Gun Fighter Double Cask Review

Whiskey Name: Gun Fighter Double Cask Bourbon

Distillery: Golden Moon (bourbon is sourced, then recasked at Golden Moon)

Whiskey Type: Bourbon finished in “French Port Barrels”

Release Date: Released in 2015, now generally available

Price: £42

Age: “Minimum 6 months in new American oak and then finished in used French Port”

ABV: 50%

Mashbill: Undisclosed. Presumably rye-recipe

Introduction/Background: I hadn’t even heard of this one previously, so was very intrigued when I came across it on Master of Malt. Finished bourbon is growing and growing at the moment; as are the battle-lines of those who stand for and against it. An article for another time; if we got too deeply into it here then we’d never make it to the review.

The cask finish for this one is a puzzler. Golden Moon distillery in Colorado have it on their website as “French Port Barrels”. As a wine man that raises my hackles a little; the same way it’d annoy most people reading this if Scotland were to label one of their whiskies as “bourbon”. (Though I’m not sure why they would…)

Master of Malt tread the Protected Designation of Origin lines more carefully, describing the casks as having held “French fortified wine.” Which would presumably point to something like a Maury or a Banyuls. But the plot thickens when you take to the distillery’s Facebook page. There they say that the casks are “French Oak Port Barrels”. Which leads perfectly legally back towards Portugal. (Though more cask-fussy readers might question whether they were indeed “barrels”, or the more usual Port pipes.)

If nothing else, finished bourbon clearly makes life more complicated then. Though perhaps only for pedants and nerds like me with too much time to over-ponder. Shall we get cracking?

Appearance: A glimmer of pink betrays the finish…

Nose: Yowza! Well there’s the fortified wine, straight away. So prominently that it caused me to write the word “yowza!” for the first time in my life. (And last – I don’t think it suits me.) All kinds of dried fruit clamouring to get out of the glass. A trace of fresher berries too, plus a zing of fresh pine stopping things from getting cloying. This really is all about those finishing casks; no way you’d peg this as a bourbon were you to sniff it blind. There’s also a touch of struck match sulphur too; familiar to wine-finished scotch drinkers, but a first for me where bourbon’s concerned.

Mouth: Palate is very juicy, ripe and rounded; almost chewy. Again it’s the wine finish that dominates; raisins, prunes etc. A little marzipan and candied nut too, beside a certain smokiness; real Yuletide whiskey. Alcohol is fully balanced by flavour and weight of body; there’s no major burn.

Finish: The fruit fades; that touch of struck match lingers a little longer. Medium length.

Value for Money: Depends entirely on whether you like this sort of thing.

Summary: I know a lot of people who would dismiss this whiskey’s right to be called a bourbon. Personally I’m still not sure which side of the fence I sit on. Certainly the flavours are a long, long way from those you’d expect. This is about the cask finish to a far greater degree than any finished bourbon I’ve previously sampled. If you’re a fan of ex-fortified wine matured scotch, for example, this is very much a whiskey for you, and worth the £42 price tag. If you’re a bourbon purist however, this may not be quite your cup of Darjeeling.

Overall Verdict: Perhaps it’s best to just put the finishing debate aside and gauge this on the merit of flavour alone. On which basis I very much enjoyed Gun Fighter Double Cask. Rogue smear of sulphur aside it’s full of fun, festive flavour. Well worth trying if you’re a scotch drinker … and a cert if you’re looking to hoodwink someone in a blind tasting.

Word by WhiskyPilgrim

RoughStock Montana Bourbon Review

Whiskey Name: RoughStock Montana Bourbon

Distillery: RoughStock

Whiskey Type: Straight Bourbon

Release Date: General release.

Price: About £45

Age: NAS

ABV: 45% 

Mashbill: A vatting of four different mashbills, featuring corn, rye, wheat and barley

Introduction/Background: Another day, another craft distillery, another four grain recipe. Today’s hails from the RoughStock Distillery in Bozeman, Montana, which has been around since 2005. It’s mad to think that that still puts it on the older end of the craft distillery spectrum; there really has been an explosion of them in the last decade.

The website is at pains to underline the freshness of the grains, the purity of the water, the non-chill filtration etc etc. They’re at just as great pains to underline the old “age is just a number adage”. Which, in theory is true, and all very well, but is now trotted out so automatically by so many craft distilleries that it is beginning to sound like an excuse. But heck; I’ve had some outstanding young whiskies. I remember encountering one that gave its age in days (348 off the top of my head!). So let’s get into the glass.

Appearance: Fairly pale by Bourbon standards. Burnished gold.

Nose: A rather odd nose, if I’m honest. Very cereal-heavy; more grainy than the baked bread of Hudson Four Grain. The website states “heavily charred casks”, but the barrel seems barely to have been invited to the party. Savoury, almost malty character. Quite pungently farmyardy. In honesty, I’m not sure I’m a fan. It’s a fairly intense nose for the ABV, but I’d think in this case I’d prefer it a little more muted! Atypical of bourbon; very unusual.

Mouth: A little more sweetness appears here. Touches of caramel and brown sugar. But the headline remains those musty, almost straw-like cereals. Middle-weight on body and flavour.

Finish: Short-medium. Bitters ever so slightly.

Value for Money: For £45 you can do a lot better.

Summary: There’s no point writing tasting notes if you don’t speak exactly as you find, and I’m afraid I simply didn’t get on with RoughStock. I’m not sure how many bourbons I’ve tasted this year; enough to know that this one is distinctly different. That fusty, savoury edge rather put me off. It almost felt as if it were trying to be a Scotch, and not a good one. I wondered whether this was just me, so I checked around online after I’d scribbled, and there seems to be a consensus. “Farmyardy” popped up very frequently. And whilst I’d never read much into the comments on the Master of Malt page, there wasn’t much love for it there either. Rough by name, and slightly rough by nature too. I’m so sorry!

Overall Verdict: Your mileage may vary, but this isn’t the bourbon for me.

Review by WhiskyPilgrim 

William Larue Weller (2016 release)

Reviewed By@MCRBourbon

Whiskey Name: William Larue Weller (2016 release)

Distillery: Buffalo Trace

Whiskey Type: Wheated Bourbon

Release Date: Autumn 2016

Price: £150

Age: 12 Years

ABV: 67.7%

Mashbill: Corn, wheat and malted barley. Ratios unknown.

Introduction / Background:

Well it was later than usual and a lot harder to obtain but the UK finally saw the much anticipated release of Buffalo Trace’s annual Antique Collection towards the end of 2016. As bourbon lovers all across the country scrambled to grab whatever they could, most were left disappointed. Scoring a bottle from the range gets harder every year and, at around £150 per bottle, BTAC now represents fantastic value in terms of American whiskey’s annual limited releases.

William Larue Weller evolved from whiskey originally created at the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery, and named after a 19th century distiller who allegedly pioneered using wheat, rather than rye, in his bourbon mashbill. It's effectively a cask-strength version of the increasingly rare W.L. Weller 12. 

As a massive fan of both wheated and cask-strength bourbons, the Weller is generally my pick of the annual BTAC release and the bottle I most look forward to tasting every year. Were it not for the wonderful founders of the BBS, I would have gone without one for at least another twelve months. I dread to think how hard this will be to get hold of next year..

Appearance: This is a very dark whiskey. Deep auburn.

Nose: An intense mixture of bread dough, cinnamon, cherry and dark fruits. It can sting a little if you get carried away but I wouldn’t say it comes across as high-proof as it actually is. There’s also a hint of green apple when you back away. Finally, I notice some smoky barrel char. It’s a bit smokier than the past releases that I’ve tried. Not overly complex but very enjoyable.

Nose Score: 4.5

Mouth: The high proof is immediately noticeable. Initially, this is quite sweet and reflects the notes picked up on the nose. Shortly afterwards, a bit of dry oak arrives to balance the sweetness followed by slightly bitter liquorice root and treacle. There’s a fair bit of weight in the liquid and it’s nothing short of delicious.

Mouth Score: 4.5

Finish: Having being bottled at cask-strength, this is unsurprisingly an intense bourbon that lingers long after you’ve had your last sip. Breathing in will bring an icy gust of cherry-vanilla tobacco. Once the cherry settles, there’s some bitterness on the tongue that manifests as a touch of roasted coffee, presumably from the barrel char.

Finish Score: 4.5

Value For Money: OK, some may find this a tad expensive at around £150 but, in the context of today’s ever-inflating bourbon market, it represents good value. It's great to see that UK retailers are (generally) resisting the temptation to pump up prices. William Larue Weller is also unique in that it is, as far as I’m aware, the only obtainable, cask-strength, wheated bourbon on the market aged for a reasonable amount of time.
Value for Money Score: 4.5

Summary: Whilst this year’s release probably isn't the best William Larue Weller I’ve tried, it's certainly a great wheated bourbon. To me, this is not just a cask-strength version of W.L. Weller 12, it is an example of great barrel selection from Buffalo Trace’s wheated bourbon stock. There’s no information available to say exactly how many bottles went on retail sale in the UK but I feel very lucky to have one and it certainly won’t last until the 2017 release!

Due to the ridiculous success of the Van Winkle wheated bourbon range, several distilleries are ageing wheated juice right now. I’d love to think that in a few years there will be a good range of readily available wheaters to compete with William Larue Weller. Until that happens, William Larue Weller will likely remain the best wheated bourbon on sale. 

Overall Score: 18