Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Does your whiskey need to breathe

Will whiskey change if given some time in a glass? A lot of people seems to think so. I’ve observed many accounts of others changing their perception of whiskey leaving it in the glass for 5-30 minutes to “breathe”. Harshness, burn or other unwanted qualities have disappeared, and what remains is a more inviting and pleasant whiskey.

The process of aeration is common in the wine-world. The swirling of the glass serves to expose more of the wine to air, agitating it, releasing aromas easier to sense. It’s referred to as “opening up” the wine, or letting it “blossom”. Another similar but often misunderstood process happens if you let the wine sit exposed to air for a longer amount of time. It then becomes oxidized. A small amount can help one wine but just as well kill another. Leave it for too long and the wine turns acidic or bitter, and eventually undrinkable.

Whiskey is a grain-based product, much higher in alcohol by volume, compared to a grape-based, lower ABV product like wine. But is the process transferable?

Exactly what happens in the "breathing" process and how much it matters is aggressively debated, and it made me curious: does whiskey “open up” after a bit of time in the glass? The question led me to conduct an experiment of my own:

I poured three glasses of whiskey: a wheated bourbon (Old Weller Antique 107), a higher-proof bourbon (Noah’s Mill) and a rye whiskey (Whistlepig 10), and left them for 30 minutes.

I then poured another glass of each, marked the undersides and switched the pairs of glasses back and forth a number of times until I didn’t know which one was which. I had two glasses of each to compare: one rested for 30 minutes, and one straight out of the bottle.

My goal with the experiment was to see if I could detect a difference in whiskey that has been left to breathe, compared to the same whiskey poured in the moment, spending as little time in the glass as possible.

Beginning to nose the pairs I wrote down any first impressions as quickly as possible as I wanted the “unrested” samples to be as fresh as possible–and then moved on to tasting. I went back and forth nosing and tasting a number of times, and lastly decided which one in the three pairs was which.

I was finished, and I will let you know right away: I couldn’t tell any of the pairs apart. The two glasses of each whiskey both smelled and tasted exactly the same as the other. A couple of moments I thought I smelled or tasted something a bit different, but I wrote that off to psychology, as the potential difference I maybe sensed was tiny and perhaps I thought that one had to be different from the other.

In guessing, I got the Old Weller Antique 107 right, but the Whistlepig 10 and Noah’s Mill wrong. I couldn’t tell the OWA apart anymore than the others, so that one was pure chance.

There is still the fact that many others claim to definitely sense a difference, and I’m absolutely sure they do. Maybe it’s psychology of the ritual, maybe it’s temperature change, maybe it’s a little bit of many things and they’re all true. My findings were highly non-scientific and my results purely anecdotal, and should not be construed in any other way. I recommend that you try for yourself and see what you find!

I will continue to swirl my whiskey glass, but you won’t see me leaving whiskey to “open up” anytime soon ;) 

The Adventures Of Whisky Pete - Part #50

One of those days where I can't wait to get to the part where i can relax!

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Tasting: Balvenie. Single Barrel. 15 Year

The Balvenie Single Barrel 15 Year
Single Malt Scotch Whisky
Non Chill-Filtered

Distillery: The Balvenie
Age: 15 years
Region: Speyside
ABV: 47.8%
US Price: $95
Release: Ongoing
Cask: European Oak Sherry Butt

Points: 89/100

Similar to the 12 year single barrel this 15 year old is also fully matured in a single barrel, but this time a European oak sherry butt and is one of no more than 650 bottles.  Coming in at 47.8% ABV, this dram is packed full of flavor! 

There are conflicting opinions out there on whether or not The Balvenie adds any artificial coloring to their whiskies so I have decided to reach out to them directly to see if I can get an answer.  Once I hear back, I’ll update this post at the bottom.  My initial belief is that the answer to this question is no, at least for the 15 year single barrel because I have seen bottles of this with drastically different colors, some much darker than others.  This tells me that this color variance is likely due to the whisky being matured in either a first fill Sherry butt or a refill Sherry butt.  If this is true then I recommend looking for a bottle that is very dark in color.

My particular bottle I believe to be a refill Sherry butt based on the color. It also happens to be cask number 14980, bottle number 545.

Nose: Christmas cake, cream and milk chocolate up front. Hazelnuts, almonds, cinnamon and notes of orange peel.

Taste: Burst of Sherry up front. Medium thick mouthfeel.  Not as sweet as expected based off the nose, more like a natural sweetness one gets from a dry rum.  Some dried fruits, nutty, leather, burnt sugar and bread notes, like raisin bread.

Finish: Long sherries finish.  Initially fruity but quickly transitions into spice and pepper.  Very drying.

Photo & Review: Cody Diefenderfer

The Adventures Of Whisky Pete - Part #49

Four Roses is everything to me right now. Simply can't get enough

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Tasting: Rebel Yell. Single Barrel 10 Year

Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 Year
Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Proof: 100
Mash bill: 68% corn, 20% wheat, 12% malted barley
Barrel #: 5043515
Barreled 5/2016
Distillery: Luxco
Availability: Limited release
Price: $50 USD

88/100 points

Sample provided by Luxco

Originally created around the mid 1940’s by then Louisville mayor, Charles Farnsley, Rebel Yell was produced as a private label for gift purposes. It wasn’t until the early 1960’s that the famous Stitzel-Weller distillery officially started producing the whiskey, distributing it only to the Southern United States. In its early days, Rebel Yell was a 6-year old, 90-proof bourbon.

After the breakup of Stitzel-Weller in 1972, United Distillers (Diageo) took over the brand. Fast forward a bit to the 1980’s; the proof was lowered to 80, the age statement was dropped from 6 years down to a NAS 4 years and the brand was now being distributing throughout the U.S. In other words, it was striped down a bit. However, it continued to be produced at Stitzel-Weller. So it had that much still going for it. That is until United Distillers moved production to its new Bernheim distillery in 1992 after closing Stitzel-Weller.

In 1999, Diageo sold the brand to David Sherman Corporation, which would later become Luxco. The bourbon continues to be produced at the Bernheim distillery to this day by Heaven Hill. I imagine it will continue to be produced here until Luxco’s distillery, Lux Row, is up and running.

In 2016, Luxco introduced Rebel Yell Single Barrel 10 year old bourbon, producing around 2000 cases. This year, they’ve released approximately twice that amount. As of this post, it is beginning to hit shelves around the United States. Okay, okay. It might not be hitting literal shelves, but it’s at least hitting stores.

Now that we’ve gotten the history lesson out of the way, let’s dive into this limited release.


Nutmeg, red pepper, cinnamon, oak, caramel, fine leather and hints of dill. The nose got a little more complex after my first sip, providing some light citrus aromas.


This bourbon has a really good mouthfeel. It has a nice oiliness to it while packing a good bit of spice, sipping like the 100 proof that it is. Lots of cinnamon and red hot candies. It really hits the top of my tongue. The thick, caramel and sugar flavors help soften it a little.


The finish is long. The spice from the palate really kicks the finish off, helping to draw it out a little longer. That leads to tobacco and then into some very light leather. I get hints of peppermint candy here, too. Caramel and dark chocolate flavors close out this bourbon.

While I’ve never had any Stitzel-Weller produced Rebel Yell, I can only image at the higher proof, this 10-year old single barrel probably inches a little closer to it’s original 1960’s state. Am I comparing this whiskey to the 90-proof SW product? No. I’m saying that it definitely pacts more flavor than its younger 80-proof brother. Thus, getting somewhat back to its roots. It is a very enjoyable pour. And for a $50 limited release, what’s not to love?

If you see a bottle of this, it’s most definitely worth picking up.

Speaking of bottles, I’d like to thank Luxco for sending me this sample. It arrived in what is possibly the coolest and cutest little glass sample bottle I’ve ever seen!


Photo & Review By: Seth Brown

The Adventures Of Whisky Pete - Part #48

Papas Old Fashioned... Guess Where?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Tasting: Balvenie. Caribbran Cask. 14 Year

The Balvenie Caribbean Cask 14 year
Single Malt Scotch Whisky

Distillery: The Balvenie
Age: 14 years
Region: Speyside
ABV: 43%
US Price: $70
Release: Ongoing
Cask: Ex-bourbon cask/finished in Rum casks

Points: 89/100

The Balvenie Distillery, namely well known Malt Master David Stewart, is known for pioneering the process of two cask maturation in the 80s, often referred to now as “finishing”.  Unlike then, finishing is now a very common and widely used process in whisky making and has contributed to some amazing releases.  The Balvenie has used finishing for a number of releases over the years and is responsible for much of their core range including both 12 and 17 year Doublewood expressions, the 21 Portwood and of course the 14 year Caribbean Cask.

The 14 year Caribbean Cask is matured for 14 years in ex-bourbon barrels before being finished in Caribbean Rum casks.  The current release of this rum finished whisky came out in 2010 but had a few different iterations in the years before; a 14 year Rum Wood Finish in 2005, a fully matured Rum Cask 17 year in 2008 and a 14 year rum finish in 2009.  As much as I wonder what that 17 year Rum Cask tastes like, this 14 year Caribbean Cask does not disappoint.

Nose: Tropical fruits, mostly passion fruit, white grapes, with softer notes of vanilla and caramel.  Very creamy with hints of fresh grass.

Taste: More fresh fruit on the palate than tropical. Green apples, caramel, toffee and icing.  Very syrupy mouthfeel with a slight malty and vegetal note on the back of the palate.

Finish: Long finish.  More white grapes and a hint of nutmeg then a strong lingering note of caramel apples.

Photo & Review By: Cody Diefenderfer