I don’t get out to Michigan very often; I almost made it last year, to a wedding in Traverse City, but life intervened. Alas. So it was a pleasant surprise to see the whiskeys from New Holland Spirits, which until recently could rarely be found outside the state, show up in New York liquor stores.
The guys at New Holland are brewers by trade, hence the name of the whiskey, duh, one of a growing number of craft beer joints making their way into the distilling arts (c.f. Ranger Creek, Square One, etc.). It’s a great development: brewing is the first big step in distilling anyway, and too many distillers don’t bay enough attention to it, preferring to focus on distilling and aging. Guys like New Holland bring a lot of experience and fresh perspective to the craft enterprise – and it shows in whiskeys like this one. Continue reading
According to its label, WhistlePig Rye is “made” on a farm in Vermont. It’s an open secret, though, that very little aside from bottling happens on said farm, and that the whiskey is actually sourced from Canada. It’s a fine, fine drink, and it doesn’t make a huge difference to me where it’s made or who makes it – the company never says explicitly that it is anything other than a bottler, though naturally it doesn’t play up that fact.
But WhistlePig’s provenance raises an interesting question: is it Canadian whiskey, or is it American rye? Davin de Kergommeaux at Canadianwhisky.org wrote recently:
WhistlePig is wonderful whisky. It wins one award after another. Yes, it is bottled in Vermont, but it is distilled in Canada by Canadians, from Canadian rye grain, then matured and blended in Canada by Canadians before being shipped in bulk to Vermont for bottling. Great whisky? Yes! American straight rye? Absolutely NOT.
And it appears that the folks at K&L Wine Merchants, the California powerhouse retailer, agree: under their latest “new arrivals and back in stock” press release, they list Whistle Pig “Triple One” 11 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey under “Canadian rye.” Continue reading
Note to self: never get on Tim Read’s bad side. The author of the fine, fine (did I say fine?) whiskey blog Scotch and Ice Cream, Read has just written an extensive post ripping into the wine critic Robert Parker and his recent foray into bourbon.
There’s a lot to be miffed about in Parker’s review, which went out in his Wine Advocate newsletter and was later posted at K&L Spirits Journal. He doesn’t exactly endear himself to bourbon partisans with his introductory note: “I became enamored with a television series called Justified, starring and produced by Timothy Olyphant and co-produced by the well-known criminal writer Elmore Leonard and his son. Moreover, the bourbon drinking antics of the many violent episodes of this sensational series that takes place in Harlan County, Kentucky are a prominent sideshow.” From there, he figured he just had to try the stuff. Continue reading
Let’s get one thing straight: I love Buffalo Trace.
I love just about all its brands, from the workaday Ancient Age (and its criminally underappreciated older brother, Ancient Ancient Age) to that genteel old man, George T. Stagg. I love its cousins at other Sazerac-owned distilleries, like John J. Bowman or 1792 Ridgemont Reserve.
But more than the expressions themselves, I love the distillery’s willingness to try new things – from the E.H. Taylor suite to the Single Oak Project to the Experimental Collection, this is an outfit that’s not afraid to venture forth, even when it could rest comfortably on the success of its core portfolio. Continue reading
MGP is the biggest name in whiskey you’ve never heard of. In 2011 the Atchison, Kansas-based company acquired Lawrenceburg Distilers Indiana, the largest producer of sourced whiskey in the country. In fact, LDI/MGP doesn’t have any brands of its own; instead, it makes whiskey for a host of famous, allegedly distinct brands. The company is understandably secretive about its client list, but known buyers from LDI/MGP include Templeton, Old Scout, Bulleit Rye, Big Bottom — the parade goes on.
One way to know a whiskey is from LDI/MGP is if the label says “made in Indiana” (probably in the tiniest type possible). There’s only one distillery in the state. Another way is the ingredients: the distillery makes some distinctive mashbills, like a 95 percent rye, and if that’s what appears on the label, chances are the stuff inside came from LDI/MGP. Continue reading
Made by the Brooklyn chocolatier Cacao Prieto, Widow Jane is technically a sourced whiskey, which the company then cuts to proof with water from an upstate New York mine. The mine, the pseudonymous Widow Jane, was one of many sources for the millions of tons of limestone that went into building modern New York City. Limestone is, of course, a central feature in Kentucky whiskey; distillers claim that water drawn from limestone-filtered springs is softer and friendlier to yeast. According to the Widow Jane Web site, upstate New York “possesses an even higher ratio of beneficial minerals than that found in Kentucky and its sparkling waters are as pure as its namesake.” Ergo, Widow Jane is Kentucky whiskey, super-sized.
This is a dubious claim. Obviously the quality of the water used to cut a whiskey to proof is important. But I’m not sure it’s important that it be limestone filtered. The advantages to limestone come primarily in the early stages of the distilling process, not just before it goes into the bottle. Continue reading
Call it the little whiskey with the giant name – in full, Russell’s Reserve Small Batch Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey. For brevity’s sake, we’ll call it RRSBSBKSBW. (What? That’s not brief? Don’t blame me.)
I’m not the first to note that the name doesn’t make much sense: “single barrel” is just a more exclusive form of “small batch” (instead of coming from a mix of the contents of a few barrels, it is bottled from just one). So why use both on the label? And if it’s single barrel, where are the aging details? Which barrel did it come from? Which rickhouse? Inquiring minds want to know.
Chalk it all up to marketing, and forget it. This is, after all, Jimmy Russell’s work, not some smooth-talking huckster with dollar signs in his eyes. It’s what’s in the bottle that matters. Continue reading
I’m probably (hopefully) a little late to the conversation about my article on large-format beers, and I’ve generally tried to stay out of it – the heat is pretty intense, and I figured I had said my piece. In general, I’ve been pretty happy with the debate it has generated – lots of chatter on both sides, and a lot of push back from different parts of the beer community.
There’s just one point that I’d like to clarify, and that’s my use of the term “winification,” and the general proposition that many brewers are trying to position their products to compete with wine.
Having spoken with countless brewers and assorted industry folks about where beer is headed, and having been told by them that this is precisely where it’s going, and where they want it to go, I thought it was safe to state this as something obvious. Many used the term “winification” explicitly. There are people called “beer sommeliers.” I didn’t expect much debate over that at all. If my opinion crept into the piece anywhere — and honestly, it didn’t — this wasn’t the place. Continue reading