Tag Archives: FEW Rye

Blind Bourbon Tasting July 4th 2018

It seemed like a good idea.

An opportunity to taste without prejudice. To judge all equally without bias to distillery of origin or mash bill. To savour  & enjoy new tastes & styles in a manner echoing the ethos of the Declaration Of Independence written all those years ago.

Yet the Midlands masses were not moved and on the day there were more whiskey expressions on offer than punters to drink them.

Ah well. All the more for those that did attend.

I tried to put together a flight of whiskeys that represented as many different styles of American bourbon – to compare & contrast – within the limitations of what was readily available in Ireland.

To kick off with – a pair of entry level bourbons showed that even within the same category there were differences of taste & flavour.

To be labelled ‘bourbon’ under American rules means a minimum of 51% corn used in the mash bill. The mash bill is the ratio of grains used to make the whiskey – usually made up of the big 4; corn, wheat, rye & barley.

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Clarke’s 1866 Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

I twinned an Aldi own brand  Clarke’s 1866 Old Kentucky Straight Sour Mash Whiskey with a market leading Jack Daniel’s Old No.7 Tennessee Sour Mash Whiskey. Most preferred the Jack – although Clarke’s wasn’t far behind.

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Jack Old No. 7 c/othewhiskeynut

Considering one is twice the price of the other – it just goes to show you can get a decent pour of a fairly standard bourbon at an affordable cost if you’re prepared to shop around.

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FEW Rye c/othewhiskeynut

The next pour moved up a level both in terms of cost and flavour – FEW Rye Whiskey. All agreed this was a far more complex, definitely a different style and a far more satisfying whiskey. The spicy rye dominated the palate yet was balanced by the sweet corn element in the mash bill.

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Brothership Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

The rye presence continued into the Brothership Irish – American Whiskey. A collaboration between Connacht Distillery in Ballina and New Liberty Distillery in Philly. It’s a blend of 10 year old Irish Single Malt & a 10 year old American Rye. A lighter & smoother start than the previous pours – all picked out the Irish malt influence – yet joyfully morphed into a lovely drying peppery spice at the end. You can pick out the 2 different styles within the same glass and marvel at how they both compliment each other in the final mix. Fabulous.

I was very much looking forward to the next bourbon.

A representative at Hi-Spirits Ireland – a distribution company handling the Sazerac, Buffalo Trace portfolio – reached out to donate some liquid for the Blind Tasting. Much appreciated.

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Barton 1792 full collapse c/oCourier-Journal

The bottle in question also happened to hail from the Barton 1792 Distillery which recently suffered a rickhouse collapse causing much loss of bourbon & property. Although thankfully no injuries.

1792 Small Batch Bourbon.

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1792 Small Batch Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Again – much like the Brothership – this was a whiskey in 2 halves.

To begin with a rich, deep vanilla & burnt caramel coated the mouth leading you into a drier, cinnamon spice rye body which finished in a delightfully playful prickly heat. This ‘high rye’ bourbon pleased all present – although there was no clear overall winner on the night before the bottles were revealed. Beautiful bourbon indeed.

The final offering was more of a fun product.

Buffalo Trace White Dog Rye Mash.

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Buffalo Trace White Dog c/othewhiskeynut

This is the American equivalent of Irish Poitin. Raw un-aged whiskey.

At 62.5% this White Dog certainly packed a punch – yet was extremely palatable & very enjoyable. That familiar – slightly sour – new make nose, the oiliness on first tasting proceeding to a soft dry rye spice rounded the evening off with a bang.

Sláinte.

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My thanks to Sean’s Bar Athlone for hosting the event.

Thanks also to Hi-Spirits Ireland for the kind donation of some fabulous bottles.

If you are interested in sampling any of the above contact either Whiskey Nut –  westmeathwhiskeyworld@eircom.net – or Sean’s Bar itself – to arrange.

 

Rye For 4th of July

Rye is seen as a quintessentially American style of whiskey often associated with pre-prohibition days. But like a lot of things in America – I’d argue it’s an immigrant from the old country.

There is a long tradition of growing rye in Northern European countries. This grain has found it’s way into many breads, beers, cereals and of course – whiskey.

The current growing demand for rye in whiskey terms has precipitated countries not normally associated with rye whiskey to begin to explore the market.

My small selection of 4 ryes – well a loose interpretation of that style – reflects this.

I’ll let The Presidents of the United States of America have their say first.

Peaches. A colloquial term used to describe a close & good friend.

Rye whiskey is definitely a close friend of mine!

That rich, warm dry spiciness with a long finish is  what I’m looking for & elevates rye to being a peach among whiskey styles in my book.

Real peaches come in a can – as the song goes – but rye comes in a bottle. Let me introduce you to my 4 bottles.

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PrizeFight c/othewhiskeynut

Ireland; PrizeFight Whiskey, 43% NAS, blend

Produced by West Cork Distillers for a 3rd party – this whiskey is a blend of Irish single malts & grain whiskey aged in ex-bourbon barrels before being finished in ex-rye casks from Tamworth Distilling, NH.

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Brothership Whiskey c/othewhiskeynut

Ireland/America; Brothership Whiskey, 45%, 10yo, blend.

A blend of 10 year old Irish single malt & 10 year old American rye this is truly a trans-atlantic whiskey. A collaboration of Connacht Whiskey Co & New Liberty Distillery PA.

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Sunken Still Rye c/othewhiskeynut

Belgium; Sunken Still Rye, 45% 4yo.

Yes that’s right – a Belgian Rye Whiskey produced with predominately Belgian rye grain in ex-bourbon barrels for 4 years by the Filliers Distillery.

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FEW Rye c/othewhiskeynut

USA; FEW Rye, 46.5%, NAS.

An American rye whiskey made with predominately american rye grain in charred virgin oak barrels by the FEW Distillery, Evanstown, Chicago.

Colour

I like to see a variation in the colour of the whiskeys I drink. It foretells of the different smells, flavours & overall drinking experiences to be enjoyed.

FEW came out the darkest – reflecting the use of charred virgin oak casks. There was a jump down then to the paler duo of PrizeFight  & Brothership with Sunken Still  coming in with an almost pale yellowy hue.

 

Nose

Brothership kicks off with a soft barley sweetness before developing muted rye spice. PrizeFight comes across with a more fresher, clearer nose & an equally enjoyable spice. Sunken Still has a wonderfully aromatic floral bouquet whilst FEW delivers a classic peppery rye punch.

Taste

The soft smooth delivery of Brothership quickly develops into a lovely rich dry spice. PrizeFight has a cleaner palate with a slightly less intense rye spice.

Meanwhile the Sunken Still’s fragrant bouquet flows through into a wonderful cornucopia of taste on the tongue with a rich dry spice that is simply divine. Beautiful.

The FEW doesn’t disappoint either. To start there is that caramel/vanilla bourbon like feel followed by an almost classic rich peppery spice that tingles & teases as it drys the palate.

Finish

PrizeFight’s lovely spice fades slowly, only marginally beaten by the warmer, drier spice of  Brothership. FEW lasts the longest whilst Sunken Still manages that dry floral spice right to the end.

Overall

What stands out to me is that whilst having no rye grain in the original mix – the rich dry spicy notes of a decent rye whiskey still come through in the PrizeFight whiskey simply by it’s time in the ex-rye casks. It may lack the overall dry mouthfeel of a true rye – but it certainly makes a worthy addition to the rye cannon.

Brothership benefits by the addition of a real rye whiskey in the mix which heightens the rich dry rye spiciness on both the taste & finish which is not initially apparent on the sweet barely nose.

The FEW could almost set the benchmark of what a good rye whiskey should be. A straight forward crisp peppery spice with a marvelously long dry finish. Superb.

Sunken Still adds something extra to that dry spice by giving it a floral display of flavours.

Scores

For taking rye whiskey the extra mile – Sunken Still from Belgium comes out tops in this taste-off.

FEW from America comes in a close second

The Irish-American hybrid that is Brothership follows closely behind – leaving Ireland’s PrizeFight bringing up the rear.

I would commend PrizeFight for being able to hold it’s own among such worthy competition in that they all contain rye in their original mix.

It just goes to prove the powerful influence the maturation in wood has to the overall taste.

You pays yer money – and you takes yer choices!

Sláinte.

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Bourbons for 4th July

Seeing as it’s Independence Day in America – and by a little twist of fate Britain also recently voted for it’s ‘Independence’ regarding the Brexit split from the European Union – I thought I’d celebrate/drown my sorrows – nothing like sitting on the fence on tricky subjects –  by opening a few bottles of bourbon to try out the contents.

America is the biggest export market for Irish whiskey. In return we get the used bourbon barrels to mature yet more whiskey in – as well as easy availability of famous bourbon brands in our pubs and off-licences.

Now bourbon has a whole set of rules and regulations – like Irish Whiskey – which define how it’s made  – matured and that all important mash bill – but I’l leave The Whisky Exchange blog here to explain all that.

To get the ball rolling I’ve started with the iconic Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 from Tennesse.

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Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 c/othewhiskeynut

I did think of using a Bruce Springsteen track to accompany this blog – but given revelations from Jack Daniel’s  themselves – perhaps Donna Summer is more appropriate?

Despite Jack being one of the biggest brands out there – I must admit to not liking it.

The combination of sticky sweet notes from the corn element together with a rough finish probably from the shorter maturation period leaves my palate a little strained. I can see why it’s usually drunk as a mixer rather than my preferred option of neat.

Undeterred I moved on.

Clarke’s Old Kentucky Straight Sour Mash Bourbon is a budget brand courtesy of the supermarket chain Aldi.

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Clarke’s 1866 Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Surprisingly this brand warmed to me as the initial sweetness evolved into a lovely soft spiciness which pleasingly lingered on the tongue to give a long finish.

Given that Aldi sourced this bourbon from an unknown Kentucky distillery – there is no Clarke from 1866 – they’ve done a pretty fine job in my book. It’s also won some awards too – so don’t just take my word.

To be fair to other supermarket brands – and on the strength of Clarke’s Bourbon – I purchased Tesco’s budget bourbon by the name of Old Samuel.

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Old Samuel c/othewhiskeynut

Billing itself as ‘Aged Kentucky Style Blended Bourbon’ the label also declares

‘Product of the USA. Blended and bottled in the Netherlands’

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International Bourbon c/othewhiskeynut

Intrigued I checked out the bottler and uncovered Toorank – a Dutch distilling company which does a successful business importing bulk bourbon from USA – along with whiskey from Ireland and Scotland – to blend for third party customers.

My bottle has been open for sometime now and is going down fast as once again I found this an easy bourbon to consume. Not too sweet, a smooth body and pleasant finish.

My final choice was bought from a well known internet whiskey site by the name of Flavair. Knowing my palate enjoys the more robust flavours and less sweet notes normally found in rye whiskey – I took advantage of an offer on FEW Rye Whiskey.

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FEW Rye c/othewhiskeynut

Bottled at 46.5% as opposed to the 40% of the others – this expression also bills itself as ‘handcrafted and small batched’ and hails from Chicago.

An initial sweetness soon gave way to a powerful spicy rye punch and a lingering dryness on the palate. Now this is more my thing!

Given a choice – I’d always go for a rye first. All of the admittedly very limited selection I’ve tasted so far suit my palate better than even the best bourbons.

It should come as no surprise then that FEW Rye comes out tops in my Independence Day tasting session.

Jack Daniel’s  I’m afraid flunks – to use an American phrase.

Whilst in the budget bourbon category Clarke’s comes in second because of it’s soft spice followed closely behind by Old Samuel.

As regards pricing. Both Clarke’s and Old Samuel came in at 16 euro. Jack Daniel’s can be got from 25 whilst FEW starts at 70 – when you can get hold of it.

Clarke’s Bourbon wins as the best buy.

So there you go.

I thoroughly enjoyed my exploration into american bourbons.

Enjoy your 4th July – and remember – don’t drink too much.

Enjoy the tastes – flavours and good company – not the hangover.

Slainte.

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