Category Archives: Whiskey

Angel’s Envy

I’ve heard about Angel’s Envy every now and then over the past couple of months and its launch earlier this year seems to have been well received. It certainly is intriguing if only for the fact that the plan is to make a different expression each year. This has worked well for Old Forester’s Birthday Bourbons and I like the potential for an evolving product line. On top of that, it seems that this year’s expression has been finished in port casks — this is the kind of development and experimentation I like to see in American whiskey production. While it’s a familiar process across the Atlantic, sometimes it seems like the Bourbon Purists scare the experimental streak out of whiskey production over here, so even a modest level of experimentation like this is welcome. Here’s hoping it lives up to its promise.

Stats:

- $45ish

- 43.3%

- Made by Louisville Distilling Company

Presentation:

Unfortunately, all I have is a sample-sized bottle in front of me, so I can’t go into too much detail in this respect. However, from what I can tell from the image, the bottle avoids gratuitous nostalgia, but perhaps tries a little too hard to pull at the heart-strings of the whiskey-hipster set with that typeface. I appreciate the simplicity and flowing profile, so over all not too bad.

Tasting:

On the nose, I get a solid ripe-grain scent integrated with dark cherry and a distant char. It’s forward, but solid to the nose, with some lingering alcohol wafting up more than I might usually like. Tasting  it, the bold spicy/peppery character comes across immediately, beneath that there’s vanilla and caramel with some hint of that dark cherry note from the nose. The finish is very long and pleasantly spicy with some pine notes coming toward the end.

Over all:

Maybe it was my focus on the port cask finishing, or the delicate bottle design, but I was expecting a much lighter style for Angel’s Envy. That said, I’m pleasantly surprised by its forward character and bold spiciness. It was hard to distinguish what came from the port casks, it came across with a unified, confident profile. I’m impressed, nice work.

*Note: This review was based on samples sent to me by a representative of LDC. I assure you, this did not affect my review except prevent me from criticizing the bottle.


Rogue Dead Guy Whiskey

I’m a fan of Rogue’s line of beers, so when I stopped by Downtown a few weeks ago to stock up on some of my usuals, I was intrigued when I saw Rogue Dead Guy Whiskey. It makes perfect sense that successful microbreweries would want to expand into whiskey — same ingredients, same basic realm of interest — but I haven’t seen too many of these types of products on the shelves. Perhaps I’m just not noticing them or perhaps this country’s bizarre regulations that make microdistilleries a difficult enterprise are getting in the way (see the ADI site for more info on that).

Regardless, I’m glad to see Rogue getting this new product all the way out here in the Northeast. It looks like they’re using an all-malt mash (same as their beer) and aged like bourbon. To the stats.

Stats:

- $40ish

- 80 proof

- Made by Rogue Spirits

Presentation:

If you’ve ever seen a bottle of Rogue Dead Guy ale, then you already have a decent picture of this bottle. The label text on the back isn’t noteworthy, but I like that they list ingredients all the way down to the specific type of malts used. It gives the impression of honesty and pride. The bottle is a rounded-edge square column and shows off the color nicely.

Tasting:

Rogue Wiskey begins with a very sweet scent reminiscent of banana bread and a bit of cream and honey. On the back end there’s some harshness, which might indicate relative youth, but I haven’t been able to find a specific age statement for this bottle. Tasting it, Rogue starts up with that banana bread quality, but moves to an unsettling soapiness shortly after. Fortunately that fades into a nice lemongrassy, malt-driven bite down the side of your tongue. The finish is thin and dissipates quickly.

Over all:

I do enjoy a malt-based whiskey aged bourbon style, so this hits some strong points. In the end, though, I found Rogue a little on the thin side for my tastes. I was hoping for something bolder and more robust — perhaps something that could come with a little more age. It’s a decent whiskey, and I love what they’re doing as a company, but there are better options out there in this price rage.


WhipperSnapper

After a long silence, it’s a new year and a new post.  It’s been a hell of a temptation to have some fantastic whiskeys on my shelf waiting to be tasted and blogged about for about four months.  I’ve made it through the rigors of my first semester of grad school though, and can now happily reward my patience with a glass of WhipperSnapper.

I picked this bottle up back in August when I first moved up to Cambridge from Brooklyn, but I read about it  few months later when the Huffington Post got down to reviewing it before I was able to lift my head out of the books.  From that review and all the others I’ve come across over these long months, WhipperSnapper seems to have some savvy buzz-makers behind it in its creator — Ransom — which also recently released an Old Tom-style gin in collaboration with the esteemed cocktail revivalist, David Wondrich.

From what I’ve been able to gather, they source the corn spirit, which makes up 79% of the unaged mixture, from other distilleries and re-distill it, while making the 21% barley spirit themselves.  This is an interesting combination approach (compared to products like High West which outsource distillation entirely) that probably helps them decrease production time and keep volume up.  Additionally, it seems that one of the main selling points is that WhipperSnapper is aged partially in French oak barrels previously used for pinot noir-based wines.  I’ve only had one other whiskey aged in ex-wine casks (one of the Buffalo Trace experimental releases) and I quite enjoyed it, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this is expressed.  Now, on to the important stuff.

 

Stats:

- I found this for $31

- 84 proof

- Made by Ransom Spirits

Presentation:

In general, I’m not a fan of using too much text on a whiskey bottle.  The copywriters for such things tend to get worked up in nostalgic histories of grandfathers and secret family recipes and the like.  While this may add some weight to the drinker’s sense of what American whiskey should be, it usually comes across as disingenuous marketing drivel.  WhipperSnapper uses a lot of text on its faux-mid-19th-century label.  Aesthetically, this is pleasing, the small type of the lengthy mini-essay on the front label contrasts well with the bold type and curved outlines of the central text.  The content however just comes across as self-aware marketing drivel — best not to read too closely and just enjoy the otherwise well-designed label.  I say well-designed even though they push close to tourist-trap levels of Old Westiness by putting the phrase “High Falutin'” at the very top.  I understand wanting recall a golden age of American spirit production, and I don’t want to gripe too much about a genuinely attractive label, but some times these things go to far.

Tasting:

Two things come across instantly on the nose: first is a prominent corn scent from that 79% white dog, second is a burst of juicy sourness that I bet hails from those pinot noir barrels.  It reminds me of a beer that’s been aged in wine casks, definitely unexpected in a whiskey, but nonetheless intriguing.  Behind this, you can pick up some of that barley influence as well.  Combined, it’s something like a sour cherry crumble  Definitely a whipper-snapper though — this whiskey is young if the nose is any indication.

It  changes tack on tasting it though.  The sourness becomes a secondary characteristic to an appealingly sweet frosting/birthday-cake sort of sensation.  The back of the tongue picks up the corn and (less so than I’d expected) the barley, but the focus here is on the creamy sweetness more toward the front.  The sour wine-like qualities come in after this first wave dies down, but only slightly, and far from over powering.  The finish is warm but not particularly notable, probably owing to its relative youth.

Over all:

Nice work, Ransom.  I’m curious to see what this would be like with even more of the wine cask influence, but what we have here is quite good.  It is smooth beyond what its nose seems to imply and that buttercream opening is very appealing.  I’ll be drinking this again soon.


Buffalo Trace – White Dog

Buffalo Trace puts out some good whiskeys and what I’ve got here is where a lot of them begin: White Dog.  “White dog” refers to the unaged distillate that eventually becomes bourbon.  These unaged whiskeys are starting to pop up more and more in liquor stores (see: Death’s Door, Georgia Moon, etc), and they’re growing on me slowly.  I’m not sure if I’d ever choose one over any full-blooded bourbon, but let’s see how Buffalo Trace’s offering measures up.

Stats:

- $15ish

- 125 proof

- Made by Buffalo Trace

Presentation:

Buffalo Trace White Dog comes in a short, simple bottle with a faintly mottled tan label.  The front label shows the Buffalo Trace logo, the words “White Dog”, “Mash #1″  and a listing of the grains and proof.  The rear, however, gets into some nostalgic tale about the “brave pioneers” who traveled to Kentucky, distilling all the way.  I guess when you’re selling white liquor it becomes more about the marketing than the complexity of the whiskey, but this story is pretty standard fare.  Generally, though, I like the straight-forward design and it goes well with the simplicity of the product.

Tasting:

The scent is surprisingly rich and smooth – it’s like rising bread dough, full and soft.  This definitely is close to the grain.  It’s also pretty big in flavor – the same rising sourdough flavor but a little sharper at first and settling down into something more yeasty.  The finish is long (for something unaged) and yeasty as well.  This is quite powerful at 125 proof and it’ll numb your mouth a bit if you don’t add some water, but try it both ways.

Over all:

I’m impressed.  I can’t say I like it better than their main line bourbon, but this is far more flavorful than the other unaged whiskeys I’ve tasted lately.  Strangely, this is something that could be a decent sipping drink if you’re in the mood for something different.


Death’s Door Whisky

deathsdoorwhiskyThe more I look into it online, the more I’m thinking I’m lucky to have got my hands on a bottle of Death’s Door Whisky.  First of all, the spirit isn’t mentioned at all on the company website and second, according to their blog it seems they have little distribution beyond the Midwest.  Well, I thank Astor Wines & Spirits for getting it in stock!  That said, the reason I’ve been frequenting Astor of late is because my usual go-to shop, LeNell’s, had been on something of a hiatus.  To my great disappointment, that hiatus became permanent not too long ago.  We’ll all miss you, LeNell, come back to Brooklyn any time!  …and Astor better start stocking some more new and interesting stuff like this Death’s Door because I’ve just about had everything there.

Back to the subject at hand.  What makes DDW stand out above all else is the fact that it’s clear.  Its description at the store says it has been aged in steel drums, then for a day or two in oak casks, but nothing more.  This has me expecting something only slightly less harsh than the fresh-off-the-still taste of something like Georgia Moon.  Where it could differ though is in the fact that it’s made with a 100% wheat mash, which I could see softening some of the sharper edges you’d see in a fresh corn whiskey – but still-fresh is still-fresh no matter what the mash.  We’ll see.

Stats:

- in the $40-50 range

- Made by Death’s Door Distillery

- 80 proof

Presentation:

Ah, beautiful simplicity.  If you’ve read a few of my past entries, you’ll know that one of my frequent complaints about whiskeys are their over-done label design.  Death’s Door takes the radically opposite approach with their clear bottle, clear label sticker, and absolutely minimal use of text.  The only adornment is their double D logo.  Otherwise the vessel serves only to tell the whiskey aisle shopper that its contents is indeed clear and still a whiskey.

In certain contexts this minimalism could be interpreted as pretense, but sitting on the table in my apartment, it just looks clean and serious.

Tasting:

Yep, as you might expect, this smells like fresh distillate.  The harshness is a little muted from what its peak no doubt was, but I don’t know whether to chalk that up to bringing it down to 80 proof, the brief aging period, or both.  Difficult to make out anything particularly wheaty like you might whiff in something like Bernheim.  Generally a pleasant nose though.

When drinking, the first sensation is sweet and dry: raspberries and the smell of sun-bleached driftwood.  There’s a good deal of warmth on the palate for something this young and it’s surprisingly smooth.  The berry/driftwood sense continues throughout, then fades into a slightly bitter, short-lived finish.

Over all:

This is a good one.  Definitely a change of pace from your usual  line-up of brown liquors and surprisingly different from the Georgia Moons of the world.  As for how to drink it, putting it on the rocks might mute the more delicate flavors beyond repair, but adding a drop or two of simple syrup and some mint might not be a bad idea to compliment DDW’s strengths.  It’s not an all time favorite, but I have to say I’m impressed what they’ve done to make an enjoyable white whiskey and it’s a worthy addition to anyone’s cabinet if they’re looking for something that’s a change of pace.


Gentleman Jack

gentlemanjackI feel a little like I’m going about this wrong – writing about Gentleman Jack before the standard Jack Daniels.  Gentleman Jack is the middle offering in the Jack Daniel’s, Gentleman Jack, and Jack Daniels Single Barrel, so it would seem natural to start with the first rung of the ladder.  Unfortunately, college provided me with too many tasting experiences of the standard Jack Daniel’s to be as unbiased as I’d like.  The Gentlemanly variety, then, provides something of a fresh start for this popular brand.

The difference between GJ and JD seems to be only that the whiskey is charcoal filtered twice instead of once.  Presumably this will make it a little smoother.  There’s also no age statement, providing them with some flexibility with this line.

Stats:

- $30 – 40

- 80 proof

- Made by Jack Daniel’s

Presentation:

Gentleman Jack’s bottle has a wide-set shoulder, with a slight slope on the way down to the base.  The front sports a silver label emblazoned with its name and the descriptor “Rare Tennessee Whiskey”.  Beneath this, embossed on the glass is Jack’s signature.  Otherwise, the bottle is pretty clean and simple, showing off the stuff inside.

Tasting:

Gentleman Jack is very sweet to the nose – corn, fresh grass, and reasonably strong oak.  It is indeed very smooth, clean start to clean finish.  In the middle, though, there’s a bit of a crunchy, grainy aspect that fodes quickly to a warm char on the roof of the mouth.

Over all:

Gentleman Jack is – as advertised – quite smooth.  Unfortunately, there’s not too much else going on in there.  I’ll give this a try with some cocktails and see how it holds up.  In the end, however, this probably won’t be making too many appearances for me.


Michter’s US-1 Unblended American Whiskey

michtersawMichter’s has been one of those whiskeys that I think about buying every time I’m stocking up, but never do.  It is in most liquor stores in the city that have anything approaching a decent whiskey selection so it’s easy to turn up the opportunity to buy it with the ‘there’s always next time’ rationale.  Well, this past Sunday was the ‘next time’ I suppose, because I finally picked up a bottle of Michter’s American Whiskey.

What makes it American whiskey as opposed to bourbon?  It seems that the difference lies in their use of “bourbon soaked” oak barrels (i.e. previously used barrels) and the use of their unelaborated “signature filtration” process.  This should be an interesting counterpart to some of the other selections from Kentucky on this blog.

Stats:

- $30-35

- 83.4 proof

- Bottled by Michter’s American Whiskey Company

Presentation:

Michter’s American comes in a bottle with a reasonable diameter and tall-ish neck – largely a design which doesn’t stand out and is only a step different than the standard well bottles.  The front label is a blue, rough-edged oval edged by a mottled grey border.  In the middle is an image of a pot still surrounded by text in ever-larger rings.  The outermost of these text rings brags that MAW is distilled according to “pre-Revolutionary War” quality standards – which I have to say it not much comfort considering the fresh-off-the-still stuff they probably drank back then.

I do like the double-banded binding on the neck and cork.  Adorned sparsel with stars against a dark blue, this feature exudes a restrained but nonetheless present patriotism.

Tasting:

The nose on this one has a bit of depth to it, fresh cream, malted barley (?), raspberries.  A little confused about the malted barley here, but it could just be whatever rye elements are in the mash mixing with the other scents.

Taste: Very smooth.  Initally there’s that rye undertone that’s overtaken by lemon candy, fresh corn, and then moving to a syrupy-sweet taste.  It ends with a rye-like bitterness and a warm finish of moderate length.

Over all:

This is not my favorite.  I tend to be drawn to whiskeys that have a bit more depth to them and some sharper edges, and this isn’t exactly what I’ve got here.  Perhaps contradictorily, however, I can definitely see myself drinking this regularly.  It’s a fine whiskey that’s easy to get into and doesn’t provoke much thought.  The lack of depth here works in its favor as an every-day sort of drink since what it does display is actually pretty good.


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