I’ve already talked at length about Chattanooga Whiskey in my review of their 91-proof “Tennessee High Malt,” a 4-grain bourbon with a 2-year age statement that makes use of a 4000-gallon charred oak Solera barrel for finishing. Then there’s their other core bourbon offering: the 111 Cask. Both expressions see similar production processes, except the 111 isn’t subjected to the aforementioned finish, and is allegedly bottled at cask strength. Although Chattanooga’s site mentions a given batch size of 8-12 barrels, the 375ml bottle I acquired from the gift shop mentions a 6-10 barrels. Chattanooga’s website says their batch size represents “one select distillation run” after a 7-day fermentation.
The 91-proof bottling didn’t exactly hide its age when I looked at it, but I also suggested that other whiskeys with similar age statements probably wouldn’t fare too well against it. Now with an extra 20 proof points, let’s see how Chattanooga’s distillate fares when effectively taken straight from the barrel:
Nose: Malt-forward. Generous amount of honey, caramel, and some cherry. Hints of vanilla and almond butter, along with a soft lemon note. An impression of licorice candy can be coaxed out. After sipping, the malt presents itself with more apricot, almond, and a young corn note that feels like it’s been doused and cooked in honey.
Palate: Medium to full mouthfeel. Butterscotch hits the sides of the tongue while a light, drying anise note passes by, followed by honey, pepper, and a burnt toast note. Further sipping makes the youth and corn stick out.
Finish: Strong and fairly robust. Toast and honey stick around, leading to a creamy malt personality joined by vanilla and amaretto-like notes. Warm peach flavor emerges over time.
I rarely comment on how bottles develop over time. In my experience, whiskey doesn’t tend to transform much from neck pour to bottle kill. That’s not to say there aren’t exceptions: If I’d reviewed Old Forester 1910 further into the bottle, it wouldn’t have scored so well. Chattanooga 111 is less a whiskey that transformed and more one that just needed a bit more time and consideration. What began as a whiskey that exuded too much youth and malt-forward personality became an odd, yet surprisingly tasteful dram. And as with any worthwhile whiskey, Chattanooga 111 stands to benefit from repeat sipping in the same session (just make sure you stay hydrated).
Chattanooga Whiskey’s core bourbons do well to justify much of the attention they’ve received thus far. The fact a craft distiller has a cask strength bottling that provides such a robust drinking experience at such a young age while costing about as much as a bottle of Rare Breed is nothing to scoff at, either. This makes the whiskey not just a high value buy for a craft distiller, but a strong value altogether. Chattanooga 91 already a lot going for it; 111 takes those qualities and amplifies the whiskey to the point that it’s difficult to not be impressed.