Showing posts with label maple. Show all posts
Showing posts with label maple. Show all posts

Friday, March 10, 2023

Cooper's Daughter Smoked Maple and Black Walnut Bourbon Whiskey Reviews & Tasting Notes


There are Bourbon purists out there who seem angered anytime anyone suggests that a finished Bourbon isn’t really Bourbon. This review isn't for you if you find yourself in that demographic. If you’re more of a #DrinkCurious sipper, stick around because today, I’m exploring Bourbon which was finished in smoked maple syrup barrels.


The backstory begins with J. Resselaer’s Distillery & Cooperage, founded in 1805 just outside of Hudson, New York. Jacob Rutsen van Rensselaer, the man behind the business, owned and operated a mill along Claverack Creek and became the Secretary of State of New York. Fast-forward to Prohibition, the police destroyed all the stills in the area, leaving the Hudson Valley without a working distillery for many decades.


This historic parcel of land, called Olde York Farm, was purchased by Sophie, Stuart, and Louise Newsome, and Rory Tice. Stuart was in the construction business for over forty years. He renovated the ancient carriage house and turned that into a distillery. Stuart is also the cooper; he really builds the barrels! His daughter, Sophie, was a huge proponent of the farm-to-table movement and has a talent for creating blends of ingredients that she thinks will be interesting. It made her a natural choice for the position of Flavor Developer. Sophie’s husband, Rory, is the head distiller and operations manager. And Sophie’s mother (and Stuart’s wife), Louise, a marketing guru, uses her expertise for that and networking with the suppliers that help make everything fall into place. The family named their distillery Cooper’s Daughter Spirits, owned by Sophie and Louise, and began operations in 2017.


The distillery offers three whiskeys along with several vodkas and liqueurs. Rory provided me with two of their Bourbons: Smoked Maple and Black WalnutI must thank Cooper’s Daughter Spirits for providing me with these two opportunities in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Let’s #DrinkCurious and dive deep. Up first will be the Maple Finish.

Our Bourbon is cask finished with organic maple syrup from Maple Leaf Sugaring in Ghent, NY, which has been smoked with American white oak. This is a slightly sweeter bourbon with round, smooth flavors and a light hint of smoke. It makes for the perfect snow day companion, snuggled under the covers, and sitting in front of a wood burning stove.” – Cooper’s Daughter Spirits


The mashbill of this Bourbon hasn’t been disclosed, and it carries no age statement, which means it was aged at least four years. There’s also nothing mentioned regarding char levels, but we know it has all been done in-house. It is available year-round (whereas the Black Walnut is a seasonal release) and packaged at 40% ABV (80°) in two sizes: a 375ml for $37.00 or a 750ml for $63.00.


Rory included a recipe card for what the brand calls a Sugar Shack Old Fashioned.



Appearance: I sipped this Bourbon neat from my Glencairn glass. Inside, it was a light, almost cloudy amber. A wide rim released sticky tears that fell back into the pool.


Nose: The first thing I smelled was smoke. I would have suggested this was a peated whiskey if I didn't know better. The smoke was bold but not overbearing. I could identify the aroma of maple syrup and an earthy quality. Light smoke danced across my tongue when I drew that air into my mouth.


Palate: A soft texture welcomed me to this tasting journey. Up at the front were corn and maple syrup, while the middle featured a smoky vanilla flavor. As it arrived at the back of my palate, I tasted caramel and dry oak.


Finish: Medium in duration; the finish left me with maple syrup, dry oak, and smoky vanilla.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I wish this Bourbon was at a higher proof. Perhaps the finishing barrels imparted too much smoke, requiring it to be proofed down as much as it is? I found it challenging to taste the actual Bourbon. The Smoked Maple Bourbon would likely make for a great mixer because it is so bold. I’ll definitely try the Sugar Shack Old Fashioned.


Yet, I don’t buy whiskeys for their cocktail potential. This finished Bourbon is also expensive, especially considering its current proof. Knock it up six-to-ten points, and I would have a different opinion.


Smoked Maple Bourbon is a fun experience, but I believe its proper rating is a Bar

Next up is the Black Walnut. 

Like the Smoked Maple, The mashbill of the Black Walnut Bourbon hasn’t been disclosed, and it carries no age statement. It was aged in new, charred American oak barrels before being transferred to the black walnut syrup barrels. The Black Walnut Finish is a seasonal release packaged at 40% ABV (80°) in two sizes: a 375ml for $43.00 or a 750ml for $69.00.


Appearance: A neat pour into my Glencairn glass revealed a tawny-brown liquid that produced a medium-width rim. The rim held together for a few seconds before collapsing with watery tears.


Nose: Soft oak, walnut, caramel, and corn created a simple but enticing aroma. Nut butter rolled through my mouth as I pulled the vapor through my lips.


Palate: The texture was buttery. The palate was corn-forward, tamed by vanilla and honey. Midway through, I tasted walnut, while the back featured maple syrup, soft oak, and spicy rye.


Finish: Walnut carried through and was joined by honey, leather, rye, and oak tannin and remained for a medium duration.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: There was more oomph to this whiskey’s finish than I would have guessed from the published proof, especially compared to its sister whiskey, Smoked Maple Bourbon. While I suggested it needed less dilution, Black Walnut is perfectly proofed. I was able to pull flavors easily. It is lovely when sipped neat; it could be tasty over ice as suggested or make a good cocktail base. In fact, I was provided with their Black Walnut Manhattan recipe:

Is Black Walnut a bit pricy? Yeah. But I’d opt for the 375ml option. It is different from any other barrel finishing that I’ve encountered before. My Bottle rating is well-deserved. Cheers!  


My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System

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


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


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

J. Rieger Kansas City Whiskey Review and Tasting Notes

In this day and age in whiskey, it isn't overly difficult to stumble upon new brands. But, sometimes that "new" brand isn't so new after all. In the case of J. Rieger & Company, the brand has been around since 1887. At its heydey, J. Rieger offered more than 100 different spirits from its distillery in Kansas City, Missouri and was the largest mail-order whiskey house in the country. Unfortunately, when Prohibition reared its ugly head, J. Rieger was not one of the few, lucky survivors. It wasn't until 2014, under the guidance of Dave Pickerell, when the distillery reopened and launched their Kansas City Whiskey.

Rieger's Kansas City Whiskey is an interesting marriage of American Straight Rye, Light Corn Whiskey and Straight Bourbon. Then, that concoction is further blended with Dry Sack Especial Oloroso 15-Year Sherry. Rieger's carries no age statement, is bottled at 92°, and has a suggested retail of $43.00.

I'd like to thank J. Rieger & Company for providing me a sample of their whiskey for a no-strings-attached, honest review. And now, time to get down to business and #DrinkCurious.

In my Glencairn glass, the whiskey appears as a dark amber. It left a very thin rim on the wall and thin, fast legs that dropped back to the pool.

As a matter of practice, I normally leave my glass alone for ten or so minutes. Even before beginning the nosing, aromas of sherry filled the room. While that was obviously predominant, it wasn't overly difficult to pick out oak, maple syrup, and vanilla. When I inhaled through my mouth, very thick vanilla rolled over my palate.

The mouthfeel was thicker than I expected, perhaps from the sherry itself. And, that sherry was up front along with candied fruits, almost like a rich fruitcake. Mid-palate was a mixture of sweet corn, maple syrup, and toasted oak. On the back, it changed radically to very dark chocolate and rye spice. I don't recall too many whiskeys that transform from very sweet to spicy the way Rieger's did.

A long, spicy finish from the Rye mixed with dry oak and mingled with the familiar sweetness from the sherry. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Like a few other Pickerell projects (notably, Blackened), there is a lot going on with Rieger's and it is a challenge for the palate to nail down flavors. Considering the makeup of the blend, that's understandable. But, it also makes the whiskey interesting in a good way and I'm always game for something that isn't just another "me too" whiskey. When you further consider the relative affordability, Rieger's earns the Bottle rating and I'm happy to have it in my library. Cheers!

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Whiskey Acres Artisan Series Bourbon Finished in Maple Syrup Cask Review & Tasting Notes

Yes, I'll admit it... I've been sipping a lot of barrel-finished whiskeys lately. It doesn't matter if it is Scotch, Bourbon, Rye or even Irish whiskey. Barrel-finishing is the big thing right now and has been for a couple of years and distillers are jumping on the bandwagon. Barrel-finishing is so fascinating that I'm hosting my own Whiskey Workshop and Tasting Event on this very topic in a little over a week.

Whiskey Acres Distilling Company is a farm-to-bottle distiller. They grow and harvest their own grain, distill it, age and bottle it in Dekalb, Illinois. Their whiskey ages in 15-gallon barrels. What they distill is their own and with those 15-gallon barrels, can bring them to market relatively quickly.

Last year, I had the opportunity to visit with the folks at Whiskey Acres. I put together a review of their Artisan Series 5.5 Grain Bourbon which earned a Bottle rating based on how unusual and interesting it was as that's something that excites me.

Today I'm sipping their Artisan Series Bourbon Finished in Maple Syrup Casks. This is a limited edition whiskey and is not the same as the 5.5 Grain Bourbon. The Bourbon itself was aged normally in the 15-gallon barrels. What happened next was the Bourbon was dumped and then transferred to ex-maple syrup casks, where it was allowed to absorb the flavor and aroma left behind by the syrup, and once dumped, bottled at 87°. My understanding is that distribution is limited to the distillery in Dekalb. While I don't have a retail price on this, the 5.5 Grain Bourbon was $29.99 for the same sized 375ml bottle. 

In full disclosure, Whiskey Acres provided me with a sample bottle for a no-strings-attached honest review. And now, time to #DrinkCurious.

The appearance was a deep, dark amber. If you've ever had a good barrel-proof whiskey, such as Elijah Craig or Stagg, Jr., this was similar in color. It left a very thin rim on my Glencairn with medium legs that slowly dropped back to the pool, suggesting a heavier body.

Interestingly enough, the predominant aroma while resting in my glass was not maple, but corn. As I went through the various nosing zones, I picked up raisin, throughout and beneath that, honey and much lighter corn. That was surprising considering how heavy the corn was in the air. Only when I held the glass directly under my nostrils did I pick up evidence of maple. When I inhaled through my mouth, raisin and vanilla raced across my palate.

The initial mouthfeel was thin and watery and subsequent sips did not add any thickness to it. At the front, flavors of corn and pepper dominated my palate. Mid-palate, the vanilla came out, followed by dry wood. On the back was the raisin, which cleared out both the pepper and dry wood. 

The finish was long and heavy on the raisin. Some of the dry wood came for a return visit. While only at 87°, it drinks much heavier, likely a product of the smaller barrels. It also gave me one heck of a buzz. What's conspicuously missing? Remember, this Bourbon is finished in ex-maple casks. While it appeared on the nose, it was nowhere on the palate. That's not a terribly big deal, but it does miss out on expectations. It isn't fair to judge a whiskey based upon expectations, that's all part of the #DrinkCurious lifestyle. 

Bottle, Bar or Bust: This is where the pedal meets the metal. I found the Bourbon Finished in Maple Syrup Casks to be unusual. But, I found it unusual only because it was lacking any maple flavor. The Bourbon itself wasn't particularly unusual, and I've got to admit I was a bit disappointed when I think about how special the 5.5 Grain Bourbon was. Saying all of that, this isn't a bad whiskey. This is definitely one to try at a Bar, or in this case, at the distillery.