Eight & Sand Blended Bourbon Whiskey

I’d like to thank Gregory + Vine for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. All notes and thoughts are my own.

I came to a realization over the course of the last month. In this country, blended whiskey has a bad rep. And for good reason. Most of it is crap. Two things crystalized it for me. The first is that I’ve been getting a lot of comments on an old post that reviewed Kentucky Gentleman. In case you were blissfully unaware, Kentucky Gentleman is a blend of 51% bourbon and 49% Grain Neutral Spirits. Yet, it is labeled as “Kentucky Gentleman Kentucky Bourbon Whiskey.” Sadly some of the commenters didn’t bother reading the next line on the label which describes the components of the blend. Let’s just say they were unhappy with their purchase. On the other hand, I also had people saying I was a snob because I didn’t like it so…yeah.

But the other thing that crystalized the bad reputation that blended whiskeys get was the sample I received of Eight & Sand, a Blended Bourbon Whiskey from the folks at MGP in Indiana. MGP makes damn fine whiskey. Yet, I saw ”blended” on the label and even though the label explicitly said “No GNS or coloring added,” I still felt a moment’s hesitation when I poured my first glass.

Eight & Sand is a Blended Bourbon Whiskey which, according to labeling regulations, means that it is at least 51% Straight Bourbon Whiskey. The other 49% can be almost any other spirit, but is usually GNS. So yeah, it was that other up to 49% that worried me. They must have been expecting questions like this though because when I asked I was very quickly assured that the non-bourbon portion was composed of rye whiskey, corn whiskey and light whiskey (in case you are curious, light whiskey is whiskey that has been distilled to higher than traditional whiskey’s 160 proof limit but lower than the 190 proof limit which would render it neutral grain spirits. It is then aged in used or uncharred new containers). So this is an all whiskey blend.

The Eight & Sand blend creation actually reminds me a lot of the way many Canadian Whiskies are created. Canadian Whiskies often start with a delicate “base whisky” which is similar to US Light Whiskey. To that they blend in “flavoring whiskeys” made from other types of grain: rye, malt, bourbon-style corn whisky, etc. (but never GNS). Our Neighbors to the North rely on (and acknowledge) their blenders to make a particular whisky what it is. They form an idea or feeling they want to capture or evoke and blend the whisky to that. Which is why I say that Eight & Sand reminds me of a Canadian Whisky in some ways. Sure, in Eight & Sand’s case, the base whiskey is bourbon. But they also set out with the idea to showcase their four primary whiskeys (Bourbon, corn, rye, and light) and then blended a whiskey that can show off what can be done with them.

Eight & Sand Blended Bourbon Whiskey

Purchase Info: I was graciously provided a 750 mL sample from Gregory+Vine for review purposes. Suggested retail price is $29.99 for a 750 mL bottle.

Details: 44% ABV. Blended Bourbon. No GNS or coloring added. A blend of Bourbon, Rye, Corn and Light whiskeys.

Nose: Mint, cinnamon and caramel.

Mouth: Bubblegum, mint, and cinnamon spice.

Finish: Warm and of medium length. Lingering cinnamon, clove, bubblegum and mint.

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Thoughts: If you had handed this to me with no explanation as to what it was, I would have said it was a pretty tasty bourbon. Knowing that this is a blend, it really shows of the MGP blender’s skill. I mentioned above that the process to create this was similar to the process used in Canadian Whisky. The reason I thought of that is that during our tasting, this reminded me a lot of a really good Canadian Whiskey. I’m thinking something from Wiser’s.

In fact, it shows my biases that when I saw the suggested retail price was roughly $30, I baulked a little. It seemed odd to charge that much for a Blended Bourbon. Yet if someone had handed me this same whiskey and told me it was Canadian, I would have thought the $30 price tag was ludicrously low. I would have bought three or four bottles before they '“wised up.” I guess what I am saying is that you should probably give this one a shot. It is quite good and well worth the asking price.


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Tommyrotter Triple Barrel American Whiskey plus an interview with Bobby Finan of Tommyrotter Distilling

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. I’d like to thank Bobby Finan and Tommyrotter Distilling for providing this sample to me with no strings attached.

A few months ago, Bobby Finan of Tommyrotter Distillery in Buffalo, NY reached out to me to see if I would like to receive a sample of their products. Because I rarely say no to the opportunity to try something that I cannot get at home, I gladly accepted the offer. And because I’m a curious fellow who enjoys talking with people who are passionate about what they do, I decided to ask him some questions in return. He was gracious enough to answer them.

That’s right, I got free whiskey and then got him to write half of this post to boot.


Eric: So, Bobby, tell me a little about yourself and Tommyrotter distillery. We live in the age of superheroes on the big screen so what is the origin story of Tommyrotter?

Bobby Finan: I’m a born and raised Buffalonian and own Tommyrotter with my business partner. We’ve been at it for 4 years and are expanding our footprint throughout the Northeast and outward to other key markets in the US. I got turned onto distilling while living in NYC interning at an investment bank. I learned pretty quickly cubicle life was not for me and happened upon the distilleries that were popping up in Brooklyn. I was infatuated with them. After I completed college, I worked at a Central NY craft distillery that was moving towards opening and got to experience the start up phase of launching a distillery. I soon moved back to my hometown of Buffalo, where I met my business partner and we launched what would become Tommyrotter Distillery. In attempting to come up with a name we dove into old stories about our city - we wanted a name that alluded to “craft production,” “quality,” tied into Buffalo and was totally unique. We came across the story of the Tommyrotter’s Club, a group of rebellious artisans who worked on the Roycroft Campus in East Aurora, NY (the rural suburb that I grew up in just south of Buffalo) back in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The Roycroft was the birthplace of the American Arts and Crafts Movement, a kind of counterculture to the Industrial Revolution, where artists and craftspeople lived, worked and made their high end goods by hand. The Campus is still functioning today and is a pillar of the Western New York arts community. We dug the Tommyrotter name because these guys kind of bucked the rules - they we’re known for sneaking out of work to go adventure seeking, create for creation’s sake and maybe enjoy a couple drinks while doing it.

Eric: After looking at your website, I know that you produce a couple of whiskies and you sent over a sample of a gin, What else do you produce? And what would you consider your “specialty?”

Bobby: We distill a vodka, one type of gin (and barrel it for a second product) and we blend and finish whiskeys Our specialty is definitely gin, our American Gin is our top selling product and our Cask Strength Bourbon-Barrel Gin gets a lot of press, awards and cocktail menu placement due to how unique and delicious it is. The American Gin has developed a really loyal following due to the botanicals we use. We infuse 12 botanicals through vapor distillation and utilize a lot of baking spice (think nutmeg, cardamom, cinnamon) and balance it out with citrus and juniper. In Buffalo, NY, our hometown, we’ve got Hendricks on the ropes in most local liquor stores and have a lot of people who say, “Tommyrotter is the only gin I’ll drink.” The Cask Strength Bourbon-Barrel Gin is the exact same gin as our American Gin, just thrown into a brand new white American oaks #3 char barrel for about a year and bottled at 122 Proof. It’s a one-of-a-kind spirit, a real category bender and is one of the most complex spirits on the market in my opinion (but the critics say so too!).

Eric: Tonight I’ll be reviewing the Tommyrotter American Whiskey. You labeled it “Triple Barrel.” Tell us the story behind that. What is a Triple Barrel American Whiskey at Tommyrotter?

Bobby: “Triple Barrel” really has two meanings or two points of significance as they pertain to the product and name. Our American Whiskey is a blend of two mash bills of bourbon and a Tennessee whiskey - three types of whiskey or three barrels. That blend is then finished in French oak that previously housed red wine (we’re typically utilizing ex-Cab Sauv and ex-Cab Franc barrels). As you might assume, the two bourbons are aged in brand new white American charred oak. The Tennessee is aged in recharred next use American oak barrels that previously housed bourbon. In total, the whiskey we blend, finish and bottle is product of three types of barrel treatment…and so we again arrive at “Triple Barrel.” On a geekier note: One of the bourbon is a high corn mash bill and when we started rolling out whiskey was a little north of 1 year old, that input is now regularly 2+ years old, the second bourbon is 5-6 year old high wheat mash bill, the Tennessee is 7 years old and also has a pretty high corn level in the MB. The weighted average of the mash bills by function of blend ratio balances out at 81% Corn / 9% Wheat / 5% Rye / 6% Barley.

Eric: I notice that the sample you sent me says that it was distilled in Tennessee and Indiana. I have a good guess as to what those distilleries might be, but can you confirm?

Bobby: One of the distilleries doesn’t like us mentioning their name, the other doesn’t care. For the sake of enjoying a good wink and nod opportunity, I’d say if you made a quarter-way educated guess, you’d likely be right.

Eric: As a follow-up, since this is a barrel-finished whiskey, you obviously have access to barrels. Are you buying fully matured whiskey from your suppliers or do you buy new-make and age in in-house?

Bobby: The answer to that “or” question is: Yes. Building a whiskey program takes a lot of planning. You’re buying older/matured whiskey to finish and package now. You’re buying slightly less old whiskey to bottle next year and so on and so on. Simultaneously, you’re buying new-fill whiskey and aging in house or in contracted bonded-warehouses due to scale to be of age when you hit the bottom of your less aged product that is coming to age every year. I was trying to description the shape of the curve you follow on purchasing, but it’s really a three dimensional curve and the variable where getting overly wordy to explain. In summation, there is a decent amount of algebra based on projections and an understanding that you may be offloading excess or scrambling for supplementary barrels until you really dial in demand and growth.

Eric: Are there plans to transition your whiskey to ones made from your own distillate in the future? If so, how far along that process are you? Can you give us any hints about what to keep an eye out for?

Bobby: We’d like to build a new facility and actively moving in that direction - may be two years out or so - but at the new facility we’d have full whiskey production capability and eventually moving towards our own juice. It takes a long time to fully make that transition.

Eric: Finally, where can an interested reader learn more about Tommyrotter and your products?

Bobby: Give us a follow on Instagram or Facebook - we come out with a limited release whiskey product each fall and are making a concerted effort to expand our single barrel program for our Cask Strength Bourbon-Barrel Gin beyond upstate NY. The single barrels of our CSBBG are awesome. Just really, really awesome.

Eric: Thanks for answering a few questions for me. I, and the readers, appreciate it.

Tommyrotter Triple Barrel American Whiskey

Purchase Info: This sample was graciously provided for review purposes by the distillery. This product can be found for $35 for a 750 mL bottle.

Details: 46% ABV. Age stated at 1 year old.

Nose: Sweet with buttered popcorn, spearmint and caramel.

Mouth: Cornpops cereal, cinnamon and black pepper

Finish: On the shorter side of medium. Lingering spearmint.

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Thoughts: This is a very grain forward whiskey but I wouldn’t necessarily say it tastes “young” as there are no rough edges at all. I tasted this neat and it reminds me of a good quality corn whiskey. I also made a small old fashioned with it and it performed well. I liked how the sweetness of the whiskey played with the spice of the aromatic bitters I chose. Overall, I’d recommend this to people who like sweet, grain forward whiskies.


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Jack Daniel's Single Barrel "Heritage Barrel"

I state in my Statement of Ethics that if I accept a review sample, I will disclose it at the beginning of the article. Please consider it disclosed. I’d like to thank the folks at Jack Daniel’s PR for providing this sample to me with no strings attached. As always, all thoughts are just my opinion.

When my wife is away for work, I have absolutely no willpower. I will eat the most lopsided, unnutritious meals just because they are easy. For example, last night I ate an entire container of microwave garlic mashed potatoes. That’s it. Nothing else. Just potatoes. Over the course of today, I opened and finished a box of four frozen, breaded chicken patties. I ate them for every meal. I made sandwiches out of them. At least they were organic, I guess. Though the cheese and bacon weren’t.

This lack of willpower also extends to my nightcap as well. But in this case, that lack of willpower manifests itself a little differently. See, instead of doing the easiest thing possible, I do the tastiest thing possible. Or, at least the tastiest thing that is close to hand. I’m not digging through the whiskey closet to open something new.

I mean, let’s not get crazy.

That little voice that would normally be telling me that an entire container of potatoes is not a meal is also the same one that would tell me that I should probably save that limited edition whiskey for when my wife is around to share it with me. That voice would, of course, be my wife’s and lucky for me she is in another state right now so there is no one around to tell me these things and I am free to act like an animal that has slipped its leash.

Tonight’s whiskey is one that was sent to me from Jack Daniel’s. It is their upcoming single barrel release that they call: Heritage Barrel. The company says that this release was aged in barrels that had “a deeper, richer toasted layer before being charred.” It was barreled at a lower proof than their regular releases and aged at the top of one of their aging warehouses before being bottled at 100 proof.

Jack Daniel's Single Barrel "Heritage Barrel"

Purchase Info: This sample was generously provided by Jack Daniel’s for review purposes. Suggested retail is $64.99 per 750 mL bottle.

Details: 50% ABV. Uses a more highly toasted barrel and a lower barrel entry proof than is standard for Jack Daniel’s.

Nose: Butterscotch pudding, french vanilla ice cream, cinnamon, allspice. Very dessert-like.

Mouth: Mellow and sweet, but with a nice spice to add complexity and balance the sweetness. Butterscotch pudding, vanilla, clove, and cinnamon.

Finish: Long and with a warmth that fades quick but then reappears in a bloom of warmth. Baking spices and butterscotch linger.

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Thoughts: The nose reminds me of bread pudding cooking in the oven. The mouth is mellow and sweet but brings a nice spice as well. I really like this, I am already planning on buying a full bottle when it hits shelves.


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, please visit BourbonGuyGifts.com. Thanks!