Thursday, June 30, 2011

White Whiskey

stats: Death's Door - white whiskey, 80 proof, aged 3 days, $30
        Georgia Moon - corn whiskey, 80 proof, aged less than 30 days, $10

First a brief correction of what I wrote last week. Under U.S. law, certain types of whiskey cannot be distilled above 160 proof, but distillates of grain are considered to be whiskey up to 190 proof. At or above 190 proof it becomes “neutral spirits” (of which vodka is a sub category).

On to the white whiskey. Un-aged whiskey has many nicknames – hooch, white dog, white lightening, new make, etc. This used to fall mostly into two categories, illegal moonshine and tasting samples of what comes off the stills at large commercial distilleries given during tours, neither of which you’d find in a retail store. Corn whiskey (sort of the legal relative of moonshine) must be made from at least 80% corn, and requires no aging but it can be aged in un-charred oak barrels. It has been around for a while, but was traditionally hard to find outside of the southern markets. It has become more widely available in recent years. Other un-aged whiskeys have popped up in recent years with the boom in micro-distilling as these new companies try to turn a profit in the early years before their aged whiskeys are ready to go to market.

Death’s Door is a white whiskey from Wisconsin, made from 80% wheat and 20% malted barley. It is distilled to 160 proof, and finished in un-charred oak barrels for 3 days. I like that the bottle has sort of an ominous look that made my mother stop and say “Death’s Door, what the hell is that?” when she saw it sitting on the coffee table.

The nose is quite intense - it is unique, but hard to describe. I guess a combination of floral and perfumey aromas is the best I can do. Nosing a wheated bourbon that I have on hand, I do detect similar aromas. But they are more background notes, barely able to stand out among the heavier wood/leather/vanilla scents imparted by the oak. On the palate there doesn’t seem to be much up front until you swallow it, then there is a quick explosion of flavor. It is similar to the nose, but with a fruit component too, perhaps apple. As the flavor recedes, a bit of a burn builds. As the burn slowly fades, a mostly perfumey finish emerges and lingers on for some time. In spite of the burn, it is fairly smooth overall. I bought this bottle in my quest to sample all things whiskey. I do like it, and not just because it is interesting and unique, I just enjoy drinking it. But I do have to admit, I would probably reach for an aged whiskey first most of the time.

 The Georgia Moon definitely has a sharper, more industrial nose to it. The aromas from the Death’s Door are more intense, but also far more pleasant. On the palate, it’s not quite as bad as the nose might lead one to believe, but still not too impressive. The flavors are somewhat restrained (which is good, because they are kind of weird). It starts off with floral and grain notes that are almost acceptable, then becomes reminiscent of some sort of wax candy. It goes through a bit of a burn before the long finish sets in. I usually love a long finish, but when the flavor is undesirable (similar to the nose in this case), it becomes a burden. I would avoid this headache in a bottle unless you enjoy using peer pressure to make your friends drink unpalatable liquids from a mason jar.

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