Bourbon Truth

Don't Drink the Purple Kool-aide the crappy booze companies are feeding you

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Be prepared and I’m not talking Boy Scouts!

The Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” should be the watch word of anyone making Whiskey at so many levels. Brian Davis is the “Lead Distiller” of Lost Spirits. He wrote a short book “How to make Whiskey” 89 pages long. In the Safety chapter he says “Don’t heat your still with an open flame” as he talks of Darwinian mistakes, blowing yourself up and such. In Oklahoma a new Distillery while making Vodka and in the middle of a newspaper interview had a major fire. The still was modified beer kegs on a wooden pallet on the back of a forklift being heated by an open propane flame. http://newsok.com/moore-twister-distillery-engulfed-in-vodka-flash-fire-not-allowed-to-use-open-flame/article/4919580
The person working the still (I won’t call him a Master Distiller) was on his first week. It appears his experience was in sales at another distillery and he was hurt badly when a line broke and the still exploded in a fireball.
Tuthilltown Spirits had a major fire and explosion in 2012. http://www.newpaltzx.com/2012/09/27/tuthilltown-spirits-in-gardiner-escapes-catastrophic-damage-thanks-to-quick-response-to-distillery-fire/

Lack of preparedness shows up in ignorance of TTB requirements also. Such basic knowledge such as what Bottled in Bond (BiB) is and labeling requirements are is simple. I’ve seen at least four violations of this. One a Alcoholic beverage less than 80 proof with TTB approval, a 88 Proof Whiskey that Defiant Whiskey put a “Bottled in Bond at 88 proof” strip across the cap as a seal. Recently I saw another BiB label that didn’t have the required DSP of the distillery. I asked the company what it was and they refused. I informed them their product was in violation of the laws even though the TTB approved it. They informed be they have now surrendered the approval and presumably will study up and label the products correctly.
I was speaking to an industry insider recently and his fear was that eventually this lackadaisical and incompetent approach will eventually make it into a bottle that’s sold and sicken or kill someone. If that happens the level of trust in new and mom and pop brands will take an enormous hit. Maybe it extends to all brands.
Being prepared is knowing what your doing. These trends are getting worse and more common. Lack of experience, moving from home brewing to Industrial Distillation. Is like coming from a riding a Bicycle to racing a motorcycle. The knowledgable consumer must ask them self if a Distillery can’t get a label right, do you really want to be drinking what’s in the bottle?

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Jack is back with an Aged Rye. Cost about $44 and just 80 Proof. At 80 it’s going to be tame or should be. Although the Straight designation means it must be at least 4 years old unless an age statement is given, it still must be two years minimum. This is tricky only saying its over 24 months. 
Nose is subtle, bland, a bit grassy, corn. I’m not expecting this to be much more (if any) higher rye content then the required 51%. I think I was once at a miniature golf course that smelled this way. The back label has these cleaver amateurish “errors” like text from a typewriter with an over strike and another skipped space to give it this homey back woods-ish feel. Got to love the marketers.  2.25 points out of 5

Taste-Very inoffensive which is sort of good. A little sweet but practically no personality at all. It’s not bad, it’s just not much of anything. In my book bad variants overtake neutral variants. To put it another way, I’m not as critical of bland as I am bad.  I gave it, 2.5.

Finish
Limp Dic*. It’s a finish that’s living in its parents basement. It’s there and just keeps to itself with a much higher expectation. With some more time and proof some future potential but I doubt it will be given either. 2.0

Value-no, not a second bottle. At $43 with much better choices at $25-$40 not a good value. 1.0
I’ll give the total a 2.0. I’d go lower if there was something I hated but there isn’t, it’s just void of hardly any good. It’s safety rye and I wonder if it’s exactly the unassuming,blah, they were shooting for?

Jack is back with an Aged Rye. Cost about $44 and just 80 Proof. At 80 it’s going to be tame or should be. Although the Straight designation means it must be at least 4 years old unless an age statement is given, it still must be two years minimum. This is tricky only saying its over 24 months.
Nose is subtle, bland, a bit grassy, corn. I’m not expecting this to be much more (if any) higher rye content then the required 51%. I think I was once at a miniature golf course that smelled this way. The back label has these cleaver amateurish “errors” like text from a typewriter with an over strike and another skipped space to give it this homey back woods-ish feel. Got to love the marketers. 2.25 points out of 5

Taste-Very inoffensive which is sort of good. A little sweet but practically no personality at all. It’s not bad, it’s just not much of anything. In my book bad variants overtake neutral variants. To put it another way, I’m not as critical of bland as I am bad. I gave it, 2.5.

Finish
Limp Dic*. It’s a finish that’s living in its parents basement. It’s there and just keeps to itself with a much higher expectation. With some more time and proof some future potential but I doubt it will be given either. 2.0

Value-no, not a second bottle. At $43 with much better choices at $25-$40 not a good value. 1.0
I’ll give the total a 2.0. I’d go lower if there was something I hated but there isn’t, it’s just void of hardly any good. It’s safety rye and I wonder if it’s exactly the unassuming,blah, they were shooting for?

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Rhetoric and Redemtion Barrel Proof Rye Rated
Diageo’s Rhetoric is the third Orphan Barrel series and is 20 years old like Barterhouse. It presumably comes from mostly (maybe all) the new Bernheim Distillery when Diageo predecessors owned it. I won’t get into the funny business of the whiskey as it’s been covered on twitter and prior posts. My bottle is numbered in the 20,000 range and 90 proof. Since Diageo won’t talk numbers who knows what value that info has or why it’s done that way. It seems odd at first that Rhetoric and Barterhouse are both 20 years old. Rhetoric is $100 where Barterhouse was released at $75 and has been found on sale for as low as $50. Rhetoric will be an annual thing and will progressively get older and more expensive. So two 20 year old bourbons of the same brand “Orphan Barrel” same story, released a few months apart and similar if not same juice is 1/3 more expensive. I’m confused why this is/was done, it really is odd.
On with the tasting
Noise-Maple, Sweet, Cookies, not real complex but it’s high corn low rye for sure. 3.5 out of 5 points.
Taste-about the same as the nose 3.0
Finish- actually pretty nice until a bitterness unfolds, juicy fruit, tutti fruity but still rather short and uncomplicated. 3.0
Total 3.25 of 5 points
Value it’s a good value at $40 when ones not fixed on age. At $100 it’s not terrible but not close to being worth it. I liked it better than Blow Hard or Barterhouse. Value of 3
Total rating 3 of 5. You won’t feel ripped off if you buy it. On a good day with extra spending money I might buy a second bottle. Might

Entirely changing gears is Redemption Rye Barrel Proof is 122 proof, barrel number 3.
I paid around $60 for this 6 year old LDI/MGPI juice. I love the Transparency. Dave Schmier, Redemption Bourbon dodges all the bull and the rantings of this blogger by telling the truth! Right on the bottle by law it says Indiana and my favorite label talks about what’s in the bottle and then “…..of Which is as close to sipping whiskey right out of the barrel as you can get short of owning your own distillery.” Honest sense of humor. It’s good stuff and we don’t own a Distillery. Thank you Dave, it’s so easy. Onto the booze. It’s in a squat bottle, wax dipped past the shoulder which is cool, never saw that before.
95% Rye, 5% Barley.
Very complex Nose, lots happening, Sweet and Spicy, Maple, Vanilla, Mint, Menthol, no burn or alcohol, lots more. 4 of 5.
Taste-All spice, Maple, Mint, Gingerbread Cookies, Fruit. 4.00 of 5
Finish-Spice, Fruit, Ginger, no burn, no bitter and smooth but a tad short. Still very nice. 3.75 and if a longer finish or two more years could easily be 4.

Value- yes, I’ll buy a bunch if I’m lucky enough to find them. I’d say 4. Keep in mind my scale gives bonus points for what I deem a great value as it should. It’s a very relevant item overlooked in most ratings. Get this one and you’ll love me for it. Do keep in mind every barrel is different and these are not easy to come by and released to little fan fare. I completely missed it in the pre release and was told of it after it was in stores, I’d be happy to pay $60 for this.
Total Score 4

Note
I had some aged Gouda Cheese after writing this and while finishing the glass I picked up a bit of bitter and heat. I’ll have to look into it more but at least for me, this is the 3rd recent review that when I tasted on a non-clean palate it changed for the worse. I’ll keep my ratings using the highest but it’s interesting. Unless my palete and preference is a mess, try to taste these on a clean palate. I’ll need to do something more on this later. It’s like drinking Orange Juice before and after a Chocolate bar. Shifting flavors and traits. It became very different but I wouldn’t blame the juice.

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Wayne’s World
John Wayne’s son Ethan Wayne is the front man behind a new brand being introduced by Monument Valley Distillers or Duke Spirits or Popcorn Sutton Distillary. It doesn’t really matter as the address for the Monument Valley Distillers is a California mail drop (not anywhere near the real place), Duke Spirits of Lawrenceburg KY doesn’t seem to exist. I couldn’t find an office, mail drop or Corporate listing. As for the Duke name that Duke University is suing for use of—
http://trademarks.justia.com/858/64/duke-john-wayne-85864358.html
The TTB label shows a “TM” symbol for the Trademark but there isn’t one as it’s been protested and doesn’t show on the bottled label. Guess TTB didn’t care to check or didn’t need to.

The most ridiculous part is All of it so let me break down this wild heap of Steaming Crap farce.

It seams that the partners of “One Hundred Acre Vineyard” are behind this with Wayne’s son and Wayne Enterprise the face. I’m pretty sure Batman and Bruce Wayne are in the clear. One of these guys Jayson Woodbridge has been in a bit of trouble one being producing Wine without a licence. He blamed his lawyer.
http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/Owner-of-Napas-Hundred-Acre-Winery-Facing-Criminal-Charge_3103
The marketing, promo stuff and label text shows all the things going wrong with the bastardization of American Whiskey.
“A Bourbon made from what John Wayne liked from his newly discovered bottles.”
“”The Style of DUKE Bourbon was inspired by bottles from John Wayne’s personal whiskey collection, preserved for over 50 years and only recently discovered.”
What? Was this collection discovered in an old Horse trailer?

"From the Distillary he always dreamed about."
OK, I guess you think we’re that stupid and there still isn’t a Distillery. Although the TTB filing looks like this stuff was bottled at Popcorn Sutton Moonshine in Tennessee it’s labeled Kentucky Straight Bourbon with this on the back label “been crafted in collaboration with legendary Master Distiller Jimmy Russell”. Eddie is mentioned latter on the back label. It deserves note that I looked up what Whiskey John Wayne preferred and it appeared it was in fact Wild Turkey. Why the Russell’s have decided to permit their names to be put on this stuff is beyond me. I’m embarrassed for them.

Ok, I’m on a roll, how about some more BS from their marketing mumbo jumbo—
“Meticulously blended to reflect The Duke’s preferred whiskey flavor profile from tasting notes left behind during the time he was planning his own distillery”.
Did they find the notes in Al Capone’s safe?

"Distilled the old-fashioned way; hand crafted in small batches and aged in new hand built heavily charred American Oak barrels. A selection of 5 to 10 year old whiskeys are chosen barrel by barrel and blended by hand before the DUKE Bourbon reaches the bottle, and ultimately, you."
That deserves a kick in the nuts or at least a drink in the face of these people.

"For the Monument Valley Distillers team, Kentucky Straight Bourbon was a natural choice. Based on original bottles dating back to the early 60’s in John Wayne’s private collection the team meticulously blended rare batches to recreate the flavors and aromas preferred by the Duke. Made the old-fashioned way, the team employed small-batch aging in new, heavily charred American oak barrels."
Did John train a Chimp to drink Whiskey with him and the Chimp is still alive? Wayne probably said he liked it spicy and smooth.

“When Ethan told us the story and we saw the original bottles from his Dad’s collection, we knew that we had to work to bring this vision to life and create a Bourbon that John Wayne would be proud to have in his whiskey glass,” said partner Jayson Woodbridge.”

Oh, FU, kill yourself for that one. It’s not that difficult, he liked Wild Turkey. Yeah, the same Wild Turkey in Lawrenceburg KY that Jimmy and Eddie Russell’s are Master Distillers for.

One last Blast-

"About Monument Valley Distillers
Monument Valley Distillers is an artisan distiller crafting small batches of superior bourbon, whiskey and brandy. Monument Valley Distillers was born in Calistoga, California, many years ago, over an epic dinner featuring wine, shared memories and laughter between founders Ethan Wayne, son of John Wayne, renowned vintners of Hundred Acre Wines, Chris Radomski, and great friend Richard Howell. Creator of DUKE Spirits, Monument Valley Distillers is committed to preserving the legacy of John Wayne by creating authentic products bearing his name.”

I haven’t had the stuff but if I wanted Wild Turkey without all the BS I’d go buy a bottle for $20 not $40 cause it’s got the Dukes name on it! Let this crap die on a shelf rather than get sucked into the memory of a dead guy. What’s next, Einstein Vodka that makes you smart?

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Is My Whiskey looking Crafty in its new Suit!

After my recent Loooong blog on the Straight designation and many “Craft” distilleries non usage of the term it got me thinking. What is Craft? That’s getting to be a old argument but there is much more to it. Big producers are muddling up an already muddled up term. It’s already been said that the term is the same as “Small Batch” at this point, meaningless with a steadily diluting definition. Let’s look at the levels of “Craft”. Lance Winters of St. George Spirits recently addressed the term and efforts to legalize it.
http://www.thespiritsbusiness.com/2014/07/legal-definition-would-not-benefit-craft-spirits/
Part of the problem is the Craft Industry doesn’t know what it is. There are no less than 5 groups that now represent craft producers in some way and they have different requirements for membership let alone craft definitions.
The American Craft Distillers (now Spirits) Association doesn’t require you to be a Distiller. It’s interesting that they have been dropping the “Distillers” part of thier morphed name.
http://www.americancraftspirits.org/membership.html

Almost every award competition allows a Non-Distilling producer to appear to have made the booze to enter along with real Distillers and people that grew the grain, ground it, fermented, distilled and bottled it.
So we have-
-Big Ass Conglomerate pretending to be small town yokel being Craft
-Big Ass Company that is making/marketing Whiskey in a “Craft style”
-Smaller but big company starting as craft that is now a Grandfather aka Legacy Craft Distiller
-Medium Size Craft place
-Small Size
-Startup
-Sourcing ready to start up
-Sourcing pretending to be ready to start up “any day” without a Still on order
-Sourcing and just lying

If your sourcing and not lying then you can’t be calling yourself Craft or something similar.

Part of the issue and maybe the simplistic solution is you don’t get a DSP number from the TTB unless you actually Distill. Maybe even a “FDP” number, Fermenting Distiller Permit. A “DP”, just Distilling (some just re distill others New Make calling it their own), and a “NDP” Non Distilling Producer Permit. The designation has to be on each bottle with your number.

The “Artisan” term is now popping up to distance themselves. Farm to Glass, Dirt to Glass. It’s getting nuts.

The Kentucky Distillers Association does great things for their industry but adds to the confusion.
They have a major company member, Diageo that has no distillery in the State. Then a Craft Distillers category that includes Willett with a larger operation making the highest quality Whiskey in large Fermenters and several aging warehouses while other Craft Members are just doing new White Dog whiskey with little or no aging and fermenting in glorified large trash cans.
There’s a place for them all but before someone rushes to define anything it gets so much more complicated. With 1000 Craft Distilleries on target to be open within a few years and 600 or so open or readying to open, designations are needed beyond “Craft”.
Should the likes of Balcones, St George, Willett, be mentioned in the same breath as Johns Moonshine Shack and Hillbilly Bills Kick Ass White Lightning Factory? Should real Farm to Glass Hillrock (yes, they sourced early starter batches) be put in the same category as Whistle Pig that is now calling themselves Farm to Glass Craft when they have no distillery? The Pig’s deceptive smoke and mirrors marketing story is believed/parroted by many in the media (irresponsibly passing it to the public) that they have a real Distillery when they don’t. The Pig now says (if true at all) that Rye they now grow onsite is going into their product. It is a tiny amount I’m sure maybe like 1% of the total but it still won’t get to their 10 year bottles for around 10 years. They aren’t just deceiving the public and customers, they are lying to thier perspective employees with this job posting—
“…Accepted applicants will begin at WhistlePig Farm in March 1st, 2014 to participate in a six week sales training program, during which they will be introduced to the farm, distillery, and day-to-day operations of WhistlePig in Shoreham, VT. ……”
It was just this year after intense pressure they quietly admitted they had no distillery and their source was Canada. Yes, it’s one of the worst kept “secrets” in American Whiskey but they have kept it up in new deceptions since they have no distillery-yet. They keep saying soon but who knows if that will ever really happen. Worse is that a large majority of their customers have no idea they have been tricked.

If I’m paying 2x-3x more for a “Craft” whiskey I don’t want to spend 1/2 hour in a stores aisle or a bar Googling to figure out what it is or where it’s really from. Many times I still can’t be sure. It’s not my job to catch them screwing me. It’s really not fair to consumers or legit craft distillers and it’s only a mater of time until someone gets a class action lawsuit for false advertising or other deceptive consumer practices going. Don’t laugh if you are. This is the real deal because drinks giant Coca Cola just lost a major US Supreme Court ruling on deceptive labeling. This from the New York Times-
“The Supreme Court on Thursday unanimously allowed a false advertising suit against a Coca-Cola juice blend to move forward, saying the company’s practices “allegedly mislead and trick consumers, all to the injury of competitors.”
Here is a link to a different article not likely to get monetized (blocked) for reading—
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/06/12/pom-wonderful-lawsuit_n_5489003.html

I don’t know about the rest of you but I’m saving my receipts for every craft and shady brand I buy because the day may come where I’ll be sending it to a Class Action Attorney to get some of my money back for being ripped off. Maybe a few State’s Attorney Generals takes it on and imposes some big fines to line their State’s pockets.

The problem with “craft” is so much bigger than it seems. If something is going to be fixed, fix it, a legal definition is a band-aide for a festering wound. I’m not really sure who’s industry interest it serves the most to lead the charge for change or do these interests just stay quiet due to conflicts and complexities? Then again, they can wait for an inevitable lawsuit to force the matter.

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Let’s get something Straight, Show me Craft isn’t Crap.

The easy answer for—What is “Straight Whiskey” is the legal requirement/definition that it was aged at least two years. It’s much more than that. I’ll jump back and forth on spelling Whisk(e)y as the TTB is using no extra “e” where most of us do.
I was recently in a multi-day extended twitter “discussion” with a new craft distiller and a blogger about the “Straight” designation in Whiskey. Their basic point being that it didn’t really matter nor added anything to the Whisky. My take was it did. My thought is if your Whisky can qualify for the “Straight” designation, why not? It’s a few hundred dollars, an application and you print new labels that will make the brand standout and sell better. I can only come up with a few reasons why not to make Straight Whisky when you can—They just aren’t bright or the economics and heavier lifting involved scares them from the Straight designation. It’s more restrictive, costs money and much easier to duck, hide and make excuses then make the best product which a consumer can confirm a quality starting point for. It’s especially important if it’s a new brand you don’t know, never heard of or afraid it’s just another rotgut “moonshine-esque” joke dog Whisky. Maybe it’s just a little insurance it might not suck.
My interest is in Bourbon, Rye, Tennessee Whiskey which are all Whiskies. 99% of these fore-mentioned produced are designated as “Straight”. Very very few non-Straight Whisky I’ve had are good and I can’t recall ever buying a second bottle of any although I’m sure there are a few. This is not to say there aren’t very good craft options which will grow, they are just very rare. This is also not to say that you shouldn’t support and help the little guy, you should as long as the little guy is upfront and isn’t sneaking his hand in your pocket. It’s expensive to buy Craft. Often your paying for the novelty of what it is rather than how it tastes. Very young whiskey tastes young and only the most skilled and experienced Master Distillers can put something good out until one gets a few years under their belt. With most Craft your not likely to be buying the best quality or value. In fact, I hate to call many distilleries “Craft”. Making junk and throwing flavor in it or a cleaver label of a Hillbilly on a bottle of White Dog doesn’t make you Craft, it makes you crap. It’s like owning a “Gourmet” Hot Dog shop when your neighbor is a small great Gourmet Steakhouse that has their own Cattle farm. Willett and Limestone Branch are both on the Kentucky Craft Bourbon Trail and they are nothing alike.

Without getting into a big history lesson pre-regulated booze was often nasty. People went blind, got sick and died but mostly just got horribly ripped off. Legal designations such as Bourbon, Straight, Bottled in Bond were created to protect the consumer from unscrupulous suppliers and rectifiers putting nasty things in booze and/or lying about contents, recipe and proof. These designations became a form of guarantee and promise of quality. The US Treasury TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) is tasked to make sure the rules are followed and bottles labeled properly for all legal spirits. Putting aside the fact that that does not always happen, let’s look at one term- “Straight”.

The Distiller I reference is from a distillery in Colorado that’s been around for about two years. His prior experience was as a Home Brewer. It’s a mom and pop-ish operation. I’m sure he has great pride in what he does and his life is wrapped up in it’s success. Good for him and I hope he does well and makes it. I think he has a lot to learn. In our discussion on twitter he stated that-
“we never plan on using “straight” because it means little/nothing to 90% of the market.”
Then he added in the thread when I disagreed—
“agree consumers are getting smarter, but I feel STRAIGHT is another cumbersome marketing term that will fade. Time will tell!”
Then this one when pointing out that people do know the difference such as Aficionados, Whiskey-tenders and Retail staff—-
” I presume they know the meaning but don’t fret over it. After all, it only signifies 2+ yrs if maturation. Just my opinion…”
I told him it’s disrespectful and I didn’t think he understood the history or necessity of the term.

I won’t get into a whole bunch of conflicts I turned up as I’m not trying to embarrass the guy, he needs to make a living. He’s admirably making his own stuff and just doesn’t know any better yet. He doesn’t realize that in the pile of new craft stuff showing up, customers are looking for solid signs that “it’s not terrible like the last time” they got screwed. Stories about Grandpa, water, grain or lovingly made my Rocket Scientists and Red Cross Volunteers is getting old and cliche. Reading the strokingly descriptive copy promoting these brands I’m wondering if a Happy Ending is involved. They’ve been laughable. It’s been my experience that without confirmed time in good wood the rest doesn’t matter that much. So many brands give you the impression the Whisky is as old as the last Ice Age when in actuality the last issue of Whisky Advocate is older. Show me a sign, throw me a bone and prove age on the label or I’m figuring its nasty, young and tastes like wet newspaper like the last one I got screwed on!
This Colorado Distillers assumption with the Straight designation being nothing more than a Marketing fad that means nothing to 90% of the consumers is wrong. It’s what a guy brewing beer in his garage a couple years ago figures, not someone serious about this for 20 years. I pointed out to him that educated/knowledgable and passionate customers ARE his clients. The ones that don’t care or not passionate aren’t sending $50+ for a bottle of his young Whisky, they are buying cheap crap and hardly ever experimenting. He also did not assume Bar, Resturant and Retail staff would have enough knowledge or care enough to guide those 90%.
As for the Blogger his point was that there were lots of whisky’s over two years old that don’t say straight. Lost in the discussion was it doesn’t NEED to be and the statement “Using Whisky as old as 8 years” doesn’t really mean a thing like “Small Batch”. Even if this “Age Baiting” is true, it’s often mixed with much younger Whisky.
I list this summary on what Straight really means first. If you choose to read further for more detail it’s there at the bottom.

The difference of Straight Whisk(e)y or Straight Bourbon vs Non Straight Whisky-

—Non-Straight Whisky can be distilled and matured at a much higher poorer quality proof than Bourbon, lower than 190 vs Bourbon at 160. 190 is Neutral grain and Vodka territory.

—Bourbon can’t get stored higher than 125 proof in the barrel, Whisky can be as high as 190 proof. Again, real bad for the quality but it lets you get maximum production aka bottles.

—Non-Straight can be put in any Oak barrel used multiple times of which flavor/quality keeps getting worse each time. Shorter time x barrel usage fills = younger tasting aka poorer quality product. FYI -Corn Whisky doesn’t require any barrel or Oak. The advantages of new charred Oak are not required, Bourbon must be in new charred Oak as does Straight Whisky. Barrels are the most expensive part of Whisky so reuse is often an Economic, not quality decision. I’m not addressing Single Malt or Scotch here. That’s a completely different matter and explanation. American Whisky is my focus.

—Bourbon and Straight Whiskey can’t have Flavoring or Color added, Whisky can cheat this way as it’s permitted.

—Straight Whisky and Straight Bourbon needs to be aged at least 2 years although those without age statements (the norm) needs to be 4 or more years old. Whisky can age 1 second in Oak, be removed from the barrel which can then be refilled and cycle repeated if they choose to do so. The Colorado Distillery is transparent about age in one of their Whiskies-“briefly touched by oak and then into the bottle”. I see it as a nothing more than a “definition” designation play to call it a Whisky.

—Bourbon needs to have greater than 51% Corn with Rye, Wheat or Barley. Whisky can be any fermented grain. Plain Straight Whisky can’t be more than 51% of one grain but can’t use Neutral grain.

—Straight Whisky needs to be from the same type made in the same State, Non-Straight can be a mix from anywhere.

Below I am editing out unnecessary portions of the legal requirements for my purpose. I’m also drawing from a few US Government sources that I may not be listing. There are so many and it’s very confusing.


CFR 27 5.22 The standards of identity.
(b) Class 2; Whisky. ‘‘Whisky’’ is an alcoholic distillate from a fermented mash of grain produced at less than 190° proof in such manner that the distillate possesses the taste, aroma, and characteristics generally attributed to whisky, stored in oak containers (except that corn whisky need not be so stored), and bottled at not less than 80° proof, and also includes mixtures of such distillates for which no specific standards of identity are prescribed.

(iii) Whiskies conforming to the standards prescribed in paragraphs (b)(1)(i) and (ii) of this section, which have been stored in the type of oak containers prescribed, for a period of 2 years or more shall be further designated as ‘‘straight’’; for example, ‘‘straight bourbon whisky’’, ‘‘straight corn whisky’’, and whisky conforming to the standards prescribed in paragraph (b)(1)(i) of this section, except that it was produced from a fermented mash of less than 51 percent of any one type of grain, and stored for a period of 2 years or more in charred new oak containers shall be designated merely as ‘‘straight whisky’’. No other whiskies may be designated ‘‘straight’’. ‘‘Straight whisky’’ includes mixtures of straight whiskies of the same type produced in the same State.


Straight must be 2 years old but if not at least 4 it must state the age.
Whisky must be put in Oak containers but not required to be charred nor new. Science and experience proves that a new charred Oak container adds lots of great taste and flavor to a whiskey designated to be Bourbon. I won’t get heavily into the chemistry such as Sweet flavors like Maple and Vanilla the new charred Oak brings out but your not getting as much if any in a young Whisky using a used non charred barrel. Straight DOES need to be in new charred Oak $$$.

Non Straight can have Color and Flavoring
From SKU’s Most Recent Eats most fabulous website says it better than I could (he’s like waaaay smarter than I)—
“Some Whiskey May Contain Coloring. This is really the same issue as with aging. Straight whiskey may not contain any coloring or flavoring, but no such restriction is imposed on whiskey that does not carry the “straight” designation, 27 CFR § 5.23(a)(3), and added caramel coloring does not need to be disclosed on the label of non-straight whiskey. 27 CFR § 5.39(b)(3). However, the TTB’s Beverage Alcohol Manual states that bourbon of any kind (not just straight) cannot contain coloring or flavoring. The Manual is not an official regulation, but it is a guideline as to how the TTB interprets the regulation, so for now, the TTB is apparently interpreting it in a way that prohibits coloring and flavoring in any bourbon, though they do allow coloring in non-straight rye, wheat and corn whiskeys.”

From the US Standards—-“Treating with harmless coloring, flavoring or blending materials* a specific type of whisky not customarily so treated, e.g., bourbon whisky treated with caramel should be designated “Whisky” “
http://www.ttb.gov/spirits/bam/chapter4.pdf
http://www.ttb.gov/spirits/bam/chapter7.pdf


So if it’s not Straight it can have “harmless color and flavoring”.

It can “include mixtures of such distillates for which no specific standards of identity are prescribed.” I have to admit I can’t precisely say what this is but it can’t be good. I’m thinking Neutral Grain Spirit. Here is non straight “Whisky’s” requirement —“distillate from a fermented mash of grain”. Here is the straight requirement -“produced from a fermented mash of less than 51 percent of any one type of grain”. Presumably corn is used such as in Bourbon.

Ok, I think I broke it down that it’s not “Just” age. Straight is harder, more expensive, it takes longer, more restrictive. If you can get away with not making it Straight and your still selling all of your supply just the same, I guess your attitude can be that it doesn’t matter and people don’t care—until it does and they do and by then its likely to be too late.
As I tweeted to the Colorado guy-in a few years there will be loads of used stills for sale cheap. Within a couple years the nation’s Garage Bays in nondescript Industrial Parks will be filled with over 1000 small drinkable alcohol factories. Saturation can’t be far off. A few will produce good stuff, be successfulI and grow. If your sweating over a still and it’s your life your going to think its great stuff. Family, Friends and Tasting Room guests may even tell you it’s great. I’ve been there, I’ve seen it, I’ve lied so I don’t hurt their feelings. Whiskey, White Dog, Vodka, Wine you name it, lied my ass off along with my buddies with me. Rootbeer Flavored wine hardly deserves accolades but it’s another day of hope rather then reality to give a positive nod of acceptance or say its “tasty”. I might buy a bottle as a souvenir or memento. Oddly, it’s much like opening a new Resturant when the place is packed for a few months then the “For Sale” sign goes up the next year. These things won’t last unless you really have good things and they get better. Novelty wears off and quality lasts. Consumers have more and more choices. There is a point where the world won’t need another Strawberry flavored Whisky. It won’t take long for a customer to realize the Whisky the guy makes in that garage bay in Any City, USA is like the last guy’s. They will realize that the $25 stuff from Kentucky that costs half and tastes twice as good makes the trip from the cash register to the house. The places that survive are the ones with proven age and/or quality. Just because Balcones can make a good non-straight whisky doesn’t mean the next guy can or that it’s easy. Straight means so much more than age, it’s a sign on the road to quality.

3 notes

Let the games begin

There seems to be a reoccurring theme out there that someone can pick Wheated from a Rye based Bourbon. Sometimes it’s easy but often times it isn’t. So the challenge will be I’ll pick a few people to do a tasting test of samples. Some will be Wheated and some not. Some will be Bourbon and some not. People selected will be owners/bartenders/management of nationally recognized Whiskey bars. Beverage Writers including well known bloggers, whiskey reviewers that have reviewed at least 15 American Whiskeys including three or more Wheated. Also my oldest 200 followers or ones that have been very active can be selected by random draw. Finally, any real Master Distiller from a brand bottling Whiskey they mashed and made in their own still.
There will be approximately 15 possible options listed. Possibly a couple not listed and approximately 10 samples. I reserve the right to proof down samples with water.
You’ll get one sample for you and you only to try. If you split it you won’t have enough for an accurate taste/s. This isn’t a whiskey club experiment for two drops split 20 ways.

I’ll include a work sheet for testers to take a photo of and email me. “None of the above” and duplicating samples will be possibilities. Only emails to the Bourbon Truth email address will be used for taster/testers. It’s on aol. Please don’t use twitter or tumblr as I won’t use those, just email. You also need to have results finished and back to me via a clear email photo of the worksheet within one week of getting the samples. If you have limitations of any sort please don’t throw your Palate in the ring and let someone else have a better shot. Winner that gets the most and at least 50% correct gets a good prize which may include a private tasting with me.
Thanks

1 note

Crown Royal 75th Monarch

Yeah, pretty bottle cool Blue/Grey sack. $70-$80 bucks. Story is Royal Family visits Canada Crown Royal born 75 years ago, blah blah blah. Is it good? I had the Special Reserve, Reserve, Cask #16, Red Waterloo XR, Blue LaSalle so I have some time with the range. Fingers crossed, I want to like it.

Nose
A slight burnt smokey thing which is interesting. Sweet but smoke —might be a sulphur nose. Left over BBQ sitting in the fridge? Is that a smelling note? Very subtle so nose really isn’t making my toes curl or wanting to just sit and sniff as I do with something I like from first sniff.

Taste
Maple, Sweet. Smooth but it’s 80 proof and light. Sort of dead.

Finish
F this. Let’s cut to the chase. Drink it for free, cheap at a bar to try but keep your wallet out of the daylight on this. 
1-6 rating

Nose 2.5
Taste 2.5
Finish 2
Average 2.25
Value 2

Overall with Value 2

It’s not bad, it’s just not good. It doesn’t get the rating on it bad things but more lack of good things. Bland, Blah, Boring
Diageo swings and misses.

Crown Royal 75th Monarch

Yeah, pretty bottle cool Blue/Grey sack. $70-$80 bucks. Story is Royal Family visits Canada Crown Royal born 75 years ago, blah blah blah. Is it good? I had the Special Reserve, Reserve, Cask #16, Red Waterloo XR, Blue LaSalle so I have some time with the range. Fingers crossed, I want to like it.

Nose
A slight burnt smokey thing which is interesting. Sweet but smoke —might be a sulphur nose. Left over BBQ sitting in the fridge? Is that a smelling note? Very subtle so nose really isn’t making my toes curl or wanting to just sit and sniff as I do with something I like from first sniff.

Taste
Maple, Sweet. Smooth but it’s 80 proof and light. Sort of dead.

Finish
F this. Let’s cut to the chase. Drink it for free, cheap at a bar to try but keep your wallet out of the daylight on this.
1-6 rating

Nose 2.5
Taste 2.5
Finish 2
Average 2.25
Value 2

Overall with Value 2

It’s not bad, it’s just not good. It doesn’t get the rating on it bad things but more lack of good things. Bland, Blah, Boring
Diageo swings and misses.

18 notes

New Willett Rye Review

The Willett Distillery stopped distilling Whiskey in the 1970’s. In January 2012 (almost 40 years later) the next batch is distilled. Good Bourbon takes awhile 4-6 years for decent, 6-10 years for good but Rye is more forgiving. This month the Willett Family Estate Rye that they distilled is being released. I’ve tasted this twice from the barrel as it evolved. Two Rye recipes are being used. One is the original Willett recipe and one is a version Drew Kulvseen came up with. Combined this is approximately 70% Rye, 15% Malted Barely and 15% Corn.  
I’ve really been looking forward to this one but I remember the last time I anticipated something,  Old Blowhard, with great disappointment but the Bookers 25th came before that which I loved.
This is different as I really like Willett and I didn’t want to be partial, swayed, give bonus points or worse, not really like it. Let’s face it, it’s a Two Year Rye. Most two year rye tastes like wet newspaper, medicine, nail polish etc. and it doesn’t need to be that much better to BE better. Good is hard, real good is almost impossible. I expected I might have needed to take the cowards way out that many Booze rags do when they don’t publlish dog Whiskey reviews that are going to be bad. So I guess I gotta get on with it.

The Color is Golden and a tad light but it’s two years old and that’s what happens. The bottle sports the new neck cover/seal getting rid of the wax. The cork is now synthetic. The Rye was barreled at 110 proof and bottled at 109.4.

Nose
Very very complex and interesting. I was shocked how much. Not ordinary either. A slight wet paint smell in a good way. Fruit, Vanilla, Spice, Floral and Citrus. This must be from the yeast as the Bourbon I tried young has the same Citrus Orange Marmalade thing going on. It’s distinctive and I remembered it and it’s still there from the early Rye and Bourbon Willett barrel samples I had and it’s nice. I’m thinking Orange Sorbet with Nilla Wafers, Rose Petals  and a sprinkle of Cinnamon and Maple Sugar. Tropical fruit, Kumquat —So far so good. It evolves and opens up more with airtime.  I will now say that anyone that gives tasting notes such as these is a pompous ass. So I guess I criticize myself. It’s got a pleasing complex nose.

Mouth/taste
Maple, Spice, Fruitiness. The floral goes away very subtle Citrus. Oreo? It’s sweet in a way that I don’t expect a Rye to be that is 70-80% but it works real well. It doesn’t quite shake the very slight medicinal trait which is so hard for a young rye to get rid of. I would never ever guessed this at less than 6 years nor higher than 100 proof let alone almost 110. It’s amazingly drinkable as is. This is better than most of the LDI/MGPI young Rye they had released previously. 

Finish
I’m a finish brat. Nothing is real good without a smooth and pleasant aftertaste with some hang time. A good 10 seconds of a juicy fruit finish. Amazing! It’s scary in a sense that in two more years this will get better and in 4 it’s better and 4 more it could be remarkable. 

Changing my Rating system to 1-6. There shouldn’t be a middle ground as average is too easy. 

This is a nose of 4, Taste of 4.5, finish of 4.5. So a 4.5. Value is an easy 6 as this is in the mid $30’s, easily better than most Rye twice it’s price and 3x it’s age. Weighting Value it would be a 5 of 6. 
I found that water hurts this at such a young age. Loses some complexity that just won’t hold up in it’s youth. Again, to me it doesn’t need water.

Comparisons
I retested some Rye as a simple “what do I like better” along side the Willett. I like it better than, Dickel, Knob Creek. Holds up well to Jeff21, better than Saz6 or Rittenhouse, Michters 2014 Rye. Close to a tie with a few others. Bottom line is its a big winner & it will get better. 

The Kulvseens have shown there is a new Sheriff in town with a Triple, just shy of a Home Run in a world of young Rye strikeouts, walks and singles.  Buy it if you can. 

Do you want a sample? The first 3 emails that can name my companions I often refer to gets  them mailed. Email me at bourbontruth at a. O l.
Summing up, great for the money and no one will feel bad about buying three bottles for $100. The 1st release is 6000 bottles to be followed with regular shipments. About 120,000 the first year.
Note-after a couple of days open, it seems what was a slight medicinal note dissipated to it being unnoticeable.

Special Note
I revisited this after a few weeks. I’m now getting more Varnish and Medicinal notes on the nose. Still sweet. Raisin. A bit more muted taste, still sweet. Finish has changed the most. It’s less complex, less sweet and younger tasting. I’m not sure how Air and a few weeks affected this one but it did. Changing rating
Nose-3
Taste-2.5
Finish 2.5
2.75 total

Value not anymore value points.

It’s still OK and better than most 2 year Rye but it took a step back.

New Willett Rye Review

The Willett Distillery stopped distilling Whiskey in the 1970’s. In January 2012 (almost 40 years later) the next batch is distilled. Good Bourbon takes awhile 4-6 years for decent, 6-10 years for good but Rye is more forgiving. This month the Willett Family Estate Rye that they distilled is being released. I’ve tasted this twice from the barrel as it evolved. Two Rye recipes are being used. One is the original Willett recipe and one is a version Drew Kulvseen came up with. Combined this is approximately 70% Rye, 15% Malted Barely and 15% Corn.
I’ve really been looking forward to this one but I remember the last time I anticipated something, Old Blowhard, with great disappointment but the Bookers 25th came before that which I loved.
This is different as I really like Willett and I didn’t want to be partial, swayed, give bonus points or worse, not really like it. Let’s face it, it’s a Two Year Rye. Most two year rye tastes like wet newspaper, medicine, nail polish etc. and it doesn’t need to be that much better to BE better. Good is hard, real good is almost impossible. I expected I might have needed to take the cowards way out that many Booze rags do when they don’t publlish dog Whiskey reviews that are going to be bad. So I guess I gotta get on with it.

The Color is Golden and a tad light but it’s two years old and that’s what happens. The bottle sports the new neck cover/seal getting rid of the wax. The cork is now synthetic. The Rye was barreled at 110 proof and bottled at 109.4.

Nose
Very very complex and interesting. I was shocked how much. Not ordinary either. A slight wet paint smell in a good way. Fruit, Vanilla, Spice, Floral and Citrus. This must be from the yeast as the Bourbon I tried young has the same Citrus Orange Marmalade thing going on. It’s distinctive and I remembered it and it’s still there from the early Rye and Bourbon Willett barrel samples I had and it’s nice. I’m thinking Orange Sorbet with Nilla Wafers, Rose Petals and a sprinkle of Cinnamon and Maple Sugar. Tropical fruit, Kumquat —So far so good. It evolves and opens up more with airtime. I will now say that anyone that gives tasting notes such as these is a pompous ass. So I guess I criticize myself. It’s got a pleasing complex nose.

Mouth/taste
Maple, Spice, Fruitiness. The floral goes away very subtle Citrus. Oreo? It’s sweet in a way that I don’t expect a Rye to be that is 70-80% but it works real well. It doesn’t quite shake the very slight medicinal trait which is so hard for a young rye to get rid of. I would never ever guessed this at less than 6 years nor higher than 100 proof let alone almost 110. It’s amazingly drinkable as is. This is better than most of the LDI/MGPI young Rye they had released previously.

Finish
I’m a finish brat. Nothing is real good without a smooth and pleasant aftertaste with some hang time. A good 10 seconds of a juicy fruit finish. Amazing! It’s scary in a sense that in two more years this will get better and in 4 it’s better and 4 more it could be remarkable.

Changing my Rating system to 1-6. There shouldn’t be a middle ground as average is too easy.

This is a nose of 4, Taste of 4.5, finish of 4.5. So a 4.5. Value is an easy 6 as this is in the mid $30’s, easily better than most Rye twice it’s price and 3x it’s age. Weighting Value it would be a 5 of 6.
I found that water hurts this at such a young age. Loses some complexity that just won’t hold up in it’s youth. Again, to me it doesn’t need water.

Comparisons
I retested some Rye as a simple “what do I like better” along side the Willett. I like it better than, Dickel, Knob Creek. Holds up well to Jeff21, better than Saz6 or Rittenhouse, Michters 2014 Rye. Close to a tie with a few others. Bottom line is its a big winner & it will get better.

The Kulvseens have shown there is a new Sheriff in town with a Triple, just shy of a Home Run in a world of young Rye strikeouts, walks and singles. Buy it if you can.

Do you want a sample? The first 3 emails that can name my companions I often refer to gets them mailed. Email me at bourbontruth at a. O l.
Summing up, great for the money and no one will feel bad about buying three bottles for $100. The 1st release is 6000 bottles to be followed with regular shipments. About 120,000 the first year.

Note-after a couple of days open, it seems what was a slight medicinal note dissipated to it being unnoticeable. Special Note I revisited this after a few weeks. I’m now getting more Varnish and Medicinal notes on the nose. Still sweet. Raisin. A bit more muted taste, still sweet. Finish has changed the most. It’s less complex, less sweet and younger tasting. I’m not sure how Air and a few weeks affected this one but it did. Changing rating Nose-3 Taste-2.5 Finish 2.5 2.75 total Value not anymore value points. It’s still OK and better than most 2 year Rye but it took a step back.

1 note

whiskeyphoenix asked: As you and others have clearly illustrated, Michter's is not in any way, shape, or form the oldest distillery in the country. That begs the question, what actually is the oldest distillery in the country? After some extensive research (read: perusing the internet for about 10 minutes) it would seem that several other distilleries have laid claim to this distinction: Buffalo Trace, "Jack Daniels Distillery," and a few more. This seems like a question for you.

That’s the problem what is the
definition of “Distillery”?
The building, site, complex, Still, company, continuously operating?

I’ll use Continuously Operating on/in the current site/building.

Looking at what it can’t be.
Wild Turkey has a new place, it’s not Four Roses Old Prentice early 1900’s
Beam Distillery rebuilt in the 1933
Not Bernhiem, 1992
Not Early Times

1838 Woodford was the Oscar Pepper Distillery. They started across the Creek I think in 1812 built some of the current buildings around 1838 but it closed for a period of time a few times so really can’t count it.

Tom Moore aka Barton 1879 but closed during Prohibition. Major renovations as well.

George Washington
Mount Vernon Distillery in Virginia a reproduction on the actual foundation of the 1790’s site.

Markers Mark started off in 1805 with a Distillary on property but not some of the current buildings until 1882.
Looks like 1889 was started up again. It closed off and on. Closed during Prohibition. Makers took over distilling in 1958. I got to go with 1958 as the date.

Jack Daniels 1866 disputed to really be 1875 but closed from 1910-1938

Buffalo Trace predecessor 1858.
1872 new Distillery building burns to the ground when stuck by lightning rebuilt in 1882. Stays open during Prohibition but no distillation for 10 years.

Lairds
Family has continuously done Lairds Applejack since 1780. Had a fire and rebuilt in current location since 1851 in New Jersey. Stayed open during Prohibition. But moved Distilling to Virginia in 1972.
The Old Distillery is still there that they were using but not distilling there.
http://www.lairdandcompany.com/ancestry.htm

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/04/dining/04lair.html?_r=0

During Prohibition even though some stayed open bottling they could not Distill from 1919-1929. So “Technically” what is now Buffalo started up again distilling around 1929-30, others in 1933 after the repeal.

Cowdery covered who was open and not during Prohibition but read comments for clarification.
http://chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/2014/03/who-had-medicinal-whiskey-licenses_7.html

If you want to go with longest Distilling I guess you need to go with Buffalo since 1929.
As for oldest Distillery I guess pick one based on what makes you happy.