In-Depth Review: Broken Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon – Cask Strength

Image credit: Jeremy Pue (@jeremypue)

How you place your product in a particular market is something that every entrepreneur thinks about very carefully (or should do, at least!). Think about Apple with its Macintosh, iPod or iPhone or any number of social media platforms, for example. Some filled a niche that was untapped. Others filled a niche no one had even thought about.

Let’s think about the American whiskey industry and the market it serves. Up until recently, it was dominated by a few really big firms that served up a stable of brands that could be found on most shelves for a pretty decent price. Yes, there were a few premium brands and limited releases, mostly of older whiskey, but that was pretty much it.

With the explosion of new whiskey distilleries in all corners of the United States over the past decade, some have chosen to fill niches in the small batch, craft whiskey space. Others have tried unique mashbills or grain-to-glass approaches, special cask finishes or a combination of these. More often than not, all of this comes with a premium price. In many cases, this is understandable due to the lack of productions of scale, but the cost to many consumers can be prohibitive.

This brings us back to Broken Barrel. Instead of attempting to place their expressions in the now crowded, premium-priced craft whiskey market, Broken Barrel founder Seth Benhaim looked to those buyers who bought more affordable bottles distributed by the big brands. That market seemed like a prime target for something new, but not so out of left-field as to be difficult for buyers to understand. After all, stave finishes had been popularized by expressions such as Maker’s Mark 45 and barrel finishes like Woodford Reserve Double Oak.

Offering multi-stave finished whiskey (something that had only really existed in the premium market) for an affordable price was a magic bullet for Broken Barrel. Combined with savvy marketing and a proven track record with Seth’s initial venture, Infuse Spirits vodka, Broken Barrel became an instant success that is now available in 40 states (and now Canada) after only around five years in the market. Consider that niche fulfilled!

Offered at around $80 CAD in Alberta, the Broken Barrel Cask Strength Straight Bourbon, which is in my glass today, certainly impresses with its appealing price tag. It has a mashbill consisting of 70% corn, 21% rye, and 9% malted barley. Aged for at least two years in new American oak, the whiskey is then dumped into a tank along with Broken Barrel’s signature Oak BillTM of cask staves: 40% French oak, 40% ex-Bourbon, and 20% ex-Sherry. After the cask stave finish is complete, it is bottled at a healthy 57.5% abv.

Nose: Four words…uncooked Christmas cake batter. And I mean that in the best possible way. This takes me way back to my childhood (waaay back. Man, I’m old) when I helped my mom make Christmas cake in November. You’d store it in a cool place to let all the flavours sink in. Like their Heresy rye that I reviewed earlier, the Sherry and French oak staves are speaking the loudest. Dried figs, sultana raisins and medium dark chocolate from the ex-Sherry staves. Cinnamon, from the new American oak maturation and ex-Bourbon staves, as well as allspice from the French oak are in there too. Like their rye, there is a youthful grain note (corn/frosted flakes here), but the stave finish more than balances that out. But I keep coming back to that rich cake batter, really just a combination of all these notes…corn flakes excepted, of course.

Palate: The entry is surprisingly light and creamy at first, but also very sweet. Regular Kraft soft caramels, I think. The development builds slowly. For a cask strength Bourbon, there is not the stereotypical, abrupt spice wave. The early to mid-part of the development is more youthful than the back half, but there’s not a harsh graininess, which is tempered by the staves. That second half rewards you for keeping it in your mouth that long. Lovely rich, dark notes, but also a moderate drying once the spices kick in. Speaking of which, I’m getting a dash of earthy nutmeg and clove on top of what I got on the nose. A pinch of dark coffee and cocoa powder. The caramel has transitioned to sponge toffee. Toasted walnuts as well when I smack my lips to let in some air.

Finish: Wonderfully balanced and medium to long in length. Those dark baking spices continue to dry out the experience, but there is enough toffee sweetness to counteract it somewhat. The slight bitterness comes from the fading cocoa powder. Really couldn’t ask for more here.

With water added

This is nosing more like a young Bourbon now. I’m not getting as much of the ex-Sherry staves, but some of the spices from the French oak remain. The dried fruits are strawberry and blackberry now. Quite a bit of vanilla as well. The initial character of the entry and development is much the same as without water added, but the back half has a spicier kick. The extra heat actually gives the finish a bit more personality and helps to lengthen it a bit.

Conclusion

At its price point, this whiskey is a steal. Maybe one of the best values you can find on the Bourbon shelf. This is proof, once again, that Seth’s process turns a young whiskey into something totally unexpected. Water gives off more classic Bourbon notes and, without, highlights the staves more. This lets you choose your own adventure, depending on the season.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

In-Depth Review: Laws Whiskey House Four Grain Straight Bourbon

I have an admission to make right off the bat. Reading up on four grain Bourbons sent me down a bit of grain rabbit hole. As I start to learn more about whiskey, the scientist in me is starting to delve more into why whiskey, or really any spirit, tastes the way it does.

For Bourbon specifically, there is this common notion that it gets most of its sweetness from the high amount of corn  (at least 51% by law) in the mashbill. This is not wholly true. It’s the new charred oak barrel that provides those sweet notes of vanilla, caramel and toffee that so many Bourbon lovers crave. Corn does have some inherent sweetness, of course. It’s just not the main factor. How sweet a Bourbon is depends on the other grains in the mashbill, the char level of the new oak barrel, how fast it matures in the barrel over time and so on.

It’s to that first factor that we turn to now. One way to make a bourbon slightly less sweet (or drier) is to reduce the corn. Boulder Spirits does this with their high barley mashbill, but other distilleries have taken a different approach…why not add another grain to the mix?

Enter four grain Bourbons. Al Laws, founder of Laws Whiskey House, was one of the first distillers to popularize the addition of wheat to the mashbill (along with the traditional corn, rye and malted barley). Others, such as Cooperstown Distillery, add oats instead. Including Boulder Spirits’ approach, the goal here is to introduce new flavours into a spirit whose overall profile has remained fairly consistent over many generations. For those consumers willing to open their minds to these new possibilities, they will likely rediscover their favourite whiskey all over again.

The four grain Bourbon I have in my glass today belongs to Laws Whiskey House, which is aged for at least three years in #3 char new American oak before being bottled at 47.5% ABV. The mashbill is 60% corn, 20% heirloom wheat, 10% heirloom rye and 5% heirloom malted barley.

Nose: The wheat in the mashbill is apparent right from the beginning. Wheated bourbons sometimes give me a paint thinner note that can be really off-putting, but I’m not getting that here. Instead, I’m getting the sponge toffee insides of a Crunchie bar. Definitely getting some Frosted Flakes too. There’s a youthful grain note in here for sure. Not overpowering though. Over time, a little bit of dried strawberry wafts up. Besides a little bit of cinnamon, I’m not getting much in the way of spices, either from the barrel or the rye (not surprising as there’s only 10% rye in here).

This is a whiskey that is just on that cusp between youth and maturity. There’s that youthful grain, but also toffee and faint spicing from the cask, which is only starting to take hold.

Palate: That strawberry note carries forward onto the entry. Strawberry cream, more specifically. I’ve never had that in a bourbon before. This fades a bit after sipping this over time, but the creaminess remains. There’s just a little bit of a citrus tang as this tips into the development. At this point, there is Crunchie bar toffee, grain and dark coffee fighting for my attention in equal measure. It’s a bit difficult to pay attention to them all at once. From the entry through to the development, the experience dries out slightly. Cinnamon and nutmeg round this out.

Finish: Interesting, the sweetness comes back a little bit here. Still getting that Crunchie bar toffee served with an equal dose of cocoa powder, which I love on a Bourbon finish. After earlier sips, I was getting wet oak, but that has faded significantly. There’s also a pronounced menthol note as I breathe in and out.

With water added

That grain note is even stronger now on the nose, but the Crunchie bar toffee remains. A nice dark coffee note lingers underneath. Water has really opened up the development. Much less of that youthful grain note now. Instead, I get lots of dark hot chocolate and cocoa powder, mixed with a bit of toffee sweetness. Those darker notes carry over into the finish.

Conclusion

Sometimes a whiskey needs a little water to show its true character and this one is no exception. I love cocoa and coffee notes in my Bourbons and a few drops really brought those out on the development. Their older stock has received some pretty insane reviews and I can see the beginnings of what they really like in this whiskey, that’s for sure.

Instagram: @paul.bovis

Carn Mor 2011 Macduff – Rare Drams Cask

For those of you not yet riding the Carn Mor train I suggest you go find yourself a ticket as quickly as possible. I’d recommend starting with an offering from their Strictly Limited range since new batches from various regions are released fairly regularly. Many notable and pungent weirdos come from their line and they carry some soft and more elegant little lovelies too, all with a common trait, quality. Consistent prices and reliable picks are pretty much guaranteed and based on their consistent track record of delicious and rare drams, there’s a chance they’ll have an expression that may fit your taste and budget..Enter stage left: a lovely expression from MacDuff (affectionately known as Glen Devron or The Deveron in some circles).

This particular MacDuff was distilled in 2011 and matured in a bourbon barrel for 10 years before being bottled at a monstrous cask strength of 57.4%. According to legends, the importers, RareDrams will be picking individual expressions from other distilleries and releasing them as a mini series of sort, set to promote the core range of and individual characteristics of each distillery contained within. Lucky for us here in Alberta our portion of the cask (picked by Bob Kyle) has been released to the western market at cask strength while the rest of the cask will go elsewhere and to other markets, with no gaurentee they will be bottled at cask strength..I could go on for another six months talking about the history of MacDuff, the post war whisky boom and the additional stills that were added in the 1990’s but that’s a topic more suited for Bearded Dave, the history professor.

What we know for sure is that at 57.4% this lovely MacDuff isn’t too sharp at all, quite the opposite. On the nose are notes of dried tropical fruits and wet wood. The palate is juicy and sweet with tons of butter on the finish..A touch of water should help spare this one along for a little while longer. You may find the nose is tamed quite a bit as notes of sweet bourbon vanillas and burned butter sauce comes to the tip of the tongue with a touch of zesty tanginess in the background. The alcohol bite has been almost completely removed as hints of fresh almond comes through with a touch of musty wood on the finish.

This is a whisky you’ll probably want to drink..

Review and Photos by Josh Ward aka @knowyourwhisky

Taconic Double Barrel Maple Bourbon review

I will preface this review by saying that a) I am not a fan of almost all “flavoured” whiskeys and I was a little hesitant with this one at first. I poured this whiskey into a mini copitas tasting glass. It has a beautiful rich dark amber colour in the glass and after swirling a bit, the oily whiskey clings to the glass with slow, but thin legs.

Alright let’s get this going. I’ve let this sit in the glass for about 20 minutes. It’s something I do with most reviews I partake in. Sometimes even longer depending on age and proof.

Nose: First little whiff on the nose and it’s a touch sweet, but surprisingly I get some rye notes. The mash bill for Taconic Bourbons contain only 25% rye grain putting it in a medium rye’d bourbon. Those baking spices, nutmeg, allspice notes come through strongest up front. These notes are followed by barrel notes. The sweetness from the maple syrup soaked casks comes through with a hint of barrel char or slight smokiness. Then the bourbon notes come through with a nice citrus orangey note meshed with a nice vanilla and an almost tangy mouthfeel.

Pallet: On the palate it’s a very interesting whiskey indeed. It’s almost like the nosing notes work in reverse here. The bourbon notes hit first up front. The citrus and vanilla notes come through with a slight astringency and some tannic notes. All very pleasing on the tongue dance. As these notes start to mellow out a tinge, a nice maple note follows. With this a bit of caramel sweetness flirts about. A big surprise on the palate was the re-emergence of that rye baking spices note late in the delivery. It’s almost like the base bourbon/sweet corn and the much lower percentage rye grains are duking it out. This fight continues into the finish which was longer than expected and very pleasing. Begging you to have another sip before it fades completely. The other surprising part was that the sweetness in this whiskey wasn’t over the top in any way. I guess I expected a much more cloying sweetness but instead I got a well balanced maple influenced bourbon.

With water added…

The nose, with a touch of water, loses even more of the sweetness and brings those rye notes a bit more forward this time. The familiar (from trying the other Taconic Bourbons) bourbon notes come through strongest. On the palate with water, the sweetness shows up heavier, but still not at all cloying. More of a vanilla and maple sweetness. Like buttermilk pancakes with actual real maple syrup, not the artificial kind. With water this whiskey turns into a perfect breakfast whiskey.

Conclusion

I will fully admit again I was not going to like this at all. But the proof is in the pudding…the maple bourbon pudding. This is a fantastic and immensely drinkable bourbon. The maple barrels add just the right amount of influence on the already top notch bourbon and we are all the lucky benefactors of this unique and delicious marriage in a bottle.

Instagram: @seankincaid

Dunville’s 12 Year VR PX review

46% abv
10 years in ex-Bourbon and 2-3 year Finish in PX butts and Hogsheads.

Dunville’s Irish Whiskey…..what can i say about thee…

Let’s start this off with a bit of personal history fist and then bring the facts of this bottle. I have a deep personal connection with Dunville’s that stretches back over a century. My great-grandfather emigrated to Canada in 1906 and stories circulate that he enjoyed the odd tipple from time to time. The original Dunville’s brand of whiskey was a favourite of his before he left what is now present day Northern Ireland.

I found out this information a few years ago when I stumbled upon a beautifully labelled bottle of Irish Whiskey in a green bottle. This was the Dunville’s 10 year VR PX. I instantly fell in love with everything about this whiskey. From the gorgeous floral themed label with the word BELFAST displayed, to the absolutely gorgeous whiskey inside. A 10 year Irish Whiskey that had a short yet beautiful and impactful Pedro Jiminez finish that instantly grabbed my attention and never let it go. Sadly, not long after finding this whiskey I was told it had been discontinued. Tears ensued. Then the folks at Echlinville Distillery (who resurrected the Dunville’s name and brand) reached out to tell me they were releasing a 12 year version to replace the 10 year. It did take longer than anyone would have liked to reach the “shores” of Alberta but it has finally arrived and I for one am celebrating for not just this 12 year but there are a couple other Dunville’s releases that accompanied it to Canada’s whisk(e)y mecca that is Alberta. Oh and by the way, as you can see in these photos, the bottles and labels are still as gorgeous as ever.

In the glass: Greeted by a deep gold and maybe a touch of red or pink hue. A most inviting colour to be sure. With a slight twirl of the glass, I have to wait a decent amount of time for legs to even appear, and when they do, they sit idle for a significant amount of time. When they do fall, they are even and very slow. Surely a sign of things to come. 

Nose: OOOOOOOH there it is, so familiar yet not the same. It starts off almost tropical citrus fruit sweet. Papaya and mango and even some slight notes of peaches. This rather quickly slides to more of a strawberry or ripe cherry pie note. And then the beautiful PX influence comes in strong. Citrus peels and sweet raisins (like the ones in cereals) followed by a nutty coffee note like a fruity dark roast thats been freshly ground. The spices come next with a touch of cinnamon and baking spices. Like Christmas at Grandma’s a couple days before Santa’s visit and she is hard at work prepping all the baking and food that will very soon disappear. I love a solid PX influence on an Irish whiskey nose. A bit of the citrusy fruits and some toffee/caramel along with a touch of old leather in a shop at the very end of the nose. Its everything I loved about the nose on the former 10 year but amped up and stronger. If the palate follows suit I will be in Irish Whiskey heaven.

Palate and finish: The very first thing I notice when I just sip a tiny amount to get my palate ready is the mouthfeel. It sits heavy in the mouth in weight not in hotness. In fact the 46% thats this is bottled at might be the perfect abv (if you aren’t going to bottle it straight from the cask). The first note I find is caramel drizzled apple slices. And it’s inviting for more and more. The Irish malt comes through next and I can taste some grass and maybe a hint of tea. A switch is flipped and instantly a sherry oak note comes through, firing on all cylinders. It’s spicy PX all the way. Baking spices and sweet cinnamon with a touch of dryness from the oak. The orange citrus note makes a comeback followed by that PX raisin note and even a bit of light red fruits like strawberries again. The one consistent thing from start to finish is the creamy mouthfeel and this takes it straight through to the finish. This lasts on the palate long after I swallow. The spice/oak tannin tames down and I find a nice nuttiness hanging around.  It’s still drying but my upper cheeks are still tingling with sweet spice. The nuttiness, sweetness and creamy feel meld into a double double coffee note.

Conclusion

I won’t deny I went into this one already expecting to drink a very fine Irish whiskey. What I will say is even my high expectations were blown away. The PX finish on this one has so much more of a varied influence on the whiskey than the former 10 year. It isn’t nearly as sweet either, which I like, as it truly let the various notes come and go without fighting through a blanket of sweetness. This was just the neck pour as well, so i feel that as it opens and maybe evolves a bit it might, just might, get even better. This unfortunately seems to be a limited release here in Canada, or Alberta anyways, so if you were humming and hawing over this, go grab one right now. Dark Cloud seal of approval.

Instagram: @seankincaid

Woody Creek Colorado Bourbon Whiskey review

45% Abv
Aged 4 years in Deep Charred New American Oak

Woody Creek Distillers are a new and exciting brand that will be gracing our store shelves (and home bars) very soon. They are located just west of Aspen Colorado and are very connected to their local ingredients. They have a vodka that is made from potatoes that they grow themselves. The grains that go into this bourbon are sourced from trusted Colorado farms and are then distilled on their very own custom CARL stills. The launch of Woody Creek into Alberta and Canada is being made possible by PWS Imports and there are some very unique and interesting launch events planned for the near future.

Todays spirit is their 4 year aged Colorado Straight Bourbon. They place their bourbon spirit into deeply (#3 level) charred new American oak barrels and keep it there for a minimum of 4 years.  They use a mash bill of 70% Corn, 15% Rye and 15% Barley, all of which is grown in Colorado. This release has been brought down to the very drinkable abv of 45%. This is the first in a series of reviews of the Woody Creek products that will be available very soon.

In the glass: A nice darker gold colour with a touch of orange that seems to enhance light shining through it. A fairly viscous looking oiliness that coats the glass nicely. Some skinny but long struggling legs attest to the viscosity of this dram. It looks nice and inviting before even trying to find the notes.

Nose: The very first thing I notice while just bringing the glass up towards my nose is a great oak note. The classic bourbon notes start showing through next. The honeyed spices show, with a slight cinnamon and toasted baking spice like allspice and nutmeg. As the spice wafts off, I find a unique note I have never found in a bourbon before, that of the taste of maltesers candies. A malt note combined with a bit of darker chocolate. I’m hungry now. Deep down I am finding almost a sage like note, one that reminds me of climbing the mountains in the interior of BC. A dried sagebrush bush that your leg brushes against and releases the aroma into the hot desert breeze. This is definitely a bourbon on the nose yet has some unique characteristics and one that begs to delve into fully on the palate.

Palate: Upon the very first touch on the tongue a small, quick flash of sweetness hits which is rapidly taken over by a nice spice. An almost chilli spice, that then turns to the allspice and nutmeg note from the nose. If you leave the liquid in your mouth and let it roll around and coat your whole mouth you get that spice building to an almost black pepper note. As soon as you let the dram subside and prepare for a swallow, the sweetness comes back strong. Spice turns to cinnamon and then to a beautiful honeyed caramel/toffee note. I still am able to pick out that subtle malt and chocolate note on the palate but it’s definitely less prominent and gets hidden behind the spice and sweetness of the build up on the palate. The finish is a long, slow and broodin. One that teases a build up of the spice again but it lingers instead of builds. That very first beautiful oak note on the nose comes shining through on the finish of this one. 

Conclusion

This is a bourbon that I can already tell will be a fan favourite. Its classic enough in taste that most bourbon drinkers will get along nice with this bottle. There are enough unique notes to bring in and hold the attention of the most seasoned bourbon drinkers and I can see it being very versatile in its uses from neat, on the rocks as well as in cocktails. As the first entry into the Woody Creek cabinet, this whiskey makes me even more excited to dive into their other releases.

Instagram: @seankincaid

Woody Creek Colorado Rye Whiskey review

45% Abv
100% Colorado rye grain
Aged 4 years in Deep Charred New American Oak

The next review in the series of Woody Creek releases fresh into Alberta is the Straight Colorado Rye Whiskey. This is made with 100% rye grain grown in Colorado and distilled in the Woody Creek custom CARL stills. It is then matured in new American Oak for a minimum of 4 years. As an industry standard you will know it’s the rye bottle you are looking at by the green coloured label. Why green was chosen as the universal colour for rye whiskies is still unknown to me but it seems to be the consensus to use green labels on bottles of rye whiskey.

In the glass: A beautiful golden amber colour while resting in the glass. A slight swirl in the glass and I wait….and wait…..and wait for the legs to start. I almost gave up on them when they start to droop. Very long to move and thin when they finally do fall down the glass. A beautiful colour and legs that make you eager to dip in and try the whiskey ASAP.

Nose: Okay, this did not at all start how I initially thought it would. I find a very nice citrus note right off the hop. Orange zest and lemon peel to a slight, almost fresh cut kiwi note. I can easily say one of the most fruit forward Rye whiskey noses I can remember. Getting my giant schnoz right into the glass I find a more grassy note coming through. Like the smell from a golf course in the summer heat drying the grass after a morning shower. God I love that nosing note. It takes me back to chipping in for birdie from about 80 yards out…..oh yeah. The whiskey…..there is a bit of that rye baking spice but it leans more towards the cinnamon and almost toffee thats been melted down and worked on in the front window of an old timey candy shop. A very bright and inviting nose on this one. I wasn’t expecting the fruit forwardness but am very intrigued and pleased by it. There is zero heat on the nostrils and my mouth is very saliva heavy wanting to sip it right now!

Palate: Is this a juice? Did someone switch out my whiskey with some fruit juice? I kid, but the fruit forwardness is still there upon the first burst of flavour in the mouth. A sweet fruit blend of raisins and apples. It turns slightly after holding it in the mouth for a touch into a vanilla orange slice and a bit of the rye spice begins to show up for the first time. A pinch of pepper brings the mouth to attention while the vanilla note continues to evolve into a sweeter, butter toffee creaminess. That orange peel note comes back from the nose and lingers in the back of the mouth right as you swallow. I do notice that the apparent oiliness from the legs are there as this coats the entire mouth very nicely. The finish isn’t long by any means but it is beautiful. The bit of pepper mixed with a mandarin orange oil note sticks around the longest. As in the nose there is barely any notice of the ABV at all and definitely not any heat other than the slight pepper note on the palate.

Conclusion

This again, as I have stated, was a surprise for me. A very pleasant and welcome surprise. I do tend to enjoy a lot of rye whiskey I get to try, and this one may be one of the most unique and sippable rye bottles I have tried. The initial high fruit content and lack of any heat makes me want to get into the Cask Strength version as soon as these bottles are available. It will be a nice pour to sit with and watch the game, or to keep you going through the ever earlier Canadian winter nights. You can’t go wrong with including this bottle on your shelf. I have a feeling it will be reached for far more than others currently sitting there.

Instagram: @seankincaid

Woody Creek Cask Strength Colorado Bourbon Whiskey review

59.5% Abv
Aged 4 years in Deep Charred New American Oak

After a few of the Woody Creek lower ABV sippers, I am proud to introduce one of the “Big Boys” in the form of the cask strength version of their bourbon. This is one I was very excited to have the opportunity to review as I loved the 90 proof version expression. Again the mashbill used is 70% corn, 15% rye and 15% malted barley. I found that the malt really showed well in the lower abv version and am eager to see how the extra proof on this will play out with the maltiness.

In the glass: A deep orange oil colour. Medium oiliness in the legs. Some fall quicker than others but
none disappear at all. Just swirling the glass to check colour and legs and so I can catch a whiff
on the nose.

Nose: This nose was much heavier than any of the lower abv bottles that were previously reviewed. Although there are some similarities to the 90 proof expression, there are some subtle differences as well. The initial nosing is one of oranges and sweet toffee and vanilla. Getting further into it, more classic bourbon notes appear. Cinnamon and clove along with honeyed vanilla and a slight, dark cherry. What I pick up next I was not expecting at all…a bit of nuttiness but sweeter. There it is…peanut brittle. This for me has always been more of a Christmas treat than any other time of the year and I just recently saw freshly made peanut brittle on sale in a small shop. A touch of apple skin appears upon the deepest inhales. This nose is inviting while also showing there may be a slight bite behind it. Its not overwhelming in any way but it does hold your attention.

Palate: There it is! A bit of a bite from the unadulterated proof of this whiskey hits straight away. It brings with it a nice punch of flavour as well. I like that the heaviness of the first sip is countered with sweetness from the get go. A nice honeyed toffee sweetness. A little bit of fruit shows up next. Orange cloves and apple cinnamon all together. Fruity spices lend some weight in the mouth. That maltiness that I found and loved from the 90 proof version is still there but maybe not as prominent. The chocolate note doesn’t show up with it either. Just a nice weighty malt note that holds with it a bit of the spice. Upon the first swallow that cinnamon spice kicks up a notch but all it does is make my mouth water even more. Oak tannins from the new American oak come through on the finish with black pepper and more vanilla. This holds on for a decently long time and is quite nice. The hint of peanut from the nose only starts to show a bit after swallowing and letting the finish brood for a bit. It’s a nice added touch that again I didn’t find much of at all at the lower abv.

Conclusion

What’s exceptional about this bottle is that while the higher proof brings with it more spice and heat, it doesn’t take away from the fact that this will be a sippable bourbon that can please any fan of the genre. It will stand up to ice or water drops and will be amazing in a rocks glass. Its classic enough to hold onto bourbon fans and unique enough that it won’t be boring to anyone. I can’t wait for these to be unleashed on the public and start hearing the way people take to it.

Instagram: @seankinkaid

2021 Christmas Gift Guide – Part 2

Alcohol Edition!

When compiling a list to publish as a gift guide for whisky lovers, I decided to organize it into two lists. The first one, which is already published on the website, was for gifts that were whisky adjacent but not alcoholic in nature. These were gifts that any whisky lover would love to receive to enhance their collections or their experiences in the whisky community. This is the second part, which will be alcohol related gifts of various sorts, and will include some unique and interesting ideas for the whisky lover in your life.

Two Stacks Whiskey “Dram in a Can”

The first entry on my gift guide is one near and dear to my heart. As a huge Irish whiskey fan, having this product land on shelves locally just in time for the holidays, is like Christmas itself. The “Dram in a Can” from Two Stacks Irish Whiskey is pretty much as it says on the tin. It’s roughly 3oz or 100ml of their “First Cut” blended Irish Whiskey which is sold in full size bottles. The big difference is that Dram in a Can is highly portable and therefore has a lot more options of how and where to enjoy them. Immediately coming to mind are, golf bags, camping trips, house parties and outdoor pond hockey games with family and friends (ed note: also top office drawer at work). Of course, I must say, enjoy any and all libations responsibly, and never when needing to be behind the wheel of a vehicle. A delicious blend of 5 different types/styles of Irish whiskey make the contents in these cans easily drinkable and shareable and the best part? Small enough to not worry about leaving it behind or forgetting where you put it, like a full size bottle would be. There are not many new products coming to my local market that have me as excited as these little cans of Irish Whiskey. The absolute best part about these as a Christmas gift idea…..they fit perfectly in a stocking.

Whisky Advent Calendars

Next up we have an always popular idea for a gift that will make any whisky fan happy to receive. In a way, it might bring back childhood memories at the same time. When I was a kid (and now with kids of my own), one thing I looked forward to every single year during the holidays, was getting a chocolate advent calendar. Every day I was excited to see what each one would hold. Well, now spirits companies have brought the adult version to the market in various styles. These include small tastes of whatever their chosen spirit is. These come in almost any style you can imagine, Irish, Scotch, American, world and independent bottled whiskies as well as gins and even beers. They usually contain roughly an ounce per day and almost always have a few hidden gems in their selections. Putting one of these under the tree for the whisky/spirit lover in your life will ensure a gigantic smile and a gift that keeps giving even after Christmas has been packed away again into the storage areas they reside for 11 months of the year.

Bottle and Glassware Gift Packs

When I was at the beginning of my whisky journey, I always looked at the glassware that other people would use in their videos and posts on social media. The ones that always drew my attention were the ones branded from the distilleries and brands I was starting to love. The first Christmas of being a full fledged whisky lover, I received a gift of a bottle of Ardbeg 10 in a beautiful presentation box that looked like a beast was trying to break its way out. The best part for me were the two green mini-glasses with Ardbeg branding on them. I had already tried the whisky before, but receiving that gift pack made it even more special for me. I still, to this day, use those glasses anytime I pour myself Ardbeg at home. These gift packs are released more around the Christmas holidays than almost any other time throughout the year and they will make a great gift.

Mini-Bottle Packs

Another stocking stuffer idea, one that you can personalize, is those little mini-bottles that almost every liquor store has for sale. These are the actual branded mini bottles that usually hold 50 ml of whisky in them but can also come in sizes up to 300 ml. Sometimes, these come in pre-packaged packs from a single distillery or in theme packs (4 peated drams, Canada border collection etc.) Some brands even release gift packs of two or three mini (250 or 300 ml) bottles in ornate gift boxes and I have been very fortunate to have found some of my favourite whiskies ever due to these packs being gifted to me. If you want to add a personal touch for the whisky fan in your life, you can visit a few stores and pick out various single mini bottles and put them together in a homemade tasting pack or even drop them in his/her stocking as a nice added touch. Again, I have found some of my very favourite whiskies from having these mini taster bottles appearing with my name on them come Christmas morning.

Support Local

The final Christmas gift Idea I have for you is one that is one I personally value a lot: supporting local companies and distilleries and adding a little local flavour to Christmas. Year round, the distilleries in your area are always fighting for recognition against the gigantic and well-established brands from around the world. In my area alone, a number of fantastic distilleries have been producing fabulous spirits for the past few years and I have been very honoured to even become friends with some of the owners and people that work for them. I see the undying passion these individuals put into each and every release that comes out into the market. Buying a bottle or two from a company in your own area keeps the money in the community and spreads the word even further each time. A lot of these companies will even offer tours and tastings at their distilleries and giving a gift of a tour/tasting is a unique way to allow your whisky fan to enjoy the spirits of a local brand with a group of family or friends (just make sure they include you in the visit).

Instagram: @seankincaid

Woody Creek Wheated Colorado Bourbon review

Let’s take a break from the core range today and take a look at a Woody Creek special release. Wheated bourbons, aside from the Weller releases (if you can find them in your state/province) and Makers Mark, were a rare sight up until a few years ago. That has now begun to change. Alongside four grain bourbons (some with oats instead of wheat), craft distilleries are leading the charge here and the expressions offer something different from the mainstream bottlings…like this one!

This Woody Creek Wheated Colorado Bourbon has a mashbill of 70% corn, 15% wheat and 15% and has been aged for six years in new American oak. It is bottled at a healthy 47% abv.

Nose: The first thing that hit me straight away was the lack of a dusty grain note that I get on most wheated bourbons. It’s not that it isn’t there, but it’s just lurking in the background. What I do get is the sweetness that I normally find in this type bourbon. Werthers original candies for sure, but also a little bit of the sponge toffee filling in a Cadbury’s Crunchie bar. In that way, it’s sort of like a bourbon matured single grain scotch. Again, this being a bourbon, I would expect to see a cherry fruitiness, but instead I’m getting strawberries and a hint of blackberries as well. In terms of the spicing, I get the traditional cinnamon and a little bit of allspice. I’m expecting nutmeg and/or cloves to show up on the palate. I’m really not getting an awful lot of oak here. As I nose this over time, I am getting more of that grain note, like sweet feed that horses love, but should not really get too much of.

Palate: With all of that sweetness on the nose, coupled with the lack of rye in the mash, I was expecting this to be overly sweet the whole way through the experience. That is initially the case, but this whiskey has some surprises in store for me. The entry is quite sweet for starters. The vanilla custard note alone really coats the front of my mouth right from the get go and that continues through the development as well. Between the entry and the development, I get that Crunchie bar toffee note again mixed with red berries and peaches, this time slightly cooked down. What really surprises me is how spicy this bourbon is on the palate. It’s not super spicy, but certainly more so than any other wheated bourbon I have had. It’s almost effervescent on the tongue. Underneath that spice is more of that grain forward note that I usually see in wheaters. The back end of the development sees some nutmeg start to creep in as well as a touch of clove. I am getting some oak, but again, not a lot. I love the balance all the way through.

Finish: The early part of the finish has quite a bit of character. The oak and dark baking spices carry over from the development and are joined by a heavy hint of dark chocolate. That Crunchie bar vibe sticks around as well. It’s slightly drying, but not overly so. As the finish progresses to a medium/long length, it becomes more oak forward, but there is enough chocolate and toffee to prevent it from acquiring that wet oak feeling that can be a bit of a put off for me.

With water added…

I’m getting much more of the dusty grain bin note as well as some faint vanilla, which I was missing entirely on the nose without water added. I’m getting some light sponge toffee, but this is lacking that Crunchie bar vibe that I was digging earlier. Definitely more oak here as well. That subtle fruitiness has also faded. The entry still has that vanilla custard, but it is tinged with orange now and slightly sour. The development is just as spicy, if not more so than without water, and more oak forward. It’s not quite as sweet either. When I smack my lips to let in some air, I get a bit of roasted peanut now. The baking spices stick around for a lot longer on the finish and the dark chocolate has morphed into a cocoa powder note that I really love. This note actually pairs better with the oak at the backend of the finish than the notes I get without water being added.

Conclusion

As Sean Kincaid has noted in the first three Woody Creek reviews, this is a surprising set of whiskies thus far. They take what you might be expecting from a traditional bourbon and American rye and throw you a couple of curveballs to keep you interested. To me, this is the definition of the craft distillery ethos. Take what you already know from drinking “mainstream” whiskey and give you something familiar, but also slightly new. Still to come is the cask strength rye. You definitely will want to tune in for that.

Instagram: @paul.bovis