Review: Redemption Wheated Bourbon

Redemption is known for its production of (MGP-sourced) rye and high-rye bourbon so much so that its tagline is “Join the rye revival.” As such, this new release is a real step out of the comfort zone. As the name implies, Redemption Wheated Bourbon ditches rye altogether for wheat — and Redemption really went whole hog with this, bringing in a new mashbill from MGP that is composed of a whopping 45% winter wheat, 51% corn, and 4% malted barley.

That’s a huge wheat profile for any spirit but especially ambitious for the leaders of the “rye revival.” Aging is completed in four years, entirely in new oak barrels.

We gave Redemption Wheated a try, and while the idea is decidedly intriguing, the execution unfortunately falls flat.

On the nose, the whiskey immediately comes across as bafflingly oak heavy, with some heavy-duty solvent notes that are off-putting at best. Things clear up with some air time, the solvent character becoming closer to overripe fruit, with a side of wood smoke. On the palate, dusty wood initially dominates, but as the finish begins to develop, so does that sticky fruit character. Again, the ripeness is heavy, giving the body a gummy quality and the finish an overblown sweetness that feels candy-coated. The whole affair isn’t undrinkable, but there’s something off that spoils the balance of the whiskey and comes across as undercooked.

96 proof.

C / $46 /

Review: 2013 Balletto Brut Rose Russian River Valley

One sip of Balletto’s Brut Rose sparkler and I’m immediately transported ahead a month or so to the holidays. This is a classically structured rose (made from an interesting blend of 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay), lightly floral and scented with strawberries, moderately effervescent, with overtones of orange peel, ginger, and a sprinkle of herbs. Refreshing and worthwhile, a big step up from your garden-variety Prosecco or cava.

A- / $42 /

Review: Wyoming Whiskey Eclipse Edition Small Batch Bourbon

Wyoming Whiskey dropped a special edition of its flagship Small Batch Bourbon earlier in the year, in anticipation of the eclipse that crossed our country on August 21, an event which you have surely long forgotten by now.

In celebration, the company wrote:

“The eclipse will scribe its shadow across Wyoming beginning in Jackson Hole and Grand Teton National Park and totally darken Lander, Thermopolis, and Casper as it creeps to the east and will partially darken our distillery,” said WW Co-Founder David DeFazio. “As a company founded on a commitment to Wyoming, we have created a once-in-a-lifetime expression of our Wyoming-made bourbon to accompany this once-in-a-lifetime event. While most batches are made with 40 barrels, Eclipse was created from only 24 barrels selected this spring by Sam (Mead), which means that only 1,000 cases are available.” Bottles will come in a limited edition black canister and each bottle will indicate the Eclipse Batch. Cases boxes will also be black.

Wyoming Whiskey’s Eclipse Edition is similar to its Small Batch which is medium amber in color with a nose of sweet corn, molasses, and clove. It is medium-bodied with a palate of vanilla, caramel, charred oak, and a hint of citrus. The finish is mild with lingering caramel and toast, and is very smooth. But Eclipse has subtle differences due to the specific barrels selected for this expression.

While we are terribly late with our review, should you find yourself in Wyoming and encounter a bottle still on sale (it’s not being sold anywhere else, so there’s a chance), here’s what you can expect.

Next to the standard version of Wyoming Small Batch, Eclipse is a noticeable improvement, though it doesn’t nearly represent the leap in quality of Double Cask.

Here, the nose is bolder and a bit sweeter, heavier with cloves and some new nutty notes, though it still pushes a moderate to hefty wood agenda. It’s still Wyoming’s Small Batch at heart, but it just feels pumped up with steroids. On the palate, the whiskey is a bit more well-rounded, the woody core complemented by a serious cherry thread running through it — not a part of the standard Small Batch release — plus ample baking spice, vanilla, and chocolate notes backing up the fruit. As the finish arrives, that black pepper note that I wrote about in Small Batch finally hits, taking things out on a bit of a spicy kick. It’s not perfectly balanced and still feels rough around the edges — my grade is right on the border with an A- — but I like it plenty enough to recommend grabbing a bottle, particularly at this price.

More in line with Kentucky bourbons and a bit of a departure from Wyoming’s more brash house style, Eclipse is a peek behind the scenes at how Small Batch might evolve if the distillery lets its product age a bit longer and if it is more selective about the barrels it pulls. I remain a fan of the distillery and look forward to its next release — limited edition or otherwise.

88 proof.

B+ / $45 /

Book Review: Rum Curious

Well-known spirits writer Fred Minnick follows up his stellar Bourbon Curious with a somewhat less sexy, though equally indispensable, title: Rum Curious. As he did for the bourbon world, Minnick uses this tome to school the reader on the origins of rum (hope you like pirate stories!), the intricacies of its production, and controversies like sugaring and standards — seeing that every country that produces rum has its own rules and regulations governing its production.

A solid third of the book is devoted to Minnick’s reviews of dozens of rum brands (here revealing his tastes run toward comparably unsugared rums), followed by the expected cocktail recipes. As a one-stop shop for everything rum, it’s a solid book, though if I had to pick just one I’d still select Dave Broom’s Rum: The Manual, which I am sure I reviewed here on Drinkhacker but which seems to be missing from the site now.

Minnick is a solid writer, knows his stuff, and presents a well-organized companion to “the spirit of the future,” as they say. (Agave may be going extinct and whiskey is being priced into the stratosphere, but distilling sugar cane in third world nations isn’t going anywhere, folks!)

Best of all, it’s only 5 bucks — in hardcover — on Amazon!


Review: Sinfire Apple Cinnamon Whisky

Can you out-Fireball Fireball by adding apples to the mix?

Hood River’s Sinfire hit the scene as a Fireball competitor three years ago, and while it’s a fine product, the kids in the bars are still sucking down the original Fireball like the world was going to end. Response: Sinfire has launched a new version of its product, adding apples to the mix. Does apple-cinnamon flavored whisky stand a chance at becoming the next big standard in shooters? Let’s find out.

For starters, the nose is wholly dominant with apples, all buttery and fruity, with cinnamon an afterthought here at best. On the palate, there’s no cinnamon burn whatsoever at first, just a big rush of candied apple quickly followed by a metric ton of sugar. There’s spice on the finish, but the sweetness takes it well into red hot candies territory and away from any semblance of ground cinnamon as we know it. There’s certainly nothing in the way of “whisky” in the experience. Instead, as the finish unfolds, something akin to pure brown sugar sticks to the tongue and the roof of the mouth, lingering disturbingly for minutes.

Stick with the original.

70 proof.

C- / $18 /

Review: 2015 Cashmere by Cline Red Blend and Black Magic

We’ve been writing about Cline Family Cellars for years — but I had no idea the winery has had a second label since 2001. The Cashmere Collection was designed “to create unique blends from classic varietals” while also using sales revenues to make donations to charities such as the Susan G. Komen Foundation.

Today we look at two Cashmere bottlings, both from the 2015 vintage. Thoughts follow.

2015 Cashmere by Cline Exquisite Red Blend – A Rhone-style blend of 59% mourvedre, 22% grenache, and 19% syrah. I never would have guessed this was a GSM, as the wine’s extreme sweetness and surfeit of fruit give it a character closer to zinfandel or, at least, a doctored cabernet. The blackberry and cherry notes here verge on raisins, with a nougaty, marshmallow-like character that drives toward a chocolate syrup finish. Best with food, as it’s a bit overwhelming when consumed solo. B-

2015 Cashmere by Cline Black Magic – An “alluring dark red blend” of petite sirah, mourvedre, syrah, and grenache, proportions unstated, sourced from California. This one’s a more well-rounded player, “dark red” indeed with notes of cassis, plums, figs, raisins, and dark brown sugar giving it a bit of sweetness. While there’s more tannin here, the finish is a bit pruny, which only pumps up the sugar, but the silky fruit notes do enough heavy lifting to make this fairly enjoyable solo, or as a companion to food. B

each $15 /

Review: Kilchoman 2009 Vintage and Red Wine Cask Matured

You can’t slow Kilchoman down, as the upstart Islay distillery is still cranking out at least four releases every year. Up next is a new vintage release, last seen in late 2015, and a brand new expression finished in red wine casks. Let’s dive in!

Kilchoman 2009 Vintage – This is an eight year old Kilchoman, one of the oldest bottlings the distillery has ever released. While the three prior vintage releases were aged exclusively in Buffalo Trace bourbon barrels, this one is sourced from a combination of Oloroso sherry butts distilled in 2008 and bourbon barrels distilled in both 2008 and 2009. Results: It’s very peaty, particularly for Kilchoman, The nose is dense with smokiness, both barbecue and open wood fires. Some of that trademark fruit — apples and bananas — manages to creep through, but it’s fleeting against the background of smoking peat. The palate is largely in line with the nose, a burly smoke bombforemost, though one with more of a fruit profile laced throughout it. Aside from the general lack of sherry influence, there are no big surprises on the smoky, fruity, and very lightly floral finish — in fact there are no big surprises in the whisky at all. This is classic Kilchoman,which means that despite some production tweaks, it’s not overly distinguished vs. prior releases. 92 proof. B / $100

Kilchoman Red Wine Cask Matured – This is a limited edition bottling aged entirely (not finished) in red wine casks from the Douro Valley in Portugal (though not, it would seem, Port casks). Distilled in 2012, making it roughly 5 years old. A ruddy burnt orange, almost pink at times, this expression immediately shows itself as something entirely different from the typical Kilchoman bottling. The nose is inviting, a combination of eucalyptus, cedar wood, dried fruits, and almost savory amaro notes. There’s smoke here, but it’s understated, a secondary character that stands behind the broader fruit and herb profile. The palate is just as enchanting, a rich and lively mix of red fruits, mint, vanilla, and a surprisingly vibrant chocolate character. The finish is sweet and sultry, with hints of red pepper jelly and echoes of dark chocolate. All told, it’s probably my favorite release of Kilchoman to date. An absolute must “buy it now.” (For kicks, compare this to Laphroaig Cairdeas Port Wood Edition 2013.) 100 proof. Under 10,000 bottles produced. A / $125