- On March 4, 2016
The highly successful MN Craft Spirits Sale has reached its conclusion, but fret not! The Spring Whisk(e)y Sale is in full effect. Everything feels shiny and brand new. We thought we’d take this opportunity to showcase a few products that are near and dear to our hearts in the hopes that they’ll become a favorite of yours too! Per usual for us, there’s some familiar territory to be covered, as well as some oddballs and the unexpected.
We’ll start with the straightforward pick first: Old Forester Signature. Old Forester is one of the few distilleries that operated through prohibition distilling “medicinal whiskey” making their spirit officially the longest continually produced bourbon. It was first bottled and marketed in 1870 by George Garvin Brown (one of the founders of the now enormous Brown-Forman spirits company). It was actually the FIRST whiskey sold specifically in bottles. Others at the time would sell by volume in whatever container a consumer would bring with them. The rectifiers that were widespread throughout the nation would purchase spirit from a distillery, either aged or new-make, and then sell it under their own brand. This lead to the inclusion of lesser spirits, additives and adulterants that made the liquid both sub-par, generally, and possibly harmful. It was initially sold in pharmacies as medicine (HA!) and has been the workhorse bourbon for Brown-Forman ever since. Honey barrels of Old Forester are the base for Woodford Reserve, with the inclusion of some distillate produced at the Versailles facility. The whiskey has a pretty standard mash bill (72 corn/18 rye/ 10 malt) with just a pinch more rye than might be usual. Signature is a non-age statement bottling, but if we had to guess it would be the 5 year range. It is bottled at 100 proof, hearkening back to its Bottled in Bond roots, giving it extra oomph in cocktails. There is a definite sweetness on the nose, with demerara sugar and graham crackers leading the way. There is an inherent heat on the palate, and the demerara moves into a more burnt, caramel flavor with some spice from the rye backing it up. The finish is of medium length, with some of the wood rounding it out at the end. A classic home bar staple and something you can count on being a great utility player every time. ($24.99, on sale for $22.49)
Crossing the Northern border, we find one of those weirdo Canadians that is simply delightful: Alberta Rye Dark Batch. It’s complicated enough to require a flowchart and PowerPoint slides, but we’ll try to break it down a bit. It is officially labeled Canadian Blended Rye Whisky, but it’s a bit more complicated than that. The core of the whisky (91%) is rye-based distillate coming from the much lauded and under-represented Alberta Distillers (owned by Beam-Suntory). Half of THAT component is low proof, pot still rye aged for six years in new #4 char American Oak barrels and the other half is high proof, column still rye aged 12 years in used bourbons barrels. The combination of pot still rye and more neutral column still rye in Canadian whisky is commonplace, but disclosing the ratio and that ratio being 50-50 is not! Most Canadian whisky leans heavily on the more economical and neutral column still rye to give it its signature mellow quality. Moving on from that, they add in 8% Old Grand-Dad bourbon. Not only will that give it great flavor, but they actually get a tax break when selling this spirit back to the US because of its inclusion! The last 1%? We dare you to guess. Go on, throw something out there! Did you say sherry? Yeah, us neither! REAL Oloroso sherry too, not wine finished in a sherry barrel or any other such dodge. The color is a rich mahogany that we dare you not to fall in love with. The nose is fantastic and weird with coffee, toffee and baking spices. The body is surprisingly rich, oaky and dry. The sherry comes through with some dark fruit and nuttiness balanced by the sharp spiciness of the rye. The finish lingers with a bit of heat sticking around. ($29.99, on sale for $26.99)
There’s an unexpectedly delicious whisky coming out Japan that we just had to talk about. Everyone is clamoring for the single malts being produced by Nikka, Yamazaki and the others, but we have to say, the Nikka Coffey Grain is not one to be missed! Produced at the Miyagikyo distillery on two Coffey stills imported from Scotland in 1963, the whisky has a depth of flavor most modern grain whiskys simply can’t replicate. Mostly included in blended Scotch, grain whisky often gets a bad rap. Often times people think of it in the same breath as moonshine or low tier rotgut, but it can actually represent some of the most elegant, subtle and nuanced drams out there. Perhaps the best grain whiskey available (at least in the US), the Nikka Coffey Grain is very much a rocket headed in one direction. The flavors are straight forward and on point, but they are absolutely flawless. The initial vanilla and oak are very reminiscent of a light bourbon. The vanilla expands almost into a toffee milkshake on the palate, with a sprinkle of roasted nuts on top. There’s banana, cocoa, a light fruitiness. So. Much. Depth! We cannot recommend it highly enough, and cannot stop drinking it. Let’s hope the supply doesn’t run out on this one any time soon! ($52.99, on sale for $47.69)