When I first received the press release announcing the upcoming release of Four Roses Small Batch Select, I was a bit hesitant to get my hopes up. Four Roses does a great job with their regular lineup and limited releases so I was concerned that a new expression, slated to be part of the regular lineup, would be different enough to warrant such a move by one of my favorite distilleries.
The distillery is located on Main Street in Old Town Purcellville (every place has an Old Town, right?), in an old Buick Showroom dating back to 1921. Owned by husband and wife, Scott and Becky Harris, they celebrated their 10th year in business in Mid-February. Starting a distillery was Scott’s brainstorm having become disillusioned by having to make numerous PowerPoint briefings as a government software contractor. In order to convince Becky, a chemical engineer, Scott had to write a 200-page business plan. It was good enough to convince Becky and good enough to convince a bank to give the couple some venture capital. Scott is the General Manager of the distillery, while Becky, is the Chief Distiller. I could go into more detail on the history of Catoctin Creek but a You tube video tells the story better. You can find the link at the end of the article.
Everyone is new at some point. When new whiskey brands come about, they have two choices: Source a whiskey now so you have something to sell (and help pay off the cost of the still), or distill now and sit on the product while it ages, and not recoup any money in the meantime. Both are very expensive, one requires a bit more patience and a lot of faith.
I’m among the many saddened by the disappearance of the 4-year-old Old Fitzgerald Bottled-In-Bond during 2017. Like most BIBs, it was a terrific bargain, a great sipper and one of my favorite cocktailers for recipes with citrus (think Gold Rush).
But since businesses aren’t charities, they must improve products and profitability, so Heaven Hill smartly moved to make Old Fitz’ a more premium product and sell it at a super-premium price. Why not, when much older versions of it–from Stitzel-Weller days–now fetch thousands of dollars on the secondary market? There was brand equity to be built and reaped by putting longer-aged Fitz’ into eye-catching retro-Fitz’ decanters and boosting price by eight times its final 2017 cost.
his April, Four Gate Whiskey Company will launch its very first variety of Kentucky Bourbon.
Expecting to release 2-3 batches per year, Four Gate Whiskey will unveil its first small batch product: a special eleven-year-old Kentucky Straight Bourbon finished in sherry-rum casks, bottled at 123.4 proof.
Created by two Louisville natives and whiskey enthusiasts, Bill Straub and Bob D’Antoni have collaborated with the barrel experts at Kelvin Cooperage to create an exciting and unique bourbon brand, setting themselves apart from the ever-growing small batch bourbon companies across the country. They also partnered with well-regarded whiskey writers and personalities in Louisville to help select the exclusive blend to be finished in the ex-sherry rum casks.
There isn’t a glut of cask strength ryes out there and Riptide is an interesting addition to the category. You aren’t going to confuse it with Thomas H. Handy or Kentucky Owl. It tastes young, because it is. The intent was to showcase the rye flavor, not overwhelm it with oak. I generally find ryes seem to be drinkable at a younger age than bourbons, so I don’t mind this. It’s tasty and lightly oaked and the higher proof lends body. (Funny how I look for the grain flavor in a rye, but never say, “I love how the corn shines through!” about a bourbon.)
In a field of what ended up being six rye whiskies, two stood out above the rest. The ultimate winner was Booker’s Rye, currently an $850 bottle. The consensus runner-up was a 3-year rye from a then-relatively unknown new distillery called “Wilderness Trail,” who had just released their first 4-year rye that same day. I was stunned and couldn’t believe that a $60 3-year craft rye whiskey would excel amidst a group of well-known and established brands, including a couple private picks. I don’t need many fingers to count how many craft distilleries I’ve gotten intrigued about, but this definitely was one of them.