Cheryl was kind enough to send me some samples of her distilled spirits and I hope to repay her with my humble thoughts on these offerings. She sent 4 different spirit samples. There is a sample of Bourbon White Dog at 125 proof, Rye Dog at 100 proof. Rye Whiskey aged for 3 1/2 weeks in the barrel (she did not say what kind of barrel), and some Walton Water (absinthe). I will give my impressions of each.
Bourbon White Dog. This spirit is 125 proof, but the distillation has removed all the undesirable elements so what is left is by far the best White Lightening I have ever had, superior ingredients and gentle care being the keys no doubt. One would never guess its proof to be 125, more likely thinking it to be about 100 proof. The grains and the pot still have left their signatures. The pot still leaves an interesting hint of metal and the grains leave the aroma of a well run farm with its grain storage silos. The taste is moderately sweet and slightly grainy, and offers the dryness which I find characteristic of copper pot still distillate. In my judgement, this is an excellent white whiskey waiting for the barrel to play its role in making it a great bourbon.
Rye Dog. This 100 proof rye distillate again shows Cheryl's maticulous attention to detail and loving care. There are no errant tastes or harshness to be found. It is quite tame and completely drinkable in its present form. For me, it proves beyond doubt my contention that rye supplies some sweetness of its own, as this has that mature sweetness I have found in whole rye breads. The rye grain carrys the flavor load. I do not know how much corn is present in Cheryl's Rye Dog, but I would suspect there is not more than 30%, if that much. The spice is quite moderate but nice and warm, and there is somewhat of a dry finish, which I claim fastens the flavors to the palate. Excellent stuff!
Rye Whiskey. This whiskey has spent only 3 and 1/2 weeks in the barrel. That time was spent quite productively. Cheryl did not say, but I would surmise the barrels were charred and maybe were used copperage? Even in this short time period the barrel has had a big say in the spirit's taste. The farm graininess has been moderated considerably, both in the spirit's aroma and in its taste. Strange as it may seem, I find this to be more spicy than the Rye Dog. I do not know why this would be unless this is not the same distillate as the Rye Dog. It is, as one would expect, sweeter. The caramel and vanilla flavors are beginning to emerge.
Walton Water (absinthe). For those who don't know anything about absinthe, it is a basically grain neutral spirits flavored with anise, fennel, and other herbs. From what little I know of it (Cheryl can correct me), it can be made by a second distillation AFTER the herbs and spices are mascerated into the first distillation. Absinthe is a specialty spirit with a close connection in the USA to New Orleans and its seamy side. My experience with absinthe, which was once banned in most of Europe, South America, and the USA because it was thought to be dangerous in several ways, is limited, so my opinion on it is not well infomred. I am assuming that what Cheryl sent me is in the range of 100 proof, typical for absinthe. I compared Chery's absinthe to one I have on hand and found hers to be superior. It is a cleaner spirit, quite smooth, and less sweet than the one I have (which is from France). I also suspect that this is close to the original absinthe in its pure approach. It is not as much like a liqueur as the French one I had on hand. Absinthe is not in any way a delicate or soft spirit, but Cheryl's spirit is crisp and smooth in its refinement. I like it. Its distinct deep palate cleansing taste is just the thing on some occasions.
Summing it up. Our friend Cheryl reveals herself in her spirits. These are all the work of a careful craftsperson, one who is meticulous, careful, and respectful of the heritage with each of the spirits she has sent me. Because of that quality, these spirits are all excellent and represent their type admirably. I find it very interesting that both the Rye Dog and White Dog offer their grain history (as they should) so openly. That history and the pot still are writ large in their taste (as they should be). These spirits have no truck with being neutral spirits, but do not carry the rawness or edges that can be present in poor distillations.
I am sincerely appreciative of Chery's gift of these spirits. They represent her hard work and I admire it very, very much. May the success that she is earning be hers!
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rage at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light. - Dylan Thomas