PDA

View Full Version : What Is Sam Houston Straight Whiskey?



cowdery
09-07-2012, 19:24
Someone asked me about this so I poked around a little, including on the now-closed thread we had going about it last year. It's classified as 'straight whiskey,' which is a classification you rarely see, and assuming the increasingly dubious proposition that TTB applied the rules correctly, that means it's probably a mixture of straight whiskeys of different types.

The producer (Western Spirits/Three Springs in Bowling Green) says it contains bourbon so my new theory is that it's a mixture of bourbon and straight corn, which would have been aged in used barrels. It's probably also barely straight, meaning two years and a day. Of course, any mixture of straights is a straight, but no other mixture gives you any real advantage. A mixture that is mostly straight corn lets you call something straight that's mostly aged in much cheaper used barrels. I know the brand's web site says it's aged in new, charred barrels but, of course, the bourbon component would have to be. And web site content isn't monitored by TTB.

Knowing the opportunistic nature of that company's business model, that would be a clever thing to do with some young bourbon and corn, both of which they could have gotten from Heaven Hill, but others as well. HH is the only major that makes and sells straight corn but other people make it for use in their blends, and blends are most of what Western Spirits/Three Springs makes in terms of whiskey. We also know HH makes straight (i.e., aged) corn, because their 'Mellow Corn' is a BIB.

Likely impossible to confirm, of course, but what do you think of the theory?

HighInTheMtns
09-08-2012, 01:26
Isn't straight corn whiskey also straight bourbon? At least 50% corn, aged in new charred oak? Is this only a labeling distinction?

Enoch
09-08-2012, 03:25
Isn't straight corn whiskey also straight bourbon? At least 50% corn, aged in new charred oak? Is this only a labeling distinction?
I think straight corn is 80% corn aged in uncharred barrels or used charred barrels.

wadewood
09-08-2012, 06:47
Sam Houston is also a pretty important historically person here in Texas (City of Houston named after him). It's a shame a whiskey trading on his name is such a poor product.

Having a company's website state one thing and the COLA approval and label state something else seems to be a trend. One which I find deceptive and anti consumer. Balcones does the same thing. Their Baby Blue and True Blue are COLA approved as Corn Whiskey, which per law can't be aged in new charred oak barrels, yet their website states this:

"this is a highly awarded aged corn whisky. Made from 100% roasted artisanal blue corn, this particular varietal adds a unique nuttiness and freshness to this well-balanced spirit. Aged in new American oak barrels that have been lightly charred so as to not over-oak the whisky but rather accentuate the blue cornís unique flavor qualities. "

HighInTheMtns
09-08-2012, 10:42
I think straight corn is 80% corn aged in uncharred barrels or used charred barrels.
Uncharred, that's right. Got it now.

cowdery
09-08-2012, 12:01
Sam Houston is also a pretty important historically person here in Texas (City of Houston named after him). It's a shame a whiskey trading on his name is such a poor product.

Having a company's website state one thing and the COLA approval and label state something else seems to be a trend. One which I find deceptive and anti consumer. Balcones does the same thing. Their Baby Blue and True Blue are COLA approved as Corn Whiskey, which per law can't be aged in new charred oak barrels, yet their website states this:

"this is a highly awarded aged corn whisky. Made from 100% roasted artisanal blue corn, this particular varietal adds a unique nuttiness and freshness to this well-balanced spirit. Aged in new American oak barrels that have been lightly charred so as to not over-oak the whisky but rather accentuate the blue corn’s unique flavor qualities. "

To TTB, a used barrel -- even if previously charred -- is not considered a charred barrel, yet in literal terms a charred barrel is a charred barrel whether it's new or used. That may be the wiggle here. But, of course, we're the bad guys, Wade, when we call this stuff out.

p_elliott
09-08-2012, 22:34
Sam Houston is also a pretty important historically person here in Texas (City of Houston named after him). It's a shame a whiskey trading on his name is such a poor product.

Having a company's website state one thing and the COLA approval and label state something else seems to be a trend. One which I find deceptive and anti consumer. Balcones does the same thing. Their Baby Blue and True Blue are COLA approved as Corn Whiskey, which per law can't be aged in new charred oak barrels, yet their website states this:

"this is a highly awarded aged corn whisky. Made from 100% roasted artisanal blue corn, this particular varietal adds a unique nuttiness and freshness to this well-balanced spirit. Aged in new American oak barrels that have been lightly charred so as to not over-oak the whisky but rather accentuate the blue corn’s unique flavor qualities. "

OTWhiskey is Balcones maybe he can chime in on this and expain it.

Young Blacksmith
09-09-2012, 06:45
Sam Houston is also a pretty important historically person here in Texas (City of Houston named after him). It's a shame a whiskey trading on his name is such a poor product.



This is exactly how I feel about the product also. It's marketed around here as a "Texas thing", but I'm sure it's mixed in sodas or shot quickly for most. I had to mix it too to get the bottle out of here.

From tasting, and your investigations, I'd say the theory sounds correct.

Gillman
09-09-2012, 17:55
I've understood that straight whiskey is either straight for a prescribed type of whiskey, e.g., straight bourbon, straight rye, straight corn, or where no grain exceeds 50% of the mash. E.g. a whiskey aged in new charred oak for 2 years with 33 1/3% each corn, rye and barley malt is a "straight whiskey".

The SOI say also that "straight whisky" includes mixtures of straight whiskies of the same type produced in the same State.

I've always thought this meant that e.g. "straight bourbon whiskey" can include straight bourbon from two or more distillers in a State. But perhaps the rule can be literally applied to use just that name, straight whiskey, where again it is all one type from different parts of the state. Maybe you don't have to say on the label (if you don't want) what the type is, in other words.

So maybe here the type is bourbon (only). You can read the website reference to bourbon to mean that I think although I guess it's a bit vague. Is there a label on the back of the bottle that says the same thing?

So I think it may be straight bourbon sourced from different distilleries in Kentucky including possibly the craft one in Bowling Green. There is no age statement I understand, so presumably it all 4 years old or more.

I haven't tried it so this is just speculative since my own taste impression would give more info...

Gary

P.S. Isn't a mix of straight whiskeys of different type a blend of straight whiskies under the rules? I haven't looked at that part recently but that's what I recall.

HighInTheMtns
09-09-2012, 18:13
I think that's correct, Gary; I just checked my bottle of Bourye and it is labeled "A blend of straight whiskeys." I suppose that in the case of a blend of straight bourbon and straight corn that maybe you could make the argument that it's still straight since the majority grain in both spirits is corn?

Gillman
09-09-2012, 18:43
Well, in a blend of any two straight whiskies, I'd have thought the straight element - what is common to both - is aging for at least two years because as in the Bourye case, two different majority grains can be used.

If the Sam Houston is a mixture of straight corn whisky and straight bourbon whiskey, maybe the regulator considers it isn't necessary to add "a blend of" as a prefix, maybe indeed where the majority grain is the same as you say which would be the case with a mix of these two types.

I think it is likely all-bourbon, but am not sure really..

Gary

Josh
09-09-2012, 18:46
Sounds plausible.

Too bad about this stuff. The bourbon was actually not bad.

cowdery
09-10-2012, 08:33
My analysis was wrong. It can't be bourbon and corn. Gary is closer but not quite right either. The other way something can be 'straight whiskey' is to be "produced from a fermented mash of less than 51 percent of any one type of grain and stored for a period of 2 years or more in charred new oak containers."

But that wouldn't be allowed to contain bourbon.

So the conclusion is that either the product is mis-labeled or the web site is untrue. TTB only cares about the label. They don't regulate web sites.

If it's a combination of two or more different types of whiskey, even if they're all straights, then it's a blend. Blends can contain GNS but they don't have to contain it. They can be 100% whiskey.

One thing I've never understood is that since a mixture of, say, straight bourbons all made in the same state can be labeled straight bourbon, why is there this additional provision for calling the same thing straight whiskey?

Gillman
09-10-2012, 09:10
As I understand it, a blend of straight bourbon whiskey would be used:

i) for bourbons from one state where you use a blending agent; or
ii) for bourbons from different states whether or not you use a blending agent.

Both these are different from straight bourbon used in its sense of two or more bourbons mingled from one state with no additive.

Maybe this brand is a mix of bourbon and rye, or bourbon and a straight malt whiskey? Usually you would say, blend of straight whiskeys, but maybe for some reason it was felt they did not have to use the word blend.

Gary

Josh
09-10-2012, 09:23
Are the any other Straight Whiskey brands? Michter's (the current one) had something like that IIRC.

Gillman
09-10-2012, 10:07
Michter's when still produced in PA had Michter's Original Sour Mash Whiskey, which was 50% rye, 38% corn, rest barley malt. It was 6 years old and distilled out below 160 proof (about 155 I think). I thought it was always aged in new charred oak. But later I read some of it was aged in reused wood. This may explain why it wasn't called a straight whiskey.

The current Micher's has an American Whiskey but I believe it is not called a straight whiskey, and this is aged in reused cooperage.

Gary

HighInTheMtns
09-10-2012, 12:53
If the Michter's mashbill was 50/38/12, that disqualifies it from being a straight whiskey because no grain makes up 51% of the mashbill.

Brisko
09-10-2012, 13:42
If the Michter's mashbill was 50/38/12, that disqualifies it from being a straight whiskey because no grain makes up 51% of the mashbill.

Actually, no. The Beverage Alcohol manual defines "Straight Whisky" as: "Whisky produced from a fermented mash of less than 51 percent of any one type of grain and stored in charred new oak containers for 2 years or more. 'Straight Whisky' may include mixtures of two or more straight whiskies provided all of the whiskies are produced in the same state."

Chapter 4, page 2.
http://www.ttb.gov/spirits/bam/chapter4.pdf

Gillman
09-10-2012, 14:29
Right, and I would add to the latter part, "of the same type", i.e., straight whiskey may include mixtures of two or more straight whiskeys of the same type produced in the same State.

They have to be of the same type, as I read the SOI. (If not, it would be a blend of straight whiskeys as I read the SOI again).

Gary

Gillman
09-10-2012, 14:38
Sorry, I must correct my earlier post today where I said Michter's Original Sour Mash Whiskey was 50% rye. It was actually 50% corn, 38% rye, 12% barley malt. By all credible accounts I've read, the mash bill was devised in the 50's by Everett Beam, an uncle of Bettye Jo Boone, an honored member of this site from whom we hear too little these days.

This whiskey was truly outstanding, kind of a cross between a mid-aged straight rye of clean character (say, Fleischman's Rye from Tom Moore/Barton) and a 60's/70's George Dickel or perhaps Virginia Gentleman if that makes any sense. In other words, it had the lightness (relative) of the latter two with the spicy, clean hit of a good rye. Dickel today is still good but the palate has evolved IMO since 30-40 years ago.

Gary

HighInTheMtns
09-10-2012, 15:34
Straight corn is such an oddity in that it doesn't require new charred oak cooperage. The definition quoted above does mean that Sam Houston Straight Whiskey could be a mixture of straight bourbon and straight corn whiskey.

What is interesting is that a mixture like this can be called a straight while something like Early Times cannot, because the ET whiskey aged in reused barrels lacks a few percentage points of corn.

cowdery
09-11-2012, 08:33
As I mentioned to Gary off-line, these discussions were much more interesting when I thought we could count on TTB to get it right, so all we had to do was figure out what the product attributes would have to be to fit that descriptor. Now that we know how unreliable TTB is, these discussions are little more than hypothetical speculation.

OTwhisky
09-12-2012, 07:56
Sam Houston is also a pretty important historically person here in Texas (City of Houston named after him). It's a shame a whiskey trading on his name is such a poor product.

Having a company's website state one thing and the COLA approval and label state something else seems to be a trend. One which I find deceptive and anti consumer. Balcones does the same thing. Their Baby Blue and True Blue are COLA approved as Corn Whiskey, which per law can't be aged in new charred oak barrels, yet their website states this:

"this is a highly awarded aged corn whisky. Made from 100% roasted artisanal blue corn, this particular varietal adds a unique nuttiness and freshness to this well-balanced spirit. Aged in new American oak barrels that have been lightly charred so as to not over-oak the whisky but rather accentuate the blue cornís unique flavor qualities. "

Thanks for your attention to detail, Wade. I'll be sure to fix that. The barrels are lightly used --Chip

wadewood
09-12-2012, 13:17
Thanks for your attention to detail, Wade. I'll be sure to fix that. The barrels are lightly used --Chip

Thanks Chip! You can see why I have the title of Mr. Anal Retentive Bourbon Drinker, which I'm proud of.

FYI - Balcones barrels are truly lightly used. I've heard they dump a few ounces in, swirl around, and then dump out - Voila you make a new barrel into a used barrel. It meets the regs and gets my stamp of approval.

Enoch
09-13-2012, 15:09
I picked up a small bottle of "Lexington Bourbon Whiskey" today. Appears to be by the same people.

Enoch
09-13-2012, 18:33
I picked up a small bottle of "Lexington Bourbon Whiskey" today. Appears to be by the same people.
Don't waste your money

White Dog
09-14-2012, 09:00
Whenever I look at this thread I remember the scene in "Stand By Me" when the kids are saying "Mickey's a mouse, Donald's a duck, Pluto's a dog, but what the hell is Goofy."

After reading this whole thread I'm still asking "What the hell is Goofy, I mean, Sam Houston Straight Whiskey.":lol:

callmeox
09-14-2012, 17:22
It is sourced bourbon, but is called American Straight Whiskey for marketing purposes.

cowdery
09-17-2012, 12:10
Ox's information is solid.

weller_tex
09-17-2012, 12:50
Well..I guess I am on the outside looking in again. For what it is I though Sam Houston American Straight Whiskey was a nice summer, grill time refresher over ice.

Gillman
09-17-2012, 18:59
Looks like I was right, basically.

Gary

cowdery
09-17-2012, 19:23
It's nothing special, that's for sure, not worthy of the great man.

Enoch
09-21-2012, 18:05
I picked up a small bottle of "Lexington Bourbon Whiskey" today. Appears to be by the same people.

I compared the Lexington Bourbon with Zackariah Harris and they are definitely related.