Tag Archives: microdistillers

Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye Review

Roaming Man Tennessee Straight Rye – Distiller: Sugarlands Distilling. ABV: 61.7%. Age: 2 years. Mash bill: 51% rye, 45% corn, 4% malted barley). Price: $50 (375ml).

Sugarlands Distilling is a young distillery in Gatlinburg, Tennessee–opened in 2014–that makes a wide range of flavored moonshine. But its bid for whisk(e)y geeks’ hearts comes in the form of their Roaming Man Cask Strength Rye.

The Roaming Man Rye starts by taking transparency to new heights. Sugarlands reveals not just the age, barrel size, and mash bill–2 years; 25 gallons; 51% rye, 45% corn, 4% malted barley–but very well packaged bottle bottle comes with a gas chromatograph chart showing the shifts in the chemical makeup from new-make to final release.

That’s a good way to grab a whisk(e)y geek’s attention. The other way is with the juice–and they do that too.

It’s a potent 61.7% ABV. The nose has toffee and a yeasty dough note up front. But from a fresh bottle, the heat of the spirit masks everything else. Fortunately with a bit of aeration and water the heat declines considerable. Caramel apple comes to the fore, with heavily toasted tobacco and vanilla bean just behind it.

The palate explodes with flavor: rye, mint, licorice, sweet oak, mahogany. It’s also fiery at first, and benefits significantly from some time and air. Gradually it becomes much milder and more accessible. Candied pecans late on. The finish is endless, with very dark bitter chocolate, clove, maple, and a touch of birch beer.

The first two batches of the Roaming Man Rye sold out fast, even at a pricey $50 per 375ml, and I can see why. It’s a bold and accomplished young rye by an ambitious distillery that’s got nothing to hide. Sugarlands just released its third batch of the Roaming Man in late October 2017. Craft whiskey fans, keep your eyes peeled.

Cheers, friends! – BO

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

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

Seven Stills Czar Review

Seven Stills Czar – Distiller: Seven Stills. ABV: 47%. No age statement. Price: $30-40 (375ml).

The craft-beer-to-whiskey path is a well-traveled one. The esteemed Lew Bryson tells in the excellent Tasting Whiskey how he made the transition–a bit unexpectedly–when his employer, Beer Advocate magazine, abruptly transitioned to Malt Advocate magazine. (Soon it would be called Whisky Advocate, and Bryson would be managing editor there until 2015.) I made a similar transition myself some years back, with a detour in cocktail geekery along the way.

The good guys at Seven Stills did too. Tim and Clint were Bay Area college buddies obsessed with craft beer–as drinkers and brewers. They couldn’t help but wonder what some of their favorites would like taste like as whiskies. They got their hands on a little copper still and started experimenting. They haven’t stopped yet.

The Seven Stills Czar is part of the Seven Stills Series: whiskies based on craft beers the guys developed themselves, each of them devoted to one of San Francisco’s seven hills. (The Czar’s, fittingly enough, is Russian Hill.)

They started with their own Russian Imperial Stout–a favorite style of mine–and distill it twice. Now here’s the trick: the second distillation passes through a gin basket filled with hops.

Wait…a hopped stout…as a whiskey? How does that work?

Very well, it turns out.

The nose on the Seven Stills Czar has the roasted coffee and baking cocoa notes you might expect from the stout base. But the hops add a very distinct, very bright halo of pink grapefruit. Utterly intriguing–this is coming from a hopped-whiskey skeptic–and very appealing. Beyond it, hints of caramel, molasses.

The grapefruit turns to wild raspberry on the palate, bringing a distinct tang. Then chocolate lava cake, and a malty, beery core that’s familiar from other Seven Stills whiskies. The barrel influence comes through as cedar and cigar box.

The finish brings the end-of-the-beer-glass stout notes back, along with wild raspberry jam and burnt popcorn.

The Czar has officially taken me from hopped-whiskey skeptic to hopped-whiskey believer. I tried it on a Wednesday, and was back to the store on a Thursday to get a gift bottle for a friend.

Stay tuned for notes on two more tasty new Seven Stills releases coming soon.

Cheers, friends! – BO