The Old 55 Distillery is located west-northwest of Indianapolis, Indiana. The distillery has been around for a little over 4 years now and has some Bourbon that is aged for four years. Jason Fruits, the Master Distiller and owner, has decided to release this whiskey as bonded Bourbon. Jason is a very talented distiller and does a few things very differently from typical Bourbon production. First of all, he has a two-grain mash bill. Jason uses 80% yellow field corn and 20% red winter wheat. No malt at all in his mash bill, so he does use enzymes for conversion.
The grain is all raised on his family farm, so he is a field-to-bottle distiller. He puts his spirit into a 30 gallon, level three char barrel at 112.5 proof. He shows that good Bourbon can be made with smaller barrels, which is difficult even when treated correctly. He then uses an underground storage facility. A steady year round temperature is the norm for underground storage as there is not extreme heat in the summer or extreme cold in the winter. This acts more like aging only on the bottom floor of a normal warehouse. This slower maturation may be why he can use 30 gallon barrels and still make excellent whiskey. All of this is within the rules for making Bourbon, but also very innovative.
Jason sent me bottles from the first two batches of bonded Bourbon that he made. They are very different in flavor profile. Both are very good, but different from each other. It would be interesting to examine why they were so different. The next time I see Jason, you can be sure I will discuss it in depth with him. I will take notes on our conversation and write about it as well.
I paired these Bourbons with a Nat Sherman Timeless Limited Edition cigar. I find the smoke to have some notes of dried hay, caramel and sweet fruit. I think it will pair well with both Bourbons.
Old 55 Bottled-in-Bond Batch 16c1
Age: 4 Years Old
Nose: Lots of caramel – think Cracker-Jacks and a little corn husk. Not a complex nose, but a pleasant one.
Taste: Corn, caramel, lots of fruit –Orange zest or mango/ripe peach, with a little sweet oak wood. A dried cranberry brings out a creamy French vanilla and orange flavor that reminds me of an orange dreamsicle. A pecan brings out the oak and the orange zest notes.
Finish: Oak and white pepper with a touch of molasses. The cranberry sweetens the finish with more fruit, no pepper and only a hint of oak. The pecan made the finish longer with more oak and molasses.
When paired with the cigar, the Bourbon enhanced the fruit notes of the smoke and added some spice notes. The smoke added some cherry and raspberry fruit notes to the Bourbon. A very nice pairing.
Old 55 Bottled-in-Bond Batch 16 c2
Age: 4 Years Old
Nose: Softer than batch 16c1 with some caramel corn, with a little fruit and oak. Once again not a complex nose and I had to warm the Bourbon in my hands to coax out the fruit and oak.
Taste: A very thick mouth-feel – almost chewy, with buttery caramel, and only a hint of orange zest and oak – like a liquid caramel candy like a Modjeska. The dried cranberry enhanced the caramel/vanilla candy notes. The pecan brought out the orange zest notes and the oak, but there was plenty of the caramel candy flavor left in the taste.
Finish: Short and sweet with caramel and sweet oak. The cranberry added a sweet herbal note to the finish – I bounce between thinking mint and anise. The pecan made the finish longer and slightly drier with more oak and less caramel.
When paired with the cigar, the Bourbon added a nice chocolate note to the smoke. The smoke enhanced the vanilla in the Bourbon and reminded me of a vanilla ice cream Sundae topped with some caramel sauce. Another great pairing.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller