Shortly after I started this blog, a very (VERY) kind reader sent me a pair of Pappy samples. … The 20-year is bottled at 45.2% ABV (contrast with the 15-year at 53.5%). Most of the dismissive “too cool for Pappy” commentary on the ‘net would have you believe that the 20- and 23-year are overly oaky and that the 15-year is best.
Enter competitor TerrePURE Spirits, based in Charleston, South Carolina. A little Googling can tell you what you need to know about the technology, so I’ll just summarize it by saying that they use ultrasonic vibrations to induce chemical reactions in a young spirit (in this case, 2 year-old sourced bourbon), likely with inserted oak staves. This has a variety of effects, including filtering out congeners which cause off-flavors, building mouth-feel by esterification of fatty acids, and improving color absorption from the wood without added colorants.
So apparently a brand called Kentucky Owl Bourbon was sold from 1879 through Prohibition and the business failed when its whisky was seized by the government for impounding. There’s a story about a warehouse fire, and Al Capone… the sort of thing that looks good on a whisky website and is impossible to corroborate. … The whiskey is from a batch of barrels of 11 year-old straight rye whiskey acquired from an unnamed distillery (or distilleries?) in Kentucky, and then bottled in Bardstown, Kentucky at a robust 55.3% ABV.
So what DO we know? Not much. … Michter’s releases have come from a variety of distilleries, by rumor, including old stocks of Stitzel-Weller (not anymore, I guarantee it), KBD (the logical choice), and possibly Brown-Forman. … The bottle claims the whiskey inside was distilled and bottled in Kentucky, and as a Straight Bourbon with no age statement, must be at least four years of age and aged in new charred oak barrels.
The annual tasting of an Angel’s Envy Cask Strength bourbon (2017), which is as close to an annual tradition as we get around here. This time, I’m able to do a side-by-side comparison against the 2016 edition. Wait until you see the price increase over 2015, however…
Dad’s Hat is a craft Pennsylvania rye made by Mountain Laurel Spirits, LLC, at the Grundy Mill Distillery in Bristol, PA. A locally-sourced mashbill of 80% rye, 15% malted barley, and 5% malted rye is distilled and aged for six months in new, charred oak quarter casks. … Dad’s Hat uses a combination of malted and unmalted rye, which is one of the traditions that marked the Monongahela rye style.
What makes this unique is that the unmalted Canadian rye (about 80% of the mashbill) and unmalted Canadian wheat (the distillery is working towards sourcing local grains) is distilled with a portion of malted barley from Wyoming that has been smoked with California cherry wood. This is a concerted effort by the distiller to create the effect of a barrel-aged Manhattan without using any additives (wine, bitters, etc.). The distillery uses alembic copper pot stills, and double-distills its whiskies.
Anchor Distillers (which is a distillery in California, but also does business importing and bottling sourced spirits) has loaded down the Hirsch label with every whisky marketing adjective in the book. This is – no, really – Small-Batch Reserve Selected Straight Bourbon Whiskey, which is “Crafted” in the USA. It also says “artisanally produced” on the back. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of anyone accusing MGP of being a “craft” distillery, but there’s the word on the bottle none-the-less.
On a very serious business-related trip, for business, my wife and I dragged ourselves (complaining all the way) up to picturesque Sonoma County, California, to trudge through a tour of Sonoma County Distilling Company’s facility and reluctantly down a bunch of samples. For business.
… industry contacts allowed the brand to distill its recipe under contract at an undisclosed Kentucky distillery. The recipe, incidentally, includes not only a specific strain of yeast and a mash bill of 79% corn, 11% rye, and 10% barley, but the unusual choice of filling barrels at 103 proof (instead of the more cost-effective 120+ proof).