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Mead: The Libations, Legends, and Lore of History's Oldest Drink by Fred Minnick

Posted on by Eric Burke

Disclaimer: Fred Minnick is a friend of mine and in my statement of ethics I promised to disclose when I am reviewing one of my friend’s products and to only review them when it was truly something I really liked. This is one of those times.

I first became aware of mead as a drink in my mid-twenties. I was reading American Gods, the new book by my soon-to-be favorite fiction author Neil Gaiman. In the book, there is an early scene where the characters seal a contract by drinking mead. The characters are not impressed with the quality of the drink describing it as "evil, vile fucking mead" and as tasting of pickled honey. 

Needless to say, as my first real exposure to the concept of mead, I wasn't in a real big hurry to try it. That's even if I could have found any in the small Western Wisconsin college town, that unbeknownst to me, I shared with the author of the book.

It wasn't until I happened upon a meadery on my way to a family reunion in extreme Northern Wisconsin many years later that I once again considered mead as a drink. At the time I favored dry white wines and craft beers as my libations of choice. I was ready to expand the range of my palate though and picked up a bottle of the dry mead they were producing. I found it a delicious addition to the family festivities. 

And sadly, that was where my mead drinking experiment ended for the time being. I knew of it, knew I could find it, but soon moved on to spirits, found bourbon, and forgot to pick it up again. 

Until right now. Bourbon legend, my friend, and Wall Street Journal-Bestselling Author, Fred Minnick had released his seventh book. And it just so happens to be about Mead. Reading it, inspired me to go to the liquor store and finally pick up another bottle of Mead. This one is a sweet Mead, but I will be keeping my eye out for a dryer version as I am not really a fan of sweet wines, ciders, or apparently Meads. 

If you are at all interested in Mead (or just like Fred's writing style) I highly recommend you pick up Mead: The Libations, Legends, and Lore of History's Oldest Drink. As the subtitle suggests, it goes into the history and legends about the drink's origins. But it also gives you information on bees and honey, the brewing of mead, and some cocktail recipes where you might want to use some of that home-brewed mead.

You can pick up Mead: The Libations, Legends, and Lore of History's Oldest Drink at your local bookseller or on Amazon for somewhere around $25.


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Stubbees Bourbon Infused Honey

Posted on by Eric Burke

Unless you just stumbled onto the site, and this is your first time reading one of my posts, it is safe to assume that you know I have a fondness for bourbon. What you may not know is that I also have a fondness for honey. I love honey. It is by far my favorite sweetener. 

I've preferred honey to sugar my entire life. I used to love to put honey on my Cheerios and corn flakes as a child. When I was old enough to understand that it was acceptable to put honey into tea, I became a tea drinker at an age when most of my friends were chugging Mountain Dew. 

As I grew up and learned that much of the honey that was available for purchase in grocery stores had been adulterated in some way, mostly by adding additional sweeteners to the honey, I became a bit more choosy in my honey purchasing. These days I only purchase honey from producers I trust. Both locally and online. 

So when you combine my love of bourbon with my love of honey, it is no wonder that my interest was piqued when a press release for a bourbon-infused honey came across my desk from Stubbees Honey in Jacksonville Florida. Now I've often seen honey-flavored bourbon announcements come across my desk—many of them with little or no actual bourbon or honey in them—but I had never seen a boubon-infused honey before. So I did a little digging. 

Stubbees sources US-produced, organic, raw honey "only from hives located at nature preserves and farms that are free of pesticides." This is great as it supports both US beekeepers as well as keeping the hives healthier since the bees aren't ingesting pesticides. Based on the research, I decided to order a bottle from their website. It was $22 for a 12-ounce bottle. More than I normally pay for honey, but what the heck. If it really tasted of bourbon, it would be something fun to try.

When I first opened the bottle I was amazed at the boozy note coming from within. It was like a big, boozy barrel-aged beer. Sweet, but with a definite vinous note underneath. That note carried over to the mouth but transitioned into something much more in-line with bourbon notes. It has a good honey flavor that pairs really well with the bourbon notes. I really like this. 

And while I could probably just sit and eat honey by the spoonfuls, I decided to give this a little bit more of a thorough taste test. In the label, it claims that it is great in meat glaze or cocktails. So of course, the first thing I put it in was a cocktail or two. My wife loves the occasional Mint Julep so I surprised her with one sweetened with this honey. It received rave reviews. It did similarly well in other cocktails I tried it in. Where it blew my mind though was in a breakfast sandwich. I cooked some home-cured and smoked bacon that I had received from a family friend, placed that on a freshly baked biscuit along with this honey and a little cheese. Wooohhh momma! Was that ever good! that sandwich was worth the purchase price right there.

If you get a chance, and you are as big of a honey fan as I am, consider picking up a bottle.


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Limestone Branch Experimental Collection Bourbon

Posted on by Eric Burke

One of the things that I think that small distilleries have brought to the whiskey world is a willingness to experiment. To find different flavor profiles and to bring them to the world. They almost have to. If you are making the same style of whiskey as the big guys and don't have their economies of scale, they will beat you on price every time. But if you are offering something different, then maybe you can more easily convince people that your product is worth spending a little extra to support. 

Tonight's whiskey comes from a small distillery that has been putting out some fantastic bourbon under the Yellowstone and Minor Case brands. Almost all of that whiskey was sourced, though the latest Yellowstone did contain a bit of their whiskey as well. So though I knew they had good palates, I wasn't exactly sure how their in-house bourbon would taste. 

So when I saw that there were three young single barrel "Experimental Collection" bourbons from Limestone Branch at Total Wine in Kentucky, I felt like I needed to pick them up. To be honest, I didn't know what to expect. Would it be a familiar flavor profile? Something completely different? I didn't know, but I did know Steve Beam, and I also knew he's good at what he does. So I pulled the trigger. 

Limestone Branch Experimental Collection Bourbon

Purchase Info: $22.99 for a 375 mL bottle at Total Wine, Louisville, KY

Details: 47.5% ABV. Single Barrel. Barrel 11. Mash bill: 75% corn, 13% rye, 12% malt. Barrel Entry ABV: 54.57%. Barrel Char level 3. Aged 24 months.

Nose: Smells young. Wet coffee grounds and old lumber.

Mouth: Nice spice. Orange slice jelly candies, bitter almond, anise, and a fair dose of charcoal.

Finish: Medium length. Citrus and almond fade to reveal the dried grains used in its creation as well as a menthol mintiness.

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Thoughts: On my first try of this whiskey, I was not a fan. As I've spent a little more time with it, I've started to come around. I think this was just so different that, initially, I was thrown off a bit. Yes, this is young. And yes, you can tell from teh nose and the taste. But it doesn't taste bad, as many young whiskeys can. It's just really different. It doesn't taste grainy until the end of the finish. I kinda like it. Is it my favorite thing on the shelf? No. But I'm glad to have picked it up and help support (and taste) a bit of experimentation. 


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Rossville Union Barrel Proof Rye Whiskey

Posted on by Eric Burke

I'm generally not a proof-chaser. 100 proof is about my limit for whiskey before I stop trying to drink it neat and start adding water or a small piece of ice to it. I like my whiskey to be comforting, and I don't find that burning my tongue on alcohol is all that comforting. 

That isn't to say that I dislike high proof whiskeys. I usually like them quite a bit. I just also usually dilute them a little. Notice the use of the word usually there? That's because every once in a while a whiskey hides it's proof a bit. It's got some bite and burn to it, but not enough to make you want to dilute it too much. Which is both a good thing and a bad thing. I like to drink whiskey neat when I can so that's good. But if it drinks like a whiskey 20 proof points lower...that could make for a rough next morning if you aren't careful.

Rossville Union Barrel Proof Rye Whiskey

Purchase Info: $69.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN.

Details: 56.3% ABV. A blend of the MGP 95% rye and the MGP 51% Rye mashbills aged 5-6 years (according to their PR firm). Made from a batch of 83 barrels.

Nose: Spearmint, pipe tobacco, oak. 

Mouth: Spicy with nutmeg, clove, and honey sweetness. Spearmint as it moves back. 

Finish: Long and warm. Spearmint, citrus, and pipe tobacco. 

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Thoughts: I like this. I really like this. When neat, this is an exceedingly drinkable whiskey for a 112° proof. There is burn, but I've had the same in whiskeys of a lower proof. How does this compare to the 94° proof version? About how you'd expect. The 94° proof expression is more approachable than the Barrel Proof. They both have a similar backbone to them. I find that the influence of the 95% rye is a bit more pronounced in the 112° proof. But that's ok. I'm a big fan of those flavors, so that doesn't bother me in the least. If you are a fan of MGP ryes, I highly recommend giving this one a shot.


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visitBourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!

Rossville Union Master Crafted Rye Whiskey

Posted on by Eric Burke

We all know that MGP makes a good chunk of the rye whiskey on the market. And I don't know about you, but I've always loved that 95% Rye, no matter who is bottling it. 

When it was first announced that MGP was buying the Remus brand and bringing it in-house, I wondered how they planned on negotiating the fact that they were basically competing with their clients. But when I tasted it, I knew. They were going to put out a solid product that didn't have the "middle-man markup" in the price. Which made me curious if they were going to try a rye. 

Like I said above, the MGP style 95% rye was the first rye I fell in love with. Not the first that I'd had, but the first that I'd loved. And I was excited when I learned they were going to start producing multiple styles of rye whiskey a few years ago. These days in addition to their famous 95% rye/5% barley mash whiskey, they also produce a 51% rye/49% barley whiskey (named 49% barley in their product list) and a 51% rye/45% corn/4% barley one (named 51% rye in the product list). 

So how will they stand out from a market full of MGP rye that isn't being bottled by them? Easy. Combine more than one of their ryes, call it Rossville Union, and sell that. So what is Rossville Union Rye? It is a blend (mingling) of the 95% rye and the 51% rye mashbills that have been aged for 5-6 years. Sounds interesting to me, let's give it a shot. 

Rossville Union Master Crafted Rye Whiskey

Purchase Info: $39.99 for a 750 mL bottle at Ace Spirits, Hopkins, MN.

Details: 47% ABV. A blend of the MGP 95% rye and the MGP 51% Rye mashbills aged 5-6 years (according to their PR firm).

Nose: Bubblegum, spearmint, pencil shavings, and fleeting hints of dill. 

Mouth: Good rye spice. Baking spice, spearmint, and a light white sugar sweetness.

Finish: Medium length and warm. Lingering notes of spearmint and baking spices. 

Thoughts: Well, they did it. This is both similar to and very different from the 95% Rye that everyone else and their uncle bottles. I like it a lot. It has a good mouthfeel and decent spice. But not too much spice. Very approachable. I'd buy another bottle. 


BourbonGuy.com accepts no advertising. It is solely supported by the sale of the hand-made products I sell at the BourbonGuy Gifts Etsy store. If you'd like to support BourbonGuy.com, visitBourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!