This past weekend (well, black Friday, technically) I was able to help out over at Big Bottom Whiskey again and bottle up three different single cask runs of their Zinfandel Finish Bourbon warehouse series to complement the more widely available blend. I’m quite privileged to be friends with the owner, Ted, and more so to get some sneak peaks into the business and what’s to come.
I’ve know about the warehouse series zin bottlings for a while now and even had some small samples when I stopped in a while back as Ted was prepping the blend. Now that the warehouse series are bottled and I had some time to sit at home and really run through a decent side-by-side tasting, I figured I give you all the run down of what I think.
Following are the notes of the three warehouse series single cask bottlings as well as the commercially available blend (Note that I had a clean palate prior to sitting down to taste, cleared with both a small cup of black coffee followed by water prior to and after each glass.):
Bottling:Amy’s Vineyard cask, finished 6 months.
Nose: Red licorice, currants, cardamom, and a citric whiff of orange and cranberry
Flavour: Fruit and oak tannins up front, followed by some white pepper and a return of red licorice
Finish: Light vanilla combined with the fullness of red fruit, almost jammy, then balanced quickly by the rye spice and dry finish.
Length of Story: 3
Personal Taste: B
Extraneous Notes: Complex and subtle notes from the zin barrel come through, as well as the zinfandel itself. Heavier on the rye notes as well.
Bottling: RedwoodValley cask, finished 6 months.
Nose: More red licorice and berries with a heavier oakiness.Orange as well, works into a cinnamon finish on the nose.
Flavour: Dry tannins roll into the oakiness of a heavy zinfandel with muted rye spice notes.
Finish: As the zin fades, the rye spice returns forward and finally balanced with the sweetness of cinnamon Christmas candies.
Length of Story: 3
Personal Taste: B
Extraneous Notes: The explicit barrel notes really come through with this bottling.
Nose: Pepper and red fruit indicative of a good zinfandel. More red licorice with a slight toastiness that presents the entire dram quite big on the nose.
Flavour: Round sweetness and charred oak. Big fruit gives way to coffee and char, then moves right into a rye spice.
Finish: As the coffee and char fade, the ry spice and fruit comes back to linger with a distinct but mild alcohol burn.
Length of Story: 4
Personal Taste: A
Extraneous Notes: Big and complex. Much more of the French oak. A great marriage of zin and bourbon here.
Bottling: Zinfandel Finish, blend of four different zin casks. Same winery, but different vineyards.
Nose: Cardamom and red licorice, with orange, cinnamon, and very light oak.
Flavour: Berries and oak tannins move into a complex mix of char, toast, and a melange of spices including rye, cinnamon, cardamom, and white pepper.
Finish: The spice moves back to the sweetness of berries with a slight chocolate espresso note that lingers at the end.
Length of Story: 4
Personal Taste: A
Extraneous Notes: This dram is surprisingly greater than the sum of its parts. The blend exemplifies how critical barrel choice and blending percentages can be. The blend results in a dram that is entirely new but still maintains the best qualities of the included casks.
All in all, I am amazingly pleased with how the entire vertical series turned out. While I enjoy the final blend the most of all four bottlings, I actually enjoy it more as a direct result of being able to compare it with the single casks that went into it. Of the single cask bottlings, I do have to side with the complexity of the Ancient Vineyard cask as it reminds me so much of the high quality and BIG California Zinfandels my palate grew up with; the rye spice in the bourbon being the perfect complement to the pepper in a good zin. The finished blend is a wine and bourbon lover’s dream come true.
The good news for you all local to the Portland area, the warehouse series should be on sale this coming weekend exclusively at the Big Bottom Tasting Room in Hillsboro, Oregon. For the rest of you all, you may be out of luck, unless you can find an on-line retailer (connected to one of these distributors) to special order and ship you some of the Zin Finish Blend… unless you’re lucky enough to happen upon some in your local store 🙂
For fear that y’all think I only post about Big Bottom Whiskey, here’s one about Stuart Ramsay’s Whiskey Academy class I had the pleasure of attending Sunday, May 6th at Bull Run Distilling.
Stuart is a local whiskies guru, internationally recognized as an accomplished writer, editor, and speaker on both whiskies and beer. The fact that he lives in Portland means we are lucky enough to have access to such a wealth of knowledge on a fairly regular basis, as Stuart hosts not only his own classes on whiskies, but also presents tastings hosted by other local pubs and restaurants.
This particular class I participated in (hosted by the fine lads of Bull Run Distilling) was focused on the American Craft Distillers movement with a focus on the craft Whiskies of course. Not only did Stuart highlight some exception drams from across the US, but was also able to pull in a few of our own local craft distillers to talk about their own products, how they’re made, and highlight some of the more technical details of what goes in to a great craft distilled whiskey.
I’ll spare you the specific tasting notes of everything we sampled, as the list was quite extensive:
Stone Barn Hard 8 Rye
Stone Barn Oat Whiskey
Stone Barn Buckwheat Whiskey
Stone Barn Hoppin 8’s
Corsair Wry Moon
Corsair Triple Smoke
Bull Run Temperance Trader
Silver Coyote White Whiskey
Dry Fly Wheat Whiskey
Fremont Mischief John Jacob
Colorado’s Own Corn Whiskey
Woodinville White Dog Rye
Ransom Spirits Whippersnapper
Ransom Spirits 1871 Irish Mash- 20 months in New American 4 char barrels
Ransom Spirits 1871 Irish Mash- 14 months in used French Oak barrels
Big Bottom Project X
St. George Single Malt
St. George Single Malt Batch 11
Buffalo Trace Experimental, Rice
Buffalo Trace Experimental, Oats
Clear Creek McCarthy’s November 2011 release
Clear Creek McCarthy’s November 2010 release
M.B. Roland Cat’s Meow
Stuart’s presentation style is relaxed and meandering through stories, periodically hitting on topics of note and diving deeper as the audience/participants ask questions and show interest in one topic over another. In this session’s case, we all tended to focus on the mash bill for each of the drams, finding the differences between heavy corn, wheat, or rye bills, and then comparing how the oak has changed each. We also had some good discussion over the various types of stills and what the benefits of each provided in the resulting spirit.
One of the things I really appreciated from the class was Stuart’s attention to providing information in the form of two packets: One with the history of American whiskies, the craft movement, making a single malt, and a primer on bourbon complete with a tasting wheel and guide to flavours. The second packet was a one-sheet for each of the distilleries we were tasting, along with notes on the particular drams. Both packets showed not only attention to the important technical details and overall histories, but they also allowed for the in-person presentation to flow using the packets as only reference. Too many times have I found people simply reading from their handouts or slides, and thankfully Stuart doesn’t abide by that habit.
What really made this class stand out for me was the opportunity to talk with three local distillers doing some amazingly different things with their whiskies, all of whom are not only approachable but deeply passionate and willing to talk at length about what they do. And really, that touches on the whole reason I remain involved and passionate about whiskies myself: the people. The industry itself is interesting in the shifts and trends and new stuff coming out, but it remains the people that keep it so exciting and fun. When you can connect with people like Stuart Ramsay, Lee Medoff of Bull Run, Sebastian and Erika Degens of Stone Barn Brandy Works, and Tad Seested of Ransom Spirits, (and even though he wasn’t in attendance at this particular workshop, Ted Pappas of Big Bottom), you can’t help but become as passionate and excited by what they are doing as they are! It truly is contagious.
It’s no secret; I’m a fan of Big Bottom Whiskey. This past Saturday, both Jean and I had another opportunity to join in and help bottle up more of the batch 3 Port finish, and get the Wild Bill warehouse series dram in the new bottles as well. As always, we had a fabulous time meeting new people and laughing our butts off through the various bits of conversation and chatter that occurs on the production line.
More importantly, though, Saturday was when Ted and Taylor opened the Big Bottom tasting room at the front of the warehouse. This is huge news for some of us locals, as they will be exclusively selling the warehouse series through the tasting room; yup, that means nowhere else, folks. While the rest of you can get the American Straight, and maybe some of the Port Finish whiskies, you won’t be able to get your hands on any of the Wild Bill, Project X, or other upcoming warehouse series drams unless you come to visit.
What ARE these new warehouse only releases?
Wild Bill is a cask strength version of the Tawny Port finish bourbon after a year in the port casks and bottled last Saturday around 118 proof. This dark and moody dram has a powerful kick, but seduces you with a balanced complex sweetness you’ve come to love from the port finish. Just look at the deep, rich colour of this dram sitting on the bottle filler… if I didn’t know better, I’d swear this was an American version of Loch Dhu!
Project X is even crazier. This is a bottling of a 4 year old whiskey finished for a year in White Port casks… yep, you read that right: white port! This is a dram I had the pleasure and honour of sampling from start to finish over the past year, and damn if I’m not impressed with the outcome. It started out almost void of any real colouring, but in the last two or three months transformed into a deep nearly ruby red dram; surprising for a white port! And the flavour, oh the flavour followed suit! This a wonderfully sweet bourbon with similar complexities to the Wild Bill (though at a lower 91 proof), but developed a richness and balanced tannins from the oak with just a slight almost wafting hint of acidity cutting through the depth to bring this dram to life.
Both of these drams SHOULD be on sale in the next 30 days, pending label approvals and of course actually getting the labels ON the bottles. You can rest assured I’ll be one of the first in line to grab me some of this goodness.
The Big Bottom tasting room is open every Saturday from noon to 4pm. (Like them on Facebook for the most up to date news and hours, etc.) Stop by, say hello, and tell them Jason of the 3 Drunken Celts sent you… it won’t get you anything other than a laugh and an eye-roll, but it’ll make them (and me) smile 🙂
Until then, here’s some more pictures from the bottling and tasting room opening:
This past weekend was TOAST (The Oregon Artisan Spirits Tasting), an event put on by the Oregon Distiller’s Guild (like them on Facebook here) and touted as the largest craft spirits tasting in North America! The event featured over 55 local and national artisan producers, all told pouring over 170 different unique spirits. How, I ask you, as a founding 3DC member can I pass this up… I mean it is almost an imperative that I go, learn, taste, and report back, right? Well, I’m not going alone, so I dragged Jean and Corey along with me (ok maybe not dragged, more like enabled).
This is the same event where last year my friend Corey and I met Ted Pappas of Big Bottom Whiskey along with a few others, so I was very pleased to see some great whiskey representation by even more makers and distillers this year. It seems our local craft artisans are really doing some great work and growing by leaps and bounds. The event itself also seemed to indicate this with a shift in venue to the Portland World Trade Center as well as the critical addition of an on-premise bottle shop.
From my view as an attendee, the addition of the bottle shop was the perfect compliment to the tasting hall as we were able to immediately buy bottles we enjoyed, without the burden of having to remember them for later 😉 I can only hope the addition of the on-premise shop proved beneficial for the vendors as well since the convenience of purchase would likely make for some good sales likely missed if an attendee would have to go searching their local stores for some of these bottlings.
Since this is a whiskies blog and tasting group, I won’t bother with the details of all the other spirits we tasted on Saturday, instead will focus on just the whiskies side. You’re also in luck, as I didn’t bother with my normal tasting notebook, you’ll not have to bear through the specific tasting notes of each dram I had, which given the expanse of the event is likely a good thing for us all!
Our initial whiskey of the day was Cabin Fever Maple Whiskey which is an 80 proof maple infused rye whiskey that is aged in uncharred barrels and then chill filtered to remove excess sugars. This one was simply too sweet for my palate to be a sipping whiskey, and really struck me as the perfect cooking ingredient (or breakfast dram to pour over your pancakes if’n you swing that way).
Next we moved on to Dry Fly Distilling where we sampled their Washington Wheat Whiskey. I recall discovering Dry Fly a few years back at Whiskies of the World where they were pouring what must have been thier first commercial run of the Washington Wheat. I’m happy to note here that they’ve really begun to fine-tune the dram and are producing a very pleasant, very smooth wheat whiskey that eschews much of the bitterness of corn based mashes leaving a nice soft story the whole way through.
Then it was over to Big Bottom to harass Ted, Taylor, and Monique. I’ve discussed Big Bottom’s merits in detail before, and it always seems strange to go to tastings where I’m so familiar with the pours being served. Luckily Ted always seems to have some small surprise for people like me and pulled out a brilliant New York cocktail to sample, with Big Bottom as the core bourbon base of course. I’m quite glad we could only sample that in our small shot glasses, as it is one of the tastiest cocktails I’ve had in a while and may just have hung out there the rest of the day had I a larger glass…
Luckily we were able to peel away and head off to more vendor tables, this time stopping at Ransom Spirits to sample their Whippersnapper Whiskey. This was an interesting one to me as it uses two different base distillates: one Kentucky whitedog corn based mash which is re-distilled, and the second being a recipe of malted and unmalted barley mash distilled in Oregon. This combination, as well as the use of use bourbon barrels and their own Pinot Noir barrels makes for an interestingly complex dram that still has the soft sweetness you’d expect from an American whiskey but without the bitter finish so many bourbons can leave you with after aging. The year average in the barrels definitely does this dram right.
A hop over to Few Spirits caught us a bit off guard as we found their Whitedog whiskey to be better in flavour and finish than their aged bourbon. If I recall correctly (I’ve been unable to verify this online *edit below because I was wrong*) the whitedog is actually made with a mash created from Oat flour rather than solid grains. Whatever the case, this whitedog is one that is just as easy sipping as any of the bourbon and American aged whiskies in the rest of the show. Truly a happy surprise.
*Edit* I knew I kept Corey around for a reason 🙂 He just informed me that Few Spirits was unaged only, with the interesting gin along side. The aged at that table was Old Pogue, which was good, but the unaged still won me over.
It was actually Stone Barn Brandyworks which was the source for the oat flour based whiskey. Their 100% rye was the one better as unaged. Both were surprising and wonderful drams to be had. If you find yourself in Portland, they are a must try.
Thanks for the updates and corrections, Corey! */edit*
Next was Mischief Spirits where we sampled both their Fremont Mischief Whiskey as well as their John Jacob bottling, both rye spirits. This stop exemplified for me that most American whiskies do best aging between 1 and 8 years, no longer. I say this as their Fremont Mishief whiskey is aged eight years and to my palate was on the way down from what may have been a peak aging at 6 years, leaving me to prefer their John Jacob offering which I don’t recall showing any age statement, most likely around 12- 24 months in the barrel. While both were good, John Jacob came out the clear top to me.
We then scooted over to the next table for what turned out to be my show favourite: Angel’s Envy. With a name like Lincoln Henderson behind this distillation it shouldn’t be any surprise that this dram topped my list. But it should surprise you, as on paper this dram is an amalgamation of everything I dislike: It is aged in new oak barrels with a 3-4 alligator char. It is a 72% corn mash bill, with a meager 18% rye content. And to be perfectly fair, it comes from a ‘big name’ in the industry. I’m not a fan of heavy char (preferring a light 2 in the barrels), I gravitate to high rye content whiskies, and love the passion of the boutique distillers who haven’t been broken by the industry yet. Well, Lincoln is doing some crazy stuff with a reinvigorated passion which really comes out in the dram. There’s some madness in his combination of mash bill, 4-6 years aging on heavy char, and then finishing another 3-6 months in Ruby Port barrels from Portugal. Just goes to show that you can’t judge a dram by its recipe. This one truly struck me as inspired insanity. So much so we went home with a bottle from the on-premise store, not wanting to wait for the next day to enjoy it again 🙂
Next, we moseyed across to Eastside Distilling, where we sampled their Burnside Bourbon. I was pleasantly surprised by this bourbon, as it finished quite smoothly without hint of the bitter finish I’ve come to expect from high corn based mashes. Unfortunately the two reps manning the table weren’t able to provide more specifics on the mash bill, so I was unable to verify if it truly was a high percent corn mash or if it had a substantial rye content. Surprisingly (or not) I didn’t even noticed that it is bottled at 96 proof… that either tells you how soft it really is or how much I’d had by this point.
To round out the day we finished off at Bull Run Distilling since I was already very familiar with their Temperance Trader Whiskey. It should come as no surprise that I enjoy this ‘high rye’ whiskey given the commentary above. Like Big Bottom, this bottling from Bull Run is not distilled on premise, but rather is a selection of distillate from outside sources. Given the selection that the boys at Bull Run have made, I’d say our palates are very much in line, as this is a wonderful dram to sit back and sip, or to add in as a base for some outstanding cocktails. Plus, Lee and Patrick are good guys to chat with, obviously passionate about what they do, which is brilliantly obvious in their on-premise distilled vodka and rum, both which drink as if they were top shelf whiskies. Also doesn’t hurt that they open their doors to Stuart Ramsay for his Whisky Academy series of lectures and tastings… makes for building a nice little community and connection between enthusiasts and the creators.
All in all, not a single truly disappointing dram was to be had. Obviously some shined more than others, but when it comes down to it our local distillers and artisans are really knocking it out of the park with their varied and quite unique products. I enjoyed the show so much these past two years, I may have to make a point of really promoting it next year to get some of our SoCal contingent to drive/fly up for the weekend and enjoy it too… seems a shame to keep this all to myself 😉
I guess I’d be remiss if I didn’t share a picture of my lovely new decorative purchase from Essential Oil, another local shop… yes, I might have a thing for copper, why do you ask?
Last year, I tried Woodinville’s Age Your Own Kit with slightly disappointing results. Once I bottled up that run, I was determined to find a white dog whiskey that would more closely match my palate, as I’m not a huge fan of corn mash based bourbons.
It will likely come as no surprise that Raz, my friend Corey, and I have all been on the hunt for a barley based American whiskey. Since we are all bigger fans of malted barley than corn mash, we’ve hoped to find an American created whiskey that focused on a majority barley based mash.
Well, you can imagine my surprise when browsing a local Portland area liquor store and luckily happened upon House Spirits’ White dog whiskey made with 100% malted barley! Ah, just what we were looking for! While it had been bottled at only 100 proof, I figured it was still high enough to weather some decent aging, and picked up three 750ml bottles to begin my second run experiment in the still-wet barrel from Woodinville’s kit, but with a markedly different distillate than before.
House Spirits’ White dog 100% barley mash based whiskey was barreled at 100 proof on December 27th, 2011. Following are the tasting notes I took down on Dec 27th, 2011 before the barreling process to get a sense of what I was starting with:
Nose: Distinct malt ball candy, off-putting to me but likely pleasant if you enjoy malt balls. Almost sickly sweet, but not sugary. Slight vegetation and a confusing hint of toast.
Flavour: Chewy and viscous, then straight into the heat before getting to a tongue coating sweetness. Of course, serious barley notes all over the place, as expected from an unaged barley spirit.
Finish: This surprisingly finished hotter than when it started. The sweetness from the malting hangs around for a bit while the front burn fades with a hint of vegetation that permeates just like the nose.
Length of story: 3.5
Personal taste: B
Extraneous notes: Solid. The use of 100% malted barley for the mash makes a huge difference. Since I tasted this immediately after the aged corn mash based white dog from Woodinville, the barley based white dog from House Spirits here felt much more approachable to my palate with no hints of bitterness and the softer familiarity of scotch and Irish whiskies.
Of course, that was before aging… and given how the initial barrel run improved the Woodinville White dog (though not to my taste) I was REALLY looking forward to the notes imparted by some time for the barley distillate from House Spirits to sit on the oak and think about what it had done.
Unlike my prior run, I didn’t sample this one at all in the first few months. One of the ‘issues’ I encountered on the first run, was the rapid depletion of the distillate due to the angel’s share which was exacerbated exponentially with every small taste I had. With a 2 liter barrel, even small tastes make a big dent, and the more air that gets in the more room the angels have to take their shares as well. So I abstained from frequent testing during this second barreling in hopes of retaining more of the distillate at the end.
At 4 months on the oak, I determined that a sample was indeed in order to see if more time was needed, or if it was good to bottle. Following are my notes taken on April 11th, 2012:
Nose: Oak and caramel, a hint of raw mash, an almost ethereal waft of brine then heavier golden brown toast.
Flavour: caramel sweetness followed by mild tannins of oak, then the heat hits mid-taste and moves into a chewy salted caramel like sweetness.
Finish: Following the sweet, it transforms into a subtle Islay with a touch of brine much like the nose, finally leaving with a suggestion of vegetative raw mash to remind you it is still young.
Length of story: 3
Personal taste: B
Extraneous notes: Four months in the barrel has been nice to this dram, mellowing our some of the unpleasant sweet notes, replacing them with pleasant more refined sweetness throughout the entire story. The barley truly helps this dram move into the more subtle and complex realms of Irish and Scotch whiskies to which I am more drawn. The heat was surprisingly diminished after aging in comparison to when it was initially barreled. While still hot, it isn’t nearly as bitey on the front of the tongue as initially noted. Still a solid “B” on personal taste though, as it isn’t quite up to par… yet.
After tasting this dram at four months in a second use barrel, I am making the call to leave it sitting on oak for another two to three months before coming back to it for another test. I am hoping in that time to see the caramel notes diminish some, replaced with a bit more tannins and toast to bring deeper balance and complexity to the profile of this expression. I think the base distillate has the structure to get my personal taste up to an “A” grade, but the big unknown here is how the barrel and time will treat the final profile.
Woodinville’s White dog bourbon mash was barreled at 110 proof on May 22, 2011. I tasted at various times, frequently at first, then tapering off later, but averaging about a taste every 6 weeks. On December 27th, 2011 I determined that no more time would benefit the whiskey and bottled it up. Following are the tasting notes I took down on Dec 27th after 7 months of aging:
Nose: Heavy on the mash notes still. Corn followed by the expected mild caramel notes imparted from wood aging. Balanced sweetness as I have come to expect from bourbons.
Flavour: Immediate oak and hard tannins, followed by caramel and a jarring shift into the corn mash. Heat all the way through with a trail of bitterness.
Finish: Fades from the distinct mash notes into caramel again, finally ending on a bitterness either remaining from the early raw/vegetative mash or imparted directly from the barrel itself.
Length of story: 2
Personal taste: C-
Extraneous notes: Not a whiskey I will enjoy drinking straight. Even after 7 months in the barrel, the bitterness on the finish still stuck around and makes this dram less than enjoyable. I have noted, however, that as an aged spirit, it mixes quite well with cola for a surprisingly delightful cocktail. A solid B grade if used to mix.
After being relatively disappointed with the results, I dove in to some ideas for a second use of the barrel. My third use will be for barrel aging cocktails, likely Manhattans, but I still needed a second run distillate. Luckily, I happened upon House Spirits’ White dog whiskey bottled only at 100 proof, but made with 100% malted barley, ah, just what I was looking for…
As you’ve likely come to expect month to month now, here is the anticipated notes from the tasting event hosted by Ian of PDX Whisky fame.
This month was a bit unusual for us, as it was a bourbon, not scotch whisky, centric tasting. Additionally different was that Ted of Big Bottom Whiskey fame was also on hand to lead us through a tasting of his line of bourbons. As always, neither Ian nor Ted disappointed at the event. This go around we tasted five different expressions, with an added 6th ‘from the barrel’ brought by Ted. Following are my notes on each:
Big Bottom American Straight Bourbon, Batch #5 (3yr)
Nose: Some mild Rye and surprising hint of iodine/bactine followed by honey.
Flavour: Heavy honey into bubble gum on the front, followed by rye spice and into light toast
Finish: Nice balance of spice and toast, then followed by a rich honey sweetness at the end.
Length of Story: 2
Personal Taste: A
Big Bottom Port Cask Finish Straight Bourbon, Batch #2b (3yr)
Nose: Hot and heavy on the port followed by a hint of honey.
Flavour: Tannins hit immediately, then into the deep port from the nose, followed by mild but balanced rye spice.
Finish: The spice moves back into the port, which fades into oak tannins again, an hour glass effect of flavour.
Length of Story: 3
Personal Taste: A
Elmer T. Lee, Macadam Bourbon Bunch, Single Barrel (NAS)
Nose: Strawberry and bubble gum followed by mild rye.
Flavour: Oak and light toast, none of the sweetness implied by the nose.
Finish: Light and watery with heavy tannins.
Length of Story: 2
Personal Taste: C-
Van Winkle Special Reserve, Lot B (12yr)
Nose: Char and honey sweetness, again the rye spice at the back.
Flavour: Wet hay and char, fades in to a rich chocolate
Finish: Heat, then nothingness. It slowly vanishes then returns a bit later with a surprise bitterness to the end.
Length of Story: 4
Personal Taste: B+
Jefferson’s Presidential Select (18yr)
Nose: Vegetation, a slightly ‘green’ odor, followed by toast.
Flavour: Sweetness of light honey, followed by tannins as expected from an 18 year
Finish: A bitter back to the finish (akin to an underaged white dog bourbon like I tasted from my home aging kit at the 2 week mark.)
Length of Story: 2
Personal Taste: C-
“Barrel tasting”of Big Bottom Port Cask Finish Straight Bourbon, Batch #3 (3yr, cask strength at 115 proof)
Nose: Sweetness of port and richness of fig.
Flavour: Hot and rich caramel, big flavour and a huge mouthfeel.
Finish: Char followed by chocolate into fudge.
Length of Story: 4
Personal Taste: A+
Clearly from above (and not so clearly from my lack of description of the rest of the group’s feelings) the big winner of the night was Big Bottom Whiskey. You may think I expected this to be the case, given how much I enjoy Ted’s product, but given it was tasted along side of two twelve year olds and an 18 year old bourbon, this was clearly an upset in the making! The group as a whole, and the majority of individuals all agreed that Big Bottom Whiskey was clearly the dram we’d all buy and stock on our shelves, while the other bourbons ran the gamut from “I might buy it” to “Nope never paying money for that one”.
As always, a fun and enlightening night was had. Anyone within the Portland area should really “Like” the PDX Whisky Facebook page and join us in January when the next event is scheduled and posted! Y’all are missing a great time!
You may recall this post a while back where I discovered Big Bottom Whiskey and subsequently fell in love with their port cask finish. So much that I had bought two bottles of it, when I normally would only by one of any single whisk(e)y.
In talking with Ted, the owner, he indicated that the bottles I had tasted and those which I purchased were of batch one and that batch two had been quietly sitting around and would likely be ready sometime in late August. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get over to the warehouse when he was bottling up batch two due to a horribly conflicting schedule that week, but I did get out to my local purveyor when they called to tell me it would be in stock the next day. Again, I picked up two bottles…
And here’s where I was actually a bit smart: I had retained 1/4 of a bottle of the first batch with the specific intent of doing my own side-by-side tasting with batch two.
Right off the bat, before even opening the bottles, there’s a noticeable difference: Batch one was aged two years, batch two was aged 3. While the distillate is from the same producer, they are aged for different times and finished in port casks at differing lengths of time as well. But really, that’s all irrelevant until you can actually taste it, right? Or at least until you can read my tasting notes below, after which I’ll likely wax on about more of the differences….
Big Bottom Whiskey, aged 2 years, port cask finish- Batch One
Nose: Heavy caramel followed by fruitiness of the port. Surprisingly no oak on the nose at all.
Flavor: Caramel oak, then the fruit of the port. Deep richness to the palate, and shows off the port finishing.
Finish: Just a hint of chocolate on the back, balanced with the tannins of the oak and fruit.
Length of Story: 4
Personal Taste: B+
Extraneous Notes: The colour on this first batch is a deeper red hue showing the influence of the port cask. I gave this a B+ as it finishes a bit more harshly than a whiskey like this should. I’d expect the port cask finishing to have reduced any lingering harshness to non-existence. Still, quite tasty, so high marks are deserved.
Batch one on the left, Batch two on the right
Closeup of Batch two
Batch one on the left, Batch two on the right
Big Bottom Whiskey, aged 3 years, port cask finish- Batch Two
Nose: This noses hotter than the first batch, with immediate fruit forward, followed by the sweetness of caramel. Overall a mild nose once past the initial heat.
Flavor: Chewier with a mouthfeel reminiscent of nougat. Heavier oak with a deeper more complex caramel note. Light port touch with the fruity sweetness peeking out in the middle.
Finish: Oak tannins then mild char and caramel in the front while a hint of port maintains the background through the length of the finish. The port cask finish on this one has seemingly married all the flavours into a deeper complexity and balance.
Length of Story: 4
Personal Taste: A-
Extraneous Notes: The colour of this one, oddly enough, was a more orange-ish hue, still rich, but lacking that deep red from batch one. Batch two received an A- here because it doesn’t finish as clean as I’d like. There was a lingering mild bitterness and dryness from the tannins when I had wanted a bit more fruitiness on the end. A wetter finish would have landed this dram at a solid A/A+.
So there you have it, a side by side comparison of batches one and two. I’d actually left some in each glass for Jean to enjoy when she got home (I tasted late afternoon when she was still at work, but I’d quit for the day). But I was a bit cruel about it, as I removed the bottles from the table and made her do a ‘blind’ taste to see if she could pick out which was which. Because batch one’s visual cue would typically indicate ‘older’ and that batch one tasted more of port, she incorrectly chose that as the newer release and noted it was her preferred of the two. Understandably so, since darker colouring tends to make people think ‘older’ and the fruit forwardness of the port finish in batch one lends to her sweeter palate preferences. And I nearly did the same thing too, until I had some of batch two and found my palate was much happier with the balance found there and less of the sweetness of batch one. But this is why there are so many whiskies out there: for every dram, there is a palate that will love it and one that will hate it, and others everywhere in between. Luckily both Jean and I found batches one and two to be equally enjoyable as good drinking whiskies (even if my more technical attempts at notes show less equality).
To wrap this up: Batch one is likely going to be difficult to find at this point, but batch two just hit the local shelves in Portland, Oregon and will likely be making its way out to a liquor store near you soon! Go pick up a bottle or two, you won’t be disappointed in the newer release. And maybe, if you can stave off temptation long enough, you can do a side-by-side with batch three, assuming Ted will be doing one…. Here’s to hoping!
Week 16 came and passed without an update on the whiskey sitting in the barrel I got as part of Woodinville’s “Age your own whiskey” kit. But can you blame me? I mean, there’s been a lot going on with the 3DC, especially as we ramp up into our annual tasting at “Great Western War” (the SCA event in Bakersfield, Ca.).
Have no fear, just because the weeks have come and gone does not mean I missed taking a sample of the distillate. I did indeed take notes, and even pictures to provide you all an update as to how the baby whiskey is maturing in the 1.7 liter oak barrel. The first round of tasting notes after weeks 1, 2, and 3 can be found here if you missed them, or just want to come up to speed for comparison. The initial setup, etc. can be found here.
Woodinville White dog, Aged 16 weeks in new American Oak.
(Casked on May 30th, 2011. Sampled Sept. 11th, 2011)
Nose: All alcohol. Expected for a 130 proof distillate. Caramel follows the initial shock, the if you can push through, there is a distinct corn mash of the original distillate.
Flavor: Chewier mouthfeel than prior tastes. No longer think and watery, but now shows great body and an oiliness expected from a proper bourbon/whiskey. The pallate is still very distillate heavy, but is showing more promise with a far heavier caramel body, though it is followed by a disappointing bitterness.
Finish: Caramel, with an increasing bitterness with every taste. Like a vegetable with all the sugars removed.
Length of Story: 2
Personal taste: C
Extraneous notes: Dramatically different from earlier tastes, but still not ‘good’. Needs more time on the oak to mute or remove the bitter after notes. Looking to revisit in late November or December.
Overall, I’m not exactly disappointed, but not overly pleased either. I am hopeful that more time on the oak will help it mellow out further and become something worthwhile. Otherwise, I’ll have to admit defeat, bottle it up, and move on to a different distillate to see how a second round fairs. That, of course, means finding a better raw distillate to work with, with means testing some cask ready samples from various distillers. Oh the pains I go to for this hobby 😉
Jason/Seamus here again… I know I missed a few weeks of tasting notes, so I’m playing a little catch-up to share what is happening inside my little 1.875 liter barrel from Woodinville Whiskey Co.
I last left off right at the beginning. I had just set two 750ml bottles down in the charred new oak barrel and began the process of waiting. I’ll tell you, that first week of not taking sips was tough! I was dying to see what the oak was doing minute by minute! I -was- however to steer clear of any tastes that first week, leading to a fun discovery on day 7 when I was finally able to pour a wee dram: Colour!
Pictures of week one:
Here are the tasting notes from week one (May 30th, 2011):
Colour: Light caramel colouring very similar to the levels of colour in Knappogue Castle and other lighter Irish whiskies.
Nose: Sweet and floral followed by a bit of iodine.
Palate: Toasty chocolate with a light oak. Woody, still mash heavy, but clean and hot.
Finish: Short story, as expected at this point. Finishes very clean with a mild caramel way at the end, almost as if the dram realized it ended its story too soon and came back to finish it.
Week two I ended up tasting two days early, and as I didn’t discern much change between the first week’s tasting and this one five days later, I opted not to write down my findings (really, I had no findings other than ‘no discernible change’).
Which brings us to week three (June 12, 2011):
Colour: Light caramel, again much like a light Irish whiskey similar though ever-so-slightly more rich than week one though barely even worth a mention.
Nose: Light oak notes followed by a heavier corn mash / rye spice overtone (which is odd since I don’t believe any rye is used in this distillate). Still young.
Palate: Initial sense is of the corn/wheat/barley mash, moves into a light oak with a brief bitterness in the middle reminiscent of week one’s bitterness, only slightly more muted.
Finish: sweet and hot. Not as clean as week one with the mouth-feel imparting more lingering oils.
Since week three was a slight disappointment in terms of changes seen (not surprising mind you, but I was hoping none-the-less), I opted to cut another taste with water at a 1 part water to 2 parts whiskey ration to bring it down from the 110 proof to a more reasonable 80 or thereabouts.
Nose: Floral notes become more evident after cutting. In this case the water really did ‘bloom’ the dram and coaxed it enough to release those florals.
Palate: Still hot, but with a diametrically opposed watteriness. The alcohol bites, but the rest of the dram tastes thin now. Only hints of toast followed by the mash again.
Finish: back to the clean finish of week one with greatly reduced oils, but still a big alcohol burn to contend with.
So there you go. At this point I think I will sit on this for a while before coming back to taste again. Woodinville indicates a finished product in 3-6 months, so I’ll likely cut down the frequency of tastes to once a month at this point in order to keep enough distillate in to actually fill a bottle when the process completes! Of course I’m also starting to think ahead of this run and see what I may change and do differently in the next run… my main idea being use of a different distillate…
If you’re dying for even MORE whiskies related content, you can also check out the 3DC’s “Whiskies News & Reviews Daily” over on paper.li: http://bit.ly/k3XNbj It is a GREAT way to stay abreast of all the cool things going on in the world of whiskies!