Review: Wolves “First Run”

When James Bond (Undefeated) and Jon Buscemi (Buscemi, Truff, Oliver Peoples) decided to get into the crowded whiskey game, they knew they’d have to produce something interesting. Enter Wolves.

The duo teamed up with Charbay distiller Marko Karakasevic. Charbay is known for distilling beer instead of a traditional mash. The difference is the presence of hops. For the most part, Charbay’s releases have been well-received. It’s easy to see why Bond and Buscemi went in this direction.

Press materials state the Wolves team tasted more than 50 barrels and went through 19 different blends before landing on their first release – “First Run”. This 898 bottle run is comprised of three different whiskies distilled in a copper alambic charentais pot still, the kind used to distill cognac. The three whiskies are:

  • 8-year-old Stout whiskey matured in French oak casks
  • 5-year-old Pilsner whiskey matured in new American oak casks with a number 3 char
  • Rye whiskey

Wolves “First Run” was cut with Sonoma County water and bottled at a hearty 106 proof. The California whiskey then is lightly filtered. It’s presented in a beautiful bottle with a Italian sheepskin leather label. Fancy.

So, how does Wolves “First Run” hold up in the glass?

Young rye notes dominate the nose initally, eventually allowing sweet caramel and hops to shine through. Citrus adds a bit of freshness. The entry is creamy with hints of chocolate-covered orange peel, cigar box, spice, and hops. It’s got a slight sour beer quality in the mid-palate. The finish is long with hints of orange peel and rye spice.

The Wolves team certainly delivered an interesting whiskey. It’s different enough to stand out, but flavorful enough to become a cult hit. I didn’t think I’d like this whiskey’s hoppy quality. To be honest, it threw me off a little at first. By the third or fourth sip, I became a fan. The the decision to add rye was a smart one. It cuts through the richness of the whiskey by adding a some spice and vibrancy. I can’t wait to see what they release next.

Wolves “First Run” is available only at ReserveBar.com and Flaviar.com for $150 a bottle. I recommend this whiskey for adventurous imbibers. 8/10

Update 06/06/2019 – Wolves “First Run” is sold out. You can sign up here to be notified of an upcoming second run, soon to be announced.

wolveswhiskeyca.com

Thanks to the Wolves team for the review sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

A Trio of Whiskies from Reservoir Distillery

An interesting thing about Virginia’s Reservoir Distillery is that its three main expressions – a wheat whiskey, bourbon, and rye – are each distilled from a one grain mash bill. The wheat whiskey and rye are distilled from 100% of their namesake grain. Their bourbon is made from a 100% corn mash bill.

Reservoir Distillery differs from many mainstream distilleries in other ways. It utilizes open-top fermenters, and the process of fermentation can take between 6 and 11 days, which is a long time. Distillation happens in a small pot still versus a column still. Their whiskies are matured in new, charred quarter casks, presumably for “quicker” maturation versus the standard 53 gallon barrels used elsewhere. The wood for those barrels come from Virginia trees.

All three expressions are at least two years old, have been bottled at 100 proof, and are from Batch 1 from 2018. Let’s see how they taste.

WHEAT WHISKEY

The nose is rather bold for a wheat whiskey, with hints of brown sugar, buttered wheat bread, and a slight young grain character. The entry starts sweet with more of that brown sugar and sweet wheat from the nose. It’s followed by a dusting of cinnamon sugar and orange essence. Some oak tannins take hold afterwards, but not to a dominating degree. The finish is short, with cedar shavings and spice.

Reservoir’s Wheat Whiskey has a decent nose and palate, but falls a little short on the finish. The wood from the small quarter casks really show their grip on this part of the tasting. 6/10

BOURBON WHISKEY

Different. And Oaky. It’s how I’d describe the nose on this 2-year-old bourbon made from 100% corn. There’s a young grain character intermingled with fresh oak. Dark caramel and some vanilla add much needed familiarity to this young whiskey. Taste-wise, we start things off with lots of young oak and oak tannins, along with burnt sugar and cola concentrate. The young corn note from the nose all but disappears on the palate. However, the bourbon has a heftier body than the wheat whiskey. Those pesky quarter casks dominate the finish with more astringent oak tannins and sweet resin.

Another case of the smaller quarter casks dominating the spirit in every aspect of the whiskey. 5/10

RYE WHISKEY

Wait… we might be onto something with the rye whiskey. The spicy grain shines through on the nose with hints of cloves, anise, and dill. Some toffee adds a bit of sweetness. The palate is surprisingly balanced. Hints of toffee, oak spice, rye toast, and citrus provide a pleasant drinking experience. The long finish features maple syrup, oak spice, and a feint hint of fresh mint.

I’m not generally a fan of young rye, but I certainly like this expression. As I mentioned in the tasting notes, this is rather balanced, whereas the wheat whiskey and bourbon are dominated by the quarter casks’ oak notes. Maybe this is a case where those grains by themselves don’t hold up to the large spirit to wood contact ratio those quarter casks provide. This rye whiskey not only stands up to the quarter casks, it embraces them. Delicious. 8/10

Though not a fan of Reservoir Distillery’s bourbon and wheat whiskey, I’m extremely curious of how those whiskies would taste if matured in standard barrels as opposed to quarter casks. If they ever do, I’d love to try them.

One exercise I’d encourage is to blend these whiskies after tasting them separately. I found 4 parts rye, 1.5 parts wheat, and 1/2 part bourbon work rather well together.

Reservoirdistillery.com

Thanks to Reservoir Distillery for the samples. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review: Barrell Bourbon Batch 018

Barrell Craft Spirits is sort of the whiskey equivalent of an independent filmmaker. Neither are working within the traditional confines of their industry. For example, an independent filmmaker can make their film without having to ‘dumb down’ for mass audiences with explosions, quick cutting, etc. They just focus on the story they want to tell, and how they want to tell it. On the whiskey side of things, big brands prize consistency within each batch of their whiskey. Barrell Craft Spirits, on the other hand, basks in the freedom to showcase a different flavor profile in each batch they release.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 018 is blended from 11-, 14-, and 15-year-old bourbon distilled in Kentucky and Tennessee. The resulting whiskey is bottled at a cask strength of 111.56 proof.

On the nose, this bourbon emphasizes fruit and baking spice. Lots of ripe mango and coconut intermingle with cinnamon, cardamom, and allspice. Taste-wise, there’s lots going on here. A wave of sweet fruit juice kicks things off, closely followed by vibrant lemon curd. Those baking spices from the nose soon show up in moderation on the mid-palate before succumbing to a slightly dark coffee note. The long finish is surprisingly earthy with a touch of orange peel.

I like Batch 018’s balance of fruit & spice, and sweetness & earthiness. It’s nicely structured and complex, but above all – it’s just plain delicious. I seem to be saying this often, but Barrell has another mark in the ‘W’ column with this batch. Nicely done. 8.5/10

Barrellbourbon.com

Thanks to Barrell Craft Spirits for the review sample. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.