Mellow Corn, Bottled-in-Bond

Maker: Heaven Hill, Bardstown/Louisville, Kentucky, USA. (Distilled at DSP KY 31)988_437_Mellow-Corn
Style: Aged corn whiskey
Age: NAS (at least 4 y/o)
Proof: 100 (50% ABV)
Appearance: Dark straw, long thin legs.
Nose: Thyme, sage, corn masa, toffee.
On the palate: Full-bodied and soft. Sweet caramel, oak, alcohol, sugar cookies.
Finish: Hot and sweet. Caramel corn, alcohol, tarragon. Lingers and tingles.
Mixed: Use as you would a bourbon or American blend. Makes a very nice Old Fashioned. In a Manhattan and with Benedictine (4:1 ratio on the rocks) makes a mixer-forward but still well-balanced and, most importantly, tasty drink.
Parting words: Corn whiskey occupies its own odd little corner in the world of American whiskey. Before the rise of micro-distillers, corn whiskey was a niche product popular in Appalachia and with nerds like me. It is, by law, composed of at least 80% corn but unlike bourbon it cannot touch new, charred, oak barrels. It doesn’t have to be aged at all, but if it is used cooperage is, well, used.
Mellow Corn is the most widely distributed and probably best selling aged corn whiskey. In my mind it thus provides a benchmark for judging all other aged corn whiskeys. The only thing from a major producer that comes close to it is Early Times Kentucky Whiskey, which has a similar mashbill and is composed of whiskey aged in new and used barrels. Mellow Corn far outclasses Early Times. Comparing it to a bourbon is not helpful, in my opinion, because that’s not what it is. Mellow Corn is a corn whiskey and should be judged for what it is, not what it isn’t.
Before I finish, I should mention that I love the campy, mid-century label on this whiskey. Loads of praise to Heaven Hill for not updating the label on this one. OK, I’m starting to ramble. Mellow Corn BiB is recommended.

Head to Head: Virginia Lightning vs Glen Thunder Corn Whiskeys

1) Virginia Lightning

2) Glen Thunder

Maker

1) Belmont Farms of Virginia, Culpepper, Virginia, USA (product no longer made)

2) Finger Lakes Distilling, Burdett, New York, USA

Age

1) NAS (unaged)

2) Less than 30 days

Proof

1) 100 (50% ABV, taken down to 90 proof for tasting)

2) 90 (45% ABV)

Appearance

1) Clear

2) Clear

Nose

1) Raw spirit, lavender, corn syrup, dried flowers, nail polish.

2) Spirit, corn tortillas, rose water, varnish.

On the palate

1) Full bodied and velvety. Sweet. Grape juice, mango.

2) Medium bodied. Milder than the nose would indicate. Drier and delicate.

Finish

1) Long, soft and fruity. Alcohol, starlight mints.

2)Corn husks, sweet cornbread, a bit of an alcoholic tingle

Parting words: These are two of my favorite unaged corn whiskeys. They are both good in their own way. Virginia Lightning is mild and fruity. It’s easy drinking for an unaged corn. Glen Thunder has more of an edge, but much more in the way of corn character. I have heard rumors that Belmont Farms, when they made this product, added sugar to their mash to achieve its relative smoothness. Both perform well mixed with sweet soft drinks or even on the rocks with a wedge of lime or a maraschino cherry (a summer favorite of mine) Virginia Lightning is no longer made now that Belmont Farms is under new management. If you can find it, it is worth buying. Glen Thunder is still made, but may be hard to find. It has the strong corn character of a traditional corn whiskey, but is accessible enough to work its way into the rotation of whiskey lovers who enjoy this sort of thing. Both are recommended.