Whisky Advocate

Review: White Whiskeys

August 10th, 2011

White Whiskeys — unaged, or briefly aged, grain distillates — are the focus in this review post. Lew Bryson, managing editor and reviewer for Malt Advocate magazine, takes a look at a few here.

Low Gap Whiskey (American Craft Whiskey Distillers), 42.7%, $40

Distilled from “malted Bavarian hard wheat” on the still formerly used at Germain-Robin. Good pedigree; does it deliver? Bread/flour in the aroma, like a fresh bag of flour, with a fruity alcohol edge to it, the wheat tang I know from beer. In the mouth, it comes through as bread and crackers. It’s somewhat hot, but it’s a brandy/aromatic heat: vapor-producing. The finish pulls more grain in, finally. They’re aging some of this; should be a great whiskey.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 80

Marko K. Spirits Doubled & Twisted, 49.5%, $60 (1 liter)

Distilled from “bottle-ready IPA.” Sure is; the hops leap out of the glass, piney and pithy, a real west coast beer and whiskey experience in a glass. Quite a fat mouthfeel for 99 proof, a big oily thing that rolls around the tongue, making itself at home with flaring hop flavor — not really bitter — and an underlying sweetness. Bittering kicks in on the finish. An astonishing experience that really grows on you…but ultimately there’s a lack of depth.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 80

Heaven Hill Trybox Series Corn, 62.5%, $25

New make from the same mashbill as Evan Williams, bottled “straight from the still.” Much higher proof than the others, but not noticeably hotter in the nose; that’s light corn and grass, with a bit of minty spice. Hotter in the mouth, but quite pleasant and evolving: fresh mint gives way to light corn, then a slightly oily slip to brisk sweetness…and you realize you didn’t notice the serious overproof. A well-behaved white dog.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 79

Finger Lakes Glen Thunder Corn Whiskey, 45%, $22

Crisps the nose hairs a bit, but it’s pure corn, even a bit of cornbread. Tip a sip in, and it’s nothing but more green corn, sweet, fresh — hot, for sure, but not overwhelming — and pretty tasty for what it is. With white whiskey, we’re walking the fine line between flavor and raw wound at all times, and this one finds the line.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 77

Koval Rye Chicago, 40%, $40

Smelling the rye from a foot away after pouring. Exceptionally clean aroma of grain; the oily/spicy rye notes come through clearly. Quite smooth. Not a lot of flavors: very focused on the rye itself, with grain and just a touch of mint. A long finish with sweet grain that slowly turns to mint in the end.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 77
Heaven Hill Trybox Series Rye, 62.5%, $25

This is new make from the Rittenhouse Rye mashbill, unaged, right off the still. Yeasty mash notes come through strongly, with a big nose of rye and corn underneath. It smells fresh, and alive. Wow, that’s powerful stuff. Much hotter than the Trybox Corn, this one is on fire with rye spice; it’s got me breaking a sweat! A bit of water brings out more grain notes, and some tempering sweetness, but it’s still no pussycat. Cleanly powerful.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 75

Koval Levant Spelt, 40%, $40  

Provocative: spelt’s an interesting aroma. Grainy and a bit earthy, with hints of golden delicious apple all combining in the nose. There’s a fast, high flow of creaminess that spreads quickly and disappears, leaving a slightly fruity, grainy aftertaste. Interesting sensations, and again, quite clean.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 75

Stillhouse The Original Moonshine, 40%, $40

Aromas are soft and creamy, with a waft of sweet corn — underlain with a fairly blunt alcohol burn that comes through more as you smell it. Quite sweet on the palate, a wash of green corn, but the flavor isn’t enough to tangle successfully with the fuel, which leads to a tongue-curlingly hot finish. Some definite potential, but it really needs time in a big oak barrel (or some ice and a bottle of Dr. Pepper).

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 75

Hudson New York Corn Whiskey, 46%, $35 (375 ml)

Nose is sweet corn, with some mintiness to it, and some herbal notes; hot, but not off-putting. Tastes are not as sweet as expected. A bit flat, though the sweet corn does come through toward the end. Again, though, this one is quite hot, which is not surprising; the Hudson Baby Bourbons — which this is the foundation for — have struck me as hot also.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 74

Koval Raksi Millet, 40%, $40

A lively light fruitiness (white grapes, green plum) in the nose. Quite grainy, but with an interesting hint of vanilla and a slight saltiness. Finish is a bit astringent, unlike the other Koval spirits. I’m finding these an interesting exercise in distillation, and educational.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 74

Koval Midwest Wheat, 40%, $40

So that’s what wheat smells like: not much. The aromas here seem to be mostly yeast-derived, with a faint ripe fruitiness (undefined: peach, apple?) and alcohol heat, and a touch of wheat-origin sweet grass. Wheat’s in the mouth, like chewing fresh grain with some water and alcohol. It’s all there, and the finish is sweet, and it’s clean, but…that’s about all. White bread whiskey.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 74

Catoctin Creek Mosby’s Spirit, 40%, $39

Made from 100% rye, and USDA certified organic. Very hot for 40%; herbal nose, very green with rye. Much smoother on the palate, and very quick. There’s a fast shot of rye mint up front, some grassiness, and a sharp flick of heat…and then it vanishes, leaving only a fading flinty-sweet afternote. Clean, but not a lot of substance.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 73

Koval American Oat, 40%, $40

Very similar to the Midwest Wheat in aroma, with a slight additional tanginess…but that could be from sensory deprivation. Drier in the mouth, with a slight medicinal character to it that increases as the finish goes on; like a high school chemistry lab storeroom, or a bottle of fresh aspirin.

Advanced Malt Advocate magazine rating: 73

55 Responses to “Review: White Whiskeys”

  1. Gaeson Taylor says:

    Lew Bryson missed Philadelphia’s own XXX Shine white whiskey?

    • Lew Bryson says:

      There are a TON more in the chute to be reviewed, believe me. Just trying to get them through in roughly chronological order, though I will make exceptions for exceptional…exceptions!

  2. Chris says:

    I’m not a huge fan of white whiskeys. To me, they should really be treated like a white rum, some character, but best mixed rather than on their own. That said, I do wonder whether we will see more refined and flavorful white whiskeys as the category grows, and if/when the big distilleries (Maker’s, Beam, etc.) offer some of their white whiskey. Part of the problem with the category seems to me to be that outside of one Buffalo Trace mashbill, and the new Heaven Hill bottling, white whiskeys are solely the province of new, small distilleries that have little or no distilling experience, and are just trying to survive until they’ve got aged stuff to sell.

  3. sam k says:

    I think you will see better whites as the category moves forward, Chris. I am aware of a coming start-up that has formulated a spirit for immediate sale, and another strictly for aging, so I know that there’s thought being given to the concept.

    I’ve also heard of craft distillers that had no intention of selling unaged whiskey until their customers demanded it, forcing the issue. I find the category compelling if only because it’s taking us back to the days of early American distilling, when white whiskey WAS whiskey.

  4. Nate says:

    Are we to consider these scores on a scale for white whisky, or for whisky in general? By which I mean, are we to assume that on this scale a REALLY good white whisky could score 99 points? And by the same token, that these white whiskies are recommended every bit as highly as a 79 point Single-Malt? I don’t know a single whisky drinker who has even a passing interest in the white whisky category (perhaps with the exception of Mr. Bryson here) and so I have to imagine that if this scale is applied to whisky in general then these scores all seem to me to be about fifty points too high. I know Serge Parker is happy to score a Single-Malt that’s 9 years old but still tastes like new-make an 85 for being “technically perfect” but that’s always struck me as wildly generous to these barrel-kissed vodkas.
    My apologies for being a bit inflammatory but I think it’s a reasonable point.

    • John Hansell says:

      Scores are for whiskeys in general, as are all our ratings. A white whiskey with a 78 rating, for example is the same as a 78 rating for a Scotch whisky.

    • Lew Bryson says:

      First off, I have no more interest in the category than the average MA reader: John asked me to review ’em, so I did! And I think you make a very reasonable point, no apologies needed for what was a pretty cordial comment. So let’s have a look.

      We agree: these need to be judged against other whiskeys, not just other white white whiskeys. Only way to be fair within the parameters of the Buyer’s Guide. Could there be a 99 point white whiskey? I suppose, but how about we say a 95 pointer, considering John’s never rated a whiskey 99 points! It would have to be a phenomenal white whiskey, though. Can there be a 95 point Canadian? That takes us in a whole different direction.

      What we have also discussed is the psychological ‘lip’ at the decades: an 80 point rating has a higher impact than a 79 pointer…much more so than the 79 does over the 78. Similarly, dropping below 70 is a significant step in the direction of “not on your life.”

      At this point, you have to ask yourself: is this more about white whiskey, or about — once again — the whole question of rating/scoring whiskeys. Because there are some whiskeys we’ve tasted and rated in these pages that I would pass over in favor of the Low Gap or the Doubled & Twisted…which would speak in favor of the points. Some of the ones I haven’t formally rated yet, though? Fire-starters.

      It’s a subjective thing, but so is bourbon vs. scotch. They’re definitely not vodka, though.

  5. Dutch says:

    I’m thinking that in the 35-40 dollar range I can find some wonderful aged whiskeys that I would much prefer over a unaged one.

    • Red_Arremer says:

      Understatement of the year!

      • Morgan Steele says:

        Agreed. Plus, I had a miserable time with Buffalo Trace’s White Dog and that only cost me $10. I don’t see myself gravitating towards white whiskies unless I find a particularly interesting recipe.

  6. Scott says:

    Yeah, Dutch, I can’t quite decide whether $40 white dog is paying full price for whisky without the qualities that make whisky worth drinking, or paying double price for the equivalent quality vodka, rum or tequila. Either way, though, feels like a poor value.

    Would any of these be more or less suitable for home aging in small barrels?

  7. Bob Siddoway says:

    Wow, I’ve never tried most of these. I really enjoy Buffalo Trace’s White Dog, but others I have had have been lackluster, so I may be a little reluctant to seek these out. The Marko K. Spirits whiskey does sound exciting with the hops, though!

  8. Red_Arremer says:

    What a rough category –Repelling notes and not a score over 80! Almost seems that it would’ve been kinder (from a promotional standpoint) not to review them at all.

    Kudos for the level of journalistic effort here, Lew.

  9. Rowley says:

    Lew ~ I’ve had most of these and find your take on them to be pretty spot on. For the most part, white whiskeys are promising and I like many of them for what they are — especially given my own background in studying American moonshine — but when I’ve got $40 to drop on a whiskey, chances are that I’ll go for something with some age and color.

    I am, however, struck by how far the category has come in just a few short years and wonder what it may be in another five. I wrote a bit yesterday about a 2005 New Orleans run-in with someone who didn’t share my interest in the subject:

    • Lew Bryson says:

      Thanks, Matt; good to hear we’re on the same beam. John and I roughly thought the same thing: some of these aren’t bad, particularly the Low Gap, but I’d likely reach for a bottle of Jim Beam Black or Elijah Craig 12 over pretty much any of them.

      That blog post…had to laugh at the end. Man, that said a LOT!

      • sam k says:

        That WAS an awesome post, and got me reading more deeply into Rowley’s blog.

        Time well spent!

  10. Allen says:

    I think most people are interested in white dog whiskey to get a taste of what the spirit actually tastes like before it goes into the barrel. Yes, it’s part novelty, but I think there is a place for it if it’s made with quality ingredients. I know I’m not looking for any subtle nuances from a white dog bottle, but maybe I can pick out strong flavors that get lost in something that’s aged for 6 years. I’ve only tried the 1512 Barbershop Rye, but I look forward to trying a few more.

    • Mary says:

      Novelty is right but these are not novelty prices which is 50% of my problem w/these dogs – the other 50% is that they are DOGS. bleh

  11. I think Allen (Post #10) hits the nail on the head when he says he wants to taste something of the spirit before it reaches the barrel. I think there can be interesting qualities that make a nice whiskey. And one that will work quite well in a very old fashioned (i.e. one without the fruit, just some sugar, water, bitters, spirit stirred with ice). Perhaps in other cocktails. as well.

    I know there are many connoisseurs on WDJK, but not every reader of MA wants to be an expert. Perhaps knowledgeable, able to find good whiskey’s that they like and perhaps have some interesting qualities.

    I don’t think Lew reviewed every white dog/white whiskey on the market. It has to be sent to him from the producer/distributor. And even if sent, it has to arrive in time for the publication date. Sometimes those things don’t all come together. I notice the High West Oat white whiskey isn’t listed, which I really liked the time I got to try it. Delicate, floral, reminiscent of Glenrothes. Very well done small scale column still whiskey.

    Regarding “barrel-kissed vodkas”, you don’t know how whiskey can be made, do you? Yes, many try to emulate the whiskey the big distilleries produce, but anything produced below 130 proof ain’t going to be close to vodka. Assuming you have enough of a grain bill and some good yeast to put some flavor in there.

    I think it would be useful/interesting to mention the kind of still the whiskey is made on. A true pot still will produce a different whiskey than one made with a column still. Certainly there are many other factors involved, but being able to taste the whiskey “straight from the still” means that knowing the still might be useful information. Of course, not every producer shares this information.

    For those than want whiskey from a 100 gallon still to cost the same as from a 5,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 gallon capacity still, all I can say is I think you underestimate the costs involved in operating a distillery in this modern day and age. Even if it’s aged for the same number of years, it will still cost more.

    • Ryan says:

      “For those than want whiskey from a 100 gallon still to cost the same as from a 5,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 gallon capacity still, all I can say is I think you underestimate the costs involved in operating a distillery in this modern day and age. Even if it’s aged for the same number of years, it will still cost more.”

      I think that’s a bit dismissive. Most WDJK readers recognize economy of scale issues–across industry sectors–while also recognizing that cost is a legitimate consumer (and producer) issue. I think what’s being expressed is that ‘small scale, time intensive’ defense is a bet more difficult to sympathize with when critical response to a few white whiskies from the largest stills is equal to, or slightly more positive than, critical response to many white whiskies from much smaller stills.

    • Dutch says:

      “For those than want whiskey from a 100 gallon still to cost the same as from a 5,000 or 10,000 or 50,000 gallon capacity still, all I can say is I think you underestimate the costs involved in operating a distillery in this modern day and age. Even if it’s aged for the same number of years, it will still cost more.”

      I think we all understand the economics of size, and that cost is relative to scale, but just because it comes from a small still that has to charge more doesn’t mean we are willing to pay for it if the taste isn’t there. I am one who will pay a premium if I feel the taste makes the difference worthwhile. Good example, I love Redbreast 15yo, but I will almost always buy the Redbreast 12yo because it’s only half as much and has almost the same flavor/taste, but will spend the difference of Powers 12yo over regular Powers as the taste is worth the difference to me.
      It’s not the old “build it and they will come”, some will buy for novelty, or to support a local business, but it will need to have the taste to bring them back.

      • Mary says:

        Yes! And if I’m not mistaken – We are not INVESTORS – we will see no return on our hard-earned money for this subpar “whiskey”. It’s kind of insulting that distillers are asking us to buy this stuff at these inflated prices because they are “craft” distillers. Bottom line is if it’s crap, it’s crap – no matter who makes it & how “quaint” their distillery. Thankfully, there is lots of good whiskey on the market & I choose to spend my money there – others can do what they choose – Woof Woof!

    • Mary says:

      #11 Ms Lins: And….I’m willing to pay more if it’s actually good whiskey. I’ve tried a few dogs & they have NOT been good/worth the $ charged.

      IMO I would be willing to pay @$10-$12 for this dog – It’s really a novelty booze. I can spend $20 (even less) & get some outstanding whiskey that I can keep for mixers OR straight up drinking. A good whiskey makes a better mixer than a bad dog.

      • sam k says:

        By the same reasoning, couldn’t a “good dog” make a better mixer than a bad whiskey?

        New make is not the devil incarnate.

        • Mary says:

          Sam K: Of course….but I can find plenty of whiskey (very good & of course, very bad) for a lot less $$ than they are charging for this dog. There is a reason distillers age their whiskey – most of the flavor comes through aging/barrel. It’s not the”devil incarnate” – it’s just mostly mediocre at best & awful most of the time. I find this new make/dog thing interesting (to taste what booze tastes like off the still) BUT my point is: It’s insulting to overcharge the customer for this unaged crap. If they were charging $10/$12 – it would make more sense. But of course, if people want to buy it, that’s their choice.

          • sam k says:

            This overcharging occurs in every facet of the spirits business. “Ultra-premium” vodkas and tequilas, above average scotch in incredibly over-the-top packaging, and private label “small batch” bourbons, all sourced from someone’s (or someone else’s) big-ass still.

            So what’s the big deal? Is it that the craft distillers are actually making a bigger buck from the get-go? If so, how does that differ from the farmer who takes his own produce to an urban farmer’s market and makes most of the markup, literally on the fruits of his own labor? Is it bad to make as much as the market will bear, or is that just the nature of capitalism?

            Would you be more satisfied if they charged much less until it aged properly, then went for the big markup (assuming they could survive on slim margins for many years)? From what I’ve seen of your comments thus far, you’d be bitching anyway. I prefer to focus on the positive, and there’s a lot of positive to focus on in the craft distilling segment, including a number of very good white whiskeys.

            I’m rooting for every one of them who has our long term best interests as creative drinkers at heart. Craft distilling, like craft brewing and craft wine making, will winnow out its own chaff and will be good for the industry and the consumer…every consumer… in the long run.

          • Mary says:

            Sam K: You’re being rude. I’m not “bitching” as you so bluntly said……I’m pointing out that this is not good “whiskey” & they are charging aged, good whiskey prices. I’m pointing out that it’s insulting to consumers but if people want to buy it, so be it – I will not. I have tried enough of these & they are not good.

            “Would you be more satisfied if they charged much less until it aged properly, then went for the big markup (assuming they could survive on slim margins for many years)? From what I’ve seen of your comments thus far, you’d be bitching anyway. I prefer to focus on the positive, and there’s a lot of positive to focus on in the craft distilling segment, including a number of very good white whiskeys.”

            Ummmmm – YES I would be much happier to pay high prices if the whiskey is actually good whiskey. I made the point, that if I can pay $20 for good whiskey, why would I pay $40 for this dog? I never said all whiskey should be inexpensive – Jeez! – my cabinet is full of expensive Scotch. And some pricey bourbons too! I hope craft distillers make it – the more GOOD distillers the better. BUT: I’m not an investor when I buy these dogs – I’m a consumer. I don’t have a romanticized view of the industry (not saying you do…I wouldn’t know). You can spend your money as you see fit – me too.

            I’m not so sure they are distilling for “our long term best interests as creative drinkers”. I’m pretty sure they want to make money – this is a business after all and I completely understand the need to make a living or more. They may have a passion for distilling but the bottom line (unless they are independently wealthy) is to make money.

          • sam k says:

            “Is it bad to make as much as the market will bear, or is that just the nature of capitalism?” I made this point earlier, so we definitely agree here.

            It was not my intent to be rude, but you are certainly not being any less insulting with your insistence on referring to these products, quite consistently, as “dogs” whether they’ve gotten good reviews or not.

            I also pointed out, and you ignored in your reply, the fact that ridiculous pricing occurs in every spirits category, many times with liquid that’s not worth the price charged. Aren’t you equally incensed by those? This is not exclusive to the small distillers (who are actually making what’s in the bottle), good or bad.

            I like good aged whiskey, I like good white whiskey, and I like good moonshine. I don’t like being raked over the coals by high prices (I tend to spend the vast majority of my whiskey money on lower-priced pours), but some of these products are not out of line, especially considering economies of scale. To paint them all with the same broad brush is unfair.

          • Red_Arremer says:

            But then, fairness isn’t the guiding light of capitalism is it Sam? The fact that a given whisky’s price is empiraclly predictable or that it is comparable to some other whisky’s price doesn’t mean that that given whisky is priced right…

          • sam k says:

            Absolutely, Red. Take Tuthilltown’s aged spirits. In my opinion, they are the most overpriced in American whiskey, but they’re getting the asking price, which is what made them most appealing to Wm. Grant in their purchase of same. Their pricing has no basis in reality whatever.

            My fairness comment was not solely referring to product pricing, however. It was aimed at Mary’s insistence on demeaning the category (and its pricing) as a whole, while giving the rest of the entire industry a pass on the same subject. Gouging is gouging, no matter who’s doing it, and as I said, at least the crafts are actually producing what’s in their bottle.

          • Red_Arremer says:

            Interpreted that way I completely agree Sam.

          • Mary says:

            SamK: I refer to them as dogs because they are generally known as “white dog” or “dog” in the industry. Look it up. I did not invent this description.

            Of course gouging happens everywhere in the industry! I think that’s inherent in capitalism…. I like capitalism, warts & all. I also said several times, you can buy what you want, pay what you want and so will I. It just irks me as a consumer that they put this subpar stuff on the market, charge high prices & expect us all to lap it up because it’s from a “craft” distiller (whatever that really means…..). And yes, the big boys are getting in on the market too. $$$ is at stake – Of course, you call this “bitching” – I guess disagreeing w/you is “bitching”. I respect your opinion – you should do the same.

            BTW: I wouldn’t give the rest of the industry a “pass” – it’s that THIS discussion is about white dog/unaged whiskey – not about gouging in general.

          • Mary says:

            “White Dog” vs “White Whiskey” – now that is an interesting topic. I have a gut feeling the industry refers to them as “white whiskey” because it sounds a lot better than “white dog”. It’s a lot more difficult to market something known as “dog” & charge higher prices. I would venture that most of the general buying public (as opposed to whiskey “geeks”) has no idea what “white dog” is.

            An aside: Here is an interesting blog entry on “white dog”.

          • Mary says:

            At least Heaven Hill is calling it “New Make” – I give them credit for that – not mucking up the confusion by calling it “white whiskey”.

          • sam k says:

            Mary, this blog is based on mutual respect. It’s inherent here. If you can get past my misplaced comment on bitching, which has already been dealt with, you’ll see that we’re basically on the same page.

            You are the only person on this blog or in the industry who deletes the word “white,” and publicly uses the word “dog” by itself… I Googled “whiskey dog” and every relevant mention includes the word “white.” Look it up. Trybox also uses the word “whiskey” on every label, like most in the category.

            Hey, we made it to 50 comments! I’m done.

          • Mary says:

            “Dog” is also shorthand for “white dog”….my whiskey friends & I refer to it that way all the time & I’ve heard it in bars. It’s not automatically derogatory – although sometimes it really is derogatory because it is bad/barely drinkable. Depends on the situation/”whiskey”. Just like you can call a person a dog (friend) or dog (not a positive reference). I think things get taken out of context on the internet – I think that’s what happened here.

  12. M Lange says:

    Surprised at the low scores for the Koval stuff, I find them really interesting, especially the rye and oat. I’d give those two an 85 or so, and this comes from a guy whose favorite whiskey is Elijah Craig 18, so it’s not that I don’t like what a good long time in a barrel can to do a whiskey.
    Good to see the category getting some coverage, as I think these spirits have some really great possibilities for mixoligists and can be thought provoking on their own, though it does seem like most whiskey enthusiasts couldn’t give a rip about them.

  13. Jeff Frane says:

    Lew, you know I’m no cynic (cough cough) but i can’t help feeling that the white whiskey thing is a complete scam, perhaps as a result of a late night party among a bunch of distillers. “Hey! I bet you I can sell whiskey that’s never even seen a barrel. Hell, I can get ’em to pay extra for it!”

    I bought a bottle of the Buffalo Trace out of curiosity, just like I bought miniatures of Kilchoman’s new spirit. It’s very interesting to really experience the transformation from the wood. More power to the distillers if they’re making a little extra money but it won’t be mine. I’ll spend that on whisk(e)y with real flavor and real depth.

    • Lew Bryson says:

      Your scenario probably isn’t too far off…except for the part where it’s a scam. They ARE trying to get us to pay more for unaged whiskey than we would pay for a bottle of Wild Turkey 101…but it’s because they really need the money to get to the point where their whiskey IS aged, not to hose us. They’ve managed to convince themselves it’s good enough to sell, it’s up to us to decide if it’s good enough to buy. I can see buying a hip bottle of Glen Thunder, maybe, for the right occasion. But I’m much more likely to fill my own flask with something like Old Fitz BiB.

  14. Louis says:

    The way I see it, there are only two reasons for white whiskey. Either to see what the aging adds to your favorite dram, or so new distilleries can make some money while their stock ages. Of course, without having to make an investment in aging, we are seeing more variety, as I doubt if anyone would make very much oat or spelt whiskey to age for 4 years into the teens just to see what happens. So that may be a good unintended consequence. And yes, today’s mixologists can figure out how to get the most out of the unaged spirit, while hiding its flaws.

    As for the $40 or so, I’m willing to try a few of the more promising ones, but I’d really prefer to try before I buy. Given what the typical whisk(e)y enthusiast spends in a yea,, it’s not that much, but the distilleries aren’t going to make a living off of me either with the white stuff.

  15. Ethan Smith says:

    I got a few bottles of the HH New Make Rye for a good price and I plan on aging it in a 2 liter charred oak barrel. I want to make my own Rittenhouse!

  16. Rick Duff says:

    First off, nice reviews Lew.. I love your descriptions.
    Second.. I don’t think WDJK readers are the typical market for the white whiskey.
    I personally love to try new make.. to get an appreciation for what goes into the main product. However, given price and taste, I’ll take the aged product almost any day.
    There are exceptions.. I find Woodford Reserve new make to be like a really fine tequila.. maybe partially due to the triple distilling and the pot stills.

    Anyway.. the regular purchases of these items will be people who either use them in cocktails, or as alternatives to Vodka. I’d take any of these any day over Vodka. I don’t see the point of putting anything into my stomach that doesn’t provide a flavour.. and by definition, Vodka is distilled to a point it is almost void of flavour.

    I really appreciate the reviews… gives me a chance to understand how some of these taste without plunking down money myself. I’ve got a nice little collection of newmake myself.. but I’ve also aged some in small barrels too.

  17. robert hutchins says:

    I am left wondering what the bulk of these distillates are destined to be. What are all of their compositions, that information would make this easier to process. Thanks for starting this conversation Lew. This is important.

    • sam k says:

      Robert, I agree that knowing the makeup of these would be helpful, but no more so than with any other whiskey, and we’re almost never given that information unless we do our own research.

  18. John Hansell says:

    I wanted to note that it takes guts to rate white whiskies, and I am prould of Lew for taking on the challenge. (Whisky magazine just reviewed a bunch and they chose not to put a score on them.) And given that some of you think he was too kind and some of you think he was too cruel means to me that he rated them in the proper range. (Okay, now it’s back to my vacation…)

    • sam k says:

      Not only that, but it’s prompted a good discussion in general. I’m intrigued by the category and have a few around the house right now: Cheryl’s Rye Dog and Santa Fe Silver Coyote come to mind. Looking forward to adding a High West Silver Oat now that it’s available online in PA.

      They won’t replace aged whiskey for me, but they provide an interesting addition to the party!

    • Mary says:

      I agree w/John- Cudos to Lew!

  19. Brian B (Brian47126) says:

    I can say that I really like the Trybox Series Corn. It is a very fun and flavorful drink that is worth the price. Bear in mind this comes from someone who is not a bourbon drinker, so take it with a grain… Pun Intended.

  20. I’m sorry for people that bought whiskey they ended up not liking, it isn’t your fault. I had some that I didn’t think were well made, and some of that was from major companies. As a producer I’m prohibited from saying what I dislike, regardless of who made it.

    So I think it’s good that Lew and John are reviewing these young whiskies. I’m sure they’d gladly have a slate of Islay malts on their reviewing schedule instead of a stack of white dog/new make whiskey.

    One area where young whiskey may not fare so well is the open bottle. It may not “keep” as well as one aged much longer. The oxidation processes may not be fully complete when bottled, so they may have transitions that will occur, and so tasting over time may be erratic. Just a speculation on my part.

    • sam k says:

      Heck Cheryl, I’ve had plenty of aged whiskey that disappointed me. This is definitely not exclusive to the crafts!

      That’s also an interesting observation on the keeping qualities of whites. I have no idea, either

  21. Joshie says:

    I’ve skimmed the comments here and nobody has brought up the fact that White Dog and unaged whiskey are NOT the same thing. Not that Lew or anybody else seems to be claiming that they are, but it deserves to be mentioned.

    There is a whole seperate category in the American regs reserved for Corn Whiskey. Whether one likes it or not it IS its own category of whiskey and should be judged on its own merits. Unaged Corns like Finger Lakes’ Glen Thunder are not whiskeys on their way to being aged, they are intended to be consumed as they are, with minimal, if any, barrel aging.

  22. DukeB says:

    I think they’re nothing but a “cash cow” for the distilleries. A curious fad that brings in cash without need for barrels, aging, etc. I don’t blame them for putting it out , but I won’t have a bottle in
    my cabinet for tastings. I may buy a Maker’s Mark for my collection though.

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