Showing posts with label Secret Midnight Whiskey Club. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Secret Midnight Whiskey Club. Show all posts

Monday, December 28, 2020

Backbone Bourbon: "Unicorn Hunter" and CWBS Reviews & Tasting Notes

 


Back in January, I wrote about a store pick called Unicorn Slayer.  It was selected by The Secret Midnight Whiskey Club for Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton, Wisconsin. I had assisted in that pick, and it was one of those mind-blowing ones that resonate with you for years. At the time, I stated Unicorn Slayer was one of the five best barrel picks I've been involved with.


Today, I'm reviewing one called Unicorn Hunter. It was also picked by The Secret Midnight Whiskey Club for Niemuith's, but this time, I was not part of the selection committee. However, the Secret Midnight Whiskey Club did ask me to review it for them, which I'm happy to do.


Unicorn Hunter is distilled by MGP, and it is bottled under the Backbone Bourbon brand. Like Unicorn Slayer, this is a barrel-proof, uncut, single barrel Bourbon. It is distilled from the same 70% corn, 25% rye, and 5% malted barley mash. Unlike its predecessor, which was 7.5 years old, Unicorn Hunter is 6 years and a month. It is 117.1° versus 119.3°.  To be frank, two points isn't going to make a lot of difference. You'll find this only at Niemuth's and one of the 168 bottles yielded will set you back $64.99, which is less expensive than Unicorn Slayer was.


I'd like to thank The Secret Midnight Whiskey Club for providing me a sample in exchange for my honest, no-strings-attached review. Let's #DrinkCurious and get this taken care of.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Unicorn Hunter presented as chestnut in color with amazing clarity. A thin rim was created, and it generated wavy legs that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine but also sticky drops that did not.


Nose:  An aromatic combination of mint, menthol, and stone fruit was easy to pick up. As I continued to sniff around, I detected berries and dark chocolate. When I drew in the vapor through my mouth, a wave of cherry vanilla ran across my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was oily and coated everywhere with ease, and was full-bodied. Up at the front, I experienced a sweet and fruity punch of berries and cherry syrup with dark chocolate. In the middle, I tasted rye spice and toffee. Then, on the back, it was coffee, clove, and oak.


Finish:  A blend of charred oak, coffee, cinnamon, and black pepper lasted several minutes before falling off. Cherry syrup stuck around. There was a distinct Indiana hug about it, but despite the proof, it couldn't be described as hot or burn


Bottle, Bar, or BustUnicorn Hunter was tasty as hell and a very easy sipper. Just to get it out of the way, it takes a Bottle rating and if you missed out on Unicorn Slayer, don't make the same mistake. Saying that, between the two, and I am probably biased, I preferred the predecessor. But, you aren't finding that on the shelf.


But Wait, There's More...


Now, in an interesting turn of events, The Secret Midnight Whiskey Club provided me a sample of another Backbone pick, this time for the Central Wisconsin Bourbon Society. It, too, is six years old and also retails for $64.99, and bottled at 120.9°.




Appearance:  The color was a slightly deeper chestnut than Unicorn Hunter. The rim was heavier, but not thick, the legs were similar, but lacked the sticky droplets.


Nose:  The very first thing I picked up was sawdust, which, interestingly enough, was the first thing I picked out of Unicorn Slayer last year. I smelled toasted oak and cocoa powder, mint, and a brush of cinnamon. Breathing the fumes in through my lips led me to uncover vanilla.


Palate:  An airy mouthfeel was a complete contrast to Unicorn Hunter. The body was closer to a medium than full. Caramel and cherry came out swinging. Clove, rye spice, and char hit me mid-palate, with cinnamon, black pepper, and dry oak on the back. This was, undoubtedly, much spicier than Unicorn Hunter.


Finish: I found the CWBS pick to have a longer finish than Unicorn Hunter. It was made up of cocoa powder, barrel char, caramel, and mint. It didn't have the same Indiana hug that Unicorn Hunter did, but it did leave my tongue tingling. As I was considering that, I found myself tasting dark chocolate.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The spice focus of the CWBS pick was interesting and much different than my other experiences with Backbone Bourbon. There was enough going on here to keep me paying attention. I was particularly enchanted by the sawdust aroma because it reminded me so much of Unicorn Slayer. There is no reason to not pick one up, and the price is certainly fair. Add it all up and you get a Bottle rating from me. 


So, between Unicorn Hunter and the CWBS pick, which did I prefer?  I enjoyed them both, but Unicorn Hunter edged out the CWBS pick, mostly because I preferred the fruity flavors on the former. Either, however, would leave you happy. Cheers!


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


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

Monday, December 21, 2020

Wisconsin's own Great Northern Rye and New Richmond Rye Reviews & Tasting Notes

 


I was recently approached by the folks at Neimuth's Southside Market in Appleton to review a few of their store picks:  Great Northern Rye Dapper and Richmond Rye Lil'Nog'n.  As such, today's review will be a twofer.  As a matter of full disclosure, I was provided samples of each in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews.


Great Northern Rye Dapper



Great Northern Distilling is located in Plover, which is just outside of Stevens Point. Founded in 2014 by its president and head-distiller Brian Cummings, Great Northern sources everything locally and is a big supporter of transparency. He started with distilling rum, then potato vodka, gin, and finally, whiskey.


Our rye whiskey is made in an old east coast style, reminiscent of a Maryland style rye. Different than a Kentucky rye, we use a higher proportion of raw rye grain, rye malt rather than barley malt which gives a more savory rye flavor rather than the sharpness of the barley, and just a touch of corn to round out the edges. - Great Northern Distilling

In the case of Dapper, it is a 4-year, 4-month old single barrel, bottled at 96°, and a 750ml will set you back $52.99.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Dapper presented as deep amber in color. It left a medium rim that created slow, fat legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  A jab of caramel was the first thing I smelled. As I continued to explore, I found oak and a big blast of mint. Underneath those was a floral perfume. When I inhaled the vapor through my lips, the floral quality continued.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and oily. It started off on the front as sweet with a burst of caramel, cherry, and floral notes, then at mid-palate, it got very spicy with rye, mint, and oak.  On the back, I tasted leather, clove, char, and coffee.


Finish:  A long (very long) finish was both smoky and spicy. The smoke started off mild and then built quickly. Once it climaxed, rye spice and cinnamon took over. That then became leather and clove, and finally ended with dark roast coffee that stuck around several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or BustDapper drinks much higher than its stated proof thanks to how spicy it is. That's not a negative, rather, it is an observation. I enjoyed this, it was interesting, and my favorite part was the finish, particularly the dark roast coffee at the end. Dapper earns a Bottle rating from me.



New Richmond Rye Lil' Nog'n






Richmond Rye is distilled by 45th Parallel Distillery out of New Richmond. That's just south of the Minnesota border on the 45th parallel. The 45th is considered the "halfway" point between the equator and north pole. It was founded in 2007 by Paul Werni, it remains family-owned, with a goal of distilling small-batch spirits. Werni started with vodka, then moved onto whiskeys. But, he was contract distilling, with his most widely-recognized client being J. Henry & Sons Wisconsin Straight Bourbon. Then, in 2013, he launched New Richmond Rye, and the rest is history.


Werni's philosophy is one of taking his time to make a quality product.


Today many distillers care more about maturing their spirit quickly with wood extracts. A traditional slow maturation process results in a full-bodied flavor that can only be accomplished from years in high-quality wood barrels. - 45th Parallel Distillery


New Richmond Rye is a 65% rye mash with the remainder being corn and malted barley. Entry proof was 116°.  In the case of Lil' Nog'n, it goes a step further - Barrel #134 is a Bottled-in-Bond single barrel, aged for 5 years and 5 months. Like any other Bottled-in-Bond spirit, it weighs in at 100°, and a 750ml is priced at $42.99.


AppearanceIn my Glencairn glass, Lil' Nog'n offered a deep, mahogany color. It provided a thick rim and heavy legs that came down like a curtain. 


Nose:  Caramel and mint were the two dominant aromas. Sawdust, cherry, plum, and cinnamon tagged along. When I inhaled through my mouth, vanilla ran across my tongue.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy and had a medium body. Flavors of crème fresh, plum, and nutmeg were on the front. As it moved across my palate, I tasted cinnamon and brown sugar. The back consisted of rye spice, toasted oak, and the slightest dusting of char.


Finish:  A long, spicy finish featured cinnamon red hots, mint, nutmeg, and dry oak. 


Bottle, Bar, or BustLil' Nog'n drinks at its stated proof. I found this one fascinating, and I understand the reason for its name - it had all the flavors you'd find in eggnog (without the texture, which some people find off-putting). As for me, I love eggnog, it is a treat I look forward to each winter, and, quite frankly, this one is unique. This takes a very easy Bottle rating.



Final Verdict:  The natural question is, Which of the two did I prefer? These are both delicious ryes, full of character and flavor, but I found Lil' Nog'n came out on top. In either case, you'll wind up with a winner. Cheers!


Niemuth's Southside Market is located at 2021 S. Oneida Street in Appleton.


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

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Elijah Craig "Good Carma" Single Barrel Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes



If you've followed my reviews for some time, you know that I have some biases. That's right, I'm human. But, I admit them. And, today I'm going to admit another.


I enjoy the hell out of Elijah Craig.


That shouldn't be a surprise. This is something I've stated for a few years now. I stumble upon Elijah Craig store picks and for me, it is almost always a no-brainer. And, I'm going to give you a spoiler - I love the one I'm reviewing today. But, what's important is what makes this store pick worthwhile.


If you're unfamiliar with Elijah Craig (hey, everyone is new to something sometime, right?), it is distilled by Heaven Hill in Bardstown, Kentucky. Heaven Hill uses a mash of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley. It is then poured into #3-charred oak barrels.  With average retail of less than $30.00, it is also a very affordable investment. That's the standard release that you'll find on every store shelf.


Then you get into the Single Barrel program (don't be fooled by "Small Batch" on the bottle, they use the same bottle for their Small Batch and their Single Barrel program). In the case of today's review, it is a store pick by Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton, Wisconsin called Good Carma.  Good Carma aged in Rickhouse V on the third floor for 11 years, 11 months, and 11 days. It came out of the barrel at 122.9° and then proofed down to the standard 94°, giving a yield of 228 bottles. Retail is $28.99.


I'd like to thank Niemuth's for providing me a sample of Good Carma in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. With that said, it is time to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Good Carma appeared as a very orange amber. While the rim it left was very thin, the legs were fat and wavy.  When they dissipated, droplets stuck to the side like glue.


Nose:  Things started off with brown sugar and vanilla. From there, I found cherries and cinnamon. At the end, it was oak and dried, sweet fruit.  When I inhaled through my lips, caramel-coated cherries flowed across my palate.


Palate:  Here's where things get interesting. The mouthfeel was thick and heavy. At the front, it was a total caramel bomb. There was nothing else to contend with. No matter how many sips I took, I could not get past the caramel.  But, once it hit mid-palate, I tasted a combination of hazelnut, vanilla, and sweet corn.  Then, at the back, toasted oak and brown sugar.


Finish:   Medium in length, I was left wishing it would go longer. It was a blend of toasted oak, white pepper, and caramel. 


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  My rating is no surprise since I let the cat out of the bag early.  But, Good Carma is dangerous. It goes down way too easy. On one of the warmest, most humid days of the year so far, it could be enjoyed on the back deck without causing any discomfort. There was no real warmth to speak of. This is the kind of Bourbon that doesn't even require effort to get a Bottle rating from me.  Grab it, you can thank me later.  Cheers!




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

Wednesday, June 10, 2020

La Crosse Distilling "Reboar'n" Light Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes



A little over a year ago, I reviewed a standard release of La Crosse Distilling Co.'s High Rye Light Whiskey.  It was the first decent Light Whiskey I'd tasted and earned somewhere between a Bar and Bottle rating. I've passed the bottle around to several people and the reviews were mixed. Some people really enjoyed it, others said it was decent but not great. I don't recall anyone saying it was lacking. But, that also validated my rating.


If you're not familiar with La Crosse Distilling, it is a craft distillery in (you guessed it) La Crosse, Wisconsin. It uses only organic, locally-grown ingredients, and the still is powered by geothermal energy, making it very earth-friendly.  It makes gins, vodkas, rock & rye, and light whiskey.  Barrels are sourced locally from Staggemeyer Stave Co., located 20 minutes southwest of the distillery. They're currently aging Bourbon and other whiskeys.  Their Light Whiskey is a mash of rye and wheat.


Today, I'm reviewing another High Rye Light Whiskey from La Crosse Distilling. What's different about this one?  Well, this one aged one year and a day in used Wisconsin Full Boar Straight Rye barrels. This was a collaboration between La Crosse Distilling and Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton, and as such, it is exclusively available at Niemuth's.  The barrel yield was 125 90°-bottles and can be purchased for $29.99. Niemuth's decided to name this one Reboar'n


I'd like to thank Niemuth's for providing me with a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. So, let's get to it. Time to #DrinkCurious


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Reboar'n appears the color of straw. It left a very thin rim on the wall of my glass, and that rim never generated any legs. The rim just stuck like glue.


Nose:  Despite its aging for a year, it still had the aroma of buttered popcorn like many new-make whiskeys do. It lacked any alcohol vapor to the face. I found light oak and then, surprisingly, caramel. My guess is that caramel came from the previously-barreled rye.  When I inhaled through my lips initially, I tasted nothing. However, after repeated attempts, a hint of citrus materialized.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was creamy and coating. It also smacked my hard palate hard, which took me aback. I had to remind myself that this is only 90°!  Up at the front was an obvious rye spice dusted with cinnamon. As it moved to the middle, I tasted floral and citrus notes. It was an interesting combination. The back was all dry oak.


Finish:  My throat was warmed by a very long, spicy finish of clove and rye.  I would estimate it lasted just beyond three minutes before it began to wander off.  Clove is something I find appealing in whiskey, and that brought a smile to my face.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Because of the high-rye mash and ex-rye barrel aging, Reboar'n took on a lot of rye character, much more than the original version I tasted last year. If you really enjoy spicy rye, then Reboar'n is going to be a Bottle rating for you. If you haven't delved much (or at all) into Light Whiskeys, you may want to try this one first (giving it a Bar rating).  Cheers!





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








Friday, June 5, 2020

Cat's Eye Distillery Light Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes



Light Whiskey is something that's making a comeback. It came into existence in 1968. It came into being because consumers were moving away from Bourbon and more into clear spirits such as vodka or gin. Yeah, I know, perish the thought. But, what is Light Whiskey? Well... first and foremost, it is distilled between 160° and 190°.  Contrast that with Bourbon or American Rye, which tops out at 160°.  But, that's not the only difference. It must also be aged in used, charred oak barrels or new, uncharred oak. 


What is was not designed to be was aged very long. Except, that wound up happening anyway, especially since its recent resurgence. 


Bring in MGP of Indiana. They had barrels and barrels of aged Light Whiskey, and some folks got interested in it. They started ordering those barrels and while it isn't a huge market, it is growing in popularity.  Thanks to distilleries like Cat's Eye Distillery of Bettendorf, IA, that buys MGP stock, and now you've got some distribution.  Cat's Eye produces its Light Whiskey under its Obtanium Master Collection Series


But wait, there's more.  Then you have retailers such as Niemuth's Southside Market of Appleton, WI, that get creative with what they buy from Cat's Eye.  They took a barrel of Cat's Eye Light Whiskey and left 1/3 of it alone, 1/3 of it was then finished in Bone Snapper Darkest Sourcerye and Doppelbock (Ball Buster Bock) barrels, and the last 1/3 in Traverse City Birthday Bu'url Bourbon and Stout barrels. 


Today I'm reviewing the unadulterated version.  It is distilled from a mash of 99% corn and 1% malted barley and aged for 13 years in used, charred oak barrels. By the time that was over and done with, it was bottled at 134.6° (67.3% ABV). Niemuth's offers this for $55.99 for a 750ml bottle.


I'd like to thank Niemuth's for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  And now, time to #DrinkCurious.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Light Whiskey appears honey in color. It, strangely enough, didn't really leave a rim on the wall. Instead, it was a series of drops that then cascaded down the wall and back to the pool.  Those legs were medium in width and very slow.


Nose:  It started off with corn, which shouldn't be surprising considering it is made from nearly all that.  But, that was joined by vanilla and orange citrus.  Behind that was smoked oak and what I could swear was a dirty BBQ grill.  I know, that last one is weird, but that's what hit my mind. When I inhaled through my lips, I discovered a blend of chocolate and toasted coconut.


Palate:   At my first sip, it had a medium mouthfeel, but dang, it numbed the heck out of my hard palate.  I drink a lot of barrel-proof whiskeys and this one kicked my butt.  I'm not suggesting that's a bad thing, rather, it just shocked me. At the front, I tasted oak and very dark, heavy cacao chocolate.  As the whiskey worked its way across my tongue, I found cocoa, smoke, and cherry. And, as it moved to the back, there was nothing. Absolutely nothing.


Finish:  The Light Whiskey had an Energizer Bunny finish of coconut, oak, and clove. It was very long and warming, and left absolutely no question about its proof.


And, then, I got even more curious.  Using an eyedropper, I decided to add two drops of distilled water to see what would happen.


Nose:  This time, the nose was milk chocolate, like a Hershey's Kiss, and orange zest. When I inhaled through my lips, I found only vanilla. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel was definitely thinner and all that punch disappeared. Up at the front were plum and date.  Then, at mid-palate, a marriage of vanilla, light smoke, and dry oak. And, again, zilch on the back.


Finish:  The length of the finish was greatly muted.  The coconut was gone. So was the warmth. But, the clove remained and was joined with dry oak and barrel char.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I enjoyed this Light Whiskey neat, despite the fact it numbed my hard palate so quickly.  I was not a fan of it proofed down. Neat, the nose and palate were complex despite the lack of anything on the back. With water, it became boring. When you take into account this is a 13-year, barrel-proof whiskey, the $55.99 price is quite affordable. As such, it takes my coveted Bottle rating. 


On a final note, I'm very curious about what the two finished expressions will taste like.  Cheers!


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

Thursday, April 9, 2020

"W" Wisconsin Wheat Whiskey "Grand Master Flan" Review


Sometimes the world hits you over and over with the "same" thing trying to deliver a message. Just two days ago, I was sipping Dry Fly Washington Straight Whiskey and here I am today trying 45th Parallel's "W" Wisconsin Straight Whiskey. Normally, trying the same category of whiskey is no big deal. I'll go several days in a row doing Scotch, Bourbon, or Rye. But, the wheat whiskey category isn't all that deep. To have an opportunity for multiples in a short period of time is unusual.



To set the record straight, there's a big difference between wheated Bourbons and wheat whiskeys. Wheat whiskey is, generally speaking, just that. Wheat. Distilled wheat lends a softening quality to what it is mixed with (corn, rye, barley, etc.) but for the most part, it is tasteless. People who enjoy the "sweetness" of wheated Bourbons are tasting more of the corn. The wheat itself isn't sweet.





Today's whiskey is a Niemuth's Southside Market pick called Grand Master Flan. You've probably read several of my reviews about various Niemuth's picks. They're located in Appleton, Wisconsin, and do a good job overall. In full disclosure, I was on the selection committee for this pick. And, I also want to say that I've been impressed with much of what 45th Parallel does. Not only do they distill their own spirits, but they also do contract distilling for several brands. 45th Parallel is in New Richmond, Wisconsin and has been distilling since 2007. They're not newbies to the distilling world.



Grand Master Flan is the first "W" release that is available at cask strength. In this case, that translates to 104°. It carries a 70-month age statement which differs greatly from the standard release. On average, "W" is four years old or a bit more. It is distilled from a mash of Wisconsin-grown wheat and aged in new, 53-gallon #3 charred oak barrels. Grandmaster Flan comes from Barrel #31, and retail is $49.99, which is right around average for craft whiskey.


Is Grand Master Flan another great pick? Time to #DrinkCurious and find out!


In my Glencairn glass, Grand Master Flan appears as a deep amber. On the wall of the glass, it left a heavy rim that created fat, slow legs that stuck in place before eventually giving up and dropping back to the pool.


Aromas of grass, wheat, and fresh bread were immediately identified. As I continued to explore the nose, oak and mint came about, and then, finally, red apple. When I inhaled through my lips, crème brûlée rolled across my tongue.


A thin but coating mouthfeel took me aside, especially after considering the rim and legs. It was also quite spicy. The first flavors to hit my palate were dark chocolate and what I initially thought was red grape, but after subsequent sips, became more meaty and ashy like Merlot wine. Then, in the middle, was the namesake flavor: flan. That gave way to cinnamon and honey on the back. The Merlot quality continued over my entire palate before fading.


The medium-short finish was a blend of flan, dry oak, black pepper, and prunes. It was absolutely a unique combination that did take some acclimation.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Grand Master Flan was definitely out of the ordinary. If you've been following me for any length of time, you know I get excited over different. As I say that, however, it is important to know that different isn't always great and has to work. The flan was strong. Perhaps it was a subliminal message that caused me to pick it up. I can also see how Grand Master Flan would make a stimulating base to a number of cocktails. There's enough going on with it that would be delectable and certainly stand out from a basic Rye or Bourbon.


Grand Master Flan is, especially for a wheat whiskey, very complex on both the nose and palate. Those reasons, along with the distinctive finish is why I selected this barrel. I believe you'll enjoy it as well, and as such, it takes my Bottle rating. Cheers!




My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it first
  • 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

Friday, January 31, 2020

Backbone "Unicorn Slayer" Single Barrel Bourbon Review



I can remember, not even a few years ago, when everyone was sneering at MGP and calling it junk. Fast forward a bit, and magically here we are with MGP being all the rage. 


If you're unfamiliar with MGP, it is the old Seagram's Distillery in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. It has its own house brands, but for the most part, they're the major source of whiskeys for new craft brands. Sometimes, these craft brands are waiting for their own distillate to mature. Others are just sourcing barrels and hoping the supply doesn't dry up. 


Today I'm reviewing Backbone Bourbon, which is a brand that sources from MGP.  This is a single barrel release, and it is nicknamed Unicorn Slayer by Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton, Wisconsin. As I demand transparency from producers and distillers, I hold myself to the same standard. So, in full disclosure, I assisted the Secret Midnight Whiskey Club in picking this barrel.
 



Unicorn Slayer was distilled in May 2012 using MGPs Bourbon mash of 70% corn, 25% rye, and 5% malted barley. It aged for seven and a half years before being dumped in November 2019. The barrel yielded 166 bottles and was uncut at 119.3°.  Retail is $69.99 and is available exclusively at Niemuth's.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Unicorn Slayer was a deep and dark amber. It created a micro-rim on the wall that led to a thick, wavy curtain to drop into the pool of liquid sunshine. That left behind fat, heavy legs that stuck to the side of the glass.


Nose:  An aroma of freshly-sawn oak filled the room. I left the glass alone for about 20 minutes just enjoying the smell. Once I brought the glass to my face, the first thing I picked up was berry and vanilla. Upon further inspection, cocoa and nutmeg teased. Then, as I brought the glass to my mouth, mint became obvious. When I inhaled through my lips, it was a blend of cocoa and stone fruits.


Palate:  The mouth was thin and oily and coated everywhere. Amazingly, there was very little heat.  Berry, vanilla, and cinnamon greeted the front of my palate. As it worked its way back, I picked up a definitive dry oak, white pepper, and caramel. Then, on the back of my palate, it was all rye spice and clove.


Finish:  All of this enveloped into a very long, warm finish. If you would have told me this was almost 120° and I didn't know any better, I would have challenged you on the claim. Clove and rye spice remained for much of the finish, but as it began to die off, creamy caramel closed everything up in a nice, neat package.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I have a very strict standard when I pick barrels. It has to be something special, and I don't attach my name to anything that is a me-too whiskey. One of the things that really grabbed me was how easy it was to drink. There was nothing harsh about this barrel and, quite frankly, the proof will sneak up on you if you're not careful. The nose was very complex, and the palate offered a wide range of flavors. This is a combination that I find very attractive and it is available at a very fair price.


I'll go one step further. I have picked a lot of barrels. Unicorn Slayer is easily in the Top 5 of what I've picked. Obviously, this one is a Bottle rating. Cheers!


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


Wednesday, December 11, 2019

"Sweet Carmella" Elijah Craig Single Barrel Review & Tasting Notes


Reasons exist why you should get excited over Elijah Craig store picks. First and foremost, they're super affordable. Second of all, they are fairly easy to pick. I've done several of these and the number of samples that I didn't care for I could count on one hand. Third of all (did I mention this?), they're easy on the wallet.


So, if you can just go just about anywhere and get an Elijah Craig store pick, can you just choose anything and be fine? There are absolutely some that are superior to others, and as I pointed out, I've had some samples that wouldn't pass my strict standards.


Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton, WI recently selected a pick for their store, and they provided me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. In full disclosure, I have been involved in picking barrels for Niemuth's, but this one is not one of those. I do thank them for their generosity.


Barrel number 5189718, called Sweet Carmella, rested in Heaven Hill's Warehouse N on the second floor for just over 13 years before it was deemed mature. If you consider entry proof for Heaven Hill is 125°, when I tell you that Sweet Carmella was dumped at 137.5°, it gives you an idea as to how much the angels stole. This is up at the higher end of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof releases! Niemuth's is charging $28.99 for a bottle.


Before you turn off the review and hop in the car, you should know that Barrel Proof is not an option for store picks of Elijah Craig. Every store pick is bottled at 94°, the same as the Small Batch version. And, when you see the bottle and see the embossed words Small Batch in the glass, don't think you've been ripped off. Every store pick is a single barrel but is bottled in their standard small batch bottle.


And, anyway, don't you want to know if Sweet Carmella is any good before you head on over to the store? Remember, I said there do exist barrels that I don't care for.  Time to #DrinkCurious and find out.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Sweet Carmella presents as a brilliant amber. It left a thinner rim that made fat legs. Those legs raced their way back down to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Typical of Elijah Craig, caramel and oak were heavy on the nose. But, floral rye is much less so, and that followed the obvious.  It closed up with an also atypical aroma of butterscotch. When I inhaled through my mouth, vanilla and oak rolled over my palate.


Palate:  At first sip, Sweet Carmella offered a creamy, coating mouthfeel. Up at the front was vanilla, brown sugar, and caramel. Mid-palate was another different quality for Elijah Craig. I tasted berry, with the caramel hanging on for good measure. Then, on the back, it was a complementary blend of black pepper, oak, and vanilla. 


Finish:  While the requisite Elijah Craig oaky finish was there, it was married to a definitive sweet quality. Spicy clove and barrel char left the mouth and throat something to think about before falling off after what seemed to be an eternity.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Now that the tasting notes are done, is it worth a drive over to Niemuth's?  This would not be a sample I would have rejected and, in fact, can envision myself being quite satisfied with myself were I at the Secret Midnight Whiskey Club that day. There is a lot going on and I'm always interested in a different twist out of Elijah Craig. Sweet Carmella does that on all three fronts: the nose, the palate, and in the finish. There aren't a ton of 13-year Elijah Craigs available, and when you realize it is only $28.99, this becomes a no-brainer Bottle. Hop in the car and start driving. Cheers!




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

Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Starlight Huber's Single Barrel Old Rickhouse Rye Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes



Two weeks ago I had an opportunity to visit Starlight Distillery, which is located in Borden, Indiana. I know what you're thinking, if it is Indiana it must be MGP, right?


Flashback to about six weeks ago, I was introduced to Starlight Distillery via Niemuth's Southside Market, which had a barrel pick of Huber's Old Rickhouse Indiana Straight Rye. My first question was what I asked above. As it turns out, no, Starlight has nothing at all to do with MGP aside from the fact they're housed in the same state.  Starlight is housed on the Huber's Winery campus, a winery that has been family owned since 1843, is in its seventh generation, and they've been distilling since 2001 when they started off with brandy, and now distill gin, rum, whiskey, grappa, and vodka.


Today I'm reviewing Barrel #1350, selected by the Secret Midnight Whiskey Club and lovingly called Tasty Tuff. This barrel was distilled from a mash of 85% rye and 15% malted barley, then aged 5-1/2 years old before being dumped at 119.6°.  It yielded 210 bottles and retails for $54.99. I'd like to thank Niemuth's for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Tasty Tuff appears as an enticing orange amber. It left a thin rim on the wall that led to fat droplets that crawled back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Aromas of plum and cherry greeted my nostrils. Beneath that stone fruits were mint and prevalent oak.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was a combination of the plum and mint, creating an interesting flavor.


Palate:  The first sip offered a thin and coating mouthfeel.  The plum and cherry made themselves known at the front. Mid-palate changed those up to cinnamon and rye spice, finally yielding to cocoa and oak on the back. If this sounds like a dessert whiskey, it isn't but the dessert flavors are there nonetheless. 


Finish:  The finish was a massive blast of dark chocolate complimented with a long, spicy clove.


I opted to try Tasty Tuff with two drops of distilled water to discover what might change. The nose was definitely sweeter with more fruit, this time closer to berries and cocoa. When I inhaled through my lips I got the same plum, but it was now married with vanilla.


The mouthfeel was still thin and coating.  On the palate, the chocolate that was on the finish was way up on the front. The cinnamon remained at mid-palate and was joined by oak, with the rye spice on the back. The finish itself was unaltered with that dark chocolate and clove.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I've been a fan of Niemuth's ability to pick barrels and I'll be frank:  Tasty Tuff is no exception to the rule. There were so many good things going on with this Rye and "tasty" doesn't provide an accurate descriptor. When you consider this is bottled at barrel proof, the $54.99 outlay is an easy Bottle recommendation. Cheers!


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

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

WhistlePig 10-Year Single Barrel Rye (Niemuth's Southside Market) Review & Tasting Notes



I am not a fan of Canadian Rye.  It isn't really any specific Canadian Rye, it is the category itself.  It is partially due to some amount of whiskey snobbery (which I try desperately to avoid) but mostly because I find Canadian Rye just not very good.


The snobbery part has to do with how you can play fast and loose with Canadian Rye - there are basically three rules:

  1. It must be mashed in Canada;
  2. It must be distilled in Canada; and
  3. It must be aged at least three years in Canada


Wait a minute... there's nothing there about the mashbill!  You forgot that!


No, no I did not. Believe it or not, for Canadian Rye to be considered Canadian Rye, it requires not one single grain of actual rye.  Not one, single grain at all. There are also no rules about adding artificial coloring or flavoring.  Hence, my slight snobbery regarding this category. 


When the folks at Niemuth's Southside Market in Appleton asked me to review their WhistlePig 10-year Single Barrel, I asked if it was from MGP or Alberta Distillers.  When they told me Alberta Distillers, my heart sank a bit. But, it had been some time since I've had anything to do with anything Canadian and it was time to suck it up and review the category.  You know, that whole #DrinkCurious philosophy thing.


Let's start off with the facts:  Niemuth's WhistlePig is nicknamed the Happy Honey Beast. It came from Barrel #72355 and rested in Warehouse 1, Rick G, and Level 2.  Did it rest in Vermont for all of its 10 years?  Likely not.  Did it rest in Canada at least three years?  Probably.  WhistlePig claims they rescued aged stock before bringing it to Vermont and then aging it in new, American oak with a Bourbon Finish. It was then bottled at 118.5° and this barrel yielded 132 bottles. Niemuth's has this priced at $89.99 for a 750ml.  Alberta's ryes are, despite the lack of Canadian regulations, 100% rye content. 


It is also a Straight Rye.  From that, we can assume there is no artificial flavoring or coloring, and I'd assume it aged on the WhistlePig farm at least two years.


Appearance:  In my glass, this WhistlePig appeared as a deep amber.  It left a thin rim but created a thick, wavy curtain before dropping down to the pool.


Nose:  Aromas of dry oak, cinnamon were prevalent.  That dry oak was very strong.  But, behind that were walnut and cherries.  And then, just before fooling myself in thinking I'd identified it all, there was a punch of caramel.  When I inhaled through my lips, that caramel continued, which was followed by honeysuckle.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was very thin and oily.  Sometimes a thin mouthfeel thickens up and becomes coating after a few sips. That didn't happen with the Happy Honey Beast. At the front of the palate, flavors of cocoa and cinnamon were prevalent. That spice then changed up to spearmint. At mid-palate, it was coffee and rye spice.  And, then, out of nowhere, on the back, the honey appeared, making sense of this whisky's nickname. 


Finish:  The finish of smoky rye spice, clove, and vanilla fooled me into believing it was very short.  But, before I took my next sip, it all came back to make for a very long, dry finish. 


Before I get to my rating, for curiosity's sake I added two drops of distilled water to see what would happen by proofing it down.  The nose got very minty, but on the palate, the spearmint quality disappeared entirely, allowing the caramel to shine through. The clove on the finish changed up to the elusive spearmint and this time, there was no pause in the finish, it just kept building. The dryness on the finish went away, but it exaggerated the smokiness.


Between the two, I preferred it neat.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I started off saying I am not a fan of Canadian Rye. There are several things going on with the Happy Honey Beast.  It threw me for at least three loops.  I'm used to that happening once, or occasionally, twice. But I don't recall any doing it a third time until now. That's exciting. Moreover, in a blind tasting, I guarantee I would not identify this as Canadian.  It gets bonus points from me there.  The $89.99 is a bit steep, but this seems to be an average price for WhistlePig 10.


This is a better barrel compared to several of the other WhistlePig 10's I've tried. For a Canadian Rye, I would say this is very good. If you're a WhistlePig fan, Happy Honey Beast is an easy Bottle.  For those who haven't tried WhistlePig yet, you'll probably want to sample this before you buy it, but since it is a store pick, you're not going to find this one available at a bar.


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