Kings County Distillery visit

After a bit of a bumpy year I welcomed the chance to take a few days off to head to NYC for “art week” a quick 3 day visit was planned with the bulk of the trip taken by the Armoury show , museum and gallery visits.

I wanted to squeeze in at least one distillery/brewery visit whilst there. So it was on a sunny but windy Saturday morning that I took a small detour to Brooklyn in order to visit the oldest distillery in New York since prohibition. An impressive statement if one is unaware that said distillery was established in 2010! Yet still makes them fairly experienced within this new wave of craft distilling and hey it’s their party and they can do what they want.20170304_133252

King’s county distillery is based out of the Brooklyn Navy Yards complex which also hosts, Mast brothers chocolate, Brooklyn coffee roasters, one of the largest rooftop farms as well as a plethora of other designers, manufacturers and ateliers. The distillery like many others in New York State were born from the impetus of  “the farm distillery act” a progressive state law cutting the cost of a distillers license for those producing less than 35,000 gallons per year.  This includes a host of incentives if they use 75% New York grown ingredients in their products.

There is a great Edible Manhattan article that provides more detail of the results of this progressive lawmaking. It’s easy to see how such measures are nothing but positive for entrepreneurs, local agriculture and the economy. Québec could prosper under such regulations, taking advantage of the bounty of our terroir and pushing forward entrepreneurship…ok back to our program.

The grounds also host a tasting room/bar that is independent of the distillery building. It’s beautifully put together and is open until 10pm making it both a destination and a clever way to try the products outside of distillery hours.

The tours costs 14$ and lasts about 40minutes, the place was rocking when I got there and our guide mentioned that she had never seen such a busy day. The tour is broken down into 4 parts, there is a small room almost like an old schoolhouse, where the guide begins by giving you a rundown of whisky production in America, and then integrates this into the story of the distillery itself started as a moonshining experiment gone legit. The room has photos and artifacts of whisky production, it also hosts the experimental collection of the distillery, there are two shelves full of various bottles of concoctions past or in progress, most labelled with painters tape (note my favourite on bottem shelf simply labelled “John’s…?”)

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We are then taken downstairs into the heart of the distillery, the open air room is pretty tight quarters, it hosts their grinder, mash cooker and 5 wooden washbacks (built by local artisans who make those infamous water towers seen all over the city), 2 Scottish made pots stills by Forsyths. Halfway through our visit, our guides explanations were interrupted by the boss, that is the distillery’s adorable cat.

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The “Boss”

It’s then that I noticed a behemoth looking hybrid stainless steel /copper still in background made by Vendome copper works. I asked our guide about this, she said it isn’t yet operational since it requires an overhaul of the boiler, electrical and mash cooker. Once done they would use it as their wash still dividing the first distillate into their two current pot stills which would now operate as spirit stills, in theory doubling or tripling their current capacity.

The distillery is very low tech, the cuts, filling and barreling are all done by hand, there isn’t any automation or clever piping. The products destined to be aged are mostly filled in quarter casks with a small percentage going in full size American standard barrels and other types of casks (a wine casked bourbon was on offer when I was there a review is coming shortly). Otherwise the new make goes into stainless steel tanks for maceration or to be proofed down for their flagship moonshine.

For the third part of our journey our guide took us back upstairs to what she calls “the most instagrammable room in Brooklyn” that is the onsite aging room where barrels are laid out in a style akin to a dunnage warehouse. They also have another larger warehouse offsite that isn’t open to the public. We got to ogle barrels of their soon to be available rye, inhale that intoxicating aroma of resting whisky, wood and dampness.

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We finally got to the tasting and it was most welcome, on offer were moonshine, the standard bourbon, chocolate whisky and their seasonal Christmas spiced whisky. We were then invited to peruse the store and buy some swag, after asking nicely I got a sneaky taste of their grapefruit jalapeño moonshine (perfect for summer drinks and an interesting sub for tequila) and the barrel proof bourbon.

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The passion and love of whisky is strongly felt throughout and despite the hustle and bustle it’s definitely fun to be able to get up close and personal with the whisky making process. They make a style of bourbon that is truly their own (although sometimes young and raw) and the flavoured products aren’t a novelty or a way to attract non whisky drinkers. Each one is clearly thought out and chosen to bring something different to the table, it stands to reason that they are the recipient of the 2016 ADI’s Distiller of the year award and boast a pretty kick-ass master blender and trained chemist Nicole Austin.

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Franck

Bowmore Small Batch

Bowmore Small Batch

40% ABV

80/100

 

Small bitch

Ok so small batch…a now overused colloquialism used to evoke, handcrafted, artisanal, craft and care.

We saw a healthy use of it in the bourbon industry, but seen more often by the Scottish now. In this case it’s appropriate I suppose since this entry level Bowmore is a vatting of first and second fill bourbon barrels exclusively.

This one was released in 2013-2014 as a replacement or companion for the entry-level “Legend” but it’s hard to follow Bowmore what with all these duty-free and Europe exclusive releases.

As of this writing the small batch has been pulled from the re-vamped lineup and is to be replace by the new Bowmore No1 (not to be confused with vault editions No1, or the fact that No1 vaults appears on everything Bowmore these days) according to the site that one is a 40%abv , NAS in First fill bourbon cask (so no re-fill in that one).

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This bottle was given to me by my dear brother…who probably jumped the gun on this because of my waxing all poetic about “Tempest”. This being nothing like what I described he hated it.

Nose: Light peat and smoke like cigar ash, grapefruit, camphor, honey, army surplus store (old uniforms in metal boxes), creamy vanilla, smoked herring and West Indian Lime aftershave.

Palate: Ohh dirty, wet earth, salty, coppery, caramelized white chocolate, petit-grain essential oil, there is some sweetness. Then tropical fruits, coconut, passion fruit but there’s just not much for them to hold on as the texture is very thin.

The finish balances on loads of dirty & herbal waves, vanilla, tinned pineapple, earth and again the return of the herring smokehouse.

Small batch animation

I don’t know what constitutes a small batch for these guys, at least in bourbon it usually means high proof and a specific or slightly different taste profile highlighted,  kind of the equivalent of Scotch’s young cask strength releases. That said, it is an interesting side of Bowmore,the use of first and also second fill bourbon barrels provides a focus on the spirit rather than getting the wood to do most of the heavy lifting, sadly I feel that this one was neutered by the low ABV and whats is most likely chill-filtering. I know this is like a trite mantra that is often repeated but it is no less true.

When I first opened this bottle I thought it had little to no finesse, some of the flavors feeling artificial but some oxidization did wonders for it and I kind of kicked myself for generously leaving the last 1/3 to a friend but I felt like it was the right thing since I inherited this bottle in the first place.

Franck

 

Glenfiddich Malt Master’s Edition

 

Glenfiddich Malt Master’s Edition

43% ABV

83/100

Yes more dreaded NASty whisky, I didn’t purchase this bottle with my hard earned rubles so don’t shoot the messenger. I am not into he habit of supporting non-age statement trends in whisky but I do so on occasion at my discretion.

I won’t repeat all the marketing propaganda, let’s stick to what we know, despite the lack of tangible information. This is spirit that is first aged in ex-bourbon casks (no idea if first or second fill…probably a mix) for 6 to 8 years (maybe) and then transferred to ex-Sherry casks for another 4-6 years (does this count as maturation or finish what’s the consensus?) it is most certainly chill-filtered and most likely colored since that’s usually the modus operandi with ‘fiddich .

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It’s 98$ here in Quebec as a point of reference the Solera 15 is 80$ and Rich Oak 14 68$ so it’s not exactly cheap if you believe the provided aging times of between 12-14yrs. I’m guessing they release it as an NAS to keep it in the “special release category”. Thus allowing them to keep it loose with the age of the malts used without having to re-jig the marketing and category. This also allows to charge a premium for what may be whiskys aged less others  in their portfolio, is it really that much more work to vatt and re-barrel some whisky considering that is something that happens a lot already in this era of wood as flavoring.

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Nose: the unmistakable Glenfiddich character, Cooked apples and pears in a copper jam basin, raisins and good quality hazelnut chocolate spread. Fresh wet tobacco a malty side like ovaltine or more MILO, dried figs. It doesn’t reek too much of oak on the nose but it does smell sweet.

Palate: Rich and round, that leathery sherry character, sweet and the spices speak up a bit (cloves, allspice), then it’s malty again with a bit of granola. Mackintosh caramel, toasted hazelnuts, Orange peel and a bit of black pepper, a good balance between the nutty sherry and the lighter notes from the spirit.

The oak is more apparent in the finish bringing  a bit of tannin and dryness there’s still that chewy rich sensation present from the beginning.

A surprising Glenfiddich, the sherry finish brings to the fore some dark notes that barely hinted at in most other young Glenfiddich releases. Those sherry notes integrate well with the freshness and that cooked pear/apple quality Glenfiddich has, I liked this better than Balvenie doublewood which is probably similar in it’s construction. Sadly it feels a little neutered, a couple of notches more ABV or even non-chill filtering and it would probably grab you by the throat a bit more. Not for the jaded seen it all whiskyfile as it’s not exactly new ground for a Scotch in general but one could argue what is? I really enjoyed this one, it’s very well constructed.

Franck