For the last few years whilst I’ve been getting my whisky-geek on, my focus has been on Scotch whisky for the most part. Why? I hear you ask. Well, to me it’s the first country you think of (maybe apart from Ireland) when you think of whisky. Despite what you might have read about Scotch whisky (whether it’s any good or not these days etc. etc.) I believe you need to find out for yourself whether something is good or bad by experiencing it first-hand. To me, Scotch is a yardstick, a benchmark if you will. Japanese distilleries have attempted to emulate Scotch whisky flavour profiles by copying their production processes, so they must do some things right, surely? Such reverence must merit your own personal discovery of the truth in my opinion.
So for the last few years, I’ve been finding out about the differences between the Ardbegs and the Ardmores, the Glenfiddichs and the Glen Gariochs, the Tomatins and Tomintouls, so I’d say I’m quite clued up on the more popular Scotch whiskies (I’ve yet to experience a Tormore, a Port Ellen, a Brora – perhaps one day soon). But the cost of this has been that my bourbon knowledge could only be described as novice at best. There’s definitely a requirement to improve my bourbon repertoire; learn more on the uniqueness of different distilleries, the effect of different proportions of grains in the mashbills, or different yeast strains, or varying degrees of char on flavour influence.
Today’s bourbon isn’t my first foray into bourbon territory and with a Wild West theme in mind (bourbon makes me think of cowboys swigging whiskey in saloons with their horses hitched up outside) I can analogise my bourbon experience as follows: I’ve been moseying along a well-travelled trail, not really deviating off the well-beaten track to find the back-trails and hidden valleys where those interesting, unique or unusual experiences can be found. I’m pretty familiar with Mr Daniels (who isn’t) and a few other entry-level samples from the more famous names around – Four Roses, Buffalo Trace, Bulleit and Jim Beam but only a very small number of tastings here and there, and I’d struggle to tell you one from the other. I have worked my way through a bottle of Michter’s Sour Mash in the last couple of years, which I found really rather pleasant but as many of you would point out, that’s not actually bourbon. To which I’d argue that apart from the proportions of the corn in the mashbill, it’s pretty much bourbon to someone like me. It’s more like bourbon than is gin, let’s put it that way.
Anyway, I think you get the point, so let’s focus on today’s offering from TWBC, Bourbon #1. This is a bottling of 24-year old bourbon, which from what I can tell is damn old and pretty rare for bourbon. A quick scan of Master of Malt shows that the oldest bourbons available are in their mid/late teens on average. Compared to the other bourbons I have tried, trying this 24-year-old bourbon might be a bit like passing your driving test and then going out to drive a supercar.
If you’re not aware of That Boutique-y Whisky Company (TBWC), then frankly where have you been? An independent bottler, they’ve been putting single malts, grains, blends and bourbons with snazzy labels out there with prices starting at circa £35 and going up into the unicorn stratosphere from a number of distilleries from around the world. This for the record is my first foray into TWBC. Researching old MALT reviews of TBWC examples they have been generally well-received. So they’re doing good things it seems. I have fairly high hopes of this from the outset.
The label on this bottle depicts an alien, a Bigfoot and a crop circle in and around Area 51 – all things which no one really knows about (if they exist at all), much like the source of this whiskey. Whatever sells eh? Bourbon #1 is the first batch of this particular whisky released in December 2018. As mentioned before, it has been aged for 24 years and is bottled at 48% ABV with an outturn of 8376 bottles. You won’t get much change from £200 if you buy one. This was lovingly gifted to me by my wife for Christmas, but I will be impartial and consider price in the scoring (if relevant).
That Boutique-y Whisky Company Bourbon #1 – review
Colour: Deep copper.
On the nose: I nosed this for such a long time, letting it breathe – there’s so much going on here. I get liquorice, spicy oak, pepper, soap, sweet toffee and lime zest coming through with tannic woodiness, sherry, leather, dusty old books, fruit and nut chocolate and mint. There’s plenty of buttery shortbread biscuits too and a sweet floral note I can’t put my finger on along with quite a lot of clove mixed, but it works together so well. It’s very deep, rich and complex.
In the mouth: That 48% ABV initially kills off the flavours hitting the tongue (it seems stronger than 48% weirdly) but eventually I get a lots of cinnamon, lemon drops, ripe banana, buttery fruit cake, violet (that’s the floral note I detected on the nose) and clove with sweet plump dried dates and dried apricots, all singing in a capella harmony to fill the olfactory senses. Slightly less depth than on the nose but wonderful all the same. Fantastic stuff.
This is gorgeous, lovely stuff, especially on the nose. The nose is so good I reckon you could sell it as an aftershave. Seriously, I’d wear it, probably. I expected this to be woodzilla having spent almost a quarter-century in the cask, but it’s not at all. The aromas and flavours marry up so well with each other. It’s certainly a 3-dimensional dram, it’s just lovely.
I asked our American counterpart, Taylor, if he might be able to drop any clues as to where this whiskey came from, which he helpfully did (cheers Taylor) but I’m not going to divulge my thoughts as to where this whiskey might come from, as I don’t want to guess and be wrong! I’ll leave you to make up your own minds or do your own research.
The nose is exceptional which means I was (very) slightly disappointed when I tasted it and for two-hundred notes a bottle it’s not cheap, so I’d dock it a point for that, but then you get what you pay for, and this is really very good.
If you’re the type of person who buys bottles in this price range regularly, I don’t think you’d be disappointed.
With a lack of information relating to this release, I haven’t improved my knowledge of bourbon per se, but it has made me realise that I need to find those small-batch releases where there is more chance for fun, characterful whiskies and will definitely keep an eye out for those in the future. I also need to up my knowledge game with the Irish uisce beatha too, which means more to explore!
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