Category Archives: Other Whisk(e)ys

Rogue Dead Guy Whiskey

Rogue Dead Guy Whiskey
40% ABV, 80 Proof
Around $40, Available in 30 States

What The Distillery Says:
Honoring unique rogues whose spirit lingers long past their mortal existence.  Dead Guy Whiskey is distilled from the sweet wort of Rogue’s award-winning Dead Guy Ale.  Distiller’s yeast is added and the sweet wort is fermented for 7 days then double distilled in a 150 gallon copper whiskey still and ocean aged in oak.  5 Ingredients:  Munich, C-15, and 2-Row malts, distiller’s yeast, free range coastal water.

What Matt Says:
Nose: Sea foam, vegetal, almost like an Islay or a coastal Single Malt from Scotland
Palate: Viscous, briny (think Jura or Old Pulteney), spice w/ a slight burn.  Warming.
Finish: Vegetal w/ a slight burn.
Comments: Dead Guy Ale is very malty with lots of dark berry notes to my nose & palate.  My appreciation of the beer gave me high expectations for this whiskey.  Unfortunately, I am having difficulty finding any of the “award-winning” qualities from the Ale in the Whiskey.  Served at room temperature, Dead Guy Ale is really nice, with a great balance of fruit and malt (it loses a lot if it gets too cold).  The whiskey is a little heavy on the brine which mutes the cereal and fruit in the wort.  There is not a lot of depth here.  Maybe they should go the Charbay route and throw in some hops.  That being said, Rogue may have created one of the best boiler makers on the planet.  When paired, the Dead Guys really shine.  It’s like one of those perfect terroir tastings where things just come together and create an experience greater than the sum of its parts.  Was that the intent?  You will have to ask the guys at Rogue for that answer.
Rating:  Slightly Below Average unless paired with a Dead Guy Ale.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Musty like old mildewing clothes with notes of vegetable matter and rancid grapes.  It is not very appealing.
Palate: It tastes better than it smells.  It has coastal notes similar to a roughened Jura or Old Pulteney.  This isn’t terrible but it just doesn’t make me want to drink it straight.
Finish: This finishes a little rough around the edges but that isn’t surprising given the youth of the whiskey.  The lingering notes are unfortunately a much more unpleasant version of the palate.
Comments: I didn’t get to try this with their beer to compare but I wouldn’t buy this myself.  I applaud the effort of innovative micro distillers but definitely needs more work.
Rating: Probably Pass.

Overall Rating: Probably Pass.

A Cache of Rye

This past weekend, I made my first attempt at organized proselytizing.  I hosted a small American Rye Whiskey tasting at my apartment.  Five students were present while I spoke the Word about malted rye.  Most were familiar with bourbon, Irish, and Scottish whisk(e)ys.  However, rye remained a mystery.  We talked about the history of rye and why it gets a bad rap.  After all, rye is the first truly American spirit and was once the base for most American whiskey cocktails.  Why is it so feared and reviled?

Rye’s dubious past began with Prohibition.  While bourbon was still being produced as “medicinal whiskey,” inferior ryes were being produced in bathtubs or imported from Canada.  This helped bourbon gain a strangle hold on the American whiskey scene.  Another reason rye gets a bad rap is also the reason bourbon gets a bad rap and that is the ubiquitous availability of crappy, harsh, fiery whiskeys.  Rye is thought of as something guys will drink on a dare or “to put hair on [their] chests.”

To combat previously held prejudices and fears, I hand picked six ryes that I thought sure to enthrall the harshest skeptic.  Our tasting menu contained (in order of tasting):  Michter’s US-1 Rye Whiskey, Old Overholt Straight Rye Whiskey, Sazerac 6yo Rye, Rittenhouse Bottled In Bond Rye, Russell’s Reserve 6yo Rye, and Old Potrero 19th Century Single Malt Straight Rye Whiskey.  I chose these six whiskeys based on heritage, current producer, and mash bill as well as more subjective criteria revolving around my concept of “good” whiskey (my chest is hairy enough thank you very much).  Eventually, Richard and I will post formal reviews of all of these but I’m just going to give you the highlights of the night.

The Sazerac was the standout favorite of these six.  Smooth and very drinkable when neat, Sazerac held up well to the addition of water and we concluded that it would hold its own in a cocktail (I know the truth of that from experience).  Sazerac also went well with the blue cheese on the cheese plate and the brownies served after the formal tasting.  Furthermore, a bottle of Sazerac 6 yo will only set you back about $25.  This is the one everyone went to for seconds.

The Old Potrero (the only 100% rye on the menu) gained accolades for uniqueness, but we determined that it was an occasional dram, not as accessible as the Sazerac.

Old Overholt surprised us all with its flavor and nose, but fell completely flat with the addition of water.  If you want something cheap to drink neat any day of the week, here’s your dram.  However, this will not hold up in a cocktail.

For a rich cocktail experience at a very low price, the Rittenhouse Bottled in Bond Rye is surely the way to go.  100 proof, 4 years old, tasty and under $20.  Who can ask for more?

We all liked the Michter’s, but it didn’t earn as much appreciation as the other drams.  I feel like the 10 yo Michter’s would have gone over better with this crowd.

Lastly, we were all a little disappointed with the Russell’s Reserve.  While this is a HUGE step up from the stock standard Wild Turkey Rye, it did not have the strength of character to tussle with the rest of the tasting menu.

There were a  few folks in the group who had bad rye experiences and a few who had never tried rye.  All were surprised by the complexity and approachability that these six Rye whiskeys offered. I think we may have some converts to the wider world of whiskey experience.

If you would like my notes from our tasting (which include a short history of rye and of each dram along with tasting notes), just drop me a line.

Drink well, drink responsibly.

-Matt

Gateway Series #4: Gentleman Jack

In the spirit of fairness, we follow up our Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 review with the next in the Jack Daniel’s line.  If you remember, we started our Gateway Series with Jim Beam White Label and Jim Beam Black Label.

Gentleman Jack Rare Tennessee Whiskey
40% ABV (80 proof), about $30
Available in most US markets (not sure about abroad)

What the distillery says:
Just like Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey and Jack Daniel’s Single Barrel, Gentleman Jack in Charcoal Mellowed before going into the barrel. Gentleman Jack, however, receives an additional “blessing” when it is Charcoal Mellowed again after reaching maturity – making it the only whiskey in the world to be Charcoal Mellowed twice, giving it ultimate smoothness. Gentleman Jack is full-bodied with fruit and spices, and its finish is silky, warm, and pleasant. When you drink Gentleman Jack, you’ll always enjoy rich, rewarding taste.

What Richard Says:
Nose: Honeysuckle and a lot of honey.  It’s a much more delicate nose than the standard Jack Daniels expression.
Palate: Tart candy, a lot of honey, and vanilla.  It is even smoother and more mellow that Jack Daniels Black Label.  It also has a more viscous mouthfeel.
Finish: Exceptionally smooth finish.  Almost none of the spice of regular Jack but more of that odd tartness.
Comments: Gentleman Jack is Jack Daniels smoking a huge blunt.  It just doesn’t get more mellow.  That’s good and bad.  On the good side it really doesn’t get any smoother and easier to drink that Gentleman Jack.  The downside is that there aren’t many pronounced flavors to bring me back for a second glass.
Rating: Average

What Matt Says:
Nose: Honeysuckle and hummingbird food (sugar water).  Delicate and floral, like spring in Tennessee.
Palate: Smooth and slightly oily.  Oak, vanilla, spice, and something that curls my tongue a little at the sides.  I don’t taste a tartness as much as I experience it.
Finish: Very smooth with very little burn.
Comments: Probably the smoothest “gateway” whiskey in the American whiskey bracket.  It lacks the complexity of similarly priced (but harder to find) bourbons.  I would drink this before Jim Beam Black though.  It is an interesting science experiment.  Gentleman Jack is produced and matured in the exact same manner as Old No. 7, but is filtered again after maturation.  It really smooths out the rough edges.  I’ve got a soft spot in my heart for Gentleman Jack.  I’m not sure why.  I could drink it anytime.  What it lacks in complexity is what makes it accessible as an everyday dram.  That said, I don’t keep it stocked in my bar, but I wouldn’t say no to glass if offered.
Rating: Average

Overall Rating: Average

Charbay Hop Flavored Whiskey, Batch #2

After hearing that we accused them of over-pricing, the good folks at Charbay endeavored to teach us otherwise by sending us gobs of literature and a lovely sample. How’d they do? Read on, dear apostles, read on.

Charbay Hop Flavored Whiskey, Batch #2
55% ABV, $325
Available: Limited

What the distillery says:
[these are some bullet points from the press release – Matt] Single malt distilled from pilsner beer – a first in the history of whiskey distillation. 100% Two-Row European Barley grown and malted in British Columbia. No peat during malting – to emphasize the natural grain flavors. Hops added to the mash: Nugget, Cascade & Eroica. Double-distilled in 1000-gallon Alambic Charentais Pot Still. Classical 7-Fraction distillation method for purity & smoothness. Aged 6 years in custom-made new White Oak barrels (charred to #3 Gator Skin); aged for 3 more years in stainless. Bottled at 110 proof and not filtered. Second release from Collector’s Series – 20,000 gallons of Pilsner distilled for 3.5 weeks straight (24/7) in 1999 by Miles & Marko Karakasevic (22 barrels total). Aged at variable temperatures; 5 barrels chosen & blended to share how the Whiskey is aging.

What Richard says:
Nose: This really is a truely lovely nose.  It’s very floral and fruity with hints of grape, citrus, and something tropical that I can’t put my finger on.  The nose strongly resembles a medium aged cognac.  Pierre Ferrand Amber or Grand Mariner maybe?
Palate: Quite a precocious little tart aren’t you?  The palate opens slow.  First a tangy flavor that’s almost sweet but not quite.  It follows with a spiced heat and finishes with the hoppy pilsner notes.  It’s very viscous and luscious in mouthfeel.  For 55% ABV it’s more drinkable than you would expect.  Unfortunately, with water the palate deflates.
Finish:  The finish remains hoppy and a little rough around the edges but that’s mostly from the bottling strength.  Cutting it with a little water smooths out the finish.
Comments: This whiskey confuses me a little.  It has more in common with a brandy than a whiskey, both in nose and palate.   Definitely a whiskey for cognac drinkers.  It is remarkably smooth at higher proof.  It’s a very intriguing tipple but at the price that they are asking I can’t tell you to go out and buy it.  Matt and I don’t disagree too much on whiskey but I can’t give it nearly as high a rating as he did.  I can’t say must buy because of the price tag.  I’m inclined against must try too because it’s doesn’t taste like a whiskey.  But maybe that’s why you should try it.
Rating:  Stands Out

What Matt says:
Nose: Nutmeg, rice pudding and caramel. There is a distinct smell that reminds me of the cold dregs from a Turkish coffee. Yes, I said it. It smells cold. I know that “dregs from a Turkish coffee” is pretty specific and of little use if you have not had the experience, but that is what I get. Sorry.
Palate: Incredibly complex. Black pepper, cold (there it is again!) wet black tea, high-end marijuana, spearmint, evergreen, and Moroccan mint tea. There is even some fruit in there (muscadines?).
Finish: There is a little bit of burn on the finish (it’s 110 proof!), but with a few drops of water that goes away completely. This whiskey dances on the palate for a while, leaving a long finish of Moroccan mint tea.
Comments: I can only assume that the complexity of this whiskey comes from the addition of the hops. This is truly an amazing dram. Smooth and delicious. The only critique I can offer is this: this whiskey is so unique and interesting that it would not satisfy my craving for single malt whiskey. However, if I had a craving for this (and I will) there is nothing else that could satisfy my lust. The price tag is hefty, but there is nothing like it anywhere. There are only a few bottles of this left, so I hope there is a Batch #3 in the works (and that they send us a sample of it).
Rating: Must Try/Must Buy

Overall Rating: Must Try

Gateway Series #3: Jack Daniels Old No.7

This week we continue our Gateway Series with another staple of American whiskey, Jack Daniel’s Old No.7.

Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 Sour Mash Tennessee Whiskey
40% ABV (80 Proof), about $20
Available: Most Widely Available Whiskey In The World

What the distillery says:
Jack Daniel’s, the best selling whiskey in the world, was established in 1866 and is crafted at America’s oldest registered distillery in the small town of Lynchburg, Tennessee. Made using the finest grains and pure, iron-free water from our cave spring, Jack Daniel’s is a unique whiskey that is slowly mellowed drop by drop through 10 feet of sugar maple charcoal and matured in new American oak barrels to achieve its smooth character.

What Richard says:
Nose: On the nose I get mostly burnt caramel and vanilla. There is also a subtle undercurrent of wildflowers.
Palate: Candied oak? It sounds odd but that’s what it tastes like. Overall the palate is very smooth and almost chewy. Very mellow. So much so that there are not a lot of “strong” flavors that stand out to be recognized.
Finish: This has a much smoother finish than comparable bourbons. There is a little bit of peppery spice but mostly I’m left with an odd sort of tartness.
Comments: Personally, I think Jack Daniel’s is one of the best gateway whiskeys around. It is very smooth and drinkable. In terms of consistency, with the millions of bottle a year that they sell, you really can’t get much more consistent. While I would prefer Jack with Coke, I’m not against drinking it straight. The charcoal mellowing really adds to the smoothness and drinkability over like bourbons. If it wasn’t for that weird tart finish I’d like it even more.
Rating: Average

What Matt says:
Nose: Orange shellac primarily. With water, it opens up to potpourri (more pungent/sharp/floral than sweet).
Palate: Smooth and bland. Old No. 7 is so “mellow” it is difficult to grasp good tasting notes. There are faint traces of oak and orange peel.
Finish: Smooth and dry with very little burn. Does not linger.
Comments: There is nothing interesting or impressive about this whiskey. There is nothing terribly off-putting either. The smoothness and mildness of flavor makes Old No. 7 a better mixer than Jim Beam White Label. What makes Jack desirable (and a great gateway whiskey) is its lack of distinctive character. Do not waste your time sipping this one. Use this for mixers when you are feeling lazy.
Rating: Probably Pass (unless making a cocktail)

Overall Rating: Average (good if you are planning on mixing or looking for gentle entry into the world of whiskey)