Captive Spirits Bourbon Barreled Big Gin

CaptiveSpiritBigGin (1)S

I bought this gin a couple of years ago when I first heard of bourbon barreled gins.  I like gin and love bourbon, so this was something I had to try. Captive Spirits produces the gin and then put it into a used bourbon barrel to finish.  I believe they can’t say that it is aged in bourbon barrels because gin is not an aged spirit.  That is why the label says barrel finished, barrel rested, or just mentions the word barrel.

The barrel aging process gives this gin another dimension to complement that juniper berry and spice taste.  The gin I tasted is bottle number 418 from barrel number 16-19.  The bottle I bought almost a year ago was also from barrel 16-19.  This gin doesn’t appear to be a fast seller, which is too bad. I have to say that I have enjoyed this gin and plan to keep a bottle on the back bar.

Bourbon Barrel Gin

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This gin uses a plain, shouldered bottle with a synthetic cork stopper. The label is printed in black and gold, which complements the light yellow, straw color of the gin. This color is picked up from the barrel during aging. Because the color is so light, the gin probably spent less than a year finishing in the bourbon barrel.

The smell is mostly the juniper berry with some sweet caramel notes and a bourbon smell in the background. The first sip is smooth in the front and middle of the mouth, but has a little burn at the back of the mouth. A spicy, juniper taste dominates at first in the front of the mouth.  As the liquid passes to the mid mouth, the nice, rich caramel taste takes over. The mouth is filled with a smooth, silky vanilla caramel and lingering bourbon with chard oak.  All of this takes place as the liquid moves through the mouth and to the throat.  It is a wonderful flavor and sensation to be enjoyed.

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Since this spirit has elements of gin and bourbon, I like to use the elements from a Manhattan and a Martini.  So this one I call it a Manhatini.


  • 2 oz Bourbon Barreled Big Gin
  • 1/2 Vermouth
  • 1 Marciano Cherry

Shake the gin and vermouth with ice until chilled.  Pour into a martini glass and garnish with one or two cherries. This is a gin martini I enjoy every time.

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Smooth Ambler Old Scout Rye

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This bottle of Rye Whiskey joined the whiskey collection of the 12 Bar Blues Bar in late December 2015.  It was gift I received at a job interview.  This was my introduction into the world of Craft Distilling. This is my favorite Rye Whiskey and in the interest of full discloser Smooth Ambler is a customer of ours. They are located in West Virginia and I am not sure how wide their distribution is but here is Smooth Amblers web site for more information.

Smooth Ambler Distillery

It is called Old Scout because it was not distilled by Smooth Ambler.  Instead they collected barrels of of rye whiskey from other distilleries and blended to create a fine example of rye whiskey called Old Scout. This is a common practice among distillers and something a young distillery would need to do if they wanted to sell a very good whiskey without waiting years for their own stock to mature. Buying and blending whiskeys is an art just as important as distilling.

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The bottle I am tasting today is aged for seven years and is from batch 14 bottled on May 28th 2013. It is 99 proof or 49.5 ABV. The bottle is a nice clear shoulder bottle with a cork stopper. The colors on the label are purple and gold just like my high school colors.  Maybe this is why I love this whiskey.

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The spirit is a deep amber color like honey with a nice viscus cling to the glass indicating a good body. The alcohol does hit the nose along with a nice spice as you would expect from a rye whiskey. The spice smells somewhere between clove and allspice with hints of caramel and vanilla. The taste lives up to the aroma.  The front and back are smooth with a little bite in the middle.  Of course this describes where in the mouth the burn happens.  The front being the tip of the tongue then the middle and back of the mouth. Do not be afraid to drink this whiskey neat.  With ice the sweetness and oak from the barrels starts to come through more. It is a very hard to put down this rye whiskey.

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This whiskey is great to sip neat or with a couple of ice cubes. Today I will use it to make a Manhattan.

  • 2 oz Old Scout Rye
  • 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
  • 2 or 3 dashes of Angostura bitters
  • 1 maraschino cherry

Mix whiskey, vermouth, and bitters with ice until chilled then strain into a martini glass.  Add a cherry and enjoy.

FYI this made the best Manhattan I have ever had.  Using good spirits make all the difference.

Zubrowka Bison Grass Wodka

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Zubrowka is a Bison Grass infused vodka from Poland and its national spirit. Until recently this vodka was not available in the USA.  Apparently Bison Grass is classified as a carcinogenic and was banned.  I am not sure that what is sold today as Bison Grass Vodka in the USA even has Bison Grass in it?

When Joy and I visited Poland last summer, this was the first spirit I tried there.  We went to dinner in the Jewish Sector of Krakow and it was on the menu.  I ordered it neat, but the friends we were with had the waitress bring a side of apple juice.  In Poland, this is served with apple juice. I’m using the bottle Marcin brought to me for Christmas so I am reviewing the real Zubrowka. On this visit, Marcin brought me a bottle covered in grass.  This is popular as a gift during the holidays.

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The vodka is a clear, pale yellowish green color like you would expect a grass infused spirit to look.  There is enough body that it does slide down the tasting glass slowly.

The bottle has a very nice Bison on the label.  There is even a blade of bison grass inside, which is a little darker, yellowish green.  The bottle is also embossed with blades of grass. The label is all in Polish, so I am having a hard time reading it.

The alcohol level for this spirit is 37.5 ABV, which is 75 proof for us in the States.

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The taste has a cinnamon-like quality with vanilla and green grass tones with a sweetness.  It’s not so grassy that you think your a cow though. It is smooth throughout the drink and the bison grass really comes out in the aftertaste in a pleasant way. In Poland, I did drink most of it with apple juice and it went well with that.  But this spirit is very drinkable neat. Ice does not inhibit the taste or smells at all.  So you will not hurt the taste by icing it down. It is still slightly sweet with the bison grass spice coming through.

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Since I did not have apple juice as a mixer, I used ginger ale with the Zubrowka.  I guess I made a Bison Grass High Ball.  A High Ball is any spirit mixed with a carbonated mixer.

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Bison Grass High Ball

  • 1 1/2 oz Zubrowka
  • 6 oz Vernor’s Ginger Ale
  • Ice

Mix vodka and ginger ale and add ice.

It was a nice surprise to taste how well these mixed together. I thought the ginger ale would overpower the drink.  The bison grass spice complemented the ginger ale.

So I’ll sit here and enjoy the rest of Bison Grass High Ball in the 12 Bar Blues Bar.

Whiskey Acres Farm Crafted Corn Whiskey

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I attended the Whiskey Acres bourbon release party in early June. While I was there, I tried their corn whiskey.  I really enjoyed that spirit almost as much as the bourbon. One of the drinks being served during the party was a Mojito made with the corn whiskey, which was very tasty. The flavors from this whiskey are a great complement with the lime, mint, and sugar in the drink. As promised a couple of weeks ago here is my review.

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The corn whiskey is unaged, so the color is clear. This spirit is not cloudy at all. There is a nice cling to the glass, whch indicates a good body.

The bottle is nice. I like the printed bottle that does not use a label. The motto on the back of the bottle is. “Great Whiskey Isn’t Made. It’s Grown.” The bottle cork is also very nice. The bottle also comes with a chard stave and a booklet telling you how to use it. They say that it takes the supplied stave about two weeks to age the spirit and  it is fun to taste the corn whiskey daily to see how it changes. I might get another bottle and try this myself.

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Now onto the important aspects of this whiskey. which are smell and taste. There is a very pleasant, sweet cornbread aroma. It has a little alcohol smell, but it is displaced by the butterscotch notes. It smells so nice you should spend sometime just enjoying it. The smell does set the expectation for the taste.

The first sip was smooth with very little burn at the front or back of the mouth. It did warm the insides as it went down. At 90 Proof (45 ABV), this was a nice surprise. The clear spirit has enough body to give it a pleasant mouth feel. It starts with a sweet cornbread taste and then evolves into a butterscotch and caramel after taste. It might even have a faint caramel corn after taste.

I would not pour it into a glass and sip it, but it is not unpleasant. Adding ice does not affect the flavor much. It might even bring out the butterscotch caramel sweetness and a little more burn. The corn notes are also very nice.

WhiskeyAcresCornWhiskey (5)S

While I was at the tasting, one of their summer drink specials was a Corn Whiskey Mojito. It was this Mojito that pushed me into buying a bottle of Whiskey Acres Corn Whiskey. It made the best Mojito I have ever had. The corn whiskey’s taste really enhanced the lime, mint, and sugar in this drink. So here is my recipice for a Corn Whiskey Mojito.

    Corn Whiskey Mojito

  • 1/2 Lime
  • 1 oz Simple Syrup
  • 6 to 8 Mint Leaves
  • 2 oz Whiskey Acres Corn Whiskey
  • 4 oz Club Soda
  • Ice

Muddle lime, mint, and simple syrup together. Add corn whiskey and mix. Add club soda and ice to fill up you glass and garnish with mint sprig. Kick back and enjoy a Northern Illinois Mojito.

Vikre Distillery – Boreal Spruce Gin

Boreal Spruce Gin is from Vikre Distillery in Duluth Minnesota.

Boreal refers to the northern forest where they harvest some of the botanical for this gin. When I first saw this gin, I had to try it. It reminded me of my brother, Alex’s love of spruce tip beer. Just like Alex, Vikre harvests light green spruce tips and adds them to their gin.

You can see more about Vikre at:  Vikre Distillery

Gin Bottel
Gin Bottle

Gin is a clear, distilled spirit that is be made with juniper berries and other botanicals.  Caitlin from Vikre told me that they taste the tips from each tree to ensure the tips are sweet.  They only use the best tasting tips in their boreal spruce gin.  It must be worth the effort because this gin is very good.

Gin Bottle Close Up
Gin Bottle Close Up

Taste and Appearance

The gin is clear and devoid of any color with some body.  The smell of juniper is a sweet pine, like a freshly cut Christmas tree.

There is no burn at the start or end of the first drink. That was not expected, because it is 90 proof or 45 ABV.  On the first drink, it coats the entire mouth with a smooth, piney flavor that is not overpowering.  This is not anything like drinking turpentine, even though I can’t says I know what that would be like. This is a very pleasant tasting gin.

I wonder if you could sip this gin over ice and enjoy the flavor and body with its smoothness.  This gin definitely would make a great gin martini. The chill from the ice cube brought out even more of the spruce tip flavor. If you love spruce tip beer or gin, then you enjoy this gin and it should be part of your basic bar stock.

When I first tried this gin, the people at Vikre gave me lessons on how to pronounce the name, which wasn’t that hard.  They even wrote it out on their business card for me.  Here is your first lesson:  “veek-ruh”.

Card with pronunciation
Card with pronunciation

Drink of the week

If you enjoy gin, there is no better drink than a Gin and Tonic. A couple of weeks ago, I read that even people who do not like gin generally enjoy Gin and Tonic. The two flavors compliment each other at a molecular level.  On a hot day, this is definitely a nice drink.

Gin & Tonic
Gin & Tonic


  • 2 oz Boreal Spruce Gin
  • 4 oz chilled Tonic Water
  • 2 Lime Wedges
  • Splash of Orange Bitters

Fill an old fashioned glass with ice.  Add gin and tonic and mix well. Add orange bitters and squeeze limes over glass and drop in.

Whiskey Acres – Bourbon

This week’s review is Whiskey Acres Distilling Co. Bourbon. Last Saturday, June 4, Whiskey Acres released their  Bourbon. Since they are close by in DeKalb IL, Joy and I decided to attend their Bourbon Release Party.

The release party was very successful. I also got to meet Nick, who is a customer of Whiskey Resources. They always wanted to do Bourbon, so they have been making it for the last two years.

To keep the lights on, they have sold Vodka made from corn, which is very popular. Whiskey Acres also sold an unaged Corn Whiskey. They gave the buyer a small chard oak stave so you can age it at home. The Corn Whiskey is also very tasty and I will review in the near future.

Here is a link to their web site:




The color is a deep amber color and clings to the tasting glass very nicely. Being only two years old, I thought it would be lighter. The printed on glass bottles are nice with cork stoppers. I like their motto, “From Seed to Spirit”. Its appearance is everything you would want in Bourbon. The barrel warehouse is a repurposed quonset hut that has served as a corn bin at one time.



This is a wheat Bourbon, so it is not as spicy as is normal for a wheat Bourbon. The smell is very nice. I find it hard to believe this is only aged for two years. That quonset hut must contain magic to produce this quality of a Bourbon in such a short time. The wood, vanilla, and nutmeg come across very nice. There is also a faint smell of corn.

The distillery is on a working farm where they grow their own corn. They keep the best corn to make their Bourbon and sell the rest to other distillers. Only the best grain goes into the mash. The excellent quality corn makes the smell so nice.



The taste is smooth from the front to the back. There is a little alcohol bite, but not much. It is bottled at 87 Proof or 48.5 ABV.

The spice is mellow and the grains are soft just as you would expect from a wheat Bourbon. I really like the smell from the plentiful vanilla and orange, but it is not harsh. This is the best inhouse craft Bourbon that I have tasted. Again, it is only two years old. So this proves you can’t judge Bourbon by its age. A splash of water does open this bourbon very nicely and just enhances its wonderful taste.

When tasting, it is hard not to stop and give it another smell. The smell is simple grain with the spices of wood. But like good blues, it sounds simple yet so hard to play. The wonderful smell is simple, but yet it is a perfect smelling Bourbon.


I made an Old Fashion, which is the drink I had during the Bourbon Release Party.


Here is the recipe I used to create this very enjoyable libation:

  1. 2 tsp sugar
  2. 3 dashes Angostura Bitters
  3. 1 orange slice
  4. 1 maraschino cherry
  5. 2 ½ oz. Bourbon (Whiskey Acres)
  6. 2 oz. club soda.

Muddle the sugar, bitters, orange, and cherry together. Add bourbon and strain into a ice filled old fashion glass. Add an orange slice and cherry.

MB Roland Kentucky Black Patch Whiskey

MB Roland Kentucky Black Patch Whiskey

When I attended Distiller’s Boot Camp at MB Roland in Pembroke KY we where introduced to Black Patch Whiskey. This is a single barrel whiskey bottled at barrel strength. It was in the barrel for a year and is an interesting whiskey. In the interest of full disclosure MB Roland is a customer of mine.
Since is was aged in an used barrel this is not a bourbon. The smoke corn in the mash bill gives it a Scotch Whisky like character. Since it is not made from Single Malt nor in Scotland is is not Scotch. But that should not stop you from trying this whiskey.


As you can see the color is light amber color. The whiskey does cling to the glass a little bit indicating that it does have some body.
The bottle has a cork stopper and nice simple shape. This is the small 375 ml bottle. This size is nice because you don’t have to make the same investment as a 750 ml. This whiskey is bottled at 110.7 Proof (55.35 ABV). It is fun to read the label.


The smoke smell if very strong. Talking to Paul the distiller owner at MB Roland they used 25% smoke corn in this mash bill. They smoke the corn themselves.

Taste Strait

The smell is a very good indication of the taste. Very smokey like Barbecue. The high alcohol gives the finish a good bite. In the background there is a little sweetness from the corn and just a hit of wood. The year in the barrel did add something but not much.


Taste With Ice

The ice did bring down the alcoholic bite. It also helped mellow out the smoke a little. The people at the distillery say to drink this strait and it did taste better strait.

After Thoughts

It would be nice in a tumbler taking small sips. It would also be fun to to shots with the guys. The would be great to take to a Barbecue. The fun thing about craft spirits is they distillers are experimenting with new ideas. To smoke corn and make whiskey with it is not something you will find everyday. I would not think of this like American Whiskey but like a Scottish Single Malt. That is about the peat smoked barley malt. This is about the hickory smoked corn because it is American.

Other Notes

I have quite the collection of bourbons and other spirits at my bar. The plan is to taste each one and post about them to this bog every week. I hope people find this interesting. If you read this far thank you.

Rock and Rye

Attending the Distill Illinois I tasted a spirit called Rock & Rye.  The name reminded me of my favorite cheap soda growing up in Michigan called Rock and Rye.16 This soda I got at Meyer

So I decided to make my own more adult version of Rock & Rye. Here are a couple of interesting facts about Rock & Rye. First the Rock in Rock & Rye is Rock Candy and the Rye in Rock & Rye is Rye Whiskey. The second is the drink was very popular in the nineteenth century.  It was made as a treatment for colds and sore throats.

Here are detailed steps to making Rock & Rye if you want to make your own cold medicine.  These should be adjusted for your tastes.


750 ML Rye Whiskey, 1/2 cup rock candy(I used cherry flavored), 1 cinnamon stick, 2 whole cloves, 1 tsp Horehound (search Amazon), 2 oz dried Cherries, 1/2 Lemon, 1/2 Orange, and 1/2 Lime.

You will need to pore a bottle of Rye Whiskey into a big jar.
Then add the spices. Cinnamon
Then add the spices. Whole Cloves
Then add the spices. Horehound
Then add the Rock Candy


Wait Three Days

Time to add the fruits.

Then Add the dried cherries

Half a Lemon
Half a Orange
Half a Lime
After one day on the fruit it tasted like mulled wine mostly musty with a little citrus notes.
A couple of more days it developed big citrus notes. Maybe next time I will not add the lime.

Wait is over

Then strain and put back in a bottle.

Tasting Notes

It has a smooth and full mouth feel.  The color is reddish from the dried cherries.  There is no noticeable Rye Whiskey bite it is masked by rock candy and spices.  The dried cherries give it a little musty character which the citrus fruits counter act with their bright flavors. The lime really comes through.  The flavor is reminiscent of cough medicine but I would rather drink this than take cough medicine.  Looking forward to trying this the next time I get a cold or sore throat. It is not as sweet as the soda of my youth nor are the flavors very close.  But as an adult this is way better.


I also mixed it with Soda Water and that is was good also. The Lime in the Rock & Rye gave it a G&T like quality.
Anyway Enjoy.