Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Friday, September 9, 2022

Mad March Hare Irish Poitín Review & Tasting Notes

Even experienced whiskey drinkers run into something new. I’ve always heard about Poitín but never had an opportunity to try it. Today that changes.


I’m sure the big question is, “What is Poitín?” It certainly was for me. Poitín has been around much longer than whiskey. The first recorded instances were in the 6th century! Always created in a single pot still, Poitín is kind of like vodka or sort of like moonshine, but neither. It is made from potatoes, cereal grains, sugar beets, whey, or molasses.


Throughout its history, Poitín has been on-again, off-again legal to make. Parliament only made it illegal in 1661 because it was too difficult to collect taxes. Any illicit pot still hidden on an Irish farm could be used to make Poitín, and of course, the underground network of friends and relatives kept the liquid flowing.


A little over 300 years later, in 1997, Poitín was once again legal to produce. Distilled between 40% and 90% ABV (that’s 80° to 180°), Poitín is a geographically-protected class of spirits that must come from Ireland. It is also considered a specialty drink, not one that’s overly common for bars to stock.


Today I’m sampling Mad March Hare Irish Poitín. This one is not only legal but available in the United States. Like most Irish whiskey, it is triple-distilled in copper pot stills. It is bottled at 40% ABV, and a 700ml package has a suggested price of $29.99.


“Mad March Hare uses only the best, locally sourced, malted barley. As you would expect, fine Irish Poitín needs fine ingredients, and most of our suppliers are farmers within a couple of miles of our stills, with equally rich histories in the growing of this key ingredient. As one would expect, their covert deliveries are made in the dead of night.” – Mad March Hare Irish Poitín


I’m ready to hit up a real #DrinkCurious adventure here, not knowing what I’m even getting into aside from what I’ve researched. But, before I do, I must thank Mad March Hare Irish Poitín for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.  


Appearance: This is an unaged spirit and is clear, similar to water. A thicker rim led to syrupy legs.


Nose: As soon as I popped the cork, this spirit’s aroma flowed from the bottle’s neck. I didn’t get the expected buttered popcorn that is typical of moonshine. There’s a lesson in assumptions! Instead, I smelled something like Sierra Mist but heavier than that. Also present were grass, berries, and limestone. The grassy note performed a stepdance across my tongue when I pulled the vapor past my lips.


Palate: This spirit’s texture was different. It was thicker than any whiskey’s mouthfeel I’d ever experienced, almost like a milkshake without the cold. The front of my palate plucked limestone and lemongrass, while the middle offered malted barley. The back tasted of pineapple and honeysuckle.


Finish:  I found the limestone quality stuck around the longest; by that, I mean many minutes. The honeysuckle and lemongrass fell off sooner but left behind a slight black pepper flavor.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  If I were to base my opinion on the first sip, I wouldn’t have taken a second. That’s the number one mistake folks make when trying something new. Palate shock is a real thing. You must allow your palate to get used to what’s in your mouth. Once something harsh is expected, your palate can figure out what’s underneath it.


The more I sipped Mad March Hare, the easier it was to drink, and I began to enjoy the experience. It began to get addictive. As heavy as the flavors were, I don’t think increasing the proof would do much more than getting you plastered.  I can appreciate how Poitín was so popular. I also understand why some people wouldn’t like it because it is so unusual.


I’m happy to have Mad March Hare in my whiskey library, and this was a fascinating and fun experience. It is tasty and affordable. An honest rating on this must tip it into the Bar category, but only because of how divisive it will be; it really needs to be sampled first. In the meantime, I'm looking forward to further exploring this unique Irish spirit. 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.



Wednesday, September 7, 2022

Daviess County Kentucky Straight Bourbon Finished in Lightly Toasted American Oak Barrels Review & Tasting Notes

If you’re unfamiliar with Daviess County Bourbon, it is named for Joseph Hamilton Daveiss,  a lawyer who would appear in court as someone from the movie Deliverance. He got involved in a duel in 1799 and became a fugitive.  And, yet, he was also the first lawyer west of the Appalachian Mountains to prosecute a case before the US Supreme Court.


Daveiss then became a US District Attorney based in Kentucky. He wound up getting a burr (pun intended) under his saddle regarding Aaron Burr. He tried many times to prosecute Burr for treason but was never successful.  


In 1811, Daveiss volunteered to serve in the Indiana militia, where he was in charge of the entire Indiana calvary as well as two companies of dragoons. He led them into battle at Tippecanoe, where he died from his injuries. 


You're probably wondering if I've got a spelling error regarding his name. For whatever reason, anything named after Daveiss has been spelled Daviess, including a county in Kentucky. In that county was a distillery called Daviess County Distilling Co., one of the original Kentucky distilleries. 


I’ve tasted and reviewed each of the incarnations of Daviess County Kentucky Straight Bourbon since it was resurrected in 2020 by Lux Row Distillers out of Bardstown. Last year, the brand released a special Ducks Unlimited Bourbon. It was a one-and-done thing. Recently, Daviess County Bourbon announced it was planning an annual toasted-barrel finished limited release, and today I’m reviewing this inaugural whiskey.


Daviess County’s Finished in Lightly Toasted American Oak Barrels is made from its traditional rye and wheated Bourbon mashbills and aged more than four years in new, charred oak barrels. Then, as the name implies, it goes through a finishing process in lightly toasted barrels.


“Finishing our traditional Daviess County bourbon in lightly toasted American oak barrels imparts aromas of caramel, vanilla and hints of oak on the nose, while delivering sweet caramel with notes of vanilla and coconut on the palate. This unique flavor profile is certain to become a fast favorite among fans of this brand.”John Rempe, Master Distiller at Lux Row Distillers


Lux Row states an allocation of 3,000 six-pack cases of 96° bottles, with a suggested retail price of $49.99. Distribution is nationwide.


How does Davies County Lightly Toasted fare? We’ll have to #DrinkCurious to find out. Before I do, I must thank Lux Row Distillers for providing me a sample of Lightly Toasted in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: The Bourbon featured a deep, orange hue when poured neat in my Glencairn glass. A bold rim left even heavier droplets that stuck to the wall.


Nose:  As I allowed this Bourbon to rest, its aroma filled the room. The promise of vanilla, caramel, and oak was fulfilled; however, those smells were joined by cinnamon, almond, and nutmeg. Inhaling that vapor through my lips let a wave of caramel roll across my tongue.  


Palate:  The mouthfeel was oily but weightless. The front of my palate found rich caramel with no effort. And, yet, there was nothing to accompany it. However, the middle offered coconut, macadamia, and cinnamon, while the back had toasted oak, roasted almond, and green peppercorn flavors.


Finish:  The oak’s toastiness morphed to lightly charred on the finish. Shredded coconut, caramel, and roasted almond remained for a medium-long duration.  


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Daviess County Lightly Toasted is an easy sipper. There’s nothing regarding “burn” despite the 96°, and it could easily be sipped on a warm, summer day which, coincidentally, is when I sampled it. Daviess County is affordable and well worth the investment of a Ulysses S. Grant in a realm of ever-more-expensive limited-edition whiskeys. I believe it has earned its Bottle rating, and I am sure you’ll agree. 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.



Monday, September 5, 2022

Pursuit United Straight Bourbon and Rye Reviews and Tasting Notes (2022)


Some people think those who have podcasts can’t do anything with them, and for the most part, they’re correct. So many fall by the wayside, only garnering a few followers. But the ones who do it are passionate about their podcasts and have a good time, and that’s all that matters, right?


Then you have those who do big things with their podcasts. There is one called Bourbon Pursuit which has been around since March 2015. Founded by Kenny Coleman and Ryan Cecil, they’ve been very successful. In 2018, they formed a company called Pursuit Spirits, which sourced Straight Bourbons and Ryes to create its blends. The first release, in 2021, was a success, and Pursuit Spirits is following up with a second.


To help differentiate batches, Pursuit Spirits has come up with a labeling system with a 3- or 4-digit code. The numerical portion refers to the month. The alphabetical part represents the year, with “A” representing a zero. Thus, the current batch is 7CC for July 2022.


Pursuit Spirits has also dropped the age statement on the bottles because everything in the blend is now at least four years old. The Rye is a corn-heavy mashbill meant to appeal to Bourbon drinkers and comes from Bardstown Bourbon Company and Sagamore Spirits, while the Bourbon has a rye-heavy mashbill containing a blend of distillates from Bardstown Bourbon Company, Finger Lakes Distilling, and an undisclosed Tennessee distillery that is not George Dickel. Each 108°, 750ml package runs $65.00, and both are distributed to stores in CO, GE, IL, KY, NM, OH, TN, TX, and online at


Before I get to the tasting notes and ratings, I must thank Pursuit Spirits for providing me samples in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Now, let’s #DrinkCurious and learn more.

Pursuit United Straight Bourbon Batch 7CC




I’ll start with the Bourbon because when I have to review both Bourbons and Ryes together, and the proofs are the same, Bourbons are generally less spicy.


Appearance: I drank this Bourbon neat from a Wee Glencairn glass (a smaller version of a common Glencairn). It was the color of caramel and created a thick rim with fast legs.


Nose: A bouquet of corn, caramel, candied orange peel, cinnamon, and toasted oak wafted from the neck of my glass. It was like a vanilla bomb exploded when I pulled that air into my mouth.


Palate:  This whiskey had a light, silky mouthfeel, which introduced me to flavors of cinnamon, corn, and vanilla on the front of my palate. The middle offered rye spice, almond, and mocha, while the back tasted of black pepper, leather, and dry oak.


Finish:  A medium-long, warming, and somewhat tingly finish was a blend of cinnamon, rye spice, and toasted oak.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Bourbon was nice, yet not something that would stand out from the crowded field of others that cost $65.00. To me, the nosing component was the best part of the experience. I recommend buying yourself a pour of Pursuit United Bourbon at a Bar before committing to a full bottle.




Pursuit United Straight Rye Batch 7CC



Next up is the Rye. It, too, was sipped via a Wee Glencairn glass.


Appearance: I found the color only a shade darker than the Bourbon. It was still caramel in color; however, it formed a much thinner rim which yielded slow, wavy legs that fell back to the pool.


Nose:  Aromas of mint, vanilla, brown sugar, and toasted oak made it to my olfactory sense. The toasted oak rolled across my tongue when I inhaled through my mouth.


Palate:  An oily, full-bodied texture led to vanilla, brown sugar, and caramel on the front of my palate. It was as if each flavor marched one by one and faded as the next approached. The middle tasted of baked apples and pears, along with fresh ginger. The back was spicy with cinnamon, wintergreen, and clove.


Finish:  The finish was much longer than the Bourbon, and while vanilla was part of the equation, the remaining notes were spicy with wintergreen, ginger, and clove.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: To get the question out of the way, I preferred the Rye to the Bourbon. It had more character, there were bold flavors to be savored, and it wasn’t simply another play on a 95% rye, 5% malt that is dominating the market these days. I believe you’ll enjoy Pursuit United Straight Rye, and I am happy to say it earned its Bottle rating. 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.


Friday, September 2, 2022

Barrell Vantage Straight Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

There’s been a recent craze for finishing whiskeys in Mizunara casks. Mizunara is a native Japanese wood that does a fantastic job of retaining moisture. However, it is a challenging wood to work with:


“The oak does not grow straight, it has a high moisture content, and it’s much more porous than other varieties, he says. These issues make the casks prone to leaking. Its name, after all, translates to ‘water oak.’” - Hirotsugu Hayasaka, former head cooper at Nikka


Mizunara cask development was due to European and American oak shortages during World War II. The Japanese looked to their forests to create the required containers. The Japanese coopers returned to European and American oak once the supply chain issues were remedied. However, the memory of how good the whisky aged in Mizunara wood remained.


In more modern times, the Mizunara trees are a protected species. First, the tree must be about 200 years old to be suitable for carving staves. Secondly, the yield of usable wood is meager compared to its European and American counterparts. Thirdly, you can’t harvest a live Mizunara tree; it must be naturally felled.1


Barrell Craft Spirits has just released Vantage, a blend of straight Bourbons finished in Mizunara, French, and toasted American oak casks. All three finishing cooperages were virgin oak, so nothing but wood would impart its flavors to the whiskey. As with many of Barrell’s American whiskeys, it has sourced distillate from Indiana (MGP/Ross & Squibb), Tennessee (George Dickel), and Kentucky (Jim Beam).  Each component of Bourbon was finished independently and blended together in Louisville, Kentucky.


“Barrell Vantage is a bourbon dedicated to the arts of barrel selection and blending. We drew upon our years of blending expertise, creativity, and testing to create a bourbon with impeccable balance and depth of flavor that embraces different char and toast levels, along with its oak origins. Barrell Vantage is an exciting step forward in our never-ending journey to take Bourbon to new heights.”Joe Beatrice, founder of Barrell Craft Spirits


Vantage carries no age statement and is packaged at 114.44°. A 750ml bottle has a suggested price of $89.99 and is available in 48 states. That price puts it in line with most of Barrell’s standard releases.


Now that you know its background, it is time to #DrinkCurious and discover what this Bourbon is all about and if it is worthwhile. But, before I do, I will shout out to Barrell for providing me a sample of Vantage in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, Vantage presented as oiled brass. A microthin rim formed, leading tiny tears to fall back into the pool.


Nose: A bouquet of toasted coconut, pineapple, cumin, cinnamon, and clove tickled my nostrils. When I pulled the air into my mouth, a strong sense of caramel engaged my tongue.


Palate:  An incredibly oily texture provided a weighty mouthfeel. I tasted caramel, vanilla, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch on the front of my palate. The middle featured plum, coconut, ginger, and cocoa powder, while the back dispensed coffee, clove, and allspice flavors.


Finish: Vantage possesses one of those freight train finishes that plows through and runs for miles. Allspice was the highlight; however, the plum, coconut, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and ginger weren’t derailed.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’ve never had a Mizunara-finished whiskey before today. I can’t swear that most of this experience is directly related to that wood, as there are two others to contend with, but let’s say that I’m curious about tasting others. The coconut flavors came through hard, and while that’s something that isn’t overly unusual with whiskeys, to have it as prominent as Vantage offers is.


Vantage is also surprisingly easy to sip despite its proof. There is undoubtedly a spicy component to this Bourbon, but no alcohol burn, which many folks will appreciate. However, it also sneaks up on you because there is no warning of it coming before it hits. I’ve been delighted with many of Barrell Craft Spirits' offerings as of late, and Vantage is no exception. I’d happily fork over the $90 to have this Bottle in my library. 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.



1Brad Japhe, Bloomberg Businessweek, April 27, 2022


Thursday, September 1, 2022

Remus Repeal Reserve Series VI Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

One problem in the Wonderful World of Whiskey is that a subsequent incarnation has to live up to the reputation of a former when an annual release has received tremendous accolades. So is the case with Remus Repeal Reserve VI. You see, Remus Repeal Reserve V took my 2021 Whiskey of the Year award. It was mind-blowingly good and not overly challenging to find (at least, not until I crowned it, but that’s just a coincidence). If you’d like, you can read that review here.


“The Remus Repeal Reserve Series provides our team the opportunity to showcase the incredible array of aged reserves available to work with, as well as our expertise at blending these Bourbons to create a special medley each year. Series VI is the latest in this award-winning collection that is certain to be yet another excellent example of what our Remus Repeal collection represents:  what great Bourbon can be.” – Ian Stirsman, Master Distiller


The story of George Remus is one of my favorite examples of Bourbon lore, and I hope you’ll allow me to go off on a slight tangent. I’ve taken this from my review of Series III. 


Remus was an American icon. Oh, maybe not the best example of a decent person, but he was, nonetheless, an icon. He was known as King of the Bootleggers.  He was a criminal defense attorney. Some of his clients were bootleggers, most of them were murderers, and he got a green tint in his eye watching his bootlegging clients making a fortune. One day, he decided he knew more about the criminal justice system than anyone else, and he could make a ton of money by using his legal knowledge to do illegal activities and not fall prey to the authorities.  


Remus was, indeed, very clever.  He found a loophole in the Volstead Act that allowed him to buy distilleries and distill medicinal whiskey. He wound up buying most of the operating distilleries in and around Cincinnati, and his schtick was that his employees would hijack his finished product, which he would then turn around and resell on the black market.  


One day, Remus found out he wasn't as clever as he thought as the government indicated him of thousands of violations of the Volstead Act, and a jury quickly convicted him. He was sent to the federal pokey in Atlanta. 


But wait, there’s more! Remus buddied up to a fellow prisoner and bragged about how all of his money was controlled by his wife. He didn't know that his new pal was an undercover agent named Franklin Dodge. Dodge then resigned from his position and engaged in an affair with Remus's wife. The two fell in love and started selling off Remus's assets, leaving him with a mere $100. 


Don’t stop reading because that’s not the end.  Remus was on his way to court for his divorce proceeding when he chased down his ex-wife's car, got out, and shot her to death in true gangster fashion. He pled insanity, and the jury believed him, taking less than twenty minutes to deliver the verdict.


Now, let’s get back to the business of reviewing this Bourbon. This sixth release is described as a medley of five Bourbons, ranging in age from eight to fourteen years and, as always, bottled at 100°. All five Bourbons are MGP (now Ross & Squibb) distillate. The distillery will launch Repeal Reserve this month to coincide with Bourbon Heritage Month and has a suggested retail price of $99.99. The components of this medley include:


  • 2% of 2008 Bourbon (21% rye)
  • 17% of 2012 Bourbon (36% rye)
  • 27% of 2012 Bourbon (21% rye)
  • 29% of 2014 Bourbon (21% rye)
  • 25% of 2014 Bourbon (36% rye)


Now that you know what makes Remus Repeal Reserve special, it is time to #DrinkCurious and address my concern:  Will Series VI hold up to Series V? I must thank Luxco for providing me this sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance:  The liquid presented as deep, dark mahogany when poured neat into my Glencairn glass. A medium-thick rim formed syrupy legs that dragged back to the pool.


Nose: As I inspected the rim and legs, an aroma of berry fruits wafted from the glass. When I drew it closer to my nostrils, I found linen, leather, oak, and vanilla. Thick caramel danced across my tongue when I inhaled through my lips.


Palate:  The mouthfeel was light and silky. The front of my palate encountered Fig Newton cookies, stewed fruits, and vanilla, while the middle featured caramel, nutmeg, and toffee. I tasted charred oak, mint, and fresh leather.


Finish: A soft but long finish was constructed of nutmeg, barrel char, leather, caramel, white pepper, and rye spice.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  Series VI was very tasty, and to get this out of the way, it earns every bit of my Bottle rating.  The remaining question, however, is if it holds up to Series V. As much as I enjoyed Series VI, it didn’t meet its lofty standard. I wanted to ensure that my memory wasn’t romanticizing last year’s release and to verify that, I poured myself a glass of my 2021 Whiskey of the Year, which confirmed my suspicion. But, despite that, don’t pass up Series VI. It is well worth the investment. 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.



Wednesday, August 31, 2022

BEARFACE Triple Oak Canadian Whisky Review & Tasting Notes

I never thought I’d say this, but after the recent success of a fantastic Canadian whisky I rated, I’m excited to try another! Another reason I’m excited to sip this whisky is that the distillery uses a unique aging process. No, this isn’t shooting music or microwaves at barrels or sending them around the world’s oceans on ships. It is something I’ve never heard of before:  Elemental Ageing.


“Elemental ageing is our unique process where hand-selected oak casks are matured in repurposed shipping containers and exposed to the elements in the Canadian wilderness. Our extreme northern climate amplifies how the whisky and wood interact, transforming the liquid inside for a bolder, smoother flavor. 

From freezing -10°C to searing 40°C [14°F to 104°F], the temperatures can fluctuate wildly in a single day under steel.”BEARFACE Spirits


BEARFACE is owned by Vancouver-based Mark Anthony Wine & Spirits. Master Blender Andrés Faustinelli was born in Venezuela, raised in Italy, is a citizen of France, lives in San Francisco, and creates whisky in Canada. He is experienced in beer, Bourbon, wine, and Mezcal. He chose Canada purposefully due to its more relaxed rules regarding whisky making.


BEARFACE Spirits offers three expressions:  Triple Oak Whisky, One Eleven, and Wilderness Series. Today I’m exploring Triple Oak Whisky.


It begins with single grain Canadian whisky made of 99.5% corn and 0.5% malted barley aged for seven years. BEARFACE Spirits openly states it is sourced; it doesn’t state from who. Its primary aging was spent in former Bourbon barrels. Over 100 days, it was finished first in three different vintages of French oak wine barrels, which held Bordeaux-style wines from Mission Hill for seven years. The whisky was then finished in toasted, virgin Hungarian oak barrels made from staves air-dried for three years. Bottled at 42.5% ABV (85°), it carries a suggested retail price of $34.99, making it easily affordable to most.  Mark Anthony indicates this can be enjoyed neat or in a cocktail. I opted for the neat pour.


Will BEARFACE Triple Oak Whisky be another Canadian winner, or will it fall by the wayside like many predecessors? The only way to answer that is to #DrinkCurious. Before I get there, I must thank BEARFACE Spirits for providing a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: A brilliant orange amber shined through my Glencairn glass. A medium-thin rim released thick, watery legs that raced back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Nose: A combination of browned butter, caramel, orange peel, strawberry, and sweet corn lacked any evidence of wood. Inhaling through my mouth brought strawberries and vanilla that flowed across my tongue.


Palate:  I found the medium-weighted liquid held a silky texture. Coffee, chocolate, and caramel started the journey. Caramel continued through the middle, joined by vanilla and corn. French oak, strawberry, and rye spice formed the back.  


Finish:  That rye spice built into cinnamon-soaked toothpicks. Dark chocolate and rich caramel faded to bold French oak; everything escaped with a gentle kiss of strawberry.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I don’t know if it is the base single grain whisky, the French oak finish, the Hungarian oak finish, or those repurposed shipping containers that did it, but BEARFACE Triple Oak Whisky is easy to sip and generous on flavor, and it is just damned good. It earns every bit of my Bottle rating, and I’m thrilled to have this easy-on-the-wallet Canadian whisky in my library. 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.



Friday, August 26, 2022

Crater Lake Spirits Whiskey Reviews & Tasting Notes

There is more to whiskey than just what’s poured into your glass. If you go beyond the backstories, many of which are nothing more than entertaining tall tales, there’s the process behind the whiskey, the people who make things happen, and the values and mantras those people consider essential.  


“Anyone can create a quick and dirty spirit. Luckily, we’re not just anyone. At Crater Lake Spirits, we know that our intense commitment to quality, taste, and sustainable practices means we’re not going to be everybody’s top choice. And that’s ok.


We’re here for the spirit enthusiasts who care about what they’re drinking, how it’s made, and its impact on the planet. By purchasing Crater Lake Spirits, it shows that you share our goal of doing right by our employees, our community, and our shared future.” – Crater Lake Spirits 


Crater Lake is big on sustainability and focuses on three areas: materials, facilities, and community. The glass used is made of at least 30% recycled materials, the plastics for 50ml bottles at 25% or more, and the ink is all plant-based, making their bottles 100% recyclable. Packaging is 100% recyclable and uses at least 90% recycled materials. The facilities are using water and electricity responsibly and recycling them whenever possible. And, with an eye on the community, they reuse returned packaging from customers, offer employees 24 hours of paid volunteer time, and participate in roadside cleanups.


Founded by Jim Bendis in Bend, Oregon, in 1996, the craft distillery boom hadn’t yet happened. There were fewer than 20, whereas today there are close to 2000! In 2005, he founded Bend Spirits to offer private-label spirits. And in 2015, he created Ablis, a CBD-based beverage.


Today I’m sampling four whiskeys from Crater Lake:  Estate Rye Whiskey, Black Butte Whiskey, Reserve Rye Whiskey, and Straight American Rye.  I’ll be sipping these in order of proof, from low to high, which I recommend whenever you do more than a couple of pours.


Before I get to my tasting notes and recommendations, I wish to thank Crater Lake Spirits for providing me samples of each in exchange for no-strings-attached, honest reviews. It will be a #DrinkCurious adventure.


Straight American Rye Whiskey



The lowest proof is the Straight American Rye Whiskey. It is made from a mash of 100% rye and aged in new, charred American oak for two years. It is packaged at 80°, and a 750ml bottle costs about $27.99.


Appearance: Poured neat in my Glencairn glass, this two-year Rye presented as a light gold. A thin rim formed a wavy curtain that dropped down my glass wall.


Nose: Rye spice was easy to pluck from the glass, as were toasted oak, stone fruit, and vanilla. When I drew the air past my lips, I tasted toasted oak.


Palate:  The texture was watery, yet the palate was flavorful, with vanilla, caramel, and nutmeg on the front and milk chocolate and toffee in the middle. The back was peppery with rye spice, clove, and oak.


Finish:  Clove, toffee, and oak stayed for a medium-length finish.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The Straight American Rye Whiskey was an easy sipper for sure. I believe there’s a tightrope to walk to younger Ryes, not to have the flavors become too sharp but still maintain the classic Rye experience. This Rye might be proofed down a bit too much for my liking, but it could be a great toe-dipping whiskey for someone interested in 100% rye mashbills. My recommendation is to try this one at a Bar first.




Estate Rye Whiskey



Next up is the oldest of the quartet:  Estate Rye Whiskey. It is farm-to-bottle, meaning the rye was grown at the distillery. Only a handful of new, charred American oak barrels are filled each year with the 100% rye distillate, then allowed to rest for six years. Packaged at 93°, a 750ml bottle runs $54.99. 


Appearance: The Estate Rye appeared as an orange amber in my Glencairn glass. A fragile rim released fat tears that inched their way back to the pool.


Nose: Rich oak notes wafted out of the glass, and the rye spice smelled mellowed. Mint and stone fruits combined with vanilla and a bit of menthol. When I inhaled through my mouth, mint, and vanilla were evident.  


Palate:  The mouthfeel was oily and coated my tongue. Honey, almond, and mandarin oranges were on the front, while the middle consisted of nutmeg and mocha.  The back featured allspice, oak, and clove.


Finish: Medium-to-long in duration, the finish continued with the notes of allspice, oak, and clove from the back of my palate.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The flavors in the Estate Rye were not shy, they were easy to pick out, and none overwhelmed another. I found this whiskey to be well-balanced, enjoyable, and very much a classic Rye. Considering its age and limited quantity, I believe the price is at the very least fair. Crater Lake Spirits could charge another $10 and still be reasonable, and I’m happy to crown my Bottle rating for it.




Black Butte Whiskey



Black Butte Whiskey is an outlier as an American Single Malt versus the others being Ryes. It is also a collaboration whiskey, where the folks at Crater Lake distilled Black Butte Porter before placing it in #4-charred, new American oak, where it sat for five years. You can expect to pay about $74.99 for a 94°, 750ml package.  


Appearance: Black Butte Whiskey was the color of burnt umber, leaving a thick rim on the wall of my Glencairn glass. Sticky droplets remained, taking several minutes to collapse.


Nose:  A gorgeous nose always concerns me, and Black Butte has one. Mocha and old leather rose from the glass’s chimney, and I just kept sniffing, relishing the moment. Green apple kissed my nostrils. Mocha rolled across my tongue when I drew that vapor into my mouth.


Palate:  A creamy mouthfeel helped erase whatever worries I had from the nose. At the front, I discovered chocolate, nutmeg, and vanilla. The middle featured almond, leather, and tobacco leaf, while the back released mocha, toasted marshmallow, and oak.


Finish: Rich mocha, marshmallow, old leather, and charred oak hung around for what seemed to be forever, and I wasn’t complaining.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  I’m not a beer drinker, and I don’t know if this whiskey represents what a Porter offers, but I believe I’ve fallen in love with Black Butte Whiskey. I don’t care what it costs, this is one you don’t want to pass up given the opportunity, and that’s a slam-dunk Bottle rating.




Reserve Rye Whiskey


The final pour is Crater Lake Reserve Rye Whiskey. It starts with a mash of 95% rye and 5% malted barley, which is a bit more classic than the 100% rye mashbills this distillery has offered so far. It aged in new, charred American oak for three years and weighs in at 96°, making it the heavyweight of the four. A 750ml bottle will set you back $39.99.


Appearance:  Served neat in my Glencairn glass, the Reserve Rye looked of dark amber. A medium rim released long, fast legs.


Nose: Vanilla, mint, and oak joined a smell of rye spice. When I pulled the air into my mouth, it was as if a vanilla bomb had exploded in my mouth.


Palate:  A creamy, weighty mouthfeel introduced my palate to more vanilla and milk chocolate. Rye spice, toffee, and cinnamon formed the middle. The back had flavors of oak, black pepper, and tobacco leaf.


Finish:  My tongue was left with a tingly feeling as the spices lingered for what seemed to be eons. Tannins, black pepper, and rye spice each took a turn.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust:  The more familiar mashbill was enjoyable and easy to drink. I could encounter more of what this whiskey had to offer with the higher proof. It is only three years old, but it tastes more mature. This one is priced right, and this is a classic Rye whiskey that I’m sure you won’t have a second’s worth of buyer’s remorse. I’m giving Reserve Rye Whiskey a Bottle rating.


Epilogue:  If I were staring at all four of these on the shelf and wondering which to grab, it would be a no-brainer. The Black Butte Whiskey takes Best in Show. But the two older ryes are great pick-ups, too, and you won’t complain about the price. 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.