Rebel Yell Small Batch Reserve

I am going to start off this article by making you all a promise.  I will not make any obvious Billy Idol references.  I make no promises about history references, either way.  With that out of the way, let me begin.

As my frequent readers have led me to believe, I am some kind of poet laureate of the poor man’s hooch. Well, my friends, let me fulfill your dreams.  You see, I’m not entirely sure (because, alcohol) but I’m pretty sure Rebel Yell was my first bourbon.  Clearly this was a successful foray, as you likely have noticed I have gained a touch of an affinity for bourbon.  Now, I’m not sure when the last time I have regular Rebel Yell was, I imagine it’s been years, but let me state for the record, I enjoyed it.  Is Rebel Yell great whiskey?  Feck no.  But as Faulkner famously observed: “there is no such thing as bad whiskey. Some whiskeys just happen to be better than others.”  That’s like piss whiskey populism, or something.  Well, it just so happens that while Rebel Yell is one of those fine $15 whiskies, there is better whiskey available—and under the Rebel Yell banner none-the-less.  Don’t they call that the Stars ‘n’ Bars?

I’ll be brief in my profile of this spirit.  You have your standard Rebel Yell, perhaps a private of the infantry, which howls at 80 proof for $15 and achieves the general goal of getting you intoxicated.  Rebel Yell Small Batch Reserve, honestly doesn’t differ terribly a lot in concept.  Kentucky made bourbon, with wheat as the secondary grain is purchased from an undisclosed distiller and bottled.  Neither have a age statement, but I’d say it’s a good guess nobody is really sure.  At $20 we’re not too picky.  Small Batch Reserve bumps up to 90.6 proof, which is a significant perk in the getting drunk field.   Those are the stats, which beg the question; does bottling a Small Batch Reserve edition ensure that the south will rise again, under the banner of Rebel Yell?

Just the smell of this whiskey harkens back to the glory days of southern pride…no wait, it doesn’t.  It smells like whiskey, more particularly some dark brown sugar, vanilla, perhaps some light tobacco and just a touch of dry wood.  That’s okay, I imagine the antebellum south smelled like swamp, sweat and injustice.   Tasty tasty time… The first note is one of overwhelming honey that rolls from the tip of the tongue on down with a pretty rich mouthfeel.  Once a breath of air passes over the palate a touch of heat is exposed that rises with a somewhat acid note that quickly gives a like burn on the tonsils with an interesting cherry note seems hidden in there underneath some vanilla.  The finish is heavy on the honey, which coats the inside of your mouth pleasantly, but has a touch of a medicinal note hanging about.

Rebel

So will Jefferson Davis be adorning future dollar bills, ya’ll?  No, clearly not, that’s absurd.  But the weekend I bought this whiskey was spent cruising around the campus of Yale in an angry ’85 Camaro with seats that didn’t match, a questionable paint job, and a likely broken carburetor—which seems entirely appropriate.  While a step up from your standard Rebel Yell fare, this is still at its core a low shelf sluggin’ whiskey of the sort that makes you feel a bit more rugged for drinking it.  So while I may not be riding with Quantrill’s Raiders like Jesse James, with a bit of this in me I feel like my buddy, his Camaro and I could scare the piss out of some preps.  Or make them piss themselves laughing…it’s all the same when you’ve had a few.

Glenmorangie 10: A Memorial Day Tribute

For some reason for special occasions we raise a glass of something fine.  I’m a big proponent of this.  At times, however, these occasions necessitate solemn reflection and respectful remembrance. Today is such a day—Memorial Day.  On a day such as this, rather than raise a glass it may be more appropriate to pour out a dram to those fallen.  In spite of my political beliefs, which wars I believe were necessary and which were essentially criminal, today I pour a glass out to this country’s fallen soldiers.  As it seems scotch is often the choice for such tributes, tonight I too shall consume scotch. I’m not pouring any out though; I’d prefer not to get booze in the carpet.

My beverage tonight is a bottle of Glenmorangie 10 year that my mother and stepfather gave me for my birthday.  Since my birthday is in March, clearly I’ve been saving this review for a special occasion…Or a night when I can convince myself  to write; tonight it just so happens these things coincided.  Anyways the 10 year is Glenmorangie’s base-line baby, aged in old bourbon barrels and presumably providing the base that all their special offerings build off of.  So, is this bottle a worthy tribute to the roughly 1.4 million U.S. soldiers who have died in combat?  Shall we taste?

Morangie

The Nose on this whisky is quite interesting, with grassy notes, a heavy citrus presence that reminds me of a well-made margarita and, finally, a peach cobbler with ice cream note that seems to come in after I’ve stopped inhaling.

This scotch is somehow walks a line between very light flavors and a rather rich body, with soft vanilla dominating throughout, just a touch of caramel in the middle and a hefty share of green apple / pear notes near the end that brings just a touch of tart astringency to the palate.  The finish returns with a bit more acid and astringency that remind you of that citrus nose, and wipe your tongue off like orange oil on a guitar fretboard.  It’s pleasant, crisp and surprisingly refreshing—perfect for a cool night while I walk the fine line of chilled toes and open windows.

So let’s go back to the theme of the day, and the question I previously posed— is this bottle a worthy tribute to the roughly 1.4 million U.S. soldiers who have died in combat?  Can anything be?  I highly doubt there’s a bottle of bourbon worthy of a man’s life, and I love nothing more than bourbon.  As a tribute however, this stands up as well as any, and I feel it fortuitously matches the weather of this Memorial Day as well. So, tonight I drink to those who gave the last full measure of devotion to this land, so that we may live to drink another day.  I pour out a dram to thee, right into my thirsty mouth.

Knob Creek Rye

Knob Creek needs no introduction.  They even have freakin’ commercials now.  So no gimmicks here, let’s cut to the beef.  Knob Creek Rye labels itself as patiently aged, meaning I have no idea how old it is.  I don’t really care.  I do care that I scored it on sale for $35, like a true booze-hound bargain-hunter.   I also care that it’s 100 proof, I like that.  In fact, I need that—I’ve got a scratchy throat and a sprained wrist—poppa needs his medicine.  Unlike Knob Creek, I don’t have ample patience today.  So I’m going to cut past the usual drivel, which you likely skip over anyways, and hit some tasting notes.

See what I did there?

See what I did there?

Curse my allergies…After a deep huff I’m able to cut through and get a touch of cinnamon, some herbal notes and a touch of fresh sawdust.  The first impression on my admittedly hefty sip was how gentle this is, not only as a 100 proof rye without a dragon’s breath, but as a rye in general.  Rather than strong hefty spice notes Knob Creek has played a bit more with a softer cinnamon spice muffin like note, a rich caramel middle and, as their “age statement” would imply, a generous dose of balanced oak.  This bit of oak leaves the rye just a touch dry as it finishes over the palate but it lingers well with floral, ginger and spice notes that just lightly massages my phlegmatic throat.

Summation points?  While the price point, even on sale, is a touch high, this is a fine drinkin’ whiskey.  Knob Creek Rye is a refined and balanced rye, so balanced that it mellows down it’s rye spice and high proof into a benchmark for a mid-range rye.

A. Smith Bowman: Bowman Brothers Small Batch

Whiskey marketing tends to flow down a few narrow channels.  If you’re walking down the whiskey lanes browsing around, it isn’t exactly hard to see this trend. You wanna sell whiskey?  You gotta have a rugged heritage.  It’s okay if it’s mostly rubbish, just pick a name of a distiller from the 1700s and slap on a word that makes you think Davy Crockett would drink this between eating bear hearts—boom, you’ve nailed the market.  Given whiskey’s image, you’d think it caused your body to develop more testosterone.  If it did, I’d probably look like bigfoot.  Anyways, tonight’s drinking comes courtesy of a company that has clearly mastered this technique, A. Smith Bowman Distilleries of Fredericksburg, Virginia.  The product: Bowman Brothers “Pioneer Spirit” Small Batch Straight Bourbon Whiskey.   Long name, I know.  Here’s the thing, this whole marketing spiel I mentioned, it seems to be a more modern trend.  The funny thing is, unlike the names smacked on labels, such as Elijah Craig, this name actually has something to do with the company’s heritage.  Furthermore, Bowman seems to be ahead of the curve a touch—he started the distillery in 1935; in fact, the original distillery location in modern day Reston, Virginia is on the National Register of Historic places.  Then again, Bowman was just naming the distillery after himself, much like Jim Beam; he just happens to have famous relatives…

The namesakes of this bottle, the Bowman Brothers, were intrepid American Revolutionary War Veterans and, no bullshit, pioneers.  They led families west to the wild frontiers of Kentucky (like someone else I mentioned…) to settle communities in two counties.  You probably know Kentucky well for one of its fine exports as well, bourbon.  I’m sure there’s no connection.  Where the hell was I going with this?  Oh yeah, A. Smith Bowman ain’t just another new name on the shelves playing a tired marketing ploy—they were around when whiskey’s marketing ploy was “it gets you drunk.”  Now they have to tell you to drink responsibly, how sad.  As usual, all of this is tangential though—let’s talk juice.

Supposedly, from what I call “research,” Bowman Brothers is made from a Buffalo Trace Mash, about 15% rye, that is triple distilled though a copper still.  What does that smell like? It’s very light, with a crisp apple note leading in, a delectably smooth vanilla middle, and just a dusting of rye spice at the end, almost like apple crisp and ice cream.  I’m kind of hungry now.  Okay, Girl Scout cookies down and I’m back—let us taste! (As if I haven’t already had two drinks.)

Bowman

That rye note is actually pretty up front on the first sip, considering its low station in the mash.  The middle is where this whiskey really shines, with a very rich vanilla flavor that’s rather unusual—did I buy the special release aged with vanilla beans?  Nope, my blood ain’t that rich.  There is also a pretty great chewy, sweet, maple-syrup-over-snow thing as the foundation.  This is enjoyable stuff.

What’s the point here?  Well, one, this Bowman Brothers is a pretty interesting, light and lovely whiskey.  Also, all the marketing money in the world isn’t going to give your brand any legit heritage.  Finally, it seems to me that Virginia pioneers probably taught the people of Kentucky a thing or two about the art of whiskey—even Washington was a distiller—and if this is the kind of whiskey Virginia is still churning out, I think they still know what they’re doing.

Jim Beam Bonded

Mondays.  Nobody is excited for Monday.  Monday is never the best day of the week.  Then again sometimes, it’s worse than others—as was the case for me today.  I woke up early, and I freakin’ hate waking up.  I had to go to the dentist, which meant minimizing morning coffee intake.  I got my cleaning done, with a thorough thrashing of my gums and scraping.  Worse yet, I have to go back to get a filling.  From there I went to one of my favorite coffee shops to catch up on my chemicals, only to realize I had forgotten my wallet.  Onward to work in the pouring rain.  Work was guaranteed a stressful day, payroll reporting, though that went rather smoothly.  Not everything did, which meant—without going into any details—I spent a good hour dealing with someone in a less than pleasant mood.  That’s a touch of an understatement.  That’s a big understatement.  Fortunately, I made it through the day, made the gym, made it home.  Now, I would never be the one to recommend alcohol as a coping mechanism (hahahahahaha,) but I think it’s a fine night for a firm drink.  On the docket tonight?  Jim Beam Bonded.

Jim Beam Bonded is a pretty fresh release, hitting the shelves nationwide.  The first natural question, what the hell does bonded mean?  I imagine this is a pretty frequent question, as the term is rather specific and therefore rarely applied (aside from on my beloved Old Grandad.) Basically bonded, or “bottled in bond,” means that the bourbon comes from one distiller in one distilling season, has spent 4 years or longer in the barrel, and is bottled at 100 proof.  Simple enough, given the government involvement. So the real question here is, is it going to soothe my tattered soul (and taste good doing so?)

beam

That first deep whiff, more deep breathing exercise than nose, comes through robust, with a heavy cedar note, more than a touch of spice, some warm molasses and a lingering forewarning of booze.  The mouthfeel is surprisingly gentle with a rich warm oily consistency hiding the 50% of booze in here quite nicely, and the flavors that pop out are decidedly different than your standard Beam.  The profile, I would say, can best be described as dark, with a touch of leather and toffee resting on a solid backbone of char and toasted oak.  That leather clings on with an almost cigar like finish that is less aggressive than one would expect, pleasantly warming the throat as it winds down.  Overall, I’d probably describe this as old school, if I had any basis for that judgement.

Two fingers down, and it’s almost Tuesday.  Monday doesn’t hurt so badly anymore, except that brutal 3rd person flossing.  The takeaway here is that sometimes you just need to take a deep breath, a full sip, and let it go.  Other days are bonded days—a bit rougher, hotter, but worth the hassle in the end.

Ireland: A Whiskey Retrospective

I recently returned from a week in Ireland, the land of some of my ancestors, rolling hills and millions of sheep.  The weather was uncharacteristically pleasant, with the sun illuminating the well watered fields every day, drying the streets, and blinding the eyes of the unprepared and nocturnal.  Joyce wrote over 900 pages about one day in the life of Leopold Bloom, and so it is fair to say I do not dare to recount my journey in full.  My goal here is to recount some notes on the whiskey I experienced and, to the best of my ability, to share what I learned from my experience (as pertains to the famous Irish tippling culture.)

My journey, or shall I say our journey, began as many in Ireland do, in Dublin.  Specifically 7am in the Dublin airport on 17 March, 2015.  My father and I collected our right hand drive rental, promptly got lost, and briefly panicked, then found our air bnb location that would serve as home-base for our first few days.  For lunch we enjoyed a hurling match and some sandwiches in a deserted bar, wherein my father laid upon me my first challenge, one that would set a trend.  He’ll buy me that Teeling Single Grain, if I’ll write it up.  I was hesitant. Basically this was tantamount to one of my single shot reviews, but on the fly and in public.  Eventually I took up the offer.  From here on out, when I had the mind to, I took to the trusty iPhone note app, and recorded my voyage—one whiskey at a time.

Teeling Single Grain Whiskey

The nose, my airport blown senses informed me consisted mostly of lemon, cocoa, vanilla.  The first sip hit with a sharp somewhat acid tang, with honey and a grassy herbal tendency to follow—overall quite light on the palate.  The finish tended more towards that acid / citrus note, with a touch of clove like spice that hung around long after the glass was empty.

On the evening of St. Patrick’s day—that most blessed of boozer’s days, my father and I bypassed the traditional tourist chaos of the Temple Bar District for a more reserved night in Jack Ryan’s Beggars Bush for some football and food.  Jack Ryan’s would become the first whiskey I would have, of what seems to be a thoroughly Irish phenomenon—true house whiskey.  In America we have house whiskey, in that a bar decides which whiskey is going to be the cheapest in the well.  In Ireland bars buy whiskey from the major distilleries, age and bottle their own product.  It’s a beautiful thing, and for me, these became the must note whiskies.  It seemed necessary, imperative, that if this whiskey were made for this bar, by this bar, I must have it, and I must record these memories for posterity.  As for Jack Ryan?

Jack Ryan 12 Year Old Single Malt

           

My boy Jack was very light and fragrant, with a buttery nose revealing a touch of vanilla bean and some nice peach notes, with perhaps just a hint of orange oil.   The entry was luscious honey and rich oily vanilla.  Again that orange peeked its head, and again a rich buttery, almost chardonnay breath on inhaling.  Somewhere in there I found an unusual herbaceous note, to quote myself: “…is that what moss tastes like?  If so I think I like moss.”  The finish was quite nice as well, with the viscous nature of the whiskey keeping it clinging hot to the palate like some kind of melted vanilla butter.

While staying on the subject I shall say that I had intended to take note on a couple more house Whiskies I had the luxury of tasting.  One was at the world famous Temple Bar, namesake of the district and home of some friendly barkeeps and an always lively seen.  Apparently I did not take any notes on that whiskey, which is a shame because I must have had 6 or 7 of them.  Similarly in Waterbury, I had the house whiskey of a very famous and quintessential pub, Henry Downes.  I believe I had 4 of those, however my father and I were engaged in conversation—as one so often is in Ireland—with some very welcoming locals, and therefore notes were cast aside.  I did manage to have another house Whiskey, this again in Dublin, at a truly brilliant pub and old institution, the Palace Bar.  Though during our time in the Palace Bar we did not find much luck in conversation, we did breathe in a rather literary atmosphere and, in my case, a very fine house whiskey.

Palace Bar 9 Single Cask

 

The nose on this whiskey can best be described as fat, with the omnipresent honey backed by rich port wine and plum notes, a crisp touch of evergreen and a bit of spice reminiscent of warm rye bread.  Truly unusual, and truly delectable.  This complex nose does not lie, as the first taste reveals a rich almost brandy like flavor with caramel that opens into dark fruit, leather, and a hint of what seems like orange bitters.  The finish hangs on with more dark leather, a hint of coffee and dark chocolate, and a thoroughly satisfying warmth.

Not unlike our house whiskies of Irish legend, there is the occasional purveyor of fine spirits who will age and bottle their own project.  One is Dublin’s Mitchell & Son, a store famous for creating two legends of Irish Whiskey, Green Spot and Yellow Spot.  Green Spot and her 12 year old sister whiskey, Yellow Spot have developed a bit of a reputation as the so called “Irish Pappy Van Winkle,” a whiskey rare balanced and sublime.  Well, rare they are not—in fact Green Spot has been available in the States for over a year and while I was abroad I hear Yellow Spot made its first landings.  Balanced and sublime?  Well that is a question I had to test myself…  Naturally, given the nature of my trip, I did not take notes on Green Spot—though I remember having quite a few in the wee hours at Tig Cóilí.  I did, in the pleasant bar of the Ballsbridge’s Schoolhouse Hotel, have the wit to jot some notes on Yellow Spot.  For the sake of rendering the experience as honestly as possible, I shall share these notes unabridged.

Yellow Spot

The Nose is incredibly light, effervescent, honey, small amounts of vanilla and a touch of fresh sawn oak, perhaps?

The mouthfeel opens, almost melts over your tongue like a thick honey (maple syrup consistency, infused with lemon grass, and rare Irish sunshine) and leaving a rich lingering roll of…

Well, that’s where I lost it.  I suppose I was speechless perhaps, at the subtle and gentle notes of this whiskey that were so delicately balanced and almost challenging.  Expect this to do quite well on our shores.

At this point we come to one of the finer points of Irish culture, one which the average American drunk may find baffling.  Pricing.  Perhaps this point struck me harder than it has many Americans abroad, given that the Euro was basically at an all-time low against the dollar while I was in Ireland, but to me, drinks were cheap.  In Dublin a pint of Guinness runs around 5 Euro.  In the US it can be up to $8, and your average draft beer is going to be $4-6 a pint.  Plus the expected $1 per drink tip.  (Tips are not even remotely expected in Ireland.) The rest of Ireland whines that Dublin is expensive, much the way we make fun of $8 draft specials in New York City. For another example, the aforementioned Yellow Spot, a 12 year old single malt Irish that fetches $100 a bottle in the U.S.? That was 8 Euro for a pour.  For the sake of comparison, when you buy a bottle of Powers at the off-license (liquor store) it’s close to 30 Euro.  A pour of Powers at a bar?  4 Euro flat.  That’s about a 3 to 1 pricing ratio.  In the U.S. the bar pricing ratio is usually about 6 to 1, maybe even worse.  Need more examples?  You probably don’t, but I’ve got one.  When I was probably 22, I went to a very well loved Irish Pub style drinking establishment near my alma mater.  As a lover of whiskies, I ordered one of Midleton’s finer products, Red Breast 12 year.  I then got my $13 tab and choked a little.  I was kinda broke back then…Anyways, I ordered that same whiskey, I think it was in Ennis maybe?  I’m pretty sure I  paid 6.30 Euro.  The point being, drinking in a pub in Ireland is a crap ton cheaper than a bar in the states, even while drinking at home is more expensive.   The profit margin is several times less, but the social value is so much more.  It’s like the damn Irish government want you to do your drinking in the pub, ain’t that great of them? Oh, and about that Redbreast 12 year…

Redbreast 12 year old

 

The nose leads with a touch of crisp pear or apple notes, a little honey center and a bit of orange zest and nutmeg.  That honey note, as perhaps should be seen as the defining touch of Irish whiskey by now, comes to dominate the first rolling drops of a sip, warming into a lovely spiced pear, maybe some caramel apple and an unusual citra hop note? The finish of this fine dram lingers with a bit of juicy pear, honey, and just a hint of tart lime.

Given the nature of this pub centric culture, perhaps you may expect that drinkers of every stripe and type would be enjoying all nature of drinks in all of these lovely drinking establishments.  You would be wrong.  At present it seems the Irish microbrew movement is just starting to get some legs.  I enjoyed quite a few when the opportunity presented itself.  As you’ve probably noticed, there is a plethora of fine whiskies—Irish and otherwise—available across the board.  I clearly had a few of these too.  As with any bar, it seemed that every bar had a full stock of assorted liquors and cocktail ingredients available as well.  Given all this variety, and the wide variety of people, tourist and local, you would expect people to be taking full advantage, and yet it seemed that everyone was drinking a Guinness, a Heineken, or a Beamish (another Irish dry stout, a tad roastier.)  I think I saw one or two gin and tonics consumed, as well as a fair few ciders.  I think I saw one other person drink a whiskey, and that’s because I helped make the selection.  Maybe this was an aberration. Maybe I was just blind drunk all the time.  It seemed to me, however, that the reason the Irish are seen as drinking heavy weights is because everyone is slowly nursing 4% beers.  Sure, that old man started at 1pm, but he’s only had 4 Beamish during that last 2 rugby games, of course he isn’t trashed like a sorority girl.

Reading this over, I probably haven’t given you any insight whatsoever into the Irish drinking culture, or really too much factual information at all.  One of those reviews wasn’t even finished; I’m such a lazy bastard.  Oh well, at least I wrote something—better than you, sitting on your ass reading about whiskey online.  Slothful alckie.  I think the takeaway point here is that you need to get moving, get a plane ticket, and see Ireland yourself.  Even if you’re observing it from a barstool it’s a lovely country, with warm and welcoming people and a fuck ton of whiskey.  On that note, here’s one more review for you—a Jameson I didn’t even know existed.

Jameson Caskmates

 

These caskmates (whatever the hell that means) start with a nice floral bouquet, a touch of lavender and vanilla, which is underscored by an acidic lime rind type note.  Kind of a gin and tonic feel…The body of this whiskey is rather rich, though not in the traditionally prized oily way, something closer to a velvet consistency, like a pint of its Irish cousin.  Flavorwise, honey is predominant, with a bit of that floral note coming up, some grainy malt sweetness, and a light caramel finish that evaporates to leave a soft honey and what I can only describe as “green” finish.  Perhaps that’s just the turf.

Sunday Morning Coffee, with Cooper’s Cask Whiskey Barrel Coffee

You may have noticed, I write a good deal about booze.  Perhaps you didn’t, in which case I’m shocked you’re literate.  Congratulations on that literacy thing, by the way.  So yes, I’ve written quite a lot about booze, which is kind of the point of this blog.  But perhaps that makes me appear one dimensional to your eyes.  Sure I wrote about poutine and debauchery recently in my Canadian Odyssey, but really, that had a lot to do with boozing and such as well.  Recently I was approached with an opportunity to tangentially expand my horizons, and go beyond just whiskey swilling to my other favorite vice–caffeinating.  You see, sometimes people actually read this blathering nonsense and enjoy it, and one such gentleman made me an offer I could not refuse.  Accept rather than waking up with a horse’s head in my bed, I woke up with a message on my blog inviting me to try his product, a coffee.

You may be thinking to yourself, well, clearly this guy is a lush—but what qualifies him to pass judgement on coffee?  Well, here are my qualifications.

  1. I drink a lot of coffee. Usually 5-6 “cups” a day, although when opportunity presents a cup may be a redeye or a double espresso or just a very large cup.
  2. I know that what you get at Starbucks is not a macchiato, it’s a sugar bloated botched abortion.
  3. I really enjoy my coffee, don’t we all have preferences or critiques on coffee anyways?

So, I may be under qualified.  In this situation, however, I may be just the man for the job; see this is special coffee, whiskey barrel aged coffee.  See what I mean by tangential? Let’s get to it.

Cooper’s Cask Coffee is a recent (very recent, like I may be drinking the first batch) start-up hitting the ground running out of Rhode Island.  Which is a fine state, by the way.  John and Jason, the fellas behind the company both had a shared passion for coffee (like many of us,) clearly some drive (like a lot fewer of us,) and a winning idea (like we all wish we did.)  Whiskey barrel aging is booming the world over, a wide variety of products from wines, beers, and other whiskies to fish sauces (yes, really) and maple syrup.  For John and Jason the wheels got turning, and Cooper’s Cask was born.  The process is seemingly rather simple.  Green (unroasted) coffee beans go into a whiskey barrel, are given some time to catch some of the magic therein, and then are roasted to coffee—voila!  Well it is rather simple, although I gather a lot of trial and error went into finding the right beans, the right aging times and the proper roast to truly express the product.  Also, I’ve been advised that the barrels used are smaller 10 gallon barrels with a heavy char that once held single malt from an undisclosed “independent distillery.”  I’m making a hunch that the barrels come from Sons of Liberty Spirits Co., also out of Kingston, RI, but don’t fault me for making such unfounded and circumstantial assumptions.  Anyways, sounds like a good idea—right? So what is the result of this experiment?

Before I even get to the brew, the first thing to note is the incredible aroma of these beans, which really opens up on the grinding.  One of the first notes to hit me is a rich dark chocolate note, followed by a smokiness similar to a full-bodied cigar.  From there the lighter flavors are able to escape with a distinct fruitiness—John had noted dried papaya, but I’m really catching mango and a touch of coconut.  The final smell I get is something reminiscent of coffee ice cream, maybe a second wave of milkier chocolate and a touch of vanilla.  I brewed the beans up in a French press, conveniently as recommended, and let settle about 5 minutes before pouring a cup for myself and one for my father.  Once brewed the nose remains very similar with the tropical fruit elements being dominant and a touch of caramel and vanilla.

Cooper's Cask

The flavors a rich, which a bit of molasses, a good deal of fruit and THERE it is! Booooze with toasty oak, vanilla and that strange in between note that is exactly like a shot of Jameson in a cup of coffee.  That milk chocolate note is there as well, and all these wash through in a medium (perhaps should have used another scoop) body and a long but very light finish with vanilla whiskey notes predominating, rather than any bitterness or smokier notes.

This, my friends, is not your average cup of joe.  On a blind tasting you’d find yourself wondering if this might be flavored, or perhaps just spiked—but you’d certainly find yourself wondering why the fuck anybody has every professed a love for Dunkin Donuts.  If you aren’t already wondering that every day.  While I do find myself wishing for a touch more bitterness—because that’s just who I am—I see a lot of potential to this, perhaps I’ll throw it in my espresso maker next.  And knowing that there’s a bourbon barrel and a rum barrel version I can see any number of delicious iterations coming of this.  With Cooper’s Cask Coffee, you may find yourself saying cheers first thing in the morning.

Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve

Right about this time last year there was some serious controversy brewing (or shall we say, distilling?) in the whiskey world.  The source of this controversy, was the Maker’s Mark distillery—the cause, lower proofing.  It’s no secret that whiskey has been in a vastly unanticipated boom in recent years, Maker’s Mark, like many other distillers were, and still are, facing a bit of a shortage of this golden nectar.  See, the problem is that about 5-10 years ago whiskey wasn’t exactly selling well.  As your high school economics teacher would tell you, if he was having a few too many at your dull hometown sports bar, simple laws of supply and demand meant that these distilleries weren’t trying to make a ton of whiskey, knowing quite well that it may not sell.  The thing with whiskey is, it needs to age.  You have to anticipate the market, well, 5-10 years in advance.  At least.  Now it’s the modern time—there are a few options for a hot, yet product strapped, business has.  Let’s look at our options here.

  1. Seemingly the simplest option a business has when demand is high and supplies are low is to make more product. As I mentioned, that’s a problem in the whiskey business, as the product needs time to age—but with the whiskey boom showing no end in sight, this is indeed an option, and many distillers have hoped to accelerate aging to meet ongoing demands.  This means selling younger whiskies, whiskies aged in smaller or honey-combed barrels, otherwise…cutting corners.  Now these processes can yield good results, but the majority opinion seems to be that cut corners lead to cut quality.  Clearly Maker’s Mark couldn’t go this route.
  2. The second option our distillers face is simply to accept the limitations of their supply, and raise prices to take advantage of the high demand. If you only have so much whiskey, and people are going to buy it either way, you may as well make more money…no? High demands have clearly driven whiskey prices up, and even in the last 3 or so years a lot of whiskies have shot up 20-30% in price.  People are still buying em.  Sure as shit I am. Of course with high demand Maker’s went up in price too, but I imagine at some point they realized they couldn’t go up much higher and still sell, so they went ahead with option three…
  3. If you’re familiar with what happened last February, you’ll know what happened. Maker’s Mark opted to stretch their product, water it down.  Specifically they were planning to go from 90 proof to 84 proof.  That’s a difference of 3% water, in a product that probably 85% of people add water or ice to anyways.  Seems reasonable, no?

Fuck no.  There was public outcry, and it made the national news.  People were pissed, feeling cheated by that extra 3% water they were going to be pouring on the rocks.  With all this negative publicity Maker’s Mark folded. They would not cut the proof on their product.  They’d stick by their customers words.  Sadly when Old Grandad did the same thing there was no outcry, and the change has stuck…but perhaps I’ll save that for another article.  If you’ve read the title of this article, you’re probably wondering what the fuck this has to do with Knob Creek Single Barrel reserve.  Or maybe you’re an astute motherfucker and realized where I’m going with this.

See, with the whiskey market booming and supplies low, a lot of distillers are turning out lower proof, younger, or overpriced products.  Knob Creek Single Barrel Reserve, seems to have done none of this.  This is no bullshit, 120 proof (barely any water added I’d guess) 9 year old whiskey.  At some $40 that’s some bang for your buck.  No cut corners, no cut proof—just straight, honest firewater from pre-teen, hand selected-barrels. That sounds almost perverse, and perhaps it is.  Good, old fashioned, Kentucky straight perversion.

The nose surprisingly doesn’t cause your nose hairs to burst into flames like a Jeri-curled Michael Jackson.  Somehow, the nose manages to be somewhat light, and certainly sweet, with a rich maple base, some apricot, a healthy dash of cinnamon and nutmeg and just a touch of earthy cigar smoke.  The first sip is even richer than the nose, again, no cut corners. With a full round body of caramel, toffee and a tad more maple at the base, some finer notes seem to rise from the woodwork, with cinnamon / allspice, spearmint, and vanilla all taking turns to jump out at you and take a hot numbing stab at your palate—which brings me to the finish.  Not so much a finish as an after-burn, like a fighter jet shooting for an intercept.  Gentle, most certainly not, but hot, belligerent, smoldering and downright delicious with the spice sinking deep in your taste buds and a pyre burning in your chest.

At some point a decade ago Booker Noe, head distiller for Jim Beam, clearly made a decision.  Bourbon may not have been selling big, but he was going to make some big bourbons.  9 years later, that decision paid off, and rather than cutting, blending or overpricing the products of that decision, Knob Creek has decided to go barrel by barrel, and go big.  Bullshit is only worth as much as the field it can fertilize—big, bold bourbon? That’s worth its price in liquid gold.

Fear and Loathing in Quebec: A Savage Voyage to the Heart of the Quebecois Dream (Part Deux)

V.  Interlude: The Modern Age

On return to the warm womb of our hotel room Ian and I promptly set about the necessary task of bring warmth to our innards.  A couple slugs of whiskey sank down as we stowed our spoils in the fridge and stripped down to base layer.  The night stand between accommodations rapidly turned into a small graveyard as I slaked my thirst on high-proof bourbon and Canadian crafts while Ian tackled the Molson dry gorilla on his back.  Balance—of course, was a key consideration, lest you think this is about to degenerate.  A warm healthy buzz arose from frost bitten toes to dumbfounded mind, each sip making the French language History Channel closer to comprehensible.

As our glacial blood warmed and flowed like a mountain stream in a spring thaw, that balance we had sought to restore with our libations may have led to a minor flood at the brain.  As two disinhibited young men in a foreign land, in search of foreign women, we began to brainstorm our options for our pursuit.  My companion and I, admittedly, are sons of the modern era—though a tad anachronistic at heart—and as such we turned to one of the strange phenomena of our age.  Tinder.  Le Tinder, to the Quebecoise…I assume.  We prepared our French guidebook, the next round of beers, and got to swiping.  Oh, les lovely ladies du Quebec, all at the swipe of a finger, all presumably single and ready to mingle.

Now reader, before you jump so quickly into judgment, let it be known, we did not have high expectations for this venture.  Casual sex, particularly as our state began to degrade, was not likely on the menu—our goals were more modest.  We sought conversation, kindness, female companionship on this strange and surreal voyage of ours.  Is that too much to ask, is that so offensive to the sensibilities of respectable society, that people should meet and make acquaintance over drink in the night?  Probably.  Regardless, Tinder we did, and as a team we crafted poor French phrases to our matches—those young women who also expressed interest in us, to those not pathetically familiar with the Tinder.  As for matches, our luck was surprisingly quick.  Perhaps it was our distinct Americanness, our French expertise (hah!,) or simply our stunning good looks, but we rapidly found ourselves jumping between conversations, passing phones frantically, failing miserably to make impressions—sounds about right.  It’s hard to tell, in retrospect, how much time we passed in this manner, but it could not have been more than a couple of hours.  The light began fading over the buildings of city center no longer lighting up our hotel window.  The French version of Pawn Stars became less amusing, and the warmth in our stomach turned to a dull and empty burn.  The streets once again were echoing with the siren’s song of the curd’s squeak—poutine.

VI.  Men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

Braced as best we could be against another bitter Canadian night, Ian and I once again set off.  Bitter is perhaps a bit soft on a night which could freeze whisky in the bottle, and then blow the bottle away with the wind.  Though armed with a list of recommended restaurants from one of our kind Tinderesses, Ian and I, blinded by the cold and a somewhat inebriated hunger could not walk into the wind, so we ventured east.  Blocks passed as we trod past restaurants we could find no time to agree on, we found ourselves nearing the border of our known Quebec as we came upon our morning’s breakfast stop, Chez Ashton.  Chez Ashton, however, did not appeal to us—too familiar, too…tee-totaling.  Luck should have it, next to Chez Ashton was a quiet Pub, Le Pub Edward.  Shelter from the storm.

We found ourselves 2 of perhaps 5 patrons in a large Pub at prime-time on a Saturday night.  Staff was spread thin, as if this were expected, and we sat at the bar as seemed most natural.  The first rounds were, if I recall, some of the Quebec mainstays, St. Ambroise, I believe.  Poutines were ordered, and a second round of more intriguing and unfamiliar beers from an extensive menu, a menu that included many brews which would be treasured in anywhere in America, among those some of the world’s finest Trappist ales.  Did I mention poutine was ordered?  Lovely, warming, hearty poutine, soon was in its well deserved place of honor—next to my beer.

Perhaps I should mention, Pub Edward is not high up on the river in the Old City, but closer to the business district, nearly under an overpass.  It is unassuming, and not mentioned with baited breath as a haven of the poutine arts.  This may well be a mistake.  Maybe it was a good night for the chef, or maybe Ian and I were a round beyond—though I think the cold had frozen us sober.  Whatever the situation may have been, the poutine with which we were presented was a thing of beauty.  As you may have noticed, there are limited criteria of which to judge poutine.  Crispy fries, why yes, deep fried to a near brown complexion.  Fresh curds, again, check—though not the squeakiest of our trip, which is Chez Ashton’s honor, the curds met our rigorous standards.  The gravy, well, the gravy was an epiphany.  Rich, and luscious, with the consistency of velvet and the color of rich mahogany the gravy soaked into our fries, coated our curds, and caught in our throats with a dark, smoke seasoned flavor.  Words are insufficient, lest I should resort to those cruder in my vocabulary, which would seem sacrilegious in this context.  Mingled brilliantly among this cacophony of flavors were shreds of fatty and delicious pork shoulder, making the symphony whole and completing the Canadian food pyramid.

Sometime during this orgy of gravy goodness Ian and I must have set down our forks to breathe, and order another round.  Perhaps it was only suiting to the culinary delights on which we were feasting that we sought something else exquisite, this on that revered text, the beer menu.  Should you be one of those close reading English major types, you may have seen me mentioning fine Trappist ales earlier.  Maybe you were even astute enough to sense, just maybe, this was foreshadowing.  Well, you are right my brilliant friend, it’s a shame our liberal arts degrees are worthless.  Should your genius also lead to alcoholic pursuits, you may be familiar with a beer which is revered as the finest of Belgium, perhaps even towering above the Belgian waffle in lowland glory—Westvleteren XII.  In the United States, this beer has graced our shores but once, in a limited fund raising effort for the Abbey.  Westy 12 is like the gorgeous agoraphobic girl next door, for whom we all lust, but who never leaves her home.  Which happens to be on the other side of the street…and that street is the Atlantic Ocean.  We could not fight the urge, we split the round, and $45 (Canadian) later we were splitting one fine beer, and Westy too lay aside our plates.

Again, I am at a loss for words, even while my memory holds every sip so dearly, and may until the day my neurons cease to fire.  Westy was a dark mistress, garnet in color, and with the aroma of a well mulled wine and a touch of dark leather.  The taste did not disappoint.  Dark spiced fruits abound, with a mouth that is at once thick and chewy, but creamy on the tongue.  The flavors lingered, sensuous and vibrant, however, the experience was all too ephemeral.  As all great things must end, we received our bill.  Satiated and bathing in the sublime light of glorious food coma, we paid our dues and went on again, into the night.

VII. The Wild Hunt

It turns out while we had been indulging in the finest that Pub Edward had to offer, a sideways glance had occasionally fallen upon our previous pursuits.  The great dynamite fishing expedition that was Le Tinder, during our fine meal, had somehow borne fruit.  While sadly, we had not found Quebecois love, we had found a group of Americans, similarly adrift on the banks of the St. Lawrence, and willing to hang out with some countrymen. Misty, we shall call her, beaconed us on our next steps in the night and emboldened we faced the wind down the Rue St. Jean, of which we’d grown so fond and headed into the citadel, toward the quarters where dollars and drafts flowed, toward L’Pub d’Orsay, where friendly strangers await.

On arrival at the pub, we listened about for familiar words and searched for the face from my phone.  After a circle round the joint, we sat ourselves at the always inviting bar, and ordered a couple of Boréales to pass the time, as I inquired into the whereabouts of our would-be companions. They had vanished, passed onwards to the Pub St. Patrick. We contemplated our situation.  We had beers, and a warm bar.  These small joys must first be savored before we can face the cold, find the strangers.  So we sipped.  I don’t recall our conversation, but likely we were still discussing gravy and Westy.  The great intellectual discussions of our times.  Upon settling, it was unspoken that we would continue our pursuit, and therefore it was toward the St. Patrick we went.  There was, of course, the small matter of finding the St. Patrick.  Having little knowledge of where this pub was, we marched off into the cold, I remembering only it was dark and on a very sharp corner, Ian remembering it being toward the river, as was everything.  In the cold of the evening, well below zero with river valley winds, we spent what could have been the rest of our lives searching, searching, stumbling, shuffling and sliding in the icy streets until dumb luck (which, as the author, I will insist is the result of my Henry Hudson-like intuitions) drew us to that sharp corner, the green white and gold, the pub.

Unlike Pub Edward, Pub St. Patrick was busy on this Saturday night.  Fuckin’ slammed. Crazy. Somehow we got a table for 2.  Ian, in good spirits, or least containing damned good spirits, decided on a round of Bulleit bourbons and a pitcher of beer.  We sent our follow-up in for Misty and her compatriots.  Gone again, vanished, to L’Atelier.  I, my friends, do not see the appeal of the bar hop.  When I get to drinking, I set up camp, I fortify.  In this evening, with a multitude of drink on the table before us, my natural instinct prevailed.  Rightly so, we shan’t go off again into the mist.  Instead, we began to make the best of our surroundings, and began to converse with the people at the adjacent table.  The gentleman was an Australian, one of some means, as best we could tell.  We spoke of ourselves, our backgrounds, small talk.  Across from the Australian was a beautiful woman, quiet, local. A school teacher, she told us. Whiskey gone, pitcher getting low, our inhibitions grew low.  My memory grows dimmer.  Ian, I think it was Ian, jested with the Australian that the woman was too beautiful for him—they played along, she coyly stating she was an escort.  She probably wasn’t, maybe she was.  I went along with the ruse, I told her she was too beautiful to be an escort, that she didn’t need rich men, she should run away from her rich Australian, run away with the young, broke, dashing American with inflamed liver and fogged eyes.  The joking was fortuitously ended by the coming of our bill.  It would be the last of the night, or perhaps the very early morning.  Again, the slush and ice and stumble of the streets.  My peripheries grew black, the streets dim.  Somewhere, someone fell.  Down the stairs, a couple more blocks…through the lobby, elevator, door.  Bed.

VIII. Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down

Morning came once again with a ray of blinding light illuminating the stagnant air over my bed.  That ever familiar pounding rhythm went from heart to head, reminding me that I was still alive, and that I lacked good decision making skills.  To the lavatory, need water.  I was met by a blood caked scarf across the sink, which only seemed slightly out of place, and simultaneously filled my glass and emptied my bladder.

The good news, that was not my blood—though admittedly a bit of bloodletting could actually have done me some good.  The better news, Ian was still alive, though a little worse for wear and tear.  He had had a bit of a cobblestone face-plant.  Anesthetized by cold and liquor he fortunately ignored the severity of his laceration and simple let the blood freeze in the wound.  Presumably he discovered this as I collapsed fully dressed into an unconscious heaving mound on return from our fruitless hunt.  Chemicals needed: coffee, food, forgiveness.  This need was addressed briefly at the hotel continental, and with 3 cups and some French (Canadian) toast in me I felt human again.  Ian was still feeling a pint short I’d guess.  It was determined he probably could have taken a couple of stitches.  Too late for that.  Best get a move on the day, once again.

This, the Sunday of our discontent, I should happen to mention was a bit of an American holiday, Super Bowl Sunday. Given the holy feast of the Patriots, we were on a bit of a deadline to get underway, with just a few hours to spare after check-in for a final round of fair Quebec.  Our evening’s plans were to take place in Vermont, a small town near the New Hampshire border and a few hours distant, where we planned to watch the event, eat and imbibe at the home of a great friend of mine and his fiancé.  Maybe that’s another story.  Anyways, these evening plans in mind we set off on our final inspection.  We went once more to the Carnaval grounds, for a minor inspection of the scene.  The plains were relatively quiet, aside from the clatter of toboggan on ice luge there was little in the way of goings-on.  We took a quick shot at the classic Canadian game of “slapshot in the clothes dryer,” at which I did slightly better than the French-Canadian fathers, and at which Ian promptly excelled.  They gave him a pin, I think, but overall this was a bit of a forlorn farewell.  Just one weekend into the 2 week Carnaval and we had to leave.  The sky blue sky and possibly above zero temperatures let us know, it was time to be on our way.

We made our way back once more to the Rue St. Jean to run a final few errands—some maple candies for Ian’s Chinese kids (these being Chinese students who live with Ian and his family,) a bomber and matching glass for the coming evening’s host.  On a whim, we took a last pit stop at the SAQ (liquor store,) as I still clung to the idea of bringing something back, maybe even something top-shelf Canadian.  Alas, barbeard had been right—they had maybe 4 bottles of Canadian whisky, all readily available and cheaper across the border.  All swill.  I settled for a Bottle of 7 year old Havana Club Rum.  I need something to write up, don’t I?  They didn’t give me a bag, so I swaggered down the streets as a menacing American pirate, blockade booze in hand.

IX. The Chicken Man

It wasn’t long before we were humming down the highway again clicking away the Canadian kilos south.  We did have a minor goal in mind on our way home, aside from the clear need to make time, we also sought one final poutine at a place that lingered fond in Ian’s memory, Le Chicken Hut, St. Hubert.  Fortunately the highway obliged, at some quasi-truck stop with big fiberglass dinosaurs outside I met St. Hubert, the chicken man, and Ian and I ordered Poutines and chicken tenders.  This was decidedly fast-foody, so much so that they fucked our orders, which were in doubtlessly flawless and un-stuttering French.  We had one poutine, some regular fries and 4.5 tenders, or some shit.  Now, admittedly, this was a St. Hubert express.  Also, admittedly, they share a location with a McDonald’s, which is a terrible sign.  They’re also a rotisserie chicken joint, which is not what we got.  But all of these details aside, we were forced to conclude that St. Hubert, as our final poutine was a sorrowful parting indeed, to the extent that splitting one was just fine.  Sadly, I am told that the sit down St. Hubert is actually decent, for what it is.  What we had was cheese curds that sobbed, gravy like used bathwater and flaccid fries.  Again, a sign, onward.

X:  Land of the Free

As the sun began to fall across the plains of Quebec we once again neared the United States.  We exchanged the remaining plastic money we had for a few liters of petrol to satiate Cecilia, who was no longer stating how many miles left I had on the tank.  We neared the border, which was admittedly a bit more backed up that the Canadian entry had been.  And for a reason, here in America, we have things we want to keep out.  People who dress funny, talk funny, or have…shall we say different complexions are monitored closely.  Two young New Englanders apparently fit this bill.  The 3 border guards, sharing a close hut and dressed in the official garb of Fascism, began to question us.

“ Where have you been?”

“Quebec City”

“When did you live the states?”

“Friday.”

“How long were you there?”

“Since Friday, so, two days, or so?”

“How do you two know each other?”

“College.”

“What college?”

“Gettysburg College.”

“What year did you graduate?”

“I graduated in 2012.”

“2014, for me” (from stage right).

“So when did you guys go to Canada, Tuesday, you were there 5 days?”

“No. 2 days. Friday.”

“Okay. Do you have any food, tobacco, liquor?”

“We have a bottle of liquor.”

“What liquor?”

“Rum.”

“What kind of rum?”

“Havana club, I think…”

“You can’t have that.”

Now my friends, here is a moment perhaps you’d been waiting, but I thought we had grown past this as a people.  Given the current political climate, with an opening of communications between ourselves and our Cuban neighbors, I had been led to believe that limited Cuban goods were now being welcomed into this country.  I was led to this belief by the liberal media, actually, BBC, and the fact that there was a newly listed $100 limit on the intake of Cuban goods.  Clearly Capt. America here had not heard of this, or had a different interpretation.  He sent us back to Canada, to dispose of our contraband.

It took a bit of explaining at the Canadian border to the friendly officials as to why we had been rejected entry into our father country.  The jovial gent stated that their rejection of my rum was decidedly “shit,” but, no, sadly he could not take the bottle while on the job.  We drove a bit further and placed it in a snowbank beside a snowmobile trail for some lucky recreationalist to find.  Again, at the US border, Capt. America was a bit less curt, and he let us on our way, without search, but also without rum.

I leave this story at the American border, with my bottle of rum, and a little carefree piece of my heart.  Perhaps you note that, for the most part, our stated goals failed.  I did not find a Canadian whisky to open my eyes and mind to the craft of the northfolk.  I did not find Canadian love, unless we count the Australian’s schoolteacher / escort.  I did not, it seems, even find material for a booze review to post.  And though I can’t say that I necessarily found the heart of the Quebecois dream, I can say that it is not cold, in spite of its environs, and that it quite likely pumps streams of gravy and good beer, which delivers the curds of life to hockey strained muscles.

Platte Valley Moonshine, neigh, 100% Straight Corn Whiskey

A dark night, deep in the Virginia woods.  Thick old growth trees rustle in a crisp evening breeze.  There’s a crackle from the wood fire a shining red glow hot under the copper.  Penetrating the hollow is just a thin sliver of moonbeam. This, perhaps, is what you picture when you think of moonshine.  If that’s what you’re a goddamn poet, and a tad bit quixotic.  That’s not exactly what moonshine means nowadays.  Nowadays moonshine is a TV show, a Hollywood movie, and a multi-million dollar spirits company that has a lot of leeway, a bit of redneck cache and a mythology for a sales pitch.  Sure, some people are still making raw booze and dodging a tax.  Most of these people are making easy money on a moment.  But nothing I can say is going to burst that bubble.

The thing about the moonshine you’ll go buy in the average liquor store—whether they call it moonshine or more appropriately “white whiskey,” is that essentially you’re paying for an unfinished product.  Some moonshine products are basically corn vodka that’s had a couple less runs on the still.  Some are just the unaged version of our favorite whiskies, that you’re more than likely paying more for.  Either way, that’s a genius business model.  Hell, the moonshine of old was white lightning, hot, high proof and unfiltered liquor. Today’s moonshines are largely watered to 80 proof for the soft palate public. Basically, it’s an easy to make product that you could spend more time and money making into something else, but that fetches more when you don’t.  No wonder so many people are jumping to make one.  You don’t have to meet the strict definitions you do with bourbon, Tennessee whiskey, etc., you just have to make a slightly less than neutral spirit, that doesn’t taste like crap.  You have to turn grain sugary water into tasty booze.  Maybe that’s harder than it sounds, but it’s a lot easier than waiting 4+ years to have your liquor age, and very possibly come out like crap.  The funny thing is, there are a few people within this booming segment, who are deciding to put a bit more effort into their product, and I’m not referring to those who bottle it with fruit or spice—I’m talking about those who age something that is, more often than not, unaged.  Platte Valley Moonshine is doing just that.

Platte Valley Moonshine, unlike most of its competitors, spends 3 years in a barrel before being filled into its very distinct, pretty old school, ceramic jug.  Slap XXX’s on that thing, or maybe just one, it’s only 80 proof.  Interestingly enough, all this extra effort, and damned good packaging, doesn’t come at a higher cost.  In fact, Platte Valley’s product set me back a cool $16, while any of the Midnight Moon types will run $20+ to come in a standard mason jar.  To be fair, you’ll probably keep the packaging in either case.  All this extra effort means Platte Valley also earns the right to slap another title on their logo, straight corn whiskey.  See, by definition straight corn whiskey has to be at least 80% corn and 2 years in a barrel—which the 100% corn 3 year old Platte Valley easily meets.  In fact, I’d say that sets it ahead above all those moonshines with no age or real legal definition (aside from being illegal, which they aren’t…)  But rather than continuing to sit here on my pedestal pontificating and turning my nose down on your beloved plebian (*ack* overpriced, overhyped  *gahrumf*) moonshine, I believe it is time I have a drink.

Platte Valley

Platte valley pours a light lemongrass yellow, barely noticeable in some light—more or less the color your doctor told you your piss should be.  Bud Light yellow, that’s the Crayola name.  The nose is very light, with a fair share of sweet corn, and a bit of a lactose or condensed milk note.  After all those years of bourbon sniffing it’s somehow foreign to me that corn based liquor actually smell like corn.  A light sip reveals this to be very gentle stuff, sweet with a bit of an almost agave note and a based something like kettle corn, which makes for quite easy drinking, if not mental taxing to interpret. The finish hangs on a bit longer than you’d expect for something with such soft flavors to begin with, and almost takes on a slightly darker hue—not quite caramel, but something close.  There’s basically no burn (to my admittedly fire-tempered constitution,) college girls rejoice.

The moonshine and white whiskey market shows no signs of slacking, at least in 2015, and probably not while camo, country music and Nascar continue to present a significant consumer sector.  While I’ll admit, for the most part, I’m rather dismissive of this market as a whole, I think that Platte Valley is on the right track here.  For $16 you can have a few drinks, that have even met a barrel, and get to keep a cool ceramic jug afterwords. My advice, I think Platte Valley would do better off to ditch the moonshine label and keep it what it is, straight corn whiskey, which is a market I would like to see some growth and development in.  With the right amount of interest, and some solid effort, I could see there being some real breakout “straight corn whiskey” in our future.