I love drinking a new whiskey, that’s one of the reasons I review so many. I like seeing how seemingly similar whiskey can taste so different. I also like trying completely different whiskies and enjoying their vast differences. Cask finished whiskey is another fun way to experiment with whiskey. Which brings me to today’s review….. Saints Alley The Herald – a blend of bourbons finished in Armagnac casks.
We’re going to discuss the tasting notes of Saints Alley The Herald as well as some of the effects of barrel finishing whiskey. Before we do so, let’s take a look at the Saints Alley brand.
Saints Alley History
Saints Alley was created for Total Wine & More as part of their Spirits Direct program. The brand, though, was created by Jonathon Likarish, a co-owner and head distiller of Ironroot Distillery in Dennison, TX, and Chris Trevino, a spirits blogger and youtuber.
Chris was a regular at Ironroot Distillery and became close friends with Lakarish. The two went to Cognac, France in 2018 to learn about French distilling and blending techniques. A couple years later, they founded Saints Alley.
Saints Alley is a mash of Lakarish and Trevino’s specialties. They take whiskey distilled by Lakarish, blend it together with MGP’s high rye bourbon, and finish the whiskey in rum, Armagnac, or port and Cognac casks.
Spirits Direct Whiskey
Essentially speaking, Total Wine & More hired Lakarish and Trevino to produce Saints Alley exclusively for Total Wine.
A lot of shoppers and whiskey enthusiasts don’t appreciate Spirits Direct whiskey. They’re often hidden under a veil of secrecy or lore when it’s simply sourced whiskey under a new brand name. On top of that, Total Wine markets the crap out of it, and it’s hard to get a recommendation from them that isn’t a Spirits Direct whiskey.
However, there are some really good Spirits Direct whiskey from Total Wine, and I’m going to find out if Saints Alley The Herald is one of them.
Saints Alley The Herald Overview
- Spirit: Blend of straight bourbons – Batch No. 9
- Owned By: Jonathon Lakarish & Chris Trevino
- Distilled By: Ironroot Distillery & MGP
- Aged: 4+ years, finished in Armagnac casks
- ABV: 53.5%, 107 proof
- Mashbill: Unknown. Blend of MGP’s high rye bourbon and Ironroot’s bourbon
- Price: $60
While Saints Alley is made up of two straight bourbons, it is, by law, not a bourbon. Bourbon can only be matured in new charred oak. Once bourbon touches oak that is not new charred, it ceases to comply with the laws and regulations of bourbon. If you take a look at the bottle, you’ll notice it says “A blend of straight bourbon whiskey” because they cannot legally call it bourbon.
Saints Alley has no age statement, so we know it both bourbons in the blend must be aged a minimum of 4 years. The whiskey is blended together and spends an unknown amount of time in ex-Armagnac barrels.
What is Armagnac?
Armagnac is a type of brandy from the Armagnac region of France, similar to how Cognac is a brandy from the Cognac region of France.
Armagnac is known for its full, sweet flavors of chocolate and dark fruits. It is typically enjoyed after dinner or with dessert. It is also aged in French oak which often provides a nuttier profile than American oak.
Saints Alley The Herald Tasting Notes
Since Saints Alley The Herald is barrel finished in Armagnac casks – French oak – we’re going to be looking to see how many of these flavors are imparted on this finished whiskey. Time to pour myself a dram and get to drinkin’.
Nose: Light vanilla and honey, deep, finished wood, leather, fig and blackberry jam, walnut, and a touch of brown sugar. Some citrus and mint.
Palate: Wood is the most prominent here but not overpowering. I get a lot of cola, some slight orange, anise and spice, an oily mouthfeel, some darker fruits in here.
Finish: Not super long or short. A dryer finish that coats your mouth at the same time. Mint, citrus, and tobacco give way to the dryer oak, spice, and walnut.
Taste Summary – Is It Good?
Saints Alley “The Herald” was definitely a wood dominant whiskey for me. On the nose, I got a lot of oak, but also some mahogany and leather. Brown sugar followed closely behind, reminding me of an old-school candy store. Dark fruits presented themselves as jam. I could also notice the citrus and mint, likely from MGP.
On the palate, the oak was most prominent as well, but there was a lot more spice, too. Anise and clove came in stronger than presented on the nose. Citrus and mint were still present, and the jammy fruits took more of a back seat. Cola and burnt brown sugar, almost molasses, were fairly prominent as well. It had a fairly oily mouthfeel, too.
The finish was quite nice. It was more drying, but the oils still coated my mouth. The mint, citrus, and tobacco from the rye in MGP faded to a nuttier and dry oak.
As far as the alcohol content goes, at 107 proof, there was some heat but no burn. It was easy to drink neat, and it was equally nice with a splash of water for those who want to proof it down a bit.
All in all, Saints Alley The Herald is a good whiskey.
Value – Is It Worth It?
You can buy Saints Alley The Herald at Total Wine for $60 or from the Ironroot Distillery for $65.
Of course, the question of whether or not Saints Alley Whiskey is worth buying is dependent upon your budget. I think it’s a fair market value, though.
Saints Alley The Herald isn’t the most amazing $60 bottle of whiskey you’ll ever drink. If that’s what you’re looking for in a $60 bottle, then stick to what you know. If you like trying new whiskeys, if you don’t mind spending $60, Saints Alley The Herald will be a fine choice.
It’s good, it’s solid, the value is there, I’m happy with it, and I’ll continue to drink and enjoy The Herald.
Saints Alley Whiskey
Saints Alley offers three whiskeys in total. There is The Herald, which we’ve just covered, of course, but there are two more options that are finished in different casks.
Their flagship whiskey is finished in port and Cognac casks. Or you can opt for Saints Alley The Heretic which is aged in Rhum casks (French rum).
Saints Alley The Herald Summary
A lot of people have some distrust with Total Wine Spirits Direct whiskies, and I’m one of them. However, totally avoiding them would be a mistake, as there are some good whiskeys contracted by Total Wine and other large retailers. Saints Alley is one of them.
The Herald is a blend of straight bourbons finished in Armagnac casks. The whiskey itself isn’t totally reminiscent of bourbon, though, as there’s not too much vanilla, honey, or caramel in a sip. A lot of deep, rich woody notes with brown sugar, citrus, dark, jammy fruits, and nuts make this a good sipper with some complexity to it.
The mouthfeel is quite nice, too. There’s a drying, astringent quality to the surface of your mouth, but a buttery and oily quality coats over it.
Saints Alley The Herald is a good whiskey, and I enjoyed tasting an Armagnac finished whiskey. If that sounds like something you may enjoy, too, head over to Total Wine and grab a bottle!