Review: Collier and McKeel Tennessee Whiskey

by Ernie Ayres on May 11, 2011

I need to open this review by disclosing that one of my very good friends is an investor in Collier and McKeel.  He provided the whiskey that I sampled and answered a few questions that I had.  That being stated, on to the review!

Collier and McKeel Tennessee Whiskey – 
4 out of 5 Noses

Collier and McKeel LabelOne of the best things about this new whiskey is the uniqueness.  Comparing Collier and McKeel’s Tennessee Whiskey to other Tennessee Whiskeys like Jack Daniel’s or Dickel just really can’t be done.  C & M has a small batch feel to it that I’ve never had with any other TN Whiskey.  That’s both good and bad, depending on your personal preference.  From batch to batch, and in some cases, from bottle to bottle it may taste different from the last.

The Collier and McKeel distillery is located in Nashville in the same building with the Corsair Artisan Distillery.  The message the website gives is a great description of what Tennessee Whiskey should be and how C & M conforms to these standards.  From bringing limestone filtered water from the family farm to dripping through several feet of locally cut sugar maples, strict attention to detail was paid to be able to call this product “True Tennessee Whiskey“.  It also mentions the smaller barrels and I definitely thought this made a positive impact on the taste of this whiskey.

Collier and McKeel BottleI really, really like the C & M label.  Its got the basic black background that all TN whiskeys have but they really went above and beyond with the full color winter photo and the gold trim.  The back label is where C & M sets themselves apart from everyone else.  With a brief description of the history of the families and the “Lincoln County Process” comes a thumb print from Mike Williams, the proprietor.  He personally puts his thumb print on each bottle.  This is not a printed thumb print.  That attention to detail is very cool in today’s big box product world.

“Yeah, yeah…great label, thumb print…but how does it taste?!?”

I’ve known for quite a while that this whiskey was coming down the pipe so the excitement was building.  My friend told me about the company, Mike Williams and his commitment to perfection, the Lincoln County Process, and more so the anticipation was building.  However, I was not expecting “true” TN Whiskey.  I’m not a Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 fan per se (I do like Gentleman  Jack) but I do like other TN Whiskeys.  C & M TN Whiskey, I believe, is true TN Whiskey.  It’s sweet.  It’s volatile.  It’s smoooooth.

** Disappointment that was my fault**
When I first opened the bottle I was disappointed to smell a heavy metallic aroma.  I had to dig around and concentrate to smell the woody, sweet scents that I knew were there.  The more I smelled it the more it opened up and the metallic like scent dissipated.  Then it hit me…
I had been chewing minty gum for the last couple of hours.  This messed up my initial aroma test as well as my first tasting.  However, the metallic scent is there, the gum just amplified it.  I decided to wait a day to sample it again to make sure my pallet was clean, well, clean”er”, anyway.

The next tasting was a lot better, sans gum. 

The color in the bottle is a typical whiskey caramel to mahogany color.  Very clear and rich.  In the glass it lightens to a light mahogany and manages to maintain the the richness. 

The first aroma that hits me is sweet, almost bourbony.  It’s not too much for me, but I could see some thinking that it is a bit over the top.  The next scent that I was able to pick out was a woody, caramel like aroma followed by the sour mash.  I tried and tried but I could not pick out which scent was stronger.  Other than the sweet smell up front, the others are subtle but so complex and I think it’s good that way.  At the end, however, I still pick up a metallic smell.  I had a friend  smell and taste it to make sure I wasn’t making this up in my mind and he agreed that it is very faint but it is there.

The taste is the strong point for this whiskey.  *The taste* Wow!  It took me a few pours to fully appreciate the taste probably because I’m a scotch drinker usually.  I go through bourbon phases from time to time but rarely do I ever buy a bottle of TN whiskey.   C & M is just a bit spicy but not so much that it over runs the other flavors.  With Jack and even Dickel, the sour mash is overwhelming.  Not so with C & M.  The sour mash is definitely noticeable, but without being so predominate that it inundates the other flavors.  The finish is smooth and sweet, remeniscent of honey.  Again, I get a faint metallic taste right at the end but it’s so subtle that I’m not sure everyone will notice it.

When reviewing a whiskey, I usually taste it 1. straight, 2. with ice, and 3. with a splash of water.  I didn’t feel the need to add anything to this whiskey.  I had it with ice before I sat down to do the actual review and it was great like that too.  The flavor opened up a little more once the ice melted, but not a lot.  It just doesn’t need anything else.  I’m sure this would be a good mixer as well (there are several examples under “Mixology” on the C & M website).

I’m giving Collier and McKeel 4 out of 5 noses.  This is a great whiskey that I think will only get better as the company continues to mature.  I’ve been told that Mike listens to feedback and considers the opinions of others to help improve the product.

My understanding is that Collier and McKeel Tennessee Whiskey is still pretty hard to find.  If you can find it, try it.  You’ll be glad you did!

Have you already tried it?  What do you think?  Be sure to leave comments below!

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