Showing posts with label experiment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label experiment. Show all posts

Monday, September 13, 2021

Knob Creek Quarter Oak Review & Tasting Notes





I love it when distillers get curious and want to do something different. It isn't as if there isn't enough choice in the Wonderful World of Whiskey, but I enjoy the whole experimentation aspect. I want to see (and taste) what outside-the-box ideas they can come up with.



When Knob Creek announced they were going to release a small barrel Bourbon, it piqued my curiosity. It involved taking their standard Knob Creek Bourbon, made from a mash of 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% malted barley, but instead of aging it in a standard 53-gallon barrel, it used what's called a quarter cask, which is only 13 gallons, and let it rest for four years. The smaller barrel gives a greater contact surface area between whiskey and wood. It is one way to accelerate the aging process.



Instead of leaving it at that, Knob Creek then took that quarter cask and blended it with their standard Bourbon aged in a traditional barrel.  The end result is called Knob Creek Quarter Oak.  



Bottled at 100°, Quarter Oak carries no age statement. Suggested retail is $49.99 for a 750ml and this is a limited edition offering. But, does limited edition mean it is worth chasing down?  I'll be honest - while I've enjoyed Knob Creek's limited editions in the past, I've found them overpriced for what they are. That hit a crescendo with the 25th Anniversary Release, which was essentially nothing more than a good store pick of Knob Creek 120 at three times the price. 



While the bottle is a media sample, it was passed along by a fellow reviewer and I did not get it directly from Knob Creek. Time to #DrinkCurious and find out if it is anything special...


Appearance:  Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Quarter Oak appeared as a dull, golden amber. It left a thin rim that created fat, slow legs to drop back to the pool.


Nose:  The first thing to hit my nostrils was rose perfume. It was a bit overwhelming. However, once I got past that, I found a blend of dried fruit and caramel. Underneath that, leather was evident. When I inhaled through my mouth, apple and pear caressed my palate.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and coating. Thick, sweet vanilla and cream greeted the front of my palate. That led to dry oak and leather at my mid-palate. Then, on the back, it became black pepper and barrel char. 


Finish:  I found it long and building. It started with black pepper and finished with very dry oak.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I am a big fan of Knob Creek 120.  I've said a few times that it is one of the most underrated Bourbons around. While it is a single-barrel Bourbon, I use it as a bellwether for other Knob Creek releases. I found Quarter Oak to be very atypical of what I've found in Knob Creek 120s, especially concerning the sweetness level at the front, and it was enjoyable. While this is slightly more expensive than Knob Creek 120 and is only 100°, it isn't obnoxiously priced like the 25th Anniversary or the 2001 Series. In all, Knob Creek Quarter Oak comes in as a net positive and earns my coveted Bottle 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.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Port Charlotte OLC:01 2010 Single Malt Scotch Review & Tasting Notes

 


Experimental whiskies are something I find exciting. It really doesn't matter if it turns out good or bad, because I love it when a distiller does something outside the box. Obviously, my hope is that things would turn out good (or great). But I'll try any experimental whisky to see what was done.


The fun happens when a distillery is fully transparent about what it tried. That's something Bruichladdich is known for. If you visit its website, they'll tell you pretty much everything you'd want to know, to the point where even a whisky geek will, if you'll excuse the pun, geek out


Port Charlotte is Bruichladdich's heavily-peated brand (with Bruichladdich as its unpeated lineup, and Octomore as its super-peated brand).  I've reviewed some from each of the expressions, and for me to be truly transparent, I'm a fan of Port Charlotte. As such, when Bruichladdich sent me a sample of OLC:01 2010 to review, I was intrigued. I'd never heard of it, and had no idea what to expect.


What I learned is OLC:01 is part of Port Charlotte's Cask Exploration Series, which is an experimental line of single malt Scotches. It starts with a 2009 harvest of 100% Invernesshire malted barley. Once distilled, it was then aged from 2010 to 2018 in first- and second-fill ex-bourbon barrels, first-fill Vin Doux Naturel barrels, and second-fill Syrah wine barrels. Once that's done, it was then transferred to first-fill Fernando de Castilla Olorosso sherry hogsheads where it rested for another 18 months. 


"These Olorosso hogsheads are superb casks. They're smaller than your average butts. So they've quickly left a lasting impression on this complex single malt." - Adam Hannett, Master Distiller


It is non-chill-filtered, naturally colored, and has a 40ppm phenol rating, which is something you'd expect with Port Charlotte. Bottled at 55.1% ABV (110.2°), it carries a nine-year age statement and you can expect to pay around $124.99 for a 750ml.


The big question, of course, is, How did this experiment turn out? That's answered by a simple tasting, and I'd like to thank Bruichladdich for sending me the sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, OLC:01 presented as a soft mahogany color with an amber tinge. It formed a medium ring that created slow, medium-thick legs that dropped back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose:  This was an extremely fragrant Scotch. As I allowed it to breathe, the aroma of barbeque filled the room. When I went to nose it, I smelled peat, plum, cherry, apricot, apple, honey, and chocolate. Yes, it seemed like I was in an orchard with a bit of smoke in the air. When I drew the vapor into my mouth, I picked out honey and milk chocolate.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was thin and very oily. My first sip consisted of a peat bomb - more than anything I've had from either Port Charlotte or Octomore. Once I got past the palate shock, the second sip had amazingly muted the peat. Orange, apricot, and peach were at the front. The middle offered flavors of honey, date, and vanilla. On the back, I tasted tobacco leaf, clove, and citrus.


Finish:  A medium-long finish started with citrus, smoked salt, tobacco leaf, and black pepper. One thing to note is this Scotch drinks at its stated proof, and that was eye-opening.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I was happy when I smelled the typical Port Charlotte barbeque but it was missing from the palate. I was shocked with how heavy the punch of peat was and how quickly it dissipated. I expected fruit, yet not the entire orchard on the palate. Finally, this may have been the "hottest" Scotch I've ever had, and I've tried plenty of cask-strength offerings. All of this makes for a unique drinking experience, and I believe that makes OLC:01 well worth the price tag. Obviously, this one earns my Bottle rating. Cheers!


My Simple, Easy to Understand Rating System

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



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.


Conclusion

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, February 18, 2020

Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey Alternative Review


I don't even have to say anything. I already know what some of you are thinking after just seeing the photo:  This Whiskeyfellow character is off his rocker! or Who the heck cares about a whiskey alternative?  For that matter, What is a whiskey alternative?




The very short answer to the final question is it is a non-alcoholic beverage meant to mimic whiskey. There's a rhyme to the reason of my reviewing a synthetic whiskey. First of all, there's the whole #DrinkCurious lifestyle. Second of all, some of us partake in Dry Januarys or Dry Weeks. Or, maybe we're on some medication and can't drink, or we're a designated driver but we want to enjoy a "drink" without impairment. Or, if the horrible thing happens, something comes up where we have to give up alcohol. Egad, that last thought just gave me the heebie-jeebies!





Ritual Zero Proof Whiskey Alternative is what I'm working with today, and this review is going to be different than others. I've already been warned by Ritual that a whiskey connoisseur won't be fooled into thinking it was real whiskey. If you look at the label, it also states Ritual Zero Proof is meant to be mixed in cocktails. The packaging even suggests cocktail recipes. And, that's exactly what I'm going to do - make one of their suggested cocktails - after I do a small neat pour.





But, I won't end the trial there. I'm going to put that cocktail up head-to-head with the exact same recipe, just substituting real whiskey for the whiskey alternative.





Before I get started, I need to provide you with some background on the Ritual whiskey alternative. It is made with some pretty simple ingredients:  filtered water, invert sugar, natural flavors, xanthan gum, citric acid, sodium benzoate, and potassium sorbate. That's it. A 1.5oz pour costs you an entire ten calories. It is also gluten-free. One caveat is that once opened, you have six months to finish the bottle or it needs to be disposed of. Retail is about $25 and you can even buy it off Amazon. Finally, there's no math to do when figuring things out. Ritual suggests a 1:1 swap-out on the real thing.





I'd like to thank Ritual for providing me with a sample of the Zero Alcohol Whiskey Alternative in exchange for a no-holds-barred, honest review.





For the first part of this review, I'm going the standard route and will sip this from my trusty Glencairn glass.



In my glass, Ritual Zero Proof appears as a cloudy amber, almost like a common beer. It didn't leave any sort of rim on the wall but did leave behind some globby droplets on the side of the glass. 




Barrel char and wintergreen fragrances smacked me in the face. There was also a definitive medicinal aroma along with green pepper. When I inhaled through my lips, it was all green pepper. 





It had a very watery mouthfeel. I'm going to stop this right now for a segway. I do not like green peppers. I pick them out of anything I ever find them in. Well, if green peppers are your thing, you're going to be in absolute heaven. Once I got past the palate shock, I was able to discern other things. I found green peppercorn (not to be confused with green peppers), and then a sour flavor I couldn't nail down.





The finish was long-lasting green peppercorn and char. By long-lasting, I mean it just sat there, it didn't build, it didn't fade, but it went on for many minutes.





For the next part, I'm going to make two Old Fashioneds:  One with Ritual whiskey alternative and the other with JW Dant Bottled in Bond Bourbon. They will be otherwise identical in every way, including using the same kind and design of glass. To make this simple Old Fashioned with Fee Brothers West Indian Orange Bitters, Stirrings Simple Syrup, and Traverse City Whiskey Company's Premium Cocktail Cherries. On a side note, those cherries happen to be the best of any cocktail cherries I've ever had. Ever.




The recipe is easy:  2oz Ritual whiskey alternative, 1oz simple syrup, 2 dashes orange bitters, and garnish with a cherry. I may modify this with several cherries - they're so fantastic.




Because I do not want to give an unfair advantage to either cocktail, I'm even using identical cocktail glasses. I went as far as to use the same cocktail stirrers, one in each, so as to not contaminate one with the other.




So, how did these Old Fashioneds taste?  I could absolutely tell the difference between the two. But, in all honesty, that was expected. The Ritual wasn't bad at all and was, in fact, completely drinkable. I would have guessed it to be an Old Fashioned made with something from a bar's well draw.  I've had similar in my life many times over.





Bottle, Bar or Bust:  As a whiskey drinker expecting whiskey, this is an easy Bust. Drinking it neat, again, an easy Bust. However, this isn't whiskey and it wasn't meant to be drunk neat, this is supposed to give some semblance of whiskey for folks who aren't drinking whiskey. For my Pseudo-Old Fashioned, I think this passes the test. In a highly unusual move, I'm giving it a Bottle rating for performing as advertised. Cheers!


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

KinnicKinnic Whiskey Tasting Notes


Happy 2020!  I'm starting the new year with a Wisconsin-based selection: KinnicKinnic Whiskey. If you know anything about Wisconsin, you know we love to name things that honor Native American culture and, just for kicks, happen to be difficult to pronounce. KinnicKinnic, pronounced Kin-I-Kuh-Nic, is an Ojibwe word that means what is mixed.


The translation is important because KinnicKinnic is an American blended whiskey by Great Lakes Distillery. Some of you may have just seen the words American blended whiskey and immediately dismiss it without reading further, and that would be a mistake. You'll dismiss it because American blended whiskeys typically have grain neutral spirits (think vodka). However, in the case of KinnicKinnic, it is 100% blend of Bourbon, Rye and Malt whiskeys with no grain neutral spirits whatsoever.


Great Lakes uses its own distillate for the Rye and Malt contents of KinnicKinnic. The Malt portion is aged in used cooperage. The Bourbon is sourced from an undisclosed distillery. These whiskeys are blended in small batches and non-chill filtered. KinnicKinnic carries no age statement, is bottled at 86°, retails for around $35.00, and is distributed in several states as well as online retailers.  I'm reviewing Batch 88.


I'd like to thank Great Lakes Distillery for providing me a sample of KinnicKinnic in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, let's get to it.


In my Glencairn glass, this whiskey appears as light amber and the clarity is a bit fuzzy, probably due to the proof and lack of chill filtering. It left a thick rim that generated fat, heavy, slow legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Aromas of oak and malted barley were obvious, and then things became challenging to separate. Underneath those, I picked up an earthiness, cocoa, honey, char and finally, dark fruits such as plum and cherry. When I inhaled through my lips, a heft of chocolate raced over my palate.


Sipping KinnicKinnic provided a thin mouthfeel that completely coated my mouth. Milk chocolate, cocoa, cinnamon, and brown sugar started at the front. Then, at mid-palate, rye spice, tobacco leaf, sweet dark fruits, and toffee took over. On the back, it was far less complicated with oak and black pepper.


A very long, hearty finish started off with char and smoke morphed into sweet with black pepper. 


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Overall, KinnicKinnic was a very complex and interesting whiskey. It took me several attempts to figure it out and nail down aromas and flavors. I found it a fun challenge. Blended whiskeys lacking neutral grain content are not unheard of, but of the ones I've tried, none were as captivating as KinnicKinnic. When I factor in the price, this one is an easy Bottle that I'm happy to have in my library.


On a final note, I would be really curious to try this at a higher proof. Cheers!

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Head to Head Match-Up: Stolen X v. Hochstadter's Slow & Low




As much as I love whiskey, my experience with whiskey cocktails is fairly limited. I like a good Old Fashioned.  I've enjoyed Manhattans.  There's been a few more, but for the most part, I just prefer my whiskey neat.


Recently, I had the opportunity to try Rock & Rye.  If you're not familiar with it, in short, it is a mixture of Rye whiskey and rock candy.  There can be other ingredients as well, but those two are the main ingredients.


I've had a can of Hochstadter's Slow & Low in my liquor cabinet for quite a while.  My wife picked it up and it has just been sitting there.  I've not had any real desire to open it up.  However, the folks at Stolen Spirits were kind enough to send me a sample of Stolen X for a no-holds-barred, honest review. Considering the fact I've never had Rock & Rye before, I felt a review would be baseless without something to compare. I remembered that lonely can of Slow & Low and decided a head-to-head tasting would be the fairest approach. 


And, to be consistent, I used the same Norlan Rauk heavy tumbler with both on two different days. 






First up was Stolen X.  Stolen X is made of American Rye aged "over two years," fresh orange peel and organic raw honey.  There is no mention of rock candy in it at all, which is interesting.  It is bottled at 80°. Stolen X is available in 100ml cans, and 750ml and 1-liter bottles. A 750ml on average runs about $23.00.


The appearance was an orangish-amber and was somewhat cloudy. Aromas of orange and honey were evident, and after several minutes, I could pick up a slightly floral note, perhaps from the rye itself.  When I inhaled through my mouth, there was a definitive orange peel.


Flavors of orange citrus, orange peel (yes, these are two different flavors) and sweet honey coated my tongue. The finish was long and very, very sweet, with some citric acid left on the tongue. I could not find any "evidence" of whiskey during my trial. I don't mean to imply there is no whiskey in it, rather, there just wasn't any whiskey flavor. However, the sweetness left me grabbing a barrel proof Bourbon to end the sensation.





The second tasting was Hochstadter's Slow & Low.  It is made from Straight Rye, raw honey, naval oranges, rock candy, and bitters.  The recipe has been used since 1884, and it is 84°.  Slow & Low is available of 100ml cans and 750ml bottles.  A bottle retails for about $19.99.


The appearance is a deep, dark amber that was clear.  The aroma of orange citrus was very heavy with a hint of maraschino cherries. There was also a candy quality on the nose.  When I inhaled through my lips, it was all thick honey.


The mouthfeel was light and airy. Flavors of orange bitters hit my palate hard.  Behind that was honey and white sugar.  Candied orange slices left a long, very sweet finish.  There was also mild alcohol burn, but it was not overwhelming. Then, the sweetness turned bitter which rolled on and on.  The best way I could describe the experience is the beginning of an Old Fashioned, but not in a good way.


The Verdict:  Normally I would do a Bottle, Bar or Bust recommendation. I decided to go a different way because, to be perfectly frank, after tasting both the Stolen X and Slow & Low, I enjoyed neither. But, rather than stating these were bad versions of Rock & Rye, I am assuming I just don't care for Rock & Rye in general.


Saying all of that, these are two absolutely different expressions of the classic cocktail.  As a whiskey drinker, the Slow & Low offered me minor evidence of Rye on the palate. And, to be fair, there is a four-point difference in proof between the two. The Slow & Low was also more complex than the Stolen X.


When I drink a cocktail, I want the character of the main ingredient, in this case, whiskey, to shine through. Only one had some whiskey character and as such, the winner became easy:  Slow & Low. 


Cheers!

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"Jimmy Red" Revival Project Review & Tasting Notes


It is always fun to come across something in whiskey I've never heard of. When a friend approached me and asked if I've ever had Jimmy Red Revival Project, I had no clue in the world what he was talking about. He asked if I would be willing to review it if he provided a sample. My answer to this question is always a hearty "Yes" because that's the #DrinkCurious lifestyle.

The backstory behind Jimmy Red is that this variant of corn was known as a moonshiner's corn that went "nearly extinct" when the world's supply dwindled to an entire two cobs. The folks at High Wire Distilling Company partnered with Clemson University to bring Jimmy Red corn back to life. 

Founded in Charleston, South Carolina in 2013, High Wire Distilling was the brainchild of husband and wife Scott Blackwell and Ann Marshall. Their goal is to distill "small batch spirits using specialized ingredients" utilizing a German copper pot still.

Jimmy Red Straight Bourbon is aged two years and then bottled at 102°. It is only released once a year. The sample I was provided is from the 2017 batch, and my research indicated it runs about $99.99 for a 750ml.

In my Glencairn glass, Jimmy Red presented as a deep, rich copper that left a very thin rim. When the rim released, a thick, wavy curtain of whiskey dropped down the wall.

Aromas of vanilla and sweet corn were up front. Underneath that sweetness was wet wood and plum. When I inhaled through my lips, it was all corn that rolled over my palate.

The Bourbon's mouthfeel was thin and oily and coated the entire inside of my mouth. Despite the fact I let the glass sit for almost ten minutes, it was heavy with a harsh ethanol burn that became a bit overwhelming.

Up front were just corn and that ethanol. Mid-palate the ethanol dissipated and became a spicy, white pepper and barrel char. Then, in the back, it subdued to dry oak.

The finish was long, with a mixture of pepper and oak. 

My impression was this was very corn forward and the alcohol burn was too hot (I know some folks dislike the term hot just like they dislike the term smooth, but hot is very fitting).

I drink barrel proof whiskey all the time. I do not shy away from high-proof spirits and, given the choice between higher and lower proofs, I tend to gravitate to the higher ones because they're often more interesting.

Wanting to make sure my palate wasn't off, I asked Mrs. Whiskeyfellow to take a sip. Her reaction was the same: the alcohol burn was formidable.

I've recently decided if I'm not sold on a whiskey, I'll try adding water to see if that opens up any flavors. In an effort to remain as consistent as possible from whiskey to whiskey, I add two drops of distilled water using an eyedropper. That's usually enough to bring out hidden flavors and aromas without over diluting the pour. 

Proofed down, the nose really opened up with the corn and ethanol almost disappeared. The plum changed up to stewed fruits. However, the palate didn't change much. Aside from still being corn forward, that ethanol burn was still there and added to it was an astringent quality. The white pepper remained, but the finish was much shorter.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  I was excited for my friend and how much he seemed to enjoy Jimmy Red. I wanted to like this, too. Even taking price completely out of the equation, I did not find Jimmy Red, with or without water, to be something I would seek out again.  For me, Jimmy Red Revival Project is a Bust.

Cheers!

Saturday, April 13, 2019

Blaum Bros. Distillery Visit


When I'm on the road, I try to make it a point to visit with friends. In this instance, I was in Iowa for a week and heading home. I'm usually knowledgable with regard to geography, but in the case of Illinois, that's apparently not so. I thought Galena was near Chicago. It isn't, it is near Dubuque, somewhere I find myself at least a couple of times a year.



What's in Galena?  It honestly is a gorgeous, historic town. But, it is also home to a single distillery owned by the Blaum Brothers, Mike, and Matt. Conveniently, the distillery is called Blaum Bros. Distilling Co., and I'm kicking myself for missing out on a bunch of prior opportunities. For a product that is only distributed in Illinois, Colorado, Tennessee, and Wisconsin, Blaum Bros. enjoys a ton of national respect.



I've met the brothers more times than I remember. These are genuinely great guys who love distilling and love talking about (and enjoying) whiskey. Moreover, they actually know what the hell they're talking about. Plus they're both hilarious. This is the first time I had a chance to really sit down and talk to them and get to know them.



Aside from getting a tour of the place (and not taking enough photos), we enjoyed some great whiskeys and shot the breeze. Matt is the CEO and distiller.  Mike (he's the one with the long flowing beard), is the COO and chief distiller. Both are funny and were easily the smartest guys in the room.



A few weeks ago, I wrote a review on a Light Whiskey from La Crosse Distilling. I found it impressive. Matt and Mike poured me their Light Whiskey, aged for years instead of a day, and it blew me away. You could easily put it up against many non-Light Whiskeys and choose it as a winner. Unfortunately, this was one of those one-offs under their experimental label Galena Reserve.



I was also treated to their 100% Rye and their MGP-sourced Old Fangled Knotter Bourbon. They're aging their own distillate now in a non-temperature controlled warehouse and they aren't trying to duplicate the MGP-recipes. What's out there now is simply called Blaum Bros. Straight Bourbon. I can tell you it is 100°, runs about $50 a bottle, and was delicious. No, I didn't take tasting notes. That will happen in the future when I can sit down and concentrate.



If you head out to the tri-state area (Illinois, Iowa, and Wisconsin), you have to swing by the distillery. It is located at 9380 W. Highway 20 in Galena. Cheers!











Thursday, February 14, 2019

Things to do in Wisconsin when you're Frozen (but not Dead)



My latest Bourbon & Banter article is up. I took the opportunity to make the most of a truly bad situation...

Polar Vortex. Snowpocalypse. Armageddon. Hell. Whatever you want to call it, I think everyone was aware of the once-in-a-generation cold blast that recently hit the Midwest. I live in Wisconsin, we took most of the brunt of the cold, with temperatures plunging into the negative 20’s and wind chills in the -60s.This meant I was stuck in my house for three days. But, I still had to venture outside. I have a housebroken dog that I need to remain housebroken, and as such, that required letting in a cold blast every time Sammy decided it was “time.” I wanted to make the best of a bad situation, and thought it would be fun to take advantage of some truly brutal weather to conduct a fun whiskey experiment:  What happens to whiskey in arctic conditions?  Yeah, I was channeling Harlan Wheatley...

You can read the entire review at the link above...
Cheers!