New England Distilling Gunpowder Rye Review

New England Distilling Gunpowder Rye – Distiller: New England Distilling. ABV: 43.5%. No age statement (less than 2 years). Mashbill: 70% rye, 30% malted barley. Price: $45.

Folks, I’m not going to lie. I was dreading this summer’s roadtrip. Although I’ve always wanted to see Acadia and I love Montreal, the idea of two weeks in a car sounded like fresh-cut hell to me. But Mrs. McDram wanted to go, so off we went.

The trip confounded my cynical soul by being fun–and some of the main highlights (especially for me) were the new whiskies we discovered.

Take, for example, New England Distilling‘s Gunpowder Rye. As a devotee of the rye arts, I was intrigued to see this sitting in a quiet Maine bar, and had to try a sip. I loved it, and when I got to spend some more time with a full bottle (graciously sent by the distiller), it only confirmed the first impression.

If you noted the mashbill above, you already know what’s unusual about this rye: as a “Maryland-style” rye, it’s made of rye and a high proportion of malted barley, with no corn. (See an interesting write-up on the history of Maryland-style rye at The Whiskey Wash.)

The nose has winter pine, menthol, faint vanilla, and plenty of rye spice. The palate fires up the rye spice further, but balances it with a lovely vanilla, pulled chicken, and a touch of oak. It falls down on the finish for me. There’s a fire that kicks in at the end, then dissipates quickly, leaving not much behind.

That said, it’s an interesting young rye, and one I’m glad to come back to time and again. Cheers, friends! – TM

New England Distilling graciously sent a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

John Myer Bourbon Whiskey Review

John Myer Bourbon Whiskey – Distiller: Myer Farm Distillers. No age statement. Mashbill: 60% corn, 40% spring wheat, rye & unmalted barley. ABV 45%. Price: $35.

Road trips are an American institution. I can still dimly recall sitting in the back of my parents’ Volvo station wagon, staring out at the ever-expanding American landscape. But what I know now that I didn’t know then is that zipping along America’s backroads can lead to some superb distilleries–especially amid the current U.S. microdistiller boom.

Last summer, the McDram clan met some friends in New York’s Finger Lakes region. They mentioned they’d passed what appeared to be a distillery and asked if I wanted to check it out. Professional responsibility, I said, and off we went to the Myer Farm Distillers in Ovid, New York.

This farm-to-bottle outfit has some lovely offerings, including a wheated whiskey that was out of this world. But the one that stuck with me the most was their John Myer Bourbon Whiskey.

The mash bill is about 60% corn, with spring wheat, rye, and unmalted barley making up the balance. It’s fun to trace how those elements wind their way through the experience. The nose has a fair amount of bakery in it, from corn bread, to fresh made ciabatta, but there’s also a faint whiff of the rye, along with a lovely ginger note that’s well complemented by a dash of vanilla extract.

The palate was the standout aspect for me. It’s damn good. Layers of vanilla cream and toffee are interwoven with layers of rye spice and an earthy oak that cuts the sweetness in just the right way.

The finish was a bit too abrupt for my taste, but I loved the peach that came through. Combined with a resurgence of the vanilla, it brought to mind a peach pie you just set on the counter to cool.

Whiskey should be about conversation, experience, and new discoveries. I have a feeling that in the Myer Farm family, I’ve found a line that will provide all three for years and road trips to come.

Cheers, friends, and enjoy the weekend! – TM

Glen Moray 10 Chardonnay Cask Review

Glen Moray 10 Chardonnay Cask – Distiller: Glen Moray. Region: Speyside. ABV: 40%. No age statement. Price: $25-28.

If there’s a better deal in single malt than the Glen Moray 10 Chardonnay Cask, I haven’t found it.

Glen Moray is a Speyside distillery that’s quietly bottling some of the best values in the game, together with Tomatin and anCnoc. This sub-$30 GM 10-year-old Chardonnay Cask is a fine example. (Another is Glen Moray’s no-age-statement Port Cask Finish, which Thane reviewed here.) The distillery’s reputation does seem to be rising these days, and rightly so. It helps that Glen Moray Master Distiller Graham Coull has become a visible and high-spirited presence on Twitter.

On to the tasting. The Glen Moray 10 Chardonnay Cask starts with a nose of white grape, white peach, and pear stewed in white wine. Sweet golden malt. Caramel, toasty lemon danish.

The palate hews closely to the nose at first, with a lovely, lively mouthfeel. Then some wildflower honey. Sweetness, spice, and tannins in an elegant dance. Wine barrel. Vanilla fudge.

The finish is medium-long, with tannins nicely rounding out the baked fruit profile.

The only minus here is the 40% ABV, but there’s plenty of substance and flavor to it all the same. And at the price, it can’t be beat.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Buy Glen Moray whisky online at Mash + Grape

Highland Park Magnus Review

Highland Park Magnus – Distiller: Highland Park. Region: Highlands/Islands. ABV: 40%. No age statement. Price: $40.

I’ve been waiting on this one for a special occasion. I’ve been in love with Highland Park’s line for as long as I’ve been drinking whisky, and I’m always excited for new beginnings from old friends. So on a day when I recorded a very fun voiceover (a new career-ish move), I knew I wanted to celebrate with the newest permanent addition to the line.

The Highland Park Magnus is named for Magnus Eunson, a Scot of Norse descent who allegedly had an illegal still in 1798 on the site of the current distillery. Highland Park used Orcadian malt in the making of this no-age-statement release, and it carries through what is a light, lovely, and delicate whisky.

The nose has a heathery peat right up front, which quickly fades into Scottish honey, North Sea brine, and a subtle toffee note.

The peat continues to be at the forefront on the palate. It is, to be fair, on the watery side due to the low 40% ABV, but it lets through flavors of raisin, black tea, and peppery ginger snaps. Later there’s more heather and a vague hint of briny oyster that I loved.

The finish was where I most noticed the low ABV. It has an initial fiery blast that fades too quickly–with a complex profile like this, I wanted to savor it more.

But I’m not gonna complain. Any single malt distiller who’s offering a truly solid whisky at this price point gets my respect at a time when we’re seeing so many brands demanding prices that are simply not justified by the product.

Here’s to Highland Park for making a quite lovely whisky that everyone can afford, and here’s to all of you, friends. Slàinte! – TM

Buy Highland Park whisky online at Mash + Grape

U.S. craft distilleries pass 1,000

It’s official: the number of U.S. craft distilleries in operation has passed 1,000, according to latest assessment by Michael Kinstlick of Coppersea Distilling.

Kinstlick released his updated snapshot of the U.S. craft distilling market today, and the growth he’s tracking continues unabated at a rate of roughly 350 new distilleries per year, with a current in-production total of 1,043:

One of the most interesting trends Kinstlick notes is the predominance of craft distilleries on the West Coast. Washington state in particular has been an overachiever: it went gone from zero craft distilleries in 2006…

craft distilleries by state 2006

…to 94 in 2016–the most in the country. (California and New York are tied for second place with 89 apiece.)

craft distilleries by state 2016

Kinstlick offers some interesting comparisons with the earlier growth trends among craft breweries. While we can expect microdistillery growth to taper off somewhat in the near future as “marginal” players exit the market, don’t jump on the bandwagon when you see the first headline about the “end of craft distilling”:

The craft beer market started seeing exits in the early-90s, just as the craft distillery market is now. Then the number of new entrants continued to dominate until the late-90s/early- 00s when exits went up & entrants declined and predictions were for the “end of craft beer.” And then the number of breweries tripled after 2010.

Thanks to Kinstlick for sharing this latest update. You can sign up at Coppersea for future updates–and check out their delicious spirits too.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Barrell Rye Batch 1 Review

Barrell Rye Batch 1 – Producer: Barrell Craft Spirits. Distiller: MGP & undisclosed Tennessee distiller. ABV: 58.5%. Age: 4.5 years. Mashbill: see below. Price: $80.

When it comes to bourbon and rye whiskeys we all have our favorites, but sometimes there’s nothing like satisfying the urge to try something new and different. The question is where do you go to find that “something different”?

The previous batches of Barrell Bourbon have been a part of my answer to that question, so I was eager to give the new Barrell Rye Batch 001 a go.

Although Barrell is in the process of building its own distillery in Louisville, it continues to do an amazing job sourcing and bottling cask strength whiskeys (and rum) from different distilleries. Each batch is a unique blend of whiskeys that provides a new experience with every release, and this inaugural rye batch is no exception.

This is a unique blend of rye from MGP and an undisclosed Tennessee distillery. There is a higher component of the MGP rye, which has an interesting 51% rye/49% malted barley mash bill.

Sweet caramel, toffee and butterscotch lead on the pleasant nose and are followed by a soft rye spice. The palate has a similar sweet and spicy profile but there’s an additional complexity of malt and citrus. As the palate transitions to the finish, the familiar MGP mint notes become evident and intermingle beautifully with the malt flavors. The finish is a little subtle but quite sustained with rye spice and malt.

For its first rye batch, Barrell could have released your typical and familiar sourced rye, but instead we get something both different and delicious. Cheers! -JTR

Barrell Craft Spirits graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Buy Barrell Craft Spirits online at Mash + Grape

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