Here at Barrel and Brew, we love trying whiskey and bourbon from all over the world and the US. Now, Tennessee isn’t exactly new to the whiskey making process, nor to having distilleries; however, I don’t think we’ve touched upon a whiskey out of Chattanooga, TN yet, so here we are reviewing none other than Chattanooga Whiskey 111.
In fact, I feel like Chattanooga is an entirely looked over place. I mean, everyone knows Nashville. It’s the music city and is home to tons of famous bars and country artists. Memphis is home to the Grizzlies and gets a lot of attention from pop culture and famous rappers. Knoxville gets love from millions of college football fans. Lynchburg is known for Jack Daniels and Tennessee Whiskey. What about Chattanooga? Well, we’re not going to overlook Chattanooga Whiskey, at least not until we’ve given it a fair shot.
Chattanooga Whiskey History
I suppose there’s a reason I haven’t seen or heard much about the whiskey scene in Chattanooga. Chattanooga Whiskey was founded in 2011 by Tim Piersant and Joe Ledbetter with the goal of bringing distilling back to Chattanooga.
After prohibition ended in 1933, only 3 counties were allowed to distill in Tennessee. It was this way up until 2009, when state legislation allowed another 41 counties to distill in Tennessee; however, Chattanooga was left out.
Piersant and Ledbetter sourced whiskey from MGP/LDI/Ross & Squib while they worked on changing the laws.
On May 16th, 2013, ‘The Whiskey Bill’ was signed into law, and by 2014, Chattanooga Whiskey was working on putting up their own distillery.
Chattanooga Whiskey Distilleries
Chattanooga Whiskey has two distilleries – an experimental micro-distillery and a large riverfront distillery.
Their micro distillery, the original one built in 2014-2015, produces about 1 barrel a week and it’s what they use to, well, experiment. They also use this distillery to host guests and tastings.
The Chattanooga Riverfront Distillery is their much larger distillery that produces 50-60 barrels a week. It fully opened up in 2017 and is responsible for most of their production – including Chattanooga Whiskey 91 and Chattanooga Whiskey 111.
Chattanooga Whiskey 111 Overview
- Spirit: Straight Bourbon Whiskey- Small Batch – Tennessee High Malt
- Owned By: Tim Piersant and Joe Ledbetter
- Distilled By: Chattanooga Whiskey Riverfront Distillery
- Aged: Minimum 2 years
- ABV: 55.5%, 111 proof
- Mashbill: At least 51% corn, malted rye, caramel malted barley, honey malted barley
- Price: $43-50
While Chattanooga Whiskey is made in Tennessee, it is not a Tennessee Whiskey. Tennessee Whiskey undergoes a charcoal filtration process, and Chattanooga Whiskey does not go through any filtration process at all. As a note, this can lead to barrel sediment getting into the bottle, but that is totally harmless.
As a straight bourbon, Chattanooga Whiskey must be aged a minimum of 2 years. A lot of whiskey ends up going past the 4 year mark, but they’ve stopped at around 2 years.
Cask 111 is the unfiltered, cask strength version of their Chattanooga Whiskey 91. It is 111 proof, so 55.5% ABV, which makes it much stronger than your typical bourbon.
What Does Small Batch Mean in Whiskey?
Unless a whiskey uses the term ‘single-barrel’ then multiple barrels are blended together in order to craft the desired profile of a whiskey. Each individual barrel can create a different flavored whiskey, so the less barrels you use, the more differentiation you’re going to have.
Small batch means a small number of barrels are blended together to create a whiskey. How many barrels is a small number? Well that depends and there is no regulation on it, but typically we’ll see small batch refer to 10-ish barrels. Some companies may call 25-40 barrels small batch, though.
Chattanooga Whiskey 111 goes through a 7-day single fermentation process, and a single distillation run that produces a limited number of barrels. These 6-10 barrels are then blended to create Chattanooga Whiskey Cask 111.
Chattanooga Whiskey 111 is a bourbon, so there must be a minimum of 51% corn in the mashbill. It also refers to itself as a high malt, meaning there is a lot of malt. In this case there are 3 malted grains – malted rye, caramel malted barley, and honey malted barley.
We don’t know the exact percentages of any of these grains, though I have seen reports of 75% corn and 25% malt (with no breakdown of which malt is dominant).
You can learn about malt, and how to malt your own barley, HERE.
Chattanooga Whiskey 111 Tasting Notes
So, we have a good story with Piersant and Ledbetter pushing for legislative changes, and then creating their own distillery/whiskey. We have a small batch, cask strength whiskey that retails for around $45. Everything sounds good so far, let’s hope the quality can match everything else.
The worry is that the two year age statement might hold this whiskey back. We don’t want to see thin, sharp, metallic whiskey. Let’s pour ourselves a glass and get to it!
Nose: Caramel, honey, and very rich cherry. Dark, dried fruits. Chocolate covered nuts. There’s a maltiness to it too that is very round. Round in a way that isn’t overpowering. It’s throughout the nose, but not forward. A nice toasted oak to it as well.
Palate: It’s very sweet. and there’s the malt. It almost jumps from one to another. There’s a sweetness to it off the bat with cherry and caramel, then comes in a maltiness, and then boom, over to chocolate and nuts. There’s also a sugary, creme brulee to it. Rich, oily mouthfeel.
Finish: There’s a light pepper sizzle in the back of the throat throughout the finish. Just like the palate, it’s sweet and then oaky and nutty. Fairly long finish.
Yep, this is good whiskey. I see why there’s a lot of buzz surrounding this and Chattanooga Whiskey in general. If you don’t know what people are talking about when they mention rich whiskey or an oily, thick mouthfeel, drink Chattanooga Whiskey Cask 111 and you’ll understand.
There’s caramel and honey in here for sure, it’s typical for bourbon and expected with using honey and caramel malted barley, but it’s not most prominent for me. Cherry, raisin, oak, chocolate covered almonds are the story of this whiskey for me.
They almost jump back and forth, too. The palate goes from cherry and raisin, to chocolate covered nuts and oak. Then the finish does the same, but in reverse. There’s a touch of pepper, but it’s oak and chocolate covered nuts that are around for quite some time. After that fades, there’s cherry and raisin sitting on your tongue and cheeks.
Nowhere does this taste like a two year whiskey.
Chattanooga Whiskey 111 Review Summary
Chattanooga Whiskey 111 might be my new favorite bourbon. I mean, I really like this. It’s sugary and sweet, but not in a make your teeth grimy kinda way. A very condensed cherry leads the way for me. After that, a nicely toasted oak and chocolatey nuttiness come in. I, also, want to make sure I don’t downplay the malt and caramel. They’re there 100%, but round and full. The oily mouthfeel is also tremendous that leads to a long finish.
Okay, enough about the taste. Chattanooga Whiskey also has a tremendous story. they created their company with plans of distilling in the future before distilling was even legal in Chattanooga! They sourced whiskey from MGP while they generated local, public support for changing distilling laws in Chattanooga and Tennessee.
Once laws were changed, they followed through by building, not one, but, two distilleries in Chattanooga. Then, they proceeded to make really good whiskey. It’s hard not to appreciate their spirit – in both ways.