EZdrinking

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary.

Searching for the world's best drinks and what makes them extraordinary. EZdrinking is a drinks blog by Eric Zandona that focuses on distilled spirits, wine, craft beer and specialty coffee. Here you can find reviews of drinks, drink books, articles about current & historical trends, as well as how to make liqueurs, bitters, and other spirit based drinks at home.

Filtering by Tag: Whiskey

Review: Workhorse Rye Redhorse Whiskey

AT A GLANCE

  • Owned by: Workhorse Rye

  • Distilled at: Sutherland Distilling Co. in Livermore, CA

  • Still Type: Hybrid Still

  • Spirit Type: Whiskey distilled from Rye

  • Strength: 60% ABV

  • Price: ~$35 (200ml)

In 2011, Rob Easter founded Workhouse Rye to be a “progressive and sustainable” producer of whiskey and bitters. For the past eight years Easter has operated as an itinerant distiller, renting still time and space from distilleries to ferment, distill, and mature his whiskeys. From 2012-2014, Easter was able to refined his distilling chops at Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, New York helping to develop their award winning Peated Bourbon. Since 2014, Easter has focused on sourcing most of his grains direct from farmer who are growing non-irrigated heirloom varieties of rye, wheat, corn and barley. Hybridized and GMO grains have been designed to maximize starch production and respond positively to modern farming techniques, (irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides), the consequence however is that these plants has lost a multitude of other compounds that added flavor and depth of character when made into bread or distilled into whiskey. For Easter, he has to use more than 1000 pounds of grain to make one barrel of whiskey, but he believes that despite the lower yield, these grains result in a better spirit that is also less taxing on the environment.

Each expression of Workhorse begins with the same mash bill of 70% west coast rye, 20% malted barley, and 10% malted wheat. The mash is fermented, pot distilled, and then filled in a variety of barrels. US labeling laws for rye whiskey require the spirit to be aged in charred new oak barrels, but because Redhorse matures in used wine barrels, it is just labeled whiskey. For this particular bottling, Easter aged the whiskey for two years in used Broc Cellers Syrah casks before being bottled at 60% ABV.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: On the nose there are fantastic aromas of a nutty Manzanilla sherry intermixed with notes of dried dates, raisins and prunes compote cooked with cinnamon sticks. As the whiskey breaths aromas of dark cherries and chocolate strawberries start to break through.

Palate: On the palate the whiskey is intense with big flavors of cinnamon spice, dried fruit and hazelnuts. With a little water the flavor broadens and opens with more oak notes from the barrel and a touch of milk chocolate.

Finish: The finish lingers with notes of roasted nuts, baked apples and a touch of orange blossom honey.

Conclusion: Redhorse Whiskey is an intense and decadent whiskey that should be sipped over a large ice cube or used to make a fantastic Manhattan. Drinkers who like nutty sherries should search this out and sip judiciously.

Review: Workhorse Rye Palehorse Whiskey

AT A GLANCE

  • Owned by: Workhorse Rye

  • Distilled at: Sutherland Distilling Co. in Livermore, CA

  • Still Type: Hybrid Still

  • Spirit Type: Whiskey distilled from Rye

  • Strength: 55% ABV

  • Price: ~$35 (200ml)

In 2011, Rob Easter founded Workhouse Rye to be a “progressive and sustainable” producer of whiskey and bitters. For the past eight years Easter has operated as an itinerant distiller, renting still time and space from distilleries to ferment, distill, and mature his whiskeys. From 2012-2014, Easter was able to refined his distilling chops at Kings County Distillery in Brooklyn, New York helping to develop their award winning Peated Bourbon. Since 2014, Easter has focused on sourcing most of his grains direct from farmer who are growing non-irrigated heirloom varieties of rye, wheat, corn and barley. Hybridized and GMO grains have been designed to maximize starch production and respond positively to modern farming techniques, (irrigation, fertilizers and pesticides), the consequence however is that these plants has lost a multitude of other compounds that added flavor and depth of character when made into bread or distilled into whiskey. For Easter, he has to use more than 1000 pounds of grain to make one barrel of whiskey, but he believes that despite the lower yield, these grains result in a better spirit that is also less taxing on the environment.

Each expression of Workhorse begins with the same mash bill of 70% west coast rye, 20% malted barley, and 10% malted wheat. The mash is fermented, pot distilled, and then filled in a variety of barrels. US labeling laws for rye whiskey require the spirit to be aged in charred new oak barrels, but because Palehorse matures for a year in used whiskey barrels, it is just labeled whiskey. The used barrels and shorter maturation period also explains why Palehorse has a nice light straw color.

In 2019, Palehorse Whiskey earned a bronze medal from the American Distilling Institute’s Judging of Craft Spirits.

TASTING NOTES

Nose: The aroma is round and inviting like freshly baked bread with a touch of yeastiness and salty air.

Palate: A little heat from the higher ABV but there is an immediate sweetness like biting into a ripe plum that still has a little bit of tannins in the skins.

Finish: The finish lingers with note of malted chocolate, plum skins, stone fruit and a touch buckwheat which slowly evolves and fades into soft notes of oak.

Conclusion: Palehorse Whiskey is very good however, those looking for a powerful rye whiskey like those coming out of Kentucky or Indiana will be disappointed. Palehorse is a delicious dram that should be tried by those who like soft grain forward whiskies like those from the lowlands of Scotland or Japan. Other than drinking neat or with a little water, I would pick delicate cocktails like a short whiskey soda or whiskey sour with fresh lemon juice. Overall, this a very beautiful whiskey.

Review: Shots of Knowledge The Science of Whiskey

Rob Arnold and Eric Simanek, Shots of Knowledge: The Science of Whiskey, (Fort Worth: TCU Press, 2016), 160 pages, $35.00. ISBN: 9780875656540

Rob Arnold and Eric Simanek are the authors of Shots of Knowledge: The Science of Whiskey. Arnold was born in Louisville and is the third generation of his family to be in the whiskey business. He is the head distiller at Firestone & Robertson Distilling Company and a Ph.D. candidate in plant breeding at Texas A&M University. Simanek is the Robert E. Welch Professor of Chemistry, Chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Texas Christian University and the director of the TCU IdeaFactory. Arnold and Simanek divided 58 essays on the science of whiskey into three parts: “From Sunshine to Sugar” describes how water, light and CO2 combine to form the essential structures of various cereal grains. Part 2, “From Wee Beasties to White Dogs,” covers the science of yeast, mashing, fermentation and distillation. And lastly, “From Barrel to Brain” follows the whiskey through maturation to ingestion.

Shots of Knowledge is an excellent coffee-table book for your home or a distillery tasting room. Each of the 58 essays is one page with an accompanying photograph or illustration. In the margins, Arnold and Simanek also include short snippets of information that build on the central theme of each essay. Both authors have significant scientific training to write authoritatively about the chemical and biological processes that convert grain, yeast and water into whiskey. While the essays are very specific about the science involved, they are short enough to not overwhelm. Shots of Knowledge makes a great coffee-table book since each essay stands alone and the illustrations are engaging. Arnold and Simanek have produced a book that will interest both consumers and distillers who want to better understand the science of whiskey.

First appeared in Distiller. (Summer 2017): 167

Review: The Maturation of Distilled Spirits

Hubert Germain-Robin, The Maturation of Distilled Spirits: Vision & Patience (Hayward: White Mule Press, 2016), 146 pages, $35.00. ISBN: 9780996827706

Hubert Germain-Robin comes from a long line of Cognac producers in France. But after years of training in traditional methods of distillation and maturation he moved to California to explore new possibilities. Free of the strict laws and traditions of Cognac, Germain-Robin was able to experiment and take chances in some areas while keeping the most effective traditional methods of making brandy. What resulted were some of the finest American brandies ever produced.

Germain-Robin’s newest book The Maturation of Distilled Spirits: Vision & Patience, is the follow up to Traditional Distillation: Art & Passion. In the new book Germain-Robin walks the reader through the entirety of the maturation process, from the oak that goes into the barrels, cellaring, proofing, blending and bottling the finished spirit all focused on the central theme of vision and patience. However, at 146 pages this book is more akin to a seminar than years of apprenticeship. To fully capture the wealth of knowledge that Germain-Robin learned over his lifetime of work would probably be near impossible, but the purpose of the book is to invite the reader into thinking about the active role the cellar master takes in guiding the maturation of the spirit as it sits in barrels for years or even decades.

The Maturation of Distilled Spirits is a good place to start for any distiller who wants to explore and employ traditional methods of maturation. Each chapter offers a brief explanation of a variety of maturation techniques, some of which are common in Cognac but completely novel for American whiskey. Following the theme of vision and patience, Germain-Robin explains the important role of the cellar master and how their choices and decisions serve both themselves and future generations. While creating a spirit that can age for 70-plus years is an obvious skill, so too is the patience and ability to know when to allow barrels to keep aging, when to transfer them to glass demijohns, and when to blend and bottle these older spirits.

Germain-Robin is a proponent of what some are calling “Slow Distillation,” a movement that looks to encourage the production of great spirits made from high quality ingredients with traditional techniques. U.S. craft distillers can learn much from masters like Germain-Robin and develop new traditions that will allow future generations to reap the benefits of their vision and patience.

Originally published in Distiller (Winter 2016): 151