Whiskey Review: John Chester Ross & Sons

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. 

I knew extremely little about Kansas City when I got this bottle of John Chester Ross & Sons. I still know very little about Kansas City, but in my research for this review I did a little digging about Kansas City and whiskey.

According to VisitKC, there’s a colorful history of distilleries, with a legacy that’s “filled with political machines, late-night jazz performances, bootleggers and nicknames like “The Wettest Block in the World.” Sounds intriguing. And Kansas City’s reputation in the 1920s and ‘30s as a destination for revelry earned it the nickname “The Paris of the Plains.” Sounds snazzy.

Finally, Thinking Bigger goes into deeper history: “Throughout the mid- to late-1800s, the alcohol-intolerant Temperance movement in Kansas created a hostile business climate for distillers, brewers and winemakers.. Kansas also passed ‘Bone Dry’ laws in February 1917–five years before national Prohibition – ‘prohibiting the importation or manufacture or possession of intoxicating liquors for any purpose except in use in churches.’… After Prohibition, Missouri’s stance toward alcohol remained more permissive than Kansas well into the 20th century. Yet, distilleries wouldn’t appear again in Kansas City for another 95 years.”

House of Veritasi’s first release under their own brand, John Chester Ross & Sons, gives a nod to that lively time. They’re a licensed distilled spirits plant (DSP) since 2017 but have focused largely on contract work for other brands—which has allowed them to gain contacts to purchase spirits they’re interested in.

John Chester Ross & Sons is named for Shane Veritasi’s grandfather who “drove a taxi” for political boss Tom Pendergast in Kansas City during prohibition. He famously “never took a fare but made a lot of stops.” The ornaments and typography on the bottle itself refer to the ornate language of advertisements, packaging, and facades of the 1890s.

Okay, so that’s a fine and dandy little history lesson, but… what about the whiskey?

A limited release, John Chester Ross & Sons is planned to be an annual series with the same blend but different finishes. This edition has been finished in port barrels for seven months; next year’s will feature finishes in Pineau des Charentes, a fortified wine which is made from a blend of unfermented grape must and Eau de vie de Cognac in the Charente and Charente-Maritime. This blend is heavy on the wheat (about 80%), with corn, rye, and malt rounding out the roster. It’s 100 proof and about $75.

John Chester Ross & Sons

We review John Chester Ross & Sons, a high wheat whiskey finished in port barrels that is out of Kansas City. (image via House of Veritasi)

Tasting notes: John Chester Ross & Sons

Vital stats: A high-wheat (80%) whiskey, finished in port barrels; 100 proof; about $75.

Appearance: Aside from the bottle looking super-cool and old-timey in the most flattering way, it’s reddish brown in the bottle, like a shiny mahogany floor or a well-brushed horse mane. In the glass: polished copper, or dark toffee.

Nose:  New-mown grass in the late morning sun. And let’s just continue that toffee story, shall we? Because it’s got that browned butter and sugar meld late on the nose as well. And finally, honeycrisp apple.

Palate: This is…very nice! It begins honey but not cloying, like a honey caramel and then tingles at the finish. The vibe is cinnamon pop-rocks—but without the weird artificial flavoring. As if you had a sip of whiskey and then a hit of a sparkling water. It’s a fun little frizzy fizz, like old timey Kansas City, I suppose.  

It’s refreshing, in a summery way, I do not often think about whiskey in the summer—and that is dumb. It’s sippable easily, maybe a little too easily. The port cask finishing adds smoothness and that sort of sweet without being too much, just enough to smooth out any rough edges, which I don’t think this whiskey has in the first place. I’d drink this neat and don’t think it requires a single droplet of water or sliver of ice.

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