Currently owned and made by Kentucky’s dominant distillers Heaven Hill, Mellow Corn has an interesting history behind it. As the name suggests this is a corn whiskey meaning that it has to be made from a mash of at least 80% corn. In fact, this whiskey is made from a mash bill of 90% corn, with remaining 10% comprised of rye & malted barley. The distinctive bottle is labelled as being “bottled in bond” meaning that it has to be aged for at least 4 years in a federally bonded warehouse and made from the distillate of a single distillery from a single distilling season – left to then mature under the careful scrutiny of the US federal powers that be. Rumour has it that the labels haven’t changed since the 1940s because the original distillery was so confident that it would sell so well that they ordered 100s and 1000s of labels and then couldn’t shift them, so it has remained the same since to maintain that history (and probably to save face). Being bottled in bond, this whiskey is presented at 50% ABV.
It’s a very clean nose. It cuts through the nostrils and hits you at the back of your head but not without leaving a trail of faint vanilla sweetness along the way.
Perhaps unimaginatively for me, I’m getting a distinct corn syrup flavour to this, but without the treacle-like body. There’s a bit of oak in there too at the back and some light, white sugar left behind in the mixing bowl.
This stuff is quick and to the point. It has an oily texture that just slips off the tongue and gets to work on warming you up from the inside. As it does so it does leave behind some softer, more floral notes – though this is far from being a gin!
I tried this sample under the guidance of my copy of 101 Whiskies To Try Before You Die (not that I want that process to hurry along). It’s entry as #69 (dude) in my edition of the book referred to this as “something unusual and uniquely American” and is, in fact, my first dalliance with corn whiskey – maybe unwisely so. For this reason, when trying it, I was unable to think of anything else than this whiskey having been made from (predominantly) corn. That maybe why the notes above are a little sparse, but then again, Ian Buxton’s further description of this whiskey is that it is “the nearest thing you’ll get to moonshine that’s legal” and that I can believe! This whiskey is quick, light, sweet and very easy to drink, without leaving much of a trace, and at 50% ABV, that is very dangerous territory to tread because the effects of the alcohol will catch up with you quickly without you noticing. Maybe that’s why they called it “mellow” in the first place. It’s stealthy stuff; and with a flavour more akin to sweet popcorn, this is going to sneak up on you quickly!