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Monthly Archives: November 2011

Review: 2011 William Larue Weller Bourbon

It’s perhaps the most highly anticipated release of the year in American Whiskey. Each Fall the Buffalo Trace Antique Collection (BTAC) releases a line up of five whiskeys; George T. Stagg Bourbon, Eagle Rare 17 Bourbon, Sazerac 18 Rye Whiskey, Thomas H. Handy Rye Whiskey, and the subject of this review, William Larue Weller. Supply and demand are clearly good for business because these whiskeys can be tough to come by. Some might suggest you have to have compromising pictures of your local spirit merchant to even get a bottle or two. I say just make friends and/or be a great customer and that usually helps.

William Larue Weller is made from a wheated bourbon mashbill (grain recipe) that contains no rye grain. It’s a similar (likely exactly the same) recipe as used in Pappy Van Winkle.

2011 William Larue Weller Bourbon, 66.75% abv (133.5 Proof), $80/bottle

Color: Mahogany, deep amber

Nose: Dark dried fruits (dates, raisins), Fruitcake, toasted almonds, cocoa, and creamy cafe au lait. This is one where a splash of water releases beautiful roasted notes of coffee beans and saddle leather.

Palate: Dark and sultry. Toffee, roasted and caramelized nuts (slightly burned?), candied fruits, black coffee, bitter dark chocolate, and clove. The balance of sweet, rich, spicy, and bitter is just outstanding.

Finish: Chocolate caramels, concentrated berry syrup, toasted oak and vanilla.

Overall: Clearly one of the three best whiskeys I’ve sipped this year thus far, but I do hate the fact that this stuff is so damn tough to get. I can’t believe they don’t have more of this to get to the public. Keep searching though because this is without question an Epic whiskey. It’s the best William Larue Weller of the last 2-3 years for sure, and based on the three I’ve tasted from the collection this year (Stagg and Handy), it’s the best so far in my opinion.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 9.6 (Epic/Classic)

Happy Thanksgiving!

I am very thankful for the opportunity to have a place to spout on about something I love very much. Even more so, I’m thankful to have great folks that visit often and contribute. I honestly cannot describe how much fun I have interacting with all of you. The fact that you take time to stop by and hear me out is a blessing for me.

I wish you and yours a very happy Thanksgiving, and hope it will be filled with great family, friends, fantastic food, and of course great whiskey.

This holiday I have a boatload of family coming into town, like every year. It’s my favorite holiday for that very reason. I love to cook and so this holiday just fits right in. Each year we make 3 turkeys (one fried, one roasted, and one smoked) with some of the best sides (or fixins as we say in the south) you’ll ever eat. This year, after the dust settles on a meal that takes 2 days to prepare and 30-45 minutes to eat, I’ll pull all the willing participants into my dining room and we’ll make our way through my liquor cabinet. I’ve got some special ones in store for them – an older Pappy 15s, a 2009 Stagg, the 2011 Parker’s Heritage Collection, and probably a few gems from across the pond as well.

Whiskey, like a lot of things, is best when shared with people. It was meant to be enjoyed any time of course, but it just always seems to taste better with others. Share a bottle with someone this Thanksgiving and you’ll be glad you did. Also, I would love to hear what you’ll be sipping this week – please let us all know!

Tuthilltown Hudson Whiskey Reviews

Tuthilltown’s Hudson line is arguably the most successful “craft” or “micro” whiskey in the United States over the last decade. Started in 2001 by Ralph Erenzo and Brian Lee, the Tuthilltown Distillery has been cranking out whiskey consistently for the last 6-7 years. Hudson has been one of the biggest success stories and trailblazers in this micro-movement. As a result, the distillery got the attention of one of the largest beverage alcohol companies in the world in William Grant and Sons (Grant). The Hudson line was purchased by Grant in 2010, but the distillery still makes the product in their Gardiner, NY facility.

Gable Erenzo, Ralph’s son, has taken a big step forward in running the operation since his father’s serious auto accident last December (2010) (I am glad to hear that Ralph is doing much better and back involved day to day). According to Gable the partnership with Grant has allowed Tuthilltown to benefit from resources they didn’t have prior. Most notably, the distillery can now rely on Grant to assist with tricky distillation problems, technological, and production advances they wouldn’t have access to this quickly under more organic growth conditions.

In recent years, Tuthilltown has moved from using only small 3 gallon barrels to aging their products in both 3 gallon (for around six months) and 14 gallon barrels (for 18-24 months). All of their whiskeys are aged in this manner. Tuthilltown then blends a combination of these barrels to get the desired flavor profile. Gable informed me the distillery is continuing to increase the age of their products while making sure production stays consistent.

So let’s get into a comprehensive look at the entire lineup:

Hudson New York Corn Whiskey, ABV/Proof: 46%/92, $50 (375ml bottle)
New York Corn Whiskey was the first whiskey (light whiskey actually) in the Hudson line. It is also the first legal grain spirit distilled in New York in more than 70 years. It’s made from 100% corn that is sourced from local farms within about 10 miles of the distillery, and uses a combination of 40% field corn and 60% heirloom corn. Tuthilltown says heirloom varietals have a higher yield, less starch, and richer, bolder, “cornier” flavor. I believe them! But frankly for me it was a bit too rustic of an experience. The nose of this whiskey is extremely corny, vegetal, and not overly sweet at all. It’s much like opening up a tin can of corn. The aromas consist of boiled corn cobs, hay, and buttered popcorn. The palate is light and dry with mild sweetness, finishing with a nutty quality. It’s pure corn start to finish, but too rough for me to consider it a recommended product.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (6.2 Decent)

Hudson Baby Bourbon, ABV/Proof: 46%/92, $50 (375ml bottle)
Tuthilltown Distillery’s Hudson Baby Bourbon is essentially the New York Corn Whiskey that has been aged in oak barrels. Tuthilltown was one of the first distilleries to work considerably with smaller barrels as noted above. As a result, the oak influence is big on the nose, but certainly helps on the palate injecting much needed sweetness into the corn whiskey. It opens up with freshly splintered (almost green) oak, vanilla, and fragrant floral aromas. There is an ever present corn and caramel underbelly as well. On the sip corn cakes and vanilla interplay with peppermint and toasted wood before the spices and tannin emerge on the finish. This one is a good sipper, if a bit rough around the edges (and green again too!) like it’s brother.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (7.7 Good/Solid)

Hudson Manhattan Rye Whiskey, ABV/Proof: 46%/92, $50 (375ml bottle)
Manhattan Rye was the third release from Tuthilltown’s Hudson line. The namesake is quite obvious, but also pays homage to the cocktail that bares its name. Tuthilltown created the first rye whiskey to be made in New York since Prohibition, and sourced as much local rye grain as possible. Being a single grain, 100% rye whiskey, it took the distillery a number of trials before they finally got results to their liking. Rye is a very tough grain to distill because it gums up easily like glue, and requires a great deal of temperature regulation to get the finished mash correct. The results are good, but lacking the refinement you might expect in a product at this price range. From nose to sip, Manhattan Rye is all about the spices. The nose consists of sweet maple syrup, allspice, cinnamon stick, mint, dusty rye grain, and fresh oak. A resinous front entry on the palate makes way for a mid-sip explosion of pepper, mint, and cinnamon. The finish is equally zesty. Hudson Manhattan Rye has some spunk, but it really tastes it’s age in the end.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (7.4 Good/Solid)

Hudson Single Malt Whiskey, ABV/Proof: 46%/92, $50 (375ml bottle)
Always looking to grow and expand the Hudson whiskey line, Tuthilltown debuted a single malt whiskey about three years ago. Barley is one grain the distillery has had difficulty obtaining locally due to the regions’ poor barley growing conditions. What’s interesting is in spite of the fact that it’s a single grain whiskey, the malt does not emerge easily through the oak-forward aromas and flavors. The result is an intensely spiced, cinnamon-bomb of a whiskey. But honestly it kind of works in a strange way. In addition to the cinnamon explosion, nutmeg, black pepper, and honeysuckle are present on the nose. A sweet fruitiness on the palate makes a brief appearance before being choked out by oak and spices. This one is not without its moments, but very one dimensional.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (7.3 Good/Solid)

Hudson Four Grain Whiskey, ABV/Proof: 46%/92, $50 (375ml bottle)
Tuthilltown has covered a great deal of ground in a relatively short period of time. One of the distillery’s early customers, Lenell Smothers, owner of Lenell’s in Brooklyn, NY, thought the distillery should consider using 2 small flavoring grains instead of just wheat OR rye. Lenell’s suggestion was taken to heart by the folks at Tuthilltown, and Hudson Four Grain Whiskey was born. The mashbill (grain recipe) consists of 60% corn – the same local and heirloom varieties that make up the Corn Whiskey and Baby Bourbon. The remaining proportions are rye, wheat, and malted barley. The result is the most balanced and well crafted whiskey in the Hudson lineup by a good margin. Rum, dried fruits, sourdough bread, and wood spices are prevalent on the nose. The palate is spicy with chewy corn and caramel anchoring everything. The finish is fruity with a firm dose of toasted oak. I enjoyed this one most of the entire lineup.
Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: (8.1 Very Good/Excellent)

I’ve seen a trend where products aged in only small barrels can at times have an awkward, almost rushed floral woodiness to them. All of the Hudson products have varied levels of this flavor profile. I’m a big believer that a whiskey doesn’t have to be old to be great, but I also believe it’s ready when it’s ready. Tuthilltown is ran by great and passionate people, and their whiskeys have some good “guts” to them. I believe strongly that bigger barrels and more time will undoubtedly improve these products as the distillery grows.

One big consideration is price. If you want to try this small batch product made with local ingredients (as much as possible), you’ll have to pay $45-50 for a 375ML bottle (Half Bottle size). That’s not chump change, even if it is some of the best whiskey packaging on the market. As you can see, the samples I received were all over the board in terms of ratings. For anyone interested in trying the best that Tuthilltown has to offer, I’d confidently point you first towards the Four Grain Whiskey. Secondly I would direct you to the Baby Bourbon. Both of these, especially the Four Grain, have some very good merits.

World Whiskey Review

For those that may not know Dominic Roskrow, he is a former editor of Whisky Magazine, one of the largest whisky publications in the world. Today he writes about World Whisky for John Hansell’s magazine, The Whisky Advocate, as well as popular titles like New York Daily. In addition to editing Whiskeria and The Spirits Business, Dominic has also published a number of books. His best in my opinion was released about 18 months or so ago titled, “Worlds Best Whiskies: 750 Drams from Tennessee to Tokyo”.

Dominic’s latest project is an online magazine called World Whisky Review (WWR). This eZine is published through Whisky Connosr, an online whisky community of sorts. Originally intended to focus on whiskey outside of the top-five producing countries/areas around the globe, Dominic quickly recognized the need to feature the occasional article on the exciting U.S. Craft Whiskey scene in WWR.

Enter yours truly. Earlier this year I struck up a conversation with Dom online, and was quite pleased (and very honored) to be invited to contribute an article for his latest project. You can take a look at World Whisky Review HERE. I have an article on white whiskey. Perhaps he’ll invite me back for another contribution, but regardless it was quite fun. Be on the lookout for new WWR releases bi-monthly, with the next one coming before the end of the year.

Cheers!

Jason

Great King Street Artist’s Series Blended Scotch

I was thrilled to hear John Glaser talk about his company’s (Compass Box Whiskey Co.) new mission at this past April’s WhiskyFest in Chicago, IL. As the event winded down, I spoke with John for what seemed like 10 minutes about whiskey, blending, and his focus on the best oak he can find (he flew in that day from Independent Stave Co.’s Ozark, MO facility). The discussion however quickly came back to pure, simple, whiskey enjoyment, something John is clearly passionate about.

Glaser and his band of creatives put the subject of Blended Scotch on their backs this past June with the UK release of Great King Street (it was released in the US in late September). I couldn’t wait to get my hands on a bottle and I hoped it would do justice to such a mission. At $40 retail it includes a significantly higher percentage of single malt whiskey than most blends.

So, pardon me, my American Whiskey loving friends, as I am compelled to jump across the pond into the world of Blended Scotch for a brief moment.

Great King Street Artist’s Blend (Blended Scotch), 43% abv (86 Proof), $40/bottle

Color: Chardonnay

Nose: Roasted pear and golden delicious apple – honey-sweet, juicy fruit. Vanilla and lemon custard, lush malt, and confectioners sugar. The nose is so buttery soft and round.

Palate: Beautifully rich mouth feel like over-oaked, velvety chardonnay. Baked orchard fruits, pressed cider, vanilla cream, cinnamon stick, and nutty toasted oak.

Finish: All vanilla, oak, and fruit. There’s a faint hint of cocoa and toasted nuts that adds interest to an otherwise brief finish.

Overall: If you ask me, this is an example of how the grain spirits can dress down such rich and velvety malt (and frankly make it better). Is this whiskey nirvana? Nope, it wasn’t intended to be. Is it utterly delicious, rich, and fruity blended scotch that is so effortlessly drinkable you will not want to put it down? Without question!

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Very Good/Excellent)

Sometimes you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, you just have to present it a little differently. John Glaser and Compass Box have done just that and I’m damn glad they did. The only thing I’d correct is the (implied) intended use. Great King Street’s website and the guys from Compass Box themselves are big on the old classic scotch and soda cocktail (measure of blended scotch, measure of good quality soda water, and ice). Ehhh, I much more preferred this neat and uncut or with just a cube or two of ice and maybe a splash of water. It’s just too velvety and beautiful to blast apart with soda water.

Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel 2011

This years 2011 Limited Edition Single Barrel from Four Roses is another great reminder of why Four Roses is one the more exciting distilleries in the country. No other distillery works with more recipes (10 to date). This years release is their high-rye (60% corn/35% rye) “B” bourbon mashbill with their floral “Q” yeast. And while not overbearing, the floral fragrance is very apparent. Master Distiller, Jim Rutledge, noted that he smelled a big bouquet of red roses when he first nosed this bourbon right from the barrel.

Four Roses Limited Edition Single Barrel 2011 Bourbon, 55.4% abv (110.8 Proof), $70/bottle

Color: Deep Copper

Nose: Maple syrup, baked orchard fruit, mashed berries, and brown sugar play sweet foil to big vanilla, toasted barrel, and floral fragrance. The spice lies below the surface.

Palate: Viscous stuff with an array of sweet maple syrup, jellied orange and berries, ground hot spices (white pepper, mint, and cinnamon), leather, and ever present bitter floral flavors. The sweetness hits first but doesn’t last long before the spice takes over.

Finish: Dries rapidly with a wicked mix of red sour fruits, stale pancake syrup, spicy oak essence, and bitters.

Overall: This one is fun and totally unique indeed. The OBSQ recipe with it’s mix of spicy high rye mashbill and the floral “Q” yeast strain yields a finished bourbon that isn’t overly sweet, adds a pop of floral fragrance and flavor, and also has enough of that signature Four Roses fruit and spice. This isn’t as good as other limited edition single barrels and limited edition small batches from Four Roses, but it’s still excellent stuff. It also underscores what different combination of mashbill and yeast strain can do to the final product.

Sour Mash Manifesto Rating: 8.7 (Very Good/Excellent)