View Full Version : Rob's Tasting Notes (Link in His Signature Line)
Very impressive! I wish I had your discipline and ambition.
Like you, I am still trying to appreciate George T. Stagg to the extent others do. By the time I water it down to the vicinity of 100 proof, where I can drink it without discomfort, I find that it has less to offer than Rock Hill Farms, which is my favorite Buffalo Trace expression, bar none.
One nit-picking question: Are you sure Early Times does not use the sour mash process? My understanding, thanks to others hereabouts, is that the use of previously used, charred oak barrels is the one thing that keeps ET from meeting the legal standards to be called bourbon. (Furthermore, I do not recall that use of the sour mash process is a requirement in that connection.)
For the reader's convenience, I repeat Rob's link here (http://drink.to/Tastingnotes/).
I believe Rob may have mentioned brown spirits other than bourbon on his site, but I ignored them in order to justify placing this post in the General Bourbon forum.
Over the years, I have seen several straight bourbons labeled as "sweet mash". None, recently, though.
I have seen pictures of sweet mash bourbon here on SB.com. I have just search the Federal Regs for bourbon and can't any referance to either sour mash or sweet mash there. Early Times Kentucky Style Whiskey does use used cooperage and therefore isn't a bourbon. I can get two different expressions of Early Time Straight Bourbon here in Japan. It isn't bad. Not great, but not bad.
The Social History of Bourbon (1963) by Gerald Carson...page46...
One major variant in the manufacture of bourbon is expressed in the terms "sweet mash" and "sour mash". Both refer to ways of producing fermentations. Sweet mash is made with fresh yeast and all fresh yeast for each batch. Maryland rye, for instance is a sweet mash fermentation. Bourbon can be made either way. The sour mash method prevails today. It involves scalding the meal with the thin, spent beer left over in the still from a run. The procedure is called, somewhat inelegantly, "slopping back". The stillage has a slightly acid taste; hence the term sour mash. But the whiskey which result is not sour or tart. All bourbon as a matter of fact, is sweet in taste. Advocates of sour mash bourbon claim for it a more pronounced character and greater uniformity.
Good work to find this, Bettye Jo. I have always wondered what the "Maryland process" (term I found in an early 1900's cocktails book) was. Chuck Cowdery has speculated it might mean a blending technique. Indeed some Maryland rye was blended (maybe even typically so). Some blends were American whiskey-type; others were blends of straight rye or straight whiskeys only (i.e., could include some straight bourbon or other legally defined straights). However I wonder now if Maryland process might have meant the practice of using sweet mash only. We have discussed sweet and sour mash a number of times before on the board. To the best of my knowledge, no bourbon whiskey today is made with a sweet mash.
I remember Parker Beam, in his section of the Bardstown Bourbon Society website and newsletter, once debunked the notion that there has been a post-Prohibition bottling of "mellow-" or "sweet-"mash bourbon. He wrote that the term "mellow mash" was just that -- descriptive, but otherwise meaningless, terminology.
Alas, the BBS website only archives the last four issues, and it was further back than that. I cannot now find the link via Google. I'll keep looking, and post a link if I find one.
Postscript: Well, duh! -- I couldn't find it because I was looking too far back. It was all of one issue ago. Here's the link:
http://www.bardstownbourbonsociety.com/m...lY3JldDEwMDk%3D (http://www.bardstownbourbonsociety.com/members/roundtable-arch.shtml?article=MTAwNXN1cGVyMTAwMnNlY3JldDEwMDk %3D)
The germane statement is: "...The label on 'his' brand said it was sour mash Bourbon. And he began noticing other labels that said things like 'sweet mash' or 'mellow mash' so he began to wonder if maybe those 'other kinds' of mashes wouldn't taste better. He didn't know they were all sour mash, because that's what Bourbon is..."
Well, he should know. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif
There are many sharp eyes on the site, looking now too for older bottles, so if anyone finds a post-1933 bottle labelled (specifically) sweet mash, that would be interesting and may the contents are true sweet mash whiskey. To my knowledge again, no such bottle exists.
Well, the ones I have seen were definitey post-1933, because I wasn't born until almost 20 years after that! http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif The ones I saw were in the late 60's or the 70's and I am absolutely certain that I did see such labelings.
As to whether they were indeed sweet mash, I have no idea. I can only trust what was printed on the labels.
As all of this was thirty or more years ago and it wasn't important to me at the time, I cannot recall any specific examples.
He wrote that the term "mellow mash" was just that -- descriptive, but otherwise meaningless, terminology.
There's been some criticism of HH Krolls 'Bluegrass, Belles, and Bourbon' but he puts in a bit about Mellow Mash. It does seem that the process was something that occured at the still and had nothing to do with what went on in the fermenters.
I'll edit this and include the quote from the book.
I didn't climb the steep stairs to the works overhead, but contented myself with looking out over the 20 vats of seething mash in a glassed-off room, and listening to my guide explain the "mellow mash" process of distillation. Yellowstone makes a big point of this, and I wasn't entirely convinced it wasn't just another gimmick to make the bourbon drinker think he's got something pretty special, and as I studied over the various methods I seem to conclude the difference isn't worth bothering about.In any case mellow mashing is accomplished in a 45 foot tall still, with some kind of umbrella-like do-dad high up on it that traps and filters out the lighter vapors and dumps the "congenrics" back to redistill or go into the feed for the shoats. "Separates the cream from the milk," the man says. Wilmer Beam said, " There's not another like it in captivity."
I'm left to wonder how much of the story teller in Kroll we have at this piece and how much the marketing folks played in this. It seems to me that at the point in the process this takes place a better choice of words to describe it could have been found. I feel "Mellow Mash" was the work of marketing.
How much bourbon could be sold that is " Smooth Distilled" or somesuch?
It also begs to be answered that all this took place in Owensboro that they had no apparatus in place on the still in Louisville.
One thing for certain, the bottling that bears the name Mellow Mash is a superlative one, better than anything available today in the 30-50 dollar range. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/toast.gif
Thanks for the kind words. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif
AFAIK, Eagle rare is a sour mash. Both the 10 and 17. About Rock Hill Farms, I've had a bottle of it for some 8 months, but it was not until I visited Kentucky in July I actually tasted it in a bar in Bardstown. It almost equals Eagle Rare 17 IMO. Wonderful bourbon!
Stagg was a mystery for me, I could not make much out of it and if I ever manage to get a bottle, I will spend a great deal of time with it. The problem is that, living in Sweden, it is impossible to get from our spirits shop (no private shops are allowed, state monopoly only). So far I've had no look finding it through online stores in the UK, Germany or elsewhere. I was told you can find it for some US$ 50 around the US, but if I find it online it'll cost somewhere around US$250 which begs the question: is it really worth it?
Just bumping this to show what Bobby and I are referring to.
I think the ad writers of the day picked up the term and used it loosely.
By the way, Bobby has had a stock of 7 year old Mellow Mash Yellowstone which was very good, Tim gave me a taste at Bettye Jo's party from a glass supplied by Bobby and (again courtesy Mr. Cox) I've had it before. It clearly was a different version from the regular Yellowstone, older and sweeter I'd say. Both Yellowstones were very good and it is good to see our friends on the West Coast have some, hopefully they'll trade in April for some of the new Canadians I've mentioned. http://www.straightbourbon.com/forums/images/graemlins/smile.gif I may pick up some later today, so taste notes are coming.
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