Tag Archives: American whiskey

…whiskey from New York? Hudson shows it´s possible – American whiskey tasting no 17.

New York distillery Tuthilltown (http://www.tuthilltown.com/), is an interesting distillery based in New York, as the first one operating in the state since prohibition. Artisanal production by enthusiasts sets the scene for belly-flop or excellence.    

Hudson Baby Bourbon, 92 proof (46%).

The HudsonHudson Baby Bourbon Baby Bourbon is made from the exact same mash bill as their New York Corn Whiskey, which I´ve unfortunately hasn´t been able to procure here in Sweden. A 100% blend of several types of locally grown corn are used for the corn whiskey. Double distilled and matured in small casks of American oak for an undisclosed time period (on the web claimed to be between 3 months and 2 years). Regardless of that, the 3 gallon casks (instead of the usual 53 gallon barells) ensure enough contact between wood and spirit.

Copper hue. A nose dominated by corn sweetness, caramel, vanilla and some oak. Neat in a tasting glass it´s very smooth. There´s initial sweetness as well as a lot of oak and some astringency in the middle, coupled with vanilla, sweet corn and a slightly fiery finish with a lingering sweetness. All in all very easily drunk leaving you wanting for more.

The bottle is a special chapter. Small, chubby ones containing only 35 cl, with my particular one coming from year 10, batch E1 and being bottle 92. It´s sealed by a plastic/cork stopper covered with wax that was actually quite difficult to remove. Maybe it´s just poor technique on my side but I managed to destroy the cork on two of three bottles.

Hudson Four Grain Bourbon, 92 proof (46%).

Hudson Four Grain Whiskey

As the name implies, this whiskey is made from corn, wheat, rye and barley, in undisclosed proportions. I would guess that apart from the obvious corn, rye dominates.

Medium to dark amber colour. A nose with sweet corn, spice, vanilla, caramel and closing floral notes. Quite more complex than the Baby Bourbon, as would be expected. Neat in a tasting glass sweet corn and spicey rye dominates, on a bottom of malt and hints of wheat. Finishing with  both some oak astringency as well as some sweetness. A more grown-up version of the Baby Bourbon.

Packed in their trademark small bottles, for some reason 35 cl here in Europe rather than the 37,5 ones sold in the US. My bottle was no 72 from batch E1 and year 08.

Hudson Manhattan Rye, 92 proof (46%).


Double distilled from a mash bill of 100% rye and matured in Tuthilltown ´s trademark small casks, this is a rye worth its name. My bottle was no 75, from year 13 and batch E2.

Dark amber colour. A nose strong with rye pepper spice giving it some bitterness, then followed by sweeter fruit notes and some closing vanilla. Neat in a tasting glass you get quite a ride. Initial spice, wood accompanied by some bitterness, followed by a mellowing finish of fruit, vanilla and sweetness. The juxtaposition of sweetness and bitterness makes this a most interesting whiskey, and definitely something to return to.

Instantly recognizable packaging with a style very much their own. I will have to learn to open their bottles in a better way though.

It´s going to be a treat to compare my favourite whiskey cocktail – the Sazerac – made by Hudson Manhattan Rye, Redemption Rye and Woodford Reserve Rye. Otherwise my go to rye for a Sazerac is Rittenhouse.


…Koval is inventive and unique – American whiskey tasting no 13.


The Koval distillery was established in 2008 in Chicago, by Robert and Sonat Birnecker. Building on traditions from Robert´s Austrian family the distillery chose to make spirits from locally produced grains, processed and distilled at their facilities. A decision setting them apart from many of the whiskey-boom producers just bottling spirits made somewhere else.

Koval Single Barrel Bourbon Whiskey, 94 proof (47%).

Koval bourbon

Made from a unique mashbill of the requisite 51% corn with the rest being millet, a grain used for food as well as alcoholic beverages mainly in parts of Africa and Asia. To my knowledge Koval are the only producers using millet for whiskey.

Liquid honey coloured and a nose with light fruit notes, mostly apricot, followed by more subdued vanilla and caramel. Neat in a tasting glass you get initial fruit, more apricot, leading over to some sweetness and ending with pepper and a light burn. Very elegant and sophisticated.

Koval Single Barrel Whiskey Four Grain, 94 proof (47%).

Koval four grain

Made from a mashbill of corn, malted barley, wheat and rye, this is a whiskey with a totally different character from the previous one.

Very similar to the bourbon in colour, but with a nose beginning with pretty powerful banana fudge and treacle, malt, fleeting vanilla and ending on dry spice. Neat in a tasting glass you get a whiskey with a full mouthfeel, beginning with a short burn giving way to caramel, fruit and a closing rye spiciness mixed with oak. This one packs a lot of taste and is really, really nice.

Koval Single Barrel Whiskey Millet, 90 proof (40%).

Koval millet

Here we have another unique product from this inventive distillery. A whiskey with a mash bill of 100% millet farmed in the American Midwest.

I suspect that it´s the similarities of the barreling techniques used for these whiskeys that makes their colours so similar, if not to say undistinguishable. The nose begins with light and pleasant citrus notes, fruit and ending on black pepper. Neat in a tasting glass you get mild and delicate notes of almost liqueur- like sweetness, with a drier ending of spice. Certainly a most unusual whiskey and an interesting experience.

Koval Grain Spirit Rye, 80 proof (40%).

Koval white rye

I´m a bit confused over this one, though. There seems to be an earlier series of products from the distillery with different bottles and labels, including a white rye whiskey. The present Koval webpage lists a “White Whiskey Rye” in their product line, while my bottle says “Grain Spirit Rye”. Not entirely sure that these two are the same.

Regardless of that, here we have a distillate based on rye that has not been affected by maturing in oak barrels. The drink is crystal clear, with an aromatic nose of citrus and pine needles. Neat in a tasting glass you get a drink almost totally without any of the spicy notes you´re used to expect from rye. More like a less botanical gin or a more tasty vodka. There´s initial sweetness giving way to floral notes and ending on very discrete, almost imagined peppery spiciness. Not a drink I would enjoy on its own again, but I would very much like a trial of exchanging gin and vodka for this one in several cocktails.

Koval Single Barrel Whiskey Rye, 80 proof (40%).

Koval rye

Colourwise resembling their other output. A fruity nose with apples, pears and grain. Neat in a tasting glass you get fruit, apples and pears, followed by a finish of light pepper spice. A most unusual rye with a character all its own.

Without a doubt a distiller worth following through the coming years of experimentation. High ambitions and skills, as well as a willingness to go beyond what is expected when it comes to process and raw material.

…Bourbon keeps being interesting – American whiskey tasting nr 11.

After forays into rye and malt whiskey, it´s time to return to Kentucky and a set of interesting bourbons.

Willett Pot Still Reserve, 94 proof (47%).

Willet pot still reserve

Coming from the Willett Distilling Company in Bardstown, Kentucky, we have yet another slightly convoluted backstory to this whiskey. The company was started in 1935 by Lambert Willett and several of his sons. After the death of Lambert his son Thompson took over responsibility of the company and served as president until 1984. Experience and knowledge of whiskey distillation went back much longer in the family, and their bourbons were made from family recipes from the late 19th century. In 1984 the facility was bought by Even G. Kulsveen, son-in-law of Thompson Willett, who together with his family runs the company today. Kulsveen renamed the company Kentucky Bourbon Distillers, initially bottling whiskey from existing reserves of barrels, since their own distilling facilities had been shut down in the beginning of the 1980´s. The company has since then been sourcing bourbon from other distillers, making a fairly large line of bottlings sometimes under fictitious company names. As of January 2012, the company again has distilling capabilities and is returning to calling themselves the Willett Distilling Company.

This particular whiskey is made from a distillate of unknown origin (even if the Heaven Hill distillery has been named as a suspect), and I´ve managed to find no information about the mash bill. Each bottle comes from a single barrel of new white oak, after having matured for 8 – 10 years. My particular one was number 67 of 110 from barrel number 7 077.

The whiskey shows a pleasantly glowing amber colour. On the nose you get a beginning of sweetness and vanilla, followed by some spice, orange peel and fleeting notes of eucalyptus. Neat in a tasting glass the mouthfeel is medium bodied with a light start of corn turning more complex in the middle, where wood, citrus and spice gives way to a fairly long finish dominated by oak. In a tumbler with ice you get notes of banana and chocolate both on nose and palate.

The bottle deserves special mention. A 1,75 liter giant formed as a pot still. Very unique and stylish and something I´m going to keep as a decanter. To sum it up, a very nice and complex whiskey that would be fun to try again sometime.

Jim Beam Black, 86 proof (43%).

Jim Beam Black

Here we have a producer with a long and winding history beginning in the late 18th century, after members of the Böhm family emigrated from Germany to Kentucky. Changing their name to Beam, seven generations has been involved in the distillation of Kentucky bourbon as well as being Master Distillers at the famous Heaven Hill Distillery. Later acquired by Japanese company Suntory, this is one of the giants in the whiskey business, with many different products in their inventory.

This variety of Jim Beam bourbon boasts of being triple aged, which means that it´s matured in barrels for 6 years, three times the requisite two year aging needed for the “straight bourbon” epithet. The version I´m writing about is for the international market, the US Jim Beam Black is actually aged for 8 years.

Deep amber colour. The nose shows corn, caramel, vanilla and some wood. Neat in a tasting glass there´s a start of caramel and vanilla, changing into toasted oak and spice in the middle which carries on into a short finish of slightly adstringent wood. In a tumbler with ice the wood on the nose becomes stronger, and the taste shifts into much sweeter vanilla and caramel notes, finishing on sweetness instead of oak. Not that much to say about the bottle, it´s instantly recognizable as Jim Beam and as such serves its purpose well.

In my opinion superior to their regular 4 year old bourbon. Very nice and smooth, balancing the usual bourbon sweetness with it’s somewhat dry, woody character. Nothing stellar, but competent and honest.

Knob Creek Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 100 proof (50%).

Knob Creek Bourbon

Aiming at restoring bourbon to its pre-prohibition splendor, this drink goes a long way towards achieving its goal. The mash bill contains the 51% corn regulated by law, along with an undisclosed percentage of rye and malted barley. Pure, limestone-filtered water together with a proprietary yeast strain is used during fermentation, and “set back” (mash from previous distillations) is added twice at different stages of production. It´s then double distilled and aged for 9 years in heavily charred barrels of new American oak, at an initial proof of 125. For the finished bottle a selection of small batches stored at different locations in the warehouse is blended to assure an even quality.

The colour is a radiant, dark gold amber. The nose is big and bold, with loads of maple syrup, burnt sugar, caramel and strong oak notes. Neat in a tasting glass (I´m discounting three drops of water) you get less of an alcohol kick than could be expected at this proof. There´s a big, chewy mouthfeel to this whiskey, beginning with sweet maple syrup and caramel turning into spice, toasted oak and wood resin at the middle, with a long and lingering finish of dry oak. In a tumbler with ice it manages to retain the big nose with a slant towards oak instead of sweetness. On the other hand, the palate turns sweeter and slightly less complex.

The bottle is square and chunky in a very distinct way, and along with the label recreates pre-prohibition bourbon bottles. The plastic/cork stopper and wax seal also aims at a higher degree of sophistication. Personally, I must confess to quite liking it.

A really well made and distinctive bourbon with lots of character and punch. I´ve enjoyed this immensely and would very much like to try the single barrel variety and their other products.

 John Medley´s Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, 80 proof (40%).

John Medley Bourbon

One of the cheapest bourbons available in Sweden, with not that much information to find out about the distillers. Made from a mash bill of 51% corn and 49% barley you can´t really accuse the makers of John Medley´s of being that original. What we get is a pretty traditional Kentucky Straight Bourbon, but with a much longer barrel aging than necessary.

A medium amber colour. The nose has oak, caramel and vanilla. Neat in a tasting glass it gives a smooth and mild impression of caramel, vanilla and some oak, with a short and quite unremarkable finish. In a tumbler with ice much of its to begin with pretty mild character is diluted and you end up with something rather anonymous. The bottle just as the whiskey is a no-frills square and chubby variety without any unique design features.

A whiskey well worth its admittedly low price, but too lacking of character to merit another tasting.

Maker´s Mark Kentucky Straight Bourbon, 90 proof (45%).

Makers mark

Many years of tradition lies behind this whiskey, which has a definitive edge its own. Clear, limestone water combined with a mash bill of 70% corn, 16 % wheat and 14% barley. Replacing rye with red winter wheat making this what is called a wheated bourbon. First introduced in 1958 this whiskey has a long history, and is one of the staples of American whiskey production.

Golden amber colour. A nose dominated by oak, caramel and vanilla. Neat in a tasting glass you get a well balanced combination of caramel, vanilla, spice and oak. In a tumbler with ice much of the complexity is lost, and a dominating sweetness takes over.

The bottle is both distinctive and unique, with its square format and wax seal. One of the true originals and a whiskey I would like to always have in my liquor cabinet.