I’ve been meaning to post my review of this whisky but never got around to it. The genesis of this recipe is that having run out of malted barley one day, they decided to use a batch of peated malt that was on hand for experiments.
The result was to their liking and original enough as few American distillers use peat, especially in a bourbon mashbill.
Nose: sweet caramel corn, the youth is reflected in the varnish notes, they do relent after some time. Fresh oak, faint smoke like the embers and ash of a campfire, then dusty spices and herbs.
Palate: Chewy and astringent, wood sugars, lemon pith, herbal cough drops (Ricola?), slight violets and soapyness. The smoke is faint and seems to integrate with the charred oak flavour.
Finish: short, mild astringence from the oak and there is a faint feeling of sandalwood or incense.
The intel I gathered from my distillery visit, is that their bourbon recipe is basically 75% corn, 25% malted barley (peated in this case) so there is no flavouring grain like wheat or rye.
Also the peated malt used doesn’t seem to be very heavy therefore don’t expect a smoke bomb. It’s more like a slight accent. It’s less prononced as the bottle airs out. I liked this but it’s more for passing around a campfire or the flask than for easy sipping.
*Side note, I had about 10% of this bottle left and it got lost in the shuffle, I finally got around to it and it does not take well to oxidation. The nose is all cardboard, and the palate fell apart and got violent. A case for drink em’ if you got em’
I visited Kings County Distillery in early March of this year, when I arrived at the gates of the site I stopped into the tasting room and was told I’d just missed the beginning of a tour. With 30 minutes or so to kill I was offered the chance to warm up, have a drink and bask in the cozy atmosphere.
The bar is well decorated and honestly stands up on it’s own as a nice place to hangout and have a few drinks. The menu has many original drinks all made with products from the distillery, while studying it my eyes fell upon a wine cask finished bourbon. I was definitely curious and since it’s not something I’m likely to see much of back home I jumped at the chance to sample it.
The color is coppery with a rosy hue.
Nose: The alcohol hits first with some varnish, freshly dumped whisky cask that wet oak smell, corn porridge, ginger and baking spices, rye bread, bubblegum.
Palate: Sweet arrival, fizzy, jammy fruits. Fresh baked Bundt cake, a touch of toffee or milk jam. There is some rawness from the alcohol.
The finish is long on caraway and cloves, creamy vanilla and dark berries.
It was an interesting experiment, I think bourbon’s sweetness and proclivity towards cherry and caramel is at times a better pairing for a wine barrique than Scotch, if you can stand the sweetness. I would love to see a nice aged rye get this treatment I suppose High West Yippie ki yay or Midwinter nights dram are what I might be looking for. That said it is a bit immature, the nose felt closed up and the palate too narrow, lots of solvent notes at the beginning as well.
I’ve since come across an article where the new head blender of KCD is interviewed and he gives the specs on this whisky. They used a mix of 13 month old bourbons from quarter casks that were vatted into a 63 gallon barrel that previously held fortified Cabarnet franc. This was finished for 8 weeks of the summer in order to obtain maximum extraction of the flavour, it is sold exclusively at the distillery.
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.
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…?”)
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.
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.
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.
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.
We are changing gears a little here with my first American Whisky review and it’s not bourbon strictly speaking it’s Tennessee Whisky giant Jack Daniels. I must preface by saying that bourbon/American whisky isn’t my preferred style (although I have had some very good ones) and Old No. 7 figures even lower on my list.
I can see the appeal of it, it has indeed become a very powerful American Icon, pretty much synonymous with rock & roll, motorcycles and the assorted trappings of that lifestyle. It is probably one of, if not the top selling American whisky in the world. After all it is also easy drinking thanks in part to the Lincoln process of charcoal filtering the whisky prior to barreling and is bottled at 40% alc/vol.
That being said when my friend Emmanuel asked if I wanted to split a bottle of the single barrel for us to share during our office Christmas party, I figured why not? This kind of occasion isn’t one where you bring that bottle you’ve been saving, you need something that can be passed around in the hip flask. This bottle is from the standard single barrel range not the new barrel proof release.
Nose: Ripe banana’s, toffee apples, dark cherry, a bit of spicy rye,carpenter’s shop floor, those typical JD fermentation notes, some charred oak too.
Palate: muscular without being rough, red licorice, cherry ice cream, spicy, the oak is present but not dominant, warm caramel made with honey. You can feel the smoothness of the corn on the palate, it’s pretty sweet.
Finish: return of the banana/ferment, vanilla, warm spices and charred oak. The mouth feel is well executed, slightly waxy and oily.
I have to admit this was a surprise, I enjoyed the palate of this whisky, it has none of the notes of baby sick that are very prevalent in many of the batches of old No.7 I have tried. It was not as oak driven as is the case with many bourbons, the higher ABV helped carry the flavors across and sustain the finish.
If you are a fan of JD or this style, it’s definitely worth taking the step up to single barrel, It has me itching to try the barrel proof version.