Showing posts with label drinks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label drinks. Show all posts

Friday, September 17, 2021

Elijah Craig Barrel Select Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Elijah Craig is a name in Bourbon that carries a long, storied tradition.  First of all, he is credited with being the Father of Bourbon.  At least that's how the legend goes.  The Reverand Elijah Craig was a Baptist minister who was involved in a variety of business enterprises, including distilling. However, truth be told, there is no evidence beyond nostalgia that suggests Elijah Craig actually invented Bourbon. But, he was certainly an early force in the art.

Elijah Craig the brand hit shelves in about 1986.  It started off as a 12-year Bourbon, which was something new for Heaven Hill.  Their goal was to get beyond the less-than-positive opinion of its whiskeys and turn the company around. It then moved into an 18-year, and from there, older expressions.

Laying down my cards on the table, I'm admittedly an Elijah Craig fanboy. I buy Barrel Proofs and Single Barrel store picks as I come across them.  I have more than I probably should.  I've known about the Elijah Craig grenades, which is really called Barrel Select, for a few years.  But, I've never tried a bottle, that is, until a very recent trip to Kentucky.  I had two bottles on my list that I wanted to purchase when I took my trip, this being one of them.

Barrel Select is not Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, but it is entry proof (meaning, it is the same proof as what goes into the barrel before any aging occurs).  It carries no age statement, although it is assumed to be between eight and nine years, and is the typical mash of 78% corn, 10% rye, and 12% malted barley.  It only comes in 200ml bottles that are shaped like a barrel, but fit in the hand like a grenade, hence, the nickname.  It is bottled at 125° and costs about $25.00. The only place to buy them is from the Heaven Hill gift shop. You're only allowed one per person per visit.

Will Barrel Select live up to the Elijah Craig reputation? The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Barrel Select appears as a deep, dark amber. It left a very thin rim on the wall that created fat, wavy legs.  Those legs certainly took their time crawling back to the pool.

Nose:  I didn't even have to bring the glass near me to start picking up the aroma of caramel. Once I brought it to my face, it was that caramel and a small amount of mint. Underneath the mint was cinnamon. When I held the rim just under my nose, aromas of cherry and oak filled my nostrils.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was warm vanilla with cinnamon.

Palate:  The initial sip was thick and coating. It was also packed a wallop of a punch. I've been drinking Elijah Craig Barrel Proof since I've really been into Bourbon, and until you get into the super-heavy proofs, I've not felt this much of a kick as what Barrel Select delivered.  But, once I got past that punch, it was a mouthful of berries at the front.  At mid-palate, it became like thick caramel with cinnamon. On the back, it was clove and oak.

Finish:  And, that clove and oak held on for the finish, which was quick and dropped off without warning. My initial feeling was a disappointment, as Elijah Craig never delivered me that, not even in its rather mellow 18-year expression. Just before I went to take another sip, that clove and oak raced back for another round, sticking around only a little bit longer, almost like a tease.  I did notice, however, that my lips were tingling. And, I noticed cherry that was left behind on my palate.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I already admitted I'm an Elijah Craig fanboy. While the finish initially left me disappointed, when it came back again, I found that interesting. When the oak and clove fell off the second time and left the cherry behind, it turned my frown upside down. 

When you consider the price of $25.00, it seems affordable, until, of course, you do the math and realize it is the equivalent of an $87.50 750ml bottle. That becomes expensive for what it is. However (and this may be the fanboy providing justification), it is $25.00 for a very cool experience that would probably last you four pours. And, that's cheaper than going to a bar, in which case you wouldn't find Barrel Select anyway.  As such, my recommendation is to buy the one Bottle you're allowed to the next time you're at the distillery.  Cheers!

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

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

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Penelope Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

When a selling point of a whiskey is how many calories a pour contains, that becomes an interesting marketing campaign. Most brands want to tell you how old the whiskey is, or that it is high-proof, or that it has a certain ingredient in the mash bill, or it has a history steeped in someone's grandpappy's grandpappy eluding the revenuers, or something else along those lines. But, in all the years I've been enjoying whiskey, I don't believe a conversation has ever come up with How many calories are in this pour? 

Two childhood friends, Mike Paladini and Danny Polise, along with Mike's wife, Kerry, went into business together and created their own brand of Bourbon. Mike and Kerry were expecting a child and knew they wanted to name their daughter Penelope. That inspired them for the name of their brand:  Penelope Bourbon.  

Penelope Bourbon earns kudos from me with its very broad transparency.  Penelope makes no secrets that it is distilled by MGP and then blended and bottled at Castle Key Distillery. What Penelope does differently than your standard, sourced Bourbon is it created a four-grain straight Bourbon by blending three different MGP mashbills utilizing corn, rye, wheat, and barley. All the whiskeys are aged in #4 char barrels with #2 char heads, and then aged between two and three years, giving it a 24-month age statement.  Penelope Bourbon is non-chill filtered and bottled at 80°.  It has a suggested retail price of $34.99.

Oh yeah, a 1.5-ounce pour is only 100 calories.  I don't know how that compares to other Bourbons, and to be perfectly frank, I don't care. To me, the important qualities are nose, palate, and finish. And that, my friends, is where this review is going. Time to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Penelope appears as a pleasant amber.  It left a thick rim on the wall that produced fast legs to drop back to the pool.

Nose:  Aromas of sweet cream, maple, and butterscotch.  It was also floral.  When I inhaled through my lips, muted apple came through. 

Palate:  At the first sip, the mouthfeel was thin and coating. It remained such afterward. There was nothing I could describe as harsh. The initial flavors of caramel, nuts, and corn were not overwhelming. At mid-palate, citrus, and chocolate, with oak the back. 

Finish:  The very short finish started with oak, corn, and grass before slipping into nothingness. No matter how many subsequent sips I took, the finish would not stick around. It produced no real warmth whatsoever.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The last time I called something a beginner's whiskey, I got an earful. But, I really don't know how else to describe this.  If I had someone who told me they didn't like Bourbon because of all the things that make Bourbon Bourbon, I'd definitely pour them Penelope. For them, it could be a game-changer. There's nothing offensive about Penelope, yet at the same time, there's nothing that makes it interesting, aside from the calorie statement. It is 80° and obviously so. I believe it is proofed down excessively, but again, if I'm a beginner, 80° is going to be inviting. This doesn't deserve a Bust because it isn't bad. If you're an experienced whiskey drinker, my recommendation is to try this one at a Bar first, especially considering the $35.00 price tag. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

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

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

Monday, June 28, 2021

Old Forester Straight Rye Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

When I took a tour of the Old Forester Distillery in Louisville, I found the tour itself was basic, although I have to admit they have stuff that you don't run into at other distilleries. Between the micro-cooperage and the all-black, steel, industrial rickhouse, it was fun. If you have a chance to go, do it.

But, this isn't a review of their distillery tour. Rather, it is a review of their Straight Rye Whiskey (sorry, Whisky, because Brown-Forman, the parent company, likes to spell it without the e). But I mention the distillery tour because this is the first time I was able to taste their Rye.  Made from a mash of 65% rye, 20% malted barley, and 15% corn, this is the first time in 40+ years that the Old Kentucky Distillery's Normandy Rye Whiskey recipe has seen the light of day. Brown-Forman acquired Old Kentucky in 1940 and the recipe eventually went away. Or, that's the backstory. You know how I feel about some of these backstories - everyone's great-grandpappy had some long-lost recipe that was discovered in an abandoned cupboard and resurrected to make the whiskey you're drinking today. True or not, this is a big step for Brown-Forman to create a unique American Rye and steer away from their standard mash. And, before you ask, yes, this is a completely different mash than sister company Jack Daniel's Rye.

There is no age statement, but we know it is at least two years old due to the Straight designation. And, while this is 100°, like their Old Forester Signature, this is not Bottled-in-Bond. The packaging is simple with a screw-top, metal closure. Retail is just over $20.00 depending on where you shop.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this Rye appeared as a definite deep amber. It created a medium-thick rim which generated a thick curtain that slowly dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  A complex blend of oak, vanilla, and floral notes greeted me initially. As I continued to explore, I discovered toasted oak and cocoa. Below that was thick plum.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was a blend of rich vanilla and plum.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and coating.  The front of the palate was light, much lighter than I expected for 100°. I discerned brown sugar, allspice, and nutmeg. Mid-palate was more pronounced with toasted nuts, plum, and slight citrus. The back was even stronger with very heavy cocoa and dark chocolate.

Finish:  There was a deep finish if you are patient. Rye spice and cocoa begin the process. As it drops off, toasted oak and very long-lasting chocolate hang on. Then it falls off about a minute or so later.

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  This is one of those #RespectTheBottomShelf moments that makes me smile. First of all, this is very affordable for everyone. Secondly, there's more complexity than you'd guess from a budget whiskey. I found it fascinating that while the front of the palate started off so soft, it finished with a crescendo. It also drank more closely to barely-legal ryes such as Rittenhouse Bottled-in-Bond than something with a much higher rye content. I'm chalking that up to the malted barley, which is what produced all of the chocolate and cocoa notes. Not only did I enjoy this, but I enjoyed it so much that I bought a bottle at the distillery (something I rarely do). This one's a definite Bottle.  Cheers!

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

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

Friday, May 28, 2021

Evan Williams 12-Year Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Evan Williams is perhaps one of the most iconic Bourbon brands today. That and Jim Beam (don't get me started on Jack) are the top players sales-wise. Most of us are familiar with the Black Label, which pretty much keeps Heaven Hill in, pardon the pun, the black. Then, there's my favorite budget Bourbon, the Bottled-in-Bond White Label. The lesser-known brethren are the Single Barrel, 1783, and Green Label.

But, a 12-year old Evan Williams?  Red Label?  What's that all about? In the United States, Red Label is a distillery exclusive. It even comes with a necker label that says Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, which is their microdistillery in Louisville. My understanding is that Red Label is also sold in Japan. It is bottled at 101° and runs about $129.99. Whoa... isn't Evan Williams a budget brand?

It is born of the same distillate as any other Evan Williams product:  78% corn, 12% rye, and 10% malted barley. It is charcoal-filtered just like any other Evan Williams product. It is aged in the same #3, new charred oak barrels like any other Evan Williams product. The big difference is proof and age. But, is that worth a nearly 6-fold premium?  The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious.

Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Red Label appears as your run-of-the-mill Evan Williams Bourbon. It offers a mellow amber color, and it left a medium rim with fat, wavy legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.

Nose:  This Bourbon produced initial aromas of nutmeg and caramel. Underneath those were corn and mint. Finally, a totally unexpected but distinctive bubble gum smell. When I inhaled through my lips, it was only bubble gum. 

Palate:  When the whiskey crossed my lips, it was much thinner and lighter than I would have otherwise expected. At 101° I'd assume there would be some warmth. Instead, it was soft.  On the front of my palate, it was the very familiar corn and oak. Mid-palate was also the predictable vanilla and caramel. The back was new:  clove, nutmeg, and cocoa.

Finish:  The finish was also atypical of Evan Williams. It started with toasted oak, then gave way to clove, which then almost immediately switched gears to sweet, creamy caramel. I found the finish to be long-lasting and pleasurable.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Was this Evan Williams expression good?  Most certainly. Was it $130 good? No, not to me. That's difficult for me to admit because I'm a fan of all things Evan Williams. But, I can't justify the mark-up over their standard expressions. I can't rate this a Bust because it is a good Bourbon. But, this is something you should definitely try before committing to, and as such, it takes a Bar rating. Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:

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

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

Friday, March 26, 2021

Yes, There Really Is A Difference in Glassware

Glassware is, believe it or not, a very polarizing subject. It ranges from people telling you it doesn't matter what glassware you use to people telling you someone with some authority says they'll only drink out of one type of glass.  In truth, just as the "best" whiskey is the one you like the most, the "best" whiskey glass is the one you enjoy using the most.

But, make no mistake about it, glassware matters.

The first time I wrote on this subject was back in 2016 for Bourbon & Banter. But I've been a proponent of using the right glassware for many years prior. I keep revisiting this subject because it is constantly changing. There have been Kickstarter campaigns to deliver "new and improved" glassware to the marketplace. And, whenever I find a new design, I am always excited to try it. You could say that I believe there is, somewhere out there, a holy grail to whiskey glassware. 

Today I'm working with nine different glass designs. This is the largest population I've ever conducted for this type of experiment. In an effort to be as fair as possible to all candidates, I used the same whiskey in each glass. I happen to love using Evan Williams Black Label when I experiment. It is available in every market and it is very affordable. I find it offers a nose of caramel, vanilla, and oak, a mouthing of caramel, fruit, and vanilla, and a palate of vanilla, caramel, toffee, corn, and oak.  A very basic, solid Bourbon, and almost perfect for experimentation.

My methodology was as fair as I could make it. There would have been no way for me to do this blind as I know their shape, feel, and weight, and handling them all was necessary. As such, I'm not going to come up with a "best" glass. 

I poured a measured half-ounce into each glass. I let each glass oxidize for the same amount of time. I set this up into four different categories:  Hand Feel, Nosing, Mouthing, and Palate. I changed the order of glasses in each category.  I also didn't want to bias my nose or palate. I reset my olfactory sense between each sample. I drank water between each sample tasted, and I spit everything (hence the affordability aspect) rather than swallow to avoid burning out my palate and not getting buzzed.

Let me get some necessary disclosure out of the way. When I compose reviews, I always use a Glencairn Whisky Glass unless I specify otherwise. I use a Glencairn for several reasons, but they're my reasons. Also, I have friends who have designed or represent different types and brands of glassware. Those friendships do not interfere with my ability to determine which glassware is best for me.

My purpose is not to prove to you why the Glencairn glass is my glassware of choice. Rather, it is to demonstrate how design affects the factors I consider to be important.  As such, let's get on with it.

Shot Glass

The first glass up is the basic shot glass. These are very affordable, only a buck or so in most cases. They are usually made of glass, but there are resin, stoneware and metal options. Its purpose is, understandably, to deliver a shot of whatever. Mine has measurement lines. While you can sip from it, many folks simply slam back a pour. 

Hand Feel:  This can be held with just two fingers without trouble. A glass version will have weight to it and can offer a satisfying thunk as you slam it back on the counter or table.

Nosing:  I can pick up alcohol fumes and a bit of oak, but even that is hidden beneath the alcohol. There was no real change trying various nosing zones.

Mouthing:  When I inhale through my mouth, I am able to pick out vanilla.

Palate:  There isn't a lot in terms of flavors. It is buried under alcohol burn. I was able to taste oak.

Rocks Glass

Next up is a standard rocks glass. These are uncomplicated and most of us have a set. They are priced from a buck to being pricey, depending on the material and thickness. It can easily accommodate rocks or a sphere. 

Hand Feel:  A rocks glass fits the hand well and a high-quality one can have some heft. 

Nosing:  It is easy to get my face up to it without a blast of alcohol fumes. I was able to pick out vanilla and oak. I did not find any variety with my various nosing zones. 

Mouthing:  Inhaling through my lips offered only oak.

Palate:  The whiskey was creamy and soft. It offered some alcohol burn but was not overwhelming. 

Glencairn Canadian Whisky Glass

The Glencairn Canadian Whisky Glass is specifically designed for Canadian Whisky. However, it is also versatile enough for other types. It has a bowl shape that tapers and then flares outward. It can accommodate rocks or smaller spheres. They run, on average, about $15.00.

Hand Feel:  These are crystal glasses but lack significant heft. I find them a bit on the large side for holding in my hand, and easier to grasp underneath in my palm.

Nosing:  I didn't experience any overwhelming fumes, the shape of the glass did assist in deflecting. I was able to pick up vanilla, caramel, and oak.

Mouthing:  Inhaling through my lips led me to heavy wood notes. There was no alcohol burn.

Palate:   I found there was an overall muting of flavors. There as no burn but I felt like aside from corn, everything else was missing. 

Norlan Whiskey Glass

The Norlan Whiskey Glass is one of those Kickstarter styles. It is a double-walled glass with fins at the bottom. The purpose of the fins is to assist in aeration, thus unlocking flavors. They're on the pricey side, usually about $24.00 (and are sold in pairs). 

Hand Feel:  The Norlan feels delicate, almost as if it would break in my hand if I held it too tight or let it hit the table too hard. In reality, it is far sturdier. It also fits my hand unnaturally, heightening my concern of breaking it.

Nosing:  The fins create an obvious difference, as everything smells sweet. I lost any semblance of oak, but vanilla and caramel aromas were heavy.  There was no alcohol burn.

Mouthing:  Caramel was thick and danced across my palate without alcohol fumes.

Palate:  The whiskey was soft and silky. It flowed easily across my tongue. I picked up caramel, vanilla, toffee, corn, and oak - everything I expect from Evan Williams. There was a hint of alcohol warmth, but not what I would describe as burn.

Glencairn Whisky Glass

The Glencairn Whiskey Glass was designed in 2001 and utilized a tulip shape. It directs the aromas to the nose and the liquid to the tip of the tongue. It is popular and used at distilleries around the world. You wouldn't want to use ice in this other than chips. Prices are all over the spectrum, but you can pick up a basic, unbranded one for under $10.00.

Hand Feel:  The Glencairn glass is weighted well. I find it very easy to pick up by its thick foot. Its shape helps me manipulate its direction while I'm nosing and has a natural feel when sipping. 

Nosing: It is easy to tilt and twist the glass to switch between each nostril. It sits properly at my chin, just below my lower lip and finally, my nose. As such, I experienced little effort in picking up caramel, vanilla, and oak. 

Mouthing:  Channeling aromas directly in my mouth is facilitated by its design. Vanilla, caramel, and fruit were obvious.

Palate:  I picked up caramel, vanilla, toffee, corn, and oak, and the narrow mouth helps aim the liquid across my palate versus everywhere in my mouth, allowing me to pick out the individual flavors.

Riedel Vinum Cognac Glass

Riedel is a well-known glassmaker, especially as it pertains to wine. It also makes a cognac glass, which performs well as a whiskey glass. It is tulip-shaped, but with a more flared mouth than the Glencairn. Retail is about $18.00. You wouldn't want to use anything more than chipped ice in it.

Hand Feel:  The stem makes it very easy to grasp, twist and manipulate. It is weighted well and while delicate looking, feels solid.

Nosing:  There is something lost in the nosing process. I can pick up oak and vanilla.  If I twist and turn the glass, I can also find the caramel. There were no unpleasant alcohol fumes.

Mouthing:  Caramel was easy to pick up, but it lacked anything else, including alcohol burn.

Palate:  The whiskey seemed creamier than it did in any other glass, and as it flowed across my palate, I had no trouble picking up vanilla, corn, and oak. However, missing was toffee and caramel.

Libbey Perfect Glass

The Libbey glass is a different take on the channeling design. Rather than a bowl of any kind, it offers hard angles at the bottom, then it starts narrowing as it goes up. These are sold in sets of four and can be had for about $9.00 each. Rocks can be used, but a sphere would not fit.

Hand Feel:  The Libbey Perfect is difficult to hold. It has some weight to it, but there is no natural place for your fingers or even the palm of your hand to grasp it. 

Nosing:  Despite a very different shape, it performed almost exactly like the Canadian Whisky glass.  I was able to pick up vanilla, caramel, and oak, and didn't find anything in terms of alcohol burn. 

Mouthing:  I found vanilla and oak, but strange as it sounds, both "tasted" stale. There was no alcohol burn to speak of.

Palate:  The flavors of corn, vanilla, and fruit were evident, however, they came across muted. There was a very small amount of alcohol burn.

NEAT Ultimate Spirits Glass

The NEAT glass has gone through a few name changes over the years. It started off as the NEAT Experience. I've also seen it called a NEAT Judging Glass and NEAT Ultimate Spirits Glass. Regardless of what it is called, NEAT is an acronym for Naturally Engineered Aroma Technology. It looks like someone took a Canadian Whisky Glass and smooshed it down. The bowl is flatter, and the mouth is very flared. You can add rocks but, unlike the Canadian Whisky glass, you wouldn't get a sphere to fit. Retail is about $16.00.

Hand Feel:  The NEAT glass fits in my hand nicely, and much better than a Canadian Whisky Glass. It also feels less delicate.

Nosing:  I found the NEAT glass allowed sweeter notes to shine through, making vanilla and caramel easy to discern. Less easy was the oak, but it was there. I found no alcohol burn.

Mouthing:  I was absolutely shocked to find I pulled nothing at all while attempting to inhale through my mouth. I suspect it has to do with the very wide, flared rim.

Palate:  Drinking from the NEAT glass is challenging. You must lean your head back to get the liquid beyond the flare. However, it provided a softening of the mouthfeel. It also eliminated any alcohol fumes and burn. I was able to pick up all of the expected flavors of corn, vanilla, caramel, toffee, and oak.

Aged & Ore Duo Glass

The Aged & Ore Duo Glass is another one that started with a Kickstart campaign. Like the Norlan glass, it also features a double-walled design. This one has no fins. Instead, it has ribbed lines along the inside wall that serve both to measure and aerate. The glass is large enough to accommodate rocks or a sphere and costs about $24.00 each. 

Hand Feel:  This is very similar in feel and appearance as the Norlan glass, meaning it looks very delicate but isn't. While the lack of heft is the same, the shape is slightly different and I found it easier to hold than the Norlan.

Nosing:  There was no alcohol burn. I found aromas easy to detect and had no issues picking out the vanilla, caramel, and oak.

Mouthing: When inhaling through my mouth, all I could pick out was oak. There was also a lack of alcohol burn.

Palate:  I found the Duo Glass to be easier to sip from than the Norlan, but more difficult to identify flavors. It isn't to say I couldn't discern the vanilla, corn, and oak, but it took a good deal of effort and I missed out on the toffee and caramel. There was also a muted flash of alcohol heat.


My personal experience is that I get the best overall performance from a Glencairn Whisky Glass. But, it isn't the winner in each category. When comparing price, form, and function, it is simple for me to gravitate to it and I'm used to it. Keep in mind that the Norlan and NEAT glasses have huge fanbases as well.

The point of all this was to demonstrate how different glass shapes provide different results while pouring the same exact whiskey. Don't let anyone tell you the glass doesn't matter. It absolutely does.  Just find what works for you and enjoy your whiskey the way it makes you happy. 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 

Saturday, October 31, 2020

Old 55 Sweet Corn Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Sweet corn. Yeah, it's a thing. I absolutely love corn on the cob. In fact, I've been caught holding a cob with melted butter dripping down my arm. Sweet corn is awesome.

But, does it make good Bourbon?

Sweet corn isn't unheard of as a minor contributor to a Bourbon's mash, but it is far from common. Sweet corn is challenging to work with compared to, say, yellow dent. It is milkier, higher in sugar, and lower on starch. For the most part, sweet corn is for eating, not for distilling.

And then, there's Old 55 DistilleryOld 55 is a grain-to-glass distillery founded in 2014. The grains are all grown on the 140-acre Fruits family farm that belonged to distiller Jason Fruits' grandfather, a former navy vet, who bought a feed service and feed mill, or by one of the neighboring farms. Everything from the growing of the grain to creating the mash, to distillation, to aging, to bottling is done in-house. Nothing is outsourced. It relies on a custom-built pot still crafted by Kothe Destillationstechnik of Germany.

The warehouse may be the most interesting aspect of what separates Old 55 from others. That's because it is in a renovated 1942 school.  The top floor is storage for empty barrels. Yeah, I know, big deal.  The actual aging is done completely underground in the basement, where there is high humidity and temperatures range from only 50 to 66 degrees all year long. 98% of the barrels wind up being over-proofed - meaning at least 50% alcohol by volume.

Old 55 took sweet corn, the same corn you'd eat right off the cob, then ground and distilled it for their 100% Sweet Corn Bourbon. This is a unique whiskey that defies the industry standard, and Jason's goal to discover his spotted unicorn.  Old 55 uses only the heart cuts with no heads or tails. After distillation, it is proofed between 112° and 115°, then placed into new, charred 30-gallon oak barrels. It is then bottled at 80°, carries no age statement, and retails for about $117.00.

Yes, you read that right. Before you thumb your nose at it, keep in mind how difficult it is to make a 100% sweet corn Bourbon. From what I could gather from both Jason and the TTB, nobody else does this. Unique comes at a cost.

The question becomes, when does unique become a smart buy? The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious.  But first, I'd like to thank Old 55 Distillery for providing me with a sample in exchange for an honest, no-strings-attached review.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, the 100% Sweet Corn Bourbon presented as a strong bronze color. It created a medium rim on the wall, which led to thick, slow legs to drop back to the pool.

Nose:  Aromas of corn and oak were easily identified. Underneath them was a floral quality, which then morphed to a crisp Sauvignon Blanc and grass.  When I inhaled through my mouth, I picked up Andes mint and, again, grass.

Palate:  A very viscous mouthfeel started the journey across my palate. At the front, it was most definitely corn. At mid-palate, I found creamy vanilla and ginger. Ginger isn't something I typically find in Bourbon. On the back, it was a mix of toasted oak and walnuts.  

Finish:  The finish was medium in length and gave up dry oak and barrel char.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  The neck pour included an astringent quality that I'm used to experiencing in Scotch but not American whiskeys. I allowed the bottle to oxidize for about two weeks and then revisited it and that astringent quality disappeared. The other notes remained unchanged. At the end of the day, unique or not, expensive to produce or not, I demand a serious wow factor for something hitting the $100 and above tier. It just wasn't there. This is a good whiskey, and, because of that, you should try this one first at a Bar before committing to a purchase.  Cheers!

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

Friday, October 30, 2020

Dry Fly Straight Washington Wheat Whiskey Review

When you hear the term wheat whiskey, several people would assume it means a wheater or a wheated Bourbon. However, wheat whiskey is a category all by itself. And, what we know about wheat is that it is a tasteless grain when it is distilled:  It adds a level of "smoothness" and highlights the other flavors in the mash.

There are not too many out there that do it right. Perhaps the most well-known wheat whiskey is from Heaven Hill, and it is called Bernheim, named after the distillery's founder. For the record, when someone is new to whiskey and claims they don't like it, I've been known to grab a bottle of Bernheim because it goes down so easily.

But, what happens when the mash is 100% wheat?  Does that mean that the whiskey itself has no taste? Not at all! 

Today I'm pouring Dry Fly's Straight Washington Wheat Whiskey. This isn't my first rodeo with Dry Fly. Recently I had the opportunity to review their Straight Triticale Whiskey and I loved it. The Straight Washington Wheat Whiskey is distilled from a mash of 100% soft, white wheat that is grown by Wisota Farms, located 30 miles from the distillery. It is then aged for three years in new, #3 charred oak 53-gallon barrels from Independent Stave Company before being bottled at 90°.  Retail is $39.95 for a 750ml bottle.

I'd like to thank Dry Fly Distilling for providing me a sample of their whiskey in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, let's get to it.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, this wheat whiskey appears as a clear, light gold. While it created a thin rim, the legs were fat and heavy. They fell to the pool of liquid sunshine, but at the same time, left behind big droplets that hung to the wall.

Nose:  Aromas of orchard fruits, particularly peach and apricot, greeted my nostrils. They were followed by oak and, finally, caramel. When I inhaled through my lips, it was a blend of dried hay and peach. The nose was not very complex, but in my experience, that's typical of a wheat whiskey.

Palate:  The mouthfeel was very light and airy but also delivered a spicy punch. On the front, it was dry oak and cinnamon spice. At mid-palate, there was a suggestion of peach and definitive nutmeg. Then, on the back, it was citric acid and nuts. I could not nail down what type of nut (or nuts) were present.

Finish:  Medium-to-short in length, it started off with very spicy white pepper. That subdued to black pepper, and when that vanished, it became sweet.

On a bit of a segway, I did pour some Bernheim to do a quick comparison.  The Bernheim is four years older but also bottled at 90° (and, again, is not 100% wheat). The two are absolutely different in pretty much every way. Dry Fly's version has more on the nose and palate, and Heaven Hill's has no spice whatsoever. Heaven Hill has a much creamier mouthfeel and more vanillas. 

Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Because there are a limited number of easy-to-obtain 100% wheat whiskeys, my experience is admittedly sparse. I found this Straight Washington Wheat Whiskey to be interesting and easy to drink. The spice, especially on the finish, was a bit of a surprise. When I consider the price, it is very fair, especially out of a craft distillery. I happily offer my coveted Bottle rating, and on a side note, I'm so far very impressed with Dry Fly.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Bruichladdich "The Classic Laddie" Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

Located on the southwestern tip of Islay, the Bruichladdich Distillery is one of only nine working distilleries in this Scottish region. It was originally opened in 1881, but after several different owners, it was eventually shut down in 1994. Then, in 2000, it was resurrected and today, it creates three distinct brands:  Bruichladdich, Port Charlotte, and Octomore. The first is unpeated, the second peated, and the third heavily-peated.

Today I'm reviewing Bruichladdich's The Classic Laddie which you can tell by the brand is an unpeated Scotch. It comes in a brilliant blue bottle that is easily recognizable on the shelf. Unlike many Scotches, this one's bottled at 50% ABV (100°).  Bruichladdich uses no artificial colors and is un-chilled filtered. Suggested retail on it is about $55.99.

Bruichladdich states they want to push the boundaries of the concept of terroir in an artisanal, single malt whiskey. If you're unfamiliar with the term terroir, basically it means making the most of the immediate local environment, including the climate, the soil, and the landscape. Bruichladdich is big into experimentation, and making The Classic Laddie is one huge experiment.

If you visit the Bruichladdich website for The Classic Laddie, you can punch in your 5-digit batch code and they'll tell you exactly what made up that particular batch.  In the case of mine, Batch 14/009, it came from 67 casks, five vintages (2003 through 2007), two barley types (Scottish Mainland and Scottish Mainland Organic), and nine cask types:

  • Bourbon barrels (first- and second-fill) 
  • French Riversaltes red and white hogsheads 
  • Madiera hogsheads 
  • Spanish Sherry butts (third- and fourth-fill)
  • French Bordeaux Sauternes sweet white hogsheads
  • French Loire sweet white hogsheads; and 
  • French Bordeaux Pauillac red hogsheads. 

Well, that's a lot of wood and quite a bit of overload, wouldn't you say? I do appreciate the transparency, but as I always say, what's important is how it tastes, so let's get to that already.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, The Classic Laddie appeared as a dull, brassy gold. It left a very thin rim on my glass that, after a few moments, created slow, thin legs that crawled back to the pool of whisky.

Nose:  Almost immediately, aromas of chocolate and citrus filled my nostrils. I also picked up the scent of honey, and along with that, an almost meadow of different flowers.  I'm not a florist nor do I play one on television, so I won't attempt to tell you what variations there were, just that they were numerous. When I inhaled through my lips, iodine and seaweed were prevalent, something very common for Islay whiskies.

Palate:  The first run across my palate was light, almost too light. A second sip was even lighter in my mouth, I had to work at getting it to coat the inside of my mouth. But the weird thing is that it was also creamy. Up at the front, I tasted a mixture of both dry and wet oak. I know, that sounds strange. It was also very sweet. The sweetness moved mid-palate where fruits, such as apples and grapes took over. There was also sugary honey which moved to the back, where it ended with nuts consisting of cashew, almond, and pecan. To say this was complex would be an understatement:  every time I took another sip I found something new and different.

Finish:  A very long finish of white pepper, clove, and honey ran for several minutes. It ended with an astringent (band-aid) taste that some Scotch fans love, yet makes others cringe. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  A friend of mine gifted me this bottle because he simply hated it. He said this had been sitting on his bar for several years and he's been trying and trying not to do a drain pour. He asked me if I wanted the bottle, and after taking a quick taste, I grabbed it. After taking the time to do a comprehensive review, I find myself disagreeing with my friend. This is a pretty damned delicious, very complex Scotch. If I were to knock something, I'd prefer less of the astringent at the end, but that's something that I don't find off-putting. When you take into consideration how affordable this Scotch is, I'm tossing a Bottle rating at it. Cheers!

BONUS:  I did a live tasting of this whisky on The Glass Less Traveled last night. If you'd like to watch it, the link is here.

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