Hi! This blog has moved to a new domain,
The old reviews and articles are still here for now, but some have already migrated over to the new website, and that’s where new entries may be found.
Hochstadter’s Slow & Low Rock and Rye
The Cooper Spirits Co., 84 Proof, No age statement.
Price? Cheap as heck, $20 for 750 ml. $12 for 375 ml.
A modern release of a classic American cocktail:
“Rock and Rye was once believed to be a cure-all for the common cold. So famous were the phlegm-fighting qualities of the drink in days gone by that children used to be given rock-and-rye-flavored cough drops at the first sign of hacking and whooping. Now the drink is being revived by bartenders who see it as a cure for the common cocktail…. Rock and Rye held on to its reputation as a cure-all well into the 20th century. No. 434 in “The American Credo,” George Jean Nathan and H.L. Mencken’s biting 1920 catalog of things Americans believed in, was “That rock-and-rye will cure a cold.” At a 1952 conference of the Common Cold Foundation, a prominent Johns Hopkins virologist, Dr. Thomas G. Ward, was asked what medicine could do against the stubborn rhinovirus. “Personally, my favorite treatment is old Maryland Rock and Rye,” he replied.
A Cocktail for What Ails You, Eric Felten, June 2009, Wall Street Journal
Made with: straight rye whiskey (a blend, based around a 6 year old), Pennsylvania honey, air-dried navel oranges from Florida, Angostura-style cocktail bitters, and rock candy.
Nose : honey, bitters (perhaps a hint of cloves?)
Palate: citrus, honey, bitters, and the rye is just beneath. Very sweet – but not “well aged whiskey with hints of barrel carmelization” sweet, but “we added some rock candy” sweet.
Best served over a lot of ice: this classic cocktail is a bit heavy on the flavors to drink straight. The ice cools and cuts it, to turn it into a pleasant, classic cocktail. If you’re used to drinking regular (unflavored) whiskey, this might seem too flavored, but in that case just cut it 50-50 with a favorite whiskey, and it might then magically match your palate.
Bowman Brothers Pioneer Spirit, Virginia Straight Bourbon Whiskey
A. Smith Bowman Distillery/Sazerac, made in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
90 proof, no age statement. MSRP: $33, in NH for $29.99.
First, a bit of history from the company website:
John, Abraham, Joseph and Isaac Bowman were Virginia militia officers in the American Revolutionary War. In 1779, they led thirty pioneer families to Madison County, Kentucky and established Bowman’s Station. Later, the brothers helped establish and settle Fayette County. They were legends, admired and respected by fellow settlers for their courage and bravery. This hand-crafted bourbon whiskey is a tribute to these four heroic Bowman Brothers.”
A. Smith Bowman.com
Here’s a new one for you: A. Smith Bowman doesn’t make their own whiskey yet they also are not a NDP. Instead, they purchase whitedog – unaged whiskey distillate – from Buffalo Trace. Buffalo Trace makes the mash bill, ferments it, distills it twice, and then A. Smith Bowman gives it a 3rd distillation at their Virginia facility with an Irish style copper pot still. Bowman ages it in new, oak, charred barrels (reportedly 6 to 7 years, although I’m still trying to pin this down.) Easy enough for them to do, as both they and Buffalo Trace are owned by the same parent corporation (Sazerac.) Many reviewers say that this Buffalo Trace’s #2 mashbill, the one used for Elmer T. Lee and Blanton’s.
Nose – oak, floral,a hint of tobacco,
Palate -a beautiful round mouth-feel, although not quite as thick as Michter’s bourbon. Notes of toffee (or is that mocha?) and toasted oak. Drier than some of the relatively sweet bourbons that I generally enjoy, yet less dry than dry wines. This stands out as one of the better whiskeys that I have tried – and that says something. Normally I’m wowed by notes of toffee (Michter’s Bourbon) or if it’s finished in a wine cask, such as Angel’s Envy bourbon. Yet this is a straight, classic, oaky bourbon that I’m digging, which tastes miles away from Jack Daniels, Jim Beam. This is something special. Several people have noted that this tastes like the more famous Elmer T Lee (Buffalo Trace), but alas I haven’t had a chance to sample that bourbon yet.
For more details I can point you to this article on A. Smith Bowman and their whiskeys: American Whiskey, Yes, Virginia, there is a Gentleman, Linda and John Lipman
Glendalough double barrel Irish whiskey
What do we know about the contents? They state ” distilled in a Coffey still from a mash bill of Irish malted barley and corn. It spends three and a half years in American oak first-fill Bourbon barrels before being finished for six months in Spanish Oloroso sherry casks. ” This is a new distillery, and as I understand they are using sourced whiskey for this product – which is perfectly fine. After coming out of the sherry casks, it is brought down to 42% ABV with local Wicklow Mountain water.
Sells for around $30, but one can find it on sale for cheaper.
Nose: fruit, floral – perhaps a hint of cherry.
Flavor: Moderately sweet, creamy, a hint of bourbon or toffee notes. This finished whiskey reminds me of Angel’s Envy Port finished bourbon – but that is $50, and I can find this for $22 to $28 in Massachusetts. This is an amazing value.
Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon
$30 in New Hampshire, from Wild Turkey Distillery
Aged 10 years in virgin American oak casks , #4 char.
Mash bill: Uncertain, but I’ve read 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley.
Visited the Cheesecake Factory, and perused their whiskey list. Found Russell’s Reserve 10 Year Bourbon, which I’ve heard a lot of talk about over the past couple of months, so I thought that I’d give it a try. This is supposed to be a big step up from their baseline, “bottom shelf” Wild Turkey 81 Proof. That Wild Turkey was a favorite of Hunter S. Thompson, famed gonzo journalist. So, how is the 10 year old?
Color: Deep caramel
Nose: A delicious experience, some vanilla, butterscotch, and pepper.
Palate: Rich mouthfeel. Delicious and warm on the front palate: molasses, oak, and then a bit of crisp green apple! But an astringent taste going back that almost overwhelmed the initial sensation. I drank this slowly, over a half hour , and the rough landing past the back palate was consistent: alcohol, pepper, something oddly organic. Definitely going to try this again sometime, but based on this first experience I’m not planning on a buying a bottle at this time.
What are finished whiskies?
Finishing is the procedure that some whiskeys undergo whereby the spirit is matured in a cask of a particular origin and then spends time in a cask of different origin (generally 6 months to 2 years.) Typically, the first cask is an American oak cask formerly used to mature bourbon. The second cask may be one that has been used to mature some sort of fortified wine.
In the United States, finished whiskeys are legally classified as a Distilled Spirit Specialty, although that term doesn’t appear on whiskey bottle labels. The formal definition is “any class and/or type of distilled spirits that contain or are treated with flavoring and/or coloring materials and/or nonstandard blending or treating materials or processes.”, in this case the flavoring simply being wine left in the wood of the second cask – TTB (U.S. Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau)
There is a debate in some sectors of the whiskey world of whether a finished whiskey counts as a true/straight whiskey, or whether it is a flavored product. However, if one were to consider it a flavored product, then all Scotch would have to re-defined as flavored whiskey, because all Scotch is aged in already used in a barrel that has already held bourbon. (Bourbon, in contrast, may only be aged in new oak.)
Jefferson’s Reserve Pritchard Hill Cabernet Cask Finished
90.2 Proof, Finished in French Oak casks that had held Cabernet Sauvignon
I recently tried a terrific bourbon, Angel’s Envy, finished in port wine barrels, so I was very excited to see this finished bourbon available for tasting at a Total Wine location in Massachusetts. If Jefferson’s could also create something wonderful, then perhaps I’d have found two new favorites within a month (something which has not happened yet.)
The nose was gentle, a bit sweet, but that’s not always indicative of the taste. So let’s see…. and….. WINE?! Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this finished whiskey didn’t taste much like a finished whiskey – it tasted more like the Cabernet Sauvignon itself. I do understand the appeal of this, for some people. But to me, this didn’t taste like a whiskey – it tasted like a whiskey-wine cocktail, which just wasn’t what I was looking for.
Finishing, in of itself, is a useful technique. For example, Angel’s Envy did pick up some of the port wine flavor, but only subtly altered the whiskey, without overpowering it. My advice to Jefferson’s would be to continue their experiments in finished whiskies, but cut the amount of finishing time in half. Finally, the price is ridiculous. Regular Jefferson’s Very Small Batch Bourbon is $31, but this was $70, an unjustifiable price for the few months of extra aging, even for someone who really did enjoy the result.
West Cork Blended Irish Whiskey: Bourbon Cask
($22) 80 proof. No age statement (3+ years.) . 75% grain Irish whiskey & 25% malt Irish whiskey. Matured in first fill bourbon casks. Simple, straightforward, and yes, it developed some bourbon characteristics. Mild, spicy, hint of toffee note. I liked this!
West Cork Black Reserve (Limited Reserve)
86 proof. No age statement (3+ years.) Aged in lightly toasted, charred #4 bourbon first fill casks. Color is golden amber. Smoky but not peaty. More of a traditional Irish whiskey – which is great for other Irish whiskey fans – but I actually preferred the cheaper Bourbon Cask (above.)
West Cork Blended Irish Whiskey
124 proof. 33% malt and 66% grain whisky. Matured in ex-bourbon casks. Oak brown color. Too strong for tastes – I’d need to water this back down to 90 proof to make it drinkable. But hey, to each his own.
Is there a kosher for Pesach (פֶּסַח, Passover) whiskey? Until now the answer has been negative. In the Jewish faith, one does not drink whiskey on Passover, as whiskey is a grain product, and Passover rules forbid consuming any products made from chametz (חָמֵץ ) : chametz is any food product made from wheat, spelt, barley, and rye (*) that is either leavened – or even left moist long enough to theoretically become leavened on it’s own. But it now appears as if we have our first justifiably kosher for Passover whiskey, Platte Valley 100% Straight Corn Whiskey. (*) Most Ashkenazi rabbis also add oats to this list, but adding this grain is controversial.
Also see Jews and whiskey during prohibition
A plethora of new Irish whiskey reviews!
Glendalough Poutin Sherry Cask; Glendalough Double Barrel; Glendalough Single Malt, aged 7 years; Glendalough Single Malt, aged 13 years; and Glendalough Poitin
Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey-regular; Tullamore Dew Irish Whiskey- aged 12 years
Flaming Leprechaun Irish Whiskey; Jameson Irish Whiskey; and Jameson Caskmates; and Jameson Black Barrel; Bushmills Black Bush Irish Whiskey. Middleton Very Rare, Green Spot, Redbreast Aged 12 Years, Redbreast Lustau Edition, Power’s John Lane Release
Michter’s US*1 Small Batch Original Bourbon Whiskey
I’ve heard good things about Michter’s, but local restaurants didn’t have any on hand for me to sample. This motivated me to travel to Saloon, at Davis Square (Somerville, MA) modeled after a prohibition-era speakeasy.
It’s hard to spot – you have look for the doorway next to the Davis Square Theatre, which takes you downstairs. The “sign” is just the light in front.
This pic by Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff
Entering, I found myself back in time in a charming speakeasy, dark wood paneling, leather chairs, with a decent sized bar, and more cozy areas to sit at tables with friends.
The manager and bartender were knowledgeable and friendly, and they had well over 100 varieties of whiskey, rye, bourbon and scotch to sample.
Before reviewing it, let’s ask – what is Michter’s? The original Michter’s was made at Bomberger’s Distillery, from the 1950’s, until the 1980’s. That original spirit is no longer available. In the 1990’s Chatham Imports bought the name.
Chatham has begun distilling its own whiskey in Kentucky, but they haven’t released bourbon from their new distillery yet. So this Michter’s Small Batch has been sourced from some other major producer, making it an NDP product.
Chatham notes that they made an arrangement with a major, undisclosed, distillery in Kentucky to use to make their spirit for them, while Chatham was building it’s new distillery. Chatham is currently aging large amount of it’s own whiskey and bourbon, which is not yet on the market.
However, they aren’t like other NDPs: Other NDPs just quietly buy some other companies whiskey and rebottle it, at a higher price. Chatham instead specified a mashbill and yeast strain, and had this whiskey made to to their specifications (Michter’s); they then aged it in their own warehouse, in air-dryed wood barrels, toasted as well as charred etc, and then bottled it. They state that the new bourbon they are distilling themselves has the same mash bill and yeast strain, and will age in the same type barrels, so they promise that their own new bourbon will eventually be the same as the one we are drinking today.
Their current US*1 bourbon is 91.4 proof. NAS (no age statement) but their website states that it is around 8 years old; it’s common to mention this on the website, but not the bottle, so as to have flexibility: it may contains blends of 6 year old, 7, 8 or older whiskies. The “small batch” is explained as being “typically composed of no more than two dozen barrels.”
Color: Amber. Nose: slightly dark, fruit. Taste: Wow, this has a round mouth feel, full & flavorful. Thick body, caramel on the front palate. A bit sweet. Nothing floral or citrus like Four Roses, this is a totally different type of bourbon. So full that it stands up to having a couple of ice cubes in it. Has a pleasantly long finish. This bourbon is a winner, and one I’ll soon be trying again.
Main page: Merrimack Valley Whiskey Blog
Page 6 whiskey reviews
Page 5 Irish whiskey special
Page 4 whiskey reviews
Page 3 Flavored whiskies, other spirits
Page 2 whiskey reviews
Page 1 whiskey reviews
Useful articles on whiskey
Is all whiskey and Scotch kosher?