Showing posts with label barrel-finished. Show all posts
Showing posts with label barrel-finished. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Coalition Kentucky Straight Rye Margaux Barriques Review & Tasting Notes


Finished whiskeys are the "in" thing right now. Finishing involves taking a mature whiskey and then transferring it from the original barrel to another. Those finishing barrels can be pretty much anything, from Bourbon and Rye to beer, from sherry and wine to Tobasco sauce. The idea is the finishing barrel allows the whiskey to take on some of the characters from what was previously in the barrel.

Very new to the market (meaning just released this month) is Coalition Whiskey. The name is meaningful. It involved three industry experts,  Leonid Yangarber (formerly of Russian Standard), Ludwig Vanneron (an expert in wine), and Steve Thompson (president of Kentucky Artisan Distillery), coming together and forming a coalition.  Their goal was to create a great whiskey that would be finished in some of the world's finest wine barrels.

Kentucky Artisan Distillery provides the base product across the brand's spectrum. Located in Crestwood, Kentucky, it utilizes a 100% rye mash, of which 10% of the rye is malted. All of the rye comes from a farm located about a mile away. That mash was then sent through a copper pot still that dates back to pre-Prohibition days. It is then aged for four-to-five years before making the transition to the wine barrels.

I'm reviewing the Margaux Barriques expression today.  Margaux refers to the famed Margaux appellation, the wine-growing region in Bordeaux, the birthplace of many highly-prestigious marks of wine.  Barriques is the French term for "barrel."  The base rye whiskey, once matured, is then finished in these former Margaux barrels.  It does not carry an age statement and packaged at 90.8°.  It is available in NY, NJ, CA, FL, KY, IL, and CO, and you can also purchase it online. Expect to pay $89.99 for a 750ml bottle.

Speaking of said bottle, it is an absolutely gorgeous presentation. It has some heft and something you'd want to keep afterward as a decanter for something else. 

The only way to find out if Coalition Margaux Barriques is any good is to #DrinkCurious. Before I get there, I'd like to thank Coalition Whiskey for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Rye presented as a deep, dark amber. A thick rim left very thick, sticky legs that didn't want to move anywhere.

Nose:  A fruity aroma filled the air. As I brought the glass closer to my face, cinnamon and oak hit my olfactory sense first. Then the fruitiness returned in the form of currant, dried fig, and red grape. There was also a muted floral note. When I inhaled the vapor through my mouth, rye spice and Bordeaux wine danced across my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was silky and full-bodied. On the front, I tasted chocolate and creamy vanilla. Then, on the middle, a fruit bomb of plum, currant, and black cherry exploded. The back was a blend of leather, rye spice, tobacco leaf, and coffee bean.

Finish:  Things started sweet and then transformed to spicy. Plum, then clove, then warming with rye spice. Finally, things got very dry with leather and oak tannins. It definitely had pucker power. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Coalition Margaux Barriques was, simply put, elegant. I've had several wine-finished whiskeys and this one is a stand-out. The whiskey is a quality base and the wine barrels were top-notch before the two even interacted. There was absolutely nothing not to like from nose to finish. Even the mouthfeel was luxurious. The fancy decanter was unnecessary - this could be packaged in a mason jar and I would still not have any problem dropping $90.00 on it. Obviously, this grabs my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!

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


Monday, January 4, 2021

Thomas S Moore Extended Cask Finish Bourbon Reviews & Tasting Notes


I enjoy barrel-finished whiskeys. There are a bunch of purists who are turned off at the mere idea of finishing whiskeys, and they're absolutely entitled to their opinion. I just don't happen to agree with them.

Barrel-finishing involves taking a properly-aged whiskey and then taking it from its original barrel to a barrel that contained something else. That something else could be anything from whiskey to wine, from coffee to hot sauce, and everything in between. The finishing process can go from a few weeks to a handful of months. Distillers and blenders can be creative, and I appreciate their creativity, even if I don't enjoy the bottled product.

Then there's something called extended barrel-finishing. While there's no legal definition for it (read: marketing speak), the idea is that instead of finishing a whiskey for weeks or months, you're now talking years. That is unusual. Who is the early adopter? None other than Barton 1792, owned by Sazerac (the parent company of Buffalo Trace). 

Back in 1889, a gentleman named Thomas S. Moore built and founded the Barton 1792 Distillery. He was an early adopter of Bardstown, which is now known as the Bourbon Capital of the World. The distillery decided to honor Moore with this new product line of extended barrel-finished Bourbons.

"[The] signature high-rye Bourbon is aged for many years in new charred oak barrels before filling other casks that previously matured various wines or spirits from around the world, ranging from Cognac to Cabernet to Port and more. In these fabulous casks, the Bourbon aged another one to three years. This extended cask-finishing method results in elegant whiskeys, each displaying a distinct flavor profile, reflecting nuances of both the Bourbon and the finishing cask." - Barton 1792 Distillery

The mashbill for 1792 High Rye is undisclosed, but if we take the above information from Barton 1792, we know it is aged somewhere between five and seven years. As such, we know it spent six-to-ten years in wood.  You can expect to pay about $69.99 for a 750ml bottle of either the Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, or Port finishes.

Knowledge is nice, of course, but you can't smell or taste it. The only way to know for sure if it is any good is to #DrinkCurious. I'd like to thank Barton 1792 for providing me samples of these three Thomas S. Moore expressions in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews.

First up, I'm reviewing the Chardonnay Cask FinishThe cask once held California Chardonnay wine, and before it was filled with the Bourbon, the barrel went through toasting to bring out additional flavors. Finally, it is bottled at 97.9°.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, the Bourbon presents as a deep, orange-amber. It created a thick rim and extremely slow legs that crawled back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  I found this whiskey to be quite fragrant. It started with buttercream and vanilla, and then it got fruity with apple, pear, and peach. When I inhaled through my mouth, that apple crossed my tongue.

Palate:  The mouthfeel offered a medium body and was oily. On the front, I tasted vanilla and toffee. The middle consisted of baking spices, cinnamon apple, and dried cherry, while the back featured apricot, rye spice, and caramel. The caramel was stronger than I'd imagine. There was a mineral-like quality as well.

Finish:  I found the finish long and buttery, and experienced apricot, caramel, oak, and apple cider. The Kentucky hug was subtle.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Thomas S. Moore Chardonnay Cask Finish was certainly different from other finished whiskeys I've tried. Knowing what 1792 High Rye tasted like made it easy to distinguish the Chardonnay finish. I enjoyed this. I'm not sure if I enjoyed it for $70.00, though. I appreciate the uniqueness of what the distillery has done. I'm offering a Bar rating to it. 

Next up is the Cabernet Sauvignon expression. It shares the same 1792 High Rye mashbill as the Chardonnay, the only real difference is the wine cask used in the finishing process. It weighs in a bit lower at 95.3°. 

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, the color was a pretty reddish-orange. It left the same thicker rim and slow legs as the Chardonnay finish.

Nose:  The aroma of darker fruits permeated the air. I smelled raspberry and cherry, along with a muted blackberry. Caramel was easy to pick out and provided a mouthwatering invitation. When I breathed in the vapor through my lips, I found strawberry preserves.

Palate:  The Cabernet Sauvignon version offered a luxurious, silky mouthfeel. Flavors of plum and strawberry exploded on my tongue. The middle was French vanilla ice cream and freshly-cracked black pepper. On the back, charred oak and raspberry formed a complementary combination.

Finish:  Slightly shorter than the Chardonnay, the finish was jammy and fruity, with toffee, oak, and black pepper. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  While I enjoyed the Chardonnay expression, I just loved the Cabernet Sauvignon version. Sure, it was a fairly simple Bourbon, but it was delicious and made me smile. This one is worth $70.00 and takes my coveted Bottle rating.

Last up is the Port Cask version. Again, it uses the 1792 High Rye mashbill. Port comes from Portugal and is a fortified wine, meaning it blended with a portion of spirits, which is usually some type of brandy. Fortification is used as a method of preserving the wine from spoilage and was developed to allow the wine to be shipped across long distances. The Port Cask Finish is bottled at 96.9°, making it the highest-proofed of the three.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Port Cask is the deepest, darkest color yet. The rim was thinner than either the Chardonnay or Cabernet Sauvignon expressions. That rim created sticky drops that didn't really go anywhere, even with some tapping with my finger on the wall.

Nose:  Oak was dominant, and right behind it were both blackberry, raisin, and blueberry. Strange as it may sound, the nose had a syrupy quality to it. I also smelled vanilla. When I drew the air in my mouth, I tasted sweet vanilla and cherry.

Palate:  Sweet, spicy, and airy would be an appropriate way to describe the mouth on this Bourbon. The front was sweet with boysenberry, blueberry, strawberry, and raisin. Caramel and vanilla made up the middle, and then the back featured nutmeg, allspice, oak, and slight pepper. 

Finish:  This was the short-to-medium finish was big on cherry and plum with an ending of toasted oak. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Port Cask Finish had a good balance. I've had several whiskeys that have been finished in Port Casks and the fruit is a common denominator. I would have preferred a longer finish, but this is another that sat well with me and earned a Bottle rating.

Final Thoughts:  The Chardonnay was my least favorite. It wasn't a bad Bourbon, but it didn't have a wow factor that caused me to want to lay down $70.00 for it. But, the Cabernet Sauvignon and Port Cask versions did. Of the two, I preferred the Cabernet Sauvignon with the Port Cask a very close second. I'm curious what future expressions will contain, and am admittedly excited about the proposed Cognac finish. While Barton 1792 is at it, I'm hoping Armagnac is part of the plan.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

Daviess County Bourbon Finished in Cabernet Sauvignon Casks Review & Tasting Notes

One of the most widely-recognized grape varietals in the world, grown in nearly every major wine-producing region is Cabernet Sauvignon. Until the 1990s, it was also the most widely planted grape. It was finally surpassed by Merlot, but then in 2015, Cabernet Sauvignon regained its throne. The reason for its popularity is how flavorful it is. Typically, you'll find flavors of heavy red and black fruit.

Today I'm reviewing Daviess County Bourbon Finished in Cabernet Sauvignon Casks. It is produced by Lux Row Distillers of Bardstown, Kentucky.  Daviess County Bourbon is a new expression from Lux Row, and is a blend of sourced wheated and traditional mash Bourbons, most likely from Heaven Hill.  If you want to learn more about the standard expression, you can read my review from May. For the record, it earned my Bottle recommendation.

As the bottle implies, Lux Row took the standard expression and dumped it in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon casks, where it rested another six months.  It carries no age statement, however, we know that means it must be at least four years old. Bottled at 96°, the suggested retail is $44.99.

I'd like to thank Lux Row for sending me a sample of this Bourbon in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. Let's get to it.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, Daviess County Bourbon appears chestnut in color. It left a very thin rim on the wall which created very slow, fat legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. 

Nose:  The first thing to hit my nostrils was old oak that was slightly musty. Past the oak were plum, blueberries, molasses, and vanilla. That's right, I said blueberries! When I inhaled through my lips, I picked up black currant. 

Palate:  The initial sip was very thin and oily. There was no alcohol punch whatsoever. At the front was smoked oak. I was a bit taken back that there was nothing else offered. However, as it moved mid-palate, I discovered caramel, plum, and (again) blueberry. I must admit that I've never used blueberry in a whiskey review before. The back consisted of honey and grilled peaches.

Finish:  Clove and blueberry stuck around for a very long, enticing finish that lasted several minutes. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This expression of Daviess County Bourbon is a fruit bomb. That's absolutely due to the wine casks.  Blueberry is my favorite fruit, and as you can imagine, when I picked up that note in the nose, palate, and finish, I became a very happy camper. There was nothing off-putting about anything from beginning to end, and when you consider the $44.99 investment, this one becomes a very easy Bottle recommendation. 

On an ending note, I found the Cabernet Sauvignon finish to be the most interesting and the best of the three.  Cheers!

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

Saturday, August 1, 2020

Daviess County Bourbon Finished in French Oak Casks Review & Tasting Notes

When Lux Row Distillers released Daviess County Kentucky Straight Bourbon, they had three separate expressions:  the standard Kentucky Straight Bourbon, that Bourbon finished in Cabernet Sauvignon casks, and the straight Bourbon finished in French Oak casks.  If you want to know the history behind the label and the name, I'll invite you to read my review on the original Kentucky Straight Bourbon.  To give you a preview, that expression earned a very easy Bottle rating. 

Today I'm reviewing the French Oak Cask release.  In a nutshell, this is the same as the original expression that's then been finished for six months in French Oak. It starts with a mash of two Bourbons - one that is traditional (meaning rye is the second largest ingredient) and one that is wheated (meaning wheat is substituted for rye). Therefore the grains used are corn, rye, wheat, and malted barley.  But, as this is a blend, you really don't want to consider it a four-grain because that's not how it was originally distilled. Lux Row is sourcing these Bourbons, most likely from Heaven Hill. Since it carries no age statement, it must be at least four years old. Daviess County French Oak is bottled at 96° and retails about $44.99.

The important thing, however, is how does this bourbon taste? To answer that, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this Bourbon appeared as a deep bronze.  It left a fat rim on the wall, which generated thick, fast legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine. However, it also abandoned fat droplets that never really moved.

Nose:  Before I could even bring the glass to my face, it was difficult to not smell caramel. When I sniffed the glass, it seemed to be a caramel bomb. The caramel was joined by oak. As I continued to explore, aromas of honey and raisins joined the parade.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was as if I took a bite of honeycomb and a shot of vanilla. 

Palate:  At the first sip, it had a thin and oily mouthfeel. But, it gained weight during subsequent ones. The dry tannins made a big impression.  That caramel bomb from the nosing also hit me on the palate. Behind the caramel was dusted cinnamon and vanilla.  On the back, things got weird. It was a combination of both sweet and dry oak. 

Finish:  With 96°, you'd think that warmth would be impactful, and you'd be right in this case. There was no burn per se, but this Bourbon definitely let you know it was there. The finish was long and flavorful, with dry oak, dark chocolate, white pepper, and rye spice. The other interesting aspect was how creamy it remained in my mouth and throat. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Like the original expression, the French Oak was unusual, and I love unique whiskeys. This was so different from the original, yet didn't take away from its character. I could still identify what I'm assuming is Heaven Hill Bourbon. The French Oak adds further character. When you take into account the affordability aspect, this one is like the original - another easy Bottle rating. Cheers!

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

Monday, July 27, 2020

Virginia-Highland Port Cask Finished Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

Live, from Bourbon & Banter, it is my review of Virginia Distilling Company's Port Cask Finished Virginia-Highland Whisky!  I promise you this is much different from most anything you've tasted.

You can read the review in its entirety here.  Cheers!

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Prelude: Courage & Conviction Review & Tasting Notes

Earlier this year, I had an opportunity to try Virginia Distillery Co.'s Prelude: Courage & Conviction, an American Single Malt. My review of it is now live at Bourbon & Banter. Cheers!

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Iowa Legendary Rye Red Label Review

Iowa has a rich bootlegging history. Unlike many of the moonshiners of long ago, who distilled (and distributed) in secret, in Iowa, particularly around Carroll County, the local economy depended heavily on it and entire towns were in on the operation.  Oh, it was still illegal as hell, but when the revenuers came, the whole town was in on making sure there was denial, deflection, and distraction. It went from the moonshiners to the pastors and from the police to judges. Everyone was in on the game.

Recently I was in Carroll and had an opportunity to meet with the folks at Iowa Legendary Rye and was shown around by Rich, Alec, and Max. There were a lot of things said to me in confidence that I promised I would not publish and you know what my integrity means to me. In other words, if I'm not talking about it, don't ask because I won't tell. And, if you don't see a photo of it, it is because I agreed not to photograph it. Nothing illegal, just trade secrets.

Speaking of illegal, this recipe goes back to 1931 and unlike many backstories that are just tall-tales, Rich is the real deal. Things with Iowa Legendary Rye went legal in 2014.

The distillery is located in a nondescript one-story building in downtown Carroll.  You could drive right by the place (I did) and not even know the building housed a distillery. This is a true micro-distilling operation. Iowa Legendary Rye prefers to use the term small batch which is descriptive but as many whiskey people know, the term has no legal definition. Micro-distillery is much more accurate.

Ingenuity is key at Iowa Legendary Rye.  Handmade tooling, home-made stills, and a ton of growing-up-in-the-moonshine-business things are how it is done. I saw stuff that distilleries have spent tens of thousands of dollars on that Rich, the guy who has been doing this since he was a kid, spends $20 on parts from the local hardware store and it works just as well, if not better. I found myself laughing - not at them - but just in jaw-dropping shock with what they're doing compared to what I'm used to seeing. 

It starts off with the grain. Everything except the barrels and bottles come from Carroll County. They're using 100% organic rye and a bit of cane sugar.  There are no enzymes used at all. The rye is then ground and then fermented in 53-gallon, food-grade plastic barrels. They're distilling about 50 or so gallons a day.

First, there is their white whiskey. It is proofed down to 80° and this is the base for everything Iowa Legendary Rye puts out, including the vodka. For what it is worth, I tried both.  The white whiskey lacks any heat and goes down way too easy. The vodka is distilled twice and then charcoal-filtered (using one of those $20 contraptions I mentioned earlier). It is fruity with grape, melon, and berry - something that I don't run across often in vodka.

Everything is aged in 15-gallon, #5 charred oak barrels. That's right, #5 char. Those barrels are aged between 18 and 24 months before being bottled on-site using a very small, hand-bottling machine.  I got to visit the equally non-descript rickhouse.

Iowa Legendary Rye makes three finished whiskeys:  Black Label (their standard Aged Rye), Red Label (called Private Reserve, which I will review), and Patriot, which is a limited-edition, twice-distilled, twice-aged barrel proof Rye.

I want to thank Rich, Alec, and Max for both the private tour and the sample for a no-strings-attached, honest review of the Private Reserve.

Private Reserve is essentially Aged Rye that is then aged a second time in used cooperage.  Retail is about $69.00 and it, like everything else (except Patriot) is bottled at 80°.  Is an 80° Rye that many people have never heard of worth $69.00?  The way we find out is to #DrinkCurious.  For the record, I'm pouring Batch 44.

In my Glencairn glass, Private Reserve appeared as the color of chardonnay. It left a very heavy rim that created medium-fat legs to drop back to the pool. 

Even before the glass got anywhere near my face, the aroma of buttered popcorn was in the air. Coming closer, brown sugar joined the game. I discovered a slight evergreen (not to be confused with juniper) quality, and then vanilla cream. When I inhaled through my lips, a flavor I'm fairly certain I've never used in a whiskey review before: buttermilk.

A thin but coating mouthfeel greeted my palate. There was no burn factor whatsoever. At the front, I picked up caramel and (again) buttered popcorn. Come mid-palate, those flavors melted into both vanilla and chocolate. Then, on the back, a healthy dose of rye spice and tobacco leaf, with just a touch of coconut.

The long finish of charred oak, cocoa, and black pepper built fast without becoming overwhelming. I did discover that my hard-palate started to tingle, perhaps because I was casually sipping without long pauses in between.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  The question I asked earlier was, Is an 80° Rye that many people have never heard of worth $69.00?  This, like the white whiskey, went down way too easy. It has an enticing nose, and while it had some familiar rye notes on the back and finish, the front- and mid-palates were on the unusual side for Rye, especially the buttered popcorn. This is something I could sit on my zero-gravity chair on my deck and smile while drinking. And, it may even be a bit dangerous due to how easy it is to enjoy. 

$69.00 is on the pricey side for true craft whiskey and for that, it needs to do something different. Iowa Legendary Rye accomplishes that task and does it in a great way. As such, it snags my coveted Bottle rating. 

On a parting note, I'm learning that Rye and used cooperage make an excellent combination - not just Iowa Legendary Rye but other brands as well.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

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

Monday, April 13, 2020

Blood Oath Pact 6 Review and Tasting Notes

The human body has, at least in theory, an average temperature of 98.6°F.  That's how hot the blood is that churns through our veins. A blood oath was a serious promise between two parties to adhere to an agreement. And, those promises were sealed by blood:  the parties involved would cut their hands and their blood would mingle together. 

But, these days, we would probably not be too keen on participating in a blood oath. There's just too much ickiness and risk involved.

Speaking of risk, Lux Row Distillers takes one on annually with their Blood Oath series. They're always doing something out of the ordinary in an attempt to create something new.  I've reviewed Pact 4, which I found to be good but questionable for the price, and Pact 5, which I disliked the finish but enjoyed the remainder. Both took Bar ratings from me. So, when Lux Row sent me Pact 6, I was curious if this would eclipse the others or be another maybe whiskey.

Pact 6 is a blend of three Kentucky Straight Bourbons:  one at 14 years, one at 8 years, and the last, 7 years. However, the 7-year is finished in ex-Cognac casks before the three are married. The mashbill and cooperage are undisclosed. Legally, any age statement must represent the youngest whiskey in the blend, but Pact 6 doesn't carry one. And, in the tradition of a real blood oath, the proof is that of blood:  98.6°.  It is packaged a nice bottle with a collectible wooden box and retails for $99.99. This is a limited edition run with 17,000 cases produced.

How does Pact 6 hold up?  Will it get something besides the Bar rating? The only way to find out for sure is to #DrinkCurious.  But first, I'd like to thank Lux Row for sending me a sample in exchange for an honest, no-strings-attached review.

In my Glencairn glass, Pact 6 appears as a deep amber.  It created a medium rim which led to fat droplets that slowly worked its way back down to the pool.

Aromas of caramel and brown sugar greeted my nostrils. Beneath that was a bouquet filled with apricot, vanilla, and oak. When I inhaled through my lips, it was thick butterscotch. 

The mouthfeel was oily and warming. At the front, I discovered caramel, oak, and a big punch of leather. As the liquid sunshine moved across my palate, I found sweet apricot, spicy clove, and toffee.  Then, on the back, a return of the oak and, finally, crème brũlee. 

A long-lasting finish of rye spice and dry oak was uncomplicated but pleasant. Pact 6 did offer much more of the Cognac profile than I would have expected, especially since only one component was finished with it.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Here's where the pedal hits the medal and we fly down the road smoothly or wreck in a fiery mess. The blending was well-done, and I am intrigued by Cognac-finished whiskeys. It adds a completely different nuance to the profile - if done correctly. I enjoyed the heck out of both the nose and the palate. They were complex and enticing. The finish made me feel like I was drinking Cognac, which is a positive. Pact 6 is, in my opinion, the best of the series so far and I believe a good return on a $99.99 investment. As such, I'm pleased to offer it my coveted Bottle rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

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

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Minor Case Rye Whiskey Review & Tasting Notes

What's a Minor Case?  No, that's not the opposite of a Major Case!  Minor Case Beam was an actual person, part of the Beam family. His motto was Craft only the finest whiskey. Unfortunately, Minor Case Beam was put out of business thanks to that horrible American experiment called Prohibition. From everything I can gather, Minor Case's son Guy S. Beam distilled, then it skipped a generation until Paul and Steve Beam came around over at Limestone Branch

Minor Case Straight Rye Whiskey is produced by Limestone Branch. This one is actually distilled by the folks at MGP. It utilizes a mash of 51% rye, 45% corn, and 4% barley. It is aged two years, then allowed to finish in ex-Sherry casks from Meier's Winery. Minor Case is non-chill filtered and bottled at 90°. Suggested retail is $50, which is about average for "craft" whiskey brands. 

The bottle is drop-dead gorgeous. The lettering is debossed, then painted white so it really jumps out at you. It has a very rich, premium look and feel. Packaging can be pretty or ugly, but all that matters to me is the whiskey inside. I'd like to thank Luxco for providing me a sample of Minor Case Straight Rye in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review. As such, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

In my Glencairn glass, the appearance was a light amber, and, in fact, looked young. It left a thin rim on my glass, which led to a heavy, wavy curtain that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Aromas of cinnamon spice and floral rye filled my nostrils. Underneath those were bright, fruity notes, most likely from the sherry, along with an interesting touch of butterscotch. When I inhaled through my mouth, I picked up additional floral notes.

The mouthfeel was thin, light and airy.  Immediately up front, I tasted a combination of raisins and brown sugar. At mid-palate, the sherry became evident, along with dark chocolate, most likely from the malted barley, but I was shocked how strong it was considering the very low barley content. On the back, it was a marriage of citrus and rye spiciness.

The finish was soft, chocolatey, with cherries and dry oak. It was delicate but long-lasting, and something that almost begged for another sip.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Thankfully, the youngish appearance was the worst thing about Minor Case Rye. There was a lot going on with this whiskey, it is interestingly complex and offers some surprises. I would have assumed heavier fruitiness due to the sherry finish but was pleasantly impressed by the heavier chocolate notes, especially in the finish. 

While the price for this two-year may shy you away, it is on par with other "craft" whiskeys you'll find on the shelf. Minor Case isn't another Me Too whiskey that could get lost in a sea of other similarly priced whiskeys. When you consider what Minor Case has to offer, I believe you'll agree this one earns a Bottle rating. Cheers!

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Slane Triple Casked Irish Whiskey Review

Happy St. Patrick's Day!  If you're Irish, this is your day.  If you're not Irish, well, today you are, because everyone is. It is all in good fun. Even the whiskey is Irish today. My pour actually is.

I have a few excellent Irish whiskeys in my library, but for my celebratory pour, I decided to go with something brand new to me. I've chosen Slane "Triple Casked" Irish whiskey. What, exactly, is Slane? The short answer is it is Brown-Forman's contribution to the Irish whiskey world. The distillery itself is located at Slane Castle in County Meath. 

Slane is an affordable choice. My bottle ran $29.99.  The bottle itself is hefty with SLANE embossed on two of the side panels and the crest on the front and back and a screw-top closure. 

Brown-Forman does not disclose who sources this whiskey for them, and it carries no age statement, but in order to meet the legal requirements of Irish whiskey, it must be at least three years old. It is a marriage of an Irish Single Malt and Irish Single Grain whiskeys that have been aged in three different casks:  virgin oak, seasoned oak, and Oloroso Sherry barrels. It was then bottled at 80°.

The background and story are interesting, but what matters most is how this Irish whiskey tastes. As such, it is time to #DrinkCurious.

In the glass, Slane had a unique appearance for an Irish whiskey. I'm used to a far paler color. In this case, a rich gold presented.  It left a very thin rim on the Glencairn that generated equally thin and slow legs to drop back to the pool. 

Aromas of honey and sherry were heavily represented. Underneath those were sweet, dried fruits such as raisins and prunes. I also picked up oak and vanilla. When I inhaled through my lips, it was all thick butterscotch that made my mouth water.

The mouthfeel was very thin and oily and led to a very complex palate.  Up front, flavors of leather and oak were dominant. But, after the initial shock to the palate, it was far easier to pick up cocoa and coffee. While the front was very savory, mid-palate became fruity and sweet, with honey and raisin dancing across the tongue, obviously due to the sherry influence. The back changed up to an interesting combination of butterscotch, vanilla, and malt.

That sweetness hung on for a medium-long finish of the sweet, dried fruit and oak. When I allowed long pauses between sips, pepper popped up, hung around for a moment, and then vanished while yielding to sherry sweetness.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I have to say I really enjoyed this whiskey. Slane is completely atypical of my experience with Irish whiskey that it captured my full attention. I'm not suggesting it blew me away, but considering the price point and everything that was going on in my mouth, I'm rating this as a Bottle to keep in my library.


Saturday, March 2, 2019

A Midwinter Nights Dram, Act 6 Review and Tasting Notes

Yes, Christmas has passed, but that doesn’t prevent you from enjoying it year-round if you’d like. Oh, sure, you won’t necessarily have presents under the tree, and you don’t have to listen to the endless yuletide tunes, but, on the plus side, you also won’t need a reason for the season.

Have I fallen off my rocker? Why am I talking about Christmas in March?

I was introduced to High West Distillery’s A Midwinter Nights Dram back at Act 1. My friend, “Made Man” Bob Howell of Sips Suds & Smokes poured me a glass way back when it came out and he said, “This tastes just like Christmas in a bottle!” At that time, I had never heard of High West, but I was already interested after that first sip.

Each year, A Midwinter Nights Dram takes on a new Act. Act 1 was the initial release, Act 2 the following year, and so on. Each Act is different from one another - sometimes slight, sometimes huge.

Today I’m reviewing Act 6, Scene 6, which was the 2018 release. One of the nice things about High West is their transparency. Act 6 is simply High West’s Rendezvous Rye which was then barrel-finished in French Oak port barrels. High West’s 2018 release of Rendezvous Rye is a blend of Straight Ryes ranging in age from four to seven years. One recipe comes from MGP of Indiana, using a mash of 95% rye and 5% barley, the other is 80% rye and 20% barley distilled by High West.

Retail on A Midwinter Nights Dram is anywhere from $89 to $99. This is a limited release whiskey, there are still 2018 bottles out there, but they are getting more difficult to find. It is proofed at 98.6, the same as the human body, and this is consistent throughout the Acts.

How will Act 6 stand up? Will it still be like Christmas in a bottle? The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious

In the glass, Act 6 appeared as a very deep, dark amber. It left a very thick rim on the glass and produced fat legs that took a medium pace back to the pool, suggesting a medium body.

Cinnamon was the very first thing to hit my nostrils. In fact, cinnamon was all over the entire nosing zone. At the lower end, the cinnamon had a nutty quality, at the middle, it was baked goods, and at the high end, the cinnamon blended with cherries and port. There was even a slight piney aroma hidden under the cherries and port. When I inhaled through my lips, the pine was more evident, along with creamy milk chocolate.

The mouthfeel was thicker than I was prepared for: prior Acts were not as heavy. Just as cinnamon dominated the nose, fruit controlled much of the palate. Up front, it was cherry and sweet, dried fruit. The middle was a marriage of raisin, dark chocolate, and nuts. All of that yielded to a return of cherry and cinnamon rolls on the back.

The finish was certainly different. It started off with disappointment because it was so short. But, then it was like finding an overlooked present under the tree. It all came racing back with dry wood, clove, and the return of cinnamon and held on for several minutes.

Bottle, Bar or Bust: Part of this challenge was to discover if Act 6 held up to the Christmas in a Bottle standard. Looking over the tasting notes, I’d say Act 6 fits the bill almost perfectly. While Act 6 isn’t my favorite of the series (that honor belongs to Act 2.2), it is nonetheless delicious and fun to sip. As such, it earns the coveted Bottle rating. I’m blessed with still having three Acts in my library and I’d highly recommend adding Act 6 to yours if you can still find it.


Thank you, Crooked Water Spirits!

This past Thursday, I hosted my Barrel Finished Whiskey Workshop & Tasting event at the beautiful Yahara Bay Distillers. We talked about the legalities and regulations surrounding this growing part of the whiskey world, and folks were able to then taste how the whiskey is impacted by the process.

Many thanks to Crooked Water Spirits for allowing me to feature a selection of their spirits in this event. This was a lot of fun, everyone had a great time. We learned, we laughed, and we enjoyed great whiskey.

My next event at Yaraha Bay is the Ides of March Irish Whiskey Workshop & Tasting on March 28th. Forget your standard Irish whiskeys, this one will blow your socks off! Cheers!