Mellow Corn Whiskey
I’ve noticed the colorful label of this bottom-shelf whiskey on many visits to the local stores. The label hearkens back to a simpler time and almost seems out-of-step with today’s tastes. But in recent days, I’ve noticed numerous stories about this unique corn whiskey receiving top awards and an almost cult-like following of bartenders and cocktail mixologists and figured it was time to give it a proper review.
Yeah, Throw it In
The history of Mellow Corn Whiskey dates to 1945 when it was created by the Medley Distilling Company in Owensboro, Kentucky. Fast forward to 1993 when United Distillers was trimming many brands, including the likes of Old Fitzgerald, Dubonnet and Grand Canadian. In addition to these storied brands acquired was the lowly Mellow Corn brand. When Heaven Hill President Max Shapira was asked “You want to take this, too?”, he said, “Yeah, throw it in.”
Corn whiskey, similar to bourbon, has several rules in place to guarantee its integrity. The whiskey must be made from a mash bill containing at least 80% corn, and is then aged in non-charred or used barrels. If it aged for two or more years, it may be labeled as straight corn whiskey; it can also follow more stringent bottled-in-bond requirements.
Mellow Corn Whiskey comes in a tall bottle carrying its original 1945 logo of a barrel resting on bright, yellow corn stalks (you can note the 1945 copyright on the logo). It is made from a mash bill of 80% corn, 8% rye, and 12% malted barley. Note that this is very similar to Evan Williams' mash bill of 78% corn, 12% rye, and 10% malted barley. Heaven Hill shares that the finished distillate is aged in used Evan Williams barrels.
While the bottle doesn’t carry an age statement, it does carry the Bottled-in-Bond designation, indicating:
It is a product of a single distillery;
From a single distilling season;
Aged in a federally bonded warehouse under U.S. government supervision;
For at least 4 years;
Bottled at 100 proof;
State on the label where it is distilled, and if different, where it was bottled;
And be a product of the United States.
Color: Bright gold. There were thin, wispy legs displayed on the inside of the glass. Nose: Snappy with a McCormick spice cupboard full of vanilla. There is some light oak, but the high corn mash bill brings vanilla front and center. It’s actually pretty light. Even though this spent at least four years in the barrel, you can see the impact of used bourbon barrel vs. a newly charred oak barrel. Palate: Vanilla and oak are present. Some very light fruit notes on the second sip. Simple and enjoyable, though unassuming. The mouthfeel is light. Finish: Medium. Still more vanilla. On the tail end, there was some oak dryness, spiciness, along with a passing sensation of a child’s fruity juicebox. Overall: This is not the next under-the-radar Pappy Van Winkle; but nor is it paint thinner or grain-neutral spirits. At a $12 price-point, your expectations may be lower than this whiskey’s bottom shelf location. However, recall that this is a bottled-in-bond product, aged for at least 4 years and further bottled at 100 proof - that's 20 proof higher than many bargain-shelf finds. This one has a great story and I commend the folks at Heaven Hill for staying true to the simple notes of this workman-like brand. For mixing or sipping, this whiskey will beat many of the sub-$20 bourbons on the market. I love the historic label and this unique whiskey. Surprise your friends with this bright corn whiskey at your next gathering whether you're enjoying it in a cocktail, neat, or on ice.