Showing posts with label Texas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Texas. Show all posts

Monday, October 11, 2021

Balcones True Blue Straight Corn Barrel Proof Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes (2021)

 



Texas whiskey. It is about as polarizing a whiskey category as it gets. I can tell you that until a year ago, I wasn't a fan at all of it. I found it hot, one-or-two notes (oak and corn or corn and oak), and pricey, especially for the return on investment.


As I was saying, a year ago I found one that changed my mind and allowed me to #DrinkCurious with less fear. I still find fault in many Texas offerings, but I'm keeping the door open to discover hidden gems. If you're interested, it was The Musician from Still Austin.


One of the reasons Texas whiskey is, well, unappealing is everything ages there so quickly due to the heat. It can, as we saw this past February, get pretty darned cold there, too. But, mostly it is hot. And, many distilleries choose to age in smaller barrels, making the corn and oak, oak and corn dominance even stronger.


Today I'm sipping on another Texas whiskey. This time, it is from Balcones Distilling out of Waco. Balcones is a grain-to-glass distillery, using blue corn from New Mexico and barley from Texas. Founded in 2008 in an old welding shop, operations were up and running a year later. It utilizes copper pot stills. Then, in 2016, it opened a new distillery in a former storage building which was many more times the size of the original. Jared Himstedt, Balcones' Head Distiller, was a homebrewer before joining the team at Balcones from its inception.


"At barrel proof, True Blue Cask Strength preserves the bold flavors and aromas straight from our premium barrels. Select casks yield a power expression of our blue corn whisky that opens with deep notes of brown sugar, roasted nuts and buttered toast, while lingering honeysuckle and citrus accents usher in a long finish with hints of cinnamon. Crafted from scratch at Balcones, and held to the highest standards of quality, this whisky can be enjoyed “as is” or with as much water as you prefer." - Balcones Distilling


The cask strength True Blue Straight Corn Whiskey is a once-a-year, single-barrel product made from roasted blue corn, and aged 41 months in vintage, American cooperage. The barrel size and source are undisclosed. It is non-chill filtered and naturally colored.  The 2021 version is a whopping 65.8% ABV (or 131.6°), and if you can find it, you'll pay about $64.99.



A local distributor provided me with a sample of True Blue in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. I won't make him wait any further.

 

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, True Blue may be the reddest mahogany color I've seen, and I include whiskeys that have been aged in red wine casks. It formed a medium-width rim that made a slow curtain collapse back to the pool.


Nose:  Plain and simple, this starts as a caramel bomb. Additional aromas included banana pudding, vanilla, cinnamon, and toasted oak. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, sweet corn raced across my tongue.


Palate:  Warm and oily, the mouthfeel told me this whiskey was not fooling around. Praline pecan and vanilla cream greeted the front of my palate. That changed to heavy maple syrup on the middle. The back was an interesting blend of cinnamon, clove, and butterscotch.


Finish: Texas is big, and so is True Blue's finish. It started sweet with honey and maple syrup, then moved to spicy with cinnamon, coffee, and clove. 


Bottle, Bar, or BustWhile the mouthfeel told me it was very serious, True Blue didn't drink at its stated proof. Look 130° and more is going to get your attention. It will always do so. But, there are some that are like drinking napalm and others that are shockingly smooth (yeah, I know, that's a frowned-upon term in the whiskey world). True Blue may also be the best Texas whiskey I've had to date. The wow factor was surprising. There was nothing about it that I disliked, and I would absolutely buy a Bottle at $64.99. You should, too. 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, June 11, 2021

Lost Lantern American Vatted Malt, Cedar Ridge Bourbon, and Balcones Bourbon Reviews & Tasting Notes

 


Independent bottling is not something overly common with American whiskey. Oh, it is obtusely, but you don't really hear about it in the same terms as you do with, say, Scotch. In theory, folks who source whiskey from others and put their own label on it might be considered independent bottlers. But, few actually try to claim their niche as an independent bottler.


Then, there's Lost Lantern. You've never heard of them? Well, until very recently, neither had I. In its own words:


"The best whiskey reflects its origins, its craftsmanship, its ingredients, and its distillers. Inspired by the long tradition of independent bottlers in Scotland, Lost Lantern is a new, independent bottler of American whiskey. The company seeks out the most unique and exciting whiskeys being made all across the country and releases them as single casks and blends, always with a deep commitment to transparency." - Lost Lantern


Founded in 2018 by Nora Ganley-Roper of Astor Wine & Spirits and Adam Polonski of Whisky Advocate, the duo is committed to releasing whiskeys from distilleries they've personally visited. Nora handles production and operations, and Adam takes care of marketing, sales, and sourcing. Currently, Lost Lantern's whiskeys can be purchased from LostLanternWhiskey.com or Seelbachs.com


One thing that I'm passionate about is transparency. I respect that some things have to be held close to the vest. However, when distilleries lay most or all of their cards on the table, that gets exciting. The fact that Lost Lantern is also big on transparency is much appreciated.


Today I have an opportunity to explore three of Lost Lantern's whiskeys:  American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1, Single Cask #2 Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon, and Single Cask #8 Balcones Straight Bourbon. This opportunity is due to Lost Lantern's kindness in providing me samples of each in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. 


This will be a three-part review process. Up first is the American Vatted Malt.


Lost Lantern American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1




I've come to appreciate the American Single Malt category. Back in its infancy, I can say I was pretty pessimistic about its future. They seemed hard, rough, and lacking as compared to single malts from around the world. However, the category has matured, and distillers have figured out the magic behind distilling malted barley.


"[It] is one of the first blends of single malts ever made in the United States ... We brought together the founders and distillers behind some of the country's most distinctive single malts, all of whom hand-selected the barrels for this unique blend. Over the course of a single marathon day, we worked, tasted, and blended together. The result was this unique and special blend." - Lost Lantern


In the end, Lost Lantern wound up blending twelve barrels from Balcones (Texas), Copperworks (Washington), Santa Fe Spirits (New Mexico), Triple Eight (Massachusetts), Westward (Oregon), and Virginia Distillery Co. (Virginia).  When I saw the list of participants, my curiosity was piqued. I've tried whiskeys from several of those distilleries, they're unique in their own rights, and couldn't imagine what I was about to try. 


Aged for two years and packaged at 105°, naturally colored, and non-chill-filtered, American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1 has a suggested retail price of $120.00.  There were 3000 bottles produced. 


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this malt presented as the color of a deep copper. It produced a thick rim with heavy, fat legs that fell back into the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  Fruity aromas of plum, raisin and orange peel married caramel. I could imagine sherry casks being used. When I took the vapor into my mouth, I picked out citrus and milk chocolate.


Palate:  A medium-bodied, quite oily mouthfeel greeted the tasting experience. On the front, I found milk chocolate, malt, and brown sugar. The middle consisted of salted caramel and apple pie filling. Orange, charred oak, molasses, and nutmeg created the back.


Finish:  Long-lasting and continually building, flavors of barbeque smoke and barrel char yielded to nutmeg and salted caramel. Black pepper refused to give up for several minutes.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is one unique whiskey and also a bit of a curiosity. At one end, there is a two-year age statement, and at the other, the $120 price. This isn't unheard of: one of the more famous brands, Compass Box, works this formula of young blends with impressive price tags regularly and has been successful. I found American Vatted Malt Edition No. 1 flavorful, drinks way under its stated proof, unusual in a good way, and while I still think this is pricy, I believe this one is worth picking up and crown it with my Bottle rating. 


Single Cask 2:  Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon




Next up is Single Cask #2: Cedar Ridge Iowa Straight Bourbon. This is the first Bourbon cask for Lost Lantern. I've reviewed the 86° standard release and found it enjoyable. This one is different - it is a single barrel Bourbon and bottled at its cask strength of 120.5°. Similar to the standard version, it started with a mash of 74% corn, 14% malted rye, and 12% two-row malted barley, then rested three years through the harsh summers and winters of Iowa, where it experienced, on average, 18% angel's share loss. Lost Lantern's release produced 213 bottles and carries an $87.00 price. It is non-chill-filtered and naturally colored.


Appearance:  Tasted neat in my Glencairn glass, this Cedar Ridge cask was the color of dark amber. A thin rim gave way to slow, husky legs that fell back to the pool. 


Nose:  Corn-forward, it was joined by candy corn, toasted oak, and cinnamon. When I breathed in through my mouth, bubble gum shot across my tongue.


Palate:  I found the mouthfeel to be thin and oily, and the front was strictly corn. That bubble gum quality showed up at mid-palate and was joined by caramel for a very different affair. The back quickly warmed with toasted oak, rye spice, and black pepper.


Finish:  The Cedar Ridge cask had a freight-train finish, meaning it just wouldn't quit. It rode on (again) bubble gum and black pepper, and introduced cinnamon Red Hots. I'd estimate I got almost ten minutes out of the finish before either it fell off or my palate just said, "I give up."


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This one drank at least at its stated proof, it not hotter. Bubble gum is not something I come across regularly, so when I do, it is an attention-getter. When caramel was tossed into the equation, it strangely made sense, although I'd never think of mixing the two. I've seen other Cedar Ridge single barrels run at about $60.00 or so, and the Cedar Ridge Single Barrel  Collection cask-strength bottles retail at $69.00. This is where my hang-up happens because while this was definitely worth drinking, I don't see an additional $20.00 in value, and as such earns a Bar rating. 



Single Cask 8:  Balcones Straight Bourbon




Finally, I'm sampling Single Cask #8: Balcones Straight Bourbon.  Texas whiskey can be polarizing. There are folks who love and swear by it, and there are others who won't take a second sip of anything out of The Lone Star State. I can count on one hand and have fingers left over for Texas whiskeys I'd recommend. But that #DrinkCurious lifestyle encourages me to try them all, just like anything else.


Founded in 2009, Balcones Distilling hails from Waco. It is a grain-to-glass distillery that creates atypical whiskeys. In this case, the Bourbon comes from a mash of 100% Texas-grown roasted blue corn, then aged in 60-gallon new American oak barrels for two years in the formidable Texas heat. Non-chill-filtered and naturally colored, it was bottled at 126.8° with a suggested retail price of $90.00. Only 199 bottles came from the barrel. 


Appearance:  Experienced neat in my Glencairn glass, this Balcones cask was the color of dark caramel. A medium ring led to big, heavy legs that crawled back to the pool.


Nose:  I could smell this whiskey from across the room. It wasn't bad, rather, it was luxurious. Thick, rich caramel made me smile. That was joined by plum. It delivered a Wow! factor that you don't come across too often in whiskeys. As I drew the aroma into my mouth, it was like biting into a Heath bar. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel was Texas sweet crude. It may be the oiliest feel I've experienced. There was also something meaty about the palate. The front featured cumin, brown sugar, and liquid smoke. Coffee and dark cacao were on the middle, while the back consisted of paprika, oak, and tobacco leaf. 


Finish: A medium finish offered coffee, cinnamon, barrel char, and black pepper. It grew spicier and smokier as I waited and then it just vanished. 


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Balcones single barrel was unusual. It started off drinking under its stated proof. But, as the finish came along, that turned around and I had no doubt it was at least 126°. The latter is what I usually experience with Texas whiskey. The nose, despite the few notes, was stupendous. The palate was warming and a good blend of sweet and spicy notes. The liquid smoke threw me for a bit of a loop. The finish was hot but not overwhelming. Lost Lantern's selection was a good one, and I'm giving this Texas whiskey 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 that you do so responsibly.

Friday, May 7, 2021

Crooked Fox Blended Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

 


The term blended Bourbon used to have a negative connotation. That's because the legal definition of it is unspecific and leaves a lot of wiggle room. Basically, blended Bourbon means that at least 51% must be made from Straight Bourbon. That's up-front. It is that 49% remainder that gets squirrely. You can add artificial coloring, artificial flavors, neutral grain spirits (NGS), younger whiskeys, etc.


Despite that definition, there are some good blended Bourbons that are simply straight and younger Bourbons blended together. This shouldn't suggest there's not pure garbage out there, because that would be untrue. 


One such attempt into the former is called Crooked Fox. It is a blend of 51% straight Bourbon aged at least four years and 49% small-barrel Bourbons aged at least six months. The Bourbons come from both Texas and Kentucky. Crooked Fox is part of the Southern Champion family of spirits out of Carrolton, Texas.


"After carefully maturing (our bourbon) in wooden casks, we go barrel by barrel, selecting the best tasting bourbons to create a whiskey with rich flavors of smoked maple, vanilla, nutmeg, oak, and malted barley with hints of rye. The result is a high-quality whiskey that even the most sophisticated bourbon drinkers will appreciate." - Southern Champion

Packaged at 80°, the label pictures the heads of two foxes, one with a black line over its eyes, the other not. The caption says, "Never trust the eyes you can see. Trust your instinct."  There's not much more information on the label aside from stating it is distilled from grain. You can expect to pay $24.99 for a 750ml bottle. I acquired this from a liquor store, I simply don't remember what state that store was located in.


Time to #DrinkCurious and see what this is all about...


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Crooked Fox presented as the color of golden honey. It formed a medium rim on the wall that led to husky, slow legs.


Nose:  This whiskey was not overly fragrant. Aromas of honey, brown sugar, and oak were easier to pick out, and as I kept sniffing, I pulled out orange peel. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, I tasted vanilla. 


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and light-bodied. On the front, there was a blend of vanilla with baking spice. The middle consisted of malted milk balls and subtle mint. On the back, flavors of smoked oak and fennel rounded things out.


Finish: Initially, the finish was very short. Additional sips, however, brought a longer experience. Oak, vanilla, and fennel hung around, and then a wave of white pepper rose and fell fairly quickly. It was the only warming component of this whiskey.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is, simply put, very forgettable. I could see using it for cocktails. As something I'd drink neat (or on the rocks), I wouldn't. Again, not because it was terrible, but pretty much every other choice would be more interesting. I'll be frank - I don't buy whiskeys with the intention of using them as mixers. I'd rather use a good whiskey as a mixer, it would make the rest of the cocktail taste better. Unfortunately, this one takes a Bust.  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, April 5, 2021

Sisterdale Distilling Co. Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

 



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


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


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


"Sisterdale Distilling Co. was formed by two longtime friends and entrepreneurs who set out to make the highest quality, small-batch bourbon for ourselves - bourbon that we truly love to drink with our friends and family. So that is exactly what we have done." - Sisterdale Distilling Co.


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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





Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Select Club Pecan Praline Ultra-Premium Whisky Review & Tasting Notes


Flavored whiskeys... I've been trying to have a more open mind regarding them, particularly since I've tasted some shockingly good ones. But, if I'm going to be intellectually honest with myself, I don't go in with much expectation. That allows me to be less disappointed when they taste phony and, to me, is a ploy to sell bad whiskey by drowning it in flavor. But, it also allows me to be happy when I'm wrong.


When a local distributor asked me to try Select Club Pecan Praline Ultra Premium Whisky, I was more open-minded than usual. The first pecan flavored whiskey I tried was William Wolf Pecan Bourbon and I found it enjoyable. When I saw Select Club was Candian Whisky mixed with neutral grain spirits, that open door creaked shut just a little bit. For the record, neutral grain spirits are akin to vodka, but can basically be anything that is pure grain alcohol distilled to a very high level of ethanol. 


Select Club is owned by a company called Mextor, a family-owned company located in Houston. They don't do any actual distilling as far as I could tell, rather, they just import various wine, beer, and spirits and then distribute to 46 states.


Mextor bills this as something that is "a tasty shooter, great straight, or pairs perfectly with other flavors to serve up an amazing cocktail." It is bottled at 70° and has a suggested retail of $17.99. The actual distiller is undisclosed, and considering there are over 250 working distilleries in the country, your guess is as good as mine who it actually is.


So, is Select Club good, bad or ugly? The only way to answer that is to #DrinkCurious. Here we go...


Appearance:  In my glass, Select Club appears as a pale amber. It left a thick rim on the wall of my Glencairn, which led to fat droplets that stuck like glue and never really went anywhere.  


Nose:  Within about a foot of my face, the aroma of pecan pie greeted my nostrils. No matter where I positioned my glass, it always came up as pecan pie, both the nuttiness and the sweetness. When I stuck my nose inside the glass, I was able to pick up mild ethanol, but it required work to find it. Interestingly enough, inhaling through my mouth brought absolutely nothing:  no pecan, no ethanol, nothing.


Palate:  Select Club had an incredibly thick mouthfeel, almost like drinking cream. In fact, the more I sipped it, the thicker it became. As expected, pecan and brown sugar dominated the palate. There was a certain wood quality that I would not define as oak, but also not to be mistaken by either nuts or nutshells.


Finish:  A medium-long finish was made of brown sugar, cream, and smoke. And, on a side note, when I ran my tongue across my lips, I picked up more brown sugar, which seemed to reboot some of what was on the palate.



Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Select Club Pecan Praline Ultra Premium comes with a very un-premium pricetag. Inexpensive is nice so long as it isn't cheap. I can see sipping this with many non-whiskey drinking friends and having them enjoy the hell out of it. It would make a nice campfire drink. Mrs. Whiskeyfellow enjoyed it so much she informed me we were buying a bottle, so we did. And, that, my friends, means this gets a Bottle rating. Enjoy this one, cheers!



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

Monday, August 10, 2020

Still Austin "The Musician" Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

 

Texas typically does things big.  They're the biggest, they're the best, or at least Texans think so. One thing I've been somewhat unimpressed with, however, is their whiskey. It tends to be hot, one- or two-notes, and they tend to taste the same - corn and wood, wood and corn. 


When Still Austin Whiskey Company asked me to review The Musician, which is a two-year-old Straight Bourbon, I was hoping it would be more than fancy marketing. The fact that Nancy "The Nose" Fraley was involved gave me some added confidence.  Nancy doesn't screw around, and I have a ton of respect for her. Still Austin is a grain-to-glass distillery. It uses only 100% Texas-grown grains and everything it distills is its own.  The Master Distiller is John Schrepel.


The distillate starts with a mash of 70% non-GMO white corn, 25% Elbon rye, and 5% malted barley. After fermentation, that's run through a 50-foot Scottish-made still called "Nancy" (probably not named after Fraley). It is aged in new, charred oak barrels for at least two years.  


Now, if you think that's young, keep in mind this is Texas. Similar to Indian whiskey, the theory is it ages faster due to the extreme heat. The angels tend to steal a lot in a quick manner.  But, what you miss is the cold climate to force the whiskey out of the wood.


The Musician is bottled at 98.4° and is slated to be the first of a series of artistic whiskeys. Retail is $45.00 and can be found throughout Texas or online at Still Austin's website.


But, before you go out and buy a bottle, wouldn't you want to know if it is any good? The only way to get the answer to that is to #DrinkCurious. But first, I need to thank Still Austin for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Musician appeared as a rusty orange. It produced a thick, sticky rim that gave way to medium, fast legs once they got going.


Nose:  The first note to hit my nostrils was corn.  Oh, boy. This was going to be another typical Texas whiskey. But, as I continued to explore, aromas of banana, toasted coconut, and caramel joined the club. But, that's not all.  Milk chocolate, nutmeg, and toasted oak rounded things out. When I inhaled through my mouth, I tasted pineapple and caramel. 


Palate:  My initial sip was greeted by a medium body that coated everywhere. At the front, flavors of brown sugar and cinnamon started things off. As it moved to the middle of my palate, a sample of hazelnut, coffee, banana, and caramel made me smile.  On the back was a definitive charred oak quality.


Finish:  You know that pink bunny in the battery commercials?  The Energizer Bunny?  The finish on this just kept going and going and going. It was smoky with black pepper and near the end, cherry.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If there was a Bourbon to change my mind about Texas-made stuff, The Musician accomplished the task.  I was surprised to find a complex nose and palate. I enjoyed the smoky finish.  I would love to find something to complain about, but even the price is right. So, yes, folks, you're getting a Bottle recommendation out of me on this Texas Bourbon.  Cheers!




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

Monday, May 11, 2020

Belfour Rye Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes


These days, it seems like every celebrity has his or her own distilled spirit. Whether they are recording artists, actors, or athletes, the name attached to the spirit is meant to convey quality or exclusivity. And, they almost always command a celebrity price tag.


Today I'm reviewing Belfour Spirits Rye Whiskey. If you're a hockey fan, you know who Ed Belfour is. He is "Eddie the Eagle," the NHL Hall of Famer and one of only two players who has won the trifecta:  The Stanley Cup, The NCAA Championship and an Olympic Gold Medal. Well, these days Belfour is the President and CEO of Belfour Spirits in Dallas, Texas.


If you peruse its website, you can view a brief backstory that starts with Grandma and Granpa Belfour who were 1930s moonshiners in Saskatchewan, Canada. I have no idea if it is true or not, but I'll take it at face value. Ed purchased his first still in 2014, and his son, Dayn, learned distilling at Woody Creek Distillers in Basalt, Colorado. Ed is described as an active CEO and is involved, amongst other things, selecting the barrels. 


Belfour Springs rents distilling time and space from Southern Distilling in Statesville, North Carolina. The Rye is from a mash of 70% rye, 20% corn and 10% malted barley. It is aged for at least 18 months in new, charred oak and bottled at 94°. Speaking of the bottle, it is absolutely gorgeous. It reminds me a lot of the IW Harper 15 bottle. It is something you'd want to keep as a decorative decanter when the whiskey is gone.


Distribution is currently limited to Texas and Illinois. The plan is to release six additional states (as well as Canada) each year.


As stated earlier, one of the things that celebrity spirits all seem to have in common is a celebrity price tag.  Belfour Rye is no different. A 750ml will run about $89.00. That's very steep for an 18-month whiskey. The big question becomes, does it light the lamp? The only way to know for sure is to face off and #DrinkCurious.


In my Glencairn glass, Belfour Rye presented as a rich, caramel color. It created a thin rim that led to slow, very fat droplets. Those droplets just stuck to the wall and didn't really drop back down.


A mix of sawdust and molasses greeted my nose. That was followed by floral rye. Finally, I found mint and fresh coffee. When I inhaled through my lips, I tasted bread. It was even thick and chewy, something very strange as a flavor but that's about the best descriptor that made sense.


The mouthfeel was thick and creamy. The more I sipped, the thicker and heavier it became. On the front of the palate, the sole note was cocoa. At mid-palate, it became a blend of cereal and caramel. Then, on the back, I tasted rye spice and mocha. There wasn't a lot going on.


Perhaps the most complex part of this whiskey was the finish. It was long, building, and warming. Oak was the first thing picked up. A blast of black pepper followed. Then, the spiciness of ginger came into play. And, once I thought everything was done and over with, coffee muted with a bit of creamer.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Belfour Rye is easy to sip and there is no body-checking of the palate. It has an interesting finish. But, I'm hung up on the $89 price tag. I've tasted many, many whiskeys presenting similar quality for half the price (or even less).  Granted, none of them have as beautiful a package as Belfour Rye, but that's not something I consider when selecting a whiskey.


Rating this as a Bust would be unfair despite the hefty expense. This isn't a bender by any means.  Belfour Rye would be much more interesting with a few years added to it to bring out more flavor. Conversely, it could be more complex at, say, 100° instead of 94°. Regardless, there is potential here.


If you're a big sports fan, I could picture a strong desire to grab a bottle, especially as a first release. I'm going to rate this a Bar, which is exactly where I think you should try this before seriously considering a purchase.  Cheers!



My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

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

Monday, July 1, 2019

Waterloo Antique Gin Review & Tasting Notes

 


I am Whiskeyfellow. I am not Ginfellow, and despite the fact that, at the time of this review, there are two hilarious videos of me drinking Malort, I am most definitely not Malortfellow. I review whiskey, it is what I know, it is what I enjoy, and it is my niche. However, there’s this whole damned #DrinkCurious lifestyle that I’ve honestly embraced. 


You can read the rest of this gin review over at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Friday, June 21, 2019

Devil's River Bourbon Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes



Devils River Bourbon Whiskey is advertising like crazy on social media. Most recently, they announced it is now available in Wisconsin and suggest that you should run out and get a bottle now. I've tried it, and before you get the #FOMO bug about this, you should read my tasting notes.



Sin Responsibly. That's their tagline. More on that later. The backstory is that Devils River is named for a waterway discovered by a Texas Ranger named John Coffee Hays. This is meaningful to the distillery because the Devils River is the source of the limestone water used to proof down this whiskey.



Devils River is distilled from a mash of 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley. It carries no age statement, and the actual distiller is Jus-Made/Southwest Bottling. Retail is right around $20.00, making this super-affordable and relatively low-risk, right?  The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious



Devils River appeared as a bright gold color that left a very thick rim on my Glencairn glass. That rim generated fat, wavy legs that slowly worked its way back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 



There were dominant aromas of corn and vanilla. Once you got past that, it was easy to pick up charcoal. When I inhaled through my open lips, a flavor of candied corn rolled over my tongue.



The mouthfeel was thin and watery, and up front was pure ethanol. When you consider the bottle I poured my sample from had been open quite a while, that punch to the palate should have oxidized off long ago. Once I got past the ethanol shock, I was able to pick up corn. Mid-palate was all charred oak. While I was expecting something on the back, nothing ever materialized. 



I enjoy the flavor of barrel char, but not when it is so dominant. The finish was like chewing a charred stave. It was, thankfully, a short one.



Bottle, Bar or Bust:  William Faulker said, "There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others." Yeah, okay, whatever. For me to say that Devils River Bourbon is bad whiskey is an insult to bad whiskey. You will not sin responsibly if you spend $20.00 on it, because this one's a definite Bust.



Cheers!



Wednesday, March 6, 2019

TX Straight Bourbon Review

This review was originally published at Bourbon & Banter on April 13, 2017, and you can read its entirety there.



... the bottle design is simply gorgeous. They’ve outdone themselves, all the way down to the snakeskin covered cork. I know packaging means a lot to some folks, and at a lot of whiskey competitions, the packaging is a judged and awarded category...