Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey – Review

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey Background

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey
Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey

Grand Traverse Distillery is based out of Traverse City, Michigan where they have a couple tasting rooms. Currently they said they’re not retailing their whiskey widely since it’s in short supply, so you most likely need to visit the distillery or one of their tasting rooms. They make all their whiskey themselves and have been at it for about eight years.  They promote themselves as a farm to bottle operation sourcing all their grains/cereal from local farms.

Grand Traverse Distillery has three main whiskeys with Ole George, a 100% rye whiskey, a Bourbon made of 20% rye, and a Cherry whiskey which is their Bourbon with infused Michigan cherries.

Another Whiskey reviewed here is a limited release cask strength rye whiskey. It’s aged 6 years and made with 60% rye and 40% corn. Their first batch, which I’m told was actually a single barrel, is non-chill filtered and uncut 116-proof.
I tried Ole George, the Bourbon, and the Cask Strength Rye and came away buying this bottle as my favorite.

Details

No Age Statement. Bottled at 116-proof. 60% rye. $45 for 375-ml. 

Aroma

Minty. Pine needles. Baking spices, cloves. Vanilla. Cough syrup. Sawdust.

Taste

Minty, sawdust. Vanilla. Caramel. Sweetness. Graham crackers. A little cola. Lively. It has some heat. Some astringency in the finish.

Overall

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is pretty tasty with some of that raw rye and sawdust flavors I pick out on younger rye whiskey. I compared to some other barrel proof rye whiskeys with a 2-year-old and 4-year-old bottles from Willett Family Estate. I was hoping to get a nice reference point, but they’re actually all pretty different other than for being high proof rye whiskeys. Differences in age, recipes, and perhaps aging bring different things to the table. If I were to guess, I think I’d figure Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey tastes like younger than 6 years, which could be an interesting contrast in aging in northern Michigan vs closer to the Mason-Dixon line.

Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey brings spicy bold flavors that emphasize the rye. In the background, a sweetness comes in the finish for a pleasant sip.

It’s encouraging to see new distilleries’ product come to age and hold a lot of promise. Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is a treat, but not a rye I’d regularly pull down off the shelf. Forget the fact there are only so many bottles out there to buy, the pricing makes this an exclusive bottle. The mentioned Willett is basically half the price for the volume, and there are a number of quality rye whiskies out there for even less, even though not barrel-proof. This is a challenge with new craft distillers doing interesting things on a different scale, but I think it’s still appropriate to not evaluate up-starts in a bubble from the rest of the industry.

Ultimately, my reviews are about quality and value. I’m told a second batch is in progress and I’d be curious to see Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey maybe at older age to take off some rougher edges, but then again that’s part of the character here. Still, Grand Traverse Cask Strength Rye Whiskey is a good whiskey in quality, however, with the pricing I’m going to go strictly by my scale and recommend making the trip to try a glass.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.5 out of 5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Links

Grand Traverse Distillery

 

Evan Williams White Label Bottled-in-Bond – Review

Evan Williams White Label Background

Evan Williams White Label
Evan Williams White Label

Evan Williams White Label is a part of the Evan Williams line from Heaven Hill Distillery. There are a number of Evan Williams bottling, but it seem the most popular are the 100-proof Bottled in Bond (AKA White label), 86-proof Black Label, 86.6-proof Evan Williams 1783, and an 86.6-proof Evan Williams Single Barrel.

I’m a fan of the Evan Williams Single Barrel which is available in yearly batches. Actually I dig Heaven Hill in general with a number of pretty great Bourbons for the money. With Evan Williams White Label we’ve got an exceptional value with a lower shelf Bourbon that drinks above its price tag.

Details

Bottled at 100-proof.  No age statement. Standard rye Bourbon thought to be 75% corn, 13% rye, and 12% barley. Paid $15.

Aroma

Corn mash/roasted corn. Nutty. Pecans. Caramel, charred wood. Sawdust.

Flavor

Similar to the nose. Big roasted corn, nutty. On the sweet side. A little alcohol heat and some zip. Some fruitiness. Rich, roasted flavors. Slight drying in the finish.

Overall

On its own Evan Williams White Label isn’t anything special, but factoring in price it becomes  more impressive. There’s a nuttiness that remind me of the Beam flavor profile, but not quite the same. Otherwise seems like typical Heaven Hill to me with full, rich, roasted flavors.

To me, the dominate flavor is corn and is a little hot and lively. Guessing it’s on the younger side. There’s no age statement, but being Bottled-in-Bond it must be at least four years old. The dominant cereal flavor to me is a off-putting, but the rest is just fine. Nice caramel, a little roasted nuts, and like I said, a lively Bourbon with just a little bite.

Price on this is pretty great. If you’re looking for a house mixer, it’s hard to beat this flavor and price. The 100-proof and youth should stand up well with a mixer. Also, if you’re on a budget, this will also do just fine for sipping.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.0 out of 5.0 Rating

(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

Personally, I’d prefer Evan Williams Single Barrel with more mellow flavors, even though it also loses a bunch of character in the upgrade. A similar Henry McKenna 10 Year also from Heaven Hill is a good choice for retaining more of the woody-roasted depth with added mellowness.

A real good alternative, however, in the price range could be Old Ezra also made at Heaven Hill. Getting out to other standard rye Bourbons could be Wild Turkey 101.

Links & Other Reviews

Pappy Van Winkle 15 (2014) – Review

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Background

Pappy Van Winkle 15
Pappy Van Winkle 15

So, Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old. I’ve been sitting on this bottle about five months. I wasn’t sure if I was going to post a review of this because, really, what’s the point? You’re not going to roll into your local Mega-Mart and find Pappy Van Winkle on the shelf and if for some freak reason you did, you’re not going to reference my or anyone’s review before buying. I’m also not sure how I feel about feeding into the hype where people are searching the seedy secondary market for any bottle of Pappy. I wouldn’t want anyone getting robbed or losing a kidney meeting someone in a Target parking lot.

The other thing is I’m not sure if I can actually review Pappy Van Winkle 15. It took a lot to get this bottle and I’m emotionally invested. How could I resist the pressure of the hype and not like it? On the flip side, what’s in this bottle could never match the hype and craziness surrounding anything Pappy Van Unicorn. Thus, the pendulum can swing the other way into an overly negative reaction.

So, months later I’ve sipped Pappy Van Winkle 15 here and there. I’m about as far removed from the hype before it cycles back up toward the fall Bourbon releases. I’ll give it a shot because I might as well have something to show for my trouble.

Details

15 years old. Bottled at 53.5%. Wheated mash recipe. MSRP $80. 

Aroma

Woody, dusty. Medicinal, band-aids. Coffee grounds. Cherries. Figs. Complex.

Flavor

Oak/cedar up front with caramel, toffee. Bubble gum. Medium to high astringency. Vanilla. Nutty. Cinnamon, cloves. Tobacco.

Overall

In addition to Pappy Van Winkle 15, I got to try glasses of this year’s Pappy Van Winkle 20 and Old Rip Van Winkle 10. I had some chances for the 23-year-old, but passed because it the prices were stupid. I think the 20-year-old is really nice. If you get a chance to try a glass of any, I’d recommend going for the 20. I also enjoyed the 10-year-old with a nice 107-proof punch and a little age vs the more familiar Weller 12 and Old Weller Antique. An no, Poor Man’s Pappy isn’t as good, but it is a decent compromise for normal people.

Pappy Van Winkle 15 Year Old for me was a disappointment. There are phenolics that I don’t like. I’ve had Pappy Van Winkle 15 in the past, and perhaps my memory isn’t as good and/or at the time my Bourbon experience was more limited, but I recall enjoying that more this this 2014 batch. Maybe this year was just an off bottling or maybe it’s just not for me now that I’ve tried a lot of different Bourbons.

So, no it’s not worth chasing. No it’s not worth paying stupid prices. And no it’s not worth losing a kidney in a Target parking lot. Personally, and thankfully, I prefer younger more lively Bourbons, so, while Pappy Van Winkle 15 has some real interesting complexities, I’d still prefer a more conventional good bottle of 8-year-old Bourbon. Plus, personally, I can enjoy a Bourbon more when paying $30 and knowing there are plenty more bottles on the shelf.

If you can find Pappy Van Winkle 15 for at or near the $80 list price without much effort, it’s a good buy. At the very least enjoy a little variety once in a while. Act like a baller and share with your friends. Otherwise, just between you and me, there’s better stuff on the shelves right now.

Recommendation

Sure?

Links & Other Reviews

Charter 101 Bourbon – Review

Old Charter 101 Background

Charter 101
Charter 101

Charter 101 comes from Buffalo Trace Distillery as part of their #1 low rye mash recipe. The Old Charter brand has roots back to 1874, but in more recent history the it was a part of the United Distiller (later reorganized as Diageo) portfolio until the 80’s From there it was sold to Buffalo Trace parent Sazerac.

Old Charter had an 8 year and 10 year expressions, but the 10 year is gone and the 8 year lost its age statement. Old Charter 8 is still available at 80-proof, but the 8 is just a number on the bottle to make loyal customers feel warm and fuzzy. Like the new Old Charter 8, Charter 101 also lacks an age statement.

Details

Bottled at 101-proof.  No age statement. Buffalo Trace #1 mash of less than 10% rye. MSRP – $27.99 (2016 Price)
 

Aroma

Caramel, honey, fruity. Light char. Vanilla. Roasted corn. Grainy, kind of barn yard straw.
 

Flavor

Light, sweet. Pleasant oak char then sawdust. Corn comes through. Fruity with the edge of solvent. Medium-low astringency in the finish with slight bitterness.

Overall

I don’t know the age on Charter 101, and I don’t want to assume based on price, but I’m thinking this is a younger Bourbon. In Charter 101 I’m getting the heavier corn and sawdust flavors that to me age out with more time in the barrel. Not quite my preference, but this is still some pretty easy drinking stuff. Given the 101-proof and reasonable price it certainly is a fine candidate as a mixer.

I get what I think of as Buffalo Trace signatures of fruity with the edge of acetone. Also not much in the way of rye that jives with their low-rye #1 mash recipe. Buffalo Trace Bourbon I think matches up well and tasting these side by side the resemblances are apparent. While actually not generally my preference, I like Buffalo Trace better as it seems a more mature Bourbon for my tastes. Although, it’s about $10 or so more expensive, so there’s that.

To sum it up, Charter 101 is a good Straight Bourbon that might be on the younger side, but carries a nice punch of a proof and an attractive price. It’s not my choice for sipping, but you could do a lot worse. Charter 101 seems a quality budget bottle to keep around for mixers.

Recommendation

Try a Glass – 2.0 out of 5.0 Rating
 
(My 5 point scale: Pass, Try a Glass, Buy a Bottle, Buy Again, Shut Up and Take My Money – Bottle price is taken into consideration for recommendations.)

Buying Options and Further Research

Charter 101 is a low rye Bourbon, which is a little unique in my classifications. In this price range, you could check out the mentioned sibling Old Charter 8 and Buffalo Trace. Both have the same Buffalo Trace mash recipe. From there, a little high rye recipe could be Ancient Ancient Age 10 Star, Wild Turkey 101, and Old Forester.

Links & Other Reviews