This bottle was supplied to us for a review free of charge. I’ll try to be as unbiased as possible, but a free bottle of whiskey always tastes better than one you pay for.
- Spirit: Specialty whiskey. Blended whiskey infused with Black Currant
- Owned By: Von Payne Spirits, LLC / Steve Allen
- Distilled By: Unknown
- Aged: Unknown
- Proof: 90 proof, 45% ABV
- Mashbill: Unknown
- Price: $65
As you can tell, there are a lot of unknowns with the actual spirit that goes into a bottle of Von Payne Black. Let’s talk about what we do know, then we can do some guess work and talk about what we think. Ultimately, the final test will be pouring myself a glass and tasting it!
What is Von Payne Black?
Von Payne Black is a blended whisky that is infused with black currant. We’ll touch on that more in a second, but, first, lets talk about what it means to be a blended whiskey.
There are different types of blended whiskey out there. There’s something like Saints Alley, which takes a couple of straight bourbons, blends them together, and cask finishes them. Fistful of Bourbon is one of my favorite blended bourbons for $25, which blends 5 different straight bourbons together.
Then there’s the blended whiskey that doesn’t have such a good rep – something like Kentucky Deluxe. In this case, only 20% of the spirit has to be straight bourbon. The other 80%, or less, is often made up of neutral grain spirit (in other words, vodka).
Do I think it’s a blend of straight bourbons? No. Is it 20% bourbon and 80% neutral grain spirit? I imagine there is some neutral grain spirit involved, but I’m not sure how much.
Infused Whiskey vs Flavored Whiskey
An important piece to remember is that Von Payne Black is INFUSED with black currants, not black currant flavored (although the flavor of Von Payne is likely black currant). They may be the same thing in your mind, but it’s an important distinction.
Flavored whiskey uses artificial or “natural” flavorings. They’re often sugary sweet, and you can usually tell that it’s a fake flavoring. This doesn’t mean they’re bad necessarily, it just is what it is.
Infused whiskey, on the other hand, steeps the spirit through whatever it’s infused with. In this case, black currant. The whiskey is run through black currant and soaks up the flavors, sugars, oils, colors, and other minerals and compounds.
The whiskey is then filtered to remove any pieces or chunks from the spirit.
I don’t mind flavored whiskey. I’ll never drink flavored whiskey as a sipper – it’s for experimenting with cocktails or the occasional shot, in my mind. I’m hoping this infused whiskey can offer something a little more.
What is Black Currant?
If you’re a frequent drinker of red wine, you’ve likely experienced the flavors of black currant, at least to some degree. Black Currant is a super fruit that was illegal to grow in the US until 2003.
According to Wikipedia, black currant acts as a host to the white pine blister rust, and it was a threat to the timber industry. (Side note – It’s funny that it was never okay to use Wikipedia as a source in school, but it’s one of the largest databases of knowledge).
Who Distills Von Payne Black?
Von Payne Black is produced, bottled, and distributed by Von Payne Spirits, LLC out of New Port Richey, FL. Produced by and bottled by X essentially means that the whiskey is sourced from a separate distillery. Now, a normal bottle of American whiskey has to tell us what state the spirit is distilled in. A specialty whiskey does not.
Unfortunately, we have no idea who or where this whiskey is distilled.
How Long is Von Payne Black Aged?
This is another thing we don’t know. The TTB prohibits specialty spirits from containing an age statement. I’ve seen reports online that it’s 3 years, but a Von Payne rep mentioned in a forum that they began with a bourbon aged 7 years.
Did they blend a 7 year bourbon with unaged neutral grain spirits? Or is it all 3 years? We don’t know, and that’s okay. I’m a bit of a nerd when it comes to whiskey, so I like to know these things, but they’re secondary to whether or not I enjoy the spirit.
Von Payne Black Story
One thing I appreciate is an authentic story. Take Shieldaig Scotch, a 12 year scotch that was sourced for Total Wine with a label thrown on it. They attach some bs story to it, package it up, and sell it. I understand the business side of it, so I’m not necessarily knocking their whisky, you’re just not gonna get any greater appreciation from me.
On Von Payne’s website, Steve Allen, the founder, tells the story of how he came up with the idea.
His daughter and her friends were making faces of disgust as they struggled taking pulls of some vodka out of the bottle. Well, that’s something I can relate to personally.
Allen wanted to fill a gap in the market with something new and edgy. There were already numerous flavored vodkas and flavored whiskeys. He was looking to create something that was good enough to drink on it’s own, to take shots of, and to mix in cocktails. It didn’t just need to be good, it needed to be unique.
After a lot of tastings and trial and error, Allen landed on whiskey infused with black currant.
Whether or not this is exactly how it went, I don’t know, but it’s a relatable story. It feels authentic and genuine.
Von Payne Black Review
Okay, now that we’ve covered all of the basics, let’s get into the meat & potatoes of this article – the actual review. Normally, I’d just talk about the whiskey and the price, but this review is going to take into account the bottle. Why? Because it’s pretty cool.
Von Payne Black Bottle
One of the coolest parts about Von Payne Black is definitely the bottle. It has a unique shape and a gothic style with black and silver writing. The stopper is a gargoyle with red eyes and doubles as a pour stout!
Yu have to remove a plug or two, and then you can simply pour yourself a glass of whiskey without removing the stopper. The whiskey comes streaming out of the gargoyles mouth. The bottle is certainly unique and quite cool, and I think that adds some value.
I think a lot of people, myself included to a degree, are wary of really fancy, cool bottles. Oftentimes it gives us the idea that you’re paying for the bottle and not the whiskey. Personally, I don’t mind paying a little extra for a cool bottle, but only to a point. The whiskey inside the bottle still needs to be good.
Von Payne Black Tasting Notes
I have my initial doubts going into this tasting. I’m guessing this can make a good cocktail, and I know the bottle is worth keeping on my shelf, but will it be good enough to sip? Let’s find out.
Nose: Some of that 90 proof shows up on the nose. Oak, grapes, raisins are on the nose with black currant, of course. However, the black currant isn’t as potent as I thought it may be.
Palate: Well, it definitely shows up on the palate. It starts out with the oak and a touch of alcohol and earthen spice, and then the black currant takes over. The mouthfeel isn’t too bad and it’s not a sharp flavor.
Finish: I almost get a bit of lemon at the back of the palate and finish. Oak and black currant on the finish again.
I wouldn’t describe Von Payne Black as low quality. It’s not sharp or rough, there’s just a lot of black currant. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of black currant, but if you are, I could see this as being quite good.
When I took small sips, I found the flavor to handled much easier which made it more enjoyable. Taking a decent sized swig just brings out too much of those flavors for me.
After adding an ice cube and letting it sit for a minute, it’s definitely more manageable. You lose a bit of the oak and earthen spice, but the black currant is held at bay. It’s not something I’d normally drink, but it’s not awful.
For those that don’t know what black currant tastes like, it’s a very tart and earthen taste. In my mind, it’s like a black licorice and orange cream.
Von Payne Black Old Fashioned
I figured that I’d probably end up using Von Payne Black as a mixer, so let’s see how it works in an Old Fashioned. Below is the Old Fashioned recipe I used.
- 2 oz Von Payne Black
- .25 oz water
- 2 dashes orange bitters
- 2 dashes angostura bitters
- 1/2 sugar cube
My first sip, the black currant was once again too much for me. Once the ice melted a bit and it cooled down, it actually turned into a nice old fashioned. I’ll use this in an oldie again, and try some other cocktails as well. Below are recommended cocktails and recipes from Von Payne.
The main issue I have with Von Payne Black is the $65 price tag. All I can think about is how many whiskeys I LOVE for a similar price.
Now, there is value in the whiskey, but also in the bottle. I love the bottle, and I think most people would. You’re going to pay a premium for whiskey that probably isn’t on par with other $65 options.
Are you okay with paying extra for a cool bottle and a decent/fun whiskey to mix in cocktails? If so, then get yourself a bottle of Von Payne Black. At the worst, it’s a cool decoration for Halloween.
I’m not a big black currant fan. I don’t mind it as a note in the background of my wine, but I don’t love it as the focus point of my whiskey. For that reason, I probably won’t be drinking Von Payne Black neat or on the rocks. However, I’ll gladly use it for an old fashioned or any other cocktail I feel like experimenting with.
The biggest value add, in my book, is the bottle. I plan on keeping this bottle long after the whiskey inside is gone.
Is Von Payne Black my kinda whiskey? No, not really. Do I think majority of people will like it? ehhh idk. However, I’m sure that people who like black currant would probably really enjoy this. It’s not for everyone, it might not even be for most people, but it’ll definitely be enjoyed by some!
Ultimately, I think founder Steve Allen accomplished what he set out to do. He created a unique whiskey with a tart flavor profile, and then brought a dark, hedonistic feeling to the whiskey with the packaging.