“Nobody even knows what that means?”
“No one knows what it means. But it’s provocative, it gets the people going!”
– Blades of Glory
I have spent my writing years trying to be positive. I’ve tried to turn away from the temptation of Twitter (now “X”?) to become the crotchety old whiskey man. Then one day I found myself wanting to tweet (or “X”?) “Does anyone even work at the TTB anymore?!”
I used to chuckle when I saw that quote come from others during rise of finished whiskies. That era has not slowed down, but let me go back to my original problem. Let me give you my “get off my lawn!” moment:
It’s when I see “Grain to Glass” being used.
Of course the whiskey came from a grain. Of course it’s poured from a glass and usually drank from a glass. What does that term mean for a consumer? What should it mean?
The late Anthony Bourdain once said that he despised the term “Farm to Table.” In a YouTube clip titled “Anthony Bourdain – on Farm to Table – Raw Craft – The Balvenie” he said:
“I hate the term Farm to table actually, I mean, you know. I worked in the restaurant business for 30 years. I mean, as far as I know, most of the food I served came from a farm and I sure as hell served it on a table. I mean, I’m all for it. I support the Farm to Table movement, it just hurts me to say that.”
In the broad sense of the term almost any restaurant is farm to table, isn’t it? Unless my armrest White Castle break inside my car doesn’t count as a table.
In the hipster world, Farm to Table was originally meant as a sign the restaurant had a relationship with the farmer. The food didn’t come from some big corporately owned farm, and you could feel good about paying more for dinner and supporting a smaller venture. For others it might have meant that the restaurant was a part of the farm and on the premises. Eventually the term got used so much that it didn’t really mean anything to anyone.
Such is the state of grain to glass. I finally had to leave a comment on one such whiskey account that used the term, which I knew for sure got truckloads of contracted grain into their massive distillery. When a big brand uses it for the purpose of seeming authentic it makes me cringe. It is also taking away from a term that is meant to help the smaller brands.
Newer brands can’t compete on price and scale with the “big six,” but they can offer compelling stories and do things the “right way.” One of those is a brand located in DeKalb, Illinois. They are Whiskey Acres. A little more than one hour’s drive west from Chicago is a farm that has been distilling a wheated whiskey.
If you remember, in the mid 2010’s there were new distilleries popping up at a breakneck pace. Many of them got very good at taming young corn notes and creating some awfully good whiskey in a short amount of time. Driftless Glen, New Riff, J. Henry… the last one also being in the Midwest, and choosing to create a wheated whiskey.
It’s no secret why many young distilleries decided on wheated mash bills for their whiskey. Pappy, the loose connection to Weller, and its rise in popularity made it a layup. Can’t find Weller Special Reserve? Here is a young wheater from an upstart distillery!
I’ve tried Whiskey Acres through the years. I’ve privately hoped that they had the foresight and funding to keep stock that could hit higher age statements. I know it’s hard for young distilleries to not just start pouring everything they have into the market to get a return on their investment.
Their Bottled in Bond was corn-forward and brash. I liked it; but never loved it enough to review it. Now we are here at year seven, with a bottle that comes in at 107 proof (sound familiar?) and costs $77.77, which I find very clever. I also find the price to be quite right, given today’s market and what is charged for Weller Antique 107… which carries no age statement, but is believed to be five to six years old, typically.
So, let’s get back to that phrase that grinds my gears: Farm to Table. It isn’t on the bottle! What you will find is this term:
Estate Grown & Distilled
I like it. I love it. I’m glad they took ownership of a category that is slowly becoming meaningless. It really goes along with their tag line that “Great whiskey isn’t made. It’s grown.”
So, let’s see what seven years of Estate Grown & Distilled get us.
Whiskey Acres Bourbon Aged 7 Years – Review
107 proof (53.5% ABV).
Color: Deep amber.
On the nose: Butterscotch that, upon more whiffs, starts to smell like a Heath bar.
In the mouth: This one takes me back to Cracker Barrel. Stay with me. A bit of corn muffin, a little bit of the muffin. I wish I had some butter to add to this. Some typical vanilla notes appear. The finish is abrupt and short, save for the corn note that lingers much like it does in their Bottled in Bond. Add some ice and let it melt; you will be rewarded with a nutty note. It becomes abundant once you taste it and it takes over, while bringing you to a finish that features hints of fig, plum, and prunes.
I would have loved to score this a 7. it would have aligned beautifully with the price, age statement and proof (107). Promise abounds for this distillery still. As stated, I can’t wait to taste more from this producer. You might think that I am going to come asking for additional age, but I think different blends and single barrels will yield amazing results from a product that is probably already there. The promise is there, and this place remains one that should be on your map.