Whiskey of the Week is a new review series on Spy. Each week, we’ll review a different bottle, from newly released small-batch bourbons to our favorite cheap well whiskies.
The Spirit: Stellum Bourbon and Rye
The Distillery: Various unnamed distilleries
Birthplace: Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee
Style: blend of straight bourbons and blend of straight ryes
Proof: 114.98 proof / 57.49% ABV (bourbon) 116.24 proof / 58.12% ABV (rye)
Availability: Wide release
Stellum Spirits is a new whiskey brand from Joe Beatrice and the team at Barrell Craft Spirits, an independent blender and bottler in Louisville that produces some truly excellent bourbons and ryes, as well as other cask-finished whiskeys. Given that Barrell already blends barrels from some of the same sources that are used for Stellum, why the new brand? It seems to be about making more accessible whiskeys that are priced about $30 lower than the Barrell batches, while still retaining the attention to detail that Beatrice employs for all his whiskey. Also, while the Barrell batches are each unique creations, this will be an ongoing release that maintains consistency.
“We wanted to create a brand that brings American whiskey into the modern age with simple elegant blends and single barrels selected with care and intention,” said Beatrice in a prepared statement. “Our whiskeys are created through a rigorous process of study, observation, and experimentation. We are driven by progress, polish and—above all—attention to detail. We will always think critically about how to make our whiskey better.”
All that being said, the important things are what is actually in these bottles, and how it tastes. Both are bottled at cask strength and don’t carry an age statement. The bourbon is a blend of three mash bills distilled in Indiana (most likely MGP), two of which are high rye and one which is heavy on the corn, as well as older liquid from Kentucky and Tennessee. There are rich caramel and apricot notes throughout the palate, along with oak, vanilla, and a nice warm heat that shines at this relatively high proof. The rye is based around the 95 percent rye mash bill that so commonly comes from MGP, and it’s supported by a rye that is “more barley-forward” as well as Kentucky and Tennessee rye whiskeys. This is my favorite of the two, a sturdy rye with classic spice and fruit notes, buttressed by a honey sweetness, vanilla, and a bit of menthol and black pepper.
Both of these are truly fantastic in cocktails. Try the rye in a Manhattan, as the rich flavor and intensity of the high proof allow it to hold its own when combined with sweet vermouth and bitters. And the bourbon is perfectly suited for an Old Fashioned or even a Boulevardier. But spend some time sipping these on their own as well, with a little water if the proof is too high for you. Stellum is an admirable new entry into the whiskey world, and clearly put together by a team that takes the art of blending very seriously.
You can find Stellum Bourbon and Rye online at Flaviar.