Fiddich Review Centre
Blended Whiskey

We Tasted Milam & Greene Unabridged Volume 1 Bourbon

Greene Unabridged

Milam & Greene Unabridged Volume 1 is a blended bourbon. (Photo: Milam & Greene)

Earlier this month, Texas distillery Milam & Greene released its latest whiskey: Unabridged Volume 1, a limited-edition blend of straight bourbon whiskeys. Milam & Greene CEO Heather Greene created this “literary-themed” bourbon in collaboration with Noah Rothbaum and David Wondrich, authors of the Oxford Companion to Spirits and Cocktails.

Greene, Rothbaum and Wondrich sampled various whiskeys and settled on six bourbons to blend together, representing three states. Unabridged Volume 1 comprises six casks of a 14-year Tennessee bourbon, eight casks of a 6-year Tennessee bourbon, four casks of a 4-year Tennessee bourbon, five casks of a 4-year Kentucky bourbon, two casks of a 3.5-year Texas bourbon made with malted rye and 13 casks of a 2.75-year Kentucky bourbon whiskey made with malted rye.

The resulting whiskey, Milam & Greene Unabridged Volume 1, is a limited release bottled at a powerful 59% ABV and sold at a suggested retail price of $90.

The level of detail provided about each component of the bourbon blend is far from standard in the spirits industry.

“At Milam & Greene, that’s a really big deal to us, is authenticity and transparency, and to bring that into the forefront of how we make whiskey,” Greene said during a virtual tasting event. “Because a lot of it has been shrouded in mystery, and it doesn’t have to be.”

Milam & Greene, led by Greene and veteran master distiller Marlene Holmes, distills on copper pot stills in Blanco, Texas, and in Kentucky on classic column stills.

So, let’s get into tasting this unmysterious whiskey.

Tasting Milam & Greene Unabridged Volume 1

On the nose, Milam & Greene Unabridged Volume 1 is sweet and complex. We picked up notes of lavender, honeycrisp apples, vanilla, honey, milk chocolate, maple syrup and paprika. The palate delivers oak, toffee, orange pith, pecan, semisweet chocolate, coffee and a bit of rye spice. There’s surprisingly little ethanol burn for a 118-proof whiskey. The finish imparts maple and grapefruit peel and is somewhat hot but, again, not at all overpowering considering the proof.

If the proof is too powerful for you to sip neat, though?

“Fuckin’ put water in it,” Greene advised. “That’s the point of a cask strength. If you go to Scotland, there’s a jug next to their cask-strength whiskies.”

We obliged, and upon adding a couple of droplets, a fresh-out-of-the-oven cornbread aroma showed itself, and the palate opened up with sweet rich maple syrup and brown sugar.

Overall, this is an enjoyable dram, delicate despite its powerful ABV, sweet and fruity with just a bit of spice. We’ll look forward to the future Unabridged releases that are implicitly promised by the “Volume 1” in the whiskey’s name.

Altering the Perception of Blended Whiskey

Blended whiskeys are often deemed inferior to single-cask releases due to the history behind blends.

“In the ’70s and early ’80s, so a long time ago, there were some really seedy bars in New York City, and that’s where you drank American blended whiskey,” Wondrich said during the tasting. “From basically the end of Prohibition, until very recently, American blended whiskey was made by taking some straight whiskey … and mixing it with grain spirits, water and caramel coloring. It is not a good spirit.”

That cheap, diluted whiskey, Wondrich explained, was sold to the cheapest bars. Before prohibition, blended whiskeys were much more reputable — actual blends of multiple whiskeys, without the water and grain spirits and such. These whiskeys weren’t blended to make the cheapest possible products, but instead for the purpose of experimenting with different flavors and types of whiskey to make great whiskey.

“I love seeing this come back,” Wondrich said. “This idea of, we can take various really good straight whiskeys — we can take the really old ones that on their own might be very resiny and woody and sharp, and use them to spice up some very fat, low-down, corn-tasting younger whiskeys, so that those aren’t so gooey, and the old ones aren’t so astringent, and you can end up with something lovely.”

Today, the blended whiskey category isn’t inferior to the single cask category, but to some, it still has a negative connotation despite the ubiquity of blended whiskey.

“Even in the modern age, I think we kind of forget that most distillers blend their casks,” Rothbaum said. “Sure, there are a lot of single casks, but that’s very small compared to the large majority of whiskey.”

The beauty of blended whiskey comes from the endless possibilities of amalgamation. Whiskeys have so many different flavors, which result from their mashbills, the kind of still used for distillation, time spent in a barrel, location of aging and more.

“Different warehouses, different floors, different environments, microclimates allow a blender like Heather, who has the skill to realize what all of these notes are, to put them together in a beautiful song,” Rothbaum said.

Here at Whiskey Raiders, we do more than write about current events in Whiskey. We are the only media property reviewing whiskeys and aggregating the scores and reviews of other significant voices in the whiskey world in one place. We also scour the internet daily in search of the best whiskey deals out there. If you’re interested in having a great whiskey deal and the latest news and reviews delivered to your inbox each morning, sign up for our Daily Deal Newsletter!

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