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

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!