Masterson

Review: Bib & Tucker Small Batch White Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

ABV
46%
Aging
1 day; Ex-bourbon Casks
Recipe
72% Corn, 15% Malt, 13% Rye
Distiller N/A (USA; Produced by 3 Badge Beverage Corp.)

I was resistant to try this one, as white whiskeys only go so far - but after the president of 3 Badge said he was quite "bullish" on the category, my interest was piqued. Generally, white whiskey - unaged, or, in this case, barely aged - is quite harsh and unpleasant. It really is a category separate from whisky, in my opinion - and white grain spirit or a similar designation would make more sense to me. However, given that 3 Badge makes Masterson's (I love the rye and the barley), I'm always curious to see what else is up their sleeve.

This is matured (perhaps rested is a better description) for 24 hours in once-used Bib & Tucker bourbon barrels after it has been distilled first in a column and then a pot still. White whiskeys are more popular for cocktail uses than straight sipping, so I'll look at some of the recommended cocktails too.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: 001

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2017

There is a lot of corn on the nose, but it doesn’t have the harshness or rawness of most white whiskeys. Sweet, grainy, and spicy – it seems to me that this is designed as a white whiskey, unlike most which are just the initial products before going into the barrel, full of fusel oils which turn into flavorful esters later in the process. Probably the second best white grain distillate, after stalk and barrel’s rye new make. The palate is easy and pleasant, with corn, dill, and a bit of spice and maple on the end – the end is drying, with a touch of coriander seed and clove. Clean, with a light finish. Not bad!

Value: Low (based on $75; yes, Canadian prices - in the US it is about $40USD....)

I must add that the above is a sipping score. This was made to be mixed. How does it fare? It  its own quite well as part of a boulevardier (better than the aged stuff!). Quite nice, in fact.  It also would work quite well as part of an improved whisky cocktail too (an old fashioned with a dash of marascino and absinthe). It makes a particularly nice black manhattan – though I like making a variant with 1 ½ oz bourbon/rye, 1 oz sweet vermouth, and 1 oz amaro. This is similar to their cynarly cocktail on the website, but I didn’t have any cynar to use on it at the moment. I was interested to try their lightning fizz recipe, because I like allspice – that one works a charm, though add 0.5 oz of allspice dram not 5 oz. Whoever put that cocktail together did a brilliant job - the allspice notes pair brilliantly with the nuttiness of the whisky.


Review: Masterson's 10 Year Old Straight Rye Whiskey (Barrel Finished) by Jason Hambrey

ABV
45%
Aging
10 yrs; Matured and Finished in Charred Virgin Oak
Recipe
100% Unmalted Rye
Distiller Alberta (Calgary, Alberta)

This is Masterson's standard 10 year old rye, but finished in new charred virgin oak of different types. Since the base rye of each finish is the same, it really showcasing the effect of different oaks for maturation.

Very broadly, the differences between the oaks is subtle. The American oak is more creamy and sweet, and the "smoothest". But, I think, the least complex, though still very complex. The Hungarian oak is the earthiest, and the most unique and hence interesting. The French is the most complex, and the most "old-world" reminding me of the oaky influences on old world wines and spirits. It is also the most tannic and has tons of dried fruit notes. Interestingly, for the side by side tastings I have done, the American has the best nose, the French the best palate, and the Hungarian the best finish. It's a fascinating side by side, if you ever get the chance....


Review (2017)

  • Batch: PSA3 / American Oak Barrel Finished batch 001

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

The winner of the 2017 Canadian Whisky Awards, a month-long blind judging competition by a jury of 10 judges. The staves for this finish were from Missouri and seasoned (air-dried) for over two years to develop flavor before being crafted into the finishing barrels for this whisky. The wood was largely (80%) tight grain oak. I have two batches above, since I tasted them side by side and the same tasting notes and rating applies to both batches. I thought they were quite consistent.

This whisky is finished in American oak, and, as such, it is a bit different than the regular Mastersons. More woody – broader, but not quite as sharp. We have the best of the creaminess of Masterson’s, but enhanced with a buttery, slightly oaky, and anise laden covering. Some really nice black tea notes too, which emerge beautifully over time. It is different – not as sharp as previous masterson’s, but everything is still there. The palate is woody, with oak, but such a terrific backbone of awe-inspiring rye. Arugula, cinnamon, oak, caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, anise, black tea, and a whole mixed bag of spices and vegetal notes and some sharp medicinal notes characteristic of Alberta rye. Lovely! The finish is full, oaky, creamy, and loaded with rye.

I love the sharpness in batch 1 and 3 of the non-finished whiskies. This isn’t quite there – but whether this is your favorite, or whether the unfinished batches are – will be more up to personal preference than quality. These are all so terrific.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: Hungarian Oak Finish, Batch 001

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Hungarian oak is its own species, quercas petraea also known as Sessile Oak, much like American oak (quercas alba)  – one of the two prominent European oak species (alongside French oak, quercas robor). The trees are from a slow growing region of Hungary, air dired outdoors for two or more years. The folks at 3 Badge, who produce Masterson's, says it contributes a nutty profile to whisky. By the way, Hungary is a beautiful country (I lived there for a few months), so it's interesting to taste a bit of the land, so to speak.

Spicy, with prominent persimmon and earthy Armagnac notes. Oaky. Peach, plum, apricot, and some floral notes also come in on the heavy fruity nose – but still so oaky. Spiced candied citrus rinds, vanilla, earth, cashews, menthol, and sharp candied notes. The palate continues on with the big fruit before a big vanilla-laden oak and very dry finish. Currants, and wine tannins too. The finish is wonderful, with a mix of vegetable, wood, and spinach and arugula notes. Dried mushrooms (chanterelles) too. Once the oak fades, the arugula emerges. Brilliant. Perhaps the most interesting of the finished mastersons.

Amazing the difference between the oaks. Much more spicy, dried fruit, and dry than the American oak finish which is more creamy and light.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average.


Review (2017)

  • Batch: French Oak Finish, Batch 001 (PSF3)

  • Bottling Code: N/A

  • Bottling Date: 2016

Finished in virgin French oak.  Air dried staves for at least 2 years.

Oak, oak, oak, but also currants, arugula, clove, and it still has a spicy, candied set of flavours not seen in the American oak finish (but seen in the Hungarian) – it reminds me very much of spicy cognacs. But, to the rye...Complex - oak, apple, light toffee, unripe pear, arugula, black tea, juniper, black pepper, creamy tropical fruit, fresh orange, and dried corn. The notes continue, more or less, on the palate, with slight astringency. A decent strength of finish - and a good bit of rye. The dried fruit notes fit in so brilliantly with the rye. Brilliant whisky.

Very Highly Recommended (18% of all whiskies I’ve reviewed to date get this recommendation or higher).

Value: Average.


Review: Masterson's 10 Year Old Straight Barley Whiskey by Jason Hambrey

If a 100% rye whisky, or, even more, a 100% wheat whisky are not that common – this, even more so, is perhaps the only of its kind – a 100% unmalted barley whisky. Malt whisky is abundant, and Irish whisky often contains a mix of malted and unmalted barley, but 100% unmalted barley is not common at all. The original spirit was distilled in the beer column still, then re-distilled in a stainless steel pot still (a “batch kettle”).

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