Showing posts with label Wollersheim. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Wollersheim. Show all posts

Monday, October 5, 2020

Wollersheim Single Barrel Rye Review & Tasting Notes

I get excited when a local distillery releases something new. There's just something cool about watching growth and maturity happen. Located just outside of Sauk City, the Wollersheim Winery has been around since the 1840s. The distillery is much, much younger. Due to a change in Wisconsin law, wineries were allowed to start distilling in 2009. Shortly thereafter, they started making brandy. In 2015, a separate distillery building was constructed, and Tom Lenerz, the master distiller, started experimenting with Bourbon and Rye.

Fast forward five years and Wollersheim is getting ready to release its first Single Barrel Rye.  That starts with Barrel 16021, distilled in 2016.  Created from a sweet mash of 66% of rye, 22% yellow corn, and 12% malted barley, all of the ingredients came from Wisconsin. Even the barrels were Wisconsin-sourced. The wood was seasoned for two years, then, after being coopered into 53-gallon barrels, were first toasted then subject to a #3 char treatment.  It came out of the barrel at 110°, and a 750ml will set you back $49.99. 

I'd like to thank Wollersheim Distillery for providing me with a sample of this Rye in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Now, it is time to #DrinkCurious

Appearance:  This Rye appeared as a clear, orange-amber in my Glencairn glass. It made a medium rim, and lead to tiny droplets that eventually became long, slow legs.

Nose:  Floral perfume filled my tasting room.  As I brought my glass to my nose, I inhaled aromas of toasted oak, cinnamon, and vanilla. When I breathed the vapor in my mouth, that vanilla became thick and luxurious. 

Palate:  As this whiskey crossed my lips, it was very creamy and coated everywhere, and was very full-bodied. Flavors of cocoa powder and rye spice hit the front.  Mid-palate I tasted smoked caramel, pecan, and mace. Vanilla cream, cinnamon, and toasted oak were on the back.

Finish:  Rounding things out, if you can call it rounding, was unfiltered, gritty barrel char. The cocoa returned, as did the mace, and those were annexed by black pepper and salted caramel. The saline stuck around for a long, dry finish.

I was curious about what water would do to open things up. Using an eyedropper, I added two drops of distilled water. 

Nose:  The vanilla became very strong and was blended with smoked oak. The cinnamon was reduced.  Inhaling through my mouth offered me light floral notes. 

Palate:  That creamy mouthfeel became even thicker. The pecan took the front stage and morphed into vanilla. Mid-palate suggested black pepper and dry oak. On the back, smoked caramel took over everything.

Finish:  Strangely enough, it seemed like the proof increased with water. Things were bolder. If you took toasted oak and dropped that in cinnamon syrup and let it rest for, say, a month, that's what you would have here. It produced a lot of heat. The barrel char was still there, and beneath all that was berry.  It didn't last as long as the neat pour did, but I was shocked nonetheless.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:   This is a younger Rye.  As a point of reference, I don't compare old Ryes to new ones. It isn't fair. Young Ryes are bold, older ones mellow out. I love each of them for what they are. Saying that I found Barrel #16021 to be balanced while offering a lot of flavors. I particularly enjoyed the transition from smoked to salted caramel. Between the neat and "proofed down" (if you can call it that) pours, I definitely preferred it neat. For $50.00, that's right in the sweet spot for craft whiskey and shouldn't chase anyone away.  I'm happy to have this in my library, and I believe you will, too. It takes my Bottle recommendation. Cheers!

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

Friday, August 21, 2020

Wollersheim Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon (2020) Review & Tasting Notes


Bottled-in-Bond is my favorite category of whiskey. It used to be something you found mostly on the bottom shelf and, good or bad, it has been enjoying a resurgence which has been driving up the price of these American beauties. Bottled-in-Bond (or Bonded) distilled spirits came out of a consumer protection issue. Back in the day, unscrupulous folks used to stretch their stocks by putting things, oftentimes bad things, in the whiskey. Think things like tobacco spit, turpentine, and other nasties that no amount of alcohol content sanitizes. People were getting sick, or worse, dying by drinking adulterated spirits.

Enter the Federal Government. Without getting political, I'm not a fan of big government, but there are times it has its place. The passage of the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 renewed consumer confidence in American distilled spirits. In order to quality as Bottled-in-Bond, a distilled spirit must:

  • Be made in the USA;
  • Be distilled by a single distiller, at a single distillery, during a single distilling season (either January through June or July through December);
  • State on the label the name of the distiller and, if different, who produced it;
  • Aged at least four years in a government-bonded warehouse; and
  • Bottled at exactly 100°, no more, no less.

So, in a nutshell, this was good legislation.

Today I'm reviewing Wollersheim Distillery's Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon.  I've reviewed their Bonded Bourbon before, but that was the 2019 Fall Release.  This is their Spring 2020 release.  I'm tasting them side-by-side, and I'm letting you know upfront these are completely different whiskeys. Yes, the mashbill is the same (75% corn, 15% malted barley, and 10% rye) and the grains were supplied by the same farm. Yes, they've both been aged four years.  Yes, they've come from the same distillery. However, when I asked Tom Lenerz, the master distiller, what was different, he informed me they switched barrel suppliers to a Wisconsin-based cooperage and changed the char level from a deep, slow toast and light char to a toasted oak with a #3 level char. The cost of a 750ml bottle remains at $49.99.

It is time to #DrinkCurious and find out just how different these two Bourbons are. But, before I do that, I would like to thank Wollersheim Distillery for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, there was no difference in color between 2019 and 2020. Both were an orange-amber. Both created an ultra-thin rim on the wall, which may have been even thinner on the latter. Unlike the former, this one had thick, slow legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  Aromas of cinnamon, sweet corn, and orange peel hung in the air.  Beyond that, there was malt and caramel.  When I inhaled through my mouth, orange zest and oak ran across my tongue.  On the 2019 version, the fragrance was spicy. This was far less so.

Mouth:  The texture was creamy and coating, and offered a medium body. As I continued to sip, the creaminess ramped up. On the front, flavors of toasted oak, cocoa, and vanilla started things off.  As it continued mid-palate, I tasted caramel-covered popcorn and cashews. Then, on the back, the caramel continued sans the popcorn and was joined by nutmeg and orange citrus.  Some of the notes from the 2019 release carried over, while others did not.

Finish:  The medium-length finish was comprised of toasted oak, corn, toffee, and pink peppercorn. This was a completely different finish from the predecessor. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I enjoyed the 2019 version and gave it a Bottle rating, but was comparing it to other younger Bourbons. The 2020 version can compete against more mature offerings and hold its own. There were no young notes on this, no sharpness on the profile, and it was overall more mellowed. Between the two, the 2020 release leaves the 2019 counterpart in its dust. The price is the same:  $50.00, and I am thrilled to have it in my library. Yeah, this one gets a Bottle rating, too. Get this, you will be impressed. Cheers!

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

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Wollersheim Bottled in Bond Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

In Wisconsin, post-Prohibition Bottled-in-Bond is a very new thing. Unlike the law itself, dating back to 1897, my home state is a little late to the game. My favorite category is Bottled-in-Bond, so this naturally brings a smile to my face and piqued my interest.

On November 16th, Wollersheim Distillery released the second Bottled-in-Bond whiskey in the state since Prohibition. I was there, in line, in the cold, waiting for a chance to buy a bottle. I had tasted this several weeks before the release, but it was straight from the barrel and not proofed down. I enjoyed the straight-from-the-barrel taste I had and was excited about what might wind up in the bottle.

A small, but necessary segway if I may.  There are older Bourbons and there are younger Bourbons.  The same thing goes with American Rye.  Younger Bourbons and Ryes tend to have a much different profile than older siblings. As such, I consider each a unique category and don't compare younger to older unless there is a valid reason to do so.

Wollersheim's Bottled-in-Bond is their first-ever Bourbon release. It is aged four years and, as Bottled-in-Bond legalities require, it is bottled at 100°. I would consider it a younger Bourbon. Wollersheim used five different barrels in the initial blend. The mash is 75% white corn, 15% malted barley, and 10% rye, with the corn and rye grown about a mile from the distillery.  The barley is from Wisconsin, and the barrel staves are Wisconsin-grown and seasoned on site. Retail ranges between $50.00 and $65.00.

Wollersheim even mimicked a Wisconsin tax stamp to show the age of the Bourbon.

Packaging is nifty but can at times be deceiving. We all know there are some gorgeous bottles out there that are worth more than the whiskey inside. Does Wollersheim's first Bourbon fall into that category? The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious, so here we go.

In my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon presents as an orange amber. It left a very thin rim on my glass that created no legs whatsoever. It was just a curtain of whiskey that dropped back down into the pool of liquid sunshine. Sometimes that happens with glasses that have an interior hydrophobic coating. I used a glass that I have used many times and am positive does not, so that was a bit of a shocker.

Despite the low rye content, my initial nosing was on the spicy side. First, it was oak. Behind that came cinnamon. Subsequent sniffs unveiled caramel and sweet corn. When I inhaled through my lips, it was corn, but more like standing in a cornfield rather than simply shucked corn. There was something earthy about it.

An oily, coating mouthfeel greeted my palate. At the front, it was corn and dark chocolate. Mid-palate, it became caramel and cocoa. On the back, it was a mixture of tobacco leaf, coffee, and vanilla. Moreover, the mouthfeel went from oily to creamy.

The finish was downright strange. It started off as oak. Then, it slid into caramel. From there, it altered to coffee.  But, these weren't individual change-ups. Rather, the finish notes would melt from one to the other. And, while all that diffusing occurred, my hard palate was sizzling with black pepper.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Mid-point on craft whiskeys is about $50.00. A few bucks either direction doesn't shock me anymore.  If you've read my reviews for any length of time, you know that I'm a fan of the strange and unusual so long as it is pleasant. Well, Wollersheim fits that. This is absolutely a younger Bourbon that has a lot of interesting things going for it. While I did enjoy this more at barrel proof, I'm happy with my purchase and believe you'll find this worth adding to your whiskey library.  

The second bottling of this Bourbon will be in June of 2020 if you are unable to find the initial release. Cheers!

Friday, May 4, 2018

Wollersheim Round Top Rye Review & Tasting Notes


There’s a plethora of two-year-old Ryes hitting the market, with some commanding amazingly high price tags. As this market gets more crowded, distillers must distinguish themselves from the competition.

Being a local, I was excited when Wollersheim, who has run a successful winery for several years, opened its distillery and announced it would create whiskeys. I’ve been curiously waiting ever since for something to be released, with my fingers crossed that they’d distill and age something of at least decent quality, as they’ve done a great job creating wines...

You can read the remainder of the review in its entirety at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!