Friends always look out for one another. Whisky friends, in particular, bring back gifts from their overseas travels. I expect these purchases are always with the best intentions at heart and offer the chance to explore new whiskies.
Better than a postcard, a box of cheap chocolates or the local liqueur that could pass for bleach next time you have a stain that needs to be removed. Maybe a fake tan Dalmore stain? A touch of bleach can work wonders and remove such grubby determined marks. Instead, your friends will pick out a whiskey or whiskies that may broaden your horizons or slam a door firmly shut in their face.
I’m always up for new experiences especially whiskies. Always game for the oddest thing on the menu, the difficult path or point of view compared to the masses; the sheep who follow blindly follow the influencers. The rocky road is always more character building than the smooth tarmac of the finest road.
This time around I have to thank Aeneas for picking up four offerings from the Heritage Distilling Company who are located near Seattle. This was during his recent California jaunt where he took in a frankly bizarre Scottish festival in Los Angeles and was my whisky mule delivering a rather splendid 28 year old Tormore. All good and then a recent meet in London produced the collection of gifts that we’re about to experience. These are the things I do for MALT and our readership. On an increasingly frequent and disturbing basis.
Springing into life in November 2012, Heritage Distilling produces a variety of spirits beyond whiskey. Fuelled by a custom Italian still, it has been a successful venture with more venues and distilling areas opened under the HDC brand. Approved investors are sought and the company seems representative of the general boom we’re hearing about across America. For MALT it all comes down to the liquid and whether HDC is a vibrant craft operation worthy of your attention or more of a bulk producer happy to play it safe?
For our examination, we have an assortment starting with their Elk Rider bourbon bottled at a pleasing 46% strength and with a mash bill featuring corn, rye and malted barley. Then, we’ll check out the rye Elk equivalent at the same strength with a simple mash bill of rye and malted barley. The Batch No.12 bourbon features a mash of rye, malted barley and corn matured in newly charred American oak barrels. The grand finale will be the BSB or Brown Sugar Bourbon, bottled at 30% strength and less than 2 years old – which I reckon applies to all of the above – before being watered down with local H20 and then additional flavouring with cinnamon and brown sugar added. I’ve got the fear.
Elk Rider Bourbon whiskey – review
Colour: light honey
On the nose: sliced green apples and sweet cinnamon. Cookie dough with all-spice and a pungent vanilla. Honey obviously and a green herbal edge – basil leaf? Water added more apple vibrancy and revealed a ginger note.
In the mouth: the classic inoffensive American flavors of caramel and vanilla. Beyond there’s white chocolate with more pastry dough with a slight buttery aspect on the finish. Water sands down things into a vanilla mush with apple sours.
Elk Rider Rye whiskey – review
On the nose: a touch soapy maybe washing up liquid? A bit of menthol, Parma Violets and cherries. Damp wood, orange sherbet followed by a creamy vanilla toffee.
In the mouth: very youthful with very little character. Some orange peel, black pepper with ginger nuts and marzipan. Toffee, maybe peaches? Also banana chews.
Batch No. 12 bourbon – review
On the nose: surprisingly fruity with juicy apples, a touch of melon to provide a crispness and a gentle cinnamon. Lemonade brings a clean cut quality alongside vanilla and a chalky mineral aspect. Water delivers more apple summer notes and a twist of lime.
In the mouth: sweeter than expected with a combo of pears and grapefruit. Enchanting in a way, more vanilla and a buttery quality. More lemon and with water it does lose some of its charms. Orange comes through as does a creaminess to offer a modest tangible benefit.
BSB Brown Sugar Bourbon – review
Colour: puff pastry
On the nose: FFS it is a cake. Cinnamon and baked pastry with brown sugar and little else. Swamped. Ruined. Destroyed. Mutilated. Sickly. Syrup. Honey monster. Vanilla.
In the mouth: if I wanted a cinnamon bun I’d buy one. In liquid form, it is truly awful. Sugary sweet and full of rampant cinnamon. That’s your lot really and it is offensive.
The BSB is vile I’m afraid. Sickly sweet and one dimensional it had me singing the praises of Jura for an evening. And we’ll never mention that again. In comparison, the Elks ain’t bad but neither really showcase the best of ‘Merica whiskey. The rye lacks punch and detail, feeling half-baked and too youthful to be truly representative of what this type of whiskey can offer. The bourbon is youthful and unfinished. Released to an eager market who are keen to support all things local, which we all are guilty of given the option.
The Batch No.12 bourbon is the pick of the bunch and hopefully the sign of better things to come. Overall, this isn’t selling the Seattle scene so I’ll stick with my old 90’s vinyl for now and fond memories of the Westland American Oak or the more successful Peated and Sherry Wood Westland whiskies.
Images from Heritage Distilling. Thanks to Aeneas for visiting the distillery and bringing back some samples.