Another one of the treats as a result of DBS’s recent trip to Kentucky was a bottle of Pinckney Bend Corn Whiskey. The Pinckney Bend Distillery, located in New Haven, about 60 miles due west of the Gateway to the West (St. Louis), produce a range of small batch, craft spirits. DBS reviews their gin last year here.
Pinckney Bend is the namesake of a bend in the Mississippi River that was a notorious navigational hazard to ships on the river; a settlement sprung up at that geographical point, but has since been abandoned. The finer details of the story can be found here.
The area has been associated with quality distilled spirits since 1806, when the explorers Lewis & Clark visited the area.
Seeing the range of spirits made at Pinckney Bend, I wanted to quickly look up the official differences between the various types. The following definitions (summarised by me) come from the US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
“Vodka” – alcohol that has been distilled (or distilled and then treated or filtered) “as to be without distinctive character, aroma, taste or color”.
“Whisky” is an alcoholic distillate made from a fermented mash of grain produced under 190 proof and bottled at no less than 80 proof. It must taste, smell and generally have the characteristics “generally attributed to whisky”. Unless it’s corn whisky, it needs to be stored in oak containers.
“Bourbon whisky” can’t come off of the still at more than 160 proof and must be produced from a mash consisting of 51% or more corn grain. It must be stored in charred new oak containers and has to be 125 proof or under when doing so.
Like Bourbon, “corn whisky” can’t be more than 160 proof off of the still, but must be produced a mash of at least 80% corn grain. It doesn’t have to be stored in oak, but if it is, it must be under 125 proof when stored. Charred wood can’t be used to store or treat it.
So now that we know exactly where corn whiskey sits, let’s give Pinckney Bend’s version a try!
On its own
Nose: Light, but vibrant notes of corn (like unpopped popcorn) and vanilla.
Taste: This has an interesting texture: the flavour swings between plain, clean alcohol notes and sweeter ones of corn. The finish gradually builds and is comforting, long and warm. At the very end of the finish, there’s a refreshing, dry bitterness that reminds me of black coffee; there’s no sickly, cloying corn notes here!
Old Fashioned (using Bitter Truth’s Jerry Thomas Bitters)
Light and sweet, with a lovely and wholly unexpected note of banana, like that of warm banana bread or banoffee pie. The flavour is creamy, but with a herbal lift at the end. Like the whiskey on its own, there’s a long, slightly dry finish with hints of dark chocolate. The creamy corn/banoffee note appears faintly, but recurrently on the finish. Without a doubt, this is now one of my favourite cocktails.
[50ml Pinckney Bend Corn Whisky, 10ml Dolin Dry Vermouth]
This has the freshness of a Vodka Martini, but with weightier notes of wood and vanilla, making it more akin to a Gin Martini, only without any other distracting botanical flavours. Refreshing, strong and to the point.
[50ml Pinckney Bend Corn Whisky, 25ml Red vermouth]
The vermouth definitely takes centre-stage in this cocktail: from the outset, there are bold, dry herbal notes, followed by a long, smooth finish of subtle corn, interspersed with spice and a tannin-like note that reminded me of black tea. This would be a great way to showcase a particularly nice dry vermouth.
with Ginger Ale
Very refreshing, with a neat crispness to it that reminds me of cucumber. Not too sweet. I think this would work particularly well with some fresh lemon, and would make a lovely afternoon drink to sit back and relax with.
plus… Pinckney Bend “Rested” Corn Whiskey
The Distillery have trialled resting their corn whiskey in barrels (for under one year) We’re lucky to have a small sample – here are my notes.
Nose: Light hints of musky books and sweet honey. Vanilla throughout, with notes of sweet, caramelised corn at the end.
Taste: Invigorating and very warm at the end. There are strong notes of wood (with lots of character and body to them, like a good quality Bourbon), followed by a warmer version of the corn note from before. There’s nothing sweet or sickly about the corn note; it’s a deeper corn flavour. The wood and corn notes are well-balanced and followed by a slight muskiness on the finish.
Yet again, I find myself being very impressed with a corn whiskey; in particular how well it works in a wide range of cocktails. My favourite was undoubtedly the Old Fashioned. The “Rested” Corn Whiskey is also rather exciting – perfectly combining the subtle and sweet corn notes with more weightier wood notes – and something to keep an eye out for.
– Mrs. B.