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Friday, May 12, 2017

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday: New Holland Beer Barrel Bourbon

For good number of years, brewers have been aging their beers in ex-whiskey casks to often very good results. Recently, whiskey producers have flipped that around by maturing (or finishing) their whiskies in barrels that formerly held beer. Of course, those barrels usually held whiskey before the beer, so there's a whiskey-beer-whisky seasoning sandwich going on.

I've only tried one beer barrel finished whiskey so far, Jameson Caskmates, the classic Irish blend with a stout finish. It's regular Jameson with a little extra creaminess to it and a couple seconds of roasted notes. It didn't seem different enough from the regular release to be worthy of its own expression, nor deserving of a $10 premium.

New Holland Brewing is a Michigan brewer/distiller. According to their site and the bourbon's label, they distill their own bourbon. They also make the Dragon's Milk beer whose barrels (which were utilized for bourbon before the beer) are used for today's whiskey's three-month finish. Though New Holland's straight malts are bottled at 45%abv and their Dragon's Milk stout has a high alcohol content (for beer), they choose dilute the bourbon down to the 40%abv minimum.

All that being said, I don't know what to expect here.

Company: New Holland Brewing
Region: Michigan
Type: bourbon whiskey
Age: ???
Maturation: new American white oak, then a 3-month finish in former Dragon's Milk beer barrels
Mashbill: 70/5/25 corn/rye/barley
Alcohol by Volume: 40%
(Thank you to Vik for the sample!)

The nose has some coffee character from a smoky but flat stout. Lots of malt and marzipan. Honey and cherry candy. It also has an unmistakable grainy small-barrel craft whiskey note. The palate leads with cinnamony white dog. Black pepper and vanilla. More malt than corn. Burnt toast and a sharp bitterness. A surprising lack of sweetness, too. There's more of a beer note in the finish, sort of fizzy too. Banana bubblegum, and that strange bitterness.

I'll start with the positives. The nose has unique layers to it. I've certainly never smelled another bourbon like it. I appreciate the big malt note and lack of sweets in the mouth. It does provide an original experience.

But, I find it difficult to believe this whiskey spent "several years" in oak. The strong pepper, cinnamon and bitter notes—along with an odd quantity of heat—in the mouth, make it feel very young. As in, months-young. I don't mind the fizziness of the finish but the banana bubblegum bitterness thing is unpleasant and I'm having a hard time getting the sensation out of my mouth.

I couldn't finish the sample and I'm perfectly okay with never drinking this whisky again, but, curiously, it did make me want to try the stout.

Availability - A number of Midwest and East Coast states
Pricing - $30-$40
Rating - 69

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