Tag Archives: microdistillers

Laughton Brothers Bourbon Review

Distiller: Quincy Street Distillery. ABV: 45.5%. Age: 2+ years. Mashbill: 83% corn, malted barley, malted rye (proportions of the latter undisclosed). Price: $45.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I love finding distilleries in essentially my backyard. I have total respect for anyone who wants to make a go of creating their own whiskey, and if they’re doing so a stone’s throw (more or less) from my house, well, even better.

Over the years, I’ve been thrilled to discover Koval, Whiskey Acres, and F.E.W., all of which are Chicago-area distilleries doing great things. Now I have to add Riverside, Illinois’ Quincy Street Distillery to the list.

Their Laughton Brothers Bourbon is a straight bourbon based on a recipe of 83% corn, with barley and rye malt making up the remainder. It’s aged for two years in Missouri charred oak barrels, and it’s really quite good.

The nose has an element of freshly shucked corn that gives it a pleasing funky aspect. A bit of seared pork belly and green apple, along with vanilla extract.

The palate is surprisingly well rounded. Corn fritters with rich butter. Country ham. A slight hint of vanilla pudding. And wrapping it all up is a welcome medicinal note that cuts the sweetness at just the right angle.

The finish is refreshingly long and mellow. Candied pears float along, buoyed by an undercurrent of cornbread, hookah tobacco, and oat.

The Laughton Brothers Bourbon was a random purchase by Mrs. McDram and one I’m very glad to have tried.

Cheers, friends! – TM

Koval Four Grain Single Barrel Whiskey Review

Distillery: Koval. ABV: 47%. No age statement. Mashbill: oats, malted barley, rye, wheat (proportions unspecified). Price: $50

Chicago, to me, remains the quintessential American city. Diverse, insular, innovative, slow to respond. Chicago can be everything at once. Many faults, to be sure. But there’s greatness in its neighborhoods and the people and creations that stem from them. Chicago gave us the greatest newspaper columnist of all time in Mike Royko and it’s given us a damn fine and innovative distiller in Koval.

Like Royko, who blended high satire with gritty reporting , the Koval Four Grain Single Barrel Whiskey is a wonderfully singular expression. Jim Murray thought so as well, having named it as a runner up for U.S. Micro Whisky of the Year in his 2017 Whisky Bible. (See our Koval Millet Whiskey review for another intriguing release.)

The nose of the Koval Four Grain reminds me of a great cookout where cornbread, amber beer, and honied ham take a place of honor. There’s a faint medicinal waft to the back of the nose that balances out the sweetness.

The palate is earthy and light at once. An initial viscous mouth feel gives way to sensations of the whiskey literally popping on your tongue. There’s roasted yam, tart orange, and a hint of pig roasted on a spit. At the end, dark cherry, wood chips, and lovely dark, dark cocoa.

If I have any quibble with the Koval Four Grain, it’s the finish, where the medicinal note predominates and overwhelms. But this is a superb expression of a new-classic distillery, one that I’m proud to have in my home town.

Here’s to home and the drink and food that makes it one. – TM

Buy Koval Whiskey online at Mash + Grape

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

Feature photo from http://www.noblespirits.com.au

Whiskey Acres Sweet Corn Bourbon Review

Distiller: Whiskey Acres. ABV: 43.5%. No age statement. Mashbill: 75% sweet corn, 15% wheat, 10% malted barley. Price: $30.

Distilleries come in all shapes and sizes, and that applies to their approach to distilling as well as their physical characteristics. Some, like my beloved Lagavulin, focus on a few core expressions. Others are more willing to play and see what works.

Take, for example, the DeKalb, Illinois-based Whiskey Acres. They could’ve easily sat on the laurels with their superb rye and bourbon. But they believe that the breadth and depth of corn varietals is equal to that of grapes, and they’re determined to show what the crop can do.

Well, after the Artisan Series Sweet Corn Bourbon Whiskey, I’m a believer. The whiskey’s mashbill (75% sweet corn, 15% wheat, 10% malted barley) is evident throughout the experience. It’s like a trip back to the fall harvests I remember from my uncle’s farm.

The nose sweeps me into memories of the corn casserole my grandmother made; not overly sweet, rich, slightly oaky. There’s vanilla as well, and a hint of baked apple. The palate continues with the baked apples, without being overly sweet. Buttered corn glides alongside streaks of vanilla. Ever so faint roasted chicken.

The finish achieves the near impossible for a young whisky. There’s no flameout into oblivion. Instead, all the elements come back to play. The apple is now a lovely pie, the corn a just-out-of-the-oven cornbread, and there’s leather and pipe tobacco for good measure.

I figured I’d like this distillery-only juice after my previous Whiskey Acres experience, but I didn’t expect to like it this much.

Here’s to those who dare. Cheers, friends! – TM

Malahat Bourbon and Rye Review

Malahat Straight Bourbon – Distillery: Malahat Spirits Co. ABV: 46%. Mashbill: undisclosed/high wheat. ABV:  Price: $65.

Malahat 100% Rye – Distillery: Malahat Spirits Co. ABV: 46%. Mashbill: 100% rye. Price: $65.

You know microdistilling has hit its stride when you see headlines like “7 San Diego Distilleries You Need to Know.” And you realize the article’s two years old.

California law hasn’t been kind to microdistilleries, though that’s finally changing for the better. My current home town of Los Angeles has been uncharacteristically slow on the uptake, but our sister city to the south is right in the center of the U.S. microdistilling boom. Among its most promising representatives is Malahat Spirits Co.

Malahat–the name of a schooner that ran bootleg booze to Southern California during Prohibition–was opened in 2014 by three friends, Ken Lee, Tom Bleakley and Tony Grillo. They focused on rum at first, with their Cabernet-aged rum winning Best in Class from the American Distilling Institute the last year. They also have one of the best-looking tasting rooms I’ve ever seen:

Photo from malahatspirits.com

I learned about Malahat from a friend a good two years ago, and had been waiting for a taste of their bourbon and rye. The wait is over!

Malahat Straight Bourbon was aged 2+ years in 30-gallon barrels. The mash bill is undisclosed, but Tony Grillo told me it’s “fairly high wheat.” That shows on the nose, which is big and fruity. Apple is prominent, followed by fragrant notes of cedar, vanilla, and lemon pith. Very pretty nose, with little indication of the spirit’s youth.

The palate’s a bit of a let-down after such a promising beginning. The fruit and fragrant notes are here too, together with baking spice, raw leather, and a certain lacquer bite that carried through to the finish. With some more time, this one will likely be a winner.

The Malahat 100% Rye is ready right now. It’s a great young rye–and all the more impressive given the technical difficulty of distilling from a 100% rye mashbill. Asked why Malahat chose to go 100% rye, Tony said, “For the challenge!”

Met and mastered. The nose is amazingly bright. A fresh fruit and berry basket, with just a hint of mint. Blueberries stewed in cinnamon. Fresh sweet grain. Lemon danish.

The palate is just as enjoyable, with spiced apple peel, creme brulée, Meyer lemon, and vanilla pipe tobacco. The spice persists through the medium finish.

A strong start for Malahat’s whiskey-making. Availability is wide in California, including various online retailers.

Cheers, friends! – BO

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

Virginia Highland Malt Whisky Review

Producer: Virginia Distillery Company. Distiller: undisclosed Highland distillery. Region: Highlands. ABV: 46%. No age statement. Price: $50-55.

The Virginia Distillery Company is tucked away in Virginia’s Blue Ridge mountains, which, as you know if you’ve been there, is one of the most preposterously idyllic spots on earth. They’re currently maturing the American single malt they’re distilling themselves, which I’m already eager to try given that it’s aging in ex-bourbon barrels, as opposed to the overwhelming preponderance of virgin oak maturation among other American single malts.

In the meantime, they’re also sourcing Highland malt from an undisclosed Scottish distiller and finishing it in Virginia port barrels. The result is their Virginia Highland Malt Whisky.

It has a very appealing traditional Highland nose, one I’d put somewhere between Tomatin and Aberlour: Red Delicious apple, stewed pear, and butterscotch.

The palate immediately restrains the sweeter notes in a broad tannic grip–a great compliment to the fruit core. Texture and substance to the body. Hints at a sherry notes, but the port inclines things more toward raspberry and cranberry than raisin and fig. Dried orange rind late on. The finish is nicely lingering, with blackberry tea.

The Virginia Distillery Company has a winner on their hands here. And it should get some more attention after being lauded in the 2017 Whisky Magazine awards. The only downside is how high they’ve set the bar for their own single malt. Luxury problems, as they say.

Cheers, friends! – BO

The Virginia Distillery Company graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.

Copper & Kings Blue Sky Mining Brandy Review

Producer: Copper & Kings. Distiller: undisclosed. ABV: 50%. Age: 7 years. Price: $40 for 375ml.

One of the few malternatives that has made its way into the regular Axis repertoire has been the line of extraordinary American brandies by Copper & Kings.

This young Kentucky distiller brings to brandy the same blend of tradition, innovation, and powerful flavors that its neighbors bring to bourbon. From their massive 62% ABV Butchertown to their beer barrel-finished Craftwerk line, they’ve made me think about brandy in a whole new way. I think they can do the same for any open-minded whisk(ey) lover.

Their latest release is the Blue Sky Mining brandy, a 7-year-old brandy distilled from Muscat grapes, matured in reconditioned wine casks, and finished for 30 months in a Kentucky  hogshead. It’s more floral and delicate in profile than C&K’s earlier releases, but the 50% ABV keeps up the intensity.

The nose is bright, fruity, floral. Jasmine and honeysuckle. A little juniper. Golden raisins. Applesauce. Very bright vanilla late on, bordering on the coconut notes from a light whiskey.

Substantial body. The palate starts with strong musky white grape note–that’s the muscat, naturally. The floral notes evolve into perfumed apple blossom. Then applesauce with cinnamon. Medium finish, with warm cedar and oak notes emerging late on.

Deliciously intriguing. A fair distance from Copper & Kings’ previous releases, but like everything else I’ve tried of theirs, a very welcome discovery. Availability will be limited, but K&L Wines has several other C&K offerings on sale and shippable. I’m about to head there to stock up myself.

Cheers, friends! – BO

Copper & Kings graciously provided a sample for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.