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My Handcrafted Opinions on Whiskies, Distilleries and Other Related Stuff

Four Roses, Kentucky, USA

Distillery number two on day two of the Kentucky Bourbon Trail (KBT).  A very interesting Spanish Mission style building, with no warehouses (which was a pity because apparently Four Roses unusually only use single storey warehouses) or bottling hall on site and so the tour focussed on the recipes, actual fermentation and distilling of spirit.  Four Roses was one of the first bourbons I ever tried in 2009 (after getting "into whiskey") while living in the UK and liked it, but  as part of the tour we learned that in USA the name had been associated with a very poor blended whiskey and so while it popular overseas, especially Japan where it is the number one bourbon, the Four Roses brand is "rebuilding" as a bourbon in the USA.  It is rather unique (or at least appeared to be) in that they actually make 10 different recipe bourbons using two different mash bills, one with high rye and one with a low rye content, and then use 5 different yeast strains for fermentation.  5 yeast x 2 mashbills = 10 recipes.  This was interesting as my experience in Scotland had been yeast was bit of commodity (packs of Anchor Distiller's Yeast could often be seen around the washbacks in Scottish distilleries) yet in USA, and especially at Four Roses, yeast is treated with same reverance and importance to the final product as the Scots tend to reserve for their water supply.   I have to say the impact of yeast on final taste seems a lot more credible to me that the mythical water source stories ever did.   That is not to say Kentucky distilleries don't talk about their water.... they all do, but they talk about the more generic "limestone filtered water in this part of Kentucky" rather than their specific source or spring.  Anyway the tour finished with three nice samples, the Four Roses Yellow Label (blended with all 10 recipes), the Four Roses Small Batch (made with 4 of the 10 recipes) and the Four Roses Single Barrel which of course can only be one recipe and contains the higher content rye mash bill.   Another free tour and one I truly enjoyed (perhaps in part because there was no bottling hall to endure).  Definately a distillery on the rise and a gift shop that actually sold 5 cl mini bottles, 4 of the previous 5 distilleries (if they sold at all due to licence issues) just sold 70 cl standard bottles at prices, due to local KY taxes, much higher than I can buy the same whiskey in Texas.

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Catoctin Creek, Virginia, USA

Catoctin Creek, Virginia, USA

No, I hadn't heard of it either....  In fact I have a growing suspicion that even those of us who think we know a thing or two about "craft distilling" actually don't know a signficant amount about what is going in various small towns and industrial parks around this country and perhaps the world.  On a June day in 2014 I found myself in Virginia on business trip with a few hours to kill and so thanks to the miracle that is smart phone technology I searched for, and found, a craft distillery offering tours and tastings less than 50 miles from my hotel in the Washington DC area.  The site, a former car dealership and furniture store, is quite new as they started (as many craft distilleries do) in a nearby industrial unit in 2009, outgrew it and in 2012 purchased a very nice facility in downtown Purcellville.  They make rye whiskey (and some gin from the whisky tails - interesting) and sell some rye spirit as well.  I started with a $10 tasting flight which included the rye spirit, bottled at 40% abv, their "standard" 2 year old Roundstone Rye and their newest / latest batch of 3 year old Roundstone rye. For another $5 you can take a tour of the distillery (ie go into the next room) and have the whisky making process explained which I did.  Would I recommend you travel far to seek this out?  Probably not.  Did I accidently discover the best kept whiskey secret in Virginia and a product so stunning that John Hall should melt down his stills and go back to wine makling.  Also a no.  But if you are in the DC area and need to get your "whisky geek" on it is a very professional set up and worth the short trip.

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