...where distraction is the main attraction.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Bourbon and Rye Day Friday! - Tom's Foolery Bonded Ohio Straight Bourbon

Every Friday will now be Bourbon and Rye Day Friday at Diving for Pearls.  U-S-A!  U-S-A!  We may be embarrassed by our current election, but we mustn't be ashamed about (some) of our liquor.  Since I've just moved to Ohio, I'm going to start with a bourbon distilled (really!) by an Ohioan.

Tom Herbruck and his distillery are located in Chagrin Falls, about a two hour drive north of here.  Tom and his foolery started out with apple brandy -- he still has a bonded applejack out here that I'd really like to try next -- but once he purchased (the original) Michter's pot still, he started distilling bourbon.  Recently the current iteration of Michter's paid him big bucks for that pot still, so he's now distilling from an alembic still.  My assumption is that means the resulting bourbon spirit will change.  In any case, today's bourbon was from that old pot still.

What sets Tom apart from many craft distillers, aside from the pot still and bonded warehouse, is that he uses full-sized 53 gallon (200 liter) barrels for his bourbon.  So no tiny barrel f**kery with this one.  Because his unheated warehouse is in northern Ohio, its climate is different than that of Kentucky, thus it will mature differently than most Kentucky bourbons.  I have no idea what sort of results that creates.  Time to find out.

Distillery: Tom's Foolery
Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Region: Chagrin Falls, OH
Age: 4 years (2012-2016)
Batch: 2
Mash Bill: Seeing some conflicting info on this, but it is 12-13% rye.  I'll update when I know more.
Limited release: 5 barrels, 1200+ bottles
Alcohol by volume: 50%
Thank you to The Whiskey Jug for the sample!

The nose doesn't have much oak, but is instead loaded with spirit.  Cassia cinnamon and mint at first.  It calms down after 10-15 minutes.  Curiously, it smells more of wheat and barley than corn.  Frosted flakes (current version), then fennel seed.  A slight funky mushroom-meets-honey note.  The palate comes across more adventurous than the average crafty.  Lots of cinnamon and mint, of course, but also horseradish and soil.  It's a little drying and salty, but has a nice bright bitter note.  Hints of cherries and fenugreek.  The finish has that fun herbal bite, along with the cinnamon buzz.  It's not sweet, but is minty fresh and a little salty.  Hints of caramel and horseradish.

This one was a puzzler.  Aside from the cinnamon and mint, it didn't come across as what one would expect from a bourbon.  It's a little herbal, earthy, and bitter.  And it kinda grew on me.  My first sniff announced, "Uh. Uh oh."  By the last sip, I was all, "Yeah, that actually works."  It's not going to please everyone, but if "a little herbal, earthy, and bitter" sounds like your thing, then it just might do it for you.  At the very least, it sets itself apart from much of the rest of the craft bourbon market.  At its best, I find it better than McKenzie, Smooth Ambler Contradiction, Garrison Cowboy, and everything coming from Hudson.

As Sku noticed, the bourbon needs a little air before it really wakes up.  Whisky Jug liked it better than I, but Scotch Noob less so.  It's still available at some shops in the Midwest, though K&L has sold through in California.  The price is a bit steep, but the whiskey does have some age to it and is of an actual limited quantity.  Also every purchase supports an Ohio small business that creates quality products.  Now I'm just going to cash this check from the Chagrin Chamber of Commerce...

Availability - The United States of the Midwest
Pricing - $50-$55
Rating - 80


  1. Michael,

    It might interest you to know that Tom has notes about every single barrel and batch in a couple of databases on his website (aging and released barrels are separate). If Ralfy ever finds it, he will actually have to complain about the product instead of highlighting his lack of education on the vagaries of American Whiskey. Tom, who is a nice guy by the way, sets the gold standard for transparency. I don't think there is a distillery out there that can match his level of disclosure. I think the 4yr bottle I have is a little too young still (YMMV, I ended up with a single barrel release instead of a batch), but am very excited to keep up with Tom's Foolery and see what they do in the future.

    And here is the page on that marvelous database regarding your batch:


    1. Hey Eric. Yep, his database is awesome! The confusion I'm seeing is that K&L and Sku reference the bottle they sold being batch 1, but the K&L site says batch 2. Meanwhile other reviewers are listing a mashbill different than either of those listed by Tom in his database. I'll hope to have this all cleared up sooner than later. Also, there will be more posts about Tom Foolery in the future.

      Now, regarding Ralfy... I was alarmed by the lack of knowledge on the basics of American whiskey he demonstrated during his recent series of vids on bourbon, so much so that I haven't been able to bring myself to watch any of his reviews since. Most of the production and history slips he made are things that can be researched online in a matter of minutes. For the past few years I've enjoyed watching his reviews (or at least the first 5-10 minutes of each) while shaving in the morning, but no longer.

  2. What, you don't think producers of bourbon should be able to use as little as 11% corn in their mashbills?:) Yeah. Somehow I don't think Ralfy's reaction to an American suggesting that single malt scotch shouldn't have to be made from 100% malted barley would be positive in nature.

    1. Just want to publicly clarify that my comment above wasn't meant to insult Ralfy. He knows Scotch Whisky more than most of us online nerds, and he can be a good resource for info in between his opinions. What shocked me was this same man who says, "Do your research, Malt Mates," was making numerous factual errors in a couple of his bourbon reviews. Though I try to not make flubs, I do. And then I welcome correction by my astute audience. But Ralfy has a much much much larger following than I, and uncorrected errors can result in widespread misinformation, something I know he abhors. It's the burden of being a popular guy (though I'm guessing on that).

    2. It is the carelessness and lack of thoroughness that rankles. He holds himself to a higher standard for his single malt reviews. On a number of his American whisky reviews he has as much as said he couldn't be bothered to do any "homework." Wouldn't even bother looking at the websites specifically for the whiskies he is reviewing. That is annoying when he DOES bother for the whiskies that he genuinely cares about, the scotch single malts. I don't fault him for having a favourite type of spirit, but as you say, he has gone out of his way to tell people to do research, so he should hold himself to the same standard.

    3. In Ralfy's defense, he often annotates and corrects his videos a day or two later, when sober.

    4. As I am the originator of the snarky-comments-about-ralfy topic detour, I would also like to add that I will always be thankful to him for the educational jumpstart he gave me. And he's pretty damn entertaining most of the time. He puts himself out there and does not pull punches.

      I am a little frustrated with his lack of interest in educating himself about American Whiskey, moreso because he preaches it elsewhere than anything else. I have tried more than once to engage him about some of the more esoteric aspects I assumed he would find appealing: history of DBAs, litigiousness of major players in the industry, the history of brand trading, Four Roses' recipes, TTB vagaries, etc. A couple times I got a "thanks!" But then he just started ignoring me. His channel and all that, but I was a bit surprised by that. I was also surprised at the slack he gives rum compared to American whiskies. At any rate, I probably will just avoid his American Whiskey reviews while continuing to enjoy the other blog entries.