The Tasting Panel magazine

June 2013

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Page 24 of 162

All-American Spirit THREE nOn-KEnTuCKY BOuRBOnS TO KEEP yOuR EyE ON C PHOTO COURTESY OF FINGER LAKES DISTILILNG orheir s Dry o of inof mmy t ney YO Rock Town Distillery Arkansas Young Bourbon Whiskey raft whiskey no longer needs to hide in the shadows of Kentucky and Tennessee. American craft whiskey is here, full of flavor and it's not going anywhere. This revelation hit me at this year's San Francisco World Spirits Competition, when several craft bourbons earned Double Golds and a couple competed for Best Bourbon. While bourbon stalwarts earned Silvers, once unknown craft brands, such as Arkansas's Rock Town Distillery, brought home Double Golds. These three non-Kentucky craft bourbons are the shining examples of how great craft whiskey has become. Rock Town Distillery, Little Rock, Arkansas When I received my first sample from Rocktown Distillery in 2010, I knew this was a brand to keep your eye on. Rocktown's initial release was very grain-forward, but I could tell the caramel and vanilla notes were not far behind. Fast forward to 2013 at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition: With a little more time in the barrel, Rocktown wins Double Gold and springs into the international discussion when it won the World Whiskies Awards "Best Bourbon" with no age statement. Beyond the awards, this bourbon is balanced and has one of the closest flavor profiles to Kentucky bourbons. This is likely because Arkansas's climate is similar to Kentucky's. Balcones Fifth Anniversary Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey Thomas McKenzie (left) and Brian McKenzie with a batch of corn mash at their Finger Lakes Distilling. Ironically, the men are not related but share a passion for craft spirits. McKenzie Wheated Bourbon Finger Lakes Distilling, Burdett, New York Think Maker's Mark, W. L. Weller or Pappy Van Winkle—wheated bourbons that deliver uniquely balanced sweet flavor profiles. The Finger Lakes Wheated Bourbon is the best wheated bourbon I've tasted not made in Kentucky. Released in June, it should be stocked by every whiskey bar in the country. Its russet-gold color glistens in the sunlight with the color of copper penny showing on its subtle edges. The nose knows no geographical designation. I can't tell it's from New York. Rather, spring flower blossoms, campfire-toasted marshmallow and caramel shine in the bouquet. The same appears on the palate with vanilla notes dancing here and toffee there. Its smooth finish reminds me of those great Kentucky wheated bourbons you can't get enough of. Let's hope Finger Lakes Distillery made a lot of this juice, because it sure is good. Balcones Distilling, Waco, Texas This Fifth Anniversary Single Barrel Straight Bourbon is just marvelous, delivering non-chilled filtered love with every drop. The high-proof bourbon offers a powerful toasty nose with caramel, honey and vanilla. You know there's something to this whiskey right away, but I initially wonder if the 128.4-proof bourbon will burn the taste buds off my tongue. Surprisingly, only a slight singe hits the tongue. Adding a few drops of water really opens this bourbon up, revealing more pronounced spices and subtle citrus. This bourbon is a keeper, worthy of every major whiskey bar, and a reigning endorsement to the state of craft whiskey. 24  /  the tasting panel  /  june 2013 TP0613_001-41.indd 24 5/23/13 4:24 PM

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