Cocktails with… Pinckney Bend’s White Corn Whisky – with a special rested bonus!!

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!

PinckneyBendWhiteCornWhiskey

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.

White Manhattan
[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.

Manhattan
[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.

In Conclusion
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.

 

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Cocktails with… FEW White Whiskey

As someone who is hugely fond of cask-aged spirits, I have to admit that I have, at points, been somewhat suspicious of white whiskey (also known as “white dog”). However, as more seem to be becoming available in the UK, I decided that now would be a good time to explore the potential of this “genre” of spirit.

The logical first choice for exploration was FEW White Whiskey, which is produced in Evanston, Illinois and is currently being imported by Ginuine Spirits. Bottled at 40%ABV, this spirit is produced from a mash of corn, wheat and malt.

1) On its own (chilled)
Nose: A rich, creamy nose of cornbread: kind of like a mixture of sweetcorn and sponge cake for those of us in the UK who have never tasted it.
Taste: Rich, sweet corn notes are at the fore, which made me expect the spirit to be creamy and viscous. In reality, it is remarkably crisp and refreshing, despite still being very rich in flavour. Notes of cornbread and yeast are still present, but the chill also emphasises a spiciness. The finish is more familiar; a creamy corn note lasts for a good few minutes. Although this is pleasant neat, I think it might be a bit rich in large volumes, but in a small, chilled glass straight from the freezer, it was delicious.

2) White Manhattan (Dry  Martini)
The nose is – predictably – of corn and a hint of malt, but the taste wasn’t what I was expecting at all. The Whiskey added a light sweetness to this “Dry” Martini, as well as bringing out the spiciness in the vermouth. The spiciness continues into your stomach, with herbal notes, cinnamon and something warmer – closer to chilli – that makes me think that this could be the perfect Martini for the upcoming winter months.

3) Old Fashioned
This cocktail starts with a little vanilla and what seems like light oak, which are followed by a short, but strong note of corn and then longer, more dominant notes of wood. What I really liked about this drink was that – unlike many Old Fashioneds – it was never overly sweet, but still smooth. The finish reminded me strongly of good quality bourbon, being rich in dark, more complex, and sappy-sweet wood notes. Masterful.

4) with Tonic Water
Just what you’d expect – light cornbread notes are lifted by the freshness of the tonic water. This is definitely the most refreshing way of drinking this whiskey; the dry finish of the tonic stops the creaminess from making the drink at all heavy.

5) with Ginger Ale
Beautiful – the same delicious lengthening of the cornbread notes as seen with tonic water, but the drink as a whole is ever-so-slightly sweeter and has a perfectly measured burst of fiery ginger in the middle. In my experience, some whiskies are so overly complex themselves that the ginger in ginger ale is completely lost; here, the White Whiskey seems to work with it and does so to great effect.

6) Manhattan
Intriguingly, this drink started out as a cloudy, vibrant yellow cocktail (like orange juice), but then gradually settled until it was the golden amber of a Scotch whisky. To taste, it was absolutely packed full of flavour and personality: the rich, corn notes of the whiskey take centre stage and are unapologetic. These vibrant notes are then cushioned by an extra woody sweetness, which fades to a spicy and herbal finish courtesy of the red vermouth. This was an absolutely perfect blend of strong, complex flavours and a lot of them at that!

In Conclusion
Few spirits (no pun intended) have surprised and impressed be as much as FEW White Whiskey. Other white whiskies that I have tried have seemed slightly sickly and overpowering, but, whilst nobody could say that this lacks flavour, it also works exceptionally well in a whole array of cocktails, not only adding new flavours to familiar drinks, but combining with the other ingredients in such a way as to show you new sides to them, too. For one thing, given that this whiskey hasn’t ever touched a cask, I was amazed at the complexity of some of the wood notes in these cocktails.

I honestly can’t choose one cocktail as a favourite (and I’m pretty fussy when it comes to cocktails; I think this is the only spirit that I’ve tried and enjoyed every drink), but the Old Fashioned, Manhattan, and Martini were all superb.

Very highly recommended.

– Mrs. B.

FEW White Whiskey is available for around £33 for 70cl from Master of Malt

Cocktails with… Death’s Door Gin – from Wisconsin, USA!

Some years back, I spent a little time in Madison, Wisconsin and I have a very good friend that lives there, so I have rather a soft spot for the Badger state. So, when I found out about Death’s Door, a Gin from Madison, Wisconsin, my interest was piqued.

Death’s Door takes its name from the translation of “Porte des Morte”, the name of a strait that links Lake Michigan with Green Bay (the very same Green Bay that is the home of the 2011 Superbowl champs, the Green Bay Packers) that is notorious for shipwrecks. It is also the body of water between the Door County Peninsula and Washington Island, and the latter is where Death’s Door get the wheat for their base spirit from.*

Death’s Door also make a very tasty vodka and a White Whisky.

Death’s Door contains only 3 botanicals:

  • Juniper Berries (wild from Washington Island)
  • Coriander (from Wisconsin)
  • Fennel (from Wisconsin)

#1 Neat: There’s a touch of juniper and coriander on the nose initially, followed by some pine & fennel, somewhat reminiscent of a forest.When drinking it, I found that the gin is quite warm with juniper up-front, and fennel and anise on the finish, which gradually gets sweeter.

This reminds me of the pizzeria in my home town and, thus, I was inspired to accompany sipping this with some fresh green olives; I can confirm that they were rather tasty partners.

#2 Gin & Tonic: Quite sweet with an interesting, but good, combination of the juniper/quinine bitterness and the fennel. Citrus is present but more subtle then in most Gin & Tonics. This drink is best with lots of ice and it is exceptionally refreshing; it doesn’t even need a garnish.

#3: Martini: A surprisingly crisp Martini, with juniper and fennel flavours early on. If you imagine a classic Dry Martini and then add a layer of fennel/anise flavours on top of that, you have a Death’s Door Martini. I like it but some may find the fennel too dominant.

#4: Gimlet: A different take on the Gimlet with this drink. It is cool and refreshing but the fennel does dominate a touch too much for my liking; some adjustment of the proportions may improve this cocktail.

#5 Aviation: OK but lacking in flavour. There are some herbal and citrus notes but the drink still needs more character. It’s possible that using Creme Yvette rather than Creme de Violette would improve things.

#6 John Collins: Tastes like a Collins that has been made with anise syrup rather than simple syrup. Easy to drink with a nice bite of citrus. Is it a typical Collins? No. Is it tasty? Yes!

#7 Gin Bump: The flavours clash rather badly, any subtleties are lost and it is also too sweet. Certainly not the best way to enjoy the gin.

#8 Bramble: A classic example and very refreshing. All the flavours are well-balanced and no one element of the drink overpowers the others. Very good indeed.

#9 Negroni: I’m not usually a fan of Campari but Death’s Door Gin seems to hold it’s own against the bitter aperitif. This drink is fresh, cutting and extra bitter. If like Negronis, try this.

#10 Gin sour: This is sadly not a great way to enjoy this gin; there is no harmony between the ingredients and the lime dominates.

#11 Milano: The herbal notes of the gin and the Galliano are perfect partners and the lemon juice stops the mixture from being too sweet. This is delightful with some subtle anise on the finish.

#12 Gin Old-Fashioned: The sugar, water and bitters really mellow out the fennel notes of the gin. This drink is smooth with a balanced flavour and a lovely bitter-sweet streak at the end. Immensely sippable.

In Conclusion
Even though Death’s Door Gin only has three botanicals it is certainly flavourful. The fennel does make itself felt in many of the drinks we mixed and is certainly a distinguishing characteristic of the gin. However I think rather than try and hide this quality oif the gin, it is better to embrace it as your would the anise notes of other products such as absinthe. A gin Sazerac or TNT cocktail would, I think, work well. Of the selection we tried The Old Fashioned and the Gin & Tonic were easily my favourite.

*Death’s Door Gin uses a 60:40 mix of organic Washington Island wheat and organic malted barley from Chilton, WI.

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