Showing posts with label Whiskey Acres. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Whiskey Acres. Show all posts

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Whiskey Acres Artisan Series 5.5 Grain Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


This review was originally published on November 8, 2018, on Facebook

I’m always excited when something new and unusual comes out. Sure, there’s always a new brand coming out, but every so often, someone releases their own distillate that is uniquely their own. It provides an opportunity to rock the market. Conversely, it can also be risky, and if not well-received, can squash someone’s dreams (and investment).

Whiskey Acres Distilling Company is a farm-to-bottle distiller. They grow and harvest their own grain, distill it, age, and bottle it in Dekalb, Illinois. They age whiskey in 15-gallon barrels. Recently, I was provided a sample bottle of their very-soon-to-be-released Artisan Series 5.5 Grain Bourbon Whiskey. I thank Whiskey Acres for their generosity and understanding that it will be used for an honest, no-strings-attached review.

I’m sure the first question to hit your mind (because it was mine) is, “What the heck is a 5.5 Grain Bourbon?” I’d never heard of half-grain before! As it turns out, the mash is made of 50% yellow dent corn, 10% Oaxacan green corn, 10% rye, 10% oat, 10% wheat and 10% malted barley. That’s either five or six grains, right? Well, not the way Whiskey Acres markets it. They consider two types of corn to be less than two grains. If nothing else, it is certainly an “attention getter” and memorable.

Using those 15-gallon barrels, 5.5 Grain Bourbon is aged for two years and 11 days. That may not seem like much, but when you consider the smaller barrels, things tend to age more quickly. Whiskey Acres then proofed it down to 87° and packaged it in 375ml bottles with a suggested retail of $29.99. Do the math, and that’s a $60 standard bottle, which is at the higher end of craft Bourbon.

The big question, as always, is, how’s it taste? Time to #DrinkCurious and find out.

Appearance: In the glass, it was a darkish amber, suggesting an older whiskey if not but for the fact this was aged in smaller barrels. A gentle swirl left a medium-rim on the wall of my Glencairn and produced fat legs that stuck in place like glue. They eventually fell but put an expectation in my mind this would be a full-bodied whiskey.

Nose: Ethanol was present, but after letting the glass rest several minutes, it eventually dissipated. Holding my glass at my chin level brought oak and corn. Rolling the rim on my chin side to side allowed the oak to give way to a hint of stone fruit. Lifting the glass to my lips brought a much more obvious cherry that caused my mouth to water. Wafting into my nostrils the cherry went from tart to sweet. Inhaling through my lips brought corn and vanilla.

Palate: The first sip was a watery mouthfeel that was unexpected. There was nothing harsh that you can sometimes experience with a rapidly-aged whiskey, and the wheat gave it a certain airy quality, almost like filtered water. Up front, flavors of sweet corn and oak mimicked the nose. At mid-palate, creamy vanilla with the slightest hint of stone fruit, and, in the back, the mild spiciness of the rye jumped out.

Finish: The finish was, well, different. Initially, disappointment came over me because it was almost non-existent. But, 30 or so seconds later, it popped out as a complex smattering of oak, black pepper, clove, and vanilla that hung around several minutes. It turned my frown upside down. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust: This is, without a doubt, an unusual craft whiskey. If you have an adventurous palate and truly embrace the #DrinkCurious lifestyle, a 375ml for $29.99 is a nifty investment that will give you something to talk about and share with like-minded friends. I’m in that group and as such, rate it a Bottle. However, if you’re into more traditional Bourbons and are uncomfortable stepping outside your comfort zone, then this is one you should try at a Bar (or in this case, at the distillery). Cheers!

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

Monday, March 9, 2020

Whiskey Acres Bottled in Bond Bourbon Review

About 70 miles west of Chicago, in the middle of corn country, exists a little 2,000-acre seed-to-spirit outfit called Whiskey Acres Distilling Company. This was the first estate distillery in Illinois and the second in the nation, meaning the distillery uses only grains grown on its own land, grown by farmers Jim and Jamie Walter and Nick Nagele. It even uses limestone water from the ground beneath those fields. 

They've been distilling, on and off, and farming for five generations going back to (at least) 1897.

Arriving on April 4th is Whiskey Acres's inaugural batch of Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon.  If you're unfamiliar with the term Bottled-in-Bond, it is uniquely American and essentially a consumer protection law.

You see, back in the day (does that make me old?), store owners, rectifiers, and saloon owners wanted their stocks to stretch as much as possible. To accomplish that, they'd add very bad things to their booze. Things like tobacco spit and turpentine. Folks were getting sick (or worse) and wanted some sort of guarantee of quality. Also, as with any government "protection", it involved providing additional tax revenue.

The Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 created the following rules for any spirit carrying the Bottled-in-Bond label:

  • It must be entirely a product of the United States.
  • It must be a product of one distillery by one distiller in a single distilling season (January to June or July to December).
  • It must be aged at least four years in a federally-bonded warehouse.
  • It must be bottled at 100°, and the bottle must state who the distiller is if different than who bottled it.

Let's get back to the Whiskey Acres Bourbon. After distilling from a sweet mash of 75% yellow-dent corn, 15% soft red winter wheat, and 10% malted barley in their hybrid pot still named Flow, the newmake is brought down to an entry proof of 120°, then placed in #3-char, 53-gallon American white oak barrels from Kelvin Cooperage and then left alone to age for at least four years.

I've visited a lot of distilleries in my life, and I've seen some very unusual warehouses. Never have I seen one inside a grain silo! But, this is where the magic happens.

Choosing only seven barrels, the Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon is non-chill-filtered. The distribution will be throughout Illinois, with limited availability in Wisconsin and Nebraska. Retail will be $49.99.  

I'd like to thank Whiskey Acres for providing me with a sample of the Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review. Time to #DrinkCurious and get on with the review.

In my trusty Glencairn glass, this Bourbon appeared as a definitive deep orange. It left a medium rim and fat droplets took a bit to appear before gravity took them down to the pool of liquid sunshine.

The nose was very corn-forward. Oak was there, but nowhere near dominating. A floral perfume was also there, which I found completely unexpected due to a lack of any rye content. I also picked up orange peel and even a hint of peach. When I inhaled through my lips, it was pure vanilla.  

A thin, coating mouthfeel greeted my palate. Like the nose, corn was the first thing noticed. In fact, there was a ton of it. Mid-palate, I tasted both chocolate and cocoa. On the back, a cereal quality from the malted barley was evident and it married with oak, creamy caramel, and pink peppercorn. 

The medium-length finish was dry oak, white pepper, and thick, heavy, dark chocolate. Underneath that was the subtlest suggestion of mint. Overall, the finish was warming but lacked any real burn. There was also no numbing of my hard palate and lips. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust: I enjoyed Whiskey Acres inaugural Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon. It wasn't overly complicated and, despite the 100°, I'd classify it as an easy sipper. One word of warning: because it goes down so easy, that 100° sneaks up on you like an all-encompassing hug from a grandma who also wants to give you a kiss while she's wearing bright pink lipstick. When you take that and consider that $50 is about average for craft whiskey, this becomes an easy Bottle recommendation. 

On a final note, I appreciated this Bourbon so much, Mrs. Whiskeyfellow and I drove down to the distillery afterward to see it in person and discover what Whiskey Acres was all about. We were shown around by Colby, who did an amazing job as our guide.

The tasting room is about a year old and is inviting. While you're visiting (or waiting for the tour to begin), you can buy a few cocktails. For what it is worth, I highly recommend the Bourbon & Blues.

In all, this was a fun visit and I'm glad we made the drive. Sipping whiskey is great (obviously), but visiting distilleries and meeting some of the folks involved is always a blast. Do it whenever you can. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Yes, I'll admit it... I've been sipping a lot of barrel-finished whiskeys lately. It doesn't matter if it is Scotch, Bourbon, Rye or even Irish whiskey. Barrel-finishing is the big thing right now and has been for a couple of years and distillers are jumping on the bandwagon. Barrel-finishing is so fascinating that I'm hosting my own Whiskey Workshop and Tasting Event on this very topic in a little over a week.

Whiskey Acres Distilling Company is a farm-to-bottle distiller. They grow and harvest their own grain, distill it, age and bottle it in Dekalb, Illinois. Their whiskey ages in 15-gallon barrels. What they distill is their own and with those 15-gallon barrels, can bring them to market relatively quickly.

Last year, I had the opportunity to visit with the folks at Whiskey Acres. I put together a review of their Artisan Series 5.5 Grain Bourbon which earned a Bottle rating based on how unusual and interesting it was as that's something that excites me.

Today I'm sipping their Artisan Series Bourbon Finished in Maple Syrup Casks. This is a limited edition whiskey and is not the same as the 5.5 Grain Bourbon. The Bourbon itself was aged normally in the 15-gallon barrels. What happened next was the Bourbon was dumped and then transferred to ex-maple syrup casks, where it was allowed to absorb the flavor and aroma left behind by the syrup, and once dumped, bottled at 87°. My understanding is that distribution is limited to the distillery in Dekalb. While I don't have a retail price on this, the 5.5 Grain Bourbon was $29.99 for the same sized 375ml bottle. 

In full disclosure, Whiskey Acres provided me with a sample bottle for a no-strings-attached honest review. And now, time to #DrinkCurious.

The appearance was a deep, dark amber. If you've ever had a good barrel-proof whiskey, such as Elijah Craig or Stagg, Jr., this was similar in color. It left a very thin rim on my Glencairn with medium legs that slowly dropped back to the pool, suggesting a heavier body.

Interestingly enough, the predominant aroma while resting in my glass was not maple, but corn. As I went through the various nosing zones, I picked up raisin, throughout and beneath that, honey and much lighter corn. That was surprising considering how heavy the corn was in the air. Only when I held the glass directly under my nostrils did I pick up evidence of maple. When I inhaled through my mouth, raisin and vanilla raced across my palate.

The initial mouthfeel was thin and watery and subsequent sips did not add any thickness to it. At the front, flavors of corn and pepper dominated my palate. Mid-palate, the vanilla came out, followed by dry wood. On the back was the raisin, which cleared out both the pepper and dry wood. 

The finish was long and heavy on the raisin. Some of the dry wood came for a return visit. While only at 87°, it drinks much heavier, likely a product of the smaller barrels. It also gave me one heck of a buzz. What's conspicuously missing? Remember, this Bourbon is finished in ex-maple casks. While it appeared on the nose, it was nowhere on the palate. That's not a terribly big deal, but it does miss out on expectations. It isn't fair to judge a whiskey based upon expectations, that's all part of the #DrinkCurious lifestyle. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust: This is where the pedal meets the metal. I found the Bourbon Finished in Maple Syrup Casks to be unusual. But, I found it unusual only because it was lacking any maple flavor. The Bourbon itself wasn't particularly unusual, and I've got to admit I was a bit disappointed when I think about how special the 5.5 Grain Bourbon was. Saying all of that, this isn't a bad whiskey. This is definitely one to try at a Bar, or in this case, at the distillery.