Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Molson Coors. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
During a conference call with investment analysts in late July, Molson Coors announced it was eliminating almost a dozen “low-margin, slow-moving” brands like Coors Seltzer from what it calls its economy portfolio. As part of a larger reorganization it started in 2020, Molson Coors wanted to start placing more of an emphasis on pricier labels.
Coors is hardly alone in that shift. As the pandemic moves into what everyone hopes will be its late stages and the rapid-fire growth of hard seltzers continues to wreak havoc with the beer business, beverage companies are increasingly shifting from high volume to high margin brands. In the case of Molson Coors, think vitamin-C-infused Vizzy hard seltzer, a line of drinks in Canada that have varying levels of CBD and THC, and a partnership with Zoa Energy drinks and Zoa founder Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
Or, announced and quickly rolled out for the first time shortly after that July conference call, a move into whiskey.
Five Trail American Whiskey, Molson Coors says, is a blend of Colorado single malt and three bourbons from Kentucky’s Bardstown Bourbon Co., proofed down with Rocky Mountain water. With an MSRP of $59.99, it will sell initially only in Colorado, Georgia, Nevada and New York.
Molson Coors cited “a built-in affinity of beer drinkers for a whiskey produced by a brewery” as a reason for the new release. It also clearly has to do with a desire to diversify the company’s revenue stream, which makes sense from a business perspective.
For whiskey drinkers, though, the perspective that matters is whether Coors is good at distilled spirits. Or good yet, anyway. History suggests a company that big will eventually find a way to be competitive and will identify a profitable niche for itself. In the meantime, let’s see how it did with this first attempt.
Tasting Notes: Coors Whiskey Co. Five Trail Blended American Whiskey
Vital stats: Blend of one single malt and three straight bourbons; 47.5% alcohol by volume/95 proof; $59.99 for a 750ml bottle. Golden, Colorado.
Appearance: Light amber, similar to wet straw.
Nose: Supposedly 15% of the blend comes from Colorado single malt and the other 85% is the Bardstown bourbons (including 5% from a 13-year-old bourbon). The nose is definitely bourbon-forward, bringing to mind vanilla, brown sugar, maple, and something spicy, reminiscent of ginger and Coca-Cola.
Palate: There’s a lot going on in here: Maple bar, cinnamon, wild honey, and baked figs. Underneath, there’s a vaguely aromatic flavor (if that makes sense) that makes me think of sage. It’s nicely blended, with no rough edges. Even so, it tastes just slightly immature, which is not entirely surprising since 95% of the blend comes from four-year-old whiskies.
This is the first release under the new Coors Whiskey Co. brand and Five Trail label, but won’t be the last. Coors says it envisions annual releases with blends and mash bills that change over time. And why not? Plenty of other brewers have moved into distilling in recent years. Whiskey is, after all, distilled from “wash,” a beer-like liquid made up of fermented grains, water, and yeast. There are good and less-good examples of brewers moving into the dark spirits, however. For a first shot out of the Molson Coors cannon, this Five Trail shows a lot of promise.
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Scott Bernard Nelson
Scott Bernard Nelson is a writer, actor and whiskey reviewer in Portland, Ore. When he's not working, you can often find him fly fishing or rock climbing in the Pacific Northwest.