Why not call it Bottled-in-Bond Rye? If you reread the type of cooperage, you'll see one distinct word missing: new. That suggests Magnolia utilizes vintage barrels. It carries a four-year age statement and, as it is bonded, it is packaged at 100°.  

Batch 1 was limited to 5800 bottles, and you can expect to drop about $54.00 for a 750ml package. Bottling is handled by Noble Cut Distillery of Gahanna, Ohio. Distribution is all over Ohio, and you can buy online from

I'd like to thank Magnolia for providing me a sample of this whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. It is time to #DrinkCurious and taste what this is all about.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Magnolia was the color of a lighter orange amber. It created a medium ring and widely-spaced, long, slow legs that fell back to the pool.

Nose:  The floral notes were easy to pick out. Additional sniffs were required to discover nutmeg, caramel, and berry. When I breathed the aroma into my mouth, vanilla rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  A silky, full-bodied mouthfeel greeted my palate. On the front, I tasted vanilla, cinnamon, and pecan. As it moved to the middle, flavors of vanilla and the softest of stone fruits were discernable. The back offered clove, rye spice, and smoked oak.

Finish:  Medium in length, the finish featured smoked oak, caramel, cinnamon, and the longest-lasting element, clove.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I've had MGP's 95/5 rye mash aged in vintage cooperage before, and I've been a big fan. Dancing Goat does it with French oak and a solera system. Magnolia is not the same cooperage, that much is obvious, but that soft, easy-drinking aspect is still there, and I love it.  Is $54.00 pricy?  You're getting 4-year MGP 100° rye that is different in a good way, so no, it isn't. Magnolia has earned my Bottle rating and I'm thrilled to have this in my whiskey library. 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, April 9, 2021

Middle West Spirits Straight Bourbon, Straight Rye, and Straight Wheat Reviews & Tasting Notes


I get excited when I come across whiskey from distilleries that I've never heard of. It means I have a chance to try something new, particularly if it isn't sourced from MGP, Dickel, Heaven Hill, or Sazerac. When it is true craft whiskey, well, that's just an adventure, good or bad. When I was introduced to Middle West Spirits out of Columbus, Ohio, I was, to say the least, intrigued.

Founded in 2008 by Brady Konya, the General Manager, and Ryan Lang, the Head Distiller, their goal was to create whiskey the "right way" - and to offer products that are exceptional. Everything is sourced from Ohio, from the grains to the barrels to the glass bottles.  

"Building on four generations of distilling traditions, we added our own deep experience in marketing and manufacturing and focused on elevating the distinctive flavors of the Ohio River Valley. Our artisan spirits honor our roots; and reflect our originality as makers, our integrity as producers, and our passion for the craft of producing spirits from grain to glass." - Middle West Spirits


Today I'll be reviewing three of Middle West's whiskeys:  A four-grain Bourbon, a four-grain Rye, and a 100% Wheat. Before I get started, I'd like to thank Middle West Spirits for providing me samples of each in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews.  Let's #DrinkCurious, shall we?

Michelone Reserve Straight Wheated Bourbon

I'm not sure what the reason is for calling this Bourbon wheated when it is a four-grain, except perhaps to suggest the second largest ingredient is wheat. The mash is made from yellow corn, red winter wheat, dark pumpernickel rye, and two-row barley. Named Michelone Reserve for Lang's grandfather, it carries no age statement, but since it is straight we know that means at least two years in oak, and since there's no age statement, that means at least four. Bottled at 95°, it is priced at $46.99. I was provided with Batch 071.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon presented at the color of rust. It created one of the heaviest rims I've seen in an American whiskey, and that led to fast, husky legs that raced down the wall.

Nose:  Sweet and fruity, aromas of caramel, orange blossom, lemon peel, and honey were blended with cinnamon spice. I also picked up something I could only describe as earthy. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, orange peel rolled across my tongue.

Palate:  The first sip was creamy, and subsequent ones only thickened it. The body was somewhere between medium and full.  On the front, I experienced coffee, butterscotch, and cream. The middle was a delightful blend of chocolate and orange peel. On the back, things got spicy with clove, rye, cocoa, and mint. 

Finish:  A freight-train finish brought clove, candied orange slices, rye, mint, and oak.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  While not overly complicated, there was nothing not to like about Michelone Reserve, and, in fact, I loved it. I appreciated how orange became a theme from the nosing to finish. I was impressed with the transition front-to-back and how naturally it flowed. The finish wouldn't quit and I didn't want it to. Bring on that affordable price tag, and that's a Bottle rating all day long.


Straight Rye Whiskey

This Rye is made from a mash of dark pumpernickel rye, yellow corn, soft winter wheat, and two-row barley. It is aged a minimum of three years, is certified kosher, and bottled at 96°. You can expect to pay $46.99 for a 750ml package. The batch number is 024.  According to Middle West Spirits, this is the nation's first dark rye pumpernickel whiskey.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Rye offered a deep, orange-amber. It formed a massive rim and watery legs that crashed back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  The aroma was just outstanding. I let Mrs. Whiskeyfellow take a whiff and she rolled her eyes in pleasure. It started with rye bread, then added nutmeg, vanilla, toasted oak, candied fruits, and orange peel. When I inhaled through my open mouth, the pumpernickel became obvious.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and soft. On the front of the palate was chocolate. The middle was oak and the back was a combination of pumpernickel and rye spice.

Finish:  Long and building, what remained was pumpernickel bread, cinnamon, and toasted oak. Once the finish stopped building, it fell off quickly.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I found this Rye to be fairly simple with few notes. I really wanted to love this for two reasons: the nose and the fact this is the first in a niche rye category. However, everything beyond the nose was unremarkable and fairly bland. For $46.99, I want something that makes me smile. This didn't do it, and as such, takes a Bust.


Straight Wheat Whiskey

Wheat whiskeys are unique, and by that, I'm not talking about whiskeys like Bernheim, which is barely legal at 51%. Instead, I mean serious wheat content. That's because distilled wheat has no flavor. Wheat is an ingredient used to highlight the flavors of other grains and offer a "softer" mouthfeel. When there are no other grains, the flavors that come out are strictly from the barrel, and you can expect the profile to be spicy.

The only ingredient in Middle West's Straight Wheat mashbill is red winter wheat. Aged "at least" three years and bottled at 96°, the suggested retail price is $46.99 for a 750ml package. I was provided with batch 084.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, the color was a dark, burnt umber. The rim was medium in weight, and thick, watery legs fell like a curtain.

Nose:  Much sweeter than I expected, the nose featured plum, vanilla wafers, almond, nutmeg, and coconut. When I pulled the fumes into my mouth, I was greeted by soft vanilla. 

Palate:  Offering a medium body and creamy texture, the front of my palate picked up dark chocolate and almond paste. The middle started with nutmeg, then cocoa and cinnamon. On the back, I discovered clove, dry oak, and the unmistakable taste of leather.

Finish:  The finish was long, dry, and spicy. Clove and cinnamon competed initially, then dry oak, cocoa powder, and old leather rounded things out. Just before it fell off, I tasted a hint of sweet caramel.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  You really run a crapshoot with wheat whiskeys. I've had some that were almost undrinkable. I've had others that were enjoyable. This one falls in that latter category. Like the previous two whiskeys, the palate wasn't overly complicated. It was both easy to drink, gave great flavors, and is priced fairly. I'm conveying my Bottle rating for it. Cheers!

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