Last-minute gift idea for 2018: Cocktail Crate

Brian’s Book and a Bottle” was a hit, but people ask me, “What about the cocktail crowd?  Aren’t you leaving them out in the cold during this festive time of year?  Give them something to make their lives easier too!”

We here at Sipp’n Corn Enterprises have listened, and Ms. Sipp’n herself—as our resident cocktail expert—has penned her first review which now addresses the topic so long excluded from the blog:

Cocktail Crate touts “an effortless craft cocktail,” and it delivers.

Cocktail Crate was founded in 2012 after a Kickstarter campaign by a 24 year-old cocktail enthusiast in New York City who wanted to build the perfect cocktail.  According to Cocktail Crate’s website, these pre-made cocktail mixers are made from locally sourced, fresh, non-GMO ingredients.  Just add your favorite bourbon.  The website offers several different cocktail mixer options including the classic whiskey sour, classic old fashioned, classic ginger mule, spiced old fashioned, and grapefruit daiquiri (and coming soon are maple whiskey sour, ginger bee, and sriracha margarita).  The packaging, bottle shape, and label were attractive with a hip, farmhouse vibe that would make an excellent gift presentation.

Cocktail Crate 1This past summer we tried the classic old fashioned and the classic ginger mule.  Since my go-to summer favorite is an icy cold Kentucky mule in a copper mug, I went for the ginger mule first.  Following the directions on the bottle, I filled my mug with crushed ice, measured the mixer, and added the bourbon.  Simple.  I liked that.  The cocktail was good, but to be honest, my mules are better with fresh lime and mint that I grow myself in a half bourbon barrel in the backyard.  But the Cocktail Crate mixer was better than any restaurant version, and in the winter—when I don’t have my own fresh-grown mint—the Cocktail Crate Kentucky mule can’t be beat.

A couple weeks later I moved to the Old Fashioned.  Frankly, I have only had a few Old Fashioneds over the years as I considered it an old man’s drink.  I have never made one myself.  In fact, I think the only time I remember drinking Old Fashioneds was at an annual Derby Party where they make them by the pitcher filled with copious amounts of fruit garnish so that it looks more like a tropical drink than something from the set of Mad Men.  I followed the label directions and stirred my bourbon into the classic old fashioned mixer over 2 large ice cubes.  I could not resist adding the orange slice and maraschino cherry embellishment.

I LOVED it.  And I may have a new favorite cocktail to get me through the winter months when it’s too cold outside for mules.  The mixer was the right balance of sweet and savory.  It blended harmoniously with my choice of bourbon.  I did not share my bottle of Cocktail Crate classic old fashioned mixer with anyone else.

For comparison’s sake I later ordered an Old Fashioned at the bar of a historic Louisville restaurant that prides itself on old-school Southern food and cocktails.  It was exponentially more expensive, but the Cocktail Crate Old Fashioned that I made at home was so much better.

I would be interested in trying more of Cocktail Crate’s offerings.  And I will be adding a new bottle of classic old fashioned mixer to my Christmas wish list as a perfect stocking stuffer (Did you catch that, Brian?).

Cocktail Crate mixers are available at for $12 for a 375ml bottle, $50 for a six pack, and $40 for a four-bottle party pack.  But according to the website, Cocktail Crate is also available at chain retailers such a Walmart, Total Wine, Fresh market, etc.  I went into my local Walmart liquor store and found the classic Old Fashioned, the classic ginger mule, and the classic whiskey sour mixes on the shelf and ready for purchase at a lower price point than on the website.  I will admit I could not wait for Christmas, so I bought myself the classic Old Fashioned mix and made myself a cocktail that night.  But I am pretty sure that I will need a new bottle before December 25, hint, hint.

cocktail crate 1 (1)

2018 Brian’s Book and a Bottle™

With the holidays upon us, avoid the awkwardness of lame host gifts and never knowing what to get for bosses, co-workers, and other hard-to-shop-for friends and family.  Brian’s Book and a Bottle™ has the right suggestion for everyone on your list:

For your business partner:  Bourbon Justice and Four Roses single barrel private selection.  These picks are straight from the barrel without any added water, so they are full of flavor and always memorable.  You’re clearly the brains of the business.

2018 BJ&aBook1

For your impossible family member:  Bourbon Justice and Old Forester 1920.  Old Forester 1920 won the Bourbon Crusaders Best on the Shelf Bourbon of the Year.  Don’t try to be creative or spend a lot of time, just be 100% solid with this fantastic bourbon that you can get anywhere.

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For a host/hostess:  Bourbon Justice and Henry McKenna Bottled-in-Bond.  Running a close second place in the Bourbon Crusaders Best on the Shelf Bourbon of the Year, this bourbon will give you a chance to make small talk about history and the Bottled-in-Bond Act of 1897 as discussed in Bourbon Justice.  And the bottle will be appreciated so much more than a glass ornament or random bottle of wine in a re-used Santa wine sack.

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For your boss or other authority figure:  Bourbon Justice and Booker’s.  The wooden box sends a message of respect and the barrel-strength robust bourbon inside sends a message of courage.  You just earned some props.

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The Bourbon Crusaders and Willett Set a New Bar for Fundraising.

BREAKING NEWS:  The Bourbon Crusaders proved last Saturday something that true bourbon enthusiasts have known all along—the generosity of the bourbon community is limitless.  It’s not just about the bourbon.

In the third year of its annual charity event, The Bourbon Crusaders named Willett Distillery as its honored guest, which chose the American Cancer Society as this year’s beneficiary.  While the Willett Family Estate private selections may have drawn the crowd initially, Drew Kulsveen’s generosity captured everyone’s attention as he quadrupled his donation of a private barrel selection after four groups were each ready to pay over $40,000 each.

These incomparable donations, along with tremendous contributions from Wilderness Trail Distillery, Heaven Hill Distillers, Brown-Forman / Woodford Reserve—just to name a few more—resulted in over $335,000 in donations to the American Cancer Society!

It’s not just about the bourbon.

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Shock and Celebration


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Sipp’n Corn Tasting Notes—Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Bottled in Bond Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

I reserved my bottle of the planned inaugural bourbon release from Wilderness Trail way back when it was called Wilderness Trace, before a certain Fireball-financed distillery seems to have complained that only it could use the word Trace for a distillery.  Long before the name of the Ancient Age Distillery was changed to evoke local history, the phrase Wilderness Trace existed as a descriptive geographic name for the area around Danville, Kentucky for over 100 years.  The area is known as the Wilderness Trace and numerous local businesses use Wilderness Trace in their names.
The files at the United States Trademark Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board reflect that the Wilderness Trace trademark was published in November 2013.  An attorney for Sazerac requested an extension of time to oppose Wilderness Trace in December 2013, and by January 2014, Wilderness Trace filed an abandonment of the trademark.  It looks like behind-closed-doors discussions occurred in late 2013 and early 2014 resulting in Trail being substituted for Trace, but fortunately, the artistic logo could still be used and is in fact used today.
I didn’t really know anything about the startup distillery when I reserved my bottle so I did my due diligence.  I learned about the scientific background of the owners and their successful business, Ferm Solutions, Inc., which provides research, product development, engineering and technical services to the fuel ethanol and distilled spirits industries.  These are the guys who work with over 200 brewers and distilleries worldwide to train and consult on fermentation, bacterial contamination, and distillation.
And now Shane Baker and Pat Heist are using that know-how to produce bourbon that instantly takes on established brands.  They have access to seemingly unlimited proprietary yeast strains, they’re using barrel-entry proof that had been unheard of for 100 years (110 proof for bourbon and 100 proof for rye), they have the discipline to use the sweet mash method instead of the more popular sour mash method, and they had the courage to plan on a single-barrel Bottled-in-Bond bourbon as their first whiskey release.  Plus, unlike so many startups and legacy distillers alike, Wilderness Trail didn’t invent any gimmicky origin story or legends.
The day finally came this past April when Wilderness Trail released its bourbon, which was celebrated with a “Taste of Danville” celebration complete with local food vendors, live music, tours, and—of course—tastings of bourbon and rye.  The majority of Wilderness Trail’s whiskey will continue to age toward a goal of six years, but this first limited edition release of 17 barrels (available with an optional polished wood gift box set) was aged for four years and was reserved for those who signed up early on.
Tasting Notes
Wilderness Trail Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey Bottled in Bond
Barrel No. 14B28
Wilderness Trail Distillery
4 years
Mash Bill:
64% corn; 24% wheat; 12% malted barley
50% (100 proof)
Brown side of amber.
The aromas are almost all sweet, with prominent caramel and light fruit, vanilla, honey, and sweet spring wildflowers and honeysuckle.  After a little melt, ice changed the aromas to more malt and more herbal.
The flavors are mostly consistent with the aromas, but not as sweet.  Caramel is the backbone again, with added layers of almond, dried fruit, cinnamon, and a slightly leathery, earthy flavor.  I preferred it neat; when I tried it with ice it seemed to taste younger and it lost depth.  But neat it’s easily my favorite new whiskey of 2018.
Not hot, but a nice swell of caramel sweetness and cinnamon spice, drying by the end with a bit of clove for a medium-long finish.
Bottom Line
The future is bright for Wilderness Trail Distillery.  It’s amazing to me that after just four years they’ve surpassed plenty of other brands at the $50 price point that have been aged twice as long.  Maybe it’s the sweet mash or maybe it’s the highest percentage of wheat and lowest barrel-entry proof currently in production.  Or maybe it’s the marriage of science with tradition much in the same way that Dr. James Crow revolutionized the industry when he introduced the scientific discipline of his day.  And it’s a relief to see Wilderness Trial Distillery doing it right by being transparent and starting from scratch with their own distillate.
Don’t miss out on the second release in just a couple more weeks at the Kentucky State BBQ Festival held September 7-9 at Wilderness Trail Distillery.