We have two more fun whiskeys to talk about this week. The former is a fairly unique offering from the distillery behind the premium Softens the creek, a famous brand backed by sports celebrities like Peyton Manning and Andy Roddick. The second is the last expression of the time and place of the magic maltsters of Chattanooga Whiskey Co. Let’s dig!
There has long been a bit of a dispute between Kentucky bourbon distillers and Tennessee whiskey makers. Kentucky is certainly the biggest player when it comes to American whiskey, but Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey is the #1 brand internationally. Kentuckians sometimes scoff at Tennessee whiskey, which is technically bourbon, meeting all the criteria of the official spirit standard. But Tennessee distillers prefer to stand out by pointing out that we have our own standard that includes an additional charcoal sweetening step, making Tennessee whiskey “more than” just bourbon. Can’t we all get along?!
That’s the idea behind Kennesse, the latest product from Sweeten’s Cove Spirits Co. Designed to provide a more affordable option for whiskey drinkers who want to be part of the Sweetens experience without dropping more than two bills on a bottle of their decade and more. A former flagship, Kennessee is a blend of Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey that sells closer to $60 a bottle.
The neck of the bottle reads “Rivals no more”, a plea for cooperation and collaboration between states. Bottled at 119.7 proof, this is a powerful whisky, and that also explains part of the higher price as a proof premium. In less talented hands, a blend of these two whiskeys under this name might just be a gimmick, but Sweetens Cove employed talented distiller/blender Marianne Eaves to help with cask selection and the ratios of each in the mixed.
The whiskey was removed from its original casks and blended in stainless steel tanks, where it was finished with spirals of sugar maple, the same wood that Tennessee whiskey makers use to sweeten charcoal. lumber in the Lincoln County Process. The result is a surprisingly smooth hybrid whisky, especially considering the point of proof.
A lovely golden brown in the glass, Kennessee offers plenty of vanilla and a hint of orange blossom on the first nose. I also caught a hint of maple in the aroma, but that might be my subconscious thinking of those maple swirls. Anyway, it’s pretty delicious, and I’d like to make a candle out of it.
Light despite the initial attack of alcohol and heat on the tip of the tongue, the first sip demonstrates those same spicy notes as the aroma, but with a hint of black pepper. Quite smooth and complex for a small drink, Kennessee also makes an old-school killer, and I mean “killer” – it’s an alcoholic drink. Sweetens Cove intends to make Kennessee more easily accessible than their cult flagship bottle, which can be hard to find at certain times of the year. I will definitely be looking for it on the shelves of my local liquor store.
The second bottle I enjoyed this week (well, not the whole bottle…yet) was the latest Bottled-in-Bond offering from Chattanooga Whiskey Co. The Spring 2018 vintage sells for a few dollars a bottle of less than Kennessee, and it’s a completely different beast. Crafted in Chattanooga’s “Tennessee High Malt” style, BiB is still technically a bourbon, but with a much higher malted barley content than almost any other Tennessee whiskey in Kentucky.
Grant McCracken, Chief Distiller of Chattanooga Whiskey Co., selected four different mash bills to include in this vintage of BiB. Three of them were carryovers from the Fall 2017 edition, but this one gets a new addition. The R18016 recipe features a barely dried green malt, introducing a new coconut note to the mix. Adding malted wheat to the mash bill adds a bit of Trisket to the flavor of the final blend, an element that I quite enjoyed.
It’s not too different from the fall 2017 bottle, which I still managed to save a dram or two for comparison. The coconut transformed what was already a lovely cocoa-influenced flavor into something more tropical, like a creme brulee. I can say that it didn’t bother me at all. I always enjoy Chattanooga products, but this one sits nicely between bourbon, malt whiskey, and rum in my mind and in my home bar. I like it there, but I can’t promise it will last until fall 2018!