Only within the past few years have we begun to see distilleries using blue corn in lieu of yellow corn to make whiskey; Balcones was the first. Travel 700 miles west to Los Alamos, New Mexico, and you will find Don Quixote Distillery & Winery, makers of Don Quixote Blue Corn Bourbon. Owners and distillers Ron and Olha Dolin believe barley is a “harsh ingredient“, so to minimize the distillery’s carbon footprint they have chosen to use naturally malted organic New Mexican blue corn because it has “beautiful flavor and texture that reflects in the spirit.”
The high altitude and desert climate have inspired Ron, a PhD engineer, to meticulously design and build all the stills at the distillery. It’s such a huge undertaking, but attention to small details like this strengthens the appreciation for the art of distilling. The labels for the Don Quixote Blue Corn Bourbon are even hand illustrated by Olha.
With fluctuating climates, deserts are a great place to age whiskey. During the day, when the sun shines, the whiskey is drawn deep into the oak staves, and in the cool night, it is pushed back out. The barrels of Don Quixote Blue Corn Bourbon are placed at the top of the racks in the barrel house to ensure maximum contraction and expansion of the oak to impart optimal flavor.
Before reading the vital stats section, please note, there is conflicting information about the mash bill. Scouring the internet led me to find Ron state, “Our bourbon is 75% blue corn, with the balance wheat and a touch of rye,” despite others saying the final 25% is made up of wheat and barley.
Tasting Notes: Don Quixote Blue Corn Bourbon Whiskey
Vital Stats: 40% ABV, 80 proof. Desert aged in American oak, finished in French oak*. Organic, malted New Mexican Blue Corn. 750mL bottle retailed at $50. (*label says finished in French oak, but website says Single Cask.)
Appearance: Light amber.
Nose: Straight up acetone in the forefront, which is a struggle to get past. Underlying hints of cherry, toffee, and apricot.
Palate: Very light, soft mouthfeel. Rubbing alcohol, tanned leather, and oak linger over the flavor of caramel corn. Comes off as a sour mash with a grassy/straw aftertaste. Coats the mouth with a starchy feel, that sort of numbs the tongue and cheeks. Despite being 80 proof, the finish is hot. With just a drop of water, it becomes salty and buttery.
The more water or ice added, the saltier Don Quixote Blue Corn Bourbon gets. This can make or break a cocktail, and your sipping experience. This whiskey is ok, but not something I’ll be returning to anytime soon.
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Courtney Kristjana is a leading whiskey taster in the country. She left a career in Gerontology after an article on Heather Greene inspired her to follow her passion for whiskey. She is studying to become a Master of Scotch and someday hopes she is nominated for the Keepers of the...