Dry Fly Triticale Whiskey

Dry Fly is a craft distillery out west in Spokane, Washington. They check many of the needed boxes of small labels, like distilling their own juice and getting all their grain locally within a 30-mile radius.

On the nose, the whiskey is light, with the usual rye notes of baking spices and pumpkin bread. But the wheat brings a sweetness and lightness to the nose. Cake batter. A little dark chocolate. As the glass emptied a bit of skunky root beer.

On the palate the whiskey starts light but creamy. It has a medium mouthfeel, creamy but somewhat thin. I’m a little used to barrel strength bruisers, so this one seems tame but very pleasantly so. An interesting contrast presents itself here. You get the rye backbone, again with the cinnamon and clove spices, but then a sugary sweetness creeps up. Not like a syrupy bourbon sweetness, but a light confectionery sugar sweetness, almost like some rums.

The finish is fairly lengthy, asserting the rye portion again, with only the slightest of burns, rather dry, and the rye spices. In fact the finish is mostly rye. Way into the end of the finish you get small notes of sugary sweetness, but just slightly.

This is no simple whiskey. I have thoroughly enjoyed this offering. I find triticale a very enjoyable grain, as you get get some great rye notes but also a few wheater notes. I have a Beam 375mL Craft Harvest Bourbon I haven’t opened, but that has triticale second to corn as the grain. I think I’ll have to try some other Dry Fly offerings. They are an example of a coming-of-age crafter, and are supposed to release a 10-year later this year.

2017 Bourbon Classic Tasting

On Saturday, March 4, 2017, I hopped in my buddy’s car early in the morning and we set sail south to the motherland – Kentucky. Specifically, Louisville, for the last day of the 2017 Bourbon Classic.

20170304_155955I had read about the event in the past and thought it would be cool to attend; this was the 5th annual happening. We arrived a little bit late due to a delay, so we missed a few minutes of the first educational session. There were four to choose from, and because we were late, we chose the Bluegrass Music and Bourbon session, thinking we would be less interruptive with a band playing. The music was good, with story telling of Heaven Hill whiskey and history. There were samples of four HH whiskeys – Elijah Craig (the 20170304_160017new non-age statement 94 proofer), Evan Williams Bottled In Bond, Larceny (a wheater), and Mellow Corn (a bottled in bond corn whiskey.

Next everyone went to the theater for a Q&A forum of industry professionals including master distillers and distillery reps. Interesting stuff, though the participants were rather guarded about what they said, and mostly stuck to hyping their products and company.

20170304_174838From there we again had a choice of four educational sessions. We chose one put on by Blanton’s about entertaining with bourbon. There was a bartender with a fruity bourbon cocktail (it was pretty good, tho bourbon cocktails are not my thing) to start things out. This was followed by a presentation about Blanton’s, and entertaining tips like how much whiskey and ice you need for a party. We got a swag bag, which was cool, and I got one of the reps to give me a Blanton’s black t-shirt. Nice.

Lastly was the food and open tastings. I must say the food was very good, and there was plenty of it. Especially loved the bourbon pecan pie. Most of the big distillers had booths, and some small ones as well. Of the tastings, I thought the Jefferson’s Ocean Cask Strength was notable (despite that whole cheezy aging in boats shit and it’s exorbitant price), as well as the 1792 Full Proof (I hope to write up a single barrel store pick version of this soon), and the Old Forester 1920 Prohibition Bourbon. The rest was pretty much the usual suspects.  I did taste one that was so bad I had to dump it out (don’t even recall what it was).

Overall, I was glad I attended, but probably won’t go back. Tickets were $155, and was not worth it at all. It was worth maybe $75. I think attendance would have been a whole lot better had they priced it accordingly. Afterward, we walked down to the Haymarket, an unassuming, friendly, downtown whiskey bar.  After a few minutes we got some stools on the rail and camped out there for a while, and 20170304_231813had some great conversations with some industry folks. We enjoyed the last pours from an old bottle of a Heaven Hill 8 Year – one I had never seen (I believe it is not made anymore). The Haymarket I will be returning to.

Event Grade: C+

Four Roses OESQ Single Barrel

Not too long ago I visited the Four Roses aging facility in Cox’s Creek, KY. I skipped the tour because of time, but did manage to check out the gift shop & did a quick tasting of their 3 main expressions (yellow label, small batch, single barrel). Got a nifty Four Roses long-sleeve t-shirt. And best of all, I got a bottling of an OESQ Single Barrel.

As you may know, Four Roses works with two mashbills (“E” being 75/20/5 & “B” being 60/35/5, & that’s corn/rye/malted barley) and 5 different yeast strains (V, K, O, Q, F). This makes for 10 different bourbons. Yellow label includes them all, Small Batch includes 4 of them, and Single Barrel is only OBSV. However, they occasionally bottle other recipes with only one of the recipes, and this one I picked up is just such a case.

Without water added, the nose has wintergreen, peppermint, sawdust, and an overall vegetable and sour note. On the palate its just a little hot (well, it is almost 116 proof) with oak, a touch of caramel, and the vegetable note – something like sweet asparagus. It coats the mouth nicely with a slight burn. The finish is dry, long, with more sawdust and more mint. But you gotta try it with a few drops of water. This is not a big sweet bourbon where the high-proof bite is tampered by an overt sweetness. No, no, no. There is a lot more to this than a big honey bomb.

 

With just a little bit of water, it really opens up. The nose remains similar, with the mint and sawdust, but adding caramel and vanilla and a bit of char and lakewater. The vegetable note is brought down but it retains that sour note, and with that a kinda bacony-hammy thing. Some sweet onion and pineapple. As it continues to open, it just keeps giving. It’s a nose that doesn’t hit you over the head; its complex, nuanced, and subtle. The palate gives some sweetness, and with less astringency comes a creamy, mouth-coating caramel. Still a peppermint note. It’s almost like mouthwash, but in a good way. There’s that rosewater that I taste in all their stuff. A grassy note. The finish is long, with wood, caramel, mint,

I find this bourbon fascinating. It’s not your normal offering, and I like that. It’s not your normal caramel/vanilla/oak/leather kinda thing. I can understand why some wouldn’t be as keen on it – I’m sure my tasting notes of mouthwash and onion are not everyone’s cup of hooch – but if you want to be perplexed by your whiskey, try this. I keep going back to this bottle every now and then because it changes my bearings after a few weeks of the usual bourbon notes of vanilla/toffee/caramel/honey/oak/cola/cherry/citrus. (Maybe I need to swing back to more scotch?) It seems every time I approach this whiskey, I get different tasting notes. It’s just that complex.

I love Four Roses. They do things different. Just look at their warehouses – they’re all 1 story. They put their distillate in barrels at a lower proof. They use a variety of yeasts. I’ll give this an A because it’s so complex and beguiling.

Grade: A

Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whiskey

20160621_094034  Balcones is an interesting distillery located in Waco, Tx with a brief but storied history. It was    started in 2008 by Chip Tate, a distiller with vision of how to make quality and unique craft whiskeys. During the first 6 years, and under the guidance of its president & founder, it introduced several kickass whiskeys. Demand soared, and capital was needed, so a partner was brought in. Then things got ugly, and the new board ousted Mr Tate. Now Balcones continues, and Mr. Tate is opening a new distillery. So now I guess we will have twice the choices.

The whiskey I’m enjoying is the Balcones Baby Blue Corn Whiskey. No age statement, 46% abv, made from roasted heirloom blue corn. By US law, to be called Corn Whiskey it must be at least 80% corn in the grainbill, and aged in either new uncharred oak barrels or previously-used oak barrels. Their website says nothing about this, but then again the website has scrubbed all mention of Mr.  Tate as well.

The nose has buttered corn and sulfur. Ya, the sulfur part may not sound great, but it works. Its kinda like someone saying Laphroaig has a nose of band-aids.  – it’s weird but it works with the whiskey overall. There are also some green vegetal things going on in the nose. A faint hint of cotton candy and smoke, even maple. Wet leaves.

On the palate, it has a nice viscous, oily mouthfeel. It hits the tongue with a bitter corn flavor, but it a smokey corn, like a cob slow roasted over a fire but overcooked to the point of slightly burnt. As it develops, the bitter burnt subsides and the sweet butter comes up from below.

The finish is fairly lengthy and complex. It is astringent, with smoke prominent. The smoke subsides as a dry corn taste comes back, then followed by and ending with a sweetness.

It’s pretty complex for a young corn whiskey. It’s obvious that Balcones takes care in producing this, and it shows. A very different whiskey than your typical bourbons and scotches; much more challenging. You have to come to this one with an open mind. Those who do will be rewarded.

 

Grade: A-

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