Mellow Corn Kentucky Straight Corn Whiskey

Mellow CornI received another request from Cap’n Jimbo for a review of a bargain whiskey, so I stopped in at Total Wine & More and picked up a bottle of Heaven Hill’s Mellow Corn for $10.49+tax… definitely a bargain price. Being a bonded whiskey (or bottled in bond) means that it’s aged at least 4 years and bottled at 50% ABV.

Isn’t corn whiskey called bourbon, you say?  Actually, here is a good explanation of the differences, but I’ll highlight them for brevity.  Bourbon is distilled from a mash of at least 51% corn, while corn whiskey is at least 80% corn in the mash.  Bourbon is also aged in charred new oak barrels, while corn whiskey is aged in un-charred new oak or used oak barrels.  That’s the law!  So, on to the whiskey….

The nose is a bit hot with a definite corn aroma… corn husk, sweet corn as well as caramel, honey and mild tobacco.  It’s not very different from some bourbons that I’ve had and water doesn’t seem to change things much.

The taste is initially sweet, then transitions to a slightly woody and peppery finish.  Making a brief appearance after the initial sweetness are caramel, honey, fresh cut grass and a bit of cigar box in the background that’s hard to pick out initially, but is more apparent after a while.  The finish is slightly bitter, tannic, leathery and starchy along with the aforementioned spiciness.  The finish lasts a while, but the lingering components are mostly starch and wood.  A drop of water subdues the flavors a bit and kind of muddles them together, but they last a bit longer.  The finish becomes less starchy, but the bitterness and woodiness remains with a bit more spice than before.  More water makes the flavors retreat, but the spicy and starchy finish remains leaving what some might call a mildly harsh whiskey.

It’s not bad, but it’s no winner either.  If I were looking for a whiskey around $10, I would buy a bottle of Evan Williams White Label Kentucky Straight Bourbon (also bottled in bond).  It’s usually $11-12 and is a much better whiskey than Mellow Corn.  Another option is Tom Moore Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon (only 1.75l here) at about $20, which amounts to a lower price per ounce, or Old Grand Dad Bottled in Bond (haven’t had this one, so I’m just basing this on recommendations from others).  If you’re willing to spend a bit more, then try Old Grand Dad 114 for less than $20… it’s quite good.  If corn whisky is really what you’re looking for, then the next best alternative that I know of is Balcones Baby Blue for about $45… not exactly a bargain, though.

Balcones V Anniversary Single Malt Event

Balcones_Fifth_Anniversary_1190342I traveled to Waco, TX today with two friends and fellow Balcones fans to tour the facility and pick up a bottle of Balcones Fifth Anniversary Single Malt. There were two versions available and I sampled both of them:

  • Balcones Fifth Anniversary Single Malt Rumble Cask Reserve Finish – Finished in an ex-Rumble Cask Reserve barrel, this malt added another dimension to their already flavorful single malt. The bright fruit flavors of Rumble were a nice addition to the single malt.
  • Balcones Fifth Anniversary Single Malt Brimstone Resurrection Finish – This is actually a triple wood style release as it was first finished in an ex-Rumble Cask Reserve barrel, then again in the (only one exists) ex-Brimstone Resurrection barrel. There was a slight hint of smoke and the distinct blue corn characteristic coming through as a slightly caramel flavor.

I also sampled Rumble, Baby Blue, Single Malt and Brimstone. While all of them were good, the Rumble was better than any previous batch I’ve tasted… in fact, it was really good. Baby Blue fell a bit flat today, lacking the nice sweetness that it typically has, but still it was good.  Brimstone was like a sweet smokey Texas barbecue, just like I remember. The Single Malt deserves a bit more description, since it forms the basis for the special releases today.

I sampled my own 13-5 batch of Single Malt last night, but the 14-2 batch was quite an improvement with more balance to the woody tannins characteristic of Balcones whiskey. There was more fruit flavor and less heat in this batch (tasted with no water as opposed to the 10 drops necessary to open up the 13-3). Trusting the expertise of Chip Tate, I walked away with a 14-3 batch today. As far as the V Anniversary Single Malt, I bought the Resurrection Finish (designated SMK for sweet smoke on the bottle).

As an added bonus, I picked up a bottle of Balcones Fifth Anniversary Brimstone Resurrection on the way home that was on hold for me at a local retailer in Dallas. Now I’ll have the original Resurrection to sample next to the Single Malt finished in the same barrel.  Brimstone Resurrection is the real winner of the day for me as I’ve wanted a bottle ever since tasting it at the Balcones Event at Trinity Hall last year. All in all, this was a fantastically successful day with respect to whiskey.

Balcones Tasting at Trinity Hall Pub

Balcones CollectionTrinity Hall hosted a tasting of the collection of whiskeys from Balcones Distilling in Waco, TX. Chip Tate, master distiller, and Winston Edwards, brand ambassador, were both present. As we progressed through the entire collection, Chip gave some insight into the history and details of each one. It was thoroughly enjoyable (Mark and Ken were great company, as well as our new friend, Terry, from Cedar Hill) and each of the whiskeys was very good in its own right. The highlights of the evening were a tasting of Balcones 5th Anniversary Texas Straight Bourbon (only a single barrel produced), then (on the “down low”) a sample of Brimstone Resurrection with a complimentary Balcones-labeled Glencairn whisky glass (thanks, Chip!). The latter could quite possibly be the best whisky I’ve tasted. I’ll let you know when I get a bottle. 😉