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A nice treat to share: Angel's Envy Rye

Posted on by Eric Burke

Every morning my dog, Whiskey, begs for her morning treats. She will sit nicely, take the treat from you, run into the living room, set it down and come back for the next one. She does this twice as she gets two treats every morning. 

If it is the weekend, she will eat them right away while we eat our breakfast. On work days she does something a little odd. She leaves them on the floor until we get home. Once we get the running around outside taken care of, she will grab the treats and bring them to where we are sitting and proceed to eat them. It is almost as if she understands that good things are even better with friends. 

Even if she doesn’t understand it, I do. Think about it. A romantic movie is better when watched with someone you love. A good meal is better with good company. And a good whiskey is better when shared with friends. In fact, the better the whiskey, the more apt I am to share it. 

When I finally bought a bottle of Angel’s Envy Rye, the first thing I thought about was who I wanted to pour samples for. It is only fair, I first tasted it after receiving a sample from a friend. Angel’s Envy Rye is a fairly new arrival to Minnesota. I started seeing it on the shelf when Total Wine appeared on the scene. It’s expensive for what it is. You don’t expect something that starts with MGP Rye to go for near $90. 

Angel’s Envy Rye is finished in rum casks. And it shows. There is little to none of the typical MGP profile here. It has been completely changed by the rum. It is sweeter and has picked up more complexity. It really is a treat worth sharing with friends.

Angel’s Envy Rye

Purchase Info: $84.99, 750 mL. Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: Batch#: 3F, Bottle#: 1696, 50% ABV, rye whiskey finished in rum casks

Nose: This smells like a good candy store. Fresh chocolate, nuts and a bit of fruitiness. Also pumpkin pie.

Mouth: Warm with ginger spiciness. Very sweet with nutty cocoa, cloves and molasses. 

Finish: Surprisingly little burn for 100 proof but a lingering spicy sweetness. 

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Thoughts: This is a ginger molasses cookie in a glass. It’s very sweet and so not something I’d want all the time but tasty enough to have with (or for) dessert occasionally.

A new arrival in an old style: Jim Beam Bonded

Posted on by Eric Burke

Bottled in Bond whiskey is an old thing. There are very few brands that weren’t available to your grandfathers that maintain that status. Companies just don’t come out with Bottled in Bond whiskeys very often. And why would they? You have to follow all the rules for a straight whiskey plus you need to have it be at least four years old, exactly 100 proof and the product of one distillery during one distilling season. That limits your flexibility. Most of the time these are no age statement whiskeys and unlike a non-bonded bourbon you can’t make up any shortfall with something a little younger or a little older. They really are a snapshot of what was going on at the distillery at the time they were distilled. Because of this, bonded bourbons are the darlings of the bourbon enthusiast croud. You know what you are getting since the info is right there on the label, they are a decent proof and they are ususally inexpensive. 

All of this makes it especially notable that Jim Beam just released a Bottled in Bond bourbon this year. Why go through the extra steps needed just to put those three words on the label for a rather inexpensive release? Especially since unlike many bourbon producers, Beam has two distilleries. I have no answer to that, but I am certainly happy that they did it. It’s like a little present to the whiskey geeks. It’s not quite as inexpensive as other bonded bourbons, but is in the ballpark. If it does well, maybe we’ll see more of them. Of course, if it does too well the next guy might decide to raise the price too.

Jim Beam Bonded

Purchase Info: $21.99, 1 Liter. Total Wine, Burnsville, MN

Details: 50% ABV

Nose: Cinnamon candy, mint, dusty oak and hints of cocoa.

Mouth: This shows its proof with a nice tingle. Initial impression is bready. It’s sweet with mint cocoa and dried corn. 

Finish: A warm, medium length finish with hints of dusty oak, cocoa and mint. 

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Thoughts: While this isn’t a knock-your-socks-off bourbon, it is a nice step up from Jim Beam White Label. I personally like it better than the Black Label as it doesn’t show as much oak. It won’t be my first choice for bonded bourbons, but it is a nice change up.

One little mystery is why Beam left the DSP number off the label. Luckily this mystery seems to have been solved: http://chuckcowdery.blogspot.com/2015/02/the-good-and-not-so-good-of-old-grand.html

Review: Jim Beam Black 8 year old

Posted on by Eric Burke

Today was one of those days where I noticed every step I took. It’s not that I hurt or anything like that. I was just aware of every step. It’s a strange sensation. Noticing things that should be so natural that they are below notice. It happens to me every so often. And of course as soon as I’m aware of it, I inevitably seem to forget how to do it. I trip over nothing and I stumble. 

For most of my life, my mother has told me that I’m weird. Growing up in the Upper Midwest where “that’s different” is used as an expression of intense disapproval, being told you are weird is on a whole other level. But I don’t think she ever meant it as a statement of disapproval to me, even though she often used it as an excuse as to why she didn’t like others. To me, it always sounded like there was a bit of wonder in there. Like she couldn’t quite understand where all my odd statements could possibly come from.

I’ve always seemed to look at the world a little differently. It’s either because I’m a designer or it’s the reason why I’m good at it. Sort of a chicken and egg thing there. I notice things and wonder about them. I’m intensely curious. Growing up I wanted to know how things worked and that contnues to this day. I’m constantly taking something apart. I’ve studied history in my spare time for almost a decade because I really want to know why things are the way they are today. 

It’s one of the things I like best about whiskey. From the history to the chemistry, there is so much to learn and discover. Even a simple glass of Jim Beam can give you just a little insight into the way a company works and what is going on there. Take the Jim Beam Black that I’m drinking. It’s stated age is 8 years. It was one of the last few on the shelf that still said that. The new ones you buy just say “Extra Aged.” This gives you a little hint that either the 8 year old wasn’t tasting quite up to the profile they wanted, they were running low and needed to be flexible, or they decided to squeeze a little more profit out of the label. It may even be a bit of all three. 

In any case it’s interesting to ponder. And at least when I notice things like this I tend to not fall down.

Jim Beam Black

Purchase Info: Total Wine. Burnsville, MN. $16.99 for a 750 mL.

Details: Age Stated 8 years. 43% ABV

Nose: Caramel, cedar, allspice and a faint melon sweetness.

Mouth: Spicy and tingly on entry. Black tea, black pepper, brown sugar, oak, cayenne and toffee.

Finish: Some tingle. Decent length. Black pepper and black tea.

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Thoughts: All in all this is a decently put together bourbon. If you are a fan of Jim Beam branded whiskeys you will probably like this a lot. If you aren’t, then you probably won’t. It’s lands right inside the Jim Beam wheelhouse just with more oak. Typically, I’m neither a fan of Jim Beam branded bourbons or ones that show a lot of oak so I fall into the second camp on this one. There’s nothing wrong with it, it just isn’t for me.

Finding out just what "Old Malvern Export Whiskey" is

Posted on by Eric Burke

It really is quite amazing what internet rabbit holes a bit of antiquing can lead you down. But first, a little background.

A browned and dirty label. And apparently a batch number? Bottle Number?

A little over a year ago, I was in Owatonna, Minnesota visiting an antique store. My wife and I were on a trek across southeast Minnesota to visit a few of these stores that she had found online. She normally has one or two items that she is looking for. Me? I wander around and try to see if there is anything whiskey related. I’ve found some cool things this way. Full, sealed bottles and decanters are always appreciated. On this trip though I found a mystery.

This label was thick as leather, dried out, cracked and peeling, with visible wood pulp.

I was standing in line waiting for my wife to pay for a wooden box she had decided that she couldn’t live without. I was looking at the shelves nearest to the line when something caught my eye. I wandered over and saw a a bottle that was so dirty that it looked like it had been in an old basement for quite a while. The label was browned with age. There was a lead foil and twisted wire seal, though the actual closure had been lost to time. Something about it spoke to me though and I also ended up with something I couldn’t live without.

Twisted wire and foil seal.

When I got it home, I started looking closer at it. What I initially took to be a hand-written label was actually printed. Which from a design standpoint is a horrible decision since it took me three tries with google to even figure out what all the letters in the brand name were. In fact it is the very difficulty of figuring out what this was that lead me down the rabbit holes mentioned above. The first thing I wanted to do was find out what this was. I could make out the words “Old” Something “Export Whiskey.” I tried a few different possibilities before I hit on the site Those Pre-Pro Whiskey Men. There I learned the “something” was actually “Malvern” (which Wikipedia tells me may be Welsh for “bare-topped hill”). I also learned a bit about Sigmund Freiberg of Cincinnati, Ohio who’s signature is on both the front and back label. This site is still in my RSS feed and I read every article that comes out.

The remains of the tax stamp.

So now that I knew what it was and where it came from, I felt I needed to know when it came from. For that I started with what I saw. There was just the tiniest bit of a tax stamp which placed it after 1868 (based on this site on tax stamps). The glass was clear with just the slightest lavender tint in the thickest areas and there was an interesting scar on the bottom. This site on bottle dating tells me that clear bottles started after 1905 and that the chemical used to decolorize the glass used from 1905 to the early 1920s caused the lavender tint. Mine is only very faintly colored lavender leading me to believe that this bottle spent a lot of time in a cellar since sunlight will cause the glass to “purple.” The interesting scar on the bottom was a suction scar from the bottle making machine. Since this machine was not in widespread use until 1910 it probably came from after that time. And as there was no marking on the bottom other than the scar the bottle was probably from before 1919 when the company who made the bottle making machine decided to add it’s mark to the bottles it produced. The embossed volume measurement was mandated after 1913 with all bottles needing it after 1914.

Suction scar from bottle making machine.

So based on the previous two sites, I determined that the bottle was from somewhere between 1910 and 1919 with a distinct possibility of it being after 1913.  So back to the Pre-pro site. There I learned that the business registered the Old Malvern was trademarked in 1911 and that the company who made it went out of business in 1918. This jives with what I learned from the bottle. So I am fairly confident that my bottle was sold somewhere between 1913 and 1918 and then stored in a cellar for a very long time. And based on this ad in the Toledo Medical and Surgical Reporter. I know that the whiskey inside it was “guaranteed 15 years old” and sold from $2 to $2.50. 

Of course, I still don’t know how this bottle got to Southern Minnesota. So if you have any more info about this brand, how widely it was distributed, etc. please let me know in the comments below. I’m very curious.

Old Malvern Front Label.

In case you were curious here is the full text from the label:

Old Malvern
Export Whiskey

This whiskey was aged in wood in the US Government bonded warehouses for many years and after being fully matured was shipped direct to us and bottled by us under strictly sanitary conditions. The Old Malvern Export Whiskey is of the highest quality and if the neck strip and wire seal on the neck of the bottle are intact we guarantee the quality under our own signature. None go (unreadable) without it.

Old Malvern back label

Cincinati, Ohio Sigmund W. Freiberg
full quart

NOTICE

Dealers are cautioned not to refill this bottle. The sale of other whiskey under our label is a violation of the rights which we propose to protect by legal proceedings.

Sigmund W. Freiberg

High West Master Class Plus a Review of High West Double Rye

Posted on by Eric Burke

High West Distillery is a company that gets a lot of love from whiskey geeks, myself included. They are located in Park City, Utah. Though they do distill some of their own stuff, they’ve really made their reputation on the ability to obtain interesting spirits and then blending them together to make something even more interesting.

So it was with real interest that I attended the master class Whiskey: An Organoleptic Journey at Sunday’s Whiskey on Ice Festival. The class was lead by Brendan Coyle, Lead Distiller at High West. During the class he discussed the whiskey making process in great detail. Everything from sourcing the grain down to bottling the finished product. 

The coolest part of the class was that it wasn’t just “first you mill, then you mash, then you ferment.” Instead he went into great detail about how and why you might want to do things a certain way and how it would affect the finished product. For example: He didn’t just say you mill the grain, but showed a diagram of a hammer mill and described the relative courseness of the resulting flour. And why you’d want to mill at the speed you do so you don’t risk scorching. 

Plus I really liked the dive into the science behind the processes. Things like why you might want a little bit of bacterial fermentation to go along with your yeast fermentation (complexity). The differences between the grain-in method of fermentation that American whiskey typically uses and the grain-out method used in making malt whiskey and why those methods are used (ease of filtration). Or why you would want to make your cuts at certain times and a bit of how you’d know when those are (taste/aroma + proof measurements). 

And of course he went over distillation and aging. Each of these were illustrated with a small taste of whiskey. We tasted six whiskeys* during the course of the class. First were two silver whiskeys Western Oat and OMG Pure Rye. After that were four aged blends: Double Rye, Rendezvous Rye, Campfire and the newly-reintroduced Bourye. I enjoyed all of them on some level except the Campfire. It tasted a bit too much like it’s namesake for me. 

All in all, if you get a chance to see one of Brendan Coyle’s talks, do it. My only regret is that it only lasted an hour. I could easily have sat through one twice as long.

High West Double Rye

Purchase Info: $32.99. 750 mL. Casanova Liquors, Hudson, WI (on a Sunday, out of state, for those who are watching Minnesota politics)

Details: 46% ABV. Batch# 14E20. Bottle# 3488. Blend of two straight rye whiskeys: a 2 year old 95% MGP rye and a 16 year old 53% Barton rye.

Nose: Mint, cedar, bubblegum, clove and licorice.

Mouth: Spicy. Toffee, mint, clove and licorice.

Finish: Mint, cedar and a nice lingering warmth

Thoughts: When I tried this side-by-side with the Rendezvous Rye during the class, I noticed that this one had much more of the typical “MGP” character. Which is perfect for me, because I really like that. It has more complexity than your typical MGP bottling though due to the addition of the much older Barton rye. This is a nice sipper with plenty of heat and at $30-$40 the price is right too. I like this. It’s an easy one to recommend.

*If you want info an any of these whiskeys visit www.highwest.com. The other cool thing about High West is how transparent they are about the details of their whiskeys. They will tell you what makes up each blend and we even got to see what proof the tails were cut at for the stuff they distilled during the presentation.