Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon

Today, we drink bourbon in celebration of the victors of Super Bowl 50.  Just like the Broncos that vanquished the Carolina Panthers last weekend, our spirit of choice hails from Denver, Colorado.

The Laws Whiskey House in Denver, Colorado takes great pride in their trade as craft distillers.  The whiskies they produce are distilled from (mostly) local grains: the corn is from Wisconsin, but the barley, rye and wheat come from Colorado.  Laws Whiskey distills the juice and ages it themselves, before bottling and selling.

The Laws distillery makes traditional straight bourbon, but for today’s taste, it’s the unique A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon we’re trying.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: A.D. Laws Four Grain Straight Bourbon

Now, bourbon by it’s legal description has to be made of at least 50% corn.  What makes up the other (up to) 50% is usually distillers choice.  Barley usually makes up a small percentage, with the rest being either a rye (spicier) or wheat (smoother).  Making a whiskey utilizing all four grains can be extremely tricky, as it involves balancing many flavors. Hence, there are very few four grain bourbons on the market.

It would make sense, however, that a craft distillery, with very good control on the source products they use, like Laws Distillery would be perfect to try this.  The Laws website is full of focus on the craftsmanship and patience employed.  Now their AD Laws Four Grain Bourbon is available throughout the country.  So how does it rate?

My take:

On first nose, I was surprised at the lack of sweetness.  There was an oak and leather, and a tinge of tobacco.  I also pulled a lot of baking spices that caught me off guard.  The Four Grain Bourbon is three years old, so I expected the sweetness of corn, but even after sitting out for a bit, the smell was allspice and oak, with a slight hint of dried raisin.

The Colorado distiller boasts that their whiskey ages year round, unlike Kentucky whiskey which ‘sleeps’ in the cold winter.  The fluctuations in Colorado mile high air supposedly keeps the whiskey maturing year round. I admit I was sceptical, but the nose certainly didn’t seem like such a young whiskey.

The taste was surprisingly mature too although not as tannic as the nose hinted at.  The leather and oak were most prominent, with a subtle tickle of spice, more clove than pepper.  But there was some sweetness now, albeit as a secondary flavor, with a hint of vanilla and the slightest bit of honey.  The mouth feel was medium – neither watery or creamy – and the youth of the drink showed through more in the second half, and subsequent drinks.  An ice cube opened up the flavor a bit, leaning toward the savory and added a bit of pepper.  It did taste young, like the individual elements weren’t fully absorbed, but it did taste like it was quality made.

The finish was medium, and had a bit of harshness to it.

Overall, its a unique and quality product by a craft spirit house that obviously cares about their product.  It is also refreshing to drink spirits that are more about the product and less about the story.  That said, this wouldn’t be a daily drinker for me – a bit too bitter, and a bit too young.  But kudos to Laws Distillery for their dedication to fine craftsmanship, and daring.

Dan’s rating: 7.8

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Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Berkshire Mountain Distillers Cask Finished Bourbon – Founders

Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Berkshire Mountain Distillers Cask Finished Bourbon – Founders

Hello, and happy Thanksgiving! Hopefully you had a great one, with food, family, friends and, of course, bourbon.  My wife and I brought a bottle of Old Weller Antique to Thanksgiving dinner ourselves, and it certainly went over well.

Back to talking bourbon, and this week, it’s all about a new one appearing at shops all over Michigan – the Berkshire Mountain Distillers Cask Finished Bourbon, Founders Edition.  Berkshire Mountain Distillers (BMD) is not a name we are familiar with here in Michigan, so it’s drawn particular note.  Add in the fact that this bourbon is finished in Kentucky Breakfast Stout beer casks from the much beloved Michigan beer maker Founders, and it’s bound to turn some heads.

Dan's Bourbon of the Week: Berkshire Mountain Distillers  Cask Finished Bourbon - Founders
Dan’s Bourbon of the Week: Berkshire Mountain Distillers Cask Finished Bourbon – Founders.  Note, that is a Founders Breakfast Stout in the photo, rather than the Kentucky Breakfast Stout, which is very hard to find this time of year.

First, to find out more about the Berkshire Mountain Distillers and this drink, I went to their founder, Chris Weld.  Chris let me know that Berkshire Mountain Distillers (which is in western Massachusetts) first distills their own bourbon and ages it for 4 years, before moving it to the finishing barrels.  Their blend is heavy on the corn – 72% corn, 18% rye, and 10% barley (half of that is malted barley).  They are finishing bourbons in barrels from 10 or so of the best small distillers in America, including Sam Adams (Boston), Big Sky (Montana), Cigar City Brewing (Tampa Bay, FL), Full Sail (OR), Hale’s Ales (Seattle, WA), Brewery Ommegang (NY), Smuttynose Brewing Company (NH), Terrapin (GA), Tröegs (PA) and Founders in Michigan.

Berkshire Mountain Distillery has won some awards, and their bourbon is certainly no slouch.  But even I was a bit confused about taking a bourbon after 4 years in the barrel and finishing it for 9 months in a different bourbon barrel that had held stout beer in between…

To get a good feel for the Founders beer and what it adds, I went to good friend and founder of Good Pour (a beer lovers appreciation and events group), Dave Cicotte.  Dave is a fan of the Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout, and gave me a review of the Founders KBS (and some useful beer knowledge to boot):

“When…poured in a snifter or tulip glass (around 55-58 degrees), the aromas of chocolate and coffee come to life. You’ll get a hint of the oak bourbon barrels when

Founders Kentucky Breakfast Stout
Founders Kentucky Bourbon Stout. Photo courtesy of my Justin Ables, Good Pour contributor

nosing KBS in the glass, but you’ll get the full effect on the backend when tasting. The way it hits my palette is coffee, chocolate, bourbon, finished with the smokiness of the barrels. To intensify the flavor and get the best of both worlds, I like to (with any specialty beer) take a sip, swallow, and then exhale out of my nose. I know it sounds silly, but talk about getting the full effect of specialty beer! I also like to take my time with KBS and other imperials.

As the beer temperature starts to catch up with the temperature of the room, it begins to take new form. You’ll get different flavors along the way. I’ve begun to notice the higher the temperature, the more bourbon flavor you get. However, going beyond 70 degrees doesn’t interest me, and of course I don’t sit with a thermometer, so it’s more of a guessing game at the exact temperature. However, according to some studies (check out beergraphs.com) show that beer temperature, when in a room at a stable 70-71 degrees, will increase throughout an hour at an average rate of about 3.2 degrees every ten minutes, while alternating between holding the glass by the stem and setting it on a table/not holding it.

Getting into pairing KBS with food, I made sure to enjoy it with my thanksgiving dinner. My favorite pairing was with the stuffing. My mother in law makes an amazing mushroom stuffing that includes a little spice, cranberries, pine nuts, and a few other secret ingredients. Although I enjoyed KBS with my main course, I also saved some for desert, which happened at about the 68 degrees. I paired it with homemade flan… and it was amazing! It’s hard for me to pick my favorite beer, but I have to say KBS is up there for me. at least in the top five.”

So with all the knowledge I could put together, how is the bourbon?

Dan’s Take:  The nose of the BMD-Founders is very sweet, rich with caramel, corn, hints of vanilla and a fruitiness of raisin.  What I didn’t notice was the scent of stout beer that is usually up front in beer finished bourbons.  There was the subtlest hint of hops and barley, but so slight that it might have fooled me if I was tasting blindly.

The taste was a bit different.  The sweetness faded a bit, giving way to the cinnamon spiciness of rye.  The Berkshire Mountain Distillery bourbon is a very, very smooth pour, and even with the stout finish, it holds up here.  The sweetness that is there is more of a chocolate variety, with a touch of deep butterscotch.  Finally, there is the stout beer, adding a bit of bitterness to the taste.  Part coffee, part dark chocolate, it is definitely in the background, and far from overwhelming.

The finish is a little more of that dark chocolate with a bit of toasted…pine?

We liked the Berkshire Mountain Distillery-Founders, although the price point ($60+ in Michigan) is a bit high, especially with more and more finished bourbons available for less.  More than anything, BMD Founders is smooth.  Nicely done.

My rating: 7.8

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Thank you to Chris Weld of Berkshire Mountain Distillery and Dave Cicotte of Good Pour.