KCM Onsite Report #2
Tiffany’s Wine and Spirit Shoppe/Journeyman Distillery
Overview: You might say that KCM hasn’t done a great job of talking about the Michigan distillation scene, and you’d be right. We are rectifying that, starting today, with some onsite reports of distilleries, tasting, and shops and stores where you can find good stuff. Over the summer, we hope to build on these and visit some different places. Today though, we’re going to do a hybrid and talk about Journeyman distillery AND about a place called Tiffany’s. Let’s start with the distillery.
Journeyman: Journeyman Distillery is a new business, not more than two years old, coming out of Three Oaks, MI. Three Oaks is so south-western, it may as well be Indiana. Journeyman, as we’ve said, is a pretty young distillery and they’re still learning some very valuable childhood lessons, but that hasn’t stopped them from jumping into the market with tenacity and vision. They currently have two column stills, one of which is a brand new addition to a second facility, and are aging their spirits in a variety of barrels, including some bigger barrels that they are looking to hold onto for a couple of decades. They have acquired some popularity in the surrounding area, and we hope to help them on their journey (no pun intended there) to success. One thing Journeyman is doing right is experimenting, with ideas like oak-aged gin and cabernet barrel-aged whiskey. So we attended a tasting at Tiffany’s and we’re going to report our finding on a number of their spirits, albeit it will be a general summary, not the detail we generally produce.
Ravenwood Rye: 45% abv
We started with the rye whiskey they produced, naturally being produced in column stills. The rye content in the mash is 60% and the other 40% is all wheat content, which will typically offset the harshness of rye whiskey. There was no mistaking this whiskey’s intentions, because one could easily taste the confused sweetness and underwhelming rye character in the flavor. There was a prominent honey, candied sugar, and vanilla content to this particular whiskey. There was ironically not much rye content to this whiskey, which made us a little disappointed. This is an easy drinking spirit, but it unfortunately didn’t taste like a rye whiskey should, and that’s why we buy rye whiskey.
Road’s End Rum: 45% abv
We decided to jump to the clear spirits. In particular, silver rum was next in line. We should mention that unaged rums generally don’t contain a large amount of complexity and are purely influenced by the molasses or sugarcane extract used in distillation. The spokesperson for Journeyman told me the rum was distilled with blackstrap molasses, and distilled by a Jamaican technique. The rum itself is pretty fresh and pure, with a mixture of sweet notes and slight bitterness, with a thick mouthfeel, and a very subtle spiciness in compliment. In all honesty, we were happy with this as a new make spirit, so we are excited what the benefits of aging does to this rum.
Bilberry Black Hearts Gin: 45% abv
You may notice that KCM hasn’t reviewed gin in our year of existence. Well that is partially because none of the panel is all that particular to gin, and partially because most of our stock lies in Scotch. Gin tends to be overpowered by the botanicals that are used for distillation; the primary ingredient of gin is typically juniper berries, which have very bitter and piny tasting characteristics to it. This gin is unique in that way, because, as the name implies, the star of the show is actually bilberry. Some of the ingredients include anise, coriander, lemon and cinnamon. This is not your typical gin then, with a complex list of balanced notes, not over-dominated by the typical pine qualities that gin has. This gin isn’t super dry, but it isn’t overtly sweet. It is a perfect start for what gin should be.
Barrel-Aged Bilberry Black Hearts Gin: 45% abv
Well now, here is where things get good. Something that has not been touched by a lot of distilleries is aged gin, and here we have some. And it really takes the best of both worlds, without a doubt. This helps the already well balanced gin get some complexity from the oak barrels, and really adds some dimension. It is my deepest hope that we see more things like this. I’d love to see more age to this gin and how it can change the spirit. This is not a mature spirit, and the addition of oak-induced flavors does not completely cover that, but it shows great potential for Journeyman to stand out for something incredible. You will find some vanilla notes, some spiciness, and a hint of herbal notes coming out in the gin. Highly recommended.
Buggy Whip Wheat: 45% abv
On the other end of the spectrum, this particular bottling represents a good experiment gone dull. We love the thought of new types of whiskey being bottled, and you do not see a lot of 100% wheat whiskies on the market, but maybe there is a good reason for that. This whiskey, although smooth and sweet, lacks complexity and is truly boring. You might, if you are a mixer or a rocks drinker, love that. We do not love that, and it is disappointing. This isn’t poorly made spirit, but it isn’t well made whiskey.
Featherbone Bourbon: 45% abv
We are going back and forth, I know, but honesty is our first priority. This bourbon produced some funny reactions at the tasting, where people exclaimed that the plastic cups were adding flavor to the bourbon and that it was spoiled. Folks, bourbon doesn’t really spoil like a glass of milk. In fact, the plastic tasting glasses were not off-setting the flavor. This is just a unique bourbon, and boy did we like it. At KCM, we have tried a number of bourbons, and few of them jump out as being truly away from the back. This particular one, with immense leathery notes, some nuttiness, big wood, and some tasting notes you would attribute with more mature whiskies, did more than just pose as a good entry into the American whiskey market. This whiskey showed that Journeyman can produce something different, although their range of whiskies might be a little under-developed in some areas.
Silver Cross Whiskey
Alright. Last one of the night. Well it is as I’m typing, and it was as I was drinking. This is an underlying message that hopefully Journeyman Distillery grabs onto. I don’t remember much about this whiskey, and I don’t care much about it. I remember it not being very distinctive, and although it had some small complexities to it, it was rather boring. We were not in the mind to rate this one.
At the beginning of this short novel, we told you Journeyman is a new distillery in the micro-distillery scene. This presents some challenges and makes it difficult to produce cheap quality spirits without going bankrupt. A new start up is akin to starting up a car company: lots of capital investment and not much return for years and years. Journeyman seems to be over this initial turbulence and charging ahead boldly with quality spirit production. For this reason, it is understandable for Journeyman to have their feelers out, trying to understand where they fit in the market. What we don’t want is for them to become a jack of all trades, master of none. It will be interesting to see how they evolve, but we as consumers should try to be patrons of businesses like these, who are working hard to make a name for themselves. KCM believes Journeyman Distillery is a worth investment and we should support the products that stand out.