V5 Bourbon, the latest release from Smoky Quartz Distillery, is a limited-edition, small batch, single mash, seven-month-old, 90 proof, New Hampshire bourbon. It’s very tasty. You should get some. The end.
More? Oh, very well.
Smoky Quartz Distillery, as you may recall from our recent tour, is a veteran-owned and operated craft distillery in Seabrook, NH. As a quick recap, they make a moonshine, vodka, white rum, and have now released their newest spirit, a bourbon called V5. Awesomely, they gave me a bottle to review. V5 is named for the five veterans who started SQD: brothers Kevin and Frank Kurland, their father Frank Sr, uncle Kenny Kurland, and step-father Dean Loomis. Between them there are three Navy vets, one from the Army, and one from the Air Force. I… do not want to get into an argument with them. It would be a sound thrashing. For real. But just to make sure this bunch is on the up-and-up, let’s review the Laws of Bourbon and see where SQD lines up. After all, calling your whiskey a bourbon means it has to follow very specific laws. It’s a legally protected term. To be a bourbon, the spirit must meet these requirements:
- Produced in America
Well, Seabrook. Close enough.
- Made from grain. Bourbon must be at least 51% corn.
Big check here. V5 is made from 100% organic corn. I’m calling it a single mash, since it only has one grain (not to be confused with single MALT). SQD sources their corn as locally as possible, and gets much of it from New England farms.
- Nothing added (except water)
Bourbon is all-natural. Can’t put any caramel coloring, sugar, flavoring, or anything else into it. Water is allowed, used to dilute the spirit to the proper proof. SQD uses NH spring water.
- Aged in new, charred, oak barrels.
Yep. SQD uses a #3 char in 5 gallon white oak casks. This batch of V5 is aged for seven months.
- The spirit coming off the still can be no more than 160 proof/80% abv
V5 distills right in that ballpark.
- Cask Strength is 125 proof/62.5% abv
The bourbon proof has to be lowered to at least 125° before aging in barrels. V5 goes in at the full 125°.
- Bottled at 80 proof/40% abv or greater
V5 clocks in at a respectable 90 proof, so we’re good there.
So, it’s a bourbon. Officially. Notice that the law doesn’t specify how long it must be aged. There is no age requirement for bourbon. You could age it overnight if you wanted, since technically it did spend time aging. That generally isn’t done, because “white bourbon” isn’t really a thing. There’s no point to meeting all the requirements of bourbon, only to have a basically unaged product; people who are looking for bourbon are looking for an aged spirit with some color to it. Since you can’t add caramel coloring to bourbon, the amber tinge only comes from time spent in the wood, picking up tannins and flavors from the charred oak. If you wanted to call it a “straight” bourbon whiskey, then you need at least two years of aging. Most of the big brands do identify as straight bourbons, which a) gives a guarantee that any whiskey in that bottle is at least two years old and b) sounds fancy. Big companies with 7-story high rickhouses (big warehouses for aging whiskey) can afford to hold on to barrels for years, and it gives them more leeway in blending the barrels to get a consistent flavor profile. Smaller distilleries go for a crafted product, unique to them, and will age it as long as they see fit. SQD went with seven months of New Hampshire climate, so let’s see how that decision turned out.
100% corn bourbon | 7 months | 90 proof
Batch 1, Bottle 469
Appearance: It’s light, but still hued appropriately. More honey yellow than amber. Decent sticky legs.
Nose: Honey and corn. Vanilla, grainy, grassy. Slight warm alcoholic twinge, but not a burn. Sweet and smooth.
Taste: Corn, corn, corn. Sweet corn. A warm heat builds in the middle, and eases off to oaky vanilla, a dry woodiness, and corn syrup. There’s a little cherry fruit in there as well, and a touch of smoke. Not a long finish, but a grainy/grassy taste remains. It’s sweet, but not sticky. The flavors of the oak add a floral vanilla essence, and the heat helps cut through the sweetness. Very well balanced.
Like the other SQD products, the simple grain bill really helps give the spirit a tasty flavor without too much heat. Despite the 90 proof, there isn’t any real burning, and the booze nicely balances the corn sweetness. It’s not the most complex bourbon I’ve had, as you get more complexity with a varied grain bill using rye, wheat, barley, and other grains for different flavors. A longer aging period would also help to create some more complex flavors, as the spirit draws tannins and flavoring out of the charred oak staves. However, with a simple grain bill, that could lead to off-flavors and undesirable esters, and here the flavor doesn’t suffer for want of longer aging. It doesn’t have the maturity of a 5-year barrel, but it also avoids the raw harshness of unaged white spirits. A very good compromise.
This is a limited-edition product, and SQD produced about 500 bottles (375ml size) from their eight, 5-gallon casks. That certainly qualifies as “small batch” as indicated on the labels. It retails for $23.10 for a 375ml bottle, and is available only at the distillery. Go pick up a bottle while they’re around. This small batch won’t last much longer, and there’s no telling when a new one will be available.
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!