Review: Chattanooga Whiskey 91 and Cask 111
We’ve been writing about Tennessee-based Chattanooga Whiskey for years now, and while we’ve been upbeat about their products, they have, for better or worse, all been sourced products. Now Chattanooga is out with its own house-made spirit — or rather, a pair of them with names based on their proof levels — made in what the company calls “Tennessee high malt” style.
Both are straight bourbons made using four grains and three specialty malts, making for an unusual, malt-forward whiskey. There’s no detailed aging information, but we do know the whiskey spends two years in standard casks before being mingled in a 4000-gallon vat which is never completely emptied and which allows for solera-style finishing. (Also note that the sourced 1816 series is remaining on the market, so pay close attention when shopping.)
Before we dig in, here’s some additional detail:
Chattanooga Whiskey announced the release of its new signature expressions—Chattanooga Whiskey 91 and Chattanooga Whiskey Cask 111.
Following the success of the 2011 community-powered “Vote Whiskey” campaign, Chattanooga Whiskey became the first legal distillery in Chattanooga in over 100 years. “The journey of Chattanooga Whiskey began eight years ago,” said Tim Piersant, CEO and Founder, “We changed the laws, built two distilleries, and created our own style of straight bourbon whiskey—Tennessee High Malt—and we couldn’t be more excited to release it now.”
The signature recipe—known as “Barrel 91”—for Chattanooga Whiskey 91 was selected by Head Distiller Grant McCracken from the first 100 experimental barrels created at the Chattanooga Whiskey Experimental Distillery.
“Crafted using a 4 grain mash bill, including three specialty malts; rye malt, caramel malt and honey malt, gives Chattanooga Whiskey 91 a distinctly malt-forward flavor profile,” McCracken said. “Each step of the process has been crafted to highlight the complexity of these ingredients.” Medium bodied, Chattanooga Whiskey 91 has a taste profile of dried apricot, sweet tea, and honeyed toast, with a lingering, malty-sweet finish.
Releasing as a partner offering, Chattanooga Whiskey Cask 111 is the unfiltered, barrel strength expression of Tennessee High Malt. Crafted in small batches from a single fermentation, Chattanooga Whiskey Cask 111 is full bodied with a taste profile of chocolate covered cherry, toasted coconut, and cinnamon with a warming, malty finish.
“The release of Chattanooga Whiskey 91 and Chattanooga Whiskey Cask 111–100% made in Chattanooga—is the culmination of all our efforts,” said Piersant. “It fulfills our commitment to crafting the best sipping whiskey from Tennessee.”
So, let’s taste.
Chattanooga Whiskey 91 – The nose is youthful, grain-forward, and unusual, with notes of biscuits and brown butter that must be driven by the malted barley in the mash. Slightly smoky at times, it also finds a rustic, hemp-like aroma with time in glass. The palate is toasty and, again, quite young, and as promised it’s quite heavy on the malt. Those notes of hemp rope and fresh bread are hefty, and that burly, grainy character outlasts just about anything else. A hint of peach, maybe. A whiff of chocolate, perhaps. Mostly, it’s a deep dive exploration into the enduring power of malt. The good news is that’s not all that bad of a thing, and Chattanooga 91’s biscuit-heavy profile, touched just so with a bit of sweet honey, makes for an intriguing dive into an American take on malted grains. Or perhaps it’s refreshing for once not to have to review another young craft bourbon that tastes like nothing but popcorn. 91 proof. B+ / $35
Chattanooga Whiskey Cask 111 – While this is the same whiskey as the above, just with 10% more alcohol, it cuts a surprisingly different picture. Namely: There’s a distinct peanut note on the nose here that’s absent in the 91, tempering the cereal and hemp quite a bit. On the tongue, the whiskey is again bold with peanut character and a stronger butterscotch note. It’s a bit sweeter, but that’s held in check by notes of peanut, chocolate, and a hazelnut note. It’s also a richer and more engaging spirit, as is to be expected at this abv, but it comes across like a more traditional young bourbon than the 91 release, which turns out to have more of an originality and nuance to it. 111 proof. B / $45