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

Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Devil's River Barrel Strength Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


During the summer of 2019, I had an opportunity to taste and review Devil’s River Bourbon Whiskey.  The brand had been advertising like crazy on social media, which prompted me to find a pour and see if it was worth it or not. Here is the summation of my review:

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  William Faulkner said, “There is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskey just happens to be better than others.” Yeah, okay, whatever. For me to say that Devil’s River Bourbon is a 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.

 

Part of the #DrinkCurious lifestyle is to revisit whiskeys (or brands) you didn’t like in the past. I’ve done this many times, and my mind is changed every so often. Everyone deserves a second chance, right? Right.

 

Today I’m trying the Devil’s River Bourbon Barrel Strength version. It is the same mashbill of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley. It rested in #4 new, charred oak barrels for an indeterminate time and, as such, carries no age statement. The distiller is still Jus-Made/Southwest Bottling. What Devil’s River does differently is they proof it down with water from the namesake’s river.

 

Devil’s River Barrel Strength is bottled at 117° and retails for $39.99 on its website.  It is available in all but 17 states, and as such, should be pretty easy to get your hands on. Because of my previous experience, I chose to purchase a 50ml taster at a Minneapolis-area liquor store.

 

Proof definitely can make a difference between good and bad whiskey. The barrel strength version is 27 proof points higher than the original. That’s significant. Will I like this one better? Let’s find out!

 

Appearance: A bright, gold hue of amber, this Bourbon formed a skinny rim and gave up slow teardrops.

 

Nose:  The first smell I experienced was cinnamon spice. There was something sweet underneath, almost plum-like, then corn, and, finally, sawdust. As I drew the air into my mouth, I finally picked up the vanilla you’d expect in a Bourbon.

 

Palate:  An oily, viscous texture greeted my tongue and offered sweet flavors of vanilla, caramel, and butterscotch. And that was the end of anything sweet.


Do you remember as a kid taking toothpicks and soaking them in liquid cinnamon for a few days? Then, you’d stick one in your mouth, and it would be like fire! You’d watch your friends try to tough it out, but eventually, it would be too much to handle. They’d shed a tear or two. That’s the middle.

 

The back offered only black pepper and dry oak.

 

Finish:  Long, spicy, and bitter, the finish featured notes of black pepper, plum, and dry oak.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: It has been three years since I last tasted Devil’s River. I wasn’t a fan. Additional proof points did make a difference, but they didn’t improve the experience. I don’t like to say this about whiskey; I prefer to give some constructive feedback, but there just isn’t anything nice I can tell, so I won’t. Plain and simple, this is 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 you do so responsibly.

 


 

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Old Forester King Ranch Edition Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes



Have you heard of King Ranch? Established in 1883, it is a privately-held Texan agricultural company that includes an 825,000-acre ranch that raises cattle and horses. Crops such as cotton, sugar cane, pistachios, almond, and various vegetables are grown, and it is also home to a wildlife preserve and recreational area. It also has a marketing relationship with Ford pickup trucks.

 

Most American whiskey drinkers have heard of Old Forester, which bills itself the first Bourbon packaged exclusively in sealed bottles. Something that is less commonly known is that it is the longest-continuously produced Bourbon, spanning a whopping 152 years! It is owned by Brown-Forman, which also owns well-known brands such as Jack Daniel’s and Woodford Reserve.

 

Old Forester and King Ranch have come together to offer Old Forester King Ranch Edition, a limited-edition Bourbon. It is so limited that you can only buy it in Texas.

 

“This new product represents George Garvin Brown’s lasting legacy and Old Forester’s commitment to quality bourbon. It’s a big, bold flavor – to match the big, bold ranch in South Texas.” - Cole Irvin, a whisky innovator who helped craft the King Ranch Bourbon

 

What makes this whiskey unique? It begins with a “proprietary” batch of Old Forester Bourbon. That could, of course, mean anything. But, more unusual is the whiskey aged in heavily-charred, new American oak barrels before going through a finishing run via King Ranch mesquite charcoal, harvested from mesquite trees grown on the ranch.

 

Old Forester King Ranch Edition is packaged at 105°, and a 750ml bottle has a suggested price of $69.99. It carries no age statement.

 

I thank Old Forester for providing me with a sample of King Ranch in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

 

Appearance: Poured neat into my Glencairn glass, Old Forester King Ranch presented as raw honey, forming a medium-thin rim. Fast, thick tears rolled down the wall and back into the pool.

 

Nose: An aroma of fruity notes such as cranberry and cherry joined with sweet brown sugar and butterscotch. There was a slap of toasted oak as well. The brown sugar became heavy when I drew the vapor into my mouth.

 

Palate: An oily texture offered the front of my palate flavors of cocoa powder, nutmeg, and caramel. As it moved to the middle, I tasted raisin, plum, and black cherry, and then, on the back, I found tobacco leaf, old leather, and clove.

 

Finish:  A medium-long finish featured very dark chocolate, leather, tobacco, and pecan praline.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I found Old Forester King Ranch fascinating. Based on the description, I had expected mesquite to play a major role. In the case of this Bourbon, it didn’t even make the cutting room floor. I’m sure it did impact the flavors I discovered from this pour, which were enjoyable.

 

Old Forester King Ranch drinks at its stated proof, if not a point or so higher. It was big and bold, and nothing in this Bourbon came across as shy. Regarding a value statement, it is a one-and-gone release and not priced obnoxiously. Overall, I believe Old Forester King Ranch is a tasty Bourbon and well worth my Bottle rating. If you don’t live in Texas, see if a friend can grab one. Cheers!

 

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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

 

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

 

 

Monday, October 3, 2022

Big Stick Bourbon Finished on Oak Staves Review & Tasting Notes


 

One of the things I enjoy about attending whiskey festivals is I almost always come across an unfamiliar brand. A few weeks ago, I was attending the Wisconsin Whiskey Fest in Milwaukee, and one of those new-to-me brands was Big Stick Bourbon.

 

Big Stick Bourbon is produced by Semper Fi Brands and is owned by best friends Mike Ryan and Joe Baker. Mike is an engineer who holds several patents for his inventions. Joe is a retired Marine Corps Lieutenant Colonel who earned a Navy Commendation Medal for helping to evacuate the Pentagon on 9/11. He’s a smart guy, too; he has two undergraduate degrees and a law degree, of which he earned magna cum laude on the latter.

 

Big Stick Bourbon has pledged to donate 5% of its profits to charitable organizations dedicated to helping military members and their families. The suggested retail price for a 750ml bottle of Big Stick Bourbon is between $70.00 and $75.00, and it is packaged at 95°.

 

What do you get for $70.00? It begins with a proprietary blend of 36-to 48-month Bourbons sourced from MGP/Ross & Squibb. The whiskey was aged in 53-gallon new, American white oak barrels. And although Big Stick Whiskey is a Texas brand, it is bottled in Florida. Why? Well, that’s what makes Big Stick Whiskey more than just another MGP brand.

 

“Big Stick Bourbon is ultra-smooth because before bottling, we add a c­harred New American White Oak Stick into every bottle. The bourbon to stick in bottle ratio is 99.8% equivalent to that of bourbon in a 53-gallon barrel. Similar to a “Double Oaked” whiskey, this added step allows our bourbon to gracefully integrate with new oak for a second time.

This innovative process creates an exceptional and extremely smooth whiskey with rich, enhanced flavors. With no evaporation in bottle versus in barrel; we like to say, ‘We Make The Angels Thirsty!™’ All Big Stick Bourbon is small batch.” – Big Stick Bourbon

 

As stated above, in each bottle is a charred stave. The idea is the aging process will continue because there is still interaction between the liquid and wood. Getting the stave in the bottle was one challenge. The second was the pourer inside the neck and the screwtop closure. The purpose of the pourer is so the stave doesn’t fall out while you’re pouring Big Stick Bourbon and prevents you from making a mess.

 


 

Big Stick Bourbon isn’t the first brand to include wood inside the bottle. Others have tried it, too, and in my experience (at least), the result has always been… let me be nice here and call it lacking. That, in turn, brings me to the #DrinkCurious challenge.

 

I thank Semper Fi Brands for sending me a sample of Big Stick Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let’s get down to business.

 

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, Big Stick Bourbon presented as a darker orange-amber. A medium-thick rim stuck like glue against the wall, eventually releasing thick droplets.

 

Nose:  An aroma of toasted oak, corn, vanilla cream, and cinnamon hit my olfactory sense. As I continued to sniff, I managed to coax out a puff of mint. On a side note, as I explored the nose, I couldn’t help but notice the thick rim was still stuck to the wall. When I inhaled the vapor through my mouth, the vanilla became heavier.

 

Palate: Initially, the texture seemed thin, but additional sips brought a curiously light and syrupy mouthfeel. I realize those words seem conflicting, but that’s what it is for whatever reason. The front of my palate encountered toasted oak, corn, and vanilla. The middle featured oat, raisin, and leather, while the back consisted of clove, black pepper, and dry oak.

 

Finish:  Dry oak remained on my palate along with caramel, clove, and oat for a medium-to-long duration.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I have a couple of observations. First, Big Stick Bourbon is much better than its stave-in-the-bottle competitors. While this whiskey is still on the youngish side, the stave doesn’t make it overly oaky, but it is prominent. However, the second is that while I can appreciate the charitable aspect and the challenges of the unique bottling compounded with bringing a newer brand to market, Big Stick Bourbon will have a tough battle competing with other Bourbons at a similar price point. Because of that, it has earned a Bar rating. Cheers!

 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

 

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

 

Sunday, March 6, 2022

Balcones Single Barrel Texas Rye Review & Tasting Notes

 


Texas whiskeys are getting better. There, I said it!  It used to be if it came from Texas, I wasn’t excited. Then I discovered one that changed my mind. From there, I found Balcones Distilling with a taste of its single malt whiskey. Very recently, I had a chance to peruse its True Blue Cask Strength Straight Corn Whiskey. Today, I’m sipping on its Texas Rye Single Barrel Cask Strength Whiskey

 

If you’re interested in learning more about Balcones Distilling, head on over to that True Blue review.

 

Balcones likes to experiment with variations of components to create its Rye whiskey. My sample came from Barrel 19988, which starts with a mash of 100% Texas-grown rye. That’s distilled twice in its pot still. It is then aged at least 30 months in new European oak barrels. I tend to assume American oak is used with American whiskeys, so this took me a bit by surprise. The whiskey is non-chill filtered and naturally colored (more on that in a bit). It weighs in at a hefty 127.6° (63.8% ABV), and a 750ml package will set you back around $65.00.

 

Before I get to the tasting notes and review, I’d like to thank the Wisconsin distributor for providing a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

 

Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, the Texas Rye was in competition with only a handful of others for being the darkest, naturally-colored whiskey I’ve come across. Burnt umber is the color descriptor I chose. An ultra-thin rim was formed, which released thin, slow legs that crawled back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

 

Nose:  Deep oak notes wafted from the glass before I got it anywhere near my face. It was accompanied by dark fruits and roasted coffee beans. When I drew the air into my mouth, it was like dark-roast coffee.

 

Palate:  The mouthfeel was oily but not overly so. It also drank way below its stated proof, much closer to something in the mid-90s. The palate was, at least to me, one note: black coffee. It was on the front, middle, and back, and I tasted nothing beyond it.

 

Finish:  Medium in length, the finish offered a bit more than the palate. The black coffee was there; it became slightly bitter. I found some oak notes and the faintest hint of dark chocolate.

 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’m not a coffee drinker. I do like coffee ice cream. But I don’t drink coffee. You absolutely, positively must enjoy the taste of dark-roast coffee to enjoy this whiskey. That’s not me. But I have friends who would go completely nuts over this single-barrel Rye. So, for you coffee drinkers that want a cup of Joe with a kick, this is a Bottle rating. And, for the rest of you, this one is a Bar. Cheers!

 

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

 

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


Monday, 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