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Masterson’s Straight Barley Whiskey

Review: Masterson’s 10-Year-Old Straight Barley Whiskey   81/100
a review by Chip Dykstra (Aka Arctic Wolf)
Posted on March 25, 2014

Masterson’s Straight Barley Whiskey is distilled and aged in Canada, for a company from Sonoma California called 35 Maple Street. As a straight whiskey, the spirit must be barreled and aged in new American Oak; however this Masterson’s whiskey also holds the distinction of being perhaps the only straight whiskey which is distilled from a mash of 100 % unmalted barley. It is bottled at 46% alcohol by volume, and is apparently (like the rest of the Masterson’s line-up) named for the famous frontier lawman, William “Bat” Masterson.

Mastersons_BarleyIn the Bottle 5/5

Masterson’s Whiskey arrives in the handsome bottle shown to the left. Like the previously reviewed Masterson’s Straight Rye Whiskey, this bottle deserves a perfect score for presentation. The look of the  bottle is unique, and it instantly generates conversation with its homage to an original Canadian Bat Masterson (gunfighter and lawman). A solid cork closure tops everything off, and all of us at the tasting could not wait to try the whiskey inside.

In the Glass 8/10

When poured into the glass the whiskey shows itself as a pale straw coloured spirit. The initial aroma in the breezes above the glass takes me right back to my early childhood. On the farm where I grew up we used to grind our grain in a hammer mill. On cold winter days we would mix the ground barley with warm milk and water, and feed it to our outdoor hogs. The aroma of that musty barley porridge that we fed our hogs seems to be drifting in the air above my glass as I examine the whiskey’s colour.

That barley porridge smell might not be something everyone is familiar with; but try to think of a musty, leathery, porridge-like smell with added  honeycomb and grain spice. (If you ever had ‘Sonny Boy’ porridge as a kid then you will know what I am talking about.) The whiskey also brings forward strong woody smells of fresh cedar and oak. Mixed in between are additional hints of cinnamon, licorice and menthol.

Given time in the glass, the mustiness with the barley whiskey becomes quite strong, and it reminds me of the smell of the damp ground barley which would build up in the corners of the feed bin over the long winter. This is a very unique whiskey.

In the Glass 48/60

The flavour is, if it is possible to imagine, even more unique than the aroma. Things begin with a flavours of sour bread, heavy grainy porridge, and strange tangy, pungent, spices. This spiciness brings forward impressions of the spicy sap which oozes from fresh wood chips. There is also an obvious butterscotch sweetness which permeates the spirit, and this perhaps provides a counterbalance to the unusual spicy, sour, porridge-like flavour. Winding throughout is a very Rhum Agricole-like flavour with herbal and grassy impressions that carry flavours of heather and lemongrass as well as firm accents of menthol, licorice and mint. The complexity is very high, and when I return to the glass, I also taste hints of salty brine, and a touch of black tar.

All of this would be wonderful but for a stubborn underlying mustiness which unfortunately grows with each sip. This mustiness smothers what would otherwise be a wonderfully complex whisky, and is keeping the score from climbing.

In the Throat 12/15

The whiskey brings all of its strong flavours through to the exit which I would not describe as smooth, although neither is it so rough that it is disconcerting. Rough and Tumble would be a good description. The palate is left coated with spicy sap-like flavours, but this is accompanied by light herbal impressions and the coolness of menthol. The finish leaves flavours of mint, licorice and spice ebbing on the palate and in the throat; but unfortunately we taste oodles of musty grain as well.

The Afterburn 8/10

The Masterson’s 10 Year Old Straight Barley is an odd duck of a whiskey. The unmalted barley seems bring a lot of interesting flavours forward, however, it also seems to bring a very strong mustiness into the spirit as well. I found that I grew to like the whiskey as I continued to dent the bottle; however, it would be fair to say that I never did completely warm up to the pure unmalted barley taste.

My Score of 81/100 reflects a whiskey which I found interesting, and which I eventually learned to enjoy. But, it is also a whiskey which I will not seek out as there are just too many others which I enjoy far more.

You may read some of my other Whiskey Reviews (click the link) if you wish to have some comparative reviews.

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As always you may interpret the scores I provide as follows.

0-25 A spirit with a rating this low would actually kill you.
26-49 Depending upon your fortitude you might actually survive this.
50 -59 You are safe to drink this…but you shouldn’t.
60-69 Substandard swill which you may offer to people you do not want to see again.
70-74 Now we have a fair mixing rum or whisky.  Accept this but make sure it is mixed into a cocktail.
75-79 You may begin to serve this to friends, again probably still cocktail territory.
80-84 We begin to enjoy this spirit neat or on the rocks. (I will still primarily mix cocktails)
85-89 Excellent for sipping or for mixing!
90-94 Definitely a primary sipping spirit, in fact you may want to hoard this for yourself.
95-97.5 The Cream of the Crop
98+ I haven’t met this bottle yet…but I want to.

Very loosely we may put my scores into terms that you may be more familiar with on a Gold, Silver, and  Bronze medal  scale as follows:

70 – 79.5    Bronze Medal (Recommended only as a mixer)
80 – 89.5     Silver Medal (Recommended for sipping and or a high quality mixer)
90 – 95         Gold Medal (Highly recommended for sipping and for sublime cocktails.)
95.5+            Platinum Award (Highest Recommendation)

 

 

 

 

 

 
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