By Debbie Shocair
For those of you who think I should be eschewing anything resembling a flavored whiskey, I have two answers: First, if it’s tasty, why not? Second, I have always viewed the flavored whiskies (the good ones, anyway) as “gateway whiskeys,” luring the unsuspecting and under-acquainted palate into the realm of traditional whiskey. Once that first successful brush is made, a tasty whiskey cocktail is sure to eventually follow, and from there is is a short hop right into Whiskeydom.
Yes. I still get castigated every now and again for standing on that theory.
Nonetheless, there is a growing category of flavored whiskeys. Though fewer are hitting the mark as far as the flavor-vs-whiskey balance, one of the most obvious flavors was sorely missing. At least until now.
Ballotin Chocolate Whiskey, launched in 2015 from Saloon Spirits LLC, is named for the decorative cardboard box in which fine chocolates are often sold, and is the lucky brainchild of former Brown-Forman brand manager Paul Tuell, who has stepped into the logical path of playing upon the natural flavor notes found in bourbon, primarily caramel, vanilla and chocolate. He has developed a line of four flavors, each of which begins with bourbon-esque whiskey.
Tuell begins with Light Whiskey, which is distilled to a higher proof than Bourbon and other traditional whiskeys and aged in used barrels. He says he chooses Light Whiskey because “it has all the flavor range of more traditional ‘Bourbon’, but without the depth of oak and char that Bourbon’s new and charred barrels impart on Bourbon.”
Purchasing existing stocks of Light Whiskey from established distillers, Tuell has his specific flavoring components added and blended at Challenge Bottling, Louisville, and it is bottled at a sweet and tasty 60 proof. Pointing out that, as legally defined, Bourbon cannot be flavored, Tuell is careful to correct any reference to his product as flavored Bourbon. “We are a flavored Whiskey. Having said that, we are 100% Whiskey. No grain neutral spirits or other spirits are added.”
On the nose, Ballotin’s Bourbon Ball was rife with nutty caramel pecan. The mouthfeel was smooth and sweet, even at the open, and the finish was exactly as the name promised: nutty, caramel, and chocolate, with a sweetness that lingers just long enough to warrant the next sip.
If not sipping it right from the glass, I could imagine it over vanilla ice cream, creme brulee, or any vanilla-delight.
Yes, though I gave it a B+, and if I had to shuffle it into the category of flavored whiskies, it would get a solid A.
At around $27, it’s a nice one to have on the shelf, either for that whiskey newbie or just a lovely after-dinner, dessert alternative.