Chattanooga Whiskey is a smaller distillery that’s been slowly building positive word-of-mouth because they have (so far) put out good stuff at a reasonable price. Their 91 proof bourbon whiskey was good, their 111 proof edition was better. Given that pattern, this 118.8 proof should be the best yet, right?
After the end of prohibition, the state of Tennessee only allowed whiskey distillation in three counties: Lincoln, Moore, and Coffee. The state expanded that list in 2009, but it still didn’t include the county in which the city of Chattanooga is located. Tim Piersant and Joe Ledbetter decided to change that, and in 2011 they formed the Chattanooga Whiskey Co. with the intent to re-write the law to allow distilling in their county and bring distilling back to their home city.
While their legislative efforts were in process, they worked with a Lincoln County distillery to create their own strains of spirits that they could sell to fund their campaign. Their efforts paid off — on May 16, 2013 the Governor of Tennessee signed a new law making distilling in their county legal again.
The pair hired a staff and opened their new distillery in March 2015, releasing their initial 100 proof white whiskey in November of that year.
- Learn More: What Is Bourbon Whiskey?
Chattanooga Whiskey is doing something interesting with their bourbon by taking the approach of including as much malted grain as possible in the mash bill. As a bourbon, this is required to use a minimum of 51% corn, but the remainder of the grain bill is comprised entirely of malted grains: malted rye, caramel malted barley & honey malted barley. (The exact proportions of each of these is not disclosed.)
Those grains are combined, cooked, and fermented for a full seven days — much longer than the typical 3 day fermentation cycle for most distilleries. This allows the yeast to interact with the liquid longer, creating more interesting and complex flavor components.
Once the fermentation is complete, the liquid is distilled using their column still and doubler setup, creating the new make whiskey that is then placed into new charred oak barrels for a period of more than two years to mature.
This particular bottle is interesting in that it’s specific to Texas-based liquor store chain Twin Liquors. A few unspecified employees went to Chattanooga to personally test different barrels and find one that they liked. Rather than blending multiple barrels together to create a consistent flavor, only a single barrel was used to fill these bottles. Additionally, there is zero filtration of any kind, which can sometimes lead to particles of char from the barrel making their way into the bottle.
At first glance, this is a pretty standard bottle — but there are some cool touches here that I appreciate.
The shape of the bottle follows the common ‘short and stout’ construction that we see with a number of craft distilleries. But what makes this bottle stand out is that Chattanooga Whiskey went to the trouble of embossing the words “Made in Chattanooga Tennessee” on the bottle. This step that requires a bit more time and money than usual, and it creates a cool effect when the light shines through the bottle. The cylindrical body rounds to a short neck, and is capped off with a unique all-cork stopper.
Labeling on this bottle is a single band around the upper portion of the body. It isn’t exactly the most exciting label I’ve ever seen, but I appreciate that they thought ahead far enough to put the label at the top and leave enough space below for the whiskey to really shine through and be visible.
This is the darkest of their spirits that we’ve seen to date, clocking in with a color that I’d call somewhere between dark rust and legit brown. This is notable — even though we call whiskey a “brown liquor”, most of it falls into more of an amber tone if you really study it. But this spirit is a proper shade of brown.
Coming off the glass are some rich and dark aromas. In the 91 and 111 versions of Chattanooga, I saw some banana notes front and center; here, that’s been replaced by dried fruits like apricots and figs, molasses, maraschino cherry, and brown sugar. All are great barrel maturation notes that really speak to the power of that barrel this whiskey sat in. Behind and supporting those aromas are some of the components I’d expect to see, including raw corn and just a hint of banana.
Taking a sip, the flavors are bold, powerful, and well saturated. There’s a depth and a richness here that hits the mark for what I like in a good bourbon, with brown sugar, slightly burnt caramel, dark chocolate, and dried figs coming out first. Some crisper notes like apples, cherries, and pears appear as the flavor develops, and on the finish there’s a bit more brown sugar sweetness combined with some light hints of banana that linger. There’s a touch of bitterness from time to time (the dark chocolate and burnt caramel being the prime suspects I believe) but it’s a transient and momentary consideration.
One thing to note is that the alcohol content in this spirit is, to put it lightly, “generous”. Honestly, its more like scorching hot for anyone who isn’t prepared. Over the years reviewing spirits, I’ve become a bit immune to high-octane ones so I was happy with it — but for those who are more used to a good beer, this would be a real shock to the system. Personally, I didn’t find that the alcohol content had any negative impacts on the flavors, as some similar “hot” whiskies can often be a bit unbalanced in the quest for that extra ABV. This one seemed to work just fine, though.
Honestly, the best part about a high ABV whiskey is that the flavors tend to stick around no matter what you throw at them. The more you water that down, the more likely it is that some additional ice will throw your flavor profile out the window.
This is a fine example of how a high ABV and well saturated flavor profile can stand up against ice cubes. I’m still getting the exact same flavors: brown sugar, dark chocolate, dried figs, raisins, baking spices, caramel, and even some cherry all mixed together. There’s no change to the depth, the richness, or the saturation.
What is missing are some of the rougher edges of those flavors. The dark chocolate had a touch of bitterness associated with it at first, but that’s completely gone here. And the caramel no longer takes on that slightly burnt aspect. It’s amore enjoyable, cohesive flavor profile, and even tones down some of that alcohol bite to make it that much more enjoyable.
Cocktail (Old Fashioned)
I love a richer, deeper bourbon for my old fashioned cocktails. I feel like it provides this soft, velvety pillow for all the other flavors to interact, and makes for a more complex and interesting cocktail. And thankfully, that’s exactly what I’m getting here and I’m really enjoying it.
What’s especially notable is that a lot of the prime players in the flavor profile are sweeter notes (dried fruit, brown sugar, cherries, etc). These sweeter flavors do a great job of balancing out the bitterness of the bitters, and with support from the darker and richer components like the dark chocolate they make for an absolutely delicious cocktail. I feel like this would pair nicely with a Connecticut wrapper cigar — something a touch lighter in body but with a bit of tobacco to add to the profile.
To be honest, I don’t think that this makes the best mule I’ve ever had. It’s good, but it isn’t great.
Up front, the flavors are delicious. All of the richer and fruitier components are present and balancing nicely with the lime juice and the ginger beer, resulting in this wonderful flavor profile that is crisp and clean and easily sippable all day long.
Where this falls down a bit is in the finish. It’s smooth and even, but what I’m looking for is a bit more of a kick. Something like the black pepper spice that usually comes from the rye content in a good bourbon. This doesn’t seem to have enough rye to get the job done in my opinion.
Definitely worthwhile and good, but not the best.
This bottle has priced itself into some rarified air when it comes to the whiskey market. It seems to be competing with the likes of Blanton’s and Rabbit Hole, and honestly, this spirit is holding its own in that market. There’s plenty of flavor in here — and balanced in such a way that no matter how you drink it, you’re going to have something delicious in your glass. I can see a couple minor faults when taken neat that’ll keep it from the five star rating, and it’s a touch boring in a mule, but otherwise I’d be happy to drink this any day of the week.
Here’s the catch: your mileage may vary. This single barrel version was hand picked for Twin Liquors, and there’s no guarantee that you’ll get a bottle from that same barrel or even from that same lot. It’s a bit of a crapshoot unfortunately. But if you score, you might score big.
|Chattanooga Whiskey Single Barrel Straight Bourbon Whiskey|
Produced By: Chattanooga WhiskeyProduction Location: Tennessee, United States
Classification: Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Aging: No Age Statement (NAS)
Proof: 59.4% ABV
Price: $72.99 / 750 ml
Product Website: Product Website
Overall Rating: 4/5
Deep rich flavors, dried fruit, brown sugar, and dark chocolate all combine to make something great.