Monthly Archives: July 2009

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.


– in the $40-50 range

– Made by Death’s Door Distillery

– 80 proof


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.


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.


Rock Hill Farms Single Barrel

rockhillBack in full health and back into bourbon blogging – with a well regarded single barrel no less in Rock Hill Farms.

I think I may have tried one this a few months ago when checking out a (then) new bar in my neighborhood which was rumored to have an extensive bourbon menu.  While the bourbon listing was a little diappointing compared to my lofty expectations, I do recall seeing Rock Hill there and at least discussing it with the bartender, if not drinking it.  Either way, I’ve got a bottle of it with me now so I can give it a fresh eye.

From a little internet-research, it seems Rock Hill Farms is produced by the Buffalo Trace Distillery, and that’s a good thing.  Buffalo Trace is one of the more forward-looking producers these days, or at least their numerous experimental varieties often seem to make their way into my path every now and then with pleasing results.  Without any further delay, here we go.



– 100 proof

– Made by Buffalo Trace


The Rock Hill Farms bottle really tries to get across the familiar/cliched sense of Kentucky class.  On the one hand, the short square bottle, rounded top corners, and large glass bulb for the stopper make this a bottle that implies it should be placed in a display case.  The gold-painted, etched-glass illustrations of horses trotting about, on the other hand, place this bourbon firmly among the bluegrass.

There is nothing in the way of descriptive text on the bottle, just the gold and the horses.  Presumably the bottle is supposed to speak for itself.  I appreciate this in as far as I find most descriptive text on whiskey bottles to be tiresome at best, but there’s also something a little conceited about the whole presentation.  We’ll see if it lives up to it.


A very pleasant nose to this one – smooth, a bit of maple, and wood that’s been out in the sun for a few years.  On tasting it, there’s a very full mouth feel and pretty heavy wood right off the bat.  This really lingers on the tongue for a while and develops into a buttered popcorn then a touch of butterscotch and ending with a hint of fresh-cut grass, but really not very sweet for a bourbon.

Over all:

Fortunately, Rock Hill Farms is not nearly as woody as the Elijah Craig single barrel I tasted a while ago.  It is definitely not messing around though.  This is a luxurious bourbon with a very full flavor that sticks with you for a while.  It’s not my favorite, but it’s definitely going to find its way into my glass again.

Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy

Well!  It’s been nearly a month since my last post – far too long.  I’ve been busy with things like organizing my bourbon collection (finally) and being sick with a pesky summer flu – still have it in fact, so today’s post will be structured a little differently than usual since I’m not drinking at the moment.  However, I haven’t neglected my brown spirits all together, in fact along with some help I’ve made some headway with a bottle of Laird’s Straight Apple Brandy.

lairds_full lairds_empty

I’ve had Laird’s before this, but only their Applejack, which is merely their brandy diulted with neutral spirit – really a disappointing venture in all.  So I was looking forward to sampling their good stuff.  Before going any deeper into this post though, I have to note that the logo for this particular brandy is wonderful, the kind of thing apple brandy distillers should get tattooed on their forearms.


I’ve written a couple times about apple brandies before, with American Fruits and Clear Creek, and the two seemed to represent a range from young & bright to more mature & mellow – as we’d expect comparing any liquor aged a few months to on aged a few years – but each also represented different approaches to the craft: Clear Creek is openly drawing inspiration from the French traditions around Calvados, while American Fruits seemed to be in more of an experimental mode and at the beginning of crafting what may or may not be a lasting line.

Laird’s is perhaps the standard when it comes to American apple brandies and it employs a process very different from those other two products.  Instead of aging in limousin oak as Clear Creek does, they use charred American oak and age it six to eight years before bottling.  In other words, they follow the same aging process as bourbon.

The result is a brandy that is, at times, more bourbon-like.  It’s a little brighter than Clear Creek’s, but far more apply.  Since I’m not drinking it at the moment (much to my dismay), I can’t go into finer-tuned notes, but I can say that at its full 100 proof, it can be a bit much to take.  I’ve found adding a bit of water brings out the cider qualities, and adding an ice cube or two makes it into a fine casual dram.

All in all, I would recommend giving this a try – just avoid their Applejack.