What may have been overshadowed by the shocking and magical live auction at “Willett To Be Cured” was the months-long, massive blind tasting to determine the best bourbons that can still be found on most store shelves. 60 bourbons fought their way into the top 10, where they battled it out November 3rd in an effort to be named “Best on the Shelf.” The effort, the science and the coordination that went into this competition are worth examining closer.
Tarnished Truth is a new distillery that opened in March 2018. It is located in the Cavalier Hotel in Virginia Beach, Virginia. According to their press, they are the only distillery located in a hotel and the hotel features their products. They are presently distilling and aging their own bourbon but in the meantime they have sourced bourbon from MGP in Indiana under the watchful eye of Larry Ebersold, a master distiller who worked for Seagram’s (currently MGP) for more than 35 years.
Let’s face it, there are a lot of reviewers out there writing for websites, magazines and books. There are several commonalities: They’ll tell you a bit about the history or backstory, they’ll talk about mashbills, they’ll describe aromas, tasting notes and finishes. Some will even mention prices and where you can pick up bottles (we do that at Bourbon & Banter, but we’re cool like that). The crux, however, is the recommendation and rating.
“This place looks like a church,” remarks my wife, Patti as we walk to the front door. Later we would learn that it actually was a church. A part of the building housing the tasting room, gift shop and distillery was once a Catholic Church. The church caught fire and the remains of the building were retrieved and became part of the distillery. We receive a friendly greeting from Cheryl, Belmont Farm Brand Ambassador and Manager. In response to her question about what brought us to the distillery, Patti replied that it was the first stop on her birthday weekend celebration. Our conversation is interrupted as the man himself, Chuck Miller, enters the tasting room looking for another employee. Learning that we are there as part of Patti’s birthday, he utters some of our favorite words, “Drinks are on me!”
Read the Brand’s Notes to understand why this is a twice-barreled product. It’ll help you understand why it’s so fruity, sweet and tannic. Sipped at 93 proof, it’s perfect. With a splash of water, the fruit notes become juicier, the mouthfeel pleasantly heavier and spice notes emerge. As the last expression to be added to the Whiskey Row Series, there’s hardly a better way to cap off a multiline series so well.
A little over 3.5 years ago I had the honor of hosting a Four Roses bourbon dinner in St. Louis with Jim Rutledge as our guest of honor. Throughout the evening Jim and I discussed a variety of topics, but the item of conversation that stuck with me most was his response to a question about retirement. Jim said that it “wouldn’t be long” before he retired and sure enough, a mere 6-weeks later Jim made it known that his 20-year tenure as Four Roses’ Master Distiller would be coming to an end on September 1, 2015.
Since then I’ve been lucky to keep in contact with Jim and with the news recently breaking about his contract work at Castle & Key, I thought it would be a good time to share (with Jim’s permission) a few of the things we’ve discussed since his retirement. What follows are excerpts from email conversations in 2017 which have been edited to include some information that Jim shared when we had lunch together last week.
I’m always excited to #DrinkCurious. When I was first approached to review Black Feather, it was something I’d not ever heard of, so I jumped at the chance.
Black Feather is a younger, MGP-sourced Bourbon. It comes in a very nice presentation, using a heavy bottle with “Black Feather” embossed in the glass, a thick, paper label, and a wax top. My bottle is from Batch 1.
It’s also a dusty hunter’s dream. I finally learned the origins of some pre-prohibition whiskeys I’ve tried including Old Jordan (found in a 3-gallon glass carboy in a pharmacist’s office!), as well as a bottle from The American Medicinal Spirits Corporation that Pops poured some lucky Bourbon & Banter writers at his house a couple of years ago.
You’ve certainly read about landmark bourbon citations including the Bottled-In-Bond Act, the Taft Decision and others. But nobody until now has put them in their rightful historical context. Haara’s crowning achievement with Bourbon Justice is to emphasize bourbon’s true impact on the future of American business.
I’ve been traveling across the country for the past three weeks visiting distilleries both large and small. Today I’m excited to share with you details of our trip to New Riff Distilling. This video hopefully a rebirth of our Bourbon Across America series and I want to thank New Riff co-founders Ken Lewis and Jay Erisman for donating their time to me when I stopped by. They’ve create a fantastic distillery and it’s definitely one to watch. Pour yourself a drink and enjoy our Bourbon Across America visit to New Riff Distilling.