Distractions, Diversions, Books, Wines, Whiskeys and Other Stuff To Think About When You Should Be Doing Something Else.

Posts tagged “Bourbon

On the Rocks: Backbone Bourbon

First an editorial digression:

As a purveyor of fine wines, spirits and beers it is not unusual to watch products get on the distribution merry-go-round; moving from one supplier to another. I honestly feel very bad when I see my distributor’s salespeople hustle to get a new product on the shelf and build up a base of sales only to have it jump ship and watch another salesperson reap the long-term commissions on the repeat sales. This is especially true of my smaller, boutique, distributors. These guys don’t put their products in Wal-mart, the grocery store or the corner gas station. They build them in stores like mine, and I am very grateful for that. Unfortunately, they often see their products go to larger distributors once they are established and rarely see established products come back their way.  I couldn’t run my stores without the blue-chip products of the bigger suppliers, but to be honest it is the small distributors that make my stores thrive. They are the guys who bring the newest stuff that nobody has ever heard of. They keep things interesting and for that I thank them.

Remember that when you are shopping in your local mega-mart. The reason they don’t have anything you’ve never seen before is they don’t deal with the small, boutique, suppliers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with Kendall Jackson or Jack Daniels. I sell lots of the both of them. But without the small labels and small production offerings of a real fine-bottle retailer who deals with the smallest of distributors, you are missing out on the newest, most exciting and adventurous products on the market.

Backbone Bourbon - Uncut

Backbone Bourbon – Uncut

Batch #01
70% corn, 25% rye, 5% malted barley

Backbone Bourbon is an uncut whiskey aged less than four years, bottled especially for Crossroad Vintners (meaning it will never fly away to another distributor). You may have never heard of it, and you may never see it unless you happen to be in my neck of the woods at a bar, restaurant or store that sells products that are new, different and delicious.

From the label:
“Backbone Bourbon is a true uncut whiskey that is meant to be sipped and savored. The quality of this bourbon comes from its youthful vigor and the purity of tasting a barrel strength whiskey (where no water has been added to dilute the experience). We have left the backbone in this bourbon. The name is also a tribute to the strength of character that is found in the people of Midwest America.”

Backbone’s nose is a nicely balanced citrus/wood collaboration with orange zest and vanilla spicing the aroma of baked pie crust. It has a nice, creamy mouthfeel, rich and earthy with that same ‘crispy edges of the pie-crust’, bread flavor. The citrus and spice hovers, tantalizing and tingling, in the periphery while the edgy, young whiskey, alcohol bite holds center stage through a long finish.

Backbone is a very solid bourbon along the same lines as Knob Creek or Wathen’s Single Barrel, but with a richer mouthfeel. As this is a new product I look forward to seeing longer aged versions and perhaps offerings with different mashbill and special barrel finishes.

These are the kinds of things that make my job so much fun.


On the Rocks: Maker’s 46

Makers 46

Back when I was presented with the opportunity to pre-order Maker’s 46 for my store shelf my first question was obviously; “So, how exactly is Maker’s 46 Bourbon different from the regular, already more than tasty Maker’s Mark Bourbon?” The answer at the time was , basically, what the label says (see the picture to the right (H/T Boozeblogger), “barrel finished with oak staves”.

Yeah, I didn’t know exactly what that meant either. Luckily, the Maker’s Mark website has since then added a very informative section to their website. For those of you with time on your hands, please visit it. For those of you in a hurry to get to the good part, I’ll summarize.

First they take a perfectly good barrel of regular Maker’s Mark Bourbon, aged and ready for bottling, and empty it (don’t worry, they save the whisky). Then they take that barrel and mount an extra ten seared oak staves inside. After that is done, they re-fill the barrel with the whisky they just poured out and age it a bit longer. All that is good about whiskey comes from aging in the barrel; the color, the character, the flavor. Adding this extra wood gives the whisky much more charred wood surface area, meaning it has more to work with in the complexity and flavor department. That can only be a good thing.

First off, I’m already a fan of Maker’s Mark, and wheated whiskeys in general, but looking for that distinctive drippy red wax topped bottle has never led me astray no matter the bar I have bellied up to.

Maker’s 46 is indeed and improvement upon an already very good thing. The aroma is not all that much different from the regular Maker’s Mark with plenty of caramel and vanilla to go around. It is slightly higher in proof at 94 (regular Maker’s is 90 proof), and that does include a bit more bite and burn, but the wheat comes through and it is still very enjoyable to drink straight, sans ice, though a cube or two would not go amiss. The flavor is classic Maker’s with an extra level of something, something. A bit more richness. A bit more savoryness. A touch of deeper character and flavor integration. It is hard to put your finger on but it is without a doubt there. Maker’s 46 is, in short, a true whisky drinker’s whisky.

On the Rocks: W. H. Harrison Bourbon

A little while back I had the opportunity to taste barrel samples of two new, then unreleased, whiskeys from Indiana called W. H. Harrison Bourbon. I was very pleased with them, and now that they are hitting the marketplace (including my shelves), I thought I would share a bit about these two very interesting whiskeys that purport to be Indiana Bourbon.

The first offering is W. H. Harrison Indiana Straight Bourbon Whiskey. It is made from Indiana-grown corn, water from Indiana limestone springs, and aged in  barrels coopered from Indiana oak trees.

From the website:

Taste profile: well-balanced, clean and pure Bourbon flavor with a hint of sweetness in the middle and a dry finish.

To me this is just about as pure a corn whiskey flavor as you can get. I thought it was very bright, hot even at 80 proof, and very sweet. It has a nice balance, it just doesn’t have a whole lot of depth of character. It is very smooth and most certainly fits the description of high-quality corn squeezins.

As far as mixing potential goes, I like the possibilities of the Harrison Straight Bourbon. I am by no means a mixologist. Personally, I prefer my whiskey with a pair of ice cubes at the most. However, Harrison Straight Bourbon could easily be the centerpiece of a premium Manhattan or other drink where the flavor and quality of the whiskey really matters.

 The second selection from W. H. Harrison is the “Governor’s Reserve.” Bottled at barrel proof and featuring a “high-rye” recipe the “Governor’s Reserve” is a monster of a whiskey.

“High-rye” means that the mash-bill contains a higher proportion of rye grain and often means that the resulting whiskey is bold and spicy. Four Roses Single Barrel is a good example. The “Governor’s Reserve” didn’t strike me as especially spicy or bold, but it is a truly excellent whiskey, easily comparable to the best whiskeys anybody has to offer. It is smooth and refined with layers of depth and character and a rich woody flavor that for some strange reason (other than price)  makes me want to compare it to Blanton’s, though with a broader and far more developed and integrated flavor profile than that worthy Kentucky Bourbon. For 115 proof it doesn’t suffer from an overabundance of heat either which makes it especially nice for straight sipping.

The W. H. Harrison Indiana Straight Bourbon is a very nice whiskey. The “Governor’s Reserve” is very, very special, ranking at the very least among my top ten favorite whiskeys. For now I don’t anticipate these bottles being available very far outside the midwest but W. H. Harrison would be well worth the time and effort to suggest to your favorite Bourbon bar, if only for the “Governor’s Reserve.”

On the Rocks: Four Roses Bourbon

As the legend goes, Paul Jones Jr. fell in love with a southern belle. Before a grand ball the two were to attend he sent her a proposal. She sent back a message that if her answer was ‘yes’ she would wear a rose corsage to the event. Mr. Jones was elated when she arrived wearing a corsage of four red roses, and in honor of the event, and of his true love, he named his Bourbon whiskey Four Roses.

Even though Four Roses is a famous name in Bourbon, and remains one of the most highly regarded Bourbons in international markets, it hasn’t been widely available in the U.S. since the 1950’s. Even now it is only available in a very few states. Happily for me, my state is now one of those lucky few and I recently had the opportunity to sample three of their excellent offerings.