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Whisk(e)y Reviews

June 2021

with

Center Stage with Three Chord Bourbon

These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by Three Chord Bourbon. This in no way influenced the final outcome of these reviews.

 

Read our interview with Neil Giraldo HERE.

I will admit that I did not know the name Neil Giraldo. I did know the names of many people he worked with, like Pat Benatar, John Waite and Kenny Loggins. If you read more about Neil and his music, it is easy to lose hours of time. As I did this, I wondered, how do we get from music to Bourbon? This is a somewhat typical story of someone with the means starting a whiskey business because of their love of whiskey. I say somewhat typical, mainly because that is where the similarities end.

When talking about Bourbon, who decides, "let's make a blend"? In many cases, people would think that is the death of a fledgling Bourbon business. But, for Neil Giraldo, the founder of Three Chord Bourbon, it just makes sense. You can see it in his quote about music, "When I first began playing guitar, I realized that if I could learn to play three basic chords - the roots of the blues - feel their meaning, perfect their sound, I could have a career in music". Three grains with "Perfectly Tuned Taste" just makes sense to the musician.

 

Blending whiskey is an art. There is good blended whiskey and bad blended whiskey. Obviously, everyone wants to end up on the good side of things, and that is where the blender shines. That isn't where Three Chord stops. They use a process called pyrolysis, heating the oak to release more flavor and aroma compounds, to better integrate the blended spirit. As you can see, this is not a musician that decided to just slap a label on someone's whiskey. There is definitely a process to find the harmony of multiple whiskeys.

 

All of this fun information aside, how does the whiskey taste? Well, we have 3 flagship whiskeys to review, so let's get down to business.

 

Three Chord Blended Bourbon

Class: Blended Bourbon Whiskey

Price: $40-$45

 

Notes:

  • No Age Statement

  • Blend of whiskeys from Kentucky, Indiana and Tennessee

  • Produced by Steel Bending Spirits, Chelsea, Michigan

  • Mash Bill: 73% Corn, 20% Rye, 7% Malted Barley

  • Bottled at 40.5% ABV (81 proof)

 

 

Nose: 84/100

 

Vanilla, butterscotch and oak come to the fore immediately. Honey and caramel sit right behind. A touch of peppermint lies underneath it all.

 

Palate: 78/100

 

Fairly light. Vanilla and caramel lead, but not overpowering. Toasted oak provides a solid foundation.

 

Finish: 80/100

 

Vanilla and butterscotch appear, but fleetingly in this medium length finish. A bit of smokiness along with caramel cremes linger for a bit.

 

Overall: 80/100

 

Recommendation: Worth buying a pour.

 

There is a really interesting flavor profile here that is really hampered by the lack of proof. The vanilla and butterscotch are evident throughout, and the caramel cremes provide a tasty finish. However, it is too subtle for its own good. This could be excellent at 90 or 95 proof given how tasty this is at 81 proof.

 

Three Chord Amplify Rye

Class: Rye Whiskey

Price: $45

 

Notes:

 

  • No Age Statement

  • Distilled in Kentucky and Indiana

  • Produced by Steel Bending Spirits, Chelsea, Michigan

  • Mash Bill: 95% Rye, 5% Malted Barley

  • Bottled at 47.5% ABV (95 proof)

 

Nose: 82/100

 

Anise and black pepper lead the way. A bit of mint lingers beneath. Sweet cherries and cloves sit in the background.

 

Palate: 86/100

 

Rich but dry. Vanilla, rye spice, fresh baked bread, cloves and dry oak all play nicely together. There is a creamy texture to the whole thing that almost makes it seem like pudding.

 

Finish: 86/100

 

Rich rye spice, vanilla, bread and dry oak lead again. The creaminess, cloves and a bit of mint remain more in the background, along with a touch of warmth. This is a nice, long finish.

 

Overall: 85/100

 

Recommendation: Must Try!

 

This really was a delight to try. You need to like a spicier rye, especially given the almost 100% rye content, but there is a creaminess that really offsets the spice nicely. This is a fairly well-balanced rye that can definitely compete with more established brands. I highly recommend you try to find this one.

 

Three Chord Strange Collaboration

Class: Kentucky Straight Bourbon finished in Pinot Noir casks

Price: $45

 

Notes:

 

  • No Age Statement

  • Blend of Straight Bourbon Distilled in Kentucky

  • Produced by Steel Bending Spirits, Chelsea, Michigan

  • Mash Bill: 75% Corn, 21% Rye, 4% Malted Barley

  • Finished for 3 months in Pinot Noir barrels from the Strange Family Vineyards of Santa Rita Hills, California

  • Bottled at 49.5% ABV (99 proof)

 

 

Nose: 82/100

 

Honey and straw in the front with caramel supporting. Maybe some rye spice in the background. After some time in the glass, vanilla cream and some raspberry appear in the background. Just a bit of ethanol as well.

 

Palate: 76/100

 

Oily and light. Honey and smoky oak are the stars here. A bit of vanilla and caramel are in the background.

 

Finish: 76/100

 

Smoky caramel and creamy vanilla lead here. Fairly short, warm finish.

 

Overall: 78/100

 

Recommendation: Worth buying a pour.

 

The prevalent smoke, caramel and vanilla make this an interesting dram. However, I really could not find much wine influence besides a little raspberry on the nose. Definitely a solid pour, and you only notice the proof on the finish. This could be very interesting if the finish was a bit longer to really change things.

 

What did we learn?

 

Well, we learned that some people play by different rules. While some people scoff at sourced whiskey, other people just like good whiskey. And that is where we ended up today, good whiskey. Some people scoff at blended whiskey, and people familiar with Scotch know that sometimes blended Scotch can be better than the sum of its parts. Now, I did not get to taste the parts of each blend, but I do need to admit that Three Chord is putting together some very good blends. The Amplify Rye is an excellent rye on its own, not just "good for a craft distiller". The blended Bourbon and Strange Collaboration are good foundations for the future and I can see how good they could be later. Three Chord is definitely a brand to watch, and hopefully they can consistently produce top quality blended whiskey.