DSR – SC – 003: Chicken Cock Heritage Reserve


Company/Distillery: Grain and Barrel Spirits

Location: Charleston, SC

Mash Bill: Undisclosed (reported to be 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley)

Age Statement: Aged at least 6 months

Proof/ABV: 90 Proof/45% ABV

Color: Watered down white grape or apple juice.  Very thin viscosity in the glass, no legs.

Purchase Price: $40.79 at VA ABC stores; 750 ml

Bottle Label Information:

Neck Label

“EST. 1856”

Front Label

“The Famous Old Brand”

“Chicken Cock Whiskey Co.”

“First Distilled in 1856”

“Bourbon”

“Heritage Reserve”

Side Labels

“Originally established in Paris, Kentucky in 1856, Chicken Cock became legendary during Prohibition as a bootleg whiskey. Smuggled into famous speakeasies including the Cotton Club in sealed tin cans it was commonly referred to as ‘Chicken Cock, the whiskey in a tin can’.”

“In homage to our early days distilling bourbon in the heart of Bourbon County, Kentucky, our Heritage Reserve is a delicious union of some of the finest bourbon we could get our hands on, all rested at our new home in Charleston, South Carolina. We hope Mr. J.A. Miller, the original proprietor of Chicken Cock Whiskey Co. would be proud.”

“www.chickencockwhiskey.com”

“Produced and bottled by Grain and Barrel Spirits, North Charleston, South Carolina”

“Aged at least 6 months”


Distillery Background


J.A. Miller Chicken Cock Whiskey

In 1856, a gentlemen by the name of James A. Miller would begin distilling whiskey in the town of Paris, Kentucky, in Bourbon County. Unfortunately, Mr. Miller would only be able to reap the fruits of his labor for a few short years before his passing. Upon his death, a former employee of Miller’s, George G. White, and other investors would round up enough money to purchase the distillery and steer it towards a prosperous future.

George G. White was quite the savvy businessman who took the small distillery in Paris, Kentucky and began to turn it into a nationally recognized brand. Mr. White made the decision to have the distillery expand production to mashing about 400 bushels of grain a day and filling approximately 9,000 barrels per year. In 1880, he would change the distillery’s name to the G.G. White Distillery. By 1886, White significantly increased production to 600 bushels of grain mashed a day. The distillery added 6 new rickhouses for aging whiskey, each with a capacity of around 32,000 barrels per facility. Despite having already obtained a lifetime of accomplishments, White decided he couldn’t stop there. He added a cooperage on site, a new barn with cattle and hogs, and grain silos. Mr. White appeared to be ahead of his time as he used the discarded mash to feed his cattle and hogs, a practice many distilleries use today.

Unfortunately, Mr. White wasn’t invincible as the dreaded era of Prohibition struck in 1920. This brought his whiskey distillation to a grinding halt. Unable to continue producing Chicken Cock Whiskey, G.G. White would sell his distillery to Distillers Corporation Limited of Canada. Distillers Corp. Limited of Canada would go on to purchase the rights to the name “Chicken Cock” and begin producing the spirit on Canadian soil. As a cost savings measure, the company would begin selling its Chicken Cock product in tin cans filled with Canadian Rye Whiskey. It was around this time that Chicken Cock would gain its notoriety and demand as a high end bootlegged spirit at the Cotton Club, a well known music venue, in Harlem, NY.

As prohibition began to wind down, Chicken Cock Whiskey would again find itself under new ownership. This time around, the brand was purchased by American Medical Spirits Company, where it would be produced and sold for medicinal purposes as was common during this era. Whiskey would slowly begin to fall out of favor with the general public and as a result, Chicken Cock would slowly disappear into history in the 1950’s.

Grain and Barrel Spirits

After laying dormant for almost 65 years, the Chicken Cock brand would be rediscovered by Matti Anttila in 2011 as he researched the history of distillation in American. Anttila would decide to relaunch Chicken Cock Whiskey’s iconic brand along with his company, Grain and Barrel Spirits, in 2012. Anttila began by sourcing the whiskey, just to get things going. In 2017, Chicken Cock released a 160th Anniversary 30 barrel, 8 year old, Single Barrel special release. In 2018, the company celebrated the filling of its first barrels in over 50 years. In addition, the company would join The Bardstown Bourbon Company Collaborative, which has allowed Master Distiller Gregg Snyder to hone his craft alongside master distillers from distilleries like Maker’s Mark.

Other offerings by Chicken Cock include their Kentucky Straight Bourbon, Kentucky Straight Rye, and Limited Release Ryeteous Blonde Beer Barrel. Previous special release offerings included a Beer Barrel Select, Double Barrel 10 year, and Single Barrel 8 year bourbons.

For more information visit the Chicken Cock Whiskey or Grain and Barrel homepages.


Tasting Notes


Tasting Date/Vessel: August 9, 2020 – Neat in Glencairn Glass

Nose

Christian: Immediately the nose jumps out as unique. Heavy fruit aromatics overtake the nose. A tartness or sourness similar to granny smith apples that have been pureed is very apparent. If held at a distance, the smell of oatmeal or corn meal become more present along with a very subtle hint of wine. Adding water allows bourbon to take on an herbal green tea essence. Apple remains present, but softens some with a mild tartness.

Mike: Extremely young on the nose with fresh green apple slices giving way to jarred cinnamon applesauce. Nosing in deeper brings out the burn of ethanol and just a hint of white grape wine.

Mouth

Christian: This bourbon presents with a thin and watery mouth feel. The flavors that come through are somewhat unexpected, solely based on the nose. Earthy flavors of green corn (think baby corn) and barley. The slightest hint of honey is present. Thoughts of plain Cheerios and off-brand cheap graham crackers come to mind. Water makes the mouth feel become almost like water, really thins it down. Earthiness remains with corn in the forefront.

Mike: Somewhat earthy on the tongue with the subtle plainness of unsweetened oatmeal on the front. Corn takes over midway on the palate with the characteristic young whiskey burn to round things out. There is chalky bitterness that tends to linger on the back end.

Finish

Christian: Short finish that has a quick bite then smooths out. A flavor of unsweetened cornbread, no butter, comes to mind. As the flavor dissipates, I notice the first hint of apple puree in the flavor profile. Dry and a little bitter on the back end. Water allows the bite to disappear. Finish becomes smooth and mild. Barley and hay become dominate on finish.

Mike: Very quick and sharp finish that ends surprisingly soft. A faint hint of bitter chocolate does its best to linger.


Our Rating



Final Thoughts


Christian: This bourbon is so young and it really shows in its appearance, nose and flavors. Extremely earthy and bland in flavor, somewhat lacking in complexity and sweetness, which is generally brought by years in the barrel. I really wanted to like this bottle – a really cool history and vintage label made it appealing on the shelf. The bottle just didn’t deliver. Finally, the price is a little outrageous for the value provided in the product. I would recommend buying something priced at this same price point but aged 3 times longer – I believe you will get a more flavorful experience.

Rating: 1.75 Rickhouses

Mike: I don’t dislike this bourbon. It is unquestionably young but has a flavor that is enjoyable, despite its overall shortcomings. Very reminiscent of Mellow Corn, which I appreciate for what it is. The bottle label has a nostalgic look that I dig and it presents well on the shelf. All that being said, this seems gimmicky and slightly overpriced as an offering from a revived old label. My humble recommendation would be to pass this on the shelf if you see it and hunt yourself down two bottles of Mellow Corn.

Rating: 2.25 Rickhouses

Conclusion: Chicken Cock Whiskey comes with a interesting and fascinating history dating back to 1856. The label on this offering is vintage and appealing to the eye, making the consumer take a look and want to give it a try. Unfortunately, the goods just do not deliver – especially at the steep price point and young age. The search continues for a product from South Carolina that can stand on its own, providing a flavorful and exciting experience.


Gallery


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