I enjoy walking down the lesser traveled aisles of the local liquor store. There’s always some unique options, and more often than not I can find a surprisingly cheap and delicious spirit that’s a little off the beaten path. On a recent trip, I spotted Cascade Blonde American Whiskey and I knew that I needed to try it out.
Diageo is one of the biggest distillery companies in the world, with brands like Johnnie Walker, Bulleit, and Guiness under their belt. They regularly create and distribute new products to try and expand their profile (usually using existing facilities and re-bottling the product or creating a slight variant), and Cascade is one of their most recent releases.
The first mention of the Cascade whiskey brand seems to be from 2018, when a press release from Diageo stated that the spirit would soon be available in Texas and Michigan. Beyond that announcement, though, there doesn’t seem to be any history behind the brand (despite the retro packaging).
One their brand has used the “Cascade” term for their product, and that’s George Dickel who dubbed their 1890’s era Cascade whisky “smooth as moonlight.” George Dickel is also owned by Diageo these days along with their branding.
The bottle claims that this is a “blonde whiskey,” which isn’t really a recognized whiskey variant. All we know about this spirit comes from the press release:
Cascade Blonde is made using a double chill filtration process, high-corn mash bill and limestone filtered water fresh from Cascade Spring in Tullahoma, Tenn., to give it a smooth-drinking profile.https://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/cascade-blonde-american-whiskey-splashes-down-in-tx-and-mi-as-a-perfect-daytime-summer-sipper-300650559.html
Some reports indicate that the source of this spirit is the Dickel distillery in Tennessee, which is an established brand with a well known reputation.
The packaging is remarkably good and feels like a bottle straight out of the 1950’s America, something you’d find in your grandfather’s refrigerator.
The overall shape is reminiscent of an old beer bottle, more round and curvy than the modern variety. Like this vintage Cascade beer bottle or a bottle of Red Stripe. The bottle is constructed of glass and sports a waterproof label, which makes sense as all of the marketing around this product seems to be geared towards sipping the contents while fishing on a dock or floating down a river. The bottle is topped with a synthetic stopper.
The branding on the bottle is in that same mid-century style, and even offers a tip for how to turn the stopper into a fishing bobber once you’re done drinking the contents. But it also cautions against drinking and building a bobber, which seems somewhat counter intuitive.
Overall I like it, but it feels like a forced faux nostalgia that comes out of the marketing department of a massive multi-national corporation. It’s trying to be authentic, which is hard for a company like this to pull off. I think it mostly works, though.
Also interesting to note is that there is a nutritional label on this bottle. Until somewhat recently, this wasn’t allowed by the TTB (the group that oversees labeling of spirits) but it’s becoming more common on spirits. Not yet required, though.
There’s a whole lot of vanilla in the aroma and a good bit of alcohol, but not much else. I can see some fruityness in there as well — almost the same profile as a watered down Johnny Walker red label, but without the peat smoke.
The liquid is fairly thin, as you’d expect from a 40% ABV spirit, but smooth and without any bitterness or unpleasant flavors. It’s sweet with some oak notes, mainly a lot of vanilla with a touch of caramel.
In short, it’s an unoffensive spirit that doesn’t bring any surprises to the party.
There’s really no difference here. The vanilla and faint caramel flavors come through just fine, but there’s nothing else that gets discovered. It’s still just “one standard unit of whiskey.”
On the one hand, that’s not great. But on the other hand, that’s kind of what you’d want from a spirit like this. Just enough flavor and alcohol content to improve a cocktail, but not so much that it overpowers the drink. A potentially good mixing spirit like Johnny Walker Red’s intended use case.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
As you might expect, there’s not much flavor here beyond the orange essence and bitters. The vanilla and caramel flavors aren’t quite bold enough to balance out the drink.
This isn’t quite as unbalanced as an old fashioned with something like Seagram’s Seven — there’s at least something there under the surface in this case, but it’s still not as good as the reference spirit (Bulleit Bourbon).
Usually, I look for the whiskey to come out from behind that ginger beer and make itself known in a mule. Some level of peppery spice or other flavor that makes it unique and special. In this case, there’s none of that whatsoever.
The drink is still good and well balanced, the flavors are all great, but there’s nothing putting it over the top.
If you’re looking for a good spirit that won’t break the bank, won’t overpower the other ingredients in cocktails, but will look great on your bar… then this is a great choice. But for literally every other use, this is out-classed by even Jack Daniels.
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 40% ABV
Price: $20 / 750 ml
Overall Rating: 2/5
It’s in the mix, but just barely.