Distillery Spotlight – NJoy Distillery

Guys, this distillery spotlight is long overdue. NJoy distillery was one of our earliest stops in our blog, and they produce a unique and very enjoyable bottle of whiskey. They were in the midst of renovating their distillery and we lost contact for a while. However, it’s their time to shine in the spotlight, and rightfully so!

Nat and Kev started N Joy distillery in the heart of the Weeki Wachee wildlife preserve. When we went, it was a scenic drive through a maze of plant and wildlife that was quite unlike anything we’ve ever experienced on our trips. Our choice of travel vehicle wasn’t exactly “ideal” as this drive is one down dirt roads and through rolling wilderness hearkening back to the days of moonshine distilleries hiding deep in relatively untraveled territory.

The final stretch of sugar sand road led up to the gate that encapsulates the property on which NJoy was founded. There we had our first meeting with two incredible individuals who followed a passion for a naturalistic lifestyle. One of living off the land. One of raising animals and growing wheat and sugarcane in a unique environment, and then turning it into whiskey and rum to share with the rest of us.

Nat and Kevin achieved what many of us daydream about. Recapturing the self sufficiency of the American frontier. A complete detox from the “bigger is better” race that has so many companies striving to visually impress their customers with flashy technology and polished architecture.

They have truly embraced the ruralism of traditional whiskey distillation in a way that closely echoes how it would have been made over a century ago, when land was still unclaimed and distillation was at the mercy of nature. Their distillery is equipped with free roaming animals outside the fields and adorably rugged and picturesque distillery dogs that help deal with the coyotes.

However, they are quite humble about their operation here. Our time with them was spent walking through fields of wheat and sugar cane which is all farmed on site, and crouching down and running our fingers through the dirt as they explained the unique properties the air and sand in the middle of the preserve lend their “Wild Buck” whiskey and their “Mermaid” rum.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with Weeki Wachee, it is somewhat of an attraction in Florida. It’s heavily protected ecosystems include countryside, forests, preserves, rivers filled with matinees, and a direct pass into the Gulf of Mexico, making it a truly unique and diverse place to be. It’s also Florida’s home of the mermaid. So much so that it’s on almost all advertising for the city. There have been “mermaid” entertainment shows that have been drawing crowds since 1947. Hence the names “wild buck” whiskey and “mermaid” rum.

The whiskey itself is as unique as the distillery. There is something about this whiskey. Whether it’s the natural salt content of the earth being so close to the Gulf or something else entirely, this whiskey isn’t quite like anything we’ve ever experienced. It’s truly old school in a great sense of the word. It’s a 100% rye whiskey, and every last piece of milled rye wheat comes directly from the fields less than 20 yards away from the old fashioned copper still and re-purposed barn they distill their spirits in.

Where many whiskey drinkers identify rye with a spicy heat, something about this whiskey is completely different. It drinks smooth at 100 proof, and you can taste the literal definition of the word “earthiness.” It knows what it is. It’s unapologetic in its directness. And, it is absolutely worth a try if you’re looking for something incredibly unique.

Thanks again to Nat and Kevin for letting us tour their distillery and for being so passionate about what they produce.

What Does “Bottled In Bond” Mean?

America’s history is closely mirrored in the history of our native spirit, Bourbon. It’s a story of triumph and defeat, relentlessness and fortitude, enterprise and regulation. One such regulation was the Bottled In Bond act of 1897.

Speaking of enterprise, people have been profiting off of the spirits industry for much of our recorded history. It was the seeking of profit by companies in the mid 1800’s that created the whiskey conundrum that let to the passing of this act. In the mid 1800’s, the whiskey market was booming and it seemed like distilleries couldn’t produce enough for thirsty Americans to consume. This is when some got the idea of capitalizing on the whiskey craze by selling whiskey that wasn’t quite… well… whiskey.

Many of these companies decided to purchase grain spirits in massive discounted bulk orders. They would then dump these grain spirits into large vats and mix in flavoring and coloring agents to make something that resembled the delicious amber whiskey people knew and loved. However, as time went on and companies sought to increase their profits, they began to get more bold with their operations. Some would source potentially dangerously produced grain spirits from less than reputable sources, while others began using cheaper additives to further reduce their cost of production. Many of these companies would put completely false advertising statements or use phrases to indicate quality to unwitting consumers. Some companies even led to poisoning customers and then packing up shop and vanishing overnight, only to reopen under a different name weeks later.

Many quality whiskey producers came together to protest the damage these companies were doing to their industry and the trust they had worked for decades to distill into their consumers. Colonel E.H. Taylor (yes, that E.H. Taylor) and other whiskey producers banded together to fight for the US government to enact safety and quality standards for whiskey. The fight lasted until a decision was reached in favor of those fighting for accountability, and the Bottled in Bond Act of 1897 was passed.

The Bottled in Bond Act required companies to adhere to a strict standard of distillation practices.
• It must be the product of a single distillation season by a single distiller at a single distillery
• It must be stored and bottled in a bonded warehouse under US governmental supervision for no less than 4 years
• It does not allow the removal or addition of material to alter the substance in any way from the original product (except water to proof)
• It must be bottled at 100 proof
• It must have the green Bottled in Bond label placed over the cork
• It must indicate name and location of the distillery, and indicate how much spirits are in the bottle.

This was the first real consumer protection law put into place, even predating the Food and Drug Administration. Consumers were able to look for whiskey that donned the bottled in bond label and be confident in the quality and purity of the whiskey they drank. It was a large step for companies being held accountable for the products they produced and the safety of those who used them.

Today, we see a large number of whiskey companies releasing bottled in bond expressions that are produced under the same regulations the bottled in bond act set over 100 years ago. These bottles are a piece of drinkable whiskey history. Customers can still rest assured today of a certain quality standard set forth by these bottled in bond releases in terms of their production, aging, and purity of the spirit within the bottle.

Whiskey Culture – 2020 and Beyond

Hey everyone! We are here to thank you all for being a valuable member of our culture, recap our 2019, and discuss the new directions Whiskey Culture is taking in this new decade. You’ve spoken, we’ve listened.

Our 2019 was huge.
– We made our first trips up to Kentucky. There we grew relationships with distilleries and met amazing people that continue to be advocates for what we’re trying to do (shout out to Vicky and Whiskey Jean). We have a schedule for this upcoming year to continue traveling to the land from which the bourbon flows to bring even more content.
– We started a closed Facebook group in the fourth quarter of the year and already have around 1,100 members sharing their love of whiskey with each other daily (which you are more than welcome to join.
– We grew nearly 50% in likes and engagement, meaning we’re on the right track in bringing you all content you actually enjoy. However, as always, we want to do more.

That is why we have planned to step it up this year.

One of the most requested things in 2019 was that we begin a podcast. You all requested we keep them short and to the point. We already have our first 15 podcasts recorded, edited, and scheduled. The first one is a quick review of New Riff Single Barrel. It is a quick 2 minute review, but we’re getting the hang of it and ask that you all subscribe and stick with it while we get our bearings. You can find the podcast here.

We have also partnered with an company in California, Keg N Bottle, to meet the second most requested new addition to our blog. We will be offering our very own Whiskey Culture Barrel Picks you can order from their website. They’ll be offering WC followers a special price just for supporting the blog! This means you’ll be able to order bottles specifically from barrels that we’ve selected, meaning you can have your very own piece of Whiskey Culture to drink for yourself!

In addition to these awesome additions to our blog, we’ll be focusing on producing more content, and more interviews with those in the industry, and those who just love drinking whiskey like yourselves! We think this will provide more diversity in our content offerings and some more relatable material for your enjoyment.

Another one of the biggest things that we’ve seen, is people wondering how they can support the blog. We appreciate you all so much! It’s not inexpensive running a blog that’s gotten to the size we have. We are having to host the site, pay for the software for the new podcasts, travel, and purchase some of the bottles requested by our followers for review. We have set up a Patreon page that we have just launched. However, with your support comes additional perks! You’ll get access to more content, exclusive swag, bigger and badder giveaways, magazine subscriptions, free bottles, priority ordering for our barrel picks, and even opportunities to be featured on the blog or help us pick our next barrel!

As always, thank you so much for being a member of our culture. You all make this endeavor so worthwhile. Thank you for your continued support, and we hope these new additions to the blog bring you plenty to read over a nice pour of your favorite daily drinker.

New “Single Barrel” Label Filed With TTB

Sazerac company has filed a new single barrel label which has been approved and appears on the TTB website.

According to the filing, the single barrel expressions will be bottled at a middle-of-the-road 97 proof. This proof is a middle-ground between the Special Reserve’s 90 proof and the 107’s proof.

Weller’s Full Proof, which weighs in at 117, has captured the hearts of barrel strength fans everywhere. However, the CYPB release that was created and voted on by fans of the brand proofed in at 95.

Now, the Weller single barrel gives a nice round to the portfolio giving bourbon drinkers Weller expressions at 90, 95, 97, 107, and 117 proof.

It’s worth noting that some stores are capable of getting single barrels from Weller currently, however those are few and far in-between and this release is most likely a way for Weller to capitalize on those looking for unique expressions and flavors with a base they know and love.

Though the label has been filed we don’t know much more. The distillery should update us shortly as to their plans with the label.

Michter’s Toasted Barrel Rye

  • Distiller: Michter’s
  • Spirit: Straight Rye Whiskey
  • Aged: Unstated
  • Proof: 108.8
  • Purchase Price: $89.99

From the Distiller: “While our Michter’s team distills according to tried and true Kentucky practices, it continually experiments as it pursues Michter’s goal of making the greatest American whiskeys. Following years of research on different barrel finishes for Rye whiskey, we are proud to offer this release of our Michter’s US1 Toasted Barrel Rye. To make it we take our US1 Kentucky Straight Rye at barrel strength and then age it for an additional period in a second custom barrel. This second barrel is assembled from 24 month air-dried wood and then toasted to our specifications. The result is a unique Rye whiskey that we take pride in offering to you.”

Distillery Spotlight – Maker’s Mark

Turning into Maker’s Mark to visit the distillery is a spoiler for things to come. Beautiful scenery, a “by the bootstrap” feel of the land, and a sense of impending history. It’s a feeling of beauty and purpose that is echoed from your first steps onto the property throughout the rest of the tour.

The visitor center is a short walk from the parking lot. It’s a white sun room at the end of a round cobblestone courtyard. In the center of the modern room lies a large copper pot still. It’s a nice prelude to the tour which highlighted Maker’s Mark’s innovation without sacrificing their heritage.

For those of you who are ambassadors, let them know. They will give you a dated pin for you to wear that is a nice souvenir and tip-of-the-hat to those who support their brand. It wasn’t much, but it was strangely meaningful to have a company as large as Maker’s do something thoughtful and appreciative for it’s volunteer ambassadors.

The campus itself was beautiful and spacious. Large historic buildings pepper immaculate greens and stone walkways. The guide was incredibly passionate about the distillery, which made for a nice and informative walk full of fun facts and insights into the day-to-day workings of the distillery.

The distillery itself is a gorgeous building with slotted metal gates rather than traditional doors we’ve seen at other distilleries. This allows the air to mix with the mash fermenting and lends a signature flavor that they believe is the stamp of the Maker’s brand. Which, is poetically true. Even their water is sourced on-property. They were happy to share that no drop of Maker’s Mark comes from imported water, it’s all from their on-site fresh-water spring. Since water is such a huge part of the distillation process, it means that no other brand can truly be a Maker’s clone. They also do almost everything in-house. From printing their labels on old-fashioned printers, to dipping the bottles, the majority of the process is done by hand to preserve the processes on which the distillery was built.

The building itself is a beautiful grey with “Michter’s red” shutters. It overlooks a small stream that runs throughout the distillery grounds.

The rick houses are beautiful and laced with different local artwork collections throughout the year. This adds another nice modern twist to an otherwise historic site, and highlights the evolving culture surrounding the distillery. It gives a nice flavor of generational fusion rather than divide.

The end of the tour takes you through the bottling room and into the barreling room. They take you into a more modern rick house designed for events with a large art display front and center. They told us that this is every barrel of Maker’s Mark 46 in the world in that single room. Neat.

They then take you to a beautiful and modern tasting room and give a nice presentation. One of the nifty things was that Maker’s has 100% of their products available for tasting. We got traditional Maker’s, Cask Strength, 101 (only available at the distillery), their private select (which happened to be RC6), and Maker’s 46.

Each of these different expressions have unique character and flavor that was highlighted well by our guide. I was quite partial to the cask strength and the private select.

The nice thing is that, if you enjoyed the tasting, all five of these products were readily available in the gift shop where you can also dip your own bottle of Maker’s (which we totally nailed).

Overall, it was a very fun experience and we would highly recommend you make this a stop on the tour if you love history, innovation, pride, passion, and beautiful scenery.

2019 Whiskey Gift Guide – 6 under $60 You Can Actually Find

Shopping for people on the holidays can be a stressful experience. How do you find out what to get your loved one for the holidays without tipping them off? Well, if you’re currently reading this article, we think you know whiskey is a pretty safe option. A lot of these whiskey gift guides have been full of great pours, but, unfortunately, ones you’d be really hard pressed to actually find on a local shelf. We figured you’d take a different approach.

Below you’ll find 6 whiskies under $60 you should be able to find on your local liquor shelf with a little bit of searching in no particular order.

Michter’s American Unblended Whiskey

Michter’s American Unblended Whiskey is a product from an incredible company with a unique approach to the whiskey game. They are incredibly proud of their product.

They bottle their whiskey at a lower proof with more water to work through the wood of their barrels. This means they lower the yield of their barrels specifically to give their customer quality over quantity.

This particular bottle is pulled right when their master distiller believes the barrel to be practically perfect in every way. For an average price of $42.99, it makes a great stocking-stuffer.

Evan Williams Single Barrel

Evan Williams opened in Kentucky on the banks of the Ohio River in 1783. To this day, they are a key producer of Whiskey. Their Single Barrel release is a monument to the fact that quality doesn’t always mean an empty wallet.

For around $25, you’ll get a nice bite full of caramel, baking spices, dried orange, apple, honey, and toasted oak.

We think that, for the price, this is definitely a bottle you’ll want your loved one to have on the shelf. If for no other reason than for you to sneak a taste for yourself every now and again.

Maker’s Cask Strength

Maker’s Mark is truly a unique producer of whiskey. They are one of the last bastions of the “do-it-yourself” American frontier. They still dip each of their bottles by hand, use 100+ year old printing presses to make their labels, and own the spring from which every drop of their water is sourced. There’s a lot of pride and heritage that comes behind each of their bottles.

This bourbon is not for the feint of heart, clocking in at 110+ proof (though we usually like them hot). However, with that pour comes a lovely bouquet of flavors. Sweet, savory, and spicy are the name of the game with this straight bourbon whiskey.

This bottle will only run you around $54, which we think is a solid price for a solid and tasty pour.

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit

Traced all the way back to 1869, Wild Turkey’s distillery is absolutely drop-dead beautiful. The scenery is incredible, and their visitor center stands as a monument to the pride they put behind their products.

Wild Turkey Kentucky Spirit Single Barrel is one of those products that is a distillation of that pride and heritage.

This single barrel expression of Wild Turkey is the priciest of the selections we have on the list, coming in at an average price of $58.99. However, you’re getting a good and solid pour. Single barrels fluctuate in flavor profile from barrel to barrel, but we’ve found most pours to have great notes of vanilla and almond.

Four Roses Single Barrel

Four roses is a great distillery with a great heritage. Sales started in the mid 1960s, and were eventually moved overseas to capture the market outside the US as the world’s taste for bourbon grew. It was eventually brought back in the late 1900s for our consumption.

The four roses single barrel is a wonderful staple for any bourbon lover’s collection. Coming in at 100 proof, this pour is a nice and delicate balance between the bold heat of a well-proofed pour, and subtle and mellow flavors that lie sweet on the palate.

This pour will only run you about $31 a bottle.

Eagle Rare

This was a tough pick for us considering the name of the blog. However, outside of major metropolitan areas, we’ve found it’s not an incredibly hard bottle to come by. If you know a collector, they most likely have a few bottles they’d be willing to part with at cost.

Eagle Rare is a well known and well loved bourbon from the Buffalo Trace line. They are a company legendary for their bourbon and also for how difficult and exclusive many of their products are. However, Eagle Rare seems to be one of the easier ones to find after their main Buffalo Trace bourbon.

Any collector would be tickled pink to receive a bottle of Eagle Rare to display on their shelf. If you can find it or pull a string or two, this bourbon should only run you around $35.

Jim Beam Airbnb Promo Leaves Fans Scratching Their Heads

It had all the makings of an incredible promotional move by Jim Beam. A one night stay on the beam property. With it, all you can drink bourbon and a distillery tour. All of this, at the low price of $23, the same price as their Jim Beam black label. It was enough to make any bourbon lover ripe with desire.

However, the promotion left some scratching their heads.

The promotion was received with widespread interest, yet the distillery only gave two nights worth of availability for the rest of the year. The launch was supposed to be today, October 21st. However, it seems no one has stepped forth to claim that they have won what was supposed to be a mad dash to book the property.

Many users reported their furiously mashing the refresh button on Airbnb to try and score one of the two available nights, but were met with no availability and shortly after midnight an error message appeared stating that the listing is “no longer available.” At the time of this writing, we can confirm the error message. The listing still appears in the app but not online via computer.

The last tweet about it from Jim Beam was on October 15th, citing an article from travel and leisure which was covering their promotion.

We’re not exactly sure what has happened with the launch, but at the time of this article, there is no word or response from Jim Beam as to the status of their promotion, who won, or why the listing has been removed.

1792 Full Proof Wins “World Whiskey of The Year”

With the release of the new 2020 Whiskey Bible, in a controversial upset, the recent release of 1792 Full Proof by Sazerac Co. has taken the spot as the world’s top whiskey. It beat out William Larue Weller, which took the second spot; and Thomas Handy Sazerac Rye, which secured third.

Sazerac has a lot to be proud of with their recent successes and critical acclaim in the bourbon market. However, while the full proof has been well-received, it also hasn’t come without its critics. Scoring as low as 2/5 from many reviewers who weren’t thrilled with the overall experience, yet still scored a 97.5/100 in the Whiskey Bible.

1792 Full Proof Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey.

The entry was dripping with praise, stating: “You can only sit, eyes closed, in awe. This is a delivery of perfection: intense, seemingly no prisoners. Yet, actually, you find it has the grace to allow every character to make a speech of great erudition, ultimately a discourse of how so many facets can be singular yet together make for such glorious integration. On this evidence, Buffalo Trace has a threat to its world supremacy – from a rival distillery…they own! This is a whiskey of stand out, almost stand-alone beauty. Finding fault is not easy with something this intense and magnificently rich.”

It is also a milestone for Sazerac company, as this is the first time a single company has claimed all three top awards in a single release of Whiskey Bible.

Michter’s Distillery Spotlight

Every now and again comes along a distillery that got it right. Everything. The whiskey, the atmosphere, the marketing, the brand, and the culture. One that sets itself apart by pride in its product’s quality.

Michter’s is one such distillery.

Immediately upon walking in, you can smell the mash tanks fermenting. The open air design and the bright wooden furnishings go nicely against the brick. It’s a nice combination of old and new that show Michter’s appreciation of heritage while they move towards their future.

Originally known as Shenk’s, and founded by John Shenk in 1753, Michter’s has a long and rich history backing them.

Michter’s has spent a lot of time honing their craft. They know how each of their barrels will interact with their whiskey. They use unique charring methods along with multiple exposures to different levels of barrel toasting to create the exact flavor profile they are looking to produce. It’s not guesswork or something they are looking to experiment with. At this point, it’s a well-known and calculated science. One they are more than happy to share with those who visit their beautiful distillery.

They have a very informative display on how the water system in Kentucky works. They believe in only working with the highest quality ingredients. This is why they focus so intensely on making sure each of these factors is highlighted when you visit, so you can see the care they take and the pride they have in each step of the process.

One of the more unique things we discovered, is that Michter’s knowingly short-changes themselves on the amount of whiskey they get per barrel. There is actually a very cool reason for why they do this. They barrel their whiskey at 103 proof. The reason they do this, is that they want the higher ratio of water to whiskey already in the barrel so that the water itself works through the wood and allows chemical processes to take place without the need to water it down afterwords like many companies do. They believe it makes for a more consistent, balanced, and full flavor.

The tasting they provided us was incredible. Each of their products has a uniqueness that has to be experienced. Their understanding of flavor profiles and proof is incredible. We got to experience a wide variety of different bottle picks. Where we have found many of limited release bottles to be overhyped by companies, and marketing gimmicks rampant to increase sales price of limited release bottles, Michter’s products are able to produce something worthwhile and worth the cost.

We thoroughly enjoyed our time at Michter’s learning about the innovative ways they distill their whiskey. We felt the passion and pride behind their bottles. And we saw the history that has shaped their process. If you are ever in Kentucky, we heavily recommend stopping by Michter’s and experiencing their truly beautiful distillery firsthand.