I recently had one of my favorite Rye Whiskeys and noticed it was different, as in a flavoring I never noticed before different. It was an over powering artificial Spice note. I started to dig. I learned something that never clicked, never hear it spoken of and it’s truly one of the industry secrets no one wants to talk about—FLAVORING. Much of American Whiskey, especially Rye has coloring and flavoring in it. As I dug I spoke to a few Master Distillers that didn’t use flavoring, used it limited or not at all. I spoke to some Whiskey Sales and Production people that have been in the business for decades and some know of the use of flavoring in Rye and some did not. Here is the thing— it’s not Straight Rye (or at least its not supposed to be but in the current climate of mistrust, who knows). In fact Flavoring and coloring is not permitted in a Straight Whiskey. Trouble is that the classification of what the whiskey is is often left up to the Producer/Brand/Distiller if it is classified as a whiskey to begin with. Certain requirements are mandatory with one class when not with another. The leeway and interpretation by the very people that manipulate it is the Fox watching the Hen house per se. Flavoring and coloring is not permitted in Bourbon unless it is “DISTILLED FROM-a Mash of (Bourbon, Rye, Wheat etc.)”. It is permitted in “Blends” as in Blend of Rye, Blend of Bourbon for example.
In Mark Gillespie’s Whiskycast http://whiskycast.com/episode-496-september-12-2014/
Mark interviews the people running Templeton Rye. He did the interview due to all the flack they are taking due to the labeling laws and deceptions since they started in 2006 when that “Iowa” product was really “Indiana” (except for maybe a very short time if you believe them). I’ll be writing about the interview soon. I was floored when Mark asks a question at the time of 34:30 and 35:11. This is when these lying fools bring up their formula they tried to duplicate and Mark asks “are you putting any Flavoring in your Rye”. Templeton pauses and replies “we have a formula from the Clarendon Engineering folks it was explained really well in that link I sent you Mark”. (Code for –we don’t really want to go there, next question.) Then a real long five second pause from Mark and I guess he had to do it and go in for the obvious follow-up and said “Ok, I’d sort of ask you to repeat it since links don’t work real well on the Radio here”. It might have been his best moment I have ever heard from him in this not great interview which I break down in a future post. Mark then goes on to ask questions from what seemed to have shocked him and opened up a big can of worms in the process. He didn’t seem to know there was a rule on it or where to find it. It was then that I needed to finish up this post that started the moment I drank one of my favorite Ryes a month ago and thought “this is different, there’s flavoring in it”!
In Louisville is a company “Flavorman” http://flavorman.com/development-process/
809 South 8th Street, Louisville KY
The same people own Moonshine University next door at 801 South 8th Street, Louisville KY
Here’s something they say about the brands Flavorman has”helped”:
“What brands has Flavorman helped to develop?
ANSWER: We have developed hundreds of brands and thousands of products. Our clients range from start-up entrepreneurs to some of the biggest names in the global market. While some of the brands you may not recognize, others are household names. However, most of our clients prefer that the work we do for them remain confidential. We greatly respect this confidentiality, and that allows us to serve each of our clients with the energy and dedication necessary.”
At Moonshine U they say “Artisan distilling is a hands-on experience that allows craft distiller’s ample room to fine-tune flavors and experiment with applications”.
Moonshine U is where many companies go to be trained for the art of making whiskey. If you have $5,750 and five days you can become a trained distiller/whiskey maker and learn about how to flavor it to make it taste better, different, older.
Clarendon Flavor http://www.clarendonflavors.com/home.html is another flavoring house. Funny how they are in Louisville for over 20 years. They are at 3300 Seventh Street Road, Louisville, KY 40216
What they don’t mention is they work with Whiskey that you wouldn’t expect. I’ve spoken to some brands that I was able to prove used this flavoring that no one realizes. In order to get to the bottom of things I agreed not to use the names of those. My information comes from many sources and not just these people. The way they go about a flavoring is a custom designed profile. Tastes such as woody, maple with spice, chocolate etc are added. When it’s fine tuned it goes into production in your whiskey. Along with the flavoring things like Glycerin are sometimes added.
I’m told that bottlers such as Strong Spirits in Bardstown have buckets full of the stuff being dumped in mass in many of the Whisky we’ll be drinking.
Let’s make the 4 year taste 10 years etc. 2.5% in fact can be made up of the flavoring and coloring and more under certain conditions. Read this and pay special attention to the chart starting on page 7-5. http://ttb.gov/spirits/bam/chapter7.pdf
Here is also some excerpts and another link on formulations—
If HCFBM are used formulas must be submitted— HCFBM = HARMLESS COLORING/FLAVORING/BLENDING
“Coloring/ flavoring/blending materials may be used in or added to any class and/or type of distilled spirits. However, the use or addition of these materials may change the class and/or type of the distilled spirits Example: FD&C Yellow #5 is added to straight bourbon whisky. The resulting product is no longer “straight bourbon whisky.” The product is now a distilled spirits specialty and must be labeled with a statement of composition (Formula) such as “STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKY WITH FD&C YELLOW #5 ADDED”. The use or addition of coloring/ flavoring/blending materials will not cause a change in the class and/or type if the materials used or added can be considered “harmless.” (See “HARMLESS COLORING/FLAVORING/BLENDING MATERIALS” section of this chapter) and are not an essential component but are, through established trade practice, customarily used in the particular class and/or type of distilled spirits PROVIDED THAT the total addition of coloring/flavoring/blending materials does not exceed 2½% by volume of the finished product.”
There is a requirement for the submittal of a Formula sheet to the TTB although it is often not listed on an Application so there maybe conditions when it is required or not. As I mentioned before, many brands don’t (improperly at times) classify the product so a formula sheet is required. If you are adding HCFM’s then the formula much be submitted. http://www.ttb.gov/forms/f510051.pdf
I’d love for a good lawyer that follows me to put in a Freedom of Information on some formulas and see what they can get back.
This is the TTB class of Specialty spirits. If you go online to the TTB Cola search for category 641 it’s amazing. You might find Cinnamon flavored Whiskey, Southern Comfort, Red Stag (and Class 649) but also things like the barrel finishes of Woodford Masters Collection, Heavan Hill Parkers Heritage Cognac finish as well as the Heavan Hill distillery Gift Shop Private Stock Cognac Finished Bourbon. Then again the Woodford (and others are labeled as “Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey” http://www.bing.com/images/search?&q=woodford+reserve+four+wood&qft=+filterui:imagesize-large&FORM=R5IR3#view=detail&id=6F9286B89A91E776F2FA22457710D2E480F788F0&selectedIndex=8 as is the Parkers http://www.drinkspirits.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/11/IMG_7329.jpg
Oddly the Beam Distillers Masterpiece in the Gift shop is listed as Bourbon Whiskey Finished in PX Sherry Cask and the TTB application is for category 141 BOURBON WHISKY. Why not Straight? Who knows?
If your booze is a 641 or not Straight or a Bourbon Mash or Blend look out! It really shouldn’t be that hard should it. Unless you’re a scumbag. Speaking of Scumbag—
Then there is Templeton Rye. In 2006 they start with a Category 106 STRAIGHT RYE WHISKY. Then 14 days later get approval for Category 649 “OTHER SPECIALTIES & PROPRIETARIES” same day Category 142 RYE WHISKY. Then in 2011 and twice in 2012 the label changes but stays Category 141 Rye Whisky.
So something’s up this has gotten completely ridiculous!
I’ve been told they must be classified as a 641 (not a 141, Rye Whiskey) and file a formula sheet (which isn’t listed on their current applications and presumably are in violation of ). The cola application for the 649 Classification they got approval for in 2006 does have a formula. So they know about the requirement and it’s illegal also. Oddly, if they were properly listed as a 641 they are NOT required to list the state of Distillation.
We shouldn’t have to take a TTB Rule book and a Whiskey glossary to the store. Even if you did, you couldn’t be sure the application was filed correctly, if a Formula is part of the application, if the classification was correct, if the brand knew the law or wanted to pretend they didn’t. Did the brand play label musical chairs like Templeton that obviously didn’t know what they were doing then wanted to cover all the bases? They claim ignorance in the LDI/MGPI labeling issue but they are not only well aware of the flavoring requirements but they have used a specialty law firm for at least the last 3 years and three label approvals. If you listened to the 496 episode of Whiskycast, they seemingly didn’t know the labeling laws that applied. The Law firm who’s sole specialty is in Alcoholic Beverages and Label application didn’t know either? http://www.bevlaw.com/
That’s so impossible to believe that it’s easy to catch them in this lie. AND—they never blamed the law firm.
There are many more examples I could spend all day on but go hunting yourself.
So what are we supposed to do send samples to a lab to be analyzed? Well not so fast. This is Part Two of this story that has yet to be written. Something is about to happen that will shake up the Alcoholic beverage industry like nothing else ever has. It’s going to be a shock and could leave giant companies shaking in their additive pouring boots and it’s called “Consumer Physics”. http://www.consumerphysics.com/myscio/. They were Kickstarter funded with 2.8 Million dollars of 200K they wanted making it one of the most successful Kickstarters ever. In the next few months they are releasing the first Cell phone size NIR spectroscopy devices that will be able to do things like scan a watermelon for sugar content and from the website “Instant and affordable analysis of materials. Food, plants, medication, oil and fuels, plastics and wood are only part of what SCiO can analyze.” I asked and yes, they need to write an app or have a developer write one (hint hint) for Spirits. It will give up many of the secrets of what’s in and not in our favorite and not so favorite Whiskey. I’m happy to report I’ll be getting my new toy from them and we shall see. They will cost around $400.
I think the State of origin is the tip of the Iceberg. Just as the TTB needs to start paying some attention to label approvals for real, a whole new run-a-way train is heading their way and its Formulas, Additives and Flavorings. If my Ritz Crackers and Soup need ingredients listed why not my Whiskey and Beer?
It’s only fair after bashing the frauds that I cover what I’ve been preaching. An honest brand. Barrell Bourbon (yes spelled that way) has two batches. 5 years old and Tennessee distilled. They don’t hide that it’s not theirs. No mention of distillery or Master Distiller.
“Barrell’s mission is to find and curate the best barrels and batches of whiskey, wherever they may be.” Joe Beatice is the Founder an Advertising Executive in New York. So far so good.
At first glance distilled in Tennessee and five years old Dickel comes to mind but not at the Mashbill of 70% corn, 25% rye, 5% malted barley. That’s not Dickel not Jack even if they did sell barrels. Not Prichards distilled. Corsair? Well I’m a bit stumped. A few new brands are listed with this mashill. It’s bottled by Strong in Bardstown as well. Let’s get on with this to see if it was worth $70.
Sometimes when I pop a cork off a bottle an inviting whiff jumps out. This isn’t one of those times.
Sweet, Cinnamon and spice. 25% Rye is pretty high and comes through. 121.6 proof is there but not over powering.
Not much happening that stands out. Sweet spice. A young flavor I would have expected to have dissipated after 5 years.
Adding water was a mistake. It has a wet dog smell now. Plastic and flaws jump out. Who the f gave this a 94 that they point out tied with Pappy? Let’s look. Ultimate Spirits Challenge.
Sweet, Vanilla, not bad but it hurts with heavy burn late.
Let’s end this with a score.
Out of 5
The stuff about special barrels might work on the outside but this is no better than high proof at half the price. I think with a few more years of age it would be much improved.
I really wanted to like it for the honesty and transparency. As credible as that is putting an Ok whiskey in a bottle at cask strength and no filtering isn’t enough. Pass on it unless you can get a small taste cheap.
I just got done listening to Mark Gillispe’s Whiskycast where he re-interviews Stephen Gertman that’s now the “Master Distiller” of Asendant Spirits/Breaker Bourbon. I had such high hopes for Mark but it’s not to be. Mark is covering transparency and Labeling of this brand he whiffed on the first interview. Don’t read further if you don’t like obscenity filled ranting of Bourbon Truth.
It’s 3am as I write this and I’m not sleeping on this post. It’s the same old news of another guy that two years ago had no clue what he was doing and now he’s a “Master” of making bad booze. I’m about as impressed at marveling over the dog’s ability to lick their own asses. Oh, that doesn’t really impress me but you get the idea. According to the 1st interview that Marky Mark did, Gertman got his experience having a friend show him the ropes at another Distillery. In this interview he suddenly “worked at another distillery” implying he’d been doing it awhile to give credibility to his idiotic statments. What’s more troubling is that Mark schedules the interview with this guy with them both knowing that they are going to be talking about Whiskey and Labeling Law CFR 27.5.36D. Mark is traveling when he does the interview but I can pull up the labeling law in 5 seconds on my phone. Mark, how do you do almost a ½ hour on the law with this idiot when it’s not in front of either of you or researched? Are you THAT stupid!!
“…the State of distillation shall be shown on the label of any whisky produced in the United States if the whisky is not distilled in the State given in the address on the brand label. The appropriate TTB officer may, however, require the State of distillation to be shown on the label or he may permit such other labeling as may be necessary to negate any misleading or deceptive impression which might be created as to the actual State of distillation…..”
Gertman goes on about the law and his interpretation and Mark chuckles like a guy with no clue in a rest home waiting for pudding in his underwear. You guys discuss “gapping loop holes in the law”. What Law Mark? You have no clue and you’re so unprepared for the interview you let this fraud talk and talk and talk.
There seems to be this new defense when one of these idiots is called out. I’ve written about it with Lock Stock and Barrel Rye, Whistle Pig, with a bunch more and now Breaker Bourbon. You are quick to point out and continually say these lying non-distillers “are about to open their own distillery” when you actually have no clue how close they are. You give them nice fluffy pillows stuffed with outs and pre packaged alibis for deceit. You insinuate credibility when none is due. You’ve become an apologist in fraud and you do a disservice to your listeners each time you shovel more shit rather than shut the door and say “no more”. These people on your show (or stories you cover) like Gertman are claiming that they aren’t trying to fool anyone, they are transparent and they have nothing to hide. What a bunch of bullshit. Gertman, I know your reading this you snake. You are a delusional liar. This half assed new defense I keep seeing are in the form of half ass disclosures that your not distilling your own bourbon on your Facebook page, in an interview, in a trade magazine or a tweet. It doesn’t let you off any hook or give you a free pass. Less than 1% of your customers and potential customers see or hear that it’s not your stuff and you know it. When you spend multiple paragraphs on your labeling and even website giving the impression you’re making it all in a carefully worded cryptic tone you’re ripping people off.
You’re not transparent and stop looking for a pat on the back for being a scumbag. You may as well make these disclosures on a piece of paper in your pocket or an empty room. You’ve done a tiny bit more than practically nothing and your not getting rewarded for it. You used to get paid to write and you didn’t like that so now you’re doing this. Let’s review some of your promotional crap:
“Breaker Bourbon Whisky is a new American bourbon from the first craft distillery in the golden hills of California’s Central Coast. Our Master Distiller blends each small batch from only eight carefully hand chosen barrels that have been aged for at least five years. This ensures that each bottle is produced with an uncompromising attention to detail and taste. Inspired by the sublime and elusive sets at El Capitan and other local beaches, Breaker embodies that sense of perfection and freedom.
•A base of corn, rye and malted barley
•Twice distilled in a copper still
•Aged for five or more years
•First bourbon hand-crafted, blended and bottled in Southern California since Prohibition
Ascendant Spirits uses American grown grains and the best local organic produce as key ingredients for its distinctive handcrafted vodka, moonshine and whisky products.
I can train a chimp to “blend” barrels better than a Writter of bad TV shows. Gertman, your a Master in illusion, that’s it. There is nothing in your stuff or label that would lead any normal consumer to think that you’re not distilling it. You keep using a rendition of the word “Distill” over and over like “Our Master Distiller”. Transparent? Honest? Upfront? You’re an embarrassment! I hope they sue you to the point you’re writing for infomericals to to feed yourself. Somewhere say “we source the best barrels of bourbon available to us until ours is ready”. Not the crap from above. St George has no trouble selling their Breaking and Entering Bourbon and telling people it’s sourced but you can’t even smell their Jock in the credibility or quality department.
Back to Mark. So then you really become complicit in making a joke out of Gertman’s “Hand Made” comment and the verbal diarrhea that you contribute reminds me of two guys talking about who saw a bigger Flying Saucer. I cringed.
Then you get on the “Small Batch” issue that this guy might get sued for. He alludes to a newsletter and you call out Buffalo Trace and Mark Brown as examples of the pot calling the kettle black. So here’s the thing. I’ve given Buffalo and Mark Brown their share of criticism. I’ve thrown some complements in there as well but I’ve always tried to be fair from my sometimes warped perspective. Mark, you let this idiot enter that conversation, then you clarify and expand the comment letting the accusation run amok like a Whiskey Podcaster without a f-ing clue, its unprofessional and one sided. If Buffalo Trace were an advertiser maybe you would have grown a brain but then again you don’t really have any American Whiskey Advertisers that stick around do you? Mark Brown and Buffalo Trace have done more for modern American Whiskey than just about anyone I can think of. Warts and all, they have. When you mock (and permit it to be mocked on your show) the Small Batch concept of Buffalo Trace you show your true colors as a worthless Whiskey “Expert”. You do some good work on your show but if you’re going to let inaccurate untruths be spewed as you chuckle like a clown you need to take that Microphone and shove it up your….. You let an idiot that knows nothing about whiskey history and obviously only respects his own history to run your show. So let’s look at Buffalo Trace and how you should or could have responded. I’m thinking you have this knowledge but then again maybe you just talk a good game.
Buffalo Trace (or Ancient Age if you will) comes up with Blantons, a Small Batch. They come up with the Antique Collection, all Small Batches. They do Experimental Collections-all Small Batches. Single Oak-Small Batches. They have their own Micro Distillery devoted to only distilling Small Batches. They have a special small building (more of a cottage) devoted to bottling Small Batches. There is the Van Winkle stuff too. Let’s talk about your Van Winkle comment for a second. You say that Van Winkle goes right from Stitzel Weller to Buffalo Trace as its source. Cool, you pass along terrible information again and we wonder where it comes from—chimps like you. The first batches of the post 1970’s Van Winkle weren’t from Stitzel Weller. Old and new Bernhiem are used in it as are other places. I hate giving the math lesson again but 1992-2001 (1999 Sazerac buys Weller Wheated and starts making more) is Van Winkle gap years and although some Van Winkle comes from Whiskey produced at the Distillery we know as Buffalo Trace, all of it didn’t come from there and Stitzel Weller as you stated. You chuckled this away as well. Buffalo Trace releases more actual Small Batch brands than anyone I can think of and you let this idiot skate away with the premise they don’t and you’re an accessory to it. Your tasting notes you broadcast and post should address origin when it’s in doubt as well, you don’t. If you can’t do a better job balancing an interview with fact and professionalism stay the hell off a topic as you have never made yourself look stupider.
You let this guy lead you around by your crotch and you helped him with a false and misleading message a second time. Not once, TWICE! You were unprepared and a Penny Saver’s Movie Critic could have done five times the job you did with this guy. You’re a joke and at this point I’ve resigned myself to listening as a form of comedy. I just feel bad for the people that don’t know any better and think you’re helping them when you’re in fact hacking off American Whiskey IQ points from their brains by the bucketful. I could care less if you’re a nice guy, have some pride and do your job.
Guest post from the awesome folks at Ellenjaye original awesome whiskey Distillary blog. No edits
I don’t know if this will get through; responding to this blog is a lesson in futility. But I’m gonna try just in case, because no one else would DARE publish it (nor should they if they want to keep (a) their current sources and (b) their current readership). But this is my point of view and I often wonder just how alone I am in it. Basically it goes like this…
ALL bottled and merchandised whiskey is sourced.
Distillers don’t make “bourbon”, at least not “straight” bourbon. Nor do distillers make any other aged product. Distillers make spirit. That’s all they make. The minute it’s transferred from the cistern to a barrel it enters an entirely different realm.
So much “how many angels can dance on a pinhead” discussion war is waged by people who appear to have more experience with “pinheads” than either you or I have, and so reinforced the notion among the uninformed that the mashbill, or the type of water used, or at what temperatures the first cut is made, etc., etc., etc. that its easy to lose track of the fact that none of that matters any more to a whiskeymaker than what variety of cotton or what harvest season does to a fashion designer. Zilch point s#it, that’s what. Either the spirit meets specs or it doesn’t, and it matters not who made it or with what kind of equipment, or what their grandfather did for a living.
The person who needs to be credited (or faulted) with MAKING THE WHISKEY is the person who selects what’s going into the bottle with his or her name on it. It doesn’t have to be, and up until the recent burst of “craft” distillers, usually wasn’t, the same dude or dudette who distilled the spirit. I.W. Bernheim wasn’t a distiller; George Garvin Brown wasn’t a distiller; NONE of the Van Winkles ever distilled a drop of whiskey in their lives unless secretly; Bill Weller, either. The Shapira brothers of Heaven Hill? Nope. Elmer T. Lee? Maybe early in his career, but not when he was producing award-winning bourbon for Ancient Age/Buffalo Trace. Most large producers made their product by selecting barrels from a variety of distilling company warehouses, and those warehouses were just as likely to hold sourced barrels as ones filled by their own distillery. That still goes on; there are hundreds (or more) barrels aging in the Stitzel-Weller warehouses, even though not a drop of distillate has been produced there since 1992. They’re not bottled as Stitzel Weller (oh no! Buffalo Trace and Heaven Hill own all or most of those brands), so that means they end up as whoever buys them. And many of those barrels only arrived there last week, from… wherever.
The fact is that the person responsible for making the WHISKEY in your bottle considers the original juice as just an ingredient. What kinds of barrels are filled, what proof, and the years spent in the warehouse are what makes it Bourbon or Rye. And choosing just which barrels from which warehouses, at what age and bottled at what proof is what the REAL whiskeyman does for living. The distiller doesn’t do that. The distiller, whoever that might be, is no longer part of the process. It’s stupid to rant that so-and-so’s product isn’t any good simply because it’s sourced whiskey. You could legitimately complain that so-and-so is trying to trick you into thinking it’s all made from spirits distilled at whatever distillery he’s currently employed at. But Hell, that’s what ALL of the major names do, and have always done. If he’s simply bottling bulk whiskey (“send me 200 barrels of whatever ya got”)… Well, what I’VE got are invoice after invoice of major brand merchants doing just exactly that, both before and since Prohibition.
What makes Julian Van Winkle so special is his talent, not so important anymore, of finding barrels of bourbon — a few here, a few there — all over the Commonwealth that he could make into the Pappy that his customers expected. Even as the sources ran out, he had to find new ones. He doesn’t have that problem anyore; Buffalo Trace distills wheated bourbon and ages it so as produce as much of the whiskey Julian wants as he needs. Maybe. No one ever said the ONLY whiskey (or even MOST of the whiskey) in a bottle of Pappy is Buffalo Trace juice, have they? There are precedents, but I needn’t name them. I wouldn’t want to end upstream Glenn’s Creek.
Todd Roe distills whiskey that is used to make Woodford Reserve. Or maybe it was Conner O’Driscoll for a brief time. For most of the distillery’s lifetime it was David Scheurich, who also designed the distillery. Surprised? Sure. You thought it was Chris Morris, didn’t you. Nope. Chris is a helluva guy, but I’d bet that most “craft” distillers who’ve been in operation long enough to have aged product for sale have done more commercial distilling than Chris Morris ever did or will. It wasn’t Lincoln Henderson, either. Those people didn’t distill the juice, they MADE THE WHISKEY you drink when you pour from a bottle Woodford Reserve. They use some of the spirit distilled at the distillery and some that they source from (their own, but that’s still sourcing) what was once called the Early Times distillery in Shively. Who distilled that juice? Glenn Glaser for many years, although I’m not sure he’s still there. You won’t find his name on a bottle of Early Times, though, nor Old Forester, nor occupying even a shared position on the Woodford Reserve label. Nor should you. Chris Morris is the Master “Distiller” of all those brands (not to mention Jack Daniel’s), and the fact is THAT’S 100% CORRECT. Those whiskies, all of ‘em, are delicious products for which we can thank Chris Morris, not the distillers. It’s Morris who makes it Old Forester or Woodford Reserve, and it doesn’t matter where he gets his raw materials from as long as they meet his specs to make the product he sells to you (and me).
That’s why I tend to go into a hissy-fit when some loudmouth lummox (present company excepted of course) who should know better starts jumping all over a brand FOR NO OTHER REASON than that the distillate wasn’t made in the next room over from the barreling station. Oh, sure, there are plenty of OTHER reasons why NDP whiskies include some truly awful stuff. Does anyone believe that their selection of what barrels to use in bottling their own-make product will be any more reliable? Now there are SEVERAL new NDP brands out there, some of whom really are planning to offset their NDP product with their own someday. More power to them. I kinda think that won’t really happen for most. Some, though. The folks at Smooth Amber put as much thought and talent into choosing the MGP whiskey they’re bottling now as any of the finest old-line whiskeymen ever did. And their own stuff, a small portion of which is now being bottled as “Yearling” for us “PLEASE! I WANNA HAVE SOME NOW!!” folks (like me). New Riff is another bottler of carefully chosen MGP product. By the way, both of those brands are using MGP whiskey selected by the guy who actually made it. The whiskey in the bottle that is. Except there weren’t any bottles. Larry Ebersold was the guy in charge of what his distillers put into the barrels and what happened to those barrels afterward. He worked for MGP. Before that he worked for Angostura, LDI, and Seagram’s. Same distillery, just different names. His whole career revolved around producing the flavor profile required by commercial customers (the distillery never marketed an actual brand of their own).
Okay, those are some examples. There are more if want ‘em. I just can’t wait until the haters get hold of this.
Bottom line: The (wo)man who selects what barrels go into your bottle of whiskey is the person who made it. PERIOD. It doesn’t matter where the barrels they chose came from, or within limits just what was in them, as long as the end product makes you go, “MMmmm. I think I’d like another bottle of that”.
My apologies to readers but you’ll have to indulge me on a slap down of a couple people. A buddy pointed me toward his Willett Facebook group recently as it exploded into a circus due to a brain damaged moose cock named Tyler Durdenesdurden and some special other tidbits from his like minded lot. Since Tyler Rumpelstiltskin or what ever his name is lost his nerve and deleted a good number of his posts, it’s hard to get the full gist of it now. Basically he didn’t like Willett 2 Year Rye and thought it was over priced. He did it really badly and made no sense. Mostly all responding comments were in support of Willett, some jumped both ways.
Then Drew Kulvseen (Willett family and Master Distiller) told this muskrat munching idiot Tyler not to buy the products. The Tyler dude with the Whiskey smarts of a toad then demands an apology and is appalled. Wait, blast a guy, his life, a brand and his family history and then when someone tells you to go away you get pissed? Shocked?
Is all Willett great? No. In fact as I blogged here a few months back, they changed to Synthetic corks due to a very rare industry wide natural cork taint issue in a tiny percentage of whiskey bottles. Stores and restaurants pick and buy barrels to be private bottled. If they pick the rare stinker that’s on them even if it reflects on Willett at times.
Universally, Two Year and under Rye usually sucks, rarely good from 95% of those that I’ve had. Willett is a very drinkable great Rye for two years. Does it beat something 3x the age, maybe cheaper? Sometimes yes, sometimes no but what’s the point! Two year is very rarely any good and this is very good for two years.
Some people commenting jumped on Willett about the price. There is an avalanche of crappy craft in .375 ML sizes that are $60 a bottle, tastes like swill and 3-4x the cost of a .750 ML Two year Willett Rye.
I know some distributers of Willett and they buy the two year rye for $17.50 a bottle. This is after Willett buys the grain, a $150 barrel, pays the labor and expense to make it, pays taxes, sits on the investment for two years, pays bottling expenses and much more overhead to make $17.50. This is also near a barrel proof rye. Rather than watering it down 10%-20% to make more money they don’t. When it’s sold at the Visitor Center it’s usually sampled and there’s other overhead. I doubt they come close to breaking even on tour costs so doing samples is more overhead. If they sold the Rye too cheaply the retailers (some 2-3 miles away) that need to sell it for $35-$40 wouldn’t be too happy. I’ll happily pay $40, it’s a great buy for what it is and represents.
Willett doesn’t have a billionaire Venture Capitalist as an owner/partner using it as a hobby, scam or adult binky. They use their own money, no loans and the 4 family members do without until they can. They could have put the rye out at 6 months or a year and they didn’t. They could have done the typical $70 white dog, they didn’t. They could put out a Root Beer “Shine”, they didn’t. They could put out a two year Bourbon now, they won’t.
Some Facebook people compare the new Oregon Black Maple Hill being bad and Willett’s fault when Willett has nothing to do with it! Nothing, it’s not their brand anyway. In fact the last batch of Willett produced Black Maple Hill was more or less a going away present so the guy that owned the brand would have some stuff before he got shut off.
Another idiot named Jeff on the group says that Willett is just another “big dog macro like all the other big name distillery’s” and they don’t have a Distillery which made no sense. He has no concept for the brand or history. Another guy talking out of his ass. Mind you they are fans following a Willett group. Amazing stuff huh? Lots of people did a great job in defense of Willett.
Who I really feel for is Drew. He has to put up with these idiots as a cautious but active participant on Facebook, Twitter, phone, email, you name it. The Van Winkles won’t give you the time of day. They complain that they need to answer the phone or emails when that’s pretty much all they need to do 363 days a year. The last time Julian Van Winkle III got his hands dirty was putting a golf tee in the ground with that days Celebrity or dragging his luggage to “another” award dinner. Drew will treat you like a friend and spend quality time with you if you put some effort into arranging your visit. He works early, late and plenty of weekends. His wife runs the Visitor Center. He does it because it’s in his blood and he wants the best. He could just as easily disappear like Willy Wonka and not be bothered. The Willett people aren’t paid salesman or Ambassadors that must “love” what’s on their business cards. They are as passionate as anyone in a family business as I’ve ever seen. The struggle to put out the best isn’t easy. When an idiot like Tyler jumps on line taking 15 minutes off from his Porn collection to crap on something he has no clue of I feel for the Kulvseens (Drews mother is a Willett).
Another group idiot called out Willett “Small Batch” as not being such. I’ve seen the tanks and they couldn’t do anything but a small batch if they wanted right now. They’re more comments I can address but I’m sure but I’ve made my point.
Lastly, if you’ve never been to Willett your really not in a position to criticize because you have no idea. Love them from afar but until you’ve seen the place and meet the people shut the F up if critical until you have because you just come off looking terrible. I’m about the most critical whiskey geek out there and taking Willett to task is like insulting Mother Teresa for eating food when orphans were starving. It’s unfortunate such idiots like Tyler and Jeff exist in this hobby. They would be so much better suited for flavored Vodka and Jaeger shots to have no clue about. I hope they never buy another drop of good Whiskey so those deserving of it have more. Someone please share this link to idiots Jeff and Tyler on the Willett Group Facebook site. Let them know in the future they might want to take their heads out of their asses and do 5 minutes of research or they will continue to make chimps look smarter.
That title says a lot. I hear that from some people I meet. Yes, I meet people, I talk to them on the phone and by email. Most are cool keeping who I am private. In a recent swing through Bourbon Country I was lucky to meet more. I truly appreciate their thoughts and impressions, it helps. Lloyd is a bit of the alter ego sub conscious of many whiskey geeks but it ends up bubbling to the surface sometimes like a turd in a punch bowl for the public to see. I do have my limits as I’ve taken many things off line and private. I’ve run across lots of gossipy truths involving Whiskey people in major positions that involve their lives and not the whiskey. I’ve got no business writing about who’s cheating on a spouse, screwing the tax man, or the inner politics and indiscretions of a Distillery because if it’s not about the Whiskey 99% of the time it’s not for Lloyd.
On the Distillery side it’s hard to get on the Christmas Card list when you bash a brand one day then pat them on the back the next. I’ve wondered why Beam can’t put out a great 12 year old while saying the Bookers 25th was brilliant and one of the best Whiskeys to ever come out. I’ve blasted Buffalo Trace on so many fronts I’ve lost track while saying they have put out the largest number of consistently great products of all the majors. As much as I hate the games Michters plays, they have put out some great releases in the past and to be fair I had to admit I really liked a recent taste of theirs I had. I blast Mark on Whiskycast but then will talk about the great job he did on Diageo. I blasted Whiskey Advocate on things then said how great a issue they put out and why it’s the only publication I currently subscribe to.
If I were much nicer I’m sure the rich’s of the Bourbon universe would descend on me but that’s not me anyway. I want the freedom to say a whiskey sucks, a publication is bought off by ads or give it to someone that never ever does a balanced or honest piece of reporting. I want to be able take it to a blog or site saying they’re a paid publicity conduit of its brand masters paying for bullshit content.
I’m not sure if I can be a little bit nicer. I do know I’ve gone out of my way to insult when I shouldn’t have so in that I’ve gotten smarter and careful. There have been things people would have gotten fired from that never made my blog or twitter. I was told two or three stories directly by major Master Distillers that would have made great reading at the expense of them catching hell that wouldn’t have been right. If and when I’m critical it’s almost always because the brand, outlet, or Distillery put themselves in that situation. I didn’t print the label, make up the story, lie, cheat or deceive so if Im going to come off as the bad guy and be scapegoated for their own warts, so be it. Yes, I could be nicer, I could become every distillery and booze PR hump’s Shirley Fucking Temple, I could be universally loved and showered with whiskey riches. I could have so many free bottles and samples pouring in I’d never open them. I prefer my truth and my truth hurts but it’s my choice and I’ll take trust over manufactured favoritism.
Makers Mark Cask Strength
Label above is a demo not actual.
About a half year ago I posted this was coming. I took some heat as a few insisted on my sources and I was full of shi*. Since the news was about 3 months before anything else which was the TTB filing I waited. I’m happy to say it’s here and it’s good.
Makers has been experimenting with this for almost a year in quiet focus groups and private tastings. Until a short time ago Rob Samuals at Makers Mark had publicly stated that they did not believe in an over aged, over proof whiskey. With this said, Makers has released several “over proofed or over aged” whiskies a few years back in the Gold 101 and Black Wax 95 and others. The famous Black Wax only sent overseas mostly to Japan is a Whiskey Geek Wish list item.
I was told by the former Makers Master Distiller at the time, Dave Pickeral that one day all references to the Black Wax were stricken as if it never existed and it was discontinued. I’ve had it as well as others. Jack Rose in DC still had some last visit. It was a bit hotter at 95 and thought to be a bit older. Geeks put this at their favorite Makers bottling.
If you believe all the Stitzel Weller lineage it is said that this is the SW recipe that Pappy gave Bill Samuals Sr. It is also said that the Makers Stills are the same type SW had and the SW yeast is being used. What had always been missing was the ABV to 107 and some extra age. Black Wax almost did that. As for this new Cask Strength it’s 113 Proof (variable) and age is thought to be anywhere between 4-6 years, uncut/unfiltered. At the end of Makers Mark tours visitors are offered a tasting of Makers that is White, Over Aged, Regular Bottled and 46. It’s no surprise that the great Whiskey palates there with me told Bill Samuals Jr liked it (even after he told us we should be tasting to much wood and bad tasting whiskey with the over aged product). It wasn’t bad and it was clearly the best of the bunch and we told him so. It’s scary to think what an 8-12 year Makers would do to the market at Cask Strength. Beam/Suntory Marketing folks could easily get $100 a bottle for it and geeks would be happy to pay that. After the 84 proof fiasco they should try it since they are obviously in an “Expermentin mood”. I have no idea of selectivity that went into these batches but I’d be surprised if some or much extra selection went into them. I am also drinking a pre-release bottle meant for non-mortals so who knows if this batch is the standard to be expected in the gift shop variety. Thanks to my buddy that got this to me.
Cask Strength is currently only TTB approved in a .375 size. No official word on its availability outside the Distillery gift shop starting on 9/1/14. I’ve been told that Bartenders around the world are supposedly still being tasted/tested on it for a potential limited national rollout. Stay tuned.
If you have a Whiskey Mule in KY or the opportunity to get a bottle or two of this it will quickly become a cult favorite and I’d get some. Expect 3x mark up on facebook and 3rd party reselling.
Tasting notes scores out of 5
Nose-Tropical Fruit, Maple, a little spice. Not super complex, still a tad young 3.5
Taste-Tad Medicinal, Cinnamon, Maple, Fruity, not much burn 3.5
Finish- Yum, so hard to get a great finish and this one is long with my favorite Juicy Fruit, Cinnamon, Maple, light spice. A good 15 seconds. No bitterness. Very Nice. 4.25
Reminds me of a 6 year SW Old Fitz.
Value don’t know yet but this is a special item so I think most would be acceptable of higher cost even with a .375 size. Good value up to $70 considering its current uniqueness. Comparing it to the crappy craft stuff being sold in the same size/$$ (to who knows), but they are buying it I don’t have a problem with paying more. As for the Makers value, no extra points but no deductions either.
I’m going to put this at a 4.0 score which is a super good score for me as I’m a mean bastard when it comes to this sort of thing and if it was older I could see this easily giving WLW and Pappy a major run for its money perhaps leaving them in the dust.
A couple months ago follower and blogger from Denver made some claims about being able to tell a Wheated from none Wheated Whiskey. I said it’s very rare to accurately do it at a high percentage. I said I’d invite a few followers with him to the test. When I asked him before his package went out if he still wanted the samples he never replied several times. 10 people got or are getting samples with the following tasting sheet. I’ll post results when they are ready.
Please complete within a week and take a photo and email it back to Bourbontruth@aol.com or fill it in from the blog post. Thanks and have fun.
1 Bourbon Wheated ____ Bourbon Not Wheated____ Other Guess__________________
2 Bourbon Wheated ____ Bourbon Not Wheated____ Other Guess__________________
3 Bourbon Wheated ____ Bourbon Not Wheated____ Other Guess__________________
4 Bourbon Wheated ____ Bourbon Not Wheated____ Other Guess__________________
5 Bourbon Wheated ____ Bourbon Not Wheated____ Other Guess__________________
6 Bourbon Wheated ____ Bourbon Not Wheated____ Other Guess__________________
7 Bourbon Wheated ____ Bourbon Not Wheated____ Other Guess__________________
8 Bourbon Wheated ____ Bourbon Not Wheated____ Other Guess__________________
9 Bourbon Wheated ____ Bourbon Not Wheated____ Other Guess__________________
10 Bourbon Wheated ____ Bourbon Not Wheated____ Other Guess__________________
11 Bourbon Wheated ____ Bourbon Not Wheated____ Other Guess__________________
12 Bourbon Wheated ____ Bourbon Not Wheated____ Other Guess__________________
13 Bourbon Wheated ____ Bourbon Not Wheated____ Other Guess__________________
14 Bourbon Wheated ____ Bourbon Not Wheated____ Other Guess__________________
Choices that tastings “Might” be. Please fill in/match up the list below by placing the letter where you think it belongs.
. Willett Potstill
. Old Fitz HH BiB
. Willett 6 Year Rye
. Michters 2013 Bourbon
. Four Roses Small Batch Regular
. Red Breast Irish 12 year
. Crown Royal Waterloo XR
. Dickel 14 Year
. Jack Daniels Silver label
. WL Weller Special Reserve
. Buffalo Trace Experimental Wheated
. EH Taylor Single Barrel
. Ancient Age 10 Star
. Prichard’s Chocolate Bourbon
. Parker’s Different Mashbills
. Weller 107
. Rebel Yell
. Van winkle 10
. Van winkle 12
. Van Winkle 15
. Makers Mark
. Beam Double Black
. Old Heaven Hill BiB
. Buffalo Trace Bourbon
. None of the above
Left Sample Blind (sticker on label bottom of glass)
Nose a bit quiet, creamy, sweet, cinnamon.
Taste Astringent, a little bitter with some nice fruit and spice hiding in the back. Cherry. Not loving it but it’s OK.
Finish just can’t get past the bitter. Not bad but it’s not something I’m looking for another pour of tonight. 2.75.
Right Sample Blind (sticker on label bottom of glass)
Similar nose as above. A tiny bit more shy.
Taste-friendlier, evolving nice fruit and spice, not bitter.
Finish-more pleasant not bitter. Perfume and floral. Winner 3.25
Reveal is Diamond. Ok, so I like this one more. $125 vs $33 Value hmmm. One bottle of Diamond for geek factor to have it but it’s generously worth $50 not $125+
I’m not sure when I had my first drink of whisk(e)y but I know it wasn’t my first taste. How good or bad never really crossed my mind for a long time and I’m not sure I could really tell the difference other than maybe good or not. Over the years I’ve learned more about “tasting” not drinking, tried more and treated it as a passion, not a game. I don’t have the best palate and if I’m lucky, it’s average.
It gets a bit harder for a good friend or bartender to offer me a glass of something “good” only to find out it’s just average to me. I may be a bit of a whiskey snob and perhaps too critical of someone saying its a Green light when it’s really Yellow or Red in Whiskey Traffic school. It’s really that simple. It’s good, it’s not or it’s not really good or bad.
The Smooth Ambler discussion on twitter got me thinking. Have we started to “Settle” on the Yellow light? Has lack of and a shortage of a real Green light caused a shift? Have we stepped on the gas blasting through a Yellow light whiskey intersection that’s really Red and telling ourselves the light was Green?
I did a blog post last year where I questioned if the movement to take the cream off the top (best barrels) and put it into special releases has caused the standard stuff to take a step back. What happens when you take the cream off the top for too many years? Even the best stuff starts being average. Whiskey years are like dog years as a follower said and it flys by. Five years ago the chase for the best hardly existed. Great Rye could easily be found. Old Black Maple Hill, Pappy, AH Hirsch, GT Stagg weren’t that hard to find in stores. In 10-20 years American Whiskey has gone from forgotten to furor. There are lots of new Whiskey fans. 6-12 years ago distilleries didn’t see this coming. There just isn’t enough great stuff ready for a bottle so THEY settle too. Yellow is the new green for many of them. It could be much worse. If it wasn’t for Honey and Cinnamon flavored whiskey the truly bad stuff wouldn’t have a place to hide.
I keep drinking booze that’s “supposed” to be good. Disagreeing with others ratings/reviews are just my opinion. Maybe it rightfully makes me look pompous at times, it isn’t my fault. It’s simple—Does it smell like something I want to sip immediately? Does it taste good enough that I anticipate my next sip? Does it finish with a nice long pleasant taste? It’s that simple unless you “settle”. Maybe the nose is just “nice”, taste is “good enough” and finish is a bit shorter and that little subtle bitterness or astringency isn’t that bad. I hear “what else are we supposed to do”, “it’s not bad”, “it’s pretty good”, “it’s better than the 2013”, “I hear its good”, “if I don’t get it now someone else will”, settle, settle, and more settling.
Nasty young Craft stuff—settle
Rushed not peaked big name stuff-settle
Fancy bottle LTD release with average quality—settle
The two guys from the their blog with no clue say its good-settle
The store’s whiskey guy or owner picked the barrel so he says it’s great so it must be-settle
Trust your own taste and struggle to find a good nose, great taste and finish.
I guess I gotta take a step back and ask if its me? Then I try a Old Heavan Hill Gold Bottled in Bond for $12 and it’s damn good and better than that stuff the store owner picked out selling for $70. Maybe I have some $25 Four Roses Small Batch and it’s better than the 12 year Van Winkle that’s not close to the brands nose, taste, finish of a couple years ago. It reminds me I don’t have to settle, the answers right there.
Green isn’t Yellow and don’t get use to anything else or it’s like being bit by a Whiskey Zombie and your a goner!