Dark Corner Moonshine – A review with one part Corn Whiskey and a few parts Americana

America – South Carolina – 50%ABV – $38 – currently sold at the distillery only.

It’s that time of year again (well, at least is was a few days ago…) when we Americans all get together as friends, families, congregations, etc… to celebrate Thanksgiving.  I do my best to not think of all of the horrific historical stuff that ties into this holiday or the countless, flightless gobble-gobblers that get gobbled up in the form of legs, giblets, sandwiches, stews, etc…

Instead I focus on what matters in life.  Not the football, not the food or the drink.  It’s the friends and family.  Thanksgiving is a wonderful time when (at least in my family) everybody gets along and shows love for one another.

It’s also a time when we as a nation come together and listen to Alice’s Restaurant over and over again.  Or perhaps we’ll watch The Wizard of Oz together.  Maybe even a listening of some Bonnie ‘prince’ Billy while you hang out by the fireplace sipping on cheap merlot and riesling.  Thanksgiving is all about togetherness.

America has a long history of making whiskey – predominantly rye and/or corn whiskey.  Being that my favorite American/secular holiday is just behind us, I thought I’d review an American whiskey/moonshine.  That Moonshine is from Dark Corner out of Greenville South Carolina – “South Carolina’s First Legal Moonshine”.

Dark Corner has a single small still that’s really quite beautiful to look at (to your left).  I had a conversation with Joe Fenten (one of Dark Corner’s two founders – the other gentleman being Richard Wagner) and he gave me some insight into how they distil their moonshine:

“We do what I like to call a 1.5 times distillation. Since we have an 80 gallon pot (very small) we do 5 beer stripping runs over 5 days. We make a very conservative hearts cut on these runs and collect the hearts for later use. We then take the heads and tails from the 5 runs and re-run them through the still for a spirits run on the 6th day. We then make a precise hearts cut and blend that with our hearts from the 5 previous runs. Essentially you are mixing 100 proof hearts (15 gallons) with 150 proof hearts (15 gallons). You get full flavor lows plus smooth highs and the end result is like cool mountain creek water.

Keep in mind Greenville was voted best tasting water in America this year and beat out sources of water in the Rockies! We are very proud to use this water in our hand-spirited whiskey. The Dark Corner is home to 1/3 of the water provided to the whole upcountry of South Carolina. It’s named the North Saluda Reservoir and is one of the most pristine bodies of water in America.”

Good water, small batch, attention to distilling detail, let’s see what comes of it.  Let’s pour some:

On the nose  Huge (!!) corn on the nose accompanied by a nice amount of spice.

Very light citrus note (etrog?).

Various crushed pepper seeds.  Am really enjoying the movie popcorn quality to this nose on this moonshine.

On the mouth Warming and buttery – buttery movie popcorn (or buttered popcorn flavored Jelly Belly jelly beans).

Decent mouthfeel.  Some nice viscosity.  Not super chewy but very satisfying (making me want to sip more and more).

The spice stays on the tip of the tongue and the mouth starts to dry out a touch.

Finish Nice, long and drying finish with lasting notes of buttered popcorn.

In sum A simple, and somewhat one-dimensional, yet satisfying whiskey.  Something that can be sipped on at anytime but I suggest it as a late summer weekend dram after you’ve worked on your lawn all day – it’s very easy going and smooth even at 50% ABV (and you should use the finger hole provided to sip it straight from jug!  Once you’ve finished the bottle, you can use it to start your own jug band with Emmet Otter).  This is a solid new make spirit/moonshine that would work magic in a new charred oak barrel.

Special thanks goes out to Joe Fenten for the sample!

Master of Malt just released St. Isidore (aka The Bloggers’ Blend)

Announcement!!  You may have tracked the Bloggers’ Blend contest that the JSMWS took part in (along with 9 other whisky writers/bloggers from around the word).  Well, the final product is now available.

Read below and, if you want to get some, Click here to buy a bottle and don’t forget to use the term “JSMWS sample” in the delivery instructions portion of the shopping cart – Master of Malt will ship you a free dram of whisky if you do.


Master of Malt announce St Isidore – a blended whisky created by bloggers

Master of Malt is proud to finally announce the release of the blended whisky, St Isidore, created entirely by whisky bloggers. To make this blend, the spirits retailer called upon the great and the good of the whisky industry including names such as Whisky Magazine, Edinburgh Whisky Blog, CaskStrength.net and Whisky Cast.

Master of Malt started by sending blending kits to 10 prominent whisky bloggers, and asked them to create the best blended whisky they could using the ingredients provided, whilst maximising its value for money. The bloggers’ recipes were made up and sold in sample sets, and Master of Malt asked the public to vote for which recipe should be made into the brand’s next whisky.

The votes were counted (using the AV system) and a rather smoky, Islay-inspired blend was chosen as the winner, before the bloggers agreed on a name for the blend, calling it St Isidore after the patron saint of the internet. For the final stage, Master of Malt called on graphic designers to submit label designs for the bottle, which summed up St Isidore, the blend, and the whisky blogging community, making them as creative as possible.

The winning designer, who was awarded a £250 spending spree at Master of Malt, was English artist Ben Sowter, who created a psychedelic, larger-than-life depiction of St Isidore enjoying his namesake blend. The label features numerous computer and internet in-jokes, for example a monitor lizard represents a computer’s monitor, and there is a bag of coins, representing a “cache”. In total, there are around 20 different hidden internet-related jokes and Easter Eggs!

You can buy a bottle of St Isidore from Master of Malt.

Tasting Notes for St Isidore (as provided by Master of Malt)

Nose: Sweet creamy aromas that meld well with a cool, oily, almost coastal wood smoke. It instantly transports you to Islay, whilst offering just a hint of plum wine, wood shavings and lapsang souchong tea. Time in the glass brings out notes of guava, warm custard and rhubarb crumble.

Palate: Thick, warming and balanced as it hits the tongue, it offers notes of really good vanilla ice cream, black pepper, and rum spices, whilst retaining a solid backbone of sweet woodsmoke and freshly-sawn timber. Hold it on the tongue for just a touch of salty popcorn and crème caramel.

Finish: Beautifully warming and spiced. It fades away on freshly grated cinnamon and sugared peels. A faint flutter of pear juice on the very tail.

Overall: A perfect smoky blend. This is a very old-school whisky, combining the smoke of Islay, and the rich, honeyed tones of the Highlands. A superb winter fireside dram if ever there was one.

The Bloggers:

Dr. Whisky
Edinburgh Whisky Blog
Guid Scotch Drink
The Jewish Single Malt Whisky Society
Whisky Connosr
Whisky Magazine
WhiskyWhiskyWhisky Forum
Whisky for Everyone

About Master of Malt:

– Established in 1985
– Master of Malt is one of the UK’s leading Online Whisky & Spirits Merchants, with a huge range of whiskies, rum, brandies, gins, cocktails and many other fine spirits.

Buy good whisky at a great price while donating to a charitable cause? Could it get anymore “feel good ” than that?

Highlands region – 53%ABV – £39.99

There’s something really good about feeling really good about… stuff.  You see, I do not believe in altruism.  Mother Theresa was an AMAZING woman that did so many wonderful things for the needy.  But no one can tell me that she did not feel good about all of the work she did; or perhaps feel motherly toward many of the people who counted on her and those that worked with her.  It feels good to do good and there’s nothing wrong with that.

So… do you want to feel good about helping people (and get some good whisky in the process)?

Master of Malt teamed up with Glenfarclas to choose two ex-oloroso sherry casks to marry up (mix together), bottle up and then sell.  This 9yo whisky, bottled at cask strength (53% ABV) is selling at Master of Malt for only £39.99 and £10 of each sale (basically 25%) goes to Movember who fund The Prostate Cancer Foundation and Livestrong as well as help to create awareness on Men’s Cancer Issues.  You can read more on Movember’s Global Action Plan here.

This being said, I did my part by purchasing a couple of these “Movember” Glenfarclas bottles from Master of Malt.  Thankfully, the whisky inside the bottle is pretty damn good (and a steal at only £39.99!)

On the nose  Out of the gate the nose is hot and sharp; angular (if you can apply that to a scent).  Not the soft sherried nose you’d come to expect from most Glenfarclas whiskies.

It is a very “sherried” nose however…  Think sugared prunes, potting soil, gingerbread men and a shit ton spice and spice cakes.

Some rubbery notes in there too (party balloons).

With water the scent becomes… inviting, round, big and plump.  Sort of like all of those butts Sir Mix A Lot always raps about.

On the mouth Hot in the mouth with a big spice attack.  Let’s try this again… Yeah, still hot, will add water in a sec.  Let’s talk mouthfeel though:  Sort of thin but flavor packed (almost like a barrel proof bourbon attack – very strong in heat and flavor).

Waiter, may I have some water please?  Just two droppers full.  Thanks.

As I suspected, water is the key.  Still a bit hot but much more tolerable and the mouth feel gets nice and big.  Water is to this whisky as a fluffer is to Ron Jeremy (that’s it with the sexy stuff, promise!).

Orange and spice and everything nice.  Vanilla is huge here.

Finish Very dry finish, long with spice drops.

In sum It’s a whacky/wild little ‘farclas. It’s sort of like the “cool” kid in the room that’s maybe not as cool as everybody thinks he is but because everybody thinks he’s cool, he’s just that much cooler…  Maybe like Spicoli from Fast Times at Ridgemont High.  Ok, enough with the tangent.

At £40, this cask strength whisky is a total steal and just the fact that £10 of that goes to Movember for men’s cancer charities… THAT’S cool!  A bit of Tzedakah and Tikkun Olam all in one!  Get a bottle or two before they sell out.

Click here to buy a bottle and don’t forget to use the term “JSMWS sample” in the delivery instructions portion of the shopping cart – Master of Malt will ship you a free dram of whisky if you do.

I can’t believe I mixed Mother Theresa in with Sir Mix A Lot, Ron Jeremy and Jeff Spicoli.  My apologies if I offended anyone.

Special thanks to Master of Malt for the sample!  I’m now working on bottle #1 from the two I bought 🙂

Glenfarclas 1974 and a good friend

Highlands region – 57.5%ABV – $189

A few weeks ago, while on a trip to Chicago, I met up with my good friend Jason Johnstone-Yellin (of guidscotchdrink.com) and during this time we sat a spell at Lady Gregory’s.  A cool Irish pub with a decent dinner menu (actually, a really great menu if you’re not a vegetarian) and a Whisk(e)y & Beer menu that was… not too shabby!

The tough thing is, for whisky anoraks/reviewers/bloggers like Jason and I, well… we’ve tasted A LOT of whisky.  As an idea or hint; when Jason and I were in Scotland this past August with our friends and tour guests, in 7 days alone, we tasted 134 different whiskies (yes, we counted and kept track).  Not everybody does, I understand this.  In fact we talked about it during our time at Lady Gregory’s (how crazy, ridiculous and awesome it is to get to taste so much whisky).  This being said, while I call the Whisk(e)y menu “not too shabby”, for most it’s an amazing whisky list!  Over 200 whiskies if memory serves.

While going over the list we found two whiskies in particular that really intrigued us so we had to try them/review them together.  The first is this Glenfarclas that’s being reviewed today and the other is a Laphroaig that I’ll post up in a couple of weeks.

As mentioned, we reviewed this whisky together so the notes are combined notes from our experience.

Color Sunlight on a mahogany chair

On the nose Attic stored afghans (not the people), cinnamon, candied apples, burnt caramel, mahogany, cherry stones/pits, fresh suburban rain, baked granola bars (freshly toasted oats, oven baked raisin notes, warm honey).

On the mouth WOOD, lots of wood. Hot, overstewed prunes, the spirit character is a bit lost here.

Finish Moderate to long, sweet and astringent/bitter cherry juice, continues to dry out the mouth

In sum It was cool taste a whisky that was almost as old as I am but in the end, the real treat was to spend some time and bullshit with a good friend.

Bruichladdich 10yo – the new 2011 “Laddie Ten”

Islay region – 46% ABV – $45 – $55 | £32 | €45

The complaint, if there ever was one, with Bruichladdich was that there were WAY too many releases coming out of the distillery which made it difficult for people to keep track of or understand the distillery; myself included.

This is not to say that many of the releases were bad releases.  Quite the contrary!  I think the vast majority of whisky reviewers/bloggers would agree with me in saying that the bottles being churned out of the Bruichladdich distillery were, for the most part, top notch releases. Heck, I gave the Bruichladdich Blacker Still an award last year (brill-i-ant whisky!)

So why did our friends at Bruichladdich release so many whisky expressions over that past 10 years?  My guess is that they needed to generate funds to help create and launch this whisky we will be reviewing today.

Bruichladdich does not sell their whisky to blenders.  All of their 750,000 liters (per year, when run at full capacity) goes to their single malt – no blends.  So, if they can’t make money by selling malt whisky for blends, they had to sell of old stock from the previous distillery owners.  Hence, the many many releases from Bruichladdich.

We are told, however, that the frequency of these machine gun fire releases will come down now that a new 10yo expression has been released.  For Bruichladdich, the “Laddie Ten” 10yo expression is all about fresh starts and new beginnings.  New beginnings are something that I am very familiar with (*especially* as of late).  New beginnings can be good things (great things) and for Bruichladdich, they sure are.

On the nose  A nice, delicate nose overflowing with scents of chamomile and other teas, dandelion jam with a touch of honey.

Before this, however, there was some spice right upfront and coastal notes that are almost reminiscent of a young Springbank whisky with notes of flinty soil, ozone, coastal long grasses.

A bit herbal as well but very sweet smelling overall.

On the mouth Like a flavor punch to the mouth this whisky is… with a fantastic mouthfeel!

The flavor is very similar to what I got on the nose but there is an addition of sharp cheese in here which, combined with the sweet of the jam and honey really helps to balance it all out.  The roundness comes from a mixture of ex-bourbon & ex-oloroso sherry casks (however, the majority of the whisky in here is from ex-bourbon barrels)

Coming back after a couple of minutes and there is a huge creme brulee quality to this whisky (I’m guessing this comes from some top quality ex-bourbon casks).

Finish Long in length with a spicy/sweet note that rides the center of my tongue like Jim Morrison’s seven mile long snake…

In sum A solid whisky that is aggressive yet delicate.  It has a way of saying: “Hey guys – here I am.  I AM BRUICHLADDICH!”  Brilliant stuff that will have a permanent spot on my whisky shelf.  I could easily sip on this most any day.  Great job Mr. McEwan and the rest of the Bruichladdich team!!

Special thanks goes out to Shane H for the sample!!