Booze Review: Shine XXX White Whiskey

Like any other industry, booze is subject to the whim of popular fads; and while the turnover isn’t so rapid or radical as it is in – say – the fashion industry, certain trends do tend to come and go. One trend that is currently on the rise is the popularity of un-aged white whiskey. (Local distillery Wigle Whiskey is currently producing their first batch.) There are a number of different brands out there, and the first one we picked up is Shine XXX from Philadelphia Distilling (they also produce Bluecoat Gin).

Shine XXX Old Fashioned

Drinking un-aged whiskey is an interesting experience, and an important one if you’re going to have a complete understanding of the whiskey-making process. Comparing the flavors of an un-aged corn whiskey like Shine and more traditional bourbons gives you a sense of what aging contributes to a whiskey, aside from color. Aging whiskey in oak barrels mellows the flavor of the grain, while contributing its own notes. Some distillers are even beginning to use barrels that were previously used to age wine, sherry, and other spirits in order to impart some of that flavor onto the whiskey.

Though without the influence of charred oak, Shine’s flavor and aroma are far more heavily dominated by the corn that it is distilled from. In fact, it’s best to approach Shine not expecting whiskey at all. On first sampling – hell, on first smelling – we were fairly taken aback. This is a very different animal than we were used to, and perhaps the best word to describe it would be ‘agricultural.’ The aroma and flavor are not unlike the smell of freshly cut grass on a summer afternoon.

But here’s the question I’ve been avoiding: Do I like it? After careful consideration, my answer is yes… -ish. Would I drink it neat? Not yet, but each time I go back to it I enjoy its flavor a little bit more. Much like when I was teaching myself to appreciate traditional whiskey (over a year ago now), I’ve been mixing different cocktails using Shine to learn which flavors work with the spirit, and to acclimate my palette to its unique bouquet.

In this process we’ve made Whiskey Sours, Old Fashioneds (pictured above), and Manhattans (pictured below). We also had a Shine-based cocktail at Salt of the Earth here in Pittsburgh, but more on that in a later post. Of the cocktails we mixed at home, the Old Fashioneds were by far the most successful. The multitude of fruit juices tamed Shine’s sometimes overwhelming flavor without covering it up. This drink was, for me, a turning point. Mixing Shine gave me a little bit of distance and perspective on the flavor that I was unable to find while sampling it neat.

Shine Manhattans

Certainly un-aged whiskey is not for everyone, and Shine more so than others, but those who can learn to appreciate this spirit are likely to develop into a following. Unfortunately our bottle ran dry before I could quite call myself a fan. There’s definitely more directions to go in with this spirit than mixing traditionally whiskey-based cocktails. Shine could easily stand in for vodka or tequila in any number of classic recipes, not to mention new drinks designed to take advantage of Shine’s unique bouquet. The key here will be experimentation. Shine’s website has a page devoted to recipes, and the Red Rooster in particular we regret not trying before we ran out of whiskey. Perhaps this is enough impetus for us to seek out another bottle, and perhaps I’ll even find myself a full convert by the time we polish off round two. I suppose there’s only one way to find out.

4 thoughts on “Booze Review: Shine XXX White Whiskey

  1. Jason Liskowacki says:

    Love it, a smack in the face and a kiss on the cheek all at the same time, i drink it straight up and find myself through the bottle before i know it. My new choice of whiskey by far.

  2. Eric says:

    I just bought a bottle tonight and I am very disappointed. I appreciate that many people like this brand, so I am sure it is my own personal tastes but I feel this particular brand has a very strong and overpowering taste and smell that makes it difficult to mix with anything. I generally buy Midnight Moon Cranberry and absolutely love it but my local store was out so I decided to try something new. Well I’ve learned my lesson; the next time they are out of MM Cranberry I will ask when the next shipment will be in and save my money for that purchase.

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