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Milam & Greene Very Small Batch Bourbon

Is he a dot or is he a speck?
When he’s underwater does he get wet?
Or does the water get him instead?
Nobody knows, Particle Man
– They Might be Giants, “Particle Man”

The world turns. It evolves. Old traditions either stand the test of time or they give way to people deeming them no longer necessary. If you have been loving whiskey and bourbon in the age of social media long enough you can see some standards starting to fade away and others coming back, like age statements.

Another thing that has changed (or grown) in the past decade is whiskey on social media. Tik Tok is Hollywood magic and Instagram is just pretty pictures with little to no substance. YouTube is filled with talented videographers more than it is critical Whiskey connoisseurs. Facebook has become an even seedier place, as the big groups have been exiled into oblivion and replaced with hundreds of small regional groups all looking to flip the latest Buffalo Trace release for the sake of making $10-$20. Reddit continues to be a great place to read first time reviews of staples that we all know and love. Where can one go for the cynical take? Where is the place that one can find seasoned veterans of the hobby that grew up poking their siblings in the ribs in hopes of a reaction?

That’s right, Twitter.

The most toxic of all the social media sites. I find certain brands are much more active on there and I’m always amused to see what whiskey brands are curated for my feed on Twitter versus Instagram. One that has been on my Twitter radar has been Milam & Greene. Many in my circle speak highly of the brand and I have seen their loyal following consistently posting pictures of their offerings.

From their website:
“Milam & Greene was created by founder Marsha Milam, whiskey expert and Master Blender Heather Greene, and Kentucky veteran Master Distiller Marlene Holmes. Our charming distillery sits in the lush Texas Hill Country where hot summers, mild winters, and wild temperature variances add spark and personality to our spirit.”

They also add this bit of transparency on the “About Us” page:
“We distill on a 300-gallon copper pot still in the heart of Texas Hill Country AND on classic column stills in Bardstown, Kentucky – each produces different notes and character.”

It’s this transparency that I love from newer brands. It is impossible to start a new whiskey company without using sourced distillate. Telling you where it comes from is welcome in this industry that is filled with lost recipes and unlucky grandpas.

The opportunity to try anything from this just hasn’t been in the cards for me until a friend texted me that someone had gifted him the bottle pictured in this article. One phrase on the label seems to cause a ruckus amongst the whiskey crowd:

“Very Small Batch
Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Finished with Charred
French Oak Staves”

Very small batch… a new term. Indicating smaller than small. But what is small?

As my friend David Jennings AKA RareBird101 on Twitter mentioned: “It means whatever the producer intends it to mean. ‘Small Batch’ isn’t a regulated term.”

Still there are those that took umbrage with it. Part of me wonders if people who hate the term “Very Small Batch” also give other brands as much grief for it when they put “Small Batch.” At the end of the day brands are playing a marketing game. For those who didn’t know, the first brand credited with using the term widely was when Jim Beam debuted Knob Creek in 1992. It wasn’t a single barrel but evoked the feeling of craftsmanship associated with the premium Knob Creek.

I also wonder if many people give M&G grief because of their outspoken founder Heather Greene. I have to say I have grown fond of watching her take-down He-Man Woman Haters. Twitter is a world I’m not built for, and I always admire those that can take it and dish it back. Texas Whiskey has a great reputation and I have been keen to try this brand for quite some time. I’m sure they have the whiskey to back up the talk. Now as far as the term “Very Small Batch”?

To their credit, they didn’t use the term without defining it for themselves. So I was really impressed when Heather came to twitter with their definition of the term. From Heather:

Malt: What is the meaning of “Very Small Batch”?
Heather: “Very Small Batch” means different things to different distillers. At Millam & Greene, everything we do is boutique and tiny compared to large legacy producers. Our definition of “Very Small Batch” in this case (pun intended) means that we will harvest between 50-70 barrels, divide that amount by four, and then work with those smaller batches individually in our vatting tanks before bottling. These four “Very Small Batches” allow us greater control and attention to detail that whiskey connoisseurs cherish and expect from their producers. It is quite laborious, but worth it in our opinion.”

One thing to add to that well done answer is that even within a distiller “Small Batch” can mean different amounts depending on the product/label. As our own Taylor Cope uncovered, a company like Sazerac admits that: “Our small batch quantities vary by brand.”

Which leads me to my initial thought as I open the bottle and pour: I don’t care. Sorry, but I just don’t. I’ve learned to tune out marketing terms like this and if a newer brand wants to stand out, I think there are a lot of worse ways to do it. They took an already loose term and gave it their own spin. They defined it and if you ask them, they are more than prepared to give you their version of it.

I never bought Knob Creek because it was a “Small Batch” product. I bought it because I tried it and liked it. Yes, I was interested in trying the Lexus to Jim Beam’s Toyota. The term doesn’t carry that much weight and in all my years navigating liquor aisles I’ve rarely seen someone say they were going with the artisan small batch product over another that didn’t have it on the label. This one is more for the TTB watchers than the general public in my opinion.
With that being cleared up… onto the review.

Milam & Greene Very Small Batch Bourbon – Review

Finished with charred French oak staves. 108 proof. SRP of $70.

Color: Sienna

On the nose: Fresh cut cedar. Pinwheels and Chocolatines come to mind in the background. The faint cookie and fluffy marshmallow are coupled with a dark chocolate or baking spice note that never can overtake the cedar.

In the mouth: The initial nips are faint and airy. The cookie and baking spice blast into the third quarter of the sip like a Curry/Thompson takeover in an NBA game. The finish fades away quickly in the same way that you wonder what happened in the initial sip.

Conclusions:

Whiskies like this are tricky to score. For some, the light airiness can be celebrated as nuanced and sophisticated. For those that look at the 108 label on the front looking for a blast of flavor upfront will be disappointed. Still, I find myself coming back more and more for that Third Quarter trip to Flavortown.

Score: 5/10

French oak in the wrong hands can be astringent and drying, but here there is no such thing. Another conundrum for me: applaud that they didn’t over do the French Oak, or should the finish be scored another way? A nice show of skill to allow the whiskey and French oak both shine in that third quarter. I liked what I tried from this “Very Small Batch,” and I look forward to chasing down more of their products in the future.

CategoriesAmerican
Matt

Born and raised in Chicago Matt spent the last decade hunting the unattainable only to find the beauty in the everyday affordable Bourbons you can readily find. An avid shoe collector whose early 90’s reissue of Jordan III’s disintegrated in storage; he believes shoes should be worn and whiskey consumed not stored. Whiskey elitists can keep it moving, spirits are a journey for everyone. Whether it’s the first sip of the night or another addition to their top-shelf at home.

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