Whiskey Culture Nov/Dec '20

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TABLE OF CONTENTS 01 A letter from the editor

08 Top 10 Whiskies We've Tried This Year

16 Will's Cocktail Corner: Sazerac



Distillery Spotlight: Walk through a Dark Door in Tamp, FL

Restoration Rye Whiskey by Castle & Key



Places To Visit: Maker's Mark Distillery

17 How Seasons Affect The Aging Process

Over & Under: Bulleit Distiller's Select & Larceny

19 Thank You To Our Readers & Our Sponsors

Editor's Note These last few months have been challenging for everyone. But, we've all endured and look to the day where we can bottle share once more.

Welcome to the forth edition of the Whiskey Culture Magazine Thank you all so much for your love and support. It's been a long and winding road these last few months, but we're hopefully coming down the home stretch. We are so excited to announce that since our last edition, we've brought on three sponsors to help us provide you with even better content more regularly. We heavily appreciate the support that you, our readers and fellow whiskey nerds, have shown us. Without you all, this endeavor wouldn't be possible. So, thank you from the bottom of my heart. We've got a budding whiskey community on Facebook growing (click here to join) and we're just shy of growing to 30,000 followers. This has been all because of you and your love for all things whiskey. If we didn't have people reading, there wouldn't be much point in us continuing to write. Cheers,

Greg Sinadinos

Whiskey Culture is a labor of love. Greg started his whiskey journey in Tallahassee, Florida where he tried his first allocated bottle of bourbon on one of his friends' 21st birthday. A multi-month bottle hunt followed, and when he finally found the bottle, his passion for tracking down and trying unique and rare whiskies was born. Today, he lives in Tampa, FL and travels to Kentucky frequently to write about his experiences exploring the culture that surrounds whiskey.

President of Whiskey Culture

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DARK DOOR SPIRITS TAMPA, FL Every distillery has an origin story. Even the monolith, Buffalo Trace, had humble beginnings as a small warehouse seated on a new town on the Kentucky River. Though, it seems as of late, many of those origin stories have been skewed by a haze of misleading marketing and tricky phrases. Many of these companies will try their hardest to mask the humbleness of their own beginnings rather than embrace them in a bid to appear larger than life from the start. But, one distillery we've seen in Tampa, FL peaked our interest and shared our passion for transparency and uniqueness. They decided to do it themselves from the start. A tall order and a difficult challenge to meet, and yet, they've somehow found a way to do it. Maybe its skill with a pinch of luck, or maybe there's more to the "dark door" than just the name? Either way, it's a distillery filled with passionate people with their eyes pointed towards innovation.

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The dark door operation is cozily nestled into a large warehouse with a beautiful built-in store. Everything about the distillery screams intentionality. From the segmentations of the warehouse, to the store, to the offices, to the individuals, Dark Door is positioning itself for growth and to host thirsty whiskey nerds. They've also been working with established brands in the Tampa Bay Area, like Cigar City Brewing, to get their hands on beer barrels and the beer itself to age and distill interesting new experimental concoctions you won't be able to try anywhere else in addition to their regular whiskey selection. This makes it a great location to watch if you, like us, are into experimental and unique expressions.

The distillery itself has a cool vibe to it. Especially at night when they light it up for events, like their cocktail classes. It lends to the mysterious and somewhat macabre theme of the Dark Door brand. Since many of their expressions are "experimental," it gives it a cool, gothic feel that is contrasted by the lively and friendly owners and staff. The juxtaposition makes it feel curated and purposeful without being off-putting. Which is good, since these individuals, each and every one a character, will be enthusiastic guides for you through some of the newer events they will be putting on in the near future.

Dark Door, while focusing on standing out with their spirits, is also focusing on carving a local niche with their community as well, taking up the mantle of providing a various assortment of events and opportunities for those visiting. They are doing cocktail classes currently, where individuals can socially distance while learning to mix their own drinks from resident mixologist, Shane Neukam. They're also in the process of building a "blend your own whiskey" station. Something we thought was a great idea, considering their experimental finishes draw interesting and unique flavors from their products (like the dark cherry truffle of their oatmeal stout finish), it will be a cool and unique way to not only try experimental expressions, but create one of your very own.

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Dark Door's whiskey is made inhouse rather than sourced, which may raise a few eyebrows since they are a younger operation. Dark Door has answered this two ways: transparently and with a plan of action. Dark Door whiskey if nothing else, is honest with their consumers in a big way. Their rye whiskey even says "aged at least one day" on the bottle. They wanted to keep their products in-house, but wanted to produce something enjoyable to drink as well. That left them with a bit of a problem, because, if you've ever had moonshine or white lightning, you know that can be... well... an extremely acquired taste. Their solution was to use an advanced aging system to produce whiskey while their other expressions aged the old fashioned way. They run the whiskey through a cycling machine with charred wood panels that fluctuates temperature and cycle speed to simulate the movement of whiskey through wood during various seasons.

Above Dark Door set up for an evening, RSVP only cocktail class hosted by resident mixologist, Shane Neukam.

It's incredible to see how quickly the whiskey picks up the wood flavor, since most of their whiskies are cycled through for a few days. It also lends some unique flavors to the whiskey not found in traditionally aged barrels. Is it a replacement for traditionally aged whiskey? No, and they don't intend it to be. But, what they've done here is have the vision and drive to create something unique and to create it themselves with their own hands while their other expressions age to maturity, which is incredibly respectable. If you're in Tampa, FL, check out Dark Door Spirits for a taste of the unique and take home a selfblended bourbon to show off your newly acquired blending skills.

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Restoration Rye Whiskey CASTLE & KEY ENTER THE SCENE We visited Castle & Key Distillery in March of this year. The last dregs of winter wind blew over a distillery drenched in history, and now, they come full circle towards towards their whiskey-centric heritage. What is it? It's the historic Castle & Key's very first whiskey release. While their bourbon is still aging, we get a taste of things to come out of the distillery's historic facility. The bottles are over 4 years old, having been bottled in 2016. Castle & Key kept tightlipped on this release until recently, and it reflects the restoration efforts the distillery has painstakingly undertaken to balance innovation with preservation of history and heritage. They are creating a "sensory profile" with each of the batches used to blend their release, each with its own unique profile to create a blended rye with its own flair.

Kentucky Rye Whiskey Mash Bill: - 17% Yellow Corn - 63% Rye - 20% Malted Barley Aged for over 4 years and blended between two batches: Batch 1: 60 Barrels @ 103p Batch 2: 57 Barrels @ 99p But, who is Castle & Key? Why is their distillery considered a historic stop? And why do they have such an incredible focus on history and restoration anyways? Great questions. Let's take a quick walk through the history of this distillery, and discuss why a whiskey release once more after all these years is such a cool thing.

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In 1887, Colonel E.H. Taylor (yes, that E.H. Taylor) built a unique distillery in Millville, Kentucky. The distillery was influenced heavily by European architecture he grew a fondness for while abroad, as opposed to the many American style distillery operations that peppered the Kentucky countryside. People traveled from all around to see this castle placed in the quiet countryside, and there it produced all manner of spirits while the Colonel entertained guests at the Springhouse or in the walkable sunken garden that still are homed here at the Castle & Key distillery.

In 1920, prohibition hit the distillery hard, forcing it to cease production and shut down. It was there, shuttered off to the world until 2012, when Will Arvin fell in love with photos of the distillery and focused on the potential that it held and was more than up to the task of restoring the dilapidated property. And, after teaming up with Wes Murray, they began the arduous task of building a new brand on the legacy their predecessors left behind. In 2014, the restoration work began and soon the distillery was up and running, built from the skeleton of a historic landmark.

Now, the distillery is open to tours for history buffs, and now whiskey lovers, to get their fill. To walk through the same warehouses and halls that Colonel E.H. Taylor must have walked through, and stand in the gardens and springhouse that he entertained at is a really cool feeling. It gives you a sense of scale and taste for some of these prominent figures. Now, the whiskey that is being released lend even more of that historic feel for whiskey enthusiasts that might have loved the history, but been disappointed at the lack of available whiskey. Now, you don't have to choose. You can enjoy both the history itself, and now a pour that is both a symbol of what was, and all the things to come.

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THE TOP 10 WHISKIES WE TRIED THIS YEAR As another year draws to a close, we are taking a look back at all the good things we got to try this year. While we wouldn't go so far as to say this is a definitive list of the best whiskies available, we tried well over 100 different pours this year, and this is a list of the ones that really stuck with us and kept us wishing we had another pour.

1) Michter's 20 Year Bourbon Looking back on this pour, it has to absolutely be one of my favorite pours I've ever tried. The bottle will set you back $700 if you're lucky enough to find it around retail (and several thousand most places). It highlights all the beautiful flavors Michter's is known for and then cranks it up to 11. The pour is beautifully woody, but not too charred. It's balanced between a rich and dry toasted note and caramelized wood sugar. Pair that with a beautiful vanilla bean ice cream note and finished with dry wood and rich caramel butterscotch. Special thanks to Silver Dollar for making one of my dream pours happen!

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2) Weller Full Proof SB Another pour had at The Silver Dollar in Louisville, Ky that had our mouth watering was their Weller Full Proof Single Barrel. While I like Weller, this pick was a cut above the rest. Weller Full Proof comes in at 114, and while it doesn't necessarily drink under the proof, the pour is smooth and full of flavor. Vanilla and cinnamon sugar give an initial burst of sweetness before it mellows into more robust caramel, oak, and leather. You can taste the density of the wood sugar, as this pour coats your mouth and leaves a long and balanced finish on the tongue.

3) Willett Family Estate Bourbon Willett was founded in 1936, and their family estate upper-shelf releases reflect that history both in taste and appearance. The Family Estate bottle we had clocked in at just 127.6 proof and, again, while it was as hot as one might expect, it wasn't harsh and that proof carried some beautiful flavor with it. It was the "Center Point" pick that has gained some traction with Willett Bourbon fans countrywide. The pour has legs, and coats your mouth as you pick through a salvo of flavors. Candied orange peel, vanilla spice, red hots, dried oak, caramel, and honey carry you through the heat and give you a palate of flavors to enjoy with every sip.

4) Michter's Barrel Strength Bourbon Michter's does something unique with their whiskey. They enter the whiskey with some water at a lower proof to alter the way in which the whiskey interacts with the wood. The limited release Barrel Strength bourbon takes all the flavors you love with Michter's, but, though the proof is higher, it doesn't drink much hotter than their regular bourbon, though the sweet flavors are more prominent. It's an absolute flavor bomb with notes of spiced vanilla, caramel cream, and dried cherry hitting you in a wave before fading into the familiar toasted oak dry finish we've come to expect.

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5) Blaum Bros. Oldfangled Knotter Bourbon Blaum has picked up some traction as of late, and after trying it for myself, I can see why. It's 12 years of hot and oily deliciousness. It's got a creamy mouthfeel and with the heat comes tons of flavor. Very rye spice forward for a bourbon will entice rye lovers without being off-putting for bourbon lovers. The rye note stays through the pour, but opens up to bring delicious notes of winter spice, allspice, roasted oak, charred caramel, spiced vanilla, dried orange peel, and dark cherries.

6) Michter's Toasted Barrel Rye Michter's Toasted Barrel is something special. It's a pour people have gone pretty bonkers over, and for good reason. The toasted barrel rye is full-bodied and balanced. Notes of rye spice, dry roasted oak, and cinnamon spice hit on the front before fading into deep charred maple, pine wood sugars, black currant, and caramel candies. The pour is worth the price of admission at less than $100 for the bottle.

7) Blanton's Straight From The Barrel Blanton's is good. Don't get me wrong. But the craze for it has gotten out of hand. That being said, the straight from the barrel expression is hot, delicious, and not for the feint of heart. Though, behind the heat lies a crazy amount of flavor that makes regular Blanton's seem like the shell of what it could be at a higher proof. Tons of dry and spiced oak hit you off the bat, followed by charred butterscotch, vanilla, and torched sugar. While the MSRP is just under $100, it's not yet available in the US save for a single special release.

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8) Weller 107 NCF Store Pick Weller 107 is a widely loved pour, and the single barrels are particularly delicious. There are two types of single barrels. The first is the traditional chill filtered, and the second is more rare and labeled "NCF" which stands for "non-chill filtered." The NCF is the more sought after as Weller enthusiasts swear by the NCF. And, while this is the first NCF I've tried, it's also the best pick I've tried. That could just be pure random chance, or there could be something to it. It drinks below 100 proof and is full of caramel, vanilla, malty wheat, tobacco, allspice, and toasty oak make it a great pour.

9) Blanton's Single Barrel Blanton's twice on one list?! I know, half of you are rolling your eyes and half of you are stoked. However, hear me out on this one. I've had a lot of Blanton's in my time reviewing, and many of those have been barrel picks. But, this was the best Blanton's barrel pick I've ever had. Picked by Davidoff of Geneva in Tampa, FL, this single barrel drinks incredibly smooth. The palate was full of thick caramel cream, rose water, light tobacco leaf, dried oak, and baking spice.

10) Four Roses Small Batch Select Four Roses added the small batch select to their line of whiskies in five states in 2019. This expanded to another thirteen states in 2020. The small batch select has a lot of flavor for a price tag under sixty-dollars and it's probably the most available pour on this list by a wide margin. Dark chocolate truffle, cinnamon, clove, raw honey, Maduro tobacco, and dried orange peel give this bourbon a very easy-to-drink sweetness that would be great to pair with a more robust cigar or to have as an after-dinner drink.

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MAKER'S MARK Loretto, KY Maker's Mark is a household name, and a staple for bars and enthusiasts looking to have an affordable, yet solid, bourbon pick on their shelves. However, Maker's Mark has earned their claim to the limited shelf-space enthusiasts the world over carefully ration for bottles that meet their often lofty standards. Maker's Mark's saga began in 1953 with sixth-generation distiller Bill Samuels, Sr. trying to replicate his family's 170year-old recipe. However, after a fire burned both the recipe and his drapes while experimenting, he had to try and make something all his own. While he was in the planning phase of opening his own distillery, time and resources were limited.

The distiller put together seven potential mash bills, and baked them into bread loaves and judged which mash bill to use based on the taste of the bread rather than waiting years for each to age and sample. The recipe with no rye was judged the best tasting, and thus was born the base of what we now enjoy as Maker's Mark. Their signature mash is 70% corn, 16% red winter wheat, and 14% malted barley. This use of wheat and lack of rye made the pour more mellow, which exactly what Bill Samuels, Sr. set out to do. He famously said "give me a bourbon that won't blow my ears off." He purchased "Burk's Distillery" on October 1, 1953 and went to work.

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Their iconic bottle developed by Bill's wife Margie Samuels. A University of Louisville graduate and the first woman in the distillation industry to ever be inducted into the Kentucky Bourbon Hall of Fame. She believed what her husband had developed was unique, and decided she wanted the bottles to reflect that. From the hand-inked labels, to the shape of the bottle and signature red wax, Margie developed image of Maker's Mark that remains to this day. It was said that the first bottle of Maker's Mark someone bought was because of the bottle Margie developed, and the second was because of what Bill put in the bottle.

The distillery name and "SIV" that has become the logo of Maker's Mark was also developed by Margie. She was inspired by the stamp that pewter whitesmiths would put on their best work, much like a signature for highend craftsman, that was called a "Maker's Mark." As for the "SIV" logo that has become a fixture of the brand, Margie started with a star that commemorated the Star Hill Farm where her family lived. The "S" in the logo stands for Samuels, an immortal commemoration of what she and her husband had built. The IV came from her husband's status as a fourth generation distiller (it wasn't until years later they discovered he was actually a sixth generation distiller).

The distillery was given the same attention as the whiskey, having been created for all to come, walk the grounds, and feel at home while sampling their whiskey. The walk between the buildings in the fall, bordered by trees and plants filled with varied swaths of color, makes for a beautiful backdrop and a photo-worthy destination. Margie even made her husband bill formally agree that for every dollar that went into the bourbon, another would go into the restoration and renovation of the distillery grounds. Nov/Dec '20 | 13

When Bill Samuels Jr. took over the distillery for his father and mother in 1975, they gave him one piece of sage advice: "don't screw up the whiskey." Under his leadership, Maker's Mark developed an in-depth tour, diving into the history of Maker's Mark, as well as the Maker's Mark ambassador program which allows whiskey enthusiasts to follow the process by tracking their very own barrel of Maker's as it goes from mash to bottle. He also was responsible for leaving his own mark on the distillery's history by creating Makers 46. It was the first innovation to the whiskey in over 50 years. Since then, there are now multiple bottles, proofs, and single barrel blends that offer limitless enjoyment.

The trail that shoots through the grounds and into the rickhouses are full of art installations and made to feel a blend of innovation, history, art, and science. It's quite the cool fusion that seems to create a consistent theme the whole time you're there. Even the new tasting rooms, while angular and modern, have a rustic feel to them that enhances the experience. While seeing the historic side of things is great, so are innovation and creature comfort. With Maker's hosting more whiskey enthusiasts than ever, it's nice to know they take the time and make the effort to create a comfortable and curated experience for their guests.

As per all great rides, Maker's has you exit into the gift shop where you can find all manner of Maker's swag to decorate you home bar or fill your drinkware cabinets. You can also try your own hand at dipping a bottle. We had a blast doing it, and you get to take home a drinkable part of the experience. We have to warn you though, it hurts your soul a little to crack open the wax and start pouring it. It took us a minute or so to rip it off because we were so happy having dipped our own bottle. Nov/Dec '20 | 14

Bulleit Bourbon Blender's Select is a new addition to their line, but capitalizes on their signature bourbon profile in so many ways. Dried cherry, medium tobacco, and spiced caramel are heavy in the palate before finishing on a toasty oak note with undertones of black currant. The bottle is only available in select markets, but it's definitely worth picking up if you have the opportunity. The bottle itself will only set you back around $50-55 for the pour.


UNDER Review

$50 Larceny is a great pour at a very affordable price. The bottle will only set you back around $25-30 and is a solid pick for those looking to stock their bottom shelf with some tasty options or find themselves a much easier to come by daily drinker. The nose has a nice profile of earthy wheat, spices, fruity sweetness, and a heat-dried pine aroma. The palate does a lot of the same, balancing a myriad of flavors so as to not pull in one direction too fully, though it does seem to flavor a spiced and savory profile slightly. The finish is classic, bringing out most of the char and singed sweets flavors you’re most likely used to from your mid-shelf bourbons.

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SAZERAC Recipe & Photo By: Will Taylor (Nashville, TN)

If you're looking for a drinkable piece of history, the Sazerac won't disappoint. This version by Will Taylor of Nashville has us coming back for more. The Sazerac cocktail came out of New Orleans in the late 1800s, when saloons were lining the street pretending to be coffee houses to avoid licensure. This cocktail was originally made with Cognac, but when the phylloxera outbreak that devastated the European crops, making Cognac hard to come by for a while. A quick substitute of Cognac for rye by Thomas Handy, and America had it's first cocktail around the 1870s.

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Ingredients: 2 oz rye whiskey 1/2 oz simple syrup 3 dashes Peychaud's bitters 1/2 oz absinthe 1 lemon peel 1. Fill and old fashioned glass with ice water and let it chill. 2. Combine simple syrup, bitters, and rye whiskey in a tall mixing glass. 3. Fill with ice and stir for 30 seconds. 4. Remove ice water from old fashioned glass and add swirl absinthe in glass, then dump out excess absinthe. 5. Strain the cocktail from the mixing glass into the chilled old fashioned glass. 6. Squeeze lemon peel over glass to release oils and then rub the rim of the glass with the lemon before dropping it in.

The Sazerac is America's first cocktail. Dating back to Thomas Handy in 1870 New Orleans.

"The Sazerac is a classic. As America's first official cocktail, it's a drinkable part of our history." - Will Taylor



Contrary to popular belief, bourbon can be made anywhere in the country. However, the vast majority of bourbon is made smack-dab in the middle of the country's median line, which happens to be Kentucky. Why? We understand historically why Kentucky made sense. Cheap land, good soil, great water, but today we have the technology to transport or mimic that. So, why do we still make the majority of our top-end whiskey in Kentucky? In short, it's the seasons that Kentucky has, and the wide range of temperatures that make it an ideal place to age whiskey. The Changing of The Seasons Kentucky has an incredibly diverse climate. The summers are hot, hitting an average of 87 degrees in the summer, and plummeting to an average winter temperature of 35 degrees. Why would this be significant? Simply put, the way that the whiskey interacts with the barrels it is aging in. NOMADIC



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How Aging Works When temperatures get hot, the pores in the wood expand and soak up the whiskey into the actual wood of the barrels. That's why whiskey wood retains such a distinctive whiskey aroma long after the barrel has been dumped. Alternatively, when the temperature drops, the wood contracts and shrinks, causing the whiskey stored in the wood to slowly push back out into the barrel. What that does for the whiskey, is allows the whiskey to pierce the wood, interact and break down wood sugars while taking on desirable characteristics and flavors from the wood, including the classic amber color we've come to love. That's what makes Kentucky such an ideal place to age their whiskey. The extreme changes in temperatures that Kentucky experiences throughout their year allows the wood to breathe regularly and dramatically throughout the year, meaning the whiskey can penetrate more deeply into the wood at the summer highs, and be more completely returned to the barrel during the lows of winter. This is why the vast majority of whiskey is aged in Kentucky, even if it is distilled somewhere else.

"You need hot summers and cold winters so the wood can breathe and the whiskey can move in and out of it." - Master Distiller For Wild Turkey Jimmy Russell Whiskey Around The World Though many of these whiskies are aged in Kentucky, there has been a recent surge of whiskey both made and aged in a variety of climates around the globe. While many look to Kentucky or Tennessee for some of their favorite pours, many others have become more accepting of the variations that come from other areas as well. Minute variations in temperature, altitude, or even the chemical composition of the air and the trace minerals it carries can drastically affect the whiskey that is dumped from the barrels. Each different local creates something entirely new. Even the well-known Jefferson's whiskey has a product aged at sea!

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Davidoff of Geneva Tampa, FL

Dark Door Spirits Tampa, FL

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