Thursday, April 11, 2024

Two James Spirits Johnny Smoking Gun Blended Whiskey

 

Two James Spirits Johnny Smoking Gun Blended Whiskey


We're not going to lie.  We know that a perk of this project is the ability to taste unique and extraordinary spirits that we may not be introduced otherwise.  The Johnny Smoking Gun Blended Whiskey from Two James Spirits out of Detroit, Michigan is just one of those cases.  

The distillery's founder, Dave Landrum, pays homage to two important men in his life who also bear the namesake of the brand.  Both named James (father and grandfather), left a positive mark on those around them by the love they showed for their communities and the passsion for life, among other things.  Dave is no stranger to the food and beverage world.  He is a mixologist, sommerlier and self-proclaimed spirits snob who wanted to carve his own path by creating a brand he could call his own.

Two James Spirits is deeply rooted and excited about their Corktown, Detroit community.  While being environmentally conscious, they also corn and grain locally in Michigan, maintaing not only more control of the overall process, but also supporting local family farms.

To say Johnny Smoking Gun is riddled with individuality would be a huge understatement.  The packaging and label are both on point and really stand out.  We have always exlcaimed that you need to start with good packaging.  Aged at least 2 years, this 87 proof blended whiskey is proofed down with Japanese tea.  Yes, you read that right.  Japanese tea.  We really didn't know what to expect with this but were very eager to taste it.  We popped this and tasted it neat (and later tasted it with some time in the glass).

On the nose initially were aromas of dried earth, butter cream frosting, lemon and corn casserole.  We've decided after tasting this we are going to skip the casserole for the holidays this year and serve JSG!  The first taste was a real eye opener (literally) with green tea, frosting, faint smoke and a treasure trove of aromas you would pick up at a Hallmark store.   That may sound extreme, but we all know what that feels like.  This is a tasty beast that finishes with a buttery and herbacious blend that draws you back for the next sip.

We generally never taste spirits with food.  It's just not our thing for the most part.  But I'm going to tell you that I had a few sips of Johnny Smoking Gun last night with beef arm roast, carrots and potatoes and the pairing was just remarkable.  If you're looking for something outside of the standard whiskey or bourbon on a lower proof side, give the Two James Distillery a try with this bottle!


Mutt and Jeff explore Johnny Smoking Gun on YouTube

ABV:  43.5% (87.0 proof)

Distillery:  Two James Distillery

Suggested retail price:  $49.96

Drink The Bottles score:  90/100


Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Watershed Straight Bourbon Whiskey

 

Watershed Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Everyone probably knows by now that bourbon is distilled in all 50 states in the US.  One perk we have with this passion project is discovering new-to-us distilleries and connecting with the folks who truly love what they do.  We accidentally ran across Watershed Distillery and now they are popping up everywhere we look online.  A fifteen minute phone call with a representative from Watershed made us instantly feel like part of the family and we couldn't be more excited to talk about this bottle.

The Watershed Distillery Straight Bourbon Whiskey is a 4 year-old offering, coming in at 90 proof.  Yes, of course most distilleries offer a lower proof bourbon, but let us share with you what makes this bottle one to put on your radar.  This mash bill is 72% corn, 21% rye and 7% malt, showing the sweeter nose and cookie taste with just a touch of peppery goodness on the finish.  Brunette liquid in the bottle with a boquet of sweet butter, ginger, cinnamon and mahogany leather really lifts your spirit immediately.  After some time in the glass we are introduced to vanilla and breakfast cereal.  Tasted neat, as always.  

There's a medium mouthfeel that covers you with cinnamon stick, sugary churro, vanilla and wisps of oak.  It's not incredibly complex, but we really like this "regular release" bottle.  The finish keeps you interested and pulls you back in for another taste.  This is definitely an every day bourbon that you can enjoy because of the taste, the proof and the price!

Watershed Distillery creates not only this bourbon, but also many limited releases as well gin and vodka.  Started in 2010 by a couple of friends, this Columbus, Ohio staple has grown and grown again.  They even offer a full service bar and kitchen!  We are only a couple of hours away from Watershed and we look forward to visiting with them this summer.  Our local bourbon club is considering a barrel pick with them and we personally will highly recommend it!  One thing to note:  The Watershed Straight Bourbon Whiskey is available only OUTSIDE of Ohio!  So, don't go visiting and giving them heck about not being able to pick up a bottle.  The good news?  They are really ramping up their distribution network, so keep checking your favorite stores to find this one.

Watershed Distillery Straight Bourbon Whiskey Label

ABV:  45.0% (90.0 proof)

Distillery:  Watershed Distillery

Suggested retail price:  $39.99

Drink The Bottles score:  90/100



Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Driftless Glen Straight Bourbon Whiskey

 

Driftless Glen Straight Bourbon Whiskey

This bottle surprised us.  That might be an understatement.  This bottle kind of knocked our socks off.  Who knew that such a delicious bourbon would come from the banks of the Baraboo River in Wisconsin?  Today we want to introduce you to the Driftless Glen Straight Bourbon Whiskey - Small Batch #73.  This is a bourbon like nothing we have ever tasted.   After our tasting and note-writing, we did some investigating and we truly believe that the unique wand-filtered water along with a natural concentration of limestone set a solid and distinctive base to this spirit.

Driftless Glen sources all of their grains from the Midwest and they use a 44 foot column still and a pot still to produce truly unique, mellow flavors.  The flavor extraction they get from both their distillation and aging process are impressive and welcoming.

If you're a lower proof (sub 100) drinker, this bottle checks off all of the boxes:  Aromas, flavor profile, soft finish, color.  We tasted this neat in a Glencairn glass immediately after we popped the cork, so there was no "air time" to speak of here initially.  This bottle has a gorgeous walnut color.  Initial aromas of maple, caramel and a soft minerality introduce themselves.  A bit of a swirl and a second sniff presented some wonderful citrus aromas and Jeff likened these to Smarties candy.  (FYI, Smarties is his favorite non-chocolate candy).

The first sip brought over the citrus, caramel and hard candy flavors.  This soft and memorable finish showed off some maple and brighter fruit flavors with a touch of spice.  There was absolutely no burn to this bottle and it is one that we suspect would be equally enjoyable with a single small ice cube.  This was small batch #73 and I wish we could have tasted some previous batches to see if the flavors were similar to this bottle.  I'm sure they were all delicious.  This bottle is a huge winner in our book and we highly recommend you check out Driftless Glen.  If we get an opportunity to share more selections from DG, you'll see them here.

Check out our YouTube video on this bottle!


ABV:  48.0% (96 proof)

Distillery:  Driftless Glen

Suggested retail price:  $49.95

Drink The Bottles score:  92/100



Monday, March 11, 2024

Holladay Soft Red Wheat Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon

 

Holladay Soft Red Wheat Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon

We were actually introduced to Holladay Distillery through a YouTube video a few months back.  We're always out looking for new bottles to pop and share and this one definitely caught our eye.  The Holladay Soft Red Wheat Bottled-In-Bond from Missouri has been getting great press lately so we wanted to see what all of the hubbub was about.

Most folks know in order for a bourbon to be labeled "Bottled-In-Bond" that it must be aged for 4 or more years in a federally bonded warehouse (hence the name), bottled at 100 proof where it was distilled and produced in a single season.  But......  Did you know that in this particular case, this brown water is aged more than six years?  In addition, Missouri law requires that bourbon must be mashed, fermented, distilled, aged and bottled in Missouri in order for it to have the "Missouri" label on it?  What really impresses us about this is the law was updated in 2020 for all corn to be grown in Missouri as well.  Keep in mind, going forward, that the Show Me State is taking things very seriously with bourbon by showcasing the the talents and determination from their distilleries.

The Soft Red Wheat has a mash bill of primarily corn.  Wheat and barley round out the grains and no rye is present here.  Red wheat in particular tends to present a sweeter aroma and taste in the glass, which is exactly what we picked up when tasting this bottle neat.

The majority of the whiskey from each of the Soft Red Wheat releases has historically come from Floor 4 of the rickhouse.  That seems to be the sweet spot and the distiller has honed in on what's really working here.  Here's what we think....

Medium chestnut color in the glass.  You get cinnamon stick, honey, baking spices and strawberry cheesecake for the initial aromas.  Some swirling and time in the glass (that's always the hard part!) throw homemade caramel and red fruits at you as well.  The mouth-watering aromas are justitified at first sip.  Strawberry preserves, honey, cinnamon, fresh baked biscuits and cherry candy are dominant.  There's a very welcoming and surprising mint leaf component that shows up with some cocoa powder towards the mid palate to finish.  

We think that this bottle lives up to every accolade that is published about it.  And we will be so bold to say that we think this gives Weller Antique a very hard run for the money!  This is a bottle that you want to have a back up in place in your bar and then a back up for the back up bottle!  If you're a wheater fan, we have no doubt that this is going to be a pleaser for your palate.  We love what Holladay is doing and where they are going.  This is definitely a brand to keep on your radar and you'll want to snatch up whatever they produce because if this bottle is any clue of the deliciousness they are producing, they are creating another footprint in their long legacy.

Holladay Soft Red Wheat Bottled-In-Bond Bourbon Open


ABV:  50.0% (100.0 proof)

Distillery:  Holladay Distillery

Suggested retail price:  $59.99

Drink The Bottles score:  92/100


Thursday, March 7, 2024

Ironton Distillery Colorado Straight Bourbon Whiskey

 

Ironton Distillery Colorado Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Did you know there are approximately 750 whiskey and bourbon distilleries in operation in the US?  Did you know that not all great distilled spirits come from central Kentucky?  We did and today we are sharing one of those with you.  We're tasting and sharing the Ironton Distillery Colorado Straight Bourbon today and we are thrilled to have connected with these folks.  The female leadership team of Kallyn Romero (co-owner) and Laura Walters (head distiller) is making their mark in the Colorado distilled spirits scene by offering up a nice selection of lower proof whiskey from their core portfolio, but also throwing in some cask strength bourbon, a single malt finished in a coffee cask and then gin, rum and other goodies.  For distilling only since 2018, they have been cranking out some quality products that will surely continue to foot their footprint in the "brown water" world.

With Romero's entrepreneurial knack and Walters' previous experience in the wine and whiskey world, we have no doubt that this team will continue to grow, create and share the goodness that is all things Ironton.  We love what they're doing and where they are going!

The current offering of Colorado Straight Bourbon Whiskey from Ironton comes in at a very sippable and approachable proof that makes it super easy for all experience levels to enjoy.  While the mashbill is unknown, we can tell you that consists of blue heirloom corn, barley, rye and red wheat.  Aged at least 2 years, the charred oak barrels create a beautiful carmel color and sweet nose of vanilla bean, honey and roasted pecan.  The palate is guided by orange and fig cake initially.  A couple sips in are reminiscent of candy corn and hot Spanish peanuts, finishing with red fruits, sweet nutmeg and a touch of cinnamon candy.  The sweet and nutty flavors likely are pulled from the blue corn and that provides a very unique experience that is a refreshing spin on bourbon.  

While we are starting to see more distilleries west of the Mississippi used blue corn, this one will be a stand out for us as a new and lovely experience.  This was tasted three ways - neat, with a couple of drops of water and then with food.  While we don't normally sip whiskey with food (it just isn't our thing), we found that this bottle paired really well with smoked turkey sausage and fried green beans.  This bourbon really connected with food!

This first bottle from Ironton Distillery and Crafthouse in Denver, CO is a winner in our books.  Without knowing how many barrels they have resting, we are hoping (fingers crossed) that they are keeping several on the racks so we can taste some 4 and 6 year whiskies in the future.  We like what this distillery is doing and we will be keeping tabs on them.  If you're in the Denver area, stop by and check them out!

Ironton Distillery Bourbon Whiskey back of bottle

ABV:  43.0% (86.0 proof)

Distillery:  Ironton Distillery & Crafthouse

Suggested retail price:  $65.00

Drink The Bottles score:  89/100








Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Barrell Craft Spirits Dovetail

Barrell Craft Spirits Dovetail Whiskey

We could not be more excited for an opportunity to sample and share with you the Dovetail finished whiskey from Barrell Craft Spirits.  We have been a BCS fan for sometime, polishing off a few bottles of their Seagrass Rye and other offerings over the last year.  Tasted from sample, this offering of Dovetail comes in at 124.7 proof but does not drink hot at all.  The fact that it was finished in rum, port wine and Cabernet Sauvignon barrels from Dunn Vineyards really adds some incredible finesse and flavors to this lovely and aromatic whiskey.

On the nose is a soul-searching saddle leather aroma, followed by slight pepper, campfire smoke and sweet yellow fruits.  There are hints of that lovely limestone or wet rock aromas that peak through as well.  It's a medium chestnut color and we think if we had added a couple drops of water, the dark cholocate flavors would have made an entrance.  We tasted this neat and there was sweet ripe mango, tobacco smoke, herbs and peppercorn on the palate.  This lovely whiskey stays with you to the very end, providing a finish that is long and it calls you back like a siren of the sea.

Is this a keeper?  You bet!  We have never had a bottle of anything from BCS where our reaction was, "Ehh, it's ok".  They have all been winners and they don't last long around here.  This one is right in line with the quality and expert blending that you expect from Joe Beatrice, Tripp Stinson and Nic Chistiansen.   Absolutely delicious.




ABV:  62.35% (124.7 proof)

Distillery:  Barrell Craft Spirits

Suggested retail price:  $79.99

Drink The Bottles score:  94/100




 

Monday, February 12, 2024

Green River Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey

Green River Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey


Green River Distilling Company recently expanded their offering by releasing their first ever Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey.  This 95 proof bottle joins their previously-released and very successful bourbons.  This whiskey is a blend from four to six year barrels and has a mash bill of 95% rye and 5% malted barley.   In the bottle is a bright mahogany colored whiskey with a nose that includes red fruit, mint and baked biscuits.  This is a very easy sipper and will appeal to devoted rye whiskey enthusiasts as they taste  black tea, hints of spice, Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal and maple candy.  After a few days opened, we kept going back to this bottle and we're picking up more citrus on the nose and fruit on the palate.  This might be one of the best rye whiskeys we have tasted in months!

This bottle is another fine example that whiskey doesn't have to be expensive to be good and that it doesn't have to age for 10+ years to have mass appeal.  Green River Distilling Company is the 10th oldest licensed distillery in Kentucky (DSP-KY-10) and they are owned by Bardstown Bourbon Company.  This latest addition to their also means that GRDC is expanding their distribution markets and they will be in 34 states.  In the coming years Green River anticipates nationwide distribution in addition to their Australian exports.

We should note that this whiskey was tasted neat and then again with one small ice cube.  We are guessing that this one would also be fine in an Old Fashioned, so if you go that route, you'll have to let us know.  This rye whiskey from Green River Distlling Company is a winner in our book and we can't wait to see what future releases are in store for the whiskey community!

Check out our YouTube review of this incredible Rye!



ABV:  47.5% (95 proof)

Distillery:  Green River Distilling Company

Suggested retail price:  $34.99

Drink The Bottles score:  93+/100

Tuesday, January 23, 2024

Traveller Whiskey (Blended)

 

Traveller Whiskey

What does a country music superstar and one of the world's most famous distilleries have in common?  Well, let's find out!  Right out of the gate, we're going to tell you that we were surprised that this wasn't a marriage between the 8-time Grammy winner and Jack Daniel's, but we'll get to that later.

Chris Stapleton has teamed up with Buffalo Trace Master Distiller Harlen Wheatley to offer this first-of-a-kind blended whiskey with a celebrity association from the Frankfort, KY landmark.  Gimmick?  Genius marketing?  When this bottle was released just a few weeks ago we heard comments all over the board.  Most whiskey enthusiasts were skeptical, but admittedly, they "had" to have that bottle.....or three.  Some people cried foul and said this was all a poor attempt at boosting sales for both the country crooner and the distillery.

If you know anything about either one, you quickly realize that they don't need to boost their sales.  Both parties are doing just fine.  Stapleton has a net worth of about $25 million and climbing.  Buffalo Trace invested $1.2 billion into their expansion in order to keep up with demand.  So, you can debunk the sales boosting theory.

While many country music fans welcomed the collaboriation between the two brands, some questioned why Stapleton, who is admittedly now sober, would add his name to the bottle.  Well, back up a second.  Stapleton recently told Rolling Stone that while he isn't exactly sober, he has cut back on his drinking.  The miscommunication was from a previous interview last year, but "CS" admits that he does enjoy drinking alcohol (he has about 200 bottles of bourbon at home), but not to the volume he used to in younger years.

We love Buffalo Trace.  We really, really enjoy all of their products that we have tasted to date.  When we heard that Harlen Wheatley and Chris Stapleton had joined forces to marry a bottle of blended whiskey, we were pretty excited about the opportunity to find and taste this one.  We really thought that Jack Daniel's would have snagged Stapleton first, especially with his remake of the hit song, "Tennessee Whiskey".  But......we're not mad!  Stapleton had been approached by distilleries and brands before, but the joint effor with BT felt right.

So let's talk about Traveller Whiskey.  Over 50 whiskey blends were sampled and number 40 was the winner and what made it to the bottle.  While the mash bills, age statement and specific sources are under wraps, Buffalo Trace says that this blend is from "award winning distilleries".  This was blended and bottled at the Frankfort distillery.  The bottle features a roadmap of the back woods and the liquid inside is a gorgeous light to medium brown.  Once you pop the cork you're going to love the abundant aromas of vanilla extract, ooey gooey butter cake and carmel syrup.  The nose is definitely on the sweeter side, and that carries over to the first flavors you experience with that intital sip.  Lightly salted nuts and kitchen spices finish this out with a somewhat short finish.  

Almost immediately after Traveller Whiskey was released, we saw several 'taters' flipping these bottles on the secondary market for upwards of $150 per bottle.  Take our advice and don't pay that for this bottle.  Is it one worth having in your whiskey library to share and talk about with friends?  Sure.  Is it worth an inflated secondary price?  Not in our opinion.

No matter what your opinion is of this bottle, we can all agree that it is getting harder to find, is on the minds of collectors and enthusiasts alike, and it has created some buzz in the whiskey world.  Selfishly, we would love to see more artistic collaborations between Buffalo Trace and other music superstars, but that remains to be seen.  Cheers!

Traveller Whiskey Bottle Detail


ABV:  45% (90 proof)

Distillery:  Buffalo Trace

Suggested Retail Price:  $39.99

Drink The Bottles score:  85/100


Tuesday, January 9, 2024

NV Harvester Cabernet Sauvignon

 

NV Harvester Cabernet Sauvignon

This wine is another testament from the pulpit where we continually exclaim that not all wine has to be expensive to be good.  This is a non-vintage Harvester Cabernet Sauvignon from Austin Hope Winery.  Non-vintage generally eludes that this wine is a blend of several vineyards and vintages and the production is on the higher side.  That not only means that this wine is readily available, but it is also affordable.  We originally tasted this bottle at a local wine shop and while it didn't mirror the $100 Ghost Block that we tasted, it certainly held its own.

This wine is from Paso Robles and has a pleasant, medium-dark purple color.  The aromas are on the brighter side of red fruits and baked pastry, followed by notes of allspice and vanilla.  On the palate is a plesant and sleek flavor profile of cherry, plum, spices and vanilla.  The wine doesn't linger but the finish is satisfying and this is certainly a wine that would pair well with barbeque or stuffed peppers.  

When you're having one of those nights that you want a solid Cabernet Sauvignon, but you don't want to pluck a $200 bottle out of your cellar, reach for this one!  This would be a solid wine to serve at an informal get together as well.  Enjoy!

NV Harvester Cabernet Sauvignon label

ABV:  13.5%

Winery:  Austin Hope Winery

Suggested retail price:  $19.99

Drink The Bottles score:  88/100





Wednesday, January 3, 2024

J Rieger's Kansas City Whiskey

 

J Rieger's Kansas City Whiskey

There has been a buzz online for several months about J Rieger's whiskey offerings.  Admittedly, we weren't familiar, but the excitement was growing both locally and across the country since they released their first bottle about 20 months ago.  Well, it's not their first, but there was that pesky Prohibition that go in the way.  It only takes a spark to get a fire going, right?  When we came across this bottle of J Rieger's Kansas City Whiskey at a local liquor store, we snatched it up.  In fact, it was the last bottle on the shelf and it has been difficult to find since that time.  Why?  Well, let us tell you!

This is a blended whiskey, coming at 92 proof.  The blend includes straight rye whiskey, straight bourbon whiskey and light corn whiskey - all aged 4 years or more.  But there's also the smallest amount of oloroso sherry from spain (15 year) that is introduced to the blend to create a unique and welcoming flavor profile.  In fact, whether you are a sherry fan or not, you pick up on that decadent and rich buterscotch aroma at first pour.  Dried fig, dark chocolate morsels, candied almonds and allspice swirl around in your mouth, providing you with a solid and mildly spicy finish.  

We paid only $29.99 for this bottle of whiskey and it is an absolute winner!  The price generally ranges from $24.99 to $35.99, depending on your location.  Currently, Rieger's is distributed in 28 states and I'm guessing they will be expanding more in the upcoming year.  Available in 375ml, 750ml and 1.75L bottles.  J Rieger has a fascinating and long history, dating back well before Prohibition.  But in current day, they have been "back in business" since 2014.  Their first release, Bottled in Bond Straight Rye, was released in August of 2021 and they haven't looked back since.  We can't wait to see what is in store for this delicious and proud brand.

ABV:  46% (92 proof)

Distillery:  J. Rieger & Co.

Suggested retail price:  $29.99

Drink The Bottles score:  92/100



Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Russell's Reserve 13 Year Old Bourbon

 

Russell's Reserve 13 Year Old Bourbon

Just over a year ago I had the opportunity to taste Russell's Reserve 13 Year Old Bourbon for the first time.  A friend of mine had picked up a bottle locally for $107 (MSRP at the time was $99) and surprised me with a taste.  He knew, at the time, that this was on my top-10 "wish list" so I was ecstatic to have this opportunity.  We later discovered that he had Batch 2 of this limited release bourbon from Wild Turkey Distillery.

The mash bill on this is 75% corn, 13% rye and 12% malted barley and it comes in just under 115 proof (114.8).  The initial nose was on the sweeter side with cinnamon toast, apple pie and baking spices at the forefront.  Admittedly, we didn't really let this one sit very long which was a mistake in hindsight.  In the mouth was a fruity and leathery blend of whiskey that brought to light more complexity with cracked pepper, cherry pie and maple towards the mid palate.  The 13 year oak helps frame this bourbon, bringing back the leather and sweeter flavors.  This is a great example of expert bourbon creation from the Russell men.  

The new MSRP on the latest release of Russell's Reserve 13 Year is $149.  While I would (and have) paid $149 for that bottle, I honestly think that the better bang for your buck is to find a Russell's Reserve Single Barrel Private Barrel Selection.  Nearly every one of those that I have tasted are as equally amazing as the RR 13 and you only lose a few proof points.  Don't get me wrong.  If I see one of these in the wild and not at secondary prices, I'm picking it up.  

ABV:  57.4% (114.8 proof)

Distillery:  Wild Turkey

Suggested retail price:  $99 (currently $149)

Drink The Bottles score:  91/100

Two James Spirits Johnny Smoking Gun Blended Whiskey

  We're not going to lie.  We know that a perk of this project is the ability to taste unique and extraordinary spirits that we may not ...