whiskey

Old Forester Statesman Bourbon Review


When the trailer for Kingsman: The Golden Circle debuted online, I literally jumped for joy.  Kingsman was an insane thrill ride.  It’s sort a of 007 on speed all the while winking to the audience.  The sequel, which opens in theatres this Friday, looks to be even wilder.

Movie tie-ins are nothing new.  Sometimes they seemed forced, but every now and then they’re done right.  In the first film, the cover for the secret organization was a tailor’s shop.  In the new film, their American counterpart’s cover: a Kentucky bourbon distillery.  The filmmakers teamed up with none other than Old Forester to create a quality bourbon that would fit right in with the over-the-top world of The Kingsman.

Not that the bourbon is over-the-top.  Well, maybe a little.  This ain’t the Old Forester you’re used to.

The nose is notably spicier than the standard Old Forester.  There is lots of oak spice, which makes me think a lot of the barrels for this release were pulled from upper warehouse floors.  Some hot cocoa, vanilla extract and caramel balance out that spice.  On entry, a sort of spiced vanilla custard, the kind topped with ground cinnamon, plays strongly and is complimented by orange zest.  Some baking spice and a hint of leather on the midpalate add more complexity.  The finish is long, with orange dreamsicle and mint lingering.

Old Forester set out to make a whiskey that balanced spice and heat, and they’ve succeeded.  The volume’s turned up from the standard Old Forester flavor profile, but is still built around the distillery’s DNA.  The whiskey is both familiar and new.  I know what I’m sneaking into the theatre when I watch this film.  7.5/10

Oldforester.com

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From Grain to Glass: A Visit to Frey Ranch Distillery

Distillery owner Colby Frey in his rye field. Frey Ranch grows several grains on the estate.


About an hour east of Reno, a most exciting craft distillery lies in the sleepy farming town of Fallon, NV:  Frey Ranch Distillery.  Run by husband and wife team Colby & Ashley Frey, the distillery is smack dab in the middle of their large farm estate.  

The Freys have called Nevada home since before it became a state.  In fact, Colby’s great-great-grandfather filed one of the first land claims in the area.  Farming is the family trade.  It’s in their blood.  Multi-generational business history is one of the big pushes for some Kentucky distillers, and it is the same for the Freys when it comes to farming.

The Freys do everything on their estate, from growing grains to bottling.


“It helps, through generations and  through trial and error, to learn the best way to grow grain and other products in the desert of the driest state in the nation,” said Colby Frey.  “Now we have this unique ability to grow the grain in this atmosphere which is totally different than anywhere else in the world.”

Back in 2001, Colby and his father, Charles Frey, Jr., started growing vines and making wine.  He enrolled in several fermentation and wine-making classes, and took the time to practice and experiment.  “What’s neat about being a farmer is you have to know a little bit about a lot of things,” Colby said.  A jack of all trades, so to speak.  

Frey Ranch Distillery is about a hour’s drive from Reno.


Distilling soon followed.  Grappa and brandy were the first spirits distilled at the estate, which makes sense given their wine-making proclivities.  The 50-gallon still used at the time was handmade by Colby, but that would change when they decided to expand their distilling capabilities.  Now, they are rocking custom-made Vendome stills.  Located in Louisville, Vendome Copper & Brassworks is the go-to still maker for a lot of American distillers.  With the new equipment in place, the Freys have the capacity to produce 10,000 cases of distilled spirit a month.


Years later, the first whiskey the Freys distilled and put to rest was bourbon.  That bourbon comes from a four grain mash bill – corn, rye, wheat and barley.  At the moment it’s about two and a half years old, but the Freys made one thing clear:  they will not sell a whiskey younger than four years old.

“Right now it shows extreme potential.  When we try it at four years, if we think it needs more time, we’ll let it age,” Frey explained as we tasted their bourbon.  I have to say, it’s pretty enjoyable at the moment.  Being such a young age, the bourbon is grain forward, but not sharp.  Instead, like the majority of the other whiskies I sampled at the distillery that day, I found it rich and flavorful with lots of vanilla and light caramel.

Colby and Ashley Frey say their bourbon shows “extreme potential.” I’d have to agree.

Only grains grown on Frey Ranch Estate are used in production of their spirits.  Grain-wise, the Freys are growing corn, wheat, rye, barley, and oat on their farm.  That, and the fact that Colby likes to tinker and experiment, allows for the production of other whiskies.  In addition to bourbon, the Freys have distilled a rye whiskey, wheat whiskey, oat whiskey, malted corn whiskey, and malt whiskey.  That last one has a light peating level.  What’s interesting is the peat is made on the estate from decomposed corn stocks.  

In addition to their more traditional bourbon, a unique bourbon is also aging in the warehouse.  For this particular whiskey, the four grains used in their standard bourbon – corn, rye, wheat, and barley – are all malted on-site and used in the mash bill.  A malted bourbon?  I wasn’t sure what to call this whiskey, but it’s just bourbon (thanks for the insight, Chuck).  Compared to their more traditional bourbon, this whiskey is still fairly young and has a long maturation ahead of it.  The whiskey itself was rather interesting.  I mean that in a good way.  It had an earthy quality their standard bourbon didn’t have.

Having sampled their range of whiskies, I found that none had that “green” taste.  You know, that young, brutish, sharp character found in a lot of craft distillery whiskies.  Even though most were still very young, the whiskies had backbone.  That can be attributed to the attention and care in not only in the fermentation and distillation of the spirits, but also to the generations of know-how the Freys have instilled in their farming techniques.


Everything comes from and is done at the estate.  Everything.  Growing grains, malting, fermenting, distilling, maturing, and bottling – everything.  I’ve never seen anything like it, and I can’t help but appreciate the conviction with which the Frey family are approaching the distillation of spirits.

“There’s a saying in the wine industry that you gotta like what you make because you might end up drinking it all yourself.  So we want to make sure we like it before we bottle it.  We don’t want to do anything to even remotely sacrifice our reputation for having quality products.”

The distillery trip was entirely paid for by Frey Ranch Distillery.  Thanks to the Freys and Argentum for the wonderfully educational weekend in Reno.  As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.

Barrell Bourbon Batch 012 Review


Following its award-winning Batch 011, Barrell Bourbon has unveiled its latest – the 9-year-old Batch 012.  Following in the footsteps of several previous batches, Batch 012 was distilled and aged in Tennessee.  The youngest stuff in the bottle is 9-years-old, but the company says there are “selected older barrels” blended into this batch.  Proof-wise, we’re looking at a strong but not overpowering cask strength of 108.5 proof.  Batch 012 was distilled from the same mash bill as Batch 011:  70% corn, 25% rye, and 5% malted barley.

Batches 005 and 006 were close to the same age, and they’re still my favorites of the bunch.  How does this new batch stack up?

The nose carries a vibrant citrus note that brightens up dark caramel, baking spices (especially cinnamon), vanilla and a slightly earthy note and something else (cigar box?). It sort of recalls a fantastic Four Roses single barrel I had once.  Don’t ask me the recipe – I don’t remember.  On entry, creamy caramel and vanilla cake create a wonderfully rich bed.  Waves of spice build, while dark chocolate arrives on the mid-palate.  Some oak tannins and leather show up late to the party.  Nice.  Complex.  The finish is long and warm, with hints of fresh squeezed citrus, a hint of wood smoke, and slightly astringent oak spice.  

I rather enjoyed this batch.  A lot.  To my tastes, whatever Tennessee distillery Barrell Bourbon sources these barrels from, they hit their peak around the 9-year mark.  The spirit is complex but extremely easy to drink.  Well done! 9/10

Barrellbourbon.com