What is a Blind Tiger, you may ask? A kind of speakeasy, though Chicago Distilling’s website has a slightly more baroque description laden with the type of historical yarn-spinning that sets my spider-senses tingling.
I worry that the current crop of startup distilleries focuses too much on coming up with clever names and compelling narratives, and not enough on the unglamorous details that go into the production of proper whiskey. The result is always the same: we, the whiskey-drinking public, end up with a bunch of clumsily-made, overpriced cocktail fodder and cutesy anecdotes. Alexandra has already addressed this disappointing trend in a piece from earlier this year which, like all her thoughtful meditations, bears – nay, demands – repeated reading.
Since 2010, brothers Vic and Jay DiPrizio have teamed up with Jay’s wife Noelle to produce distilled spirits in Chicago’s Logan Square neighborhood which – you’ll be shocked to learn – is a local epicenter of hipsterdom. Vodka, gin, malt whiskey, white whiskey, rye, absinthe, and Bourbon all cohabitate in Chicago Distilling’s portfolio.
If you’ve read Alexandra’s aforementioned piece and my review of several fairly awful offerings from Journeyman, the breadth of the sprits enumerated above should start your mental alarm bells clanging. Sergei Rachmaninov once worried that “I have chased three hares; can I be certain that I have captured one?” Based on the evidence here, I am sad to report that Chicago Distilling hasn’t caught a hare, or even caught the hair of a hare, or even caught sight of a hare. This whiskey is to proper Bourbon as my 3-year-old daughter wearing boxing gloves and hammering away on the ivories of her toy piano is to Rachmaninov.
Spoiler: Blind Tiger Bourbon sucks. The mention of Chicago nowadays conjures associations of rampant gun crime, intractable corruption at all levels of government, and escalating taxes to fund a crippling fiscal shortfall. You can add this fetid whiskey to that revolting stew. I could write more, but why bother? I’m publishing this mostly as a public service, on the off chance that it stops some innocent stranger from an unfortunate purchase.
There’s no publicly-available detail about the mash bill or fermentation times or maturation times or anything, but you’ll promptly stop caring. This is Batch 8, Bottle 107, bottled at 45%. I paid $40 for a bottle of this, shame on me.
Chicago Distilling Company Blind Tiger Bourbon – review
Color: Unwashed tiger.
On the nose: Rough, raw nose of freshly-planed wood, with malty and yeasty notes. Damp autumn leaves and a hint of potting soil make an appearance, as well as rotting red apples from the orchard floor. Clearly young and made from an inattentive cut, this is smells like another example of careless distilling and truncated maturation.
In the mouth: Starts with the slight bitterness of almonds. A stale note of wet cardboard and the off-bitter savory flavor of tsukemono are all this produces before it fades into a finish with the dilute dirty flavor of puddle water, enlivened by wood chips straight from a freshly-ground stump.
If I were living in a prohibitionist theocracy and had to slink around surreptitiously to get a buzz on, this might pass muster, in that it probably won’t induce long-lasting neurological damage. In a major metropolis in the year 2018, with store shelves overflowing with all types of appealing bottles, this is an embarrassment. Don’t waste your time or money.