Good Times is a brand I had absolutely no intention of adding to my review portfolio. The name is a bit on the obscure side, to the point I’m sure some observers have thought “oh, they meant Early Times.” But Good Times is something else. No, really, even the producing parties don’t seem privy to blasting the Good Times name. The only semblance of officiality for the brand is an Instagram page that links to a scant website selling basic merchandise, including this candid article. It does mention offering MGP single barrel finished “any way you want,” which certainly seems to track with Good Times’ track record (we’ll get to that). Fortunately, labels can point us to bottling companies, and Good Times is no exception: Whiskey Thief Distilling Co. Established around 10 years ago, Whiskey Thief goes hand-in-hand with Three Boys Farm Distillery, a 127-acre farm in Frankfort, KY. Although their site mentions selling distillery-only products due to having “exclusive distribution rights for all spirits at our distillery location,” there’s nary a sight nor mention of the actual spirits in question.
So what are we meant to glean from this limited information? Well, let’s head back to the Good Times Instagram page and scroll through their posts.
Doesn’t take long for raised eyebrows to ensue. Finished whiskey has become so commonplace, I’d argue it’s the most oversaturated part of a saturated market. Yet Good Times seem to be taking the idea and sprinting like they’re Forrest Gump if he took some questionable substances. For those who neither have nor use Instagram (I don’t blame you), here are some examples of their apparent finishes:
- Strawberry brandy
- Kiwi brandy
- Chocolate barrel
- Double oak Mexican vanilla
- New charred oak barrels twice and heavy char #5 Mexican vanilla barrel
- Toasted Madagascar vanilla caramel
- Toasted white oak barrel, Madagascar vanilla extract barrel and ex-bourbon caramel barrel
- Forest edge grape brandy barrels
- Bourbon caramel and banana brandy barrels
- Raspberry brandy
Needless to say, these colorful combinations have conjured a share of skepticism in certain circles. They’re all but guaranteed to invite questions of flavoring or potential workarounds to label regulations—which the TTB have an already-spotty reputation of upholding. Even this positive review of a chocolate and cherry brandy finished rye from Good Times mentions how chocolate settles to the bottom after the bottle sits, adding fuel to the vibrant fire. I count myself among the skeptics. It’s incredibly difficult for me to see Good Times labels and not suspect some semblance of shenanigans. Assuming this for the above examples (and many others), what then can we suspect about the brand’s comparatively tamer selections?
I reached out to Whiskey Thief on their contact form with a few questions about their branding and production processes, but never received a response.
Good Times seem to have everything from bourbon and rye to the wild and flavorful, as well as everything in-between. Case in point: Cigar Blend. To be more specific, this is Good Old Times Cigar Blend, which is marketed as a single barrel bourbon whiskey (no mention of “straight”) finished in cognac, Armagnac, and Oloroso sherry barrels. Where Good Times typically source Ross & Squibb distillate, this particular Cigar Blend that I came into a sample of was distilled in Kentucky and mentions being aged for eight years. One doesn’t need to be particularly astute to realize what this is meant to be a stand-in for. It’s claimed to be barrel strength, non-chill filtered, and bottled at 61% ABV. This sample comes from bottle 118 of barrel CJC#2.
Nose: Surprised how much sweet grain and ethanol I’m getting upfront. A corn aroma that’s distinct but also buried and underdeveloped. I’m not getting any finish influence, either. Damp crates and sawdust. Impressions of vanilla, cinnamon sugar, light brown sugar, and nondescript woodiness that become strong over time, but not in an alluring way. Maybe pancakes and syrup left in the kitchen for a couple days. If I was served this blind I’d think it was a Texas whiskey, just based on the nose.
Palate: Thin and brazen. Brief impression of fruit before roasted corn, light brown sugar, and faint caramel appear. Cheap chocolate and drying vanilla smeared on a piece of cardboard. Quickly turns drying on the back palate with a generic, vague wood presence that struggles to muster any actual flavor. Feels like cheap, blended whiskey before being watered down.
Finish: Plenty of ethanol heat matched by a yeasty corn personality. The sensation is akin to entering my car after its been out in the Florida sun for an hour. Maybe some hints of smoke and/or char? Regardless, it’s all heat on the throat at the expense of any actual, lingering flavor.
Before even diving in I couldn’t help but be surprised by the whiskey’s color. I’d suspect an 8-year, barrel strength bourbon finished in three additional casks to showcase some decent color, yet this looked closer to a proofed down 4-year product at best. Then it came time to nose and my trepidation only grew. I couldn’t discern any finishing cask influence from the first sniff, an experience that translated to the palate.
I’m all but convinced something is amiss. In no way does the experience line up with what an 8-year bourbon should taste like, much less one that’s also finished in three other casks for any tangible length of time. Developed vanilla, brown sugar, and caramel notes becoming of straight bourbon with the above stats? Absent. Dark fruit-like flavors representative of the mentioned finishing casks? Elusive as a bottle of BTAC. Whatever presence of pleasant flavors I’m able to pull out are a struggled result of coaxing.
Rather than getting an approximation of other, similarly finished “cigar” style products, I feel like someone blended Seagrams, lackluster Texas whiskey, and vodka, redistilled the combination, slapped a random label on the bottle and called it a day. The worst part is honestly how hot the whiskey drinks at the absolute absence of actual flavor. Some pours pack heat or even sickly flavors, but even those have a personality that I can see an audience for. Here? Not so much.
Good Old Times Cigar Blend is just bad. It feels disingenuous to the point I’m all the more wary of the parties behind it. Could I be completely off-base and simply need a proper education at the Three Boys or Whiskey Thief premises? Perhaps, but I remain woefully doubtful. I could stomach my sample, but as of now, I have little interest in trying anything else with the Good Times name attached to it.