This was from Josh (again), a housewarming gift. Josh knows what warms a home. Like last episode’s Whistle Pig, this whisky is also finished in ex-wine barrels—this time in Pinot Noir barrels. Pinot Noir is the signature wine of Oregon, apropos for an Oregon spirit.
Freeland Spirits is a fairly new distillery in Portland, OR which also produces several varieties of gin (which does not take as much aging). Like my favorite distillery, Talisker, Freeland is run by women. Freeland is also woman-owned, and is named after the tee-totaling ‘Meemaw’ (Grandma) Freeland. Their master distiller, Molly Troupe, has excellent credentials: a Masters Degree in Distillation from Heriot Watt, a major business university in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Odd fact, I have been there and did some work with them long ago.) The Freeland web site explains the bourbon operation only started in 2018, and that their bourbon was produced in partnership with another distiller. Freeland then finished the spirit.
This was a gift. I’m not a big bourbon drinker but I appreciate thoughtful gifts: I was told Blanton’s is hard to get a hold of. The product certainly looks impressive in its uniquely shaped bottle and hand lettered label (for when it was ‘dumped’ and from which rick, warehouse and cask). Also, the cork has a pewter horse and rider on it – as cool as the Dead Guy bottle! But none of that affects how a whisky tastes, and if you have been to this blog before you know I look askance at heavy blandishments, both verbal and graphical. After 30 years in the tech industry I know that marketing is a fact of life. But one has to look through the smoke and mirrors and see where the rubber hits the road.
Woodford Reserve is the premium whisky from the folks at Brown-Forman, famous for Jack Daniels (as well as some Scotch labels such as BenRiach). Oddly enough Jack Daniels was the favorite tipple of Keith Richards (until he went dry in 2018). He could afford better, and the distillery does make a better whisky. With Woodford, Brown-Forman are going for a higher price and more refined flavor. And to one-up our valiant competitor Knob Creek, Brown-Forman even include a pot still in the Woodford Reserve production, whereas Knob Creek is all column-distilled. But there’s more to whisky than the still.
Welcome to our second (of three) American series reviews. When they reviewed American whiskies the Whisky Waffle lads panned the big, common bourbons (Jack Daniels, Jim Beam and Maker’s Mark), but had good words for more innovative products. I did a similar comparison last week, Jim Beam vs. Rogue’s Dead Guy, and indeed the craft product out-shined the mass-market product by a fair margin. This week, we line up a bourbon titan the Waffle guys missed, Wild Turkey 101, up against Knob Creek—itself a Jim Beam ‘premium’ product. Both are Kentucky Straight Bourbons, 100-ish proof, and well, we’ll see what’s what.
I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a frequent bourbon drinker, and I have to look up the code words that go along with bourbons—in this case, “straight.” According to Angel’s Envy, to be sold as “whiskey” in America, a spirit must adhere to the Pure Food and Drug Act (1906). To wit: the spirit has to be “straight,” that being defined by certain proofs at casking and bottling, being cut with only water and, most importantly, aged for 2 years. In this review, we’re looking at a 5-year-old bourbon. That doesn’t sound like much aging to a Scotch drinker (minimum 3 years in Scotland but 10-to-12 is more common) but there is the climate to consider.