Editor’s Note: This product was provided to us as a review sample by Cascade Hollow Distillery. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
When Cascade Hollow Distillery opened in 1878, the neighboring whiskey merchant, George A. Dickel, purchased a large share of the company. Dickel brought along his preference for whiskey that was less harsh on the palate and was “smooth and mellow.” In homage to this style and to Dickel’s preference for whiskeys made during the winter, the distillery uniquely chills its new-make spirits before filtering through the Lincoln County Process of sugar maple charcoal filtration. Chilling, per the distillery, further mellows the resulting spirit. Today, Nicole Austin is GM and Distiller. Austin has garnered several awards including Whiskey of the Year in 2019 by Whiskey Advocate and Distillery of the Year in 2020 by Artisan Spirit Magazine.
So by now you may have noticed that this review lacks a certain something in its title. That something is the term “whiskey” (or “whisky,” as the company prefers). As a “barrel proof” grain spirit that underwent the Lincoln County Process and 15 years of aging in barrel, you’d expect this puppy to clock in around 60% ABV. Instead, the Cascade Moon 15 Year Old Barrel Proof is a hair shy of the minimum legal requirement for whiskey (40% ABV). Clocking in at a marketing opportunity-level of 39.9% ABV, this lives up to the slogan “mellow as moonlight.”
This was placed into barrel at 57.5% and aged in their single-story rick house (presumably not in Kentucky) for 15 years. The angels must have gotten a little tipsy while these barrels mellowed, as the alcohol level dropped precipitously. In cooler whiskey-making climes, it’s common for the proof of the spirit in the barrel to drop as the alcohol evaporates. In hotter regions such as Tennessee, whiskeys typically increase in ABV during aging since water evaporates out of the barrels.
In a press release during launch, Austin noted that Cascade Moon 15 Year Barrel Proof “demonstrates the balance of approachability and quality possible with a lower proof spirit. I hope this release helps change the way the category perceives lower proof spirits, while also providing whisky fans with access to an elegant spirit.” Though the low ABV may not have originally been intentional, it does seem a natural fit for a distillery focused on smoothness and mellowness. Under the Cascade Moon label, Austin has also released a 13-year-old rye whiskey. Let’s take a look.
Tasting Notes: Cascade Moon 15 Year Old Barrel Proof
Vital Stats: 15-year-old spirit aged in new charred oak barrels, 39.9% ABV, mash bill: at least 51% corn with rye and barley, SRP $124.99/ 750ml bottle.
Appearance: Golden amber in color.
Nose: The nose smells like autumn in a glass. There’s a rustle of dried fall leaves, a bite of sweet candied apples, and a mug of cinnamon- and vanilla-spiced cider. Underneath the autumnal aromatics, I can detect more fruit-driven notes, such as raspberry Starburst candies, citronella, and a whiff of acetone.
Palate: The flavor is offers rich notes of baking spices, almost like chewing on a stick of cinnamon and clove gum. There’s a touch of vanilla and piecrust on the finish, with lush flavors of gooey baked apples. The finish leaves a feeling of sandpaper on the tongue from the lingering tannins.