Tuesday, February 24, 2015

New Deal Distillery Bourbon Whiskey

I've put off writing this review for some time, for a couple reasons, really, but eventually I knew I would get around to it, so here it is.

I'll start off by saying that I love what New Deal Distillery out of Portland, OR is doing.  While vising Portland a few months ago, I had the pleasure of sampling their line of offerings.  They had two different gins, both of which I thought were quite good.  They had a white rum that I never would have thought pacific northwesterners could pull off.  Their coffee liqueur is one of the best (of not THE best) I've ever tasted, and they offer a hot pepper infused vodka called Hot Monkey which is incredible!

So, when the gentleman pouring our samples informed me that they would be releasing a bourbon the following day, telling me that if it's anything like the last release, the entire batch would be gone that day, I was more than intrigued, and, quite frankly, already sold.

That next day I showed up at the distillery, eager to get my hands on a bottle.  Considering the good work they were doing on everything else they produced, I more or less purchased the bottle sight unseen.  I did get a sample, but having already visited a couple other distilleries that day, my palate was untrustworthy at that point.  I packed my bottle away in my suitcase and brought it back to Illinois to enjoy at a later date, and eventually I got around to cracking it.
The New Deal Bourbon Whiskey is 42% ABV.  The label indicates that it is made from "100% grain" (not really sure what else might be used other than grain), that the recipe is a "bourbon mash"and that it was "twice-distilled in a copper pot still."  The labeling alone should have tipped me off, but nonetheless, I was going to give it a go.

Upon popping the cork, I knew I had made a mistake.  The "whiskey" immediately smelled like something was wrong with it.  It had the stench of rotten fruit, kind of like that random smell in the kitchen only to find that an apple at the bottom of the fruit bowl was half rotted and spoiled and harvesting generations of fruit flies.

And it tasted just as bad.  It had no traditional flavors of whiskey (of any type), but rather tasted of rotted fruit, a taste that I just could not get past and could not get out of my mouth.  I even tried mixing other whiskeys, including a flavored whiskey, to mask the effect, but to no avail.

So it sat in my cabinet, untouched, until a couple days ago when I just happened to reach back and pull it out.  I held the bottle up to the light and saw floaties throughout the bottle (keep in mind, this is only two months after purchasing).  It was as though bacteria had been harvesting inside the bottle (if that's even possible).  They were more than just mere specks, as I've seen in some whiskeys, but rather strands of "stuff" just floating around. 

At this point, pouring it down the drain was the only option.  This "whiskey" has officially set the floor for future comparisons.  I've had some bad whiskeys, but none that I just absolutely could not smell, let alone drink, and this is the first I've ever poured down the drain.

I really had hoped for more, given how much I loved their other offerings, and when I'm next in Portland I wouldn't hesitate to grab a bottle of their coffee liqueur or the Hot Monkey. But, the bourbon was certainly a regret.

Grade: F

Friday, February 20, 2015

High West Son of Bourye Blended Whiskey

- $40
- 92 Proof
- Min. 5 Years

One thing I love about the hobby of enjoying whiskey is sharing and enjoying different whiskies with my whiskey-drinking friends. It also has it's fringe benefits as well. For instance, when a friend goes on a ski trip to Park City, UT, he comes back with a bottle of Son of Bourye from the High West Distillery!!

This whiskey is a blend of bourbon and rye (hence the jackelopes on the label), each aged for a minimum of five years. It weights in at 46% ABV.

On the nose, I immediately notice a strong vanilla and brown sugar smell. It reminded me of chocolate chip cookie dough (without the chocolate chips). It was a very enjoyable smell.

On my initial pour, I didn't think the whiskey was very strongly flavored. It went down smoothly and was very drinkable, but it was not very bold in any particular flavor.

It's minty up front, and overall very nutty. It was not very sweet, staying more on the savory side (which I found interesting as the flavor did not match the nose in this respect), and it had a slight smokiness to it. To me, this basically tasted like a young, high-rye bourbon.

However, after being open for about a week or so, I felt that it turned into a more traditional rye, though one on the sweeter end of the spectrum. While the spice came through more, the whiskey really sweetened up a lot. The flavor eventually matched the nose, almost to a tee! The whiskey took on a bold brown sugar and butter flavor that, although it still retained its young character, I simply could not get enough of.

Initially I was unimpressed, but eventually this bottle took on characteristics that made for an incredibly enjoyable pour that had me wanting more and more.

Grade: B

Friday, February 13, 2015

The Balvenie DoubleWood 12 Year Single Malt Scotch Whisky

The Balvenie DoubleWood is a 12 year old Scotch coming in at 43% abv.  It derives its name from being matured in two different types of oak barrels.  The second part of the maturation is done in sherry casks.
Accordingly, this Scotch is not the sherry bomb that other sherry-aged Scotches are, but it certainly doesn't go unnoticed.  In fact, the Sherry is obvious on the nose, along with the distinct aroma of pipe tobacco.
On the palate, the sherry flavor dominates, but not exceedingly so.  It is definitely a lighter, fruitier Scotch, with an undertone of oak and walnut to it.  It has a nice citrus balance on the finish that I found to be the most enjoyable part, but dissipated quickly.
Interestingly, the sherry notes got stronger the longer this bottle was open. Granted, I very much enjoyed these pours, so the bottle wasn't exactly sitting open on my counter for months.  But, even after a week this whisky blossomed to offer an even greater explosion of flavor up front.
While not as complex as other Scotches from The Balvenie, this is a strong 12 year old Scotch.  It's very drinkable and has a lot to offer.  Granted it is a bit pricier than other 12 year olds, but in this case the higher price point is justified.  Quite frankly, I've come to expect no less from The Balvenie.
Grade: B

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

O. Z. Tyler Small Batch Reserve Honey Flavored Bourbon

Whenever my stocks of whiskey run low at home, my wife is always willing to pick something out for me.  In fact, she enjoys doing it, trying to find a gem among those that I haven't previously tried.
In this instance, though, when she came across O.Z. Tyler honey whiskey at the grocery store, she had other motivation.  Our firstborn son is named Tyler.  Our third child, our other son, is named Owen, and, accordingly, has the initials "O.Z."  So, when she saw the name "O.Z. Tyler" staring at her from the shelf, she felt she had to purchase it, even though she knew I have little interest in flavored whiskeys.
Nonetheless, I was willing to give it a try.  First, however, I was intrigued by the distillery, as I had never heard of it, and there was not a lot of information readily available.  After a bit of digging, though, I learned that O.Z. Tyler is a chemist who, through his company, Terresentia, has patented the TerrePURE technology--a means of chemically aging and filtering spirits.
Based on what I've read, the company primarily offers this service to other distillers and bottlers.  Apparently they will age your spirits for you.  This whiskey, however, Mr. Tyler apparently put his name to, and it was bottled by TerrePURE Spirits out of South Carolina.
So, going in, I already was biased against the whiskey for being flavored, but, after reading up on the company, I was also skeptical that a chemical process can manufacture and replicate the aging process.
On first sip, my lips pursed and face grimaced at just how incredibly sweet this whiskey is.  In that respect alone, this was very difficult to put away.  I felt like I needed to brush my teeth after each sip.  The honey flavor is overpowering and tastes cheap and artificial. 
More importantly, though, is that this did not taste anything like whiskey from a barrel.  It tasted almost metallic.  Perhaps my prejudice got in the way, and all I could picture was a whiskey made in a lab, and so I got that sterilized lab smell stuck in my head.  But, I couldn't shake it.
This bottle took me quite a while to make my way to the bottom.  I found the only way I could drink it and not hate it was with a whole bunch of ice.  Accordingly, I would pour a glass generally only after already having had a few drinks. 
The only reason I didn't give this a failing grade is that I was, at least, able to finish it, unlike some whiskeys I've tried, but this was incredibly close.  Sure, it has an awesome name (at least from my perspective), but as is always the case, it's what's in the bottle that counts.
Grade: D-

Monday, February 2, 2015

Smooth Ambler Old Scout 7 Year Straight Bourbon

West Virginia may not be known for its bourbon (perhaps better known for its moonshine), but Smooth Ambler has nonetheless made a name for itself among American Whiskeys as a consistently good producer. 
Having passed it over many a time to go the more traditional route of the Kentucky bourbon, I finally decided to give this bottle a try.
The first thing I noticed is the vivid reddish bronze color of the whiskey.  Certainly bourbons are a darker whiskey, but this had an auburn quality about it that had me intrigued.
The nose was notably fruity, with pronounced apples and almonds in the aroma.  I liken it to a fruitier almond liqueur smell.
On the tongue, though, the high rye content of the mashbill stood out.  It also had an up-front flavor of cooked cherries.  The finish had hints of mint with a spiciness at the back end to complement its mild sweetness on the front end. 
There was nothing eye-popping about this whiskey.  Nonetheless, I found myself really enjoying it, particularly the father down I got in the bottle.  The first pour came across as ordinary.  However, with each subsequent pour, the whiskey smoothed out considerably and took on a buttery flavor that was unexpected (and the nose smelled unmistakably like my wife's Shea butter lotion, as odd as that may be).
It's a very warming pour that I could really enjoy during the winter months, and I look forward to trying other products in the Smooth Ambler line.
Grade: B