Producer: Spectrum Spirits. Age: 4 months. Mashbill: 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley. Price: $30.
I fashion myself as fairly old-school in my tastes. The designated hitter is an abomination–and that’s not just because my White Sox can’t hit. Movies were better when you had to suggest more and show less. And whisk(e)y should be aged in casks, ever so slowly, until it’s just right.
But I can’t lie. The geek in me, who entered all those science fairs, loved Star Trek, and knows that Fringe was the best sci-fi show of recent decades (What about Battlestar?? -BO), is fascinated by what some distillers are doing with science to expedite the maturation process and get that sweet whisk(e)y on our lips faster than ever.
The simple version is that the process is a carefully controlled application of ultrasonic energy, heat, oxygen, and other factors designed to dramatically improve the quality and taste of a wide range of distilled spirits. For brown spirits, such as bourbon and other traditionally-aged whiskeys, the result is a rapid maturation that would otherwise take 4-6 years.
Whiskey distillers and rectifiers have been looking for ways to accelerate maturation since time immemorial, whether with small barrels, sound waves, or “flash-aging reactors.” (See Reid Mitenbuler’s great Bourbon Empire for a good account.) To some, even the attempt is sacrilege. To others, it’s a matter of what winds up in the bottle. We at the Axis are in the latter camp.
Cavalry Bourbon is a product of NJ-based Spectrum Spirits. It starts with an unaged whiskey with a mashbill of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% barley malt–which whiskey geeks may recognize as a product of Indiana-based spirits giant MGP. South Carolina-based Terressentia runs the juice through the TerrePure process and cuts it down to 90 proof. Science aside, the question is, is it any good?
The answer is a qualified, “Yes, but.” When I first cracked the bottle, it was a ton of blah. All the components fit together well enough, but there was nothing really interesting about it. Then I let it sit for a while. Wow–almost an entirely new whiskey.
The vague hints of county fair butterscotch and vanilla I caught on the nose were far more pronounced. The palate, which contains both of those elements, adds sweet corn, corn husk, and a faint caramel. The finish is far more sustained that it has any right to be, and carries the corn to the end.
I liked the Cavalry, and it costs a reasonable $30–though that’s a crowded price point, with big hitters like Elijah Craig Small Batch, Evan Williams Single Barrel, Eagle Rare, and 1792 all costing roughly the same. I’m not gonna say that Cavalry is my favorite, but it’s an intriguing newcomer on the market.
So here’s to expanding our horizons and our palates. Cheers, friends! – TM
The producer graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.