I'm always down to try something new! Milam & Greene is bursting on the whiskey scene while boasting about their wonderfully skilled team. I haven't had the opportunity to try any of their other releases prior to this one, so let's explore this brand a bit together. Below is a bit about this release from the makers themselves:
Master blender Heather Greene harvested 75 bourbon barrels to create the inaugural batch of Very Small Batch Bourbon. These barrels are a combination of bourbon distilled by master distiller Marlene Holmes in Kentucky using the proprietary Milam & Greene mash bill and barrels of Tennessee bourbon. The barrel recipe for Batch 1 is 20% of the precious Kentucky barrels and 80% Tennessee barrels. The barrels are divided into smaller batches to marry in 1,000-gallon vatting tanks before finishing.
The Kentucky whiskey base is distilled by the Milam & Greene team using their signature mash bill of 70% corn, 22% malted rye, and 8% malted barley. The use of malted rye provides a rich texture and nuttiness that makes it approachable at a young age. For Batch 1, the barrels are aged in Kentucky and then Texas for just shy of 4 years. The Tennessee bourbon was distilled with a mash bill of 80% corn, 10% rye, and 10% malted barley. This batch is a reflection of the climate on whiskey from three different states: Kentucky, Tennessee, and Texas.
Using very small batches as the heart of our new whiskey allows for greater control over the final product. It takes much more attention to detail to produce an elegant whiskey that showcases the esters that are produced during fermentation to bring out refined fruit, floral, and herbaceous notes. To perfect the precise wood flavor without overpowering these refined ester notes, Very Small Batch Bourbon is finished with French oak staves. French oak casks that once held both tawny port wine and then Milam & Greene’s award-winning rye whiskey are broken down, then “cooked” in the 100-degree Texan summer sun, and finally house-charred to a crisp on the outside only. These crispy-on-the-outside, rye-kissed on-the-inside staves are tied in bundles and then steeped in Very Small Batch Bourbon for about two weeks in the vatting tanks.
That was a lot to take in, but I'm a fan of what I'm hearing here. I have had 3 glasses prior to this review, so this is a well-formed opinion of this pour, not a quick shot in the dark. I hope you, my dear reader, appreciate this care and attention to detail. Let's dive in and see how this blend turned out.
Company on Label: Milam & Greene
Back Label: Aged, Finished & Bottled by Provision Spirits
Whiskey Type: Straight Bourbon Whiskey Finished with Charred French Oak Staves
Mash Bill Percentages: 70% Corn, 21% Rye, and 9% Malted Barley
Age: NAS (just shy of 4 years)
Further identification: This whiskey blend was distilled in Kentucky & Tennessee before being blended into batch #1.2 by Heather Greene
Nose: Malty tones jump out of the glass first before an oily nose-feel carrying buttercream frosting and nilla wafers swings in. Rolling the glass amplifies molasses, zesty rye and thick mocha tones. Returning to the nose after a sip produces darker and darker tones as time goes on with this. As the glass weathers on I find deep char, rich red cedar and dark chocolate notes. Overall the sweeter & creamier tones clash a bit with the dark, damp earthy notes. Late in the glass a savory backdrop of Tennessee smoked meat begins to form. The empty glass smells of rum-soaked raisins, heavy black pepper and the faint aroma of a skunk passing by on a Summer night. What a fun profile that overall reminds me of a 1990s backyard cookout.
Palate: At first sip I'm greeted by simple syrup, light prune juice and caramel Girl Scout cookies. Returning to the glass builds in molasses, espresso and sponge cake. Exploring further I begin to get a touch hung up on something that feels just a bit synthetic. I think it is a byproduct of the extra oak influence, but ultimately it feels out of place for a bourbon. As the glass gets lower I find little change to this consistently easy sip. Coffee bean, malt and hints of vanilla continue to dominate the flavor profile. My last sip is quaint and easy with touches of leather amongst raisin and soft dinner roll.
Milam & Greene Very Small Batch manages to take a classic category and impart a spin of uniqueness that is refreshing in today's market. It's not my personal favorite, but I do believe there will be a strong cast of people satisfied with sipping on this one. If one can get through the heavier malt and spice notes of their first glass, they will be rewarded with an easy sipping whiskey for many days to come.
I'd recommend this one for fans of Maker's 46 Cask Strength and perhaps those who like those heavy funk, almost borderline skunky pours. I'd imagine this also might be approachable for those who also enjoy single malt whiskeys. I'd like to thank Big Thirst for allowing me to review this whiskey with no strings attached.