Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Berkshire Mountain Distillers. 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.
This is the third in a series of reviews about the Craft Brewers Whiskey Project, which has for the past five years brought together a select group of craft beer brewers across five states. We reported about them in March. They release three each season; the three in this series were all released in the spring.
It’s why you might have a sense of déjà vu when you read this review! Recently we ran a review of Samuel Adams Boston Lager American Whiskey. This review covers the third in this issued trifecta: the Berkshire Mountain Smoke & Dagger Black Lager American Whiskey, from Jack’s Abby. They are based in Framingham, Mass. The other two are Samuel Adams and Berkshire Mountain Distillers.
Each of these whiskies is the product of a single-sourced craft brew distilled into a unique Berkshire Mountain Distillers whiskey, and each spends a month being sold only in Berkshire’s Massachusetts distillery before it gets distributed throughout the Northeast. All are blended to 86 proof using Berkshire Mountain’s spring water and packaged in custom bottles with brewer-designed labels.
This particular whiskey is made from Jack’s Abby’s Smoke & Dagger Black Lager. Their website describes the beer as “cloaked in mystery” and Beer Advocate describes the dark beer as skirting the line between a schwarzbier and smoked porter, for a rich chocolatey feel. They use locally grown, unmalted barley from Massachusetts.
I didn’t love the siblings in this trifecta, so I came to this review with some unease. I’m not a beer geek. I might regard the others higher if I loved beer more than whiskey. I think you definitely have to prefer beer to get the most mileage out of these concoctions.
Let’s see how #3 holds up.
Tasting Notes: Berkshire Mountain Smoke & Dagger Black Lager American Whiskey
Vital stats: 86 proof; about $63; aged five years in oak.
Appearance: The color of an Ikea particleboard desk from 15 years ago that’s been bleached by the sun. Meaning: a little fake and plasticly looking. Very light.
Nose: Also light. Very faint. Not subtle, but faint. Like someone had mixed beer and whiskey into a glass and poured it out because they didn’t like the taste, rinsed it like an hour ago, put it away, and then took the glass from the cabinet but it’s still a little clammy. I’m really finding it hard to evoke a smell. I could make something up but I don’t want to do that to you. It smells like a watery echo of alcohol. I’m really trying here, I swear.
Palate: So. I like this more than the Berkshire Shine. It’s about on the caliber of the Sam Adams version of this experiment. I like that it does not smell or taste or in generally have the sensory vibe like a bar floor or peanut shells. But that’s a fairly low bar. I’m all for experimentation! Whiskey aged in wine casks? Sure, why not. Trying all different kinds of things when making booze? Sure! More power to y’all who do them. And I applaud your hard work and care, I do, I do. But this merger of sorts is simply not one that I enjoy. This is a pass for me. Maybe not a hard pass, but a pass just the same.
If you’re a beer geek, then sure, shell out the $60-something bucks if you live in New England or are New England-adjacent. It could get you out of those long, cold, crummy winters. But this is not for me.
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