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Statements of Age and Door County Distillery Bourbon

Posted on by Eric Burke

§ 5.40 Statements of Age and Percentage. 
    (a) Statements of age and percentage for whisky. In the case of straight whisky bottled in conformity with the bottled in bond labeling requirements and of domestic or foreign whisky, whether or not mixed or blended, all of which is 4 years old or more, statements of age and percentage are optional. As to all other whiskies there shall be stated the following: 
    (1) In the case of whisky, whether or not mixed or blended but containing no neutral spirits, the age of the youngest whisky. The age statement shall read substantially as follows: ‘‘___ years old.’’ 

The above comes from the US Government Publishing Office. Seems pretty straightforward doesn’t it? If your whiskey is bottled in bond or not, if it is produced in the US or not, if it is blended or not, statements of age are optional if it is over 4 years of age. For all other whisky the age shall be stated as shown above.

Yet even though it seems pretty straightforward and I was able to find it with less than 5 minutes spent on Google, this seems to be a something that is still hard to figure out for some small distillers. I mean, I get it. I’m a pretty smart person that has above average reading comprehension skills. And seriously, lawyers are notorious for writing laws that only another lawyer can understand, amirite? When you are starting a small business, who has the money for a lawyer to help you decode all those pesky laws?

Well, our helpful government has you covered there too. Can’t quite make out the particulars of the law? They provide a helpful guide in plain English that tells you what you need to do. It’s called the Beverage Alcohol Manual. And it is super easy to read. 

If you look at Chapter One: Mandatory Label Information (PDF), it tells you all about what is required on the label. Scroll down to Section 13 (it’s on page 1-14) . Don’t feel like it? That’s ok, I’ll paste it below. 

13.  STATEMENTS OF AGE
REQUIRED A statement of age is required for: 
• All types of whisky aged less than 4 years

Ok but seriously, age is just a number? Right. You’re only as old as you feel and maybe this whiskey doesn’t feel like its only a year old. Well, they have you covered there too. If you look at Chapter 8: Statements of Age (PDF), the very first thing defines "age" for you. Sorry I may only feel like I’m 25, but the government (and my knees) can tell you I’m closer to 45 than I am to 25. And in case clicking that link is a hardship, I’ll paste this too.

DEFINITION OF “AGE” 
• Age is the period during which, after distillation and before bottling, distilled spirits have been stored in oak containers 
• For bourbon, rye, wheat, malt or rye malt whiskies and straight whiskies, other than straight corn whisky (which must be stored in used or uncharred new oak containers), the oak container must be a charred new oak container

So there you have it. A very quick lesson in whiskey age statements. Just because you don’t know the law, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t apply to you.


I did this little primer, because I recently visited Door County, Wisconsin. Since I had last visited the area, about 5 years or so ago, a winery I used to visit had expanded to have a distillery as part of their business. When I visited, I noticed that they had a bourbon out on the shelf. Even better, there was no age statement on it. Doing a little math in my head on how long it had been since I was there last, I realized that if they had broken ground right after I was there and had everything go right in the building and licensing process there was an off chance that it was actually four years old. Barely.

So I introduced myself and asked if there was someone I could talk to about the bourbon. The lady behind the counter seemed to be in charge and told me I could talk to her. My first question was, as you might have guessed, “How old is the bourbon?” She told me just under a year…

huh?

So I asked again? Really? Because I see there is no age statement on the label and I’m sure you are aware that if it is under four years of age, whiskey needs an age statement. Well, unfortunately she got a little defensive and told me that everything that the law requires is on their label. “Because they are pretty strict about that stuff.” Not looking to upset her further, I bought my bottle and decided to write the company and see if they would provide further clarification. 

They did not. I told them I would publish last Thursday and then held off until now just to see if there would be a response. There wasn’t. So I am forced to conclude that Door County Distillery Bourbon Whiskey is really about a year old and that they are in violation of labeling laws. Hopefully they will get this matter fixed because I really don’t believe they intend to deceive their customers. 

Door County Distillery Bourbon Whiskey

Purchase Info: $24.99 for a 375 mL bottle at the distillery.

Details: 40% ABV

Nose: Corn, cinnamon, dried fruit

Mouth: Sweet and spicy with notes of honey, granola and cinnamon spice

Finish: Short with lingering honey and cinnamon spice

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Thoughts: This is much better than I had expected from a bourbon that I have to assume is only a year or so old. In fact, I’m really very pleasantly surprised. Does it taste like fully mature bourbon? No. But it does taste like a good young bourbon. It nicely balances youthful brashness with a light barrel influence. And it was a nice vacation souvenir. I like this for what it is. I just hope they get their label in compliance because if you were expecting a fully mature bourbon, you’d be very disappointed and much less charitable. 


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Updated Statement of Ethics

Posted on by Eric Burke

As discussed last week, the time has come to figure out a solution to the fact that whiskey has gotten expensive enough that I can't keep going the way I have been. I received a lot of lovely notes both in the comments and via other means. The gist of most of them was that a big majority of you do not have an objection to reviewers accepting review samples if the trust is there and that I have sufficiently built up that trust already. 

Other comments said they would be ok with ads, the issue for me is that ads are ugly and more importantly, they don't pay very well. I think I am already making more from my patrons than I would via ads. I love my patrons. I hope more of you will consider signing up! The more of you there are, the more I often I will create the "bonus content" that they get.

To that end I've made a couple changes to the Statement of Ethics for the site. The changes are in bold-italic type below. I still plan to buy most of what I review, but will no longer feel that I shouldn't take samples if offered. I will still disclose that acceptance. Both because it is the right thing to do and because I don't want to get fined by the FTC. I love going on distillery tours and will pay for those that I go on. If however I see a good article coming out of it, I have no qualms setting up a private visit.

That's it. I still believe in transparency. I will still end up buying most of what I review, but since the policy has changed, I thought it would be a good idea to call out the changes.


This is document will be kept up to date. Things will be added to as things come up. Edits will be made if circumstances change.

  1. I do not accept advertising. 
  2. I will not allow a comment that disparages women, men, minority groups, or homosexuals (or anyone else for that matter). I will not allow xenophobic or racist comments on the site.
  3. I try to buy a lot of what I review, but will accept review samples.
  4. If I do accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article.
  5. When I visit a distillery or whiskey event, I pay for my ticket and take the same tours everyone else can. If this is ever not the case, such as a Media Event or a “Sneak Peak,” I will disclose that fact at the beginning of the article. This does not mean I won't set up a private tour/visit if the distillery agrees and it will make a good article.
  6. There are spirits industry people who I consider friends. If I ever review one of their products, I will disclose that fact at the beginning of the article. 
  7. Beyond the sample policy above, I do not accept trips, gifts, or other compensation in return for posts or reviews.
  8. Though I try very hard to get my facts straight, errors happen. If I make a factual error in an article, I will happily update it if notified and will make note of the change at the end of the article.
  9. In return for the above, I ask that you respect the license that the reviews/posts/images were released under. I release all works on this site under a creative commons license unless otherwise noted. This means you are basically free to do whatever you want with them provided you do two things: use it for non-commercial purposes and give credit back to the site/leave on the watermark. Commercial uses are anything that make money such as a blog that accepts advertising or a presentation that people pay to attend, etc. If you want to use it for purposes outside the license, just send me an email and we'll work something out. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

If you have any questions, click the contact icons in the main navigation to get a hold of me via email or your favorite social medium.

Orange-Spiced Cocktail Cherries

Posted on by Eric Burke

Last weekend I took a long weekend away to spend with my niece and nephew in Door County, WI. If you haven’t been there, it is the peninsula that just out of the side of Wisconsin into Lake Michigan. One of the things that Door County is very proud of is their cherries. If you make a fruit product in Door County, you better have at least one expression that contains cherries. Cherry jam, jelly, wine, vodka, soap, cider, ice cream, candy, you name it. And while I’m not any sort of judge of cherries, I don’t even particularly like them, when you are there, and they are in season, it’s hard not to come home with at least a quart of them.

Luckily even though I don’t eat cherries, every time I get some, I decide to try to make my own cocktail cherries. Because even though I may not like cherries by themselves, they do play really nicely with bourbon and rye whiskey.

The last time I made some it was chocolate bourbon cherries because those were the ingredients I had on hand that year. Thanks to my recent exploration of Michael Dietsch’s Whiskey cocktail book, I find I have a lot more items to play with this time. I really like Manhattans so this year I tried to really think about what flavors I wanted to include in my Manhattan so I would end up with the perfect garnish. I used cherry puree because some of my favorite bourbons have a ripe cherry note to them. I used dry curaçao because I prefer orange bitters to aromatic in my Manhattan. I used New Riff new make rye and Old Grand-dad 114 to give it a flavor that would play nice with the bourbon or rye. I used the spices from the Brandied Cherry Recipe in Jeffrey Morgenthaler’s The Bar Book because I thought they would play nice in my drink. 

Orange-Spiced Cocktail Cherries

Pit one quart of fresh tart cherries. You will need one pound for the recipe and the remainder for the cherry juice. (if you are looking for a cherry pitter, I recommend the OXO Cherry Pitter it works great and isn’t expensive.)

Syrup Ingredients

1 cup cherry “juice" (Puree the remaining pitted tart cherries (about 2/3 pounds) in a blender, run it through a fine mesh screen and add water to the result until it makes 1 cup)

1 cup sugar

Syrup Spices

1 tbsp cinnamon chunks (crushed cinnamon sticks)

1 tbsp Juniper berries

1 tbsp whole Allspice 

1 whole Star Anise (broken up slightly)

Syrup Sprits

2.5 fluid ounce Dry Curaçao 

1.5 fluid ounce New Riff new make rye

4 fluid ounce Bourbon

In a medium sauce pan, combine the cherry juice, the sugar and the spices and bring to a simmer (not a boil). If you want to avoid straining it later, tie the spices up in a piece of cheese cloth so you can fish them out). Once the mixture is at a simmer, let it simmer for 5 minutes to infuse the spices. Then add in your pound of pitted tart cherries. You’re just looking to warm up the cherries not cook them so stir them a few times and pull it from the heat.

At this point the cherries should be well below boiling, but measure it to be sure. Once it is below 160 degrees (don’t want that alcohol boiling off) add your spirits and stir. 

You have a couple choices at this point. If you make a lot of cocktails you can just pack them in a mason jar and pop it into the fridge. If you think you might need it to last longer, you can put them into smaller jars and run it through a hot water bath for five minutes to can it. This is what I did. I ended up with 3 half pint jars to use later and about half a jar of the same size that I can use right away. 


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A blog, a squirrel, two walnuts and a fence.

Posted on by Eric Burke

I have a lot of trees in my yard. Oak, Black Walnut and Maple mostly. The fact that most of these produce seeds also means that I have a lot of squirrels that travel through my yard. Few live there because of the fact that there have been dogs living here for the past decade, but they come for the food when the dogs are inside.

Tonight I happened to be looking outside at my yard. It was flooded from a severe rainstorm we’d had just an hour or so previous. As I was looking outside I noticed a squirrel navigating his way across the flooded yard. This particular squirrel had somehow managed to grab two walnuts in his mouth and was carrying them across the yard with the intent to take them into the neighbor’s yard. 

As he reached the fence, he seems to have realized that he wouldn’t fit through it while carrying them the way he currently was. He tried to adjust them a few times, but quickly gave up, dropped one and hurried on with the remaining one. It didn’t look as if he even gave it another thought. Even though he was able to do something rather extraordinary in carrying both of them through a flooded yard, that didn’t stop him from making the necessary choice to leave one behind when it was clear that continuing on that way was untenable. 

Which got me to thinking. I’ve done something here pretty extraordinary. I’ve been able to put up two posts a week for over three years. Almost all of them have a review of some sort in them. And since I seldom accept review samples, that means that I’ve bought things to review about 100 times per year. Last year, I was laid off and went into business for myself. And though business has been really good, the nature of being freelance has meant that I’ve had to cut the whiskey budget some.

And sadly maintaining a twice a week posting schedule is becoming untenable. At least from a purchasing standpoint. I’ve tried Patreon and I’m humbled that four people have been regular patrons. I’m humbled that the occasional check has come in from people that can’t commit to a recurring donation. But unless a few more people sign up, something has got to give. 

I have a few options. I can remove the restriction on review samples. I can expand into other topics. I can start to take advertising. I can restart the online stores and hope someone buys something this time. I can reduce the frequency of posts. Or I can give up.

Blogs like mine are free to consume, but can be expensive to produce. I like the idea of the stores, and I’m thinking of items to create and ways to do it that will result in good products that aren’t sold at outrageous prices. But in the short term, I’m thinking that some combination of the first two will be the biggest help since reducing the posting frequency is a good way to kill readership. So what do you think? You are the audience. Please let me know in the comments. I’m like the squirrel right now. I’m at the fence, I’ve done something pretty cool, but I can’t continue the way I’ve been going. Which nut do I drop?


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Comments 9

Johnnie Walker Select Casks - Rye Cask Finish

Posted on by Eric Burke

As many of you know, I am on record as not preferring Scotch Whisky. It isn’t that I have anything against Scotland or it’s people. It’s just that I haven’t found one of their whiskies that I’ve been particularly drawn to. I’ve tried to say that “I haven’t found one that I prefer to bourbon,” as opposed to I don’t like Scotch. But as I tried more and more of them, I was starting to think that maybe I really just didn’t like Scotch Whisky. 

At least until I was the “Resident Expert” at a local reader’s whiskey tasting. (If you can’t hear the sarcasm dripping off that quoted part, I assure you it’s there*). I was paid some money to tell a group of the hosts friends how I taste whiskey, how that is different from when I drink whiskey and to help answer any questions they might have on the topic of whiskey. On top of the cash, I also got to try any of the whiskey that was on the table of the guests. There were some nice ones there in both bourbon, scotch and rye, but one that I was particularly drawn to try was a blended Scotch finished in Rye barrels. And I liked it. 

It sounded familiar, so when I got home, I searched though my samples and realized that I had a sample of the same whisky on my shelf that a friend of mine had given me. Because I had been out drinking whisky for money all night (and my wife had driven me there and picked me up—safety first!) I poured that sample for my wife. She liked it too.

Strange. I liked it even though I didn't think I cared for Scotch Whisky. She has actually gone on record saying that she doesn’t Scotch and yet she liked it. Hmmmm…

Johnnie Walker Select Casks - Rye Cask Finish

Purchase info: $25-ish at Marketplace Liquors, Menomonie, WI (I lost the receipt).

Details: 10 year old, age-stated, 46% ABV.

Nose: Toasted marshmallows, mint and hints of oak.

Mouth: Sweet with wintergreen, clove, slight caramel and a nice tingle on the tip of the tongue. 

Finish: Warm and sweet with lingering wintergreen, clove and caramel.

Thoughts: I’d call this a whisky for Rye Whiskey drinkers that want their rye a little softer and more refined, but with less oak, than the typical aged American Straight Rye. It’s soft and gentle but with many of the flavors that one associates with rye. The typical mint has softened to wintergreen, but the clove and some caramel are still there.  On the other hand, there is so much influence from the finishing barrels that I get none of the flavors that I typically associate with either blended or malt Scotch Whisky. Which to me is a good thing. But if you are a looking for that, this might be an issue.

So, I still can’t say if I can make a Grand Pronouncement about if I like Scotch Whiskey or not. But I have, at least, found one that I do like. And I like it quite a bit.

*Sarcasm not because I don’t appreciate being called an expert, but because I don’t feel like one. It feels like I still have way too much to learn. 


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