Whiskey Review: Marlee's Green Tea Whiskey

Whiskey Review: Marlee’s Green Tea Whiskey

Marlee'sOne of the excitements of reviewing whiskey is that you’re never quite sure what will fall through the mail slot next. It’s usually a progression of known quantities: the latest expression from Wild Turkey, an experiment from Jim Beam. But occasionally something totally different makes an appearance.

In that vein, today I’m reviewing Marlee’s Green Tea Whiskey, produced by Strong Spirits in Bardstown, Kentucky. The concept of pairing tea and whiskey is definitely having a moment, with noted whiskey writer Dave Broom even devoting a portion of his latest book Whisky: The Manual to tasting notes for whiskey paired with green tea. The fruity, bitter, and smoky flavors of different tea varieties have a lot in common with whiskey; in the right hands, it can be a delicious match.

Marlee’s Green Tea Whiskey is a low-proof (14.95% abv) mixture of Chinese green tea and American rye whiskey, sweetened with Mexican blue agave and browned with caramel coloring. Not quite a liqueur, it’s also not really a flavored whiskey in the sense of Fireball or Red Stagg. Brand founder Jared Berlin says “Marlee’s Green Tea Whiskey is more akin to spiked green tea as opposed to whiskey,” placing the bottling nearer the ready-to-drink or premixed cocktail category than anywhere else.

Tasting Notes

As somebody who relishes full-strength whiskey and avoids sweeteners, this product isn’t really geared towards me, and as a whiskey blog reader, it’s probably not geared towards you, either. However, I approached it with an open mind, and tasted it on its own as well as in several of their recommended methods for serving.

Straight

Color: Darkly caramel-colored

Nose: Sweet and simple, with straightforward floral aromas of green tea and a faint hint of rye spice

Palate: Also sweet and straightforward, with a tannic backbone imparted by the green tea. The finish is brief and agave-dominated, with only the slightest hint of whiskey.

Over Ice

Over ice, Marlee’s Green Tea Whiskey starts to come into focus as, essentially, a sweet tea cocktail. It’s light and refreshing, but the dilution from the ice further reduces the proof to the point where it’s hard to tell that you’re drinking something alcoholic at all. For many consumers, that’s probably a selling point, but it’s not what I’m usually looking for in a drink.

With Soda Water and Lime

This was my favorite way of drinking Marlee’s, as the acidic addition of lime provides a counterpoint to all that sweetness, while the fizz of the soda water underscored the drink’s refreshing qualities.

Ultimately, this isn’t whiskey. It’s a very mild bottled tea cocktail, and taken on those terms, it’s not bad. If you’re looking for a rich, spicy rye, you’d be better served to look elsewhere, but if you’re searching for an alternative to pilsner for your post-lawn-mowing pick-me-up, this might be worth a try.

At $18 for a 750 ml bottle, it’s an affordable experiment if you want to try and hunt one for yourself. I’m declining to rate this whiskey, as it’s…not really a whiskey.