Review: Bully Boy White Whiskey
Finally, we come to the the final installment of my Bully Boy product line reviews. That is, until their aged stuff has finished properly aging. Which is taking FOR-EV-ERRRR.
Bully Boy produces a wheat-based, white whiskey, two unusual characteristics that are becoming more popular in the industry. With white (clear) unaged whiskies popping up on shelves labeled as “white dog,” “white lightning,” or even straight-up “moonshine,” Bully Boy takes the trend and adds a bit more craft to the process. Like their vodka, the use of regionally-sourced wheat earns the whiskey a USDA Organic stamp, and an entirely different flavor from most other brands, which tend to use corn more than wheat, rye, or barley.
To be legally labeled as whiskey, rather than “unaged wheat spirit,” you have to age it. Bully Boy ages theirs for eight hours. Yup. Eight. That’s it. They started off with a full 24 hours, but wound up with more of the barrel’s smokey char flavor than desired. Despite the raw, alcohol burn of the young whiskey, this one clocks in at a standard 80 proof, 40% abv.
Time for a sample.
Nose: A bit hot in the nose. Some mild acetone, but with a sweetness lurking underneath. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it sugary, but there’s a very dry, honey candy behind the booze. It’s like the missing link between the vodka’s “wet granite” (couldn’t resist) neutral spirit, and the rum’s molasses sugar wonderland. Being a wheat-based spirit, I’m picking up a lot of banana as well, much like a Belgian beer, though lacking the clove spice that often goes with it. There’s an herbal essence (try the body wash!) reminiscent of Irish poteen, though a side-by-side comparison with both my Bunratty and Knockeen Hills emphasizes the alcoholic nose of the Bully Boy.
Taste: Neat, at room temperature. Hot on the tongue, then evaporates cleanly, leaving behind flavors of dry wheat grasses and a mildly antiseptic vodka-like cleanliness. There’s quite a bit of that dry honey again, and even a bit of dry wild herbs, like a very subdued poteen.
Let’s put it in a cocktail and see what happens. Since last week’s Rule 37 was the scotch whisky based Affinity cocktail, I though I’d give it a try with the Bully Boy. The original recipe of equal parts spirit, sweet vermouth and dry vermouth with Angostura bitters tasted much more vermouthy than the scotch version of the drink. The more delicate Bully Boy is washed away in a tipple where even the Angostura makes its presence know in the middle ground. As I suspected, when using a spirit less powerful than a Big Scotch, the recipe needs some tweaking. So tweak I did, arriving at this recipe, which I suppose I’d have to call “An Affinity for Bully Boy.”
An Affinity for Bully Boy
Original recipe on right, updated variation on left.
- 1 1/2 oz Bully Boy Whiskey
- 3/4 oz sweet vermouth
- 3/4 oz dry vermouth
- 1 dash orange bitters
STIR in an ice-filled mixing glass and strain into a chilled cocktail glass. No garnish necessary, though a flamed orange peel would likely do wonders.
First off, it’s more of a pale orange than the normal Affinity, and the recipe is closer to a Perfect Manhattan, though not quite there yet. Notes of orange mingle with the Bully Boy’s hot nose, though a bit of the banana wheat eases through.
The taste is very orange-bitter forward, with the vermouth syrup gluing in a dry whiskey element. A bit more on the tart side (I was likely a tad overzealous with the bitters) but very smooth overall, with the fiery whiskey tempered down to a warming glow. It’s much more pleasant this way, though there’s not a terribly strong flavor from the spirit. Rather it mixes in layers with the vermouths and bitters as a lovely complex dance; your tongue constantly tries to decide what it’s tasting at any particular time, as a lovely warmth builds from the spirit. In the aftertaste, that honey poteen flavor of the whiskey loiters at the sides of the tongue, seemingly not in any hurry to be on its way.
It’s a bit like DayQuil, though in a complimentary way. I wonder if a cherry bitter version would taste like NyQuil? A splash of absinthe would in theory yield a green NyQuil licorice flavor, but really, what kind of psychopath likes the GREEN NyQuil? I originally made this with two dashes of orange bitters, but amended the recipe to half that amount, which should be sufficient to add the orange element without overpowering the drink. Still, this concoction allows you to experience the whiskey’s character while toning down the alcoholic burn. The flavor really shines through in the aftertaste, after the vermouth has eased away.
If I had to do it again, I’d likely just make a White Manhattan with it, which indeed was my original plan, though that wouldn’t be nearly as adventurous. See the risks I take for you people?
So, what’s the conclusion? Well, it’s Bully Boy, so you know it’s got the right attitude behind it, and it’s a well-crafted spirit. I’m not as much of a fan of a) wheat flavors or b) unaged, young whiskey, and the Bully Boy is based on both of those. Drinking it neat is not my preference, though a splash of water does WONDERS to tame the alcohol and release more of the flavors. However, I think this makes an EXCELLENT mixer. I have tried it in other cocktails not listed here, and the unique flavors of the spirit really do some interesting things in a White Manhattan (white whiskey, dry vermouth, orange bitters), or even a simple whiskey sour. The trick with this particular whiskey is finding recipes that allow the flavors to shine through without being overpowered by the other ingredients. I wouldn’t go so far as to call this a delicate whiskey, but it is more subdued than the big bourbons and ryes I’m used to. There are many recipe suggestions listed on their website, most created by local bartenders, who have welcomed a new, locally-produced spirit.
There is an aged version of the whiskey that is… still aging. The first batch has been going since last spring (along with some rum) and I’m DYING to try it. In theory, the barrel aging will tone down some of the fresh-off-the-still alcohol heat and add another layer of smokey vanilla flavors to the wheat fruit, which I think will make it a much more pleasing spirit to sip neat.
If I haven’t convinced you to track down these spirits yet, then I don’t know what else I can do. Get out there and buy some local, handcrafted liquor. That’s an unusual enough situation in itself, but trust me, these are especially tasty. Throw away your Bacardi and put the Bully Boy Rum on your shelf. It’s worlds apart. Add the White Whiskey to your collection of ryes, bourbons, and Scotches. Don’t have a whiskey collection? Well, why not? Start one. If you’re one of those silly vodka drinkers, don’t waste your money on advertising. That’s what you’re really buying when you order Grey Goose like a numbskull. Have you seen any Bully Boy billboards around? Nope. That’s how you know it’s worth buying.
If you live in, around, or anywhere near Boston, you need to try these spirits.
Do it for the Bully Boys.
Do it for Boston.
Do it for AMERICA.
Do it because I told you to.
Squirrel Farts is now accepting solicited product reviews! Send me a bottle and I’ll take a pretty picture and talk it up in the amusing tangential manner you’ve come to expect. Beer, spirits, mixers, whatever. Contact here for details. Note: I will mention that the review was solicited, hell, I’ll even brag about it. Free booze? Damn right. But The Man says I have to say I got it for freebies. I’m excited about free stuff, so whatever. Now, that doesn’t mean that I’ll like it, or that I’ll give it a good review. But chances are if you read this blog, then we’ll get along.
Put it to the test: send me your booze!