The Tasting Panel magazine

December 2011

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Page 24 of 128

PHILLIPS UNION GOES WHERE NO WHISKEY HAS GONE BEFORE Whiskey Geeks I Defying the n American whiskey, there's a faction of drinkers we affectionately refer to as "whiskey geeks." These are the people who can remember the distiller from whatever brand in 1856. They are not a part of the trade, yet they are as knowl- edgeable about whiskey as anybody in the business. But they also tend to like their bourbon left alone. They don't like such fancy things as cocktails, and how dare you ever pour soda over a perfectly good Canadian whisky? And, don't ever bring up fl avored whiskies in their presence. Simply put, like the cowboy who wants his steak with no salt and pepper, many whiskey geeks like their whiskey neat. There's many an Internet forum dedicated to bashing whis- kies these afi cionados deem as not pure. Well, the whiskey I'm writing about today is probably not for them, because it's unlike anything else on the market—and it certainly defi es traditional practices. Phillips Union, produced by Phillips Distilling Company, is a blend of straight Kentucky bourbon and Canadian whisky. That's right, a blend of two distinctly different whiskies. Tasting Notes Phillips Union's lovely nose brings notes of pineapple, caramel and maple syrup, followed by fl avors of chocolate, pineapple, butterscotch, banana and a hint of citrus. The smooth fi nish gives hints of vanilla and cigar box. While bourbon may be made anywhere in the United States, those labeled "straight Kentucky bourbon" must be produced in Kentucky and aged in an oak cask for a minimum of two years. And because it's blended with another alcohol in the case of Phillips Union, the product must contain at least 51 percent straight Kentucky bourbon, according to BATF regulations. Frankly, it's genius to blend bourbon with Canadian whisky as opposed to any other spirit, because Canadian whisky's fl avor profi le can be so fl exible. By law, Canadian whisky may be fl avored up to 9.09 percent by adding an imported spirit, domestic spirit, younger spirit or wine aged no less than two years in small wood. 24 / the tasting panel / december 201 1 The Scots have been blending whiskies from different distilleries for years, but Phillips Union is the fi rst, that I'm aware of, to blend straight Kentucky bourbon and Canadian whisky. In a time when fl avored whiskies are selling like hotcakes, Phillips Union might be the next trend in whiskey-making. And this would be typi- cal of Minnesota-based Phillips Distilling; they introduced fl avored vodkas in the 1950s, and fl avored whiskies before any- body else even considered them. Phillips Union also comes in Cherry Flavored and Vanilla Flavored versions. As for Phillips Union Original, at 80 proof, it doesn't have the typical North American whiskey structure. That's by no means a bad thing; it's just lighter on the palate and should not be used as a substitute for cocktails calling for stronger whiskies. In fact, I think Phillips Union presents an interesting opportunity to make a new breed of whiskey cocktails. But what would they be called? How about a Kentucky Straight Bourbon Blend With Canadian Whisky-Tini? Ah . . . I'll leave the naming to you cocktail geeks.

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