Category Archives: Weat Whiskey

W.L. Weller Special Reserve

W.L. Weller Antique is one of the earliest bourbons I tasted for this blog (now about 2 years old, wow).  Back then, it impressed me over time, proving surprisingly meaty for a wheated bourbon.  Tonight, I’m giving another W.L. Weller expression a try – the W.L. Weller Special Reserve.  This bottle seems to have more than its share of fans out there on the internet as a bourbon with a good quality to price ratio.  This internet thing has led me down some dead ends before, but let’s see what this seven-year aged, wheated bourbon has to offer.

Stats:

– $17ish

– 90 proof

– Made by Buffalo Trace

Presentation:

Judging from what I’m seeing on Google image search, it looks like Weller Special recently switched bottles from the common, broad shouldered bottle to something more bulbous and generally more dignified – if only because it’s not the same bottle that Rebel Yell uses.  The label sits very low on the bottle, right down near the base, and informs its viewer that this bourbon has been enjoyed by connoisseurs since 1849 – the same year referenced by one of my favorites, Old Fitzgerald.  This is no surprise considering these brands share a common heritage in Mr. Weller.  The name and description is printed in old-timey bourbon script while the rest of the type in gold-trimmed block lettering on a white background.  The low placement and rounded contours of the new bottle do a lot to show off the bourbon inside and is generally quite appealing.

Tasting:

On the nose Weller Special comes across very sweet with notes of raspberries and mango as my first impression.  There’s also a bit of grass in there, but with an edge of char from the barrel.  Very bright and pleasant.

That same sweetness comes through on the tasting as well, in fact it’s sweet from start to finish.  It’s one of those bourbons with a light mouth-feel and high berry flavors such that it comes across as almost juicy.  Right at the start the grassy flavors and wheat influence express themselves and stick around even as berries and candies come into play.  This bourbon dances toward the tip of the tongue as the finish is still boldly lemon-drop filled, but retains a slight spicy/warm edge to it.

Over all:

This couldn’t be more different from Weller Antique in its disposition.  Where Antique is an ornery companion with some good stories to tell, Special Reserve is happy-go-lucky and filled with bright colors.  This isn’t my favorite style, but this is done pretty well I have to admit.  The grains come through in a great way and this is really just a pleasant drink.  I have to say I can see why this is seen as such a good deal – at $17 it certainly over-delivers.

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Old Rip Van Winkle

The second of the Van Winkle line I’ve tried for this blog, Old Rip Van Winkle (107 proof variety) is one of the entry-level tiers of the esteemed line of bourbons that includes the famed Pappy Van Winkles.  All the Van Winkles are wheated bourbons, so I’m expecting that softer edge to come through, but the extra aging (ten years total) might complicate that a bit.

Apologies for not providing my own photo here, the camera is having some battery trouble tonight.

Stats:

– $30ish

– Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery

– 107 proof

Presentation:

This is definitely a package that pushes its old-timeyness to the forefront.  Several different fonts adorn the front label, including an elaborate script that dominates most of the bottom half.  These sorts of things usually get on my nerves, but it does avoid old-timey anonymity with the two charming storybook prints from the Rip Van Winkle tale that stand on either side of the front label.  Old Rip asleep with his gun and and jug of booze make this packaging unique.

The back text, however, says nothing of substance or note and even describes the whiskey’s character as “great”.

Tasting:

The wood from its ten years in the barrel is very strong on the nose, but backed by a honeysuckle scent and a distant hint of smoke.  When tasting it, the first impression is how strongly the high proof comes through – this is a hot one.  Beyond that though, the wood character is prominent but balanced by a good amount black pepper and some of sweet apple peeking through at times.  The finish is medium-long and peppery.

Over all:

Once you get past its strength, this bourbon is quite good.  It’s definitely something to sip slowly and I might even try it with an ice cube to tame the power a bit.  Definitely not on the same level as the others in the Van Winkle family, but a something I’ll surely come back to.

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.

Hudson Four Grain Bourbon Whiskey

fgbI met Ralph Erenzo – co-founder of Tuthilltown Spirits – at a tasting at Fermented Grapes this weekend. I’ve tasted TS’s barley Single Malt before and I’ve been curious about their Four Grain Bourbon more or less since.  So, after tasting some of TS’s apple vodka and Baby Bourbon (as well as a pleasant conversation with Ralph) I took home a bottle.

Stats:

– $35-40
– 92 proof
– Made by Tuthilltown Spirits

Presentation:

As I’m sure I wrote before with the Single Malt, Tuthilltown Spirits squat little bottle with wax-dipped top is attractive for its lack of affect and medicine-bottle look, while avoiding the kitch and nostalgia of other American whiskies.  My only complaint is the wordiness of the paragraph on the back, which belies the rest of the packaging’s simplicity.

Tasting:
On the nose FGB is very muted.  There’s a bit of spicy, pepperiness from the rye as well as a sweet maple syrup scent.

The first sip enters smoothly and sweet, then develops a full-mouth grainy, grassy taste.  It’s here where it reveals some youth though (it’s aged less than a year in small barrels) and a little tartness, but it slowly moves into a medium-length peppery finish.

Over all:
Tuthilltown’s Four Grain Bourbon is pleasantly full.  If I didn’t know it had been aged less than a year (Mr. Erenzo let that out) I probably wouldn’t have been able to guess.  I’m looking forward to what they produce in the future.

Bernheim Original

When it comes to wheat whiskey there’s usually one name that comes to mind above most others – Bernheim. So this week I finally took the plunge and gave it a serious look.

Presentation:

Bernheim does a great job with their bottle. It manages to be classic, classy, and simple all at once. IT doesn’t strive for some false American-whiskey past that other do. It seems to say, “we let out whiskey do the talking.”

The bottle is less than two inches in depth and uses minimal labeling. One side sports a faux-aged sticker with some text, but this is blissfully out of the way. Otherwise the main descriptive elements are the heavy copper-colored name plaque in the center of the bottle front, and the design of the bottle which lets light pass pleasingly through the yellow-amber colored liquid.

Focus here is on the drink and its attractive qualities rather than any semi-truthful origin stories. That’s the way it should be.

Tasting:

The nose is mostly mild, with hints of honey, dry grass, and hazelnut coming through. The honey is very much what I expected – the hazelnut is a bit of a surprise.

To the palate Bernheim absolutely screams “wheat!” when you first take it in. This quickly transforms into notes of unexpected spice, nuts, and green apples. Really quite complex, but not slow at all in its development. The flavors themselves may not be to aggressive, but they develop as though chased by hellhounds.

This turns into a lingering, pleasing spiciness.

Over all:

Bernheim is definitely not what I expected it to be. I was thinking I’d find a mild honey-driven whiskey, but instead was confronted by a hyper-active, but no less interesting drink with some surprising spice.

One thing that I found a little odd was how at points it reminded me of Glenfiddich – mostly at the height of its green-appley moments.

Quite a fine whiskey.