Redemption repeats their barrel-proof MGP-sourced 95% rye, now at 7 years old. Has a year significantly changed last year's 90-point outing? Oak is more subdued and the pepper floats on sweet, light caramel. It is still quite nice at full-bore, no water needed. Sweet vanilla and bitter rye oil blend surprisingly well; this is hitting the bells, and it's better integrated. Big, swaggering, and sporting big-barrel maturity. Can go toe-to-toe with almost any rye out there.
Redemption delivers a 10 year old, barrel proof rye (sourced from MGP); the bottled whiskey is mingled from only six barrels. Nose of hot, bitter rye spice and caramel with oak. Great whambam! feel of sweet whiskey followed immediately by oily, spicy rye, which then controls the flavor and finish without dominating. Not over-oaked, and these older MGP barrels are finally showing what 95% rye can do. At 6 years, it could be a high-rye bourbon; this simply shouts rye. Fascination.
Hugely different from the standard Drambuie: much more dryly herbal, and the whisky's right here in the nose...and yet, they are distinctly related in the base character of the herbs. The whisky is quite present — 15 year old Speyside malts shine like the sun on rippling water — but the flavors of Drambuie are clear as well. Still sweet, but the whisky is much more the star. A Drambuie for us?
Rich, multi-layered nose: vanilla, cornmeal, berries (black raspberries, wineberries), and broad-shouldered oak. Powerful, but not overproof hot in the mouth; controlled. The berries sing a high counter-melody over the corn-oak beat as the whole experience rocks along. It’s powerful, sweet, authoritative, and finishes with a reprise of it all: berries, corn, vanilla, and stronger oak. Mature, complete bourbon with a 7 year age statement, and a real sleeper in the Small Batch Collection.
An authoritative nose: deep oak structure, cracked corn, warehouse reek. Minty and lively, but deep and almost ponderous at the same time, and not anywhere near as hot as expected. A bare hint of mustiness (which a bit of water helps wash out) keeps it from being truly exceptional, but this verges on greatness. A show-stopper.
7 year old whiskey (an unspecified “corn, rye, and malted barley” mashbill “distilled in Indiana”) aged in used barrels. Maple syrup, well-browned popovers, and Canada mint lozenges in a boozy-hot nose. Richly sweet on the palate: pastry dough, hints of anise, buttery and slightly-burnt cornbread, syrupy dark fruits: complex, rich, delicious. Water brings out more of the dough and tames the heat. Delicious, unique, intriguing. Sourced whiskey.
Vanilla and oak nose, with a creamy layer of mint that warns you: Rye Ahead. And what a sweet rye wave it is, rolling in with green mint and grass, more bourbony oak and vanilla, lively spice on the top (with enough heat to keep it bold), and a finish that brings everything together. Beautifully integrated, and not overly woody, a tribute to the blending art of Canadian distillers.
A very pricy (for Wild Turkey) 17 year old whiskey honoring master distiller Jimmy Russell. Nose is hot for the proof, with oak, dried barrel drool, warm dried corn, tobacco barn, and teaberry. Entry is not hot; rather, a thread of sweet syrup spreads out into thoroughly integrated corn and oak. Finish slides into drier oak. A fascinating journey through bourbon flavors, this is both lighter and more complex than expected. I still prefer younger Wild Turkey, but…
An 8 year old wheated bourbon, finished 27 months in Frapin cognac casks. A dark, opulent nose: cocoa, crushed sweet cherry, and vanilla custard, laced with cinnamon and fired with the alcohol heat. My, my…it’s even enjoyable at full proof, and delivers the sweet promise on a solid bed of oak and heat. Heaven Hill’s getting good at these finishes. Expensive, but impressive. (Kentucky Bourbon Affair bottling; others are similar—Heaven Hill’s Bourbon Heritage Center only)
Rock Town Single Barrel Reserve Rye (Barrel 22), 57.9%
Craft Whiskey | $60
Cask-strength rye made from Arkansas-grown grain, aged 26 months. Must be a small barrel; it’s quite dark. Nose of crushed rye grain, well-polished oak furniture, and moist rye bread. Swift and certain in the mouth: dense, chewy flavors of rye bread, sweet and full and bitter, crackling with oak spice, and drawing to a sizzling finish. I do like a small distiller whiskey that knows where it’s going. Very impressive.
Rich and sweet on the nose: crème brûlée, unfinished oak furniture, circus peanuts, overripe warm melon. Corn puffs and sweet cornbread, vanilla cream, oak density, firm heat, and an affably full mouthfeel that doesn’t thin till the very end. Easily one of the best Jack Daniel’s whiskeys I’ve ever had, but the price is jaw-dropping even today (the package does include a previously-unreleased 1966 concert recording of Old Blue Eyes). Price is per 1 liter.
Old school spicy nose, almost archetypal scents of sweet teaberry, cinnamon, and spearmint hard candy, with a firm, warm alcohol backing. True in the mouth: I’m tasting just what I smelled, all on a full bed of corn sweetness, floating off into a warm finish. Could it be more complex? Yes, but it’s beautifully balanced, and not the over-oaked shellac that passes for mature bourbon these days. If this was under $30 a bottle, I’d marry it. (6,000 bottles)
Distilled from Bear Republic Big Bear Black Stout, alambic pot distilled, aged 29 months in used French oak. Gooey nose, with lots of dark chocolate, toffee, fruit (ripe honeydew, Asian pear, red plum); no hint of the 49.5% ABV heat. Deliciously layered palate: dry malt, juicy fruit, and savory wood spice, sweet malt and chocolate, and a finish that’s sweet, light, and quite refreshing and inviting. Lives up to the Charbay hype!
More Canadian core rye from WhistlePig, this time at full-bore. It’s strong with rye, sweet with melon and dark chocolate notes, but with a wood character like the unfinished inside of an antique oak wardrobe. The antique wood is strong in the mouth, an oddly elegant note, but afterward comes the melon and chocolate, and oily, coiling rye. Interestingly complicated; a bit hard to make friends, but worth the time and effort.
6 year old MGP rye at full Booker’s-style unfiltered proof. Strong barrel/warehouse reek, some pepper, and a hint of dill. Shock: drinkable at 61%. Rich barrel flavors: oak, light maple, and custardy vanilla, albeit quite hot. Mint and pepper zip around the mouth; now on the tongue, now on the roof, racing down the throat, a big, active whiskey. Finish bubbles on with pepper and prickle, daring you to stick in a quarter and ride it again. An experience.
Knob was one of the first bourbons I had when I started taking whiskey seriously, and it’s still a kicker. No-nonsense, flint-hard nose: slickly-polished oak furniture, cinnamon stick, cracked rye, wet cornmeal, hard candies. Bang! A lean whiskey that gets in your mouth and explodes with rye spice and cinnamon candy, a sharp wedge that opens you right up. The finish echoes: oak, a dying fire, clean and almost crisp. Emphatic, bright, and swift. Value Pick
If you wondered when you saw “50%,” this is indeed bottled in bond whiskey, with all the requirements that go with it. The nose is just this side of hot and brings parched corn, sawn maple wood, spicy hard candy, and dry spearmint leaf. Bright and spicy on the tongue; more candy and honey, and hints of teaberry and licorice that develop into the finish. A better package of flavor and price than the earlier Taylor releases; quite enjoyable.
“Contains five times more rye than A. Smith Bowman’s standard bourbon recipe,” aged 7 years and 9 months. A lean bourbon nose: sweet grain, leather, pepper, oak. Zing in the mouth! Quite spicy, with a smooth, oily feel, notes of dried apple and split fruit-tree branches, and a driving but welcome heat that lines straight through to the long, dry finish. Bold, interesting, and worthy of repeating! Limited release; mainly in Virginia.
Intriguing herbal/medicinal nose, with notes of pepper, grass, dried hay, dried flowers, orange peel, and licorice. Sweet but lively and light on the palate, as the orange explodes and the whisky boldly appears, wrapped in honey and herbs. The finish is herbal and sweet as the whisky strolls off into the distance. Overall, quite complex and rewarding.
Dad’s Hat rye has evolved, like many craft whiskeys, but they’re still bottling at 6 to 9 months (another label is planned for a straight version). That’s working well. The nose is rip-roaring rye: crushed grain, grass, sweet spice, bitter herbal notes, with all the complexity of the grain. Delivers honestly on the tongue, too, plus a light barrel character, proceeding to an integrated finish. Excellent young rye, there’s no mistaking the mother grain.
Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel (Barrel 15-4956), 65.85%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $65
Hot barrel wood, like opening a rickhouse in July; light allspice, vanilla, and fiery alcohol. Drinkable without water, surprisingly. Hot syrup, corn sugar caramel, tannic oak, and a bit of stickiness. An interesting look at Jack Daniel’s: unblended, undiluted, untamed. It’s still Jack—sweet, insistent—but it’s taller, bigger. I could say I’d like even more heft, more complexity…but would that be asking Jack to be something it simply is not?
Some of the oldest American malt whiskey joins this 30th anniversary mingling, finished in a pear eau de vie barrel, a nod to the distillery’s origins. The nose is elegant, deep, and clearly touched by the pear and oak. There’s creaminess in the mouth, a perfect weight, rich nutty sweetness balanced by wood; it all slides into a warming finish, and pear is all around. A bit too much pear, actually; though I love pears, that’s my one complaint.
This release is based on a mash done at Sierra Nevada brewery, aged in eight different types of casks (including apple brandy and white wine) running from 4 to 15 years old. Delicate fruit, nuts, and sweet malt combine like perfect pastry in the nose. Add a bit of unsweetened chocolate on the palate, finishing with a lingering reminiscence of every bit of flavor, and you have a beautifully integrated whiskey that is unmistakably St. George. Delightful.
WHACK! The spicy smack of the nose sends me to check the mashbill; sure enough, this is 38% rye. The nose fumes with youthful zest: cinnamon, bright mint, sun-warmed green grass. Pour some on the palate for more explosive entertainment; sweet cinnamon red-hots burst, corn pops, and the oak burns on into the rye-high finish. This is one excitable boy of a bourbon, and it’s got me humming along. Impressive.
Blends 7 and 12 year old bourbons, and a 7 year wheater, in a beautifully packaged tribute to the old brand. Typical nose—cinnamon Red Hots, milled corn, oaky zest—in balanced harmony. Beautiful stuff on the tongue: warm but not hot, expansive corn sweetness that lightens the cinnamon’s intensity, some clove, some oaky dryness. The warm finish only ends after a long embrace. Pricey for 7 year old bourbon, though; is this the future? Sourced whiskey.
Booze candy from Beam? More like bacon in a glass: the sweet smokiness invaded my dining room (definitely the last tasting of the day). Richly smoky-sweet, with a clear balance of maple over corn; like a rustic breakfast of bacon, pancakes, and whiskey! The maple’s restrained and authentic, the 45% keeps it from being too sweet, and there’s plenty of good bourbon flavor here, especially at the finish. Lush, tasty; if you have to do flavors, here’s how.
Can you say “11 year old Old Grand-Dad”? There’s a snap of hot, happy rye in the nose, sweet corn and cinnamon banging along, but there’s vanilla and oaky dryness. I had a bottle of OGD Bonded handy, and it’s close. It’s like my favorite young bonded strapped in oaky spice, with a more mature, drier finish. I’m told this has even more rye in the mashbill. If you like OGD, get this and see what more age does. Price is per 375 ml.
One of the debut whiskeys at WhiskyFest New York 2012, this was finished in a barrel that held Virginia-made port…after it was used to age Bowman whiskey, a boomerang finish. The nose gives baking chocolate, tropical flowers, and yes, some of that port. Peppery and port-edged on the tongue, solid fire from the 100 proof, fat corn and fruit in the middle of the palate. Busy, but purposeful. There’s a lot here and it’s all working together.
Tons of vanilla and sweet custard in the nose, enough to make the mouth water, and not fake-smelling at all. Once again, the 40% makes a difference: light and sweet in the mouth, like a glass of creme brulee eau de vie! I'd enjoyed the sweet vanilla-spice character so much that the whisky slipping in at the end was almost a shock, but it's there, and even adds a bit of mint and fire. Embarrassingly tasty.
Made from roasted Hopi blue corn. The nose says bourbon—sweet, corn, faint maple—but with big notes of stone fruits. It's lush. Mouth veers off in another direction with floury corn, oaked complexity, an herbal component, like crushed stems of wildflowers, and cinnamon/allspice notes. The finish is suddenly mellow, with a seductive creaminess high in the back palate. Even at a young 50%, never really fiery. Wonderfully complex, and not over-oaked; beautiful stuff.
Triple-distilled bourbon from Virginia. Actively aromatic, blowing right out of the glass: tart berries, hot corn, oak, and stick cinnamon. Hot, but surprisingly soft and light for 50% (triple distillation?), with sweet corn and more of the berries, wrapped in oak and a touch of char. Everything persists to the finish, including the heat, leading to a twist of oak at the end. Manages to be big but light at the same time.
Triple-distilled whiskey from Samuel Adams Cinder Bock beer, aged 3.5 years in Samuel Adams Utopias casks. Definite character of strong beer to the nose, very light smoke, some mixed fruit notes. Mellow smoke on the tongue, broad malt and fruit (prune plum, dried cherry, baked apple), a luxurious feel. Finish is slow and even. Flavorful, but not heavy or shouting. The casks have had a great effect here, but the distilling is skillfully done.
Sweet, spicy nose, with sharp mint jellies and brittle sugar laid over the oak presence. Shifts in the mouth to no-nonsense rye: bitter, savory, dried grass, with the sweetness as a spark glinting through it all, while a mineral character plays as backbone. The finish is prickly and warming, with fleeting richness. A very lean rye overall, a bit challenging, a bit old school.
Solid, chunky bottle with idiosyncratic whiskey inside. Straightforward rye crisps out of the glass in no-nonsense style; dry grain, sweet grass, and light but insistent anise almost wholly drown out the
barrel character. The mouth is as dry and spicy-medicinal as the nose hints at, laying down character like a winning hand: rye SNAP! heat SNAP! light tarragon SNAP! oak SNAP! and a warm wrap-up finish SNAP! Full house, flavors over sensations. Clean and interesting. Nicely played.
Rye spice is the first thing on the nose: cinnamon-spiked hard candy, hot and juicy. Beautifully oily and bitter rye character slides across the tongue on a wave of sweet caramel and vanilla. Young, but in the eager intensity of rye, not the clumsy heat of bourbon. Rye shines here, from the first whiff to the last bitter curl on the tongue, and the wood deftly sweetens and soothes. Nicely done.
Heaven Hill’s 80-proof standard Pikesville is a summer favorite, so I was eager to try this. A woody depth to it at 6 years old: 110 proof-hot, stewed plum and horehound candy, and sizzling rye spice behind it. It's a jawbreaker: full and hot in the mouth, with sweet grassy spice, bitter rye grain as it progresses, and crackling sugar near the end, just before it all smooths into a savory layered finish. Exciting ride, great ending.
With a rich nose like warm maple syrup, it’s hard to miss that this is a flavored whisky. But the maple smells real, like breakfast in a Vermont diner. It’s also good that it’s not sickly sweet and thick; the mouthfeel is like good Crown with maple flavor, not a big wad of syrup. So if you like flavored whiskies, bring on the Canadian cocktails and ice cream: this is the good stuff.
Distilled from a relatively low-rye mash of 53% rye, 33% corn, 14% malt; true to Woodford Reserve form, a mingling of whiskeys distilled at Woodford and at Brown-Forman in Louisville. Nose of leather, cinnamon, rye snappiness, and hints of red raspberry. Hot and lean on the palate, spicy/sweet until rye’s bitter layering floats in, making for a dry finish as the oak comes on stronger. Balances drinkable and elegant quite nicely, and it’s real Woodford.
Triticale is a rye-wheat hybrid, so I’m expecting a rye-wheater hybrid bourbon. What I get is a screamer: spicy slice of a nose, hot cinnamon and sawn dry oak. Surprisingly light in the mouth, which is putting a smile on my face. Oak races through this, a spine coated with sweet grain, spicy notes, a bit of creaminess, and as the oak wraps up, I realize: no real rye bitterness. Cool stuff, a very good one. Price is per 375 ml.
This is 8 year old 100% rye Canadian whisky that Fremont Mischief distillery imports and bottles. Congratulations are due: the rye spice-vanilla aromas are strongly similar to their younger, own-make whiskey reviewed below. The extra age shows: this is Canadian-mellow, not a fiery American rye, even at 45%. All the spice is there, and the floral/grassy complexity, but there are more rich oak notes, and a high, arching finish that sustains the whiskey on the palate.
A nose of hot cereal with a dusting of dry cocoa and oaky vanilla, and hints of figs and sesame oil. The palate yields clean grains — a real crack of rye among them — and oak, dried apricot, unsweetened licorice, and a long finish of warming rich cereal. Strikingly clean and non-cloying for Canadian, sweet but not overdone. Good for mixing, but equally good for sipping; a nice end-of-day dram. (Sold as both Very Old and 18 Year Old.)
Three batches of malt, smoked separately with peat, cherry wood, and beech. The nose is Islay-reminiscent peat, with some beech bacon under it, but the top is all cherry; very rewarding. For all the nose, the mouth is relatively mild; mostly juicy malt up front, then opening to the peat fire in the middle, the beech crowding around the sides, and the cherry floating overtop like a good pipe tobacco. Smooth, smoky finish. Compelling.
The .36 Small Caliber was one of the best young small-barrel bourbons I’ve ever had, so I was very much looking forward to this 3 year, 8 month old bottling from “traditional large barrels.” Aroma: like a 12 year old bourbon: oak spice, corn sweet. Not hot, spice and vanilla, smooth but oaky, with a light, flowing feel. A unique combination of youth and maturity that opens the “Texas whiskey” niche a bit wider. (Spec’s exclusive)
The U.S.-released Dark Batch is, if not the same whisky as the Canadian-released Dark Horse (both from Alberta Distillers), a very close cousin. It is dark; it’s 1% sherry, which brings the intense dried fruit notes along with cedar and a bright, pleasantly musky note. More Canadians should break the 80 proof barrier: this booms into the mouth, throwing wood, cereal, fruit, and sunshine around. Good to sip, bold in a cocktail, holds its own on ice, nice price.
Bitter, oily, medicinally minty rye in the nose, and a pleasant undercurrent of oaky vanilla. Brisk, hot rye mixes furiously with wood notes, pear and berry esters, and a light grainy sweetness; a madly busy whiskey that’s quite fun on the palate. The finish is minty and grassy, wrapped in oak, but somewhat quick. Interesting, and delicious.
Ages range from 4 to 16 year old whiskeys; seven types of cask, 100% malt (mashed at Sierra Nevada Brewing). Solid, hefty malt nose with fruit dressing and a fleeting hint of baking spices. A much weightier, more serious whiskey this year; the malt is meaty, savory, with an edge from the wine oak, and even a hint of brine toward the end. I miss last year’s balance and relaxed nature, though; there’s an air of trying too hard here. (3,000 bottles)
Rich aroma of vanilla and corn, crimped and spiced with oak. Authoritative strength, full and solid; sharp oak and dry mint, with vanilla and cornbread arriving toward the finish, which is the only jarring note. There's too much woody bite at the close. Still, very much a sipping whiskey; don't put anything but a bit of water or a single cube of ice in this. By far, the best of the Total Wine store brands I've received. Sourced whiskey.
McCarthy's Oregon Single Malt (Batch W13-01), 42.5%
Craft Whiskey | $55
3 year old peated malt whisky, aged in Oregon oak. Rich nose of peat—burning leaves, a touch of sweet diesel—and fresh oak. There's no stinting on the peat; it's young, it's in your face. Whiskey to stand toe-to-toe with Portland's hopped-to-blazes beers. Not just peat: creamy malt makes a solid floor and an exit that may be the most complex part of the experience. Refined for a 3 year old. Limited annual release.
Finger Lakes Distilling rye whiskey infused with Catskill Mountains honey. The nose is grassy, oily rye whiskey, and the honey’s there mostly as a rounder, richer character enhancer. It’s much more present in the mouth, merging very nicely indeed with the rye. There’s authentic, delicious honey flavor here, and it’s balanced beautifully as the rye keeps it from being sticky or oversweet. An excellent and interesting flavored whiskey; up there with the best examples of the category.
Good nose: fresh-ground corn, warm oak, and light cinnamon. Impressively friendly even at full proof: corn pudding, sun-warmed oak plank, rich and nuanced cinnamon spice, a powerful engine running strong. A splash of water brings out some sweet berries, revs up the oak and pulls out more spice, and opens up the finish into a full-throated roar of oak, corn, and sweet citrus. This is what happens when you let a good barrel run at full throttle. Sourced whiskey. (Kentucky only)
Diageo has “brought I.W. Harper home” after years of absence from the U.S. market with this bottling and a base bottling (see below). The source is “new” Bernheim, but with a different mashbill from the base; this is 86% corn. Nose is warm corn and oak, with some spicy clove and cinnamon notes. Great medium-weight body and balance, palate repeats the nose, oaky-sweet finish; well-integrated whiskey. But my eyes pop at the price.
Plenty of color, and the nose says it ain’t lying. Sharp warehouse oak aroma puts an edge on an authoritative nose of honey, Indian pudding, spicy hard candy, and old-fashioned root beer, the not-too-sugary kind. Fiery and bold on the tongue as oak roars from start to finish, but the sweetness builds sip-by-sip: cornbread, buckwheat honey, King syrup, and a teasy bit of citrus peel. Long finish as the oak dies down. At this price, let’s keep it our secret. Sourced whiskey.
“Tennessee bourbon” at 8 years, 3 months, and barrel proof. This and Batch 006 are the same whiskey, the same age, from different warehouse floors. Smooth sweet nose of oak and hot corn. Quite spicy on the tongue, hard-dancing oak vaults high in the mouth over a strong, sweet body. Solid oaky finish. Honest and foursquare as a Tennessee farmer; no surprises, but no disappointments either. Sourced whiskey.
This Dry Fly Distilling project is made from grains grown in Washington by farmer Tim O'Danaher [note that different spellings are correct]. Off to a good start: a luxuriously sweet cereal aroma puffs out of the glass as I pour, and adds softened dried fruits and hard candy when actively nosed. The new American oak (53-gallon barrel) is evident immediately, tempering the sweetness with spice, walnuts, and a hard woodiness. Finish is long, balanced, enticing. Definitely enjoyable as a sipper; an interesting new direction.
New York Distilling's 3 year old rye is made with a 72/16/12% mashbill (rye/corn/malt) and aged in 53-gallon barrels. The rye is organic and non-GMO. Nose is clean, rich with grassy, bitter rye aroma and a nice dash of mint. Mouth is smooth but assertive: bitter-minty, a bit oily, and the wood arrives near the end. Quite nicely balanced, delivers what a rye should, and would make an excellent cocktail as well.
Burnt sugar, wet raisins, oakspice, and a deep, underlying grain character. Flavors are wonderfully integrated: corn, malt, mellow syrup, hints of ripe plum and grape, wrapped in a light confection. Finish is light, warm, and lingering. Forty Creek releases a limited edition whisky every fall; this one focuses on grains rather than wood, according to distiller John Hall. Canadian distribution only.
Woodford Reserve Master’s Collection 1838 Style White Corn Bourbon, 45.2%
Bourbon/Tennessee | $100
Fresh-shucked sweet corn on the nose, a wisp of hot clove spice, some fresh grassiness; a clean aroma. True on the palate, with a bit of fresh cob as well, and firm oak. Lean and a bit leathery in the Woodford style, but lighter in the mouth; is the lightness from the white corn? I like this; I tend to give Woodford a bit more latitude in these essays.
After regular bourbon maturation, this is finished in a barrel made from toasted wood with no charring (and no age statement). The wood character of the nose is restrained; corn, vanilla, some nuts and light citrus, but just a light hint of oak spice. Complex mouth: corn pudding, cornmeal, sugar cookies, caramel, pawpaw, jackfruit, and a real creaminess that stretches into the finish…where we get the delayed oak. Mature whiskey smooth, young whiskey lively, and a good price, too. Sourced whiskey.
Rye whiskey has gone hip. This is a new offering from Beam Global Spirits and Wines, but it is not part of the Jim Beam portfolio. It will be its own new entity. It's crisp and vibrantly spicy, but with a rich, silky sweetness that marries very well with the rye intensity. It is exactly what I think it was designed to be: a mature enough rye whiskey that can be enjoyed neat or on the rocks, but with plenty of youth and vitality to zing in a cocktail. I tasted it next to a couple of the other ''entry level'' straight rye whiskeys to confirm this isn't all just fancy packaging, and it is indeed a superior product. No, it's not one of those ultra-aged rye whiskeys on the market, but it wasn't meant to be either. A nice whiskey, but pricey for a rye with no age statement.
Not burning my nose; mild bread and vanilla aromas. Peppy stuff, but not explosive on the palate; easily held five seconds on the tongue, but fiery once it gets aerated. Sweet grain with a big saw-toothed edge of cinnamon and hot vanilla, and a circling brim of zingy mint that tightens toward the finish. Pretty interesting stuff for wheat whiskey; a more expressive nose would seal the deal. Price is per 375ml.
This 100% rye whiskey was distilled at Fremont Mischief, and aged in oak. The flinty-minty rye spice blows right out at you, with a ripple of oaky vanilla. Beautiful youthful rye spirit, with crackling rye spiciness, sweet floral notes, and hints of horehound candy. The finish is a bit disappointing — fading somewhat quickly — but mainly because the rest of it's so good. Great price for mellowness in this category, too.
After twelve years, it’s time for a revisit. No age statement; aged in a variety of woods. The whiskey is a pale gold and has a pleasantly sweet and layered nose; honeycomb, dried apricot, sugar cookies, and hints of an ice wine richness. It’s a bit hot for 43%, which robs the palate of some complexity, but that honeyed fruit and cookie is there in the mouth, too. Overall, quite nice indeed.
This one’s calling to me; I can smell the rich nose from a foot away. Freshly-sieved cornmeal, sharp oak aromas, and spice cake in the nose. Good body, a bit warm (expected from the proof), and a mouthful of
cracked corn, piecrust, sun-warmed meadow-mint, and vanilla. Finish is firm and leaner than the mouth, drawn out nicely. Belle Meade is currently sourced from MGP; Green Brier hopes to have their distillery up this year.
Sweet, warm, grassy, like a sunny day on the prairie. The alcohol heat quickly yields to a grass/mint sweetness—this is high-rye stuff—that picks up some oily rye notes as it slides into a finish that is both bitter and sweet without being bittersweet; the components remain discrete, not blending. Quite nice, and reasonably priced. Sourced whiskey (with the 95% rye mashbill that’s an LDI/MGP signature).
Now here’s an interesting mashbill: 73% malted rye, 13.5% chocolate malt, and 13.5% cherry-smoked malt. Nose is an arresting mix of bitter, grassy rye and smoky dark chocolate; abrupt, but it grows on you. It’s all there on the palate, too: rye oil, sweet malt, cherry smoke, pipe tobacco, raw oak. This is rambunctious stuff, with an intense but not hot finish, a very craft-beer whiskey. Unlike similarly shouty bottlings, this one has something to say as it shouts.
Label: “BeanBall Bourbon – Tennessee Straight Bourbon Whiskey.” Believed to be from Dickel, but no confirmation; just the huge cracked corn component in the nose, which should be all you need. My, that’s tasty as it spreads like warm oil over the tongue, hot corn spirit spiked hard with oak. Good oak, dried corn, and a snap of mint in the finish. Nice selection…and interesting labeling in light of the recent Tennessee whiskey definition squabbles. Sourced whiskey.
Made with green malt: not kilned, taken just as it’s ready from malting to be fermented and distilled, timing that accounts for some of the price and limited availability of this unique spirit. Smells like a shed full of drying herbs and flowers; vegetal souls transmigrated to the bottle. Herbal, European, restrained barrel character, headily vaporous in the mouth. An invigorating elixir I’d like to keep handy in a small flask; a little goes a long way. Fascinatingly different. Price is per 375 ml.
Coppersea uses New York grain (75% rye, 25% malt), mashed in wooden tanks and distilled in direct-fire copper pot stills. This unaged spirit is highly aromatic: hay, sunny meadow, hints of lavender and tansy, honeydew melon. Brilliantly herbal flavors, sweet grass, gobs of white pepper, lemon balm, and a long-lingering sweet heat. Almost more like an eau de vie than a whiskey, with layer upon layer to discover. Heretical thought: this might be wasted on a barrel.
“Local heirloom rye grains” are distilled (less than half a mile from the Monongahela River) in a copper alembic, aged 14 months, bottled at cask strength. Has a beautiful ruddy glow. Clean, focused nose of fresh rye grain, spicy-sweet with a nip of bitter oil in the back. Not a barn-burner, even at 56%, but brimful with rye spice, rye oiliness, and rye mint, and not over-oaked, either, as the finish closes evenly. A bit direct, but very nicely done!
A nose like Big Red gum—juicy-sweet cinnamon—and some sweet dough, with sharp alcohol heat. Hot as expected on the tongue, but exciting: more cinnamon and sweetness—like snickerdoodles—with wet corn, a touch of bitter oil, and hot spearmint. Adding water eases the heat, and brings out the oak. Good stuff, if a bit simple. Sourced whiskey.
Less driving aroma than Batch 005; lower floor? Both are a mashbill of 70/26/4% corn/rye/malt. More corn and cinnamon and bread dough in the nose here. A lot like 005, but more sweet cornmeal, less spice, less height in the mouth, and the finish is sweeter and longer. Might be that farmer’s younger brother; this one’s only 8 years old. Still good, a bit less complex. Sourced whiskey.
Clear and unaged in a tall, thin, grappa-like 375 ml bottle; “Afterburner” is a bit intimidating as a name. “Distilled from grain and fermented with hops.” Nose of new make and hops, with aromas of rhubarb and fresh blood. Herbal and refreshing on the palate, bitter with the hops, a certain resiny stickiness to it. Much more than just new make; almost tonic-like. Nicely done!
NJOY Spirits makes this 100% rye from locally-grown rye, some of which they grow themselves…in Florida! It is approximately 1 year old, and quite dark. There’s a medicinal, dark pit fruit nose, overripe plum with some lighter red plum notes, a soft sweetness around the edges, and a hint of small barrel oak. Wow. Surprisingly smooth, up-front rye flavors, cushioned with a pleasantly odd sweetness with notes of cocoa and a soft rye finish. Intriguing.
“Vatted” from five 4 to 15 year old straight ryes from Canada, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Indiana, in an old-timey bottle. Classic spice-candy-bitter nose leaps out of the glass with 100 proof heat; friendly. Easily drinkable at this proof, well-integrated rye oil and grain sweetness, some cinnamon and dried apple, and the barrel rolls in on the finish. A neatly-wrapped package, and not crazy on the price. Sourced whiskey.
Insistent honey nose, with whisky underneath; the honey is very forward, but still floral and light, fresh. Flavor is pleasant: floral, faintly herbal, and more honey, but again, light and fresh, not cloying, not heavy. There’s a hint of citrus in the finish, and then, finally, there is a slightly sticky character. Not something a single malt drinker would likely reach for, but a respectable entry in the field of flavored whisky.
Smells like bourbon—corn, a bit of cinnamon, oak—but there’s something else: a touch of doughy sweetness, a note of straight wood, a twist. Light and pleasant, with enough heat to keep it respectable (and likely alive in a cocktail); all the usual suspects are here, but without the heavier oak character. Afternoon bourbon.
High West has a second version of Valley Tan. The “Utah oat whiskey” was distilled to 87.5% (about the same proof as single pot still Irish, and technically a “light whiskey”), aged 2 to 4 years in new and used cooperage. A light golden color; nose is somewhat spicy, with a licorice/peppermint tinge and some alcohol heat. It's quite smooth, almost Irish in its drinkability, with grainy notes graced with that light peppermint and biscuit sweetness. Pleasant sipper indeed.
Bear Republic’s Racer 5 IPA has long been a beloved California craft beer. Charbay distiller Marko Karakasevic liked it so much he made whiskey from it. The Clear (aged 22 months in stainless tanks) sings with hoppy citrus zest and pine notes set in a sweet background. It’s nicely nuanced in the mouth, though, with a creamy body that sparkles with bitter orange and grapefruit floating over understated malt. Preferred over his Doubled & Twisted; this is more sophisticated.
After 6 years aging in charred new oak, and 8 years in “non-oak vessels” (stainless tanks), there’s a nose of oak, cedar, tart red plums, gooseberries, and fresh putty, but none of the heat you’d expect. Explosive in the mouth: sweet fruit and dry oak slam-dance and set off a surprising burst of hops (wash was craft-brewed pilsner). Exciting stuff, but a bit hot, even with water. (2,713 bottles released)
Sweet reek of the warehouse; sugary bourbon drooling and drying on oak staves, the richly boozy air, dusty wood. It’s all here, like Bardstown in a bottle. Enters with authority, a hot rush of corn, solidly oak-edged, sizzling with allspice and cinnamon, and backed with a solid strop of leather. Then the sun comes up: a sweet, glowing finish. Beautifully bridges the gap between young and old bourbon, and an absolute steal at the price.
Certified organic, “aged under four years.” Oak is forward on the nose—young and fresh-sawn—with sweet spicy hard candies: cinnamon and teaberry. Juicy in the mouth: sweet, springing with that spice-fruit bounce off an oak board. Rye oil hides in the back, then slides forward with the oak to take over the finish. Dynamic. I haven't been a big Koval fan, but we're definitely on the right path here.
Catoctin Creek’s first malt whiskey, made from wash brewed by Heritage Brewing of Manassas, Va., aged in used Catoctin Creek whiskey barrels. Light floral notes, fresh-cut pencil lead, oak sawdust on the nose. Sweet and floral, but with a firm backbone of oak and dry malt, leading to a finish of candied oak: juicy-sweet but hard-cored. The profile is definitely Catoctin Creek whiskey, which is great to see in a young distillery trying something new. Well done. (344 bottles, distillery only)
Hot wet oak, berries, Red Hots, and wet cornmeal. Closer to the nose, it’s sharper and woodier. Lots of wood on the entry, but sweet corn and cloved hard candy, too, with heat from the 100 proof that lingers through the oaky finish. At 7 years, this is extra-spicy, and a touch of water tames the heat and the oak. Bowman’s still finding its way, but the path seems right.
A hot and spicy nose: dry rye, sweet mint, and alcohol heat. Hot on the tongue too, with the mint flashing across an oily graininess. The finish is where it finally cools down, laying down thin layers of sweet mint and light chocolate on the palate. Water tames the heat and brings out more chocolate, but steals that nice finish. Not overly approachable, but…it’s rye.
That’s “.36” as in ’36 caliber,’ the first of this Texas distiller’s Small Caliber Series of Texas bourbon whiskeys. Sharpish on the nose with some hot alcohol, cinnamon, and oak, warmed by burnt sugar and vanilla. A kick of hot oak spice on the tongue, a flush of hot, dry corn, and flashes of mint and vanilla, then a long, spicy finish with more dry mint. One of the better young bourbons — only 8 months — I’ve had. Price is per 375 ml.
This was barrel-aged for a year, then “brightened” to white clarity; just the slightest hint of amber remains. But the aging has taken away the shouty greenness of new make; the nose is clean, a light blend of corn and woodsy vanilla. Sweet flavors bubble on the tongue: coconut, circus peanuts, peanut butter fudge, vanilla, jellybeans. The finish lingers in corn and rye. There’s more than meets the eye here, and it’s priced for impulsive experimentation.
Full oaky nose, with the brash power of youth. Zingy and bright, with corn, sweet and hot mint, chunky oak, and a warm, spicy-sweet finish. On the front edge of the bell curve for 4 to 6 year old bourbons; plenty of spunk. Not for someone who wants a mellow glass, this one's lively. Sourced whiskey.
Cody Road Single Barrel Bourbon (Barrel 120,184), 52.5%
Craft Whiskey | $45
A 70/20/10% mashbill (corn/wheat/malt), aged 32 months. A sweet corn, citrus-tipped nose, not as hot as expected. Hot on the tongue, though, and spreads like fire. Dynamic balance of sweet corn and spicy candy with crimping oak spice and alcohol heat. Finish is like fireworks: a rush to an explosion of sweet, oaky heat in the back of the mouth, with a slow spark rain that sparkles on the tongue. Exciting.
While it’s not technically a grain, buckwheat makes great pancakes, so buckwheat whiskey? Otay! This has an earthy aroma of hickory nuts and autumn leaves with some cinnamon peeking through; reminds me of Corsair’s quinoa whiskey. There’s a cushioned, creamy mouthfeel, more raw nuts, a keen of oak, a sweet lift through the mouth, and at the end, the leaves and more oak. Unique, intriguing, compelling; I keep going back for one more taste. Price is per 375 ml.
Razor-sharp aromas of clove, seasoned wood, and dried grass push firmly out of the glass. Hard-edged grain and spice continue on the palate, but without the harshness you might expect from young whiskey with such a bold nose. It softens toward the finish and becomes sweeter, with a hint of buttery fudge, then develops an oaky dryness at the end. Impressive young whiskey.
Sweet malt, old fruit pastilles (less intense), and subtle mesquite smoke. Unlike some craft smoked whiskeys, this doesn’t grab you by the throat; it’s enticing. Bigger on the tongue, but still not overwhelming, and there’s some dark, spicy chocolate and pepper coming out.
Mild and mellow nose of corn and oak, with a bit of warehouse reek, and a light, cleanly earthy note. Smooth and sweet in the mouth, with sweet cornmeal and sunny meadowgrass, a touch of candied cinnamon. A very friendly and easy-going bourbon, not too young, not too old. Sourced whiskey.
A blend: 89% 2 year 6 month old MGP bourbon, 11% 3 year old McKenzie rye. Other batches are different whiskeys. Sweet nose: some cinnamon and allspice, dried hay and “clear toy” candies. Hot on the tongue, with the spicy, peppery intensity of youth (and rye), and roars right on through to the end, where oak appears to add gravity to the finish. This would rock in a cocktail.
More nose than on the Reserve (see below); no surprise. Sweet spicy candy, alcohol heat, and oak. The spicy candy—clove, cinnamon, allspice—blooms in the mouth, firing up oak and corn, with a meaty fullness and a warming finish. Quite a bit more complex and interesting than the Reserve. Sourced whiskey.
Spicy, buttery nose (“aged six months with oak staves”) with some oak plank notes. Hey, that's pretty tasty! Rye character is spicy, forward, and flows surely right into the nicely warm finish. Michigan-grown rye done in a pot still in downtown Detroit, about a mile and a half from the Hiram Walker plant. Good young rye; one to watch.
A.D. Laws Origins Bottled in Bond Four Grain Bourbon, 50%
Craft Whiskey | $75
Same mashbill as the Laws Four Grain, aged 4 years. Hard, dry corn aromas; no sulfur. Hot, straightforward corn and oak, with active spices. One of the leanest, most austere young bourbons I’ve ever tasted; no compromises, no lush sweetness: savory bourbon. The finish is great: tingling and tasty for a long time after the swallow. Not a bonded for cocktails; sip this.
A.D. Laws Secale Straight Rye Single Barrel (#29) Cask Strength, 55%
Craft Whiskey | $90
Mashbill of 95% rye, 5% malt; both Colorado-sourced. Aged 3 years in full-size barrels. Same grass and spice in the nose as the Straight Rye, but a sweet, almost sherry-like note as well. Flavors are similar—rye grain, bitter oil, alcohol heat—but there’s an added hit of dry cocoa, more heat, and a better, non-sticky finish with a grudging hint of sweetness at the end. Dialed up overall.
Scottish Highland malt whisky (from an undisclosed source; no age given), finished in Virginia, in Virginia port barrels. Rich port fumes hit the nose, malt’s in the background. Well-behaved in the mouth, not overly hot or obviously youthful, and the malt’s oily and luscious, with a nice port wrapper. Finish is cleanly integrated, without any heavy wood. Nice whiskey, interesting idea. Sourced whiskey.
A 5 year old rye whisky made in Lawrenceburg, Ind. (with the signature LDI 95% rye mashbill) that went through the Lincoln County Process after aging. A somewhat anemic nose, lightly grassy; sweet with edges of mint, vanilla, and oatmeal. The mouth is more rewarding; the rye’s bitter spice and sweet mint emerge to flame across the tongue. It’s very easy to drink, with a flare of oily mint intensity at the finish. Good, but you expect more from Dickel.
Nose is much more integrated than the others; caramel and light honey tones with an oaky vein. After four CCs that were sequentially innocent, clumsy, eager, and balanced, this one is confident: well-rounded, sweet but not goopy, oaked but not prickly. Well-named: this is a classic Canadian.
Very grassy, with dry earth and pink peppercorn layered in, but none of the heat you’d expect from unaged 92 proof rye. Very well-behaved on the tongue; oily, bittersweet, with the 95% rye mash rolling like an unhurried river, one long, smooth wave of rye flavor. A whiskey like this could be called too simple, but this is strikingly single-minded. A likely candidate for cocktails at the price.
The old Beam rye never got a lot of respect from aficionados. It’s been pulled, reformulated, and repackaged. Let’s try it. Smell: sweet grass and pepper. Taste: hot, flashy, sweet on top, with rye oiliness underneath, a tickling bitterness that blends well with oak into the finish. The higher proof plays well, giving this a punch of flavor the old yellow label didn’t have, and at a good price. It’s Manhattan time! Value Pick
Wheats have a fruitier nose than bourbons, it seems, and this is no exception. Gentle, almost delicate fruits on the nose: white grapes, honeydew melon, baked apple. So smooth on the palate: sweet pastry, light baked apple, a nice oak grip keeping it all together. Sip it straight, or build a big highball with just a splash of soda on the ice. Such a friendly whiskey.
Warm, delicate vapors curl from the glass: dry grain, sweet orange peel, honey candy, but all of it ethereally light. Quick in the mouth, makes other whiskeys seem heavy with wood. Sweet grain is the base of the structure, with a skin of soft citrus candy and custard notes. Wood is mostly present as a lightweight frame, almost like a zeppelin framework containing delicate volumes of flavor. This is craft, charting a new course.
Big Bottom Bourbon (finished in Zinfandel casks), 45.5%
Craft Whiskey | $35
Sourced whiskey, selected then finished by Big Bottom in Zin casks at their Oregon warehouse. Ruby glint to the whiskey, and a big, sweet, hot nose with a wine-side fruity slant to it. Wine’s more apparent
on the palate; there’s a bit of oak bite and red wine tang heating up the bourbon, which is broad, without obvious corn. The corn appears in the finish, which is firm and gripping. The Zinfandel finish is well-played here.
Another MGP/LDI-sourced whiskey: but New Holland finishes it in oak barrels that they’ve used to age their Dragon’s Milk imperial stout, an interesting reversal of the bourbon barrel-aged beers brewers are making. It gives a dark wood nose with cinnamon and hot fruit. The whiskey’s a bit light in the mouth but enticingly smooth, a flow of corn, wood, and anise that flares up at the finish in a nice rush of heat. Quite good…but not great.
Sharp, even a bit of a sour edge, and some stemmy grass. Sweet and chewy grain in the mouth, with a nice touch of oily rye bitterness, some hot oak that quirks the tongue a bit, then a finish that melts into creaminess.
Maryland, Monongahela, and, I guess, Modern are the American rye styles. Maryland was a gentler rye, less spicy, and not as hot/sweet as modern rye. This has the dry-grass spice of rye, a hint of cocoa powder, and a bit of funk that blows away to hints of fruit. Light and clean on the palate, some sweetness that rapidly dries out in a grassy, herbal wave. Intriguing, without being overwhelming.
Chopped vanilla beans were added to barrels of Bowman bourbon (in varying amounts); the barrels were married after 24 months and bottled. The nose has soft vanilla and sweet orange; it's almost soothing, balm-like. Vanilla is not at all overpowering in the mouth, but shows more as a richness around the edges. Otherwise, a good, sprightly bourbon with a nice citrus and oak finish; like to try this in a cocktail.
Well-named: hops aroma comes flying right out of the glass — green pine and light peppermint — along with hot, sweet booze, but it’s a very clean scent, not feinty or heavy. The whiskey itself is quite light, not overbearing, and sweet with more pine and mint, along with a very pure malt character and a light touch of oaky vanilla. This is IPA booze, a rain-pure version, and more barrel could ruin it. Great gateway whiskey for a beer geek.
A “mesquite smoked Texas single malt whiskey,” this is a distillation of Ranger Creek’s Mesquite Smoked Porter. If you’re expecting to get shot out of the saddle, surprise: the aroma is quite delicate, with light mesquite, malt, melon, and butterscotch. The mesquite strikes first in the mouth—ashy, drying, a bit medicinal—followed by the cooler, sweeter malt and melon, and a hint of the chocolate malts in the porter. Another good young (6 months) whiskey from Ranger Creek. Price is per 375ml.
A new Small Caliber Series bottling, distilled from 100% rye. Nose gives rye dough, mint candies, and a push of rye oil and crushed grass. Punchy and perky on the tongue, hot and spicy young rye character with black pepper and bitter rye slicing through a sweet body; quite dynamic. Ranger Creek makes exciting whiskeys, for sure, and this one shows an increasing talent for balance. Price is per 375 ml.
Oddly smoky nose that grows on you — this is blue corn smoked with Texas scrub oak — you can smell burnt oak and light wreathings of corn. The first jolt is jalapeño without the heat, followed by a cornbread rush with a very light riff of smoke. The smoke builds to the finish and curls nicely around the corn. A very different whiskey experience; one I could get to like (could I try some with a plate of brisket?).
Sweet corn and dried cherries on the nose; pleasantly, quirkily intense. The palate is clean, sweet with corn and a hint of those cherries, framed by oak, and leads to a finish with no surprises: corn, oak, and a slight clench of heat. It’s almost predictable: there are no real flaws, but there’s no greatness, either. Still, solid delivery is a good thing. (sourced whiskey) —LB
There’s that 95% rye mashbill that tags this as an LDI-sourced rye…but it’s been finished in French oak white wine barrels. Pepper, warm ripe red plum, sweet vanilla, and a slice of nougat make for a sweet and urgent nose. The rye blows up in the mouth, lots more peppery spice, some flashy mint, and a thin, honeyed sweetness that hints at the nougat. Finish is a bit clingy, but a nice young rye with an interesting difference. (sourced whiskey)
Still Waters blends sourced whiskey with under 9.09% of their own young spirit as top dressing (hence the name; it’s one part in eleven). Sweet cereal, honey, and flowers on the nose, which become much more authoritative in the mouth. Still sweet, but with a firm thump on the tongue, hot thin honey, crushed flower petals, and a lively, welcome heat for 40%. Clean, cereal-honey finish. Could be a bit more robust, but I like it fine as it is. (Ontario exclusive)C$35
Appropriately caramel-colored. The smell of caramel and taffy pushes out of the glass, but as you get closer, there’s the fresh green snap of clear corn whiskey laced through it like fruit in your dessert (with an authoritative boozy crack to it). Nothing’s overpowering on the palate — a swirling, balanced ride of sweet candy, fresh corn, and estery booze — but the finish sings a clear, pure note of…salted caramel. This could teach flavored vodkas a thing or two.
All-malt, double pot-distilled, aged 2 years in new, charred, 53 gallon oak barrels. Nose has cereal and muted apple notes, some light grassiness, youthful. Exciting on the palate: hard candy, vanilla, oaky spice, hints of maple; it’s a jubilance that doesn’t end, but doesn’t get tiresome like some sugar-high toddler either. Finish is just more of the same, which is okay, but mildly disappointing. Well done, but quite pricey. Price is per 375ml.
More pale than other crafts I usually see; the whiskey is 12 to 21 months old and spends time serially in wine casks, medium toast American oak barrels, and finally “very experienced” French oak. Smell is
quite young, but clean, with notes of orange and rye grain, and a whiff of nutty toffee. Quite a lively mouth, with much more toffee, less orange, a hint of odd spice (cardamom?), and a twist of milk chocolate at the finish. Interesting stuff.
A wheater, 70/20/10 corn/wheat/malt, barrel proof, and 32 months old. A rich corn nose, with some wood notes and a slightly antiseptic sting of alcohol heat. Young in the mouth—cinnamon candy, a bit meaty—but all the right pieces are in place: warmth, corn, oak spice, and a smooth progression to the warm finish. Good already, and showing even more promise.
Here’s something interesting: all-malt, but not all barley malt, there’s some rye and wheat malt as well. The rye pokes through as fresh grassy notes, struggling with the young barrel character. Detonates on the palate: spice, fudge, vanilla, grain, and oak. This is brash, loud stuff, broad-shouldered, insistent, and cocky. Could find favor with the hophead clan of craft beer drinkers. You’d think it could use some taming, but given a chance, its boldness is appealing.
The aroma is rich with pumpkin pie notes and a strong citrus component. There’s eight tons of actual pumpkin in the year’s run of this seasonal; impressive, and you can smell the roasted gourd. The whiskey’s not sickly sweet as feared, but more like a homemade, sugarless pumpkin pie, almost savory. The flavor is solid, rich, and integrates well. For what it is, it’s done well, and it’s done boldly. I’d maybe back off the orange a bit.
Interesting that the label says “Artfully Aged,” yet there’s no actual age statement. Lively nose, good rye snap and spice, a bit of mint and oaky edge. Not hot, well-behaved on the tongue, and happily gives back everything taken on the nose. Sweet, spicy, and easy to like, this is whiskey without flaw, well-done and tasty, if not overly ambitious or challenging.
Made from an Irish whiskey recipe from 1865 (“dug up” by David Wondrich), with malt, raw barley, rye malt, and rolled oats, distilled in an alembic pot still. Amber with a distinct red/pink cast to it. Very fruity nose—greengage plum, mulberry, sweet orange—with creamy vanilla. Tastes of sweet cereal with a firm bitter keel; the fruit returns as an echo in the finish. A very craft beer-like whiskey; challenging, interesting, unexpected. A bit brash, but worth investigating.
Wigle’s also doing a series of finishing experiments with the addition of honeycombed wood chunks to their organic wheat whiskey; this one uses white ash. Sweeter nose than the straight-up wheat whiskey (see below); mouth is cleaner, and the astringency I noted on the end is ameliorated. All a matter of degrees though; quite similar to the regular wheat whiskey. Price is per 375 ml.
The first bourbon made in Pennsylvania in over 25 years, using locally-grown, organic Wapsie Valley dent corn, which comes in yellow and maroon; a 1 year old bottling. The aroma is distinctive: deep mint, clove, and red plum. Warming and sweet, then broadening on the palate, the corn becomes prominent. Finish is hot, but tasty. This is a young one, with promise.
Organic Pennsylvania-grown rye, 3 years old, pot-distilled a 20-minute walk from the Monongahela River. Nose: sharp rye and hard oak, floral wreathing, but not hair-crispingly hot. Oh, nice rye mouth, flavorful, not overly bitter, the oak’s held in check, and there’s a minty sweetness to it. Finish is well-tempered, until a note of perfume sneaks in at the end.
Big mint/grass nose with sweet grain and a touch of vanilla behind it. Fiery, slippery with rye oiliness, popping with that mint, and rye-bitter on the finish; a bit of a bully. That's not all bad, though; too many ryes strive to be smooth these days, but this lets it rock, and does it well. A chunk of ice doesn't hurt this at all. Potent, bold. Sourced whiskey.
Wyoming Whiskey (Kirby, Wyo.) is making bourbon from Wyoming grain, on a column still, aged in full-sized barrels...in the Wyoming climate. Minty, grassy, meadow-varied plants; a bit of cedar and old clothes. Mouth is fuller, with more corn sweetness and balance than the small batch (see below). Notes of sweet citrus, rye punchiness, and that cedar flit by quickly in the mouth, and the finish is long and smooth. Much preferred over the small batch.
Bright grainy rye in the nose, bitter and green, with contrasting streak of sweet cola. Quite balanced in the mouth; the rye is more savory and saves the bitter spark for the finish, the sweetness less obvious, the body neither featherweight nor heavy. That’s really not bad at all. Sourced whiskey.
Aged 2 years, 1 month in 53-gallon charred oak barrels, it's straight. So's the nose: green, herbal and oily with rye, and backed by oak. Mouth is honest: youthfully zesty rye flavors, grassy freshness, oak and alcohol warmth, and a savory rye finish. Nothing gets in the way of a pure experience. Good young rye.
Good bourbon nose—oak, corn, allspice, a little sweet citrus—but some solvent notes flitting around too. Feisty in the mouth; warming, punchy oak, softer pillow-thumps of corn, and some bitter rye notes. More rye comes out as it sits. Finish is long and warm. Good young bourbon; priced like a good older bourbon. Craft still presents some hard choices.
Same specs as the Secale Rye Single Barrel (see above). Grassy nose, spicy hard candy, hot mint, and split-rock dryness. Dry rye grain, a tweak of bitterness, and alcohol heat. Finish is a bit oily/sticky. Good example of the modern MGP-inspired rye interpretation: grain-forward and no-nonsense.
Is it whiskey? Sorghum’s a grain, but sorghum syrup is pressed from the stalk of the plant. But HighWire Distilling uses Muddy Pond sorghum syrup, which mashes the grain in with the stalk. So…we’ll say yes, whiskey. Spritely on the tongue: lively and quick, sweet but spicy with oak, and not an off note. Crying for a cube and a shot of seltzer. Whiskey? Probably. Good? Yes!
Quite a bit darker than most other whisky creams. Chocolate and caramel—on the burnt side, an interesting difference—in the nose, with a sly hint of whisky behind it. Sweet and creamy, a bit clingy, with just a sting of whisky. Somewhat generic, though, because that interesting dark caramel is in the nose only, and I’d like this to be a bit more distinctive; more Forty Creek. Still pleasant enough for booze candy! C$29
Aged 10 years in icewine barrels — a Canadian specialty — and like icewine, comes in a tiny bottle. Sweet malt aromas, some grape character, with a brandy-like edge slicing through it. The high proof comes through as evaporative rather than hot, and it’s quite drinkable undiluted: some creaminess even, and some of that sweet icewine intensity to it. A drop of water brings more whisky out: bold, a bit hot. The icewine finishing is an experiment with promise. Price is per 250 ml.
“Mellow as moonlight” on the label; the old Cascade slogan, from the pre-Dickel branding days at Dickel. This is a throwback too; from before the barrel. The nose is full of sweet and fresh corn “cream” and cornbread, a nod to Dickel’s 84% corn mashbill. Some peppery notes join it on the palate, but that corn sweetness follows all the way to the end. One of the best white whiskeys I’ve tasted, and not overpriced.
Michter’s US*1 Unblended American Whiskey (2013 release), 41.7%
American Whiskey (Unspecified) | $43
Off-market for two years. Nose of caramel, sugar wafers, and a touch of just-ripe nectarine. Sweet/smooth in the mouth, with sweet mint, rock candy, and gliding King syrup flavors slipping all over the tongue, while oak notes provide high spiciness. Finishes with a lingering light sweetness, like a dissolving sugar flake. With all the sweetness, though, it doesn’t cloy. Nice, if not complex.
High West now has aged whiskey of their own make. This oat whiskey was aged “less than two years” in used cooperage, and that’s just what it looks like, about chardonnay color in the glass. The aroma is mellow and sweet, with a hint of flowers and grapes. Clean and surprisingly mellow sweet grain flavors, even a bit creamy, but the 46% delivers a high bite. Very nice finish. (Limited annual release in December.)
A toasty nose with bright citrus, spice, and oaky vanilla; you can feel the heat. Clearly Beam, but just as clearly different; there’s a flat spread to this, and a dry pull on the tongue and in the finish. Six-row barley has more husk to it, which can add tannins to beer; is there enough here to make a difference? It’s an interesting character, but it’s not all good. Price is per 375 ml.
Sweet, rich candy — pulled taffy, boiled sweets — with a little hot edge. Signature Canadian sweetness, but with more depth and a gently mouth-coating feel. Touches of vanilla, caramel, and some of those candy notes again, but the finish isn’t cloying. No overt evidence of the toasted maplewood finishing. Another exploration of what Canadian whisky is, or can be, that stays within bounds and makes the sweet whisky idea work.
Triticale is a wheat/rye hybrid, which I guess appealed to the wheat-mad Dry Fly distillers. Aromas of grass, bubble gum, and oak. Taste is young, brashly sweet, but smooth enough to spread easily over the tongue. There’s spice—light cinnamon, a zip of allspice heat—and grassy brightness, but they’re dressing on the juicy sweet center. Not flawed, and well-made, but I wish it had more to say. Price is per 375ml.
From Finger Lakes distilling; one of two craft ryes I’m revisiting this issue. An interesting aroma of dry hay, dried fruit, and burlap that’s appealing to anyone who’s spent time on a farm. Smooth but not laid-back on the tongue, there’s plenty of good stuff going on here. Peppery rye, some soft fruit, that fresh burlap, and an urgent but not unwelcome heat. Maybe a little overdone on the fruit, but well-done overall.
Oat, malt, rye, and wheat are the four organic grains (like you, I was instantly curious); nice amber color. Hot and sweet (with a hint of dill) on the nose, rafting in on a thick oak plank. Sweet grain, cut wood, and lingering heat make this good, but I'm looking for more complexity. There's no clear handle to this one, no “I'm bourbon,” or “I'm malt,” which is intriguing, but it's just...good, not inspiring. Odd complaint, but there you are.
Hot nose, plenty of rye spice — it is 100% rye — mint, bay leaf, sweet clove. Quite a kick, but there's good flavor behind it; more spice, oak, and a firm sweetness. The finish is quite quick, just some dry rye in the back of the mouth, and gone. Better-behaved than most Hudson whiskeys I've had; hardly mellow, but enjoyable. Price per 375 ml.
New Holland Double Down Barley Brewers' Whiskey, 45%
American Whiskey (Unspecified) | $35.00
Brazen stuff, blowing raw, fresh-sawn oak (six months in small, heavy char barrels) and cocoa/caramel right out of the glass. For all its youth, it's drinkable; hot, assertively oaky, but drinkable, thanks to the glowing depth of malt character in the glass. The oak's buoyed by rich, cocoa-tinged toffee, and the finish is like a very good hot chocolate. It's going like crazy; love to see where it would be in four years. Limited edition of 500 bottles. Price per 375 ml.
Peat-smoked American malt whiskey. Nose isn’t so much peaty-smoky as it is sweet and husky; like cocoa bean mulch that’s been rained on a few times. The smoke’s there on the tongue, though, beautifully restrained, light and sweet. For small-barrel whiskey, this is surprisingly subtle, and the dance of the smoke is enticing. The oak’s a bit sharp though, and clamps on the finish; points off there. Promising.
Sweet fresh corn and fruit—apple skins, white grapes, dried apricot—tangle with spicy cinnamon and circus peanuts. Quite smooth indeed, especially at 50%. Light toasted corn, like corn flakes cereal, with the spice and fruit leading to a subtly layered finish (oak, fruit, a bit of milk chocolate). A late-morning bourbon, easy and friendly.
Hot tropical fruit, warm band-aids, and a mix of Dum-Dum lollipops in the nose. More sweet and creamy on the palate, with a hint of the band-aids, and dry grip of oak at the end. A fairly quick drink, but a clean and layered one.
Distilled from 100% white winter wheat; pale straw. Salty dough and sweet, light canned fruit. Like grain whisky on the tongue: light, sweet, delicate, more fruit cocktail, and a hint of milk chocolate. A smooth and pleasant finish. Simple but delightful.
Is buckwheat a grain, seed, or nut? Doesn’t matter: you can malt it, so Corsair put it in their rye bourbon as a fourth…whatever. Aromas of corn, vanilla, and teaberry, with a pleasant broadness and light herbal notes. There’s a nutty note to the sweet corn and vanilla, and a move in the direction of astringency, but it’s intriguing, a definite plus. The layered finish has a woody nip to it, that dry earthiness, and sweet corn.
Distilled from imperial stout and “vapor infused” with hops, this is a bold example of Darek Bell’s “Alt Whiskeys.” Piney hops, hot toffee, and chocolate notes fill the nose. It’s a long ride on the palate: brisk spice first, then hops and hot malt, a mealy undercurrent that pulls you from a cocoa start to a hot and sweet finish, with a burnt note on the very end. Busy, but consistent.
A young (“minimum of 6 months”) rye, finished in California vermouth barrels. The results are polarizing; I’m in the “intriguingly tasty” camp. The nose: rye spice with herbal depth and fruit wreathing. The whiskey hits first, but herbal vermouth is right behind, putting more body on the spirit and cranking the finish in an unexpectedly dry, almost bitter direction. An aperitif whiskey, begging to play with cocktails, or even ice, but good neat. Craft whiskey continues to experiment.
Sweet nose with a hint of soft-boiled egg, digestive biscuit, and cedar (nowhere near as nasty as it might sound!) Warming orange peel notes, toffee, rye grassiness, a trace of horehound, and light, oaky vanilla make a sweet but somewhat angular mouthful. Finish is a bit edgy and boozy; the weakest link in the glass. A bit of water helps the finish a lot. Nothing sticks out too much; a good whisky. (Canada only.) C$24
Nose is full of a wonderful, authentic maple syrup smell with a warming background of whisky. The maple’s there in the mouth, too; not overwhelming, and blending well with the whisky. There’s a good balance here, for what it is, and the finish is clean. If you like maple, this is going to do it: it’s not cloying or thick, and could make a great cocktail with — really — bacon.
Darker gold in the glass than regular VO, but sporting that same VO nose of caramel and dry corn. Fuller grain sweetness in the mouth, with some nice light fruitiness—white peach, seckel pear—coming out, and there’s a sweet cinnamon smear along the roof of the mouth. Dries significantly toward the end, and finishes quickly, but with everything in good order.
Rich, full, and clean cornbread nose with just a hint of herbal zip; not what I expected at all from a white whiskey with a jokey name and label. Light, vaporous corn glides over the tongue with a hint of fresh grass, easing off the palate to an airy corn finish; a lingering thought of corn. Corn eau de vie, with an accomplished touch on the still; very impressive.
Local Montana grains in an impressively brown all-Montana bourbon. Has a small-barrel smell to it—a dry wood and hard candy note I’m starting to recognize—and a snap of rye. Interesting: light but not weak in the mouth. I found their moonshine not that clean, but the wood’s done a good job on it. Rye grass and sweet corn mingle with pepper and anise. Clean finish. (Montana only)
Malt whiskey and honey flip back and forth in the nose; so precisely balanced my nose doesn’t seem to know what to make of it. Light and a bit frisky in the mouth, and the honey is more a grace note than a strong presence, though it does come in more in the finish. Not overly sweet, not heavy, but it’s hard to see the honey as a real game-changer.
One of a series of Berkshire bottlings done in barrels used to age craft beers; this one aged the massive (29%!) and complex Samuel Adams Utopias. The beer barrel adds a depth to Berkshire’s usually brighter character, a rounded and full sweetness with rum and fruit notes. There’s heat and youthful sweetness, and a pleasing fullness that grows toward the warming finish. A nice twist on the usual bottling. (Massachusetts only)
Another from a series of beer barrel-finished bourbons from this Massachusetts distiller; this one’s from a Terrapin Brewing’s Monk’s Revenge Belgian IPA barrel. Nose is fruity and sweet, with an undertone of linen and old iron. There is the bitter and faintly piney edge of hops in the whiskey, which adds a cutting grip to the finish. Before that, there is spoonbread, oak, and a hint of anise. Interesting components, needs a bit more integration.
Another MGP/LDI-sourced rye, which KGB Spirits then ages additionally at their Alcalde, New Mexico site; it’s tagged as a 15 year old whiskey. An oaky, sweet nose with hot cereal notes. The tongue impact is breathtaking: a hot, thick slam of spice, mint, and wood that cools to a long, sweet mint finish. A bit of water tames it a bit and brings out more oaky notes and more sweetness. Powerful stuff.
Garrison Brothers Texas Bourbon Fall 2012 Release, 47%
Craft Whiskey | $70.00
A 2 year old bourbon made from Texas-grown white corn. It sports a dusty nose full of dry corn and oaky spice. The whiskey is big-boned, juicy and sweet, but with a bitter streak of wood running through it. The finish confirms the youth of the whiskey as it flames in a long, hot wind-up. Some very interesting components here, waiting for better integration.
Crystal clear and colorless. Somewhat rich for unaged corn spirit: corn, baked apple, grass, and a very light honeysuckle syrup. Quite mellow on the tongue; sweet, but with a drying finish of baked grain, sweet dried grass, and finally, just a hint of heat high in the mouth. A pleasant little glass.
Distilled from a 10%, 70 IBU barleywine from Blue Point Brewing on Long Island. I’m smelling light pine hop notes, dried spruce plank, and heavy fudge; a muddled, heavy nose. Much better in the mouth: the fudge is restrained, the spruce and hops bring a lightness and verve to things. Not the “single malt” you might be expecting, but very much American craft distilling; like nothing else, intriguing, bold, a bit young, and with a lot of promise. Price is per 375 ml.
Sourced whiskey, moved to used bourbon barrels, then finished in barrels that held their Pine Barrens whiskey (also reviewed this issue). Pine sap, sweet juicy berries, and oak aromas; had to re-nose to be sure on that pine. Mouth is relatively smooth, much more so than the Rough Rider bourbon. Picking up some of that Pine Barren fudge, and a touch of rye grassiness. Finish is warm and spicy. A nice young rye.
Nose is thin and sweet, smelling of popped corn and a bit of oak and vanilla. Mellow and smooth in the mouth, with warm corn and corn syrup notes, more oak and vanilla, but nothing overpoweringly sweet; good balance. Some oak in the finish, a slight curl on the tongue that's not unpleasant. “Single Barrel,” but no barrel number given. Sourced whiskey.
“Aged less than 4 years.” Sharp new oak (this is 30-gallon barrel aged), with hot cinnamon and sugar in the nose. Dry, and a bit hot up front, but its wheat comes through in a smoother, sweeter middle and a gentle, warm finish where corn finally appears. No real flaws here; it could be better integrated, but it has a rough appeal.
Rye grain, fresh-sawn wood, and a hint of brittle sugar. No corn here: the mashbill is rye, wheat, and malt. Bitter rye edge drives this into the palate, blowing open space for the smoother body to follow and briefly sweeten things up before the rye warp collapses in an oily, spicy, savory finish. Quite discreet and small-scale; this doesn't roar, it urges. Good, but it needs more breadth and wood depth to be great. (Massachusetts only.)
Another American single malt, from Colorado. A meaty, savory aroma, with molasses cookie and herbal cough drop underneath. Roughly sweet in the mouth, with hints of smoke and bitter chocolate, sweet orange and stewed apples, with a strong back note of anise. For all the strange name and really strange logo (antlers on a barrel?), this is not bad at all.
All four of these Catskill whiskeys are in exceptionally beautiful bottles. Pleasant, homey smell of furniture polish, dried mint and grass, golden syrup, and sweet dough, wrapped in a thin layer of oak. Brightly sweet, more mint and grass, some cashew richness, and an insistent singing thread of oak that broadens to the finish, where the sweet and the oak balance with a new note of melon. A bit of astringency at the end, but this is right decent whiskey. Price is per 375 ml.
Bottle design looks like it came from a 1950s movie. Did bourbon smell like this then: cornbread and cinnamon, seasoned oak and a bare hint of cedar, sweet hot dough? Oily and lazy on the tongue, a pool of sweet corn fire, touched with the cinnamon. The wood is absent, but returns at the end with a grip on the tongue and palate. Another great whiskey for the money; great on the rocks, from a drawer in a private eye’s desk…
Nose of sweet dried grass and cinnamon, echoed on the palate with supports of sweet, oaky vanilla. The finish develops some doughiness, then finally an oaky spice heat that lingers pleasantly, the most interesting part of the dram. Well-made (at Cedar Ridge, in Iowa) and clean, if not exceptionally complex. A good flask whiskey for a hike. Sourced whiskey.
There's big oak, caramel, cinnamon and clove spice, and fresh grain in the nose; not a shy, soft wheat whiskey at all. Good body, supporting spiciness, mint, and young oak; the small barrel punches, tempered by sweet grain and spice. Finish gets a bit dusty and astringent, crimping things. Wood-balanced, not dominated by it. Bold, dynamic.
Wigle’s proud to have a full 2 years of age on this organic wheat whiskey. It’s small-barrel dark, but the nose isn’t a ripper: it’s 100 proof hot, but sweet with grain and even light fruity notes (pear and ripe melon). There’s no denying it’s aggressive, especially for a wheat whiskey, but the small-barrel oak blends well with the grain, giving a robust set of flavors: oak, hard candies, grilled fruit. A bit loud, a bit pushy, but endearing.
Nose is mild, pleasant, sweet, with rock candy, cinnamon, and baked apple. Follow-through on the palate is almost exact: mild, pleasant, sweet, with rock candy, etc., plus a nice bit of extra alcohol heat and quiet oak shaping the finish. A mild-mannered bourbon, which I feel is like a mild-mannered rodeo bull; out of place. There's nothing wrong, but it's a bit too easy-drinking, too mild. Bulk up.
Now that’s something you don’t see every day. Kings County (Brooklyn, N.Y.) used peat-smoked malt in this bourbon. The nose is bonfire and sweet juicy corn; the undiscovered Hebridean Isle of Kentucky? The smoke is less forward on the tongue; you don’t get so much a peaty bourbon as you get an unusually rich, broad young bourbon. More warming corn, digestive biscuits, and a pleasantly hot finish. Compelling, and…what kind of Manhattan would this make? (400 bottles; at the distillery only) Price is per 375 ml.
“Aged 24 months.” In these debased times, they should be applauded for the correct labeling of this 2 year old. Somewhat hot nose of grass, cinnamon, Pixy Stix powder candy, and oak. Simple, sweet on the palate with a crisping of rye bitterness and oak. Easy-drinking and not overly young. Color me surprised: it’s well-made for inexpensive young rye.
A 1 year old whiskey made from rye, wheat, and cherrywood-smoked malt. An interesting sweet/sour nose, with Montmorency cherry, sweet grain, bitter rye, and a slap of fresh leather jacket. Follows through in the mouth, but more integrated, a sweet cocktail of neat whiskey with only the slightest hint of “smoke.” The leather slips in at the finish and wraps things up neatly. A bit overly sweet, a bit simple, but good.
100% rye, unmalted and malted, direct-fire pot stilled, “old wood finished”: a detailed label, but no age statement or “straight.” Peppery, minty nose with a fleeting hint of coal smoke, lots of heat. Fierce rye flavor, hot and sweet, and then a fantastic finish that curls and flexes: sweet, oily, hot, pepper, and small barrel oak. The rest of it’s okay, but that finish is a marvelous ride.
Labeled “young malt” because it is only about 18 months old. Distilled from Icelandic-grown malted barley as a whole mash (not a filtered wash) in a pot still, it has a nice husky, cocoa hull note in the sweet, somewhat hot malt nose. Full mouthfeel, rich grain character, dry cocoa hulls, and just before the dusty malt finish there’s an eye-opening wash of sweetness. Good potential, and an interesting character. (Travel Retail in Iceland only) ISK 7,950/500 ml
Made from 100% organic red winter wheat, aged 2 years, 1 month. Much lighter on the nose than its rye stablemate (see above); notes of butterscotch and green tea, with a bit of oaky strength. Flavors of cracked grain and light stone fruits shimmer across the tongue; the oak stays high in the mouth. Finish is light and long, moving from grain to wood at the end. Interesting and delicate for a 2 year old.
100% pilsner malt fermented with Belgian ale yeast. Not unaged whiskey; a grain spirit meant to be drunk without aging. Sweet-tart, intense aroma of unripe cherries, plums, white pepper, and a bit of caramel. Smooth on the tongue with a roll of heat, grain comes forward and dominates the fruit, though it balances at the finish. Clean, even interesting. More poitin should be like this. (Pennsylvania and New Jersey only)
A mashbill of 60/20/10/10 corn/wheat/rye/malt, aged 3 years in full-size barrels. Nose is sweet, hot corn, but with an initial puff of sulfur; where’s that from? Interesting splash in the mouth, with smooth wheat character knocking back the rye spice. Fairly hot, with some clove/cinnamon spice amping up as it winds down to the warm finish. Very active whiskey.
100% malt whiskey, aged “to taste” in white oak vats (1,000-2,000 gallons!), on toasted cubes of hickory, maple, mulberry, red oak, and grape wood. Pleasantly fruity nose with a firm oak backboard. Malt is dominant on the tongue, a bit shallow, but the woods contribute a bubbling complexity. Unfortunately, things don’t really come together in the finish, but the experiment’s not a loss, given the interesting effects of the multiple woods. Worth a taste.
Much darker in color than the Classic bottling (also reviewed this issue), as is expected. The nose warns of a wood-whelmed whiskey: dark, bitter wood notes, with a caramel underlay. The mouth is much hotter than the Classic bottling, with bold oak spice in the front and a gooey caramel/toffee sweetness underneath…only it’s not as good as that sounds. It’s all rather one-dimensional, including the hot oak finish. An interesting lesson in wood, but not at $200 for the pair.
It seemed a good idea to revisit OMG after High West had four years’ experience under their belt. The wet grain and green apple are still there, with the bitter fringe of rye crisping things nicely. Pure rye High West spirit, no oak, and you see where this may go. A smooth, almost creamy entry—smooth for the proof—and the rye takes over, though grainy sweetness refuses to quit. More polished now. Hope there’s plenty in wood.
Woodstone Creek Single Malt “The Murray Barrel”, 46.5% ABV
Single Malt American Whiskey | $118.00
Nice color for a 10 year old. Puffing peat off the glass, with briny notes and sweetness: promising. The promise is kept in the mouth, too. It’s all there: peat smoke, brine, good round malt, some fruity notes in the finish, and a nice creamy texture. There’s a bit of astringency, and it’s hot for the proof. Still, a very convincing American iteration of a peated single malt, especially at this age.
Certified organic, distilled from 100% rye. First whiff: like that smell when you tear apart anti-theft plastic packaging. Swirl and warm to get unseeded rye bread, old books, bitter grass. Palate is quite right: sweet grain and a bit of mint balanced by bitter rye oils and wood, slipping into a sweet but wood-framed finish. Pleasantly youthful whiskey in the mouth; nose is sharp still.
Hard to say what this is: the label just says “WHISKEY.” My nose, though, says “Irish whiskey.” Grassy malt, sweet heat, light pear esters. It's there in the mouth, too: smooth sweet malt, vaporous lift off the tongue, Irish light elegance, and a lingering finish with a slippery hint of vanilla. Considering the eponymous distiller is Irish... Nice stuff; now tell us more about it.
Barrel 2 was aged in 15-gallon bourbon refills, then finished in a Cedar Ridge rum barrel; interesting to see an American distiller walk away from “straight whiskey” with used (small!) cooperage. Aromas of sawdust, toffee, melon and just-ripe apricot, dry cocoa, and warm cereal fight a bit with alcohol heat. Rum and fruit float over malt and vanilla in the mouth, and the wood rounds and dries. Oak and faint allspice in the finish. Needs some more taming; great start.
Smells like sweet, dead-ripe cherries, mashed up in bourbon with some brown sugar and just a dust of cinnamon. It's sweet, a bit thick, but 80 proof warming, and the bourbon — the Beam cinnamon note comes out clearer now — is dominant over the cherries here. The finish sees more cinnamon, even a hint of barrel oak, and manages to dry out a bit.
Smells sweet and minty, with gobs of oak and corn…and that’s about how it tastes, too. The corn sweetness and the mint are dominant, but warming oak spice wraps it loosely. It’s called “Young Bourbon” (labeled as “age under 4 years”), and that’s just what it tastes like, as some green youthful notes muscle their way in toward the finish. A bit of a rough-rider, but tasty.
A 2:1 blend of rye and “hand-malted barley” lightly smoked with fruitwood, aged with apple and oak wood chips in used bourbon barrels, finished in another used bourbon barrel, aged 12 months total. Was it worth it? A good rye smell, with fruit notes; quite appealing. Relatively smooth, and the smoke comes through quickly, with sweet pepper spice and vanilla. Not overly complex, but well-made and pleasant.
Organic rye, all grown on the Myer farm in the Finger Lakes by John Myer himself. 100% rye, converted with enzymes; the Myers do everything in-house. Nose is bent with rye oiliness and a faint peppermint brightness. In the mouth it’s rye bitterness all the way through, a crisp, fresh-chewed mint in a mouthful of sweet grassiness, and then a very quick finish: wham, bam, and gone. Simple and clean; could add depth and polish.
A 100% rye whiskey, made from rye grown about 30 miles from Mississippi River Distilling. Strongly spicy and oily rye character reaching out of the glass and grabbing my nose; some surprising pastry and molasses notes hiding in there. The 40% mildness is disappointing at first, but develops into a spicy, minty mouth-filler with a cleanly sweet finish. On the sweet side, would prefer it drier.
Sweet corn and oak, with some green apple and grass notes; a light, pleasant nose that goes hot closer to the surface. Quite light and young in the mouth, clean, with understated oak notes; not taxing or tiring, and a long finish of teaberry and mint. Nothing amazing or overly complex, but a clean, pleasant sip of whiskey. Sourced whiskey.
Nose of sweet cinnamon candy, wintergreen, and wet wood. Wintergreen and hot/sweet cinnamon carry through on the palate, with light vanilla and some pleasant oak around the edges. Happy shiny whiskey, but you realize what’s missing when you get to the finish…and there isn’t one. Incredibly quick on the finish, and pretty simple throughout. It’s like summer love: fun, but shallow and over quickly. Sourced whiskey.
“Spirits distilled from grain and sugar” on the label, and the word “whiskey” is nowhere to be seen, but we’ve stretched the definition before; and this stuff tasted okay unaged. Smells like oak candy wrapped in fresh leaves. A bit hot, but like warm cereal on the tongue, and the oak fills in the back. Sippable, and likely to make a good Old-Fashioned as well.
Fresh grains and sawn oak on the nose, with some green grass and stalks. Spicy, fresh flavors of corn and oak, along with a doughy softness that contrasts with the 48% ABV heat. There’s a somewhat bosky note of leaves and duff, a salty cracker component, and a medicinal hint; the almost herbal complexity I’ve come to expect from Coppersea. Interesting, tasty, well off the beaten bourbon path.
New distillery in Lancaster, Penn. “Locally sourced” grain, copper pot still, unaged. Rich new-make smell, warm, full grain, rye oil, and anise. Light spirit: sweet, more grain and a character like pizzelles; sweet crisp anise cookies. Easily enjoyed, with a finish of more sweet grain and anise. Interestingly schnapps-like, given the area’s German roots.
Sharp nose, a bit of heat, fresh ground/cracked spices—cinnamon, pepper, allspice—and hot sugar about to caramelize. There’s nothing soft here. The first crash on the tongue isn’t soft either; it’s rushing bonded heat, insistent pepper, and dry oak. Wait a bit, and it calms as you finally find the corn and the mouth widens, then slides into a dryer, lasting finish. Pretty wild ride for a wheated bourbon.
Strong, bold aromas of rye grain, fruit (raspberries, black grapes), and dry cinnamon. Punchy rye on the tongue, starts 42% tame but quickly catches fire, roaring toward a barnburner of a finish. As the fire dies down, you find cocoa and rye oil in the embers. This young (12 month) rye is small-barrel shouty, but the roots are good. Solid effort.
The base bottling of the “new” I.W. Harper from Diageo. Source is “new” Bernheim; no age given. Nose is simple: hard candy and corn. A fairly simple and somewhat thin mouth as well: sweet, with hints of ripe melon and apple, and an edge of oak dryness. Finishes well, with a cleanly sweet spiciness. Table bourbon, though a bit pricey for that.
Shy nose: some cornbread and spicy candy. Whooshes into the mouth, though, with a lively sweet and spicy rush followed by herbal notes: woodruff, fresh marjoram, meadow grass. The finish becomes drier, finally showing a bit of oak, then drying to a powdery, medicinal astringency. Almost more like a tonic than a whiskey. Sourced whiskey.
More MGP whiskey: 2 years old, 51% corn, 45% wheat, 5% malt. That’s a lot of wheat, and you can smell it: soft, sweet, even a bit doughy, with a little mint candy. Extremely smooth, but not insipid; there’s some nice oak backbone here, a good weight, and a solid center of corn. Craftsmanlike. And $1 from every bottle goes to veterans programs. Sourced whiskey.
A U.S.-only Canadian blend, bottled in Oregon. Rich toffee and caramel aroma with cashews and some dry cocoa. An easy entry, with sweet, light, but coating caramel, a keening note of young blending whisky, some cedar shavings, and a sweet finish that manages not to cling. Simple and sweet, practically pining for a bubbly mixer, but not bad for dessert, either. Quite typical of the category.
Two malts: same distillation run, same proof, but this one was aged in used bourbon barrels. The color is much lighter than the new barrel bottling (also reviewed this issue), a pale straw. Nose is delicate, notes of haymow planks, clover honey, fresh grain, and sweet orange peel. Somewhat pedestrian on the palate: sweet malt, dried hay, more citrus, and a touch of pepper, with a somewhat bitter finish. No real flaws, but no excitement either. Disappointing.
The price, the proof, and 8 years of age reflect the source: the Triple 8 distillery. Light fruit — white grapes, nectarine — and a bit of resiny plastic in the nose, plus a hint of wine wood, underlain by malt. Clean malt in the mouth, well-integrated with nothing sticking out or unbalanced. The fruit’s still there, but diminished; finish is a little clingy but clean. Nicely-made whisky…but it’s like a really good dish of vanilla ice cream; is that all?
A bit of heat, faint nose of putty, light brown sugar, and fully ripe grapes. Stand-up whisky: sweet grain, a bit of rye spice, oak notes, and a good release on the finish. Just a touch of hollow sweetness in the middle, a kind of flat spot.
8 years old and sherry finished, and it shows in the darker color. Sweet dark fruit aromas; a bit sugary. Waxy fruit and caramel, wood spice, and some oaky prickliness on center tongue as the whisky fades. More interesting than the standard, but a bit thick.
Nose of corn and subdued Beam spiciness. It’s hot, and sweet, and minty-spicy, but the main difference from mainline Beam is the feel. This is slicker, lighter, slippery, and the finish has a softness to it, almost plushy. The oak seems lost (for an 11 year old), and that lets the sweetness dominate. It’s like a toy breed; it yips, when it should bark and growl. I think oats are too soft for bourbon. Price per 375 ml.
Wheat whiskey, finished in huckleberry port barrels, showing a deep reddish blush, purple-pink around the edges. The fruity richness of the portwood is subdued, but present, and lays across everything else in the nose. Things become less one-dimensional on the palate, and the sweet broad grassiness of the wheat lightens the portwood influence somewhat, but it comes back in the finish. It’s a decent combo, but a bit of a one-note song. Price is per 375ml.
The second craft rye I’m revisiting. Mosby’s is still 100% organic rye and unaged, but the nose is more fun: some green pear and melon esters in there with the grassy rye spice. It’s nicely smooth on the tongue, delivers exactly what the nose promised, plus a shot of fresh-cracked black pepper…and a much longer finish these days. Greatly improved; a good white whiskey.
Young malt whisky. A rich but jumbled nose: cocoa, ripe grape, oak, and vanilla tumble and fight for your attention. A nicely rounded lighter whiskey in the mouth, though, and the cocoa cradles malt sweetness quite nicely...until the oak tears up the finish with a blast of hot spice. You almost want to keep sipping continuously to keep the finish from cutting in. Price is per 375ml.
Thin corn sweetness, nice splash of mint and cinnamon. The whiskey's warm, but not hot, and it's exceptionally smooth. There's a slice of rye spice, and oaky vanilla, and the finish is clean and sweet. But it's almost too smooth, and not gutsy enough; if Stagg is bourbon turned up to eleven, this is at about six and a half. Cedar Ridge has a great start here; now show me more.
Dark, hot brown sugar, sweet peppermint candy. A hot rye burner, but moderate on the palate: the heat's here, but the flavors come through clearly, in waves of mint, sugar, oily clove, and a brittle, sweet finish. This is no lapdog, but neither is it a clumsy, huge puppy; there's real rye character, the rough spots smoothed off by wood. A good young rye.
Sharpish nose, hot corn, peppermint, a bit of grape, and underlying cocoa. Sweet mouthful of vanilla and corn, the cocoa's here, and some oakspice. Finish is a bit rough and hot, but not unpleasant. This works better than the sherry-assisted takeoff of their rye whiskey. Could be more rounded, but it's well-constructed and solid.
Spice nose, but some alcohol notes put a hot twist to it. A blast of baking spices — nutmeg, anise, allspice, mace — hits the palate, along with shots of citrus and vanilla that take a while to get organized and settled down, leading to a sweet finish where the orange dominates. If Spicebox is a fireside drink, this is a snowy woods outdoors drink; a bit hotter, more rustic, more rough.
Mashbill of corn, smoked barley, rye, and wheat, and a ruddy, almost garnet color to it. Smells like barrel drool in a rickhouse; kinda raunchy and sweet, with broad notes of vanilla and hot corn. Quite a mouthful at 100 proof, and after a short initial wave of sweet, the smoke shouts through, squeezing and wringing the other flavors dry, right through the finish. Water makes it paradoxically hotter.
Balcones Texas Single Malt Special Release Batch 1182/1285, 51.2%
Craft Whiskey | $85.00
Quite dark brown in the glass, and lots of vanilla and fruit — white grapes, pear — in the nose, with a sweet, clean floral character as well; a rich nose. Vibrant with malt and vanilla in the mouth, rather hot without water, and shot through with oakspice, which dominates the finish, though the vanilla struggles through. Water helps the heat in the middle, but not the finish. Texas is pretty darned hot!
A restrained nose of fresh-cut oak, grassy rye, and a fleeting trace of solvents. Quite sweet in the mouth, spicy and minty, and the alcohol is fiery: this is young rye. Still, it's much less forward and rudely insistent than I'd expected; not at all the ripsnorter some young ryes are. This could be pleasant, but the finish is a letdown: sweet, mealy, uninspiring.
Standard bottling benchmark. Smells sweet, caramel and toffee, with some alcohol heat and a slight medicinal twang. Strong caramel flavor (is that where that rich amber color came from?), not particularly deep or complex, but not hot or flawed either, leading to a gentle sweet finish. Not bad at all for a mixing whisky.
Canadian whisky is sweeter to start with, and so may well be a natural base for flavors. It certainly seems that way with this underpriced example. The nose is like restrained caramel candy, a fairly deep note of toasted sugar. The drink itself is sweet, but doesn’t cling, and is crying for a bit of fizz, or some ice cream to drape itself over. Not bad at all for the price.
Sweet Canadian whisky nose, taffy, some vanilla. Taste is fairly rich, with notes of port and light cocoa, leading to a clean finish with a good grip. Not a tremendously deep whisky, but approachable and free of flaws.
Aged in new charred oak, then finished in “white wine-seasoned French oak.” Tight, sawdusty, bitter nose. A lot of wood here, going in different directions. First hit is the American oak (vanilla, rich spice), followed quickly by creamy French oak, then comes a wave of fruity wine wood character. Full in the mouth, and a thick finish. Interesting, but not particularly well integrated; maybe a case of “just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” Sourced whiskey.
There’s a hot, brittle nose of sweet spice, like a cinnamon Red Hot floating in alcohol, with a softer backing of cornmeal underneath. This is a well-behaved bourbon in the mouth; no off-flavors, easy to hold on the tongue, with more corn than spice now, and a lack of wood until the finish, when it wraps in on the corn to dry things up a bit. Simple, sweet, a little spicy, and really easy to drink; a good start.
Clear as Cave Spring water, a mashbill of 70% rye, “mellowed” by charcoal, and ignorant of barrel-aging. It is white dog-brash: fresh wet grain, trampled grass, and a salty tinge. The spirit is pleasurably smooth and cool, sweet in body with a bitter film of rye spice. A gentlemanly clear spirit that’s itching to get into a cocktail; my only real complaint is the price. (This is “a taste of what’s to come,” so expect an aged rye to follow.)
Like the other Taos Lightning Rye, there’s an MGP provenance that’s topped with local aging; it is stated to be a 5 year old whiskey. There’s the signature brittle-dry mint of this mashbill, some hot oak and shortbread. The mouth is quick, spicy, and hot, but not over-balanced in any direction. Good, but not setting off the shock and awe.
An estate white whiskey: the corn in this spirit was all grown and harvested on the Myer farm, a Finger Lakes farm dating back to the 1860s. The nose is clean and green, a focused blast of unmodified corn. The spirit is zesty and fresh, sweet and grassy/minty; easy to hold on the tongue until a final heat that fires the finish. If the finish were a bit smoother…still quite good for unaged whiskey.
Unaged corn whiskey from Philadelphia. The distinctive white corn spirit smell: crushed corn leaves, wet cornmeal, hint of fruit and split stone. A singular flavor, though: the usual flabby, green sweetness isn’t here. Instead, there’s a dry, solid corn flavor, something that tastes complete, arrived. I could ask for more complexity, but the focused, dry intensity of it has a singular appeal, asking only ice — or a lager chaser — to make a great afternoon.
Not cheap sugar “squeezins,” this is mashed from 50% corn and 50% cane sugar, run on an alembic still by two Beams whose great-grandfathers were J.W. Dant and Minor Case Beam: some credibility. Clear as glass, a big corn nose tinged with light caramel and violets. Nicely sweet and warm, grassy-fresh and east to hold in the mouth. Clean, straightforward stuff.
Made in Washington State with Washington barley in a copper pot still, and aged “over a year” in new, charred, 10 gallon oak barrels. Good color; nose is frisky and young, with fresh oak and big pear aromas, and a hot feel. Hot and direct in the mouth: grainy, some of that pear, and a somewhat bland but appealing cereal sweetness. Finish is more of the same, with a flick of heat at the end.
No age statement, “charcoal filtered.” Hard candy/sweet-spicy nose with some wood edginess, stewed corn, and mineral notes; not particularly well-integrated. The thin body flashes vanilla and light caramel across the tongue as some hot oak fires things up. On the lean side, and like most such bourbons, the finish lingers, and flares at each swallow: oak, cinnamon, and that same mineral note. Not bad, but it needs more. Sourced whiskey.
Simple nose of sweet cornbread and oaky caramel; nothing fancy, but nothing wrong. The nose is no liar; same tastes in the
mouth, just a bit hotter on the oak. Good finish with a nice oaky linger. The letdown is the thin body, which adds to the heat and steals from the experience. Seems more like a good shot bourbon or an “…and ginger ale” bourbon, not a sipping bourbon. Sourced whiskey.
Defiant American Single Malt Whisky (Cask #6), 41%
Craft Whiskey | $40
Aggressive nose of bitter orange, dark chocolate, and pine comes boiling out of the glass. More gentle on the palate: the same notes, but wrapped in sweet malt. A bit hot and crinkly on the tongue, an assertive whisky, but it fades quickly at the end. Good flavor, but a lack of depth; everything Defiant has is right there on top, there’s nothing to discover. The pine is off-putting, too; not sure where that’s coming from.
Clean nose, hard grain, some grassy sweetness, a bit perfumey. Interesting on the tongue: grain, sweet orange, and meadow grass; has a pleasantly creamy texture. Gets just a bit solvent-touched at the finish, but overall, an interesting sip…which brings up the question again: what are these ‘white whiskeys’ for? Cocktails, highballs, neat sipping? This one, I think, could pull off all three, the kind of white whiskey that compares to white rum. Sourced whiskey.
Made by ex-Dickel distiller John Lunn at the brand's new distillery, a new bottling, new name. “Distilled from grain and sugar.” Smells like clean white dog: warm, ripe melon, alcohol heat, grain. Smoothly drinkable, not hot or astringent. Simple, sweet: melon, cooked grain. Sweeter than vodka, and a bit more flavorful, but otherwise pretty similar. I still don't get the attraction.
Sharp nose of fresh, wet grain, hot honey, a little butterscotch, crushed boxwood leaves, and a touch of linseed; an herbal smell. Mouth is roundly sweet, with honey and pie crust notes that meet the oak and pretty it up. There’s mint here, which surprised me; maybe from the wood? This one’s dainty, delicate, and maybe a bit too sweet, but it maintains an edge of oak that keeps it serious. Price is per 375 ml.
Malt whiskey with a mashbill similar to a craft-brewed stout—think dark roasted malts—and then aged in new charred oak with an addition of toasted French oak. The nose is sweet young malt touched with chocolate. There’s an additional hit of cocoa at first taste, then heat, oak, vanilla, and more sweet malt, followed by a finish that’s increasingly chocolatey and dry. Young, and could use more complexity and maturing, but full of good flavors. Price is per 375 ml.
Despite the common Heaven Hill origin, this is not the same stuff as Dant. The nose is focused, dry, integrated: sweet corn, the inside of an old wooden drawer, and a flip of sweet spice. Lively in the mouth, almost playfully light: corn fritters and filigreed oak. If you mix this, go light; this is not a heavy bonded trooper. One cube, a small splash; then enjoy the delicacy.
Unaged. Richly sweet with corn, and a bit of new make funk. Replicated very closely on the tongue: alcohol heat, corn sweetness, wild flowers/stems, and faint notes of overripe fruit, with some drying minerality on the finish. Interesting where it’s not clean; a balance of craft and cunning.
Corn and oak on the nose, with a slice of fruit from sherry cask aging. Nose is strikingly different from the other two Hillrocks reviewed; sweeter, and softer. It’s clearly bourbon at the front, but as the flavors move back in the mouth and into the finish, the sherry takes over and dominates, becoming quite fruity at the close, though with a firm grip of charred oak. The sherry’s too much for a bourbon, especially at this price. Partially sourced whiskey.
Part of this Pittsburgh distillery’s series of “Whims” one-offs. Truly interesting nose: a combination of new-barrel bourbon reek and Irish raw barley grassiness, yielding mint, vanilla, juicy wet grain, and faint cinnamon. Hot entry of vanilla and small-barrel oak, which suddenly collapses to a dry cocoa sweetness spiked with hot pepper, like Mexican chocolate. This typifies a lot of craft efforts: not a great whiskey now, but one with terrifically interesting potential. I hope Wigle pursues this Whim. Price is per 375 ml.
I reviewed a couple of these one-off Wigle Whims earlier. This one’s quite roasty indeed, almost coffee-like, made with roasted barley and wheat, and caramel and chocolate malts. It smells of burnt grain with sweet toffee underneath. Lots of chocolate and cocoa struggle with ash and burnt grain, leading to a hot finish where they end up, finally, in agreement, a smoky mocha mouthful, espresso whiskey. Invigorating. Price is per 375 ml.
Onyx (East Hartford, Conn.) ages their 'moonshine' in new charred oak barrels to make this expression. Nose is fresh-sawn oak and sugar cookies, with a bit of cinnamon spice. Tons of fresh oak in the mouth (I'd guess this is small-barrel whiskey) with a spicy sweetness, a hallmark of young craft whiskey, as is the quick finish. Still, no real flaws, and pleasant enough.
MGP-sourced bourbon is finished in Madeira barriques, and shows a nicely reddish color. Nose is corn and wine gums; not hot, not sweet. Flash-hot in the mouth, light body and some candy and minerality with the corn; a prickly heat and acidity at the end, but overall, more pleasant than that sounds.
A blend of three bourbons, between 6 and 12 years old; two rye and one wheat. Nothing is revealed on the source, which is a fair part of the “blood oath,” apparently. A restrained nose of corncakes, biscuits, a bit of cinnamon and maple: breakfasty. Flavors of corn, spicy oak, and some grassy mint fight to be heard over roaring heat that flames on into the finish. Frankly too simple for the asking price. Sourced whiskey.
MGP bourbon aged to 4 years. Sweet and brittle nose, hot and a bit spicy, but thin. More spice and body on the tongue than the Old Hickory Blended, and a more balanced finish, but still a relatively light whiskey. Beautiful bottle, classic label; I wish there was more whiskey here. Sourced whiskey.
Sourced bourbon at 3 to 10 years old was dumped and finished in Napa Valley wine barrels. The nose is mostly bourbon—corn, warm meadow, hard candy—with a floater of wine wood; I'm guessing white wine. The flavor is quite woody, but not old wood; fresher, and a bit astringent, overshadowing the whiskey. Not sure the finish does it a favor. Sourced whiskey.
Label says “Dunkel,” release says “Dunkelweizen,” two very different beers. Mostly strong sawn oak on the nose, with some clove (so maybe Dunkelweizen is closer). Springy, spicy, and a bit oily on the tongue; German gingerbread on the finish. (375 ml.)
Take the Charbay R5 Clear and add some vanilla and toast notes: interesting. The flavors…on first sip, the mellowing richness of the oak makes for a nice entry. But the wood blunts the zip of the hoppy beer wash without adding enough to compensate for the loss, and makes for a hotter finish. It’s still interesting, but the wood gets in the way of what this can be.
Woodstone’s using a local brewer’s beer as the basis for this one. Intriguing nose: grainy, sweet, but also a bit green/herbaceous. That's quite tasty! The malt comes through broad and sweet, the herbal character floats over the top and perks up the taste buds, almost like a digestif. The finish is tinged with honey and herbs, but dries up nicely. Smooth for the proof, too.
Sweet, crisp nose: apple, mint, wintergreen. Grainy in the mouth; sweet, bready flavors. The whiskey coats the mouth, but more in an obscuring way; it seems to get between you and the flavors. It is quite smooth compared to young bourbons, but it leaves me looking for more. Overall impression is of a sweeter, younger whiskey that needs to mature, and the clean character makes me think maturity would look good on it.
Rye whiskey aged in casks used to age maple syrup. As penetrating an aroma as maple is, it’s very subtle here. The nose is rye whiskey—spicy, oily, bitter/minty—with just the barest hint of maple. The maple peeps up mid-palate for a sweet turn and lingers into the finish. I need to be convinced of the attraction; the maple and rye jar a bit when jammed together. And the price—$82 for 750 ml—seems crazy. Price is per 375 ml.
Wow, that's a small barrel whiskey! Only 2 years old, and more like 12 years dark, with a nose stuffed full of oak char, steamy mint, and hot vanilla. You know it's wheat in the mouth; despite the aggressive nose and the heat you do get, this is still pretty friendly stuff for 50%: sweet dough, mint, and more oak. But the finish roars in real hot and a bit astringent, ruining the moment, and water doesn't help.
A hot wash of vanilla and sweet cloves and cinnamon, with shouty alcohol heat and a log of oak; whatever else this is, ‘subtle’ is not on the menu. Wow, is that hot in the mouth! Still, it’s flavorful with it; cinnamon candy and corn on the cob gush onto the palate. There are some cobby notes though, and a bit of mustiness. The finish is—surprise!—hot, and fades reluctantly. Doc Bryson prescribes more time in a large barrel.
Aged 6 to 7 months in quarter barrels. Sharpish, oaky nose with a sweet grain/golden syrup backing. Spirity in the mouth, with a big slap of young oak up front that quickly subsides, yielding sweet corn muffin, white pepper, and dry cocoa that linger into the finish. Hot, but worth the burn. Some nice components here; age and a bigger barrel could do a better job on integration.
A sweet mélange of bourbon, honey, ladyfingers, and praline in the nose, with a faint thread of heavy tree blossoms. Quite sweet, but not syrupy, and the aromas — minus the blossoms — are here, plus vanilla. Some stickiness on the finish, but it’s not unpleasant, more like candy, which is what this experience is like: booze candy. That candy simplicity is confusing: there are a lot of flavors here, but at a candy level. A bit less sweetness would be welcome.
A nose like light caramel corn, with a hint of biscuit dryness and a smidgen of cinnamon sugar. Light in the mouth, sweet and a bit spicy, with some cinnamon heat toward the end. There is a bit of a roar right in the middle, where the grainy sweetness catches fire briefly, but mostly this is fairly meek stuff. Made for mixing, no real flaws.
A blend of aged (sourced) bourbon and Great Lakes’ own (young) malt whiskey. Quite sweet on the nose; a rich, herbal sweetness with a strong, youthful quality to it. Interestingly medicinal on the tongue as the herbal character swells. A full mouthfeel, with clear references to new make about it: a bit oily, grassy, and bright. The finish is the best part: minty and a bit drying, a pleasant farewell. Interesting concept.
Quite mild on the nose for 99 proof: dry oak, light honey, crisp corn. It all fires up in the mouth, a thick wash of hot oak and corn—attic whiskey—white pepper, and a tongue-crinkling woodiness leading to a drying finish that leaves you thirsty and swallowing as it fades. This may only be 6 years old (according to the label) but they were hot years. Better with a bit of water. (sourced whiskey)
Continuing progress on Jack Daniel’s rye whiskey; this one is 2 years old and labeled “straight.” Pale amber. New make sharpness, sawn oak, hard candy, and a flip of cinnamon bark: driven, simple, insistent nose. Thin on the palate: sweet, with an oily overlay of bitter grass and grainy flatness. A dry, contracting finish. Not flawed, but not particularly pleasant, either. Someone tell Jack; craft distillers get $50 for young rye because they’re small. JD should be half that.
Sweet and a bit funky; maybe a wisp of smoke, maybe some green cornstalk, and some mint/vanilla. Rippling and vibrant in the mouth, hot and bold, and not candy-sweet at all, more like fuel-injected cornbread with a splash of burning mint eau de vie across the top. Or maybe that’s just the AC/DC talking; maybe I should review to Mozart. Not bad, but I think I like the simpler unaged version.
Oak, and some candy-like sweetness, and alcohol heat…and not much else. A shy nose for a bourbon. Very hot in the mouth,
somewhat two-dimensional corn and oak, just put together without anything else around them. A pretty simple whiskey, with a slightly cloying finish. Nothing really flawed, just nothing really standing out, either. Sourced whiskey.
All local Colorado malt, with a little peat-smoked malt. Unaged. No smoke on the nose; fresh, a bit feinty, wet and juicy melon, a hint of cardamom. Smoke is there as it hits the tongue, immediate but gentle. Spirit tastes much cleaner than it smells. Hot on the tongue, prickly. More melon and spice on the finish, a bit creamy. Not a bad white, but quite pricey. Price is per 375 ml.
Simple nose of corn, oak, cinnamon candy, and ash. Candy sweet, grainy, still simple, and a bit thin; increasingly hot at the end. Needs more breadth and depth, but there’s nothing seriously flawed. I’d characterize this as a good flyweight boxer caught in a cruiserweight bout; nice footwork, solid performance, and dealing some good hits, but the bigger, older bourbons give it a palate-pounding. Price is per 375 ml.
A Seven Stills and Pacific Brewing Laboratory collaboration: a distilled double IPA. Broiled grapefruit and caramel, with a razory lightness, but a bit muddled. Flavors of sweet malt and maple pierced in a needle-row with bitter hop resins, pine, pith; malt/hop/malt/hop comes in quick waves. Like some double IPAs, this is a blunt instrument that simply walks up and wallops you with hops and malt; neither subtle nor particularly complex. Hop fans may well love it; others will not. Price is per 375 ml.
Very sweet and simple aroma, like plain jelly beans, with only a whisper of the heat you’d expect at 45%. Better on the tongue; proper heat, some cornpone, a bed of oak. Smooth, good balance, good finish. Nothing stands out, but nicely made. Loses points on the nose, and typifies the Small Producer Dilemma: why bottle a good bourbon? Beam and Heaven Hill do that already, cheaper than you ever will. Sourced whiskey.
Nose is a bit perfumed, like doilies at grandma's house, with grain, grass, and meadow notes. Flavor is minty, rye-bitter, and penetrating; finish is sweet and hot, with more grassiness. Powerful rye influence; not much corn, and that perfume note is odd, but the rye is gripping.
A 100% rye unaged “white whiskey.” Nose is fruity—pear, apple, black raspberry—and peppery, with a mineral edge to it, like fresh-cracked stone. Creamy sweet mouth, repeating the fruits in half-voice, with a sharp alcoholic heat. Sweetness makes me curious about the fermentation attenuation…but this would be good with seltzer.
Smells kind of…Canadian. Light caramel, sweet candy, and a bit of oak. Light and sweet on entry; not cloying, with some hints of vanilla and fresh-sawn cedar. Body seems to thicken as it hits the tongue, and the finish spreads and hangs: sweet, with that very light cedary note. Simple, sweet, but not overly complex. Sourced whiskey.
The “(SB)2RW” stands for “small batch small barrel rye whiskey.” Smells like it: small barrel, fresh-cut oak smell, clove cigarettes, and a fair amount of heat. A bit thin on the tongue, with a medicinal bite of rye grass, warming heat, and some sweetness, and the medicinal part expands into the finish.
Beautiful little bottle and label. 100% rye, aged 2 years in 53-gallon heavy char oak barrels. Smells right: rye spice, orange candies, and oaky vanilla. Light body, quite hot, and the sweetness comes through, but the rye really turns it up as the liquid spreads on the tongue and warms. Some plastic hints high in the mouth. Promising, but not there yet; part of the problem with big barrels.
Fresh oak nose, with hard candies and bitter grass notes. Much less oaky on the tongue, but the hard candies—spicy-sweet, a bit hot—burst in the mouth, leading down to a warm, pastry-sweet finish with a wreathing of ashes. Boozy and warm, and a bit simple, but quite drinkable for a young bourbon.
Nose is tight, closed, what’s there is like a raisin bun; softly sweet pastry and dried fruit. Gentle in the mouth, warming but not hot; still like the pastry, but with oak framing and some nuts and a hint of anise. (375 ml.)
Barely aged white whiskey. Huge new-make nose, soaked grain and green apple, then rye-driven mint and spice. Bursting spice and mint in the mouth, quick hot fireworks, long gripping finish; somewhat drying. Hot, but holds your attention. Lower distillation proof (134) leaves more room for flavor on this one, and some water makes it enjoyable...if I could just get past that new-make nose I can't help thinking of as “too young.”
Pale, almost peach color. Light aromas of caramel, sweet citrus. Tastes of sweet caramel, faint bite of oak on the end. Simple, but clean and pleasant. You’d have to be careful mixing this — it would get lost easily — but it should be nice on the rocks or with seltzer.
Bainbridge Battle Point organic wheat whiskey, 43%
Wheat Whiskey | $47.00
A small-barrel aged whiskey. The nose is sweet and fairly simple: cotton candy, wintergreen, faint menthol, and some heat. It’s hot in the mouth, too. The mint/wintergreen gives way to light caramel and sweet fudge; it’s even a bit sticky. There’s a need for more depth to balance the sweetness, and some more age to mellow the heat. More rough-edged than ‘big distiller’ whiskey at this point.
Low Gap Whiskey (American Craft Whiskey Distillers), 42.7%
White Whiskey | $40.00
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.
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. Price is per 1 liter.
As mentioned in my column this issue, Stillhouse is packaged in a stainless steel can, much like the ones used for paint thinner. Labeled “100% corn whiskey.” Clean scent of corn, green corn stalks, and apples. Very similar on the tongue, with just a hint of burn. For what it is, this is not bad; clean, tasty, definitely a good mixer. They have several flavored versions as well. Sourced whiskey.
Distilled from 100% organic rye. Very fresh, oily rye nose, bursts with rye spice fireworks. Tastes like a textbook example of 'what rye does in distillation.' Spicy, oily, hints of mint, with just a bit of vanilla from a month and a half in wood...which is where it fades, needing that barrel complexity. Catoctin Creek is making some nice, clean whiskey, a great start, and I do hope they're tucking some away for the long haul.
Hot corn, vanilla, mint, and just a touch of oak spice; this one's been in the barrel under 12 months. Whoo, it's hot, even for 100 proof. All the right parts are here: corn, vanilla, wood, even some mint, and no serious off-flavors, but it's a rough road. Definitely needs some more time in the barrel, but that should do it some good. Gutsy stuff. Price is per 375ml.
Corn pudding and ryespice nose, very plain-spoken, with just the barest hint of berries. Flavors of light custard, corn, rye, brown sugar, light maple, and vanilla ignite a fiery wash across the tongue, with a fairly hot finish. This is a delicate and subtle bourbon, one that would be lost if mixed with something too big, but rewarding when enjoyed neat. Nicely done.
Interesting: “Bottled by The Tennessee Spirits Company, Pewaukee, WI.” Woody nose, spiked with dry rye spiciness: black pepper, dried mint. My, that’s hot. It’s a rye rocket, and the wood’s drying up every bit of sweet here, leaving my tongue wrinkly. A bit of water, though, and this is a much happier whiskey; softer, sweeter notes come out, and the mint cheers up. (sourced whiskey)
Distilled from an almost extinct strain of heirloom corn (Crooked Creek), this is a fully aromatic white whiskey: fresh white corn, crisp apple, and pear float high over the liquid. A soft mouth—not overly hot—brings the fruit, but the corn is a solid underpinning. There’s a dry, almost mineral component to the finish. No flaws, interesting flavors, and nicely integrated for an unaged spirit.
Not a lot of details offered past the “Cane • Corn Spirit” and “aged in oak for 2 years” on the label, and talk of a “honey mixture.” Color is medium-amber; smell is thin, sweet, and lightly fruity. Not unpleasant in the mouth; candy-sweet, maybe a bit bland, and an ashy hint. The finish does have a little ‘bit-o-honey’ flavor that hangs high for a long time. Overall, not bad, but not real exciting either.
Wood-smoked malt, a spirit aged in oak with fruitwood chips added makes for a distinctive, idiosyncratic whisky. Nose is warehouse reek, mellow fruitwood smoke, and sweet, light pipe tobacco, with a slight hint of cinnamon. Mouth is hot, but soft, with lots of malt and that unfamiliar flow of fruitwood smoke. Thin and edgy up front, but as the smoke spreads and the malt sweetens, it evolves. Finish is a bit abrupt.
Alibi is a new blended whiskey: 27.5% 3 year old straight whiskeys, 72.5% GNS. A new American blended whiskey? Give it a whiff: hot caramel, a bit of fruit, and store-brand vanilla. It’s hot in the mouth, sweet with more caramel and vanilla, fringed with cinnamon and oak. Not bad, but it’s squeezed at its $24 price by perfectly good straight bourbons.
Furniture polish, red raspberries, popovers, a vigorous nose, going in several directions. Hot grainy mouth, not overwhelmed by wood; a simple grain finish like twice-baked biscuits, with a light wreathing of meadow mint. The character of the grain comes through quite clearly, and it’s distinctly different from the Myer Rye. But what’s here is not particularly interesting or well-integrated.
Dry, dusty corn with some fruit flashing around, and an odd aroma of cracked limestone. Simple corn spirit, lightly sweet and clean, not hot (especially for 50%), and a smooth finish. As the company notes, this is a spirit for mixing, but it’s a surprisingly easy sipper, if not overly rewarding.
Quite pale, looks more like scotch. Nose is hot, sweet, a bit minty. Hot in the mouth, thin, sweet, with flashy mint and corn. Finish is fiery, and a tad bitter with wood, especially bitey high in the mouth. Young, rough, and without the raunchy fullness that can justify youthful braggadocio. There are better bourbons for only a dollar or two more. Sourced whiskey.
Hot oak and bubble gum in the nose, with a slight solvent hit of fingernail polish. Light corn in the mouth, oaky bitterness, a flash of the polish, and pretty hot for 40%. A very thin mouthfeel, not that
appealing. The nicest thing about it, though, is the finish, which is surprisingly smooth, sweet, and almost rich. You’d want to dump some cola and ice in here. Sourced whiskey.
Green corn, cooked corn, roasted corn, all tumbling over each other in the nose. Very sweet, young bourbon without much drying from the oak, but no youthful fire. Tastes like a lower row barrel. Finish is also sweet. Not a lot of complexity. Sourced whiskey, from Dickel.
Unaged, triple distilled spirit, produced and bottled at Piedmont Distillers in North Carolina. Clean nose with hints of unripe honeydew, bond paper, and wet crushed chalk. Very soft on the palate, clean, with no burn at all. Slippery-smooth, a tiny bit sweet. Tastes like good vodka, really; not much grain here at all. Easy to drink, but…where’s the excitement?
Mason jar packaging makes for an awkward pour; had to be said. Nose is hot, with a fruity sweetness and fainter notes of grassy green corn, flowers, and rock. Clean and sweet, with more corn character here, along with other fresh grains. Not nasty, not bad, but seems to be mostly aimed as a base for Palmetto’s apple pie and peach flavors. Otherwise…it’s sweet, corn-tinged vodka.
Bottle 170 of this Delaware distillery’s first batch. Full, oily aroma of sweet, wet, crushed corn; almost too rich. Very clean on the palate; light and sweet, a bit of dry leafiness. Impressive first effort. (Delaware only)
A locally-grown mashbill of 75% barley, 20% malt, 5% oats. Very aromatic for unaged spirit: fresh, grainy, a bit feinty/vegetal, split rock, and a note like well-rinsed crisp sauerkraut. It’s a quick and lively one in the mouth, sweet and slippery, grain and hints of fresh herbs (fennel, mace, white peppercorn). The finish is a bit sticky—the oats, maybe—and sweet. Interesting stuff.
Another experimental “Whims” bottlings; this one is 95% malted rye and 5% malted barley. Nose is sharp, with notes of cinnamon candies and a bit of solvents. Better on the palate: a cooling breeze of minty rye, some citrus, and growing bitter rye oil as it finishes. Fairly simple, pleasant stuff, but the nose is not inviting. Price is per 375 ml.
A “whiskey distilled from rye malt mash,” which indicates aging in used barrels. Still has a deep coloring from port barrel finishing. Nose is quite peppery, youthfully vegetal, and sweet with fruit, again, presumably from the port barrel. Rye grassiness and spice in the mouth, wrapped with layers of port fruit and pepperiness that roll into the finish. Smooth for the strength, though the port is pushy and the flavors could be better balanced. An interesting direction.
Well, they got the proof right! From JEM Beverage (Carrollton, Texas). Sweet cedar and citrus in the nose, dominant and one-noted. Sweet on the tongue, with that fresh green cedar character and more sweet citrus; a touch of oak in the finish. Not a lot else.
Redesigned label, wincingly generic in looks, even for a bottom-shelf 80 proofer. Whiskey’s quite light in color, and smells young as well: sweet, a wheated bourbon hint of peanuts, and just the faintest hint of wood. Mouth is warm, softly corny, and a little bittersweet on the finish. But that’s it. Just not much going on here.
A blend of two MGP bourbons, 11% 2 year old, 89% 4 year old. Simple sweet corn nose, with some cinnamon and hard candies; hot for 40%. Underwhelming for a whiskey named for President Jackson; warm and sweet, though with some oak-based bitterness at the fringes. Stays sweet through the finish. Not flawed, but not well thought-out either. Might be the blandest MGP juice I’ve ever had. Sourced whiskey.
The name is a reference to the “whisk(e)y” convention; this is a malt spirit, aged in a used American rye whiskey barrel. Light amber. Light nose of baker's chocolate, barrel, fruit candy, and boiled frosting. Spicy and prickly on the tongue (the rye?), with calming influence from the barrel. A lively swallow, sweet, spicy, a whack of cut lumber, and the sweetness of young malt. But there's a roughness that's not all fun; good spirit, needs more taming.
Unaged spirit, and smells like it: rich grain, a bit of loose-cut funkiness. Quite sweet in the mouth, more body than usual. Some oiliness, hints of cocoa and pastry, and a hint of something like bamboo shoots. Not as clean as some unaged spirit...but not as dull as some, either.
Riffing on the German smoked beer type. Light smoke and caramel on the nose. Very grassy front, the smoke slips in toward the middle, and it all ends up a bit confused, like dessert served in an ashtray. (375 ml.)
Canadian Mist with flavor and sweetener. Boozy but fresh peach, vanilla, and sugar nose; smells like a fresh, juicy peach cobbler; where's the whisky? Very much dessert-like in the mouth, sweet, full, but not cloying; points for that. Finish is peach candies, vanilla, and finally some whisky notes. Even at 35%, I'd like a lot more whisky character here; otherwise, what's the point? Still, head and shoulders above Southern Comfort's flavor experiments.
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.
An odd touch of the roasted-grain smell of the dryhouse here, then youthful whiskey underneath it: sweet, mint, barrel. Flavors tumble across the tongue: cocoa, mint, coconut, grass, and a bit of spice. This is six months in the barrel, and it's good for that; I also like that it's all Montana-grown grain. But you have to wonder what it will be like after another four years.
White whiskey, amazing legs on the glass. Classic white dog nose: green corn, estery fruits, a bit sharp, but not burny hot. Clean taste of corn spirit, no off flavors, and very well-mannered for 50%, unaged whiskey; I can hold this on my tongue easily, and there are some good bits of sweet candy as it rolls off. Nicely done.
There’s the sweet reek of new make: barely ripe apricot and peach, green grain, a hint of spice. The spirit is surprisingly dry, with shots of grain, pepper, and some clean alcohol notes on the top, but a well-mannered 100 proof indeed, and easy to hold on the tongue. There’s a dry twist of anise on the finish. An interesting — and promising — white whiskey. (Pennsylvania only.)
Slightly medicinal/mineral edge to a nose full of caramel. Hot in the mouth, slick and sweet, but with some currant and quince floating around; there’s more than a bit of youthful whiteness here. The finish stays hot and prickles the tongue a bit. A bold Canadian, with some flaws, but interesting nonetheless.
The malt was “lightly smoked” with a 60/40 mix of apple and cherry woods. It is very light in the nose, which gives a fruitbowl—apple, white grape, pear—topped with wet malt, and just a hint of that smoke. Very hot, as expected, but the smoke is more pronounced, with a creamy texture. Water brings out more malt, and notes of cocoa, ripe Red Delicious apple, and nuts…and a somewhat rough finish. Interesting, and mixable.
Quite dark for 4 year old whiskey. Nose is fierce, unrestrained by the glass, and full of caramel, baking spices, and dusty corn. It’s hot and oaky, but dominated by a broad cornmeal placidity that keeps the flaming oak well in check. Water brings out mint, but brings a cloying edge to the corn; it’s better hot and rocking. A huge evaporative loss made for a tiny yield, but even so, the price just seems crazy.