Slaughter House American Whiskey

This is the second offering from the Splinter Group, which produces Straight Edge Bourbon. Like Straight Edge, the whiskey is sourced and blended from various distillers, then finished in wine barrels from the Orin Swift Winery in the Alexander Valley in California.

Unlike Straight Edge, however, the Splinter Group doesn’t say where they get the whiskey from, nor do they specify the mash bill. But does that really matter? All I know is that it’s a great whiskey.

My first exposure to Slaughter House was when my favorite bar, Willard Hicks in Campbell, CA, ran out of Straight Edge. My bartender then showed me Slaughter House whom she said was also produced by The Splinter Group. So I decided to give it a whirl.

To me, there was obviously a bit more rye present as the whiskey was bright and just a little hot. But like Straight Edge, it had that fruity component that could only come from a wine barrel.

What I Smell

Just as with Straight Edge, I first get a hint of berry. It’s very subtle, but it’s an indicator of something pleasingly unusual going on. Add to that a slight floral quality then toasted grain on the back-end.

What I Taste

This is a warm and toasty whiskey. The fruitiness from the nose persists onto the palate, but it’s accompanied by a slight cinnamon toast component, then finishing with a slight astringency and subtle bite. I would have expected a more toothy mouthfeel from those components. The flavors come on quick and in-your-face but fade quickly, but they don’t disappear entirely, bolstered by the medium to long finish.

How I Like to Drink It

I usually drink this neat with an ice chip or a few drops of water to help the whiskey bloom – especially if poured from a fresh bottle. But I also love this in an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan. With a Manhattan, the fruit really plays well with vermouth.

Overall Impression

Since I discovered this a few years ago, I’ve gotten a bottle of this every six to nine months. It’s a testament to how much I like it because it doesn’t stay on my shelf for long.


Don’t Be Intimidated By Geeks – Like Me

A few years ago, I started a blog about wine; specifically, my favorite wine, Pinot Noir. It was a way for me to document the various wines I was tasting. I also provided ratings, which proved to be fortuitous in that while my readership wasn’t wide, the winemakers read my blog. As a result, I made a bit of a name for myself – albeit, a small one – among winemakers. It was cool writing that blog, but I kind of lost steam with it, and let it go. I still get contacted about writing and reviewing wines, but I do my best to graciously decline.

When I first started reviewing wines, I subscribed to a bunch of different publications and blogs to get a sense of how to approach writing reviews. What struck me at first was this sense of snobbery that seemed to pervade the discussions. It was so much like academia with people freely bandying their credentials about and using them as mental weapons. It was a little intimidating.

I was discussing this with a close friend who is in the wine business. She rolled her eyes and shared that she knew and had encountered many of those experts, and yes, many of them came off as snobs. But in actuality they weren’t – and I came to find that out myself when I met many of these people. The difference between them and “mere mortals” was that despite the certifications and training, what they had developed was a vocabulary.

Vocabulary, with respect to tasting, is not just developing a lexicon of catchy words and phrases. It is the ability to transcribe into words the images and scents that are observed when tasting a wine or spirit that goes beyond the basic sensory perceptions such as “sweet.”

How sweet is a wine or whiskey? Well, not many have access to a refractometer to measure sugar content, so the best that can be done by a taster is to compare that sweetness to something familiar. So with a wine, that “sweetness” could be described as ripe stone fruit followed by a hint of raw honey.

To the reader, that’s sweet but described in such a way that there’s a familiar reference. Frankly, there’s no magic to it. But to develop a vocabulary requires tasting a lot. It also requires a bit of study. I didn’t just jump into reviewing wine. I had been an amateur connoisseur for decades leading up to that. I had also read many wine reviews, so the way in which I described a wine wasn’t too far off-base from how reviews were presented.

And in the end, vocabulary just doesn’t matter because the end result is binary: You either like it or you don’t. Geeks love to share their vocabulary; 99% of them just use their vocabulary as a matter of course when discussing a beverage. I’ve found very, very few are actual snobs about it.

So please, as the title of this article has suggested, don’t get intimidated by wine or whiskey geeks who have developed a vocabulary. Just remember that their ultimate reaction to a drink is the same as yours: They either like it or they don’t.

What’s Your Go To?

If there’s a whiskey that I have in the house at all times, it’s bourbon. I like all kinds of whiskey, but I’ll go to bourbon before I go to anything else.

Today, a co-worker visiting from out of state and I got into a discussion bourbon. She asked me what my go-to was, and I said, “It’s usually Bulleit.” She sheepishly replied, “Mine’s Evan Williams because I can drink it with ice and coke and not feel guilty that I’m ruining a good bourbon.”

I smiled and told her that I have a liter bottle of Evan Williams that I’ve almost polished off. I’ve been making an Old Fashioned with the stuff nearly every night for the last three weeks (I only use a little at a time), just to wind down before bed.

What can I say? It’s not a bad bourbon at all, and at $15.99 for a liter, it’s pretty easy to pour a drink and not look longingly at the bottle as the volume drops! 🙂

Yeah, I still have my fine bourbons and whiskeys on hand. But I’ve only been enjoying those on the weekend. It’s nice to see that their volumes haven’t dropped. So I think I’ll keep getting this trusty bourbon, though I think I might have to get some Wild Turkey as well to add a change of pace.

Westland American Single Malt Whiskey

As they say, the best cure for a hangover is a beer… But in reality, the best cure for a hangover is to have what you drank the night before. Mixing different booze will just make you sicker.

Such was the case this past Saturday, after a night of drinking great bourbon and whiskeys the previous night. I wasn’t hung over as much as I was just dragging from the Old Fashioneds and shots of bourbon I was drinking with my sons.

We were in Seattle for my niece’s wedding, so prior to the ceremony, my boys and I wanted to “pre-game” the wedding at the bar in our restaurant.

I started with a dram of Tatoosh Bourbon to get things going. My gracious bartender poured it for me to try out, as I had requested trying a locally distilled spirit. It was good; not very inspiring, but still pretty good.

Since the bar technically wasn’t open for another hour, I had to move to the restaurant bar a floor down. Not a big deal, just so long as there was a bartender – of course, there was!

Once I finished my first drink, I immediately flagged my bartender and asked to try the Westland. I had seen it sitting on the shelf the night before and resolved to try it out at some point during my stay. I really enjoyed this single malt – for a couple of rounds.

What I Smell

The first thing that hit me was a coffee candy aroma, that then resolved into a little peat, wet, salty seagrass. There was a certain sweetness that floated throughout the glass that was akin to fresh-cut sugar-cane. Freshly poured, the whiskey holds its aromas close to the vest. But the addition of a couple of drops of water really helped the aromas bloom.

What I Taste

The coffee candy aspect in the nose persisted on the palate, no doubt due to the moderate peat, with a little cherry pipe tobacco. In addition to the coffee, about mid-palate I got some tangerine and a hint of vanilla and caramel. This whiskey has an excellent coating effect, which makes the finish moderately long, with an ever-so-slight astringency. A little hot up-front, but not overpowering; a perfect complement to wet weather.

Overall Impression

I truly enjoyed this single malt. While it doesn’t have the complexity and sophistication of say a Caol Ila, it’s strength lies in the balance of aromas and flavors it does present. I truly believe that over time, as more older whiskey can be blended into the finished product, this whiskey has the potential to blossom into a truly great spirit.

Every Whiskey Has a Story

Within every whiskey, there’s a story waiting to be told. The stories revealed can frighten me, excite me, or tickle long-forgotten memories of times past. And the stories vary from whiskey to whiskey and even bottle to bottle of the same brand.

I want to hear all those stories. I want to immerse myself in the plotlines of flavor each whiskey I taste has to offer.

I’m writing Whiskey My Love to share my own stories of what I taste. It’s less about reviews and more about taking notes, so I don’t forget. But at the same time, I’ll be sharing my own story behind the whiskeys that I encounter.

Bainbridge Battle Point Organic Wheat Whiskey

This trip to Seattle has been incredibly fortuitous with respect to discovering new whiskey! Right before I left my hotel, I was at the hotel’s bar speaking with a man who turned out to be the western regional sales manager for Bainbridge Organic Distillers on Bainbridge Island.

When I first encountered the man, I had no idea that he was part of Bainbridge. But he had struck up a conversation with two ladies within earshot of me, and though I didn’t mean to eavesdrop, I couldn’t help but listen to him tell his elevator pitch. Once I heard it, I got up, introduced myself, and told him I write a blog about whiskey.

At that, the bartender pushed a shot glass towards me that had a sample taste of the whiskey, which they just so happened to carry. 🙂 Nice. I had to go, so I didn’t have much time to converse with him, but I did get to taste the whiskey. Wow!

What I Smell

I must have a weird nose, but one of the first smells that hit me was a subtle banana bread aroma. I looked up, puzzled over it, but didn’t say anything. I absolutely loved it! I then detected a slight, wet, sweet hay, and forest floor, along with a buttery note that seemed to indicate that a richness was awaiting me.

What I Taste

Oh wow… I’ve never had a 100% wheat whiskey. I know it’s whiskey when I drink it, but it doesn’t have the expected notes that come from mixed grain spirits. They’re certainly similar, but well… the characteristics are different enough to make this unique.

For me, there’s a sweet, buttered bread-like quality up-front, like liquified King’s Hawaiian Bread. The banana bread certainly persists on the palate, but it’s accompanied with a bit of raw cane sugar, giving way to a slight raw honey note, that then breaks into Wheat Thins. Underlying that, I also get spicy notes of clove and cinnamon to highlight the palate even further. The finish is moderate, with a slightly sweet brown sugar note. Mouthfeel throughout is silky-smooth and full-bodied.

Overall Impressions

Because I only had the one taste thus far, it wouldn’t be fair or right to include a “How I Like to Drink It” section. But should I get this whiskey – which I certainly will – I’d probably stick to drinking it neat or over a cube. But this would also go great with a medium-bodied robusto cigar. I have a couple of Cubans in my freezer that I might thaw out to drink this.

This is definitely not a whiskey I’d drink every day. It’s far too unique, complex and sophisticated to waste as a daily drinker. It is a whiskey that is meant to be savored and sipped. But that said, this whiskey has got me curious enough to explore it further since I only had a brief tasting. I really need to see how it changes in the glass and that will take a longer amount of time.

I can’t wait to finally spend some time with this whiskey. At least from my initial tasting, it shows lots of promise!

Tatoosh Bourbon

tatoosh-bourbon-3-years-oldHere’s another bourbon that I tried on my trip to Seattle…

This bourbon actually comes from Bend, Oregon and produced by the Bendistillery. The last time I was in Bend, I saw this but didn’t really think too much of it because I was busy trying out all the fantastic craft brews and breweries in the area.

But yesterday at my hotel’s bar, I asked to try it since it was one I hadn’t had yet. My great bartender poured it in a glencairn glass but also accompanied it with a rocks glass with a large cube to see how I’d like it. Turns out I preferred it over ice.

This bourbon is balanced. Nothing really stands out. And while there’s nothing that particularly stands out, there’s nothing bad about it. It’s like the equivalent of playing guitar “in the pocket.” Steady.

What I Smell

Slightly floral with a little honey and a bit of leather. It’s pleasing without being spectacular.

What I Taste

A little vanilla, a little spice, a little honey, a little toffee, overlaying a citrus note and a super-short finish. Nothing bad about this bourbon, but it’s not that inspiring to me, either.

How I Like to Drink It

The only way I’ve had it is neat and with a cube. But I’d probably use this as a mixer. But at the price, it is highly unlikely I’d get a bottle of this, especially if I’m not going to drink it any other way. Like I said, it’s not bad, but it’s also not that inspiring.

Overall Impression

Thus is a good, solid bourbon. Would I drink it again? Sure. But I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to get a bottle. There are plenty of better bourbons at that price point.