Three months passed since the Chattanooga Whiskey Company started selling their 1816 Reserve and 1816 Cask. In that time I have personally drained two bottles of the former and almost a bottle of the latter, so I thought I would revisit both at this time for a proper review.
1816 Reserve, approx. $25/bottle
The CWC 1816 Reserve is a medium to dark amber in the glass with a rich nose of vanilla, oak and citrus. It is a medium-bodied dram that pairs quite well, in my experience, with almost any cigar I could pull out of my humidor. Not surprising, since this whiskey does meet the federal legal qualifications to be called a Bourbon. It has a bit of a bite when sipped initially and the alcohol vapors do burn a bit on the back of the throat from time to time, but overall I have found it to be smooth and quite flavorful, exhibiting loads of vanilla and sweet corn flavors, along with more subtle floral and orange notes.
The combination of full flavor and reasonable price tag has quickly vaulted Chattanooga Whiskey Company 1816 Reserve into the top spot in my liquor cabinet, regarded as my favorite "everyday" whiskey.
1816 Cask, approx. $40/bottle
I generally have a "$30" rule for any liquor product. I am not a "man of means" so if a bottle of whiskey costs more than $30 I usually won't bother (I'm not destitute, either, so I just as rarely go below $20). The rule of 30 doesn't work well for 1816 Cask, though. It costs $40 per and is in fairly limited supply, so I bought two when I first found them for sale. Is this ~113 proof beverage really worth close to double the price though? Yes...absolutely.
This is bottled at the same proof that it came out of the barrel, so naturally it is darker in color. Nosing it, I got most of the same aromas as the Reserve--vanilla, oak, citrus--but a slightly floral note, too, and some additional alcohol vapor...big surprise there, huh? Taking a sip, the 1816 Cask is big and bold in the front of the mouth, with an intense vanilla and pronounced citrus quality. Sliding across the tongue it set my taste buds on fire and left the back of my mouth with a nice numbing, cooling sensation as the alcohol evaporated into my mouth.
Everything there is to love in the 1816 Reserve is dialed up a few notches in the 1816 Cask. After I had my first glass, I knew I had to have a bottle to be able to keep this experience on a more long-term basis. In a nod to its fuller body and more intense experience, I paired this with an Oliva Serie V Double Robusto, a full bodied, intense smoking experience. Take a puff, take a sip...and the sweet orange-like citrus flavor rushes through the middle of it all.
In preparing this article I had time to talk to one of the owners of the Chattanooga Whiskey Company, Joe Ledbetter, about how the launch of the company has gone so far. He said that because neither him nor his partner, Tim, had done something like this before, their expectations were low to non-existent: hope for the best, but expect nothing. Athens Distributing says this is the fastest they have ever seen a product sell during the first 60 days of a roll-out.
While they were initially expecting to be on sale throughout Tennessee within a few weeks of the big launch party, Chattanooga proved thirsty and ended up buying a lot more than anticipated. So the whiskey ended up debuting in Chattanooga and Knoxville before making its way to Nashville. They have since been picked up by the second-largest distributor in the country, Republic National, who will have them placed in 6 states initially with an expected 15 total by September 1.
I had trouble finding the 1816 Cask when it first came out, but it will be a regular, if somewhat limited, product, and Joe says it should be available in decent supply throughout their distribution region.
When asked about the laws in Hamilton County prohibiting the making of Chattanooga Whiskey in Chattanooga, Joe responded, "We are working hard to get the laws changed, and are optimistic that it will happen soon."
Ticket-holders for the 2012 Chattanooga Tweet-Up will get a taste of Chattanooga Whiskey Company's products as they are our liquor-tasting sponsor. The latest I've heard on the issue is that everyone will get a sample of both 1816 Reserve and 1816 Cask. As of now, it is not too late to buy your tickets for this great event: lots of cigars, lots of great folks, lots of fun! Go to www.BurnsTobacconist.com to get yours.