Posts tagged ‘American Whiskey’

Phil’s Favorite American Craft Whiskeys

There is no section of my local liquor store expanding quite so rapidly as American craft whiskey.  New distilleries seem to be emerging every day, as do new whiskeys.  I have to admit that I have not been impressed with all of it, but I have really enjoyed some of the craft whiskeys released in the United States over the last few years.

For the purposes of this series, some of these whiskeys could be included in different categories (i.e. Dad’s Hat is also a rye whiskey in addition to being a craft whiskey), but I stated at the beginning that each whiskey could only receive one nomination, so that is why each of these whiskeys appears here as opposed to on another list.  So, here are the nominees for American Craft Whiskey:

Name: Balcones “1” Texas Single Malt

Distillery: Balcones

Batch: SM 12-9

Age: No Age Statement

Proof: 106 (53% abv)

Price: $70-80/750ml

Notes: This was one of the first batches of Texas Single Malt released, and it did not disappoint.  This whiskey elicited rich banana bread notes, a nutty sweetness, and a rich berry creaminess.  This whiskey really worked to forge a new style all its own, and it worked beautifully.  The only caveat to this nomination is that I have tried a few successive batches of this whiskey that I have not liked nearly as much as I liked this first batch.  That said, this particular batch was brilliant whiskey.  “1” Texas Single Malt is available on a limited basis the further one gets from Texas.

Name: Corsair Triple Smoke

Distillery: Corsair Artisan Distillery

Batch: 84

Age: No Age Statement

Proof: 80 (40% abv)

Price: $45-50/750ml

Notes: This whiskey is a blend of three different malted barley samples, one smoked over cherry wood, one smoked over peat, and one smoked over beechwood.  The resulting whiskey is a unique take on smoked malt whiskey, yielding flavors of fiery peat, sweet barley, and freshly cut oak.  This is definitely a young whiskey that is a little rough around the edges, but the flavors are unique and they are bursting out of the bottle.  This is a hard whiskey to find, but if you do, it’s worth a try.  They are not too many like this one floating around.

Name: Dad’s Hat Pennsylvania Rye

Distillery: Mountain Laurel Spirits

Batch: N/A

Age: 6 months

Proof: 90 (45% abv)

Price: $35-40/750ml

Notes: This rye is made in the authentic Pennsylvania style, meaning that corn is not included in the mashbill as found in Kentucky ryes.  Dad’s Hat is then aged in new oak quarter casks for a minimum of 6 months.  You would probably think that after only 6 months, this whiskey would be hot and brash, but it is nothing of the sort.  Even at its young age, this is a quality whiskey, with cocoa dust, rich black cherries, fresh oak shavings, and white chocolate.  This is one of those whiskeys that is really good and gets you really excited about tasting such a well-made spirit at an older age (Dad’s Hat will be rolling out a 3 year-old rye this spring).  This whiskey was awarded “Craft Whiskey of the Year” by Whisky Advocate magazine for good reason.  It is widely available in the mid-Atlantic, but gets harder to find the further one is from Pennsylvania.

Name: High West Campfire

Distillery: Midwest Grain Products/Unnamed Scottish Distilleries – Blended and Bottled at High West

Batch: N/A

Age: 5 Years

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $40-45/750ml

Notes: I had trouble decided whether or not High West belonged in the American Craft Whiskey category or not, but as they were undoubtedly one of the pioneers of the American craft movement, I have included their whiskeys here.  This particular whiskey is a blend of a rye whiskey, a bourbon, and a peated blended malt Scotch from an undisclosed source.  The result is something both unique and special.  Sweet flavors such as caramel, honey, and vanilla are present, as are herbal flavors like pine and juniper.  All these flavors are accented wonderfully by a twinge of rolling smoke.  This whiskey is widely available; you can find it in almost any liquor store where High West products are sold.

Name: High West Double Rye!

Distillery: Midwest Grain Products/Barton 1792 – Blended and Bottled at High West

Batch: N/A

Age: 2 Years

Proof: 92 (46% abv)

Price: $40-45/750ml

Notes: Double Rye! is made at the High West Distillery in Utah by marrying two different whiskeys – a 95% rye mashbill, 2 year-old whiskey from MGP in Indiana, and a 16 year-old, 53% rye mashbill from the Barton Distillery in Kentucky.  The resulting whiskey is a tour-de-force of rye flavors.  All the spice cabinet range of a great rye is present here, but it is all buttressed by rich honey and vanilla notes to round out a great profile.  The great part about this rye is that it is available almost everywhere in the United States, and it won’t break the bank.

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Charbay R5 Hop Flavored Whiskey (Lot #4) Review

Today’s review is something quite different from the normal whiskey-fare, in that it is whiskey distilled from fully crafted beer.  This is the project of Charbay, to bring beers to their final destination as whiskeys.  There are several different iterations of Charbay whiskeys, ranging from stouts to IPA’s – the subject of today’s review.  This whiskey is double distilled out of Bear Republic’s famous Racer 5 IPA, aged in French Oak casks for 29 months, and bottled at 99 proof (49.5% abv). 

The whiskey is truly a different experience, like no flavors I’ve ever experienced in a whiskey before.  The nose is hot and herbal, like drying mint leaves mixed with oregano and herbal cough drops.  The palate is hot and fiery with some more herbal cough drops, fresh thyme, Simcoe hops, cumin, and pine tar.  The finish is long and dry, with oregano and poblano peppers.

While it is true that the early stages of whiskey-making and beer-making are quite similar, I know of no other distillery outside of Charbay that uses fully matured and ready to drink beer as the basis of their whiskey.  I love the creativity, but I have to admit that I am not a lover of the final product.  I enjoy hoppy beers, but in the distilling process, to my palate, the hops have become acidic and spicy to a detriment to the whiskey.  My grade: C-.  Price: $70-80/750ml.  This one is too expensive for my blood based on the way the flavors present themselves to me.  That said, it’s a cool idea, and I look forward to trying Charbay’s other products and experimenting with this whiskey in some cocktails.

St. George Single Malt Review

St. George as he slays the dragon (Note: he celebrated his victory with a glass of single malt whiskey).

St. George as he slays the dragon (Note: he celebrated his victory with a glass of single malt whiskey).

Today, I am reviewing one of the whiskeys I get asked about most often – St. George Single Malt. I have already reviewed the bourbon that comes out of St. George – Breaking and Entering – a bourbon I rather enjoyed. Unlike Breaking and Entering (which is a blend of sourced bourbons), St. George distills their single malt on the premises.

The single malt is the flagship spirit of the St. George’s distillery, as Lance Winters (St. George’s founder and Master Distiller) was a brewer by trade before getting into spirits. Lance is famous for tweaking the mash bill of the whiskey by using different types of barley, much like one would with beer. In terms of casking, St. George is also a creative product, using a myriad of different casks, such as French oak, ex-bourbon casks, and port pipes. St. George Single Malt is bottled at 86 proof (43% abv), and the particular batch I am reviewing is Lot 14.

The nose is soft and gentle, with pine, elegant smoke, potpourri, citrus peels, and perfume. The palate is medium-bodied, and it is nutty, with vanilla, whipped cream, and some nutmeg type spices rounding it out. The finish is short with some pine nuts, wood shavings, and fresh ginger.

Overall, this is a unique single malt, and one that I have enjoyed sipping. This is a very approachable malt, but the flavors are complex and presented well. My only problem with this single malt is the price point. This is definitely one of the best whiskeys on the American craft scene, but I don’t think it fully warrants the $80 price tag. A lot of people have asked me what I think of this one, and I really do like the whiskey in the bottle, especially for an American single malt. My grade: B-. Price: $70-80/750ml. This is good, unique whiskey, but if you are looking to spend $80 on a bottle of whiskey, there are at least a dozen whiskeys I would turn to before looking at this one.

Bully Boy American Straight Whiskey Review

New England is more known for its craft breweries than its craft distilleries, but all that might be changing.  I have already reviewed Berkshire Bourbon, and today I am reviewing Bully Boy’s American Straight Whiskey.  Bully Boy Distillers is a micro-distillery in Boston that was founded in 2010 by Will and Dave Willis.  It is the first craft distillery in Boston, and Bully Boy spirits are just starting to become readily available around Boston.  They have already won awards at International Spirits Competitions for their White Rum, their White Whiskey, and their Vodka.  I’m letting the cat out of the bag a little bit, but I think they are going to win more awards in the future.

Today, I am reviewing Batch 4 of Bully Boy’s American Straight Whiskey.  This whiskey is neither a bourbon, nor is it a rye; it does not contain at least 51% corn or 51% rye in the mash-bill.  The boys at Bully Boy were kind enough to clear that up for me when I sent them a puzzled email.  This whiskey is also a true craft presentation.  It is done in small batches, and non-chill filtered.  There is no age statement on this batch, but I suspect it is fairly young based on its taste and the age of the distillery.  It is bottled at 84 proof (42% abv).

On the nose, this whiskey demonstrates its rye content up front.  There are notes of lemongrass, fresh cut grass, chili powder, white pepper, pine needles, lemon furniture polish (in a good way), a bit of licorice, and fresh ginger.  It is really a unique nose for an American whiskey, and it takes your nose all over the place.  It is definitely more reminiscent of a rye than a bourbon on the nose.  The palate is light-bodied, and it is a bit sweeter, with a lot of spiced nuts and some salt water taffy.  There is even a beautiful lemon-lime current that runs through the palate.  The finish is medium-length and spicy.  There is some good cinnamon, some vanilla, and a resurfacing of the lemon and grassy notes from the nose.

Overall, this whiskey drinks like a good, young rye with a twist.  This whiskey is very intriguing, and very complex, but it does lack a little depth and body.  The flavors are varied, but they don’t evolve as neatly or strike as powerfully as some older whiskeys.  I think that means that I cannot wait to see where this whiskey goes with a few more years in the oak, and I definitely commend Bully Boy on their craft presentation of this whiskey.  My Grade: B/B+.  Price: $30-35/750ml.  This one is almost a B+, but it doesn’t quite have the sweetness yet to fully balance out those wild rye notes.  This is a great (and fun) everyday pour at a good value.  I can’t wait to see where the boys at Bully Boy go with this.