Local Choice Bourbon Review

Web_Logo

With the start of December we are officially well into my favorite season of all: bourbon season. Bourbon lovers continue to be spoilt for choice when it comes to trying new bourbons. Every time I go to the liquor store there is a new and exciting bottle to try, and those are just a smattering of the new bottles hitting the market very week. It is getting to be a real challenge trying to keep up with it all, but still I soldier on somehow. Recently Local Choice Spirits out of South Carolina were kind enough to send me their bourbon and their black cherry flavored bourbon to try for Queen City Drinks.

Local Choice Spirits is based out of Daniel Island, South Carolina and was founded in 2011 and operates under a “pour it forward” philosophy. In addition to striving to produce quality spirits they also donate $2 per bottle sold back to the local community where it is sold. Also, they do produce their whiskey, which is not always the case with a craft distillery. Without getting too much into the business behind craft whiskey, a micro-producer will have a choice between sourcing their whiskey from a larger producer and selling it as their own while getting started or else produce small batches right away and sell a younger whiskey. Making your own whiskey is both more difficult and more expensive than sourcing, and you have the constant pressure to get your product to the shelves quickly to make back that cost. Some micro-producers try to do with with smaller barrels or finding ways to agitate barrels for quicker aging. Local Choice apparently uses a trademarked system called TerrePURE® which uses sound waves to “rapidly transforms ordinary distilled spirits into mature tasting, incredibly smooth, ultra-premium spirits in a quick and efficient manner.” That is a pretty bold claim right there, so let’s see how the bourbon holds up.

LOCAL-CHOICE-BOURBON-169x300

Local Choice Bourbon

The bourbon has a fresh and citrus nose, with little of the carmel sweetness that is often associated with bourbon. The initial taste has a subtle sweetness. Mostly I pick up corn, pine, and a hint of pepper. It is a very fresh taste but not quite enough flavor. It is a young bourbon but I will give it to them that it is very smooth for the age. The burn is short and flares in the nostrils. There is a bit of an after taste but it doesn’t linger. Over all it is far from the worst young, micro-produced bourbon I have had. And it is much better than Cleveland but that is a very low bar to clear. This tastes like it is a solid distillate that could be pretty decent if it ever gets a chance to age properly, so that means that there is a good chance that this TerrePure processes made a positive difference. There is no way that a bourbon lover would mistake this for a matured bourbon though. I added a splash of water and it helped bring out a bit more of the sweetness and actually made it a bit more complex. I tried it with ice as well but that stripped way too much of the taste away. Overall I can honestly say that I liked this bourbon more than I thought I would given their high-tech fast aging technique but I still think the bottom line comes back to that old saying about how you can’t rush Mother Nature.

2014-12-01 16.13.20

Local Choice Black Cherry Flavored Bourbon

The cherry is unmistakable in the nose but it doesn’t smell like it is blending quiet right with the whiskey smell. The first sip is actually very pleasant. This tastes like it has a gentle infusion of cherry rather than an artificial flavor that was added. Unfortunately after the first sip comes a sour aftertaste that lingers on the tongue most unpleasantly and this disqualifies it from sipping for me. Mixing it with some ginger beer helped immensely but I could still taste the aftertaste. Not sure if that was from my earlier sipping or if the ginger beer just failed to completely cover the taste. Very disappointing because I actually enjoy a good infused bourbon when it is done well.

Right now these spirits are only available in South and North Carolina but they are looking to expand into Kentucky soon so keep an eye out. I would love to learn more about this TerrePURE process and to try some of their vodka that they make with it. Based on the bourbon, I would guess that it would have an even more dramatic effect on an un-aged product and is probably better suited to vodkas and gins than to whiskey.

Salazar and The Eagle Open in Over the Rhine

Over the Rhine’s dining and bar scene continued its quest to take over the rest of the city, with two great new restaurants, Salazar and The Eagle, opening within two blocks and two days of each other this past December. I’m here today to give you a quick run down on their food and a deeper discussion of their bars.

To The Queen (yes that is marigold leaves as the garnish)
To The Queen
yes that is marigold leaves as the garnish

All of my foodie friends in Cincinnati have been eagerly awaiting Jose Salazar opening his own restaurant and a few weeks ago it finally happened. Salazar is located on the corner of Republic and 14th Street in Over the Rhine and serves food that can perhaps best be described as gourmet french comfort food. The menu is rustic and farm inspired but with a degree of class that belies its comfortable bistro style seating. The food I’ve had is incredible but the bar menu is what we are here to talk about.

2013-12-28 18.26.32
The 71 South
2013-12-18 18.09.25
The Coco Del Cielo

In the interest of full disclosure the bar manager, Jacob Trevino, has become a good friend since he first waited on Charlie and me at Japp’s. Not only have we interviewed him on our podcast, he came to our Boxing Day party so he’s basically family now. That being said, I have been genuinely impressed by the bar menu he came up with for Salazar.  Cincinnati has a wealth of great places doing retro/classic style cocktails and I love them all. But Jacob is making drinks that are more forward thinking and original than a lot of other places in Cincinnati. Several of his drinks are less sweet than you might expect for a restaurant cocktail and none of them taste like anything that other people are serving. Perhaps because he came to Cincinnati via Texas and New Orleans, the spirits, combinations, and even some of the garnishes are just not what you would expect and I think that is a great thing.

Just to give you an example, his Creole Gimlet has gin and lime but it also uses a house-made falernum and creole bitters. I’ve had just about everything on the menu at this point. They are all amazing but the 71 South, Pinky Swear, and the Coco Del Cielo were three of my favorites. The beer selection was smaller but focused, with a few quality examples of several types of beer from both local and national microbreweries. Do yourself a favor and get in there to check out the restaurant and bar soon.

2013-12-18 17.42.14

While Salazar had the breathless anticipation of the foodie crowd in Cincinnati, The Eagle seemed to have just about everyone waiting to get a seat once they opened. Owned and operated by the same people who have Bakersfield, The Eagle also opened in late December and is located on Vine Street, just a few blocks away from Salazar.  The Eagle is located in an old post office and continues the trend of doing high-class cheap food, this time with fried chicken. For a more detailed review of the food check The Eagle Has Landed, but I thought it was very good. The price was right and I liked all of the sides a lot. The fried chicken was actually kind of too spicy for me. I am pretty sure they use tabasco in the batter so be warned.

2013-12-18 17.42.41
The Moscow Mule
2013-12-28 20.15.50
OTR Lemonade

Rather than focusing on craft cocktails that pack a punch, all of the house cocktails at The Eagle are classic drinks served in large glass mugs that really make you feel like  you are getting your money’s worth. The Moscow was my favorite but the OTR Lemonade and the Bloody Mary were also enjoyed by my group. The beer selection was very good, much bigger than similar sized restaurants in the neighborhood. The downside of The Eagle is the wait. Be prepared to wait 1-2 hours for a table on the weekends. If you go I recommend putting your name in and then heading to Salazar for a cocktail and some warm olives while you wait.

Chicken Cock Whiskey

It probably comes as no surprise that I’ve gotten to know the liquor store up the road from me, Brentwood Spirits, fairly well. Even though it is a small store, the staff are knowledgable and they have steered me toward some really nice choices in the past. So I was a little taken aback when I went in last week looking for something new to try and they recommended a flavored whiskey with a sophomoric name and a tin can. Flavored whiskeys are not something I typically recommend to whiskey lovers. So were they recommending it to me because they thought it was good, or because they were trying to unload some slow moving product? The price was only $19 a bottle, so I decided to give Chicken Cock flavored whiskey a try.

chickencock

 

Chicken Cock is another historic whiskey brand that is being introduced with big money and marketing while attempting to trade on a long dead name’s history. According to my friend at Brentwood, although it had existed as brand since 1856, it was during prohibition that Chicken Cock moved production to Canada and started shipping their product back in tin cans. That was when they started adding flavor to mask the metallic aftertaste. That particular story isn’t on their website but they do claim that Chicken Cock was a favored brand at the Cotton Club during prohibition. It stopped being made shortly thereafter and is being reintroduced by a company out of South Carolina. Flavored vodka has done wonders for spirit sales in the last five years and it is no surprise that whiskey makers are looking to jump on this trend. The brand has been marketed heavily in the south, even benefitting from an almost too good to be believed hijacking earlier this year, and has just been introduced into Ohio. So how does it taste?

chickencockbottle

Chicken Cock currently comes in Southern Spiced, Cinnamon, and Root Beer flavors. Charlie and I tried the southern spiced on Bottoms Up and I have to admit that despite my prejudice against pseudo-history being used to sell rebottled, flavored whiskey, I actually kind of liked it. Chicken Cock’s motto is “More Heat, Less Sweet” and it lives up to it. At 86 proof it does bring the heat. Rather than tasting like syrup with a hint of alcohol, you can actually taste the whiskey. The southern spiced flavor is strong on the vanilla, with a nice touch of cinnamon and clove. I have heard flavored whiskey apologists making the claim that these spirits can serve as a stepping stone that allows non-whiskey drinkers to be converted to the taste. This is the first flavored whiskey that I can actually imagine being able to do that.

While this hasn’t exactly converted me to being a flavored whiskey drinker, this is one that I will be happy to bring a long to a bourbon tasting so that the non-whiskey drinkers can get a chance to enjoy  something more approachable that does give them a bit of whiskey flavor. I would also recommend Chicken Cock as being a nice thing to sip from a flask while Christmas caroling since the flavoring would once again serve the purpose of masking any metallic weirdness and it has enough heat to warm you up on a cold night. If you have been wanting to experiment with drinking whiskey but just can’t stomach the taste, Chicken Cock might just be the flavor you are looking for.

Cleveland Bourbon Review

936366_632487500099346_1035255467_n

I recently wrote a review of Cleveland Bourbon for Bourbon and Banter and I also recorded a podcast where we tried Cleveland in a blind taste test against Knob Creek.  But since I paid $35 for the bottle I thought I better get my money’s worth by writing a review of Cleveland Bourbon for Queen City Drinks as well because I certainly won’t be getting my money’s worth by drinking it.

photo-1

 

Cleveland Bourbon came out earlier this year, created by Cleveland businessman Tom Lix. Frustrated by the length of time it takes to make bourbon, Lix created a process to cut the aging time down to just over six months. First they age the bourbon in a charred white oak barrel for six months so that it meets the legal requirement to be called bourbon. Then they put the whiskey into a stainless steel container along with pieces of the barrel and subject to an intense pressurization system for a week. This pressure force-ages the bourbon by pushing the whiskey rapidly in and out of the barrel, mimicking the natural process that normally takes place over years in a rack house.

Bourbon lovers have been skeptical of this product and after tasting I have to say that they have good reason for their doubts. The most notable quality of the bourbon is the burn. This has a rough punchy aftertaste that grabs on to your throat and won’t let go. There are some barely discernible bourbon flavors, even a sweetness, that are present for just about half a second before the harsh taste of wood and a chemical burn hit you. Even several moments after swallowing the aftertaste sits on your tongue like an obnoxious party guest that just won’t leave.

With a burn like that I though trying it over ice would have to be an improvement. I poured it over my whiskey ice ball and the ice actually made it worse. The burning was less but the ice also took with it all of the more pleasant bourbon flavors. The only thing it left behind was the wood pulp flavor. A splash of chilled water proved to be the most palatable way to drink it. That splash allowed some more delicate notes, rose and a bit more lemon flavor, to come through while taming the worst of the aftertaste. That was the first time that I thought this might be able to be used in a cocktail if nothing else.

Despite the fact that I have not met a single person who actually enjoys this bourbon I actually expect that they will be in business for a while. There is a growing demand for bourbon all over the world and in foreign  markets where there is huge demand, limited supply, and a lack of knowledge of what good bourbon tastes like I predict that Cleveland Bourbon will find an audience. For those of you closer to home who are looking to try a new, Ohio-based bourbon I strongly recommend that you give Cleveland a pass and check out Middle West Spirit’s Michelone Reserve instead. Their wheated bourbon is a unique product that takes bourbon in an interesting direction without leaving you with an acetone aftertaste.

 

New lagering tunnel discovered in Cincinnati!

After being sealed 18 years ago, an entrance to the Hudepohl lagering tunnels has been reopened by the hard working Over-The-Rhine Brewery District team! IMG_5715 Continue reading “New lagering tunnel discovered in Cincinnati!”

Introducing Jackie O’s to Cincinnati!

Up until today, the only (as far as I’m aware) place to get Jackie O’s in Cincinnati was at Dutch’s in Hyde Park. Jay Ashmore, the owner of Dutch’s, said that he’d been making the trip out to Athen’s, having them bring it all the way, or somewhere in between. Now that they’ve signed with Cavalier life will be getting easier for Jay and we’ll all be getting more Jackie O’s. 

 

Starting today, August 7th, cans of Firefly and Chomo-Lungma will be available across Cincinnati. However, draft will be limited and I have a feeling Dutch’s may still be the hot spot for  Jackie O’s.

First Josh has some background info on Jackie O’s, after that I’m taking a look at their Firefly Amber and Chomo-Lungma brown. First off here’s Josh:

If you don’t know about Jackie O’s out east in picturesque Athens, Ohio and you are an enjoyer of well-crafted beer, you are doing yourself a disservice. Located in and next door to the old, long-time O’Hooley’s spot on West Union Street, Brad Clark has been kicking out some high-quality, extremely unique beers since 2006 or so. Well-known to the small undercurrent of craft beer enthusiasts interested in non-run-of -the-mill sours and barrel aged beers, the small Brewpub blew up after being featured on the cover of Beer Advocate magazine a couple years ago.

If you’re interested, a full, in-depth history of Jackie O’s can be found on their website.  Their bottle releases are legendary in the craft beer scene and are one of those things you just have to do at least once if  you’re into good company and even better beer. They are typically very well attended and in the four or so I’ve been to, you encounter people from all over  the United States. In the last year or so, they had acquired property and were getting setup to package their product in can format. It looks like that time is upon us.


Beer: Firefly Amber
ABV: 4.5%
Malt: American 2-row, Maris Otter, Pilsen, White Wheat, Special Roast, Cara 8
Hops: Hallertau, Athantum, Cascade

Firefly is our lightest offering at Jackie O’s. We like to refer to it as our gateway ale. Introducing macro drinkers to this beer has proved to be effective in converting them into craft beer drinkers. Seasoned craft beer drinkers also admire the drinkability and soft but wide rage of flavors embedded within this Amber ale. A fusion of Maris Otter, Belgian Pilsen, and American 2-row provide an interesting and complex malty base for this refreshing ale. Lightly roasted malt gives Firefly a biscuit-like finish. Carefully selected hops provide an herbal and mildly citrus aroma and flavor.

Very forward malt aroma of caramel and grains. Initially only a hint of citrus/grass hops that increases as it warms.

Looks like a penny that’s been around for a bit showing off a dingy copper color. Nice third-inch off-white head that hung around for a wee bit before skimming down.

Caramel is the dominate flavor with some citrus hop action, light sweetness, and a moderate level of very balanced bitterness.

Body is medium and has a fair bit of carbonation with it.

Very nice amber ale, not amazing or top of the style by any means but still highly enjoyable and worth trying.


Beer: Chomo-Lungma
ABV: 6.5%
Malt: 2-row, Munich, Crystal 60, Chocolate, Biscuit, Belgian Aromatic, White Wheat, Cara 45
Hops: Warrior, Mt. Hood

This brown ale was brewed to commemorate the Lungevity Everest Expedition. Brian Oestrike the brother of Jackie O’s owner Art, sumitted the unforgiving mountain on May 22nd, 2007. The climb was a vehicle to raise money and awareness about lung cancer. The people of Tibet call Mt. Everest “Chomolungma” this exceptional ale carries on the spirit of the climb. 8 Malts, 2 hops, and twenty pounds of wild flower honey give this ale an exceptional character. Baked muffins, dark fruit, bittersweet chocolate, rich honey and earthy subtle hops caress the palate. Booze soaked chocolate raisins round out the warm finish. Now available in cans.

Very pretty very dark brown with a nice light-tan head showing no signs of going anywhere.

Aroma definitely gives off plenty of malt and nice signs of that honey the description talks about.

Flavor is a bit of a toffee and caramel malt bomb. Some light herbal notes with a fair bit of honey that tastes a little weird, I’m guessing that’s cause it’s wildflower honey.

Body is much lighter than I expected based on color and malt profile.

Not sure I’ve ever heard a better story for naming a beer. Just being named after Mt. Everest alone is pretty sweet in my opinion then on top of that you’ve got the dude climbing Mt. Everest for a lung cancer fund raiser. In the end it’s a nice beer but not one I would quest after and it leaves me questioning why some people get so worked up over Jackie O’s brews.