Bill Thomas and I started this adventure almost four years ago. We contract-distilled four barrels of Bourbon at Kentucky Artisan Distillers. Our Bourbon is made with 60% Hickory Cane white corn, 25% rye, 12% distiller’s malt and 3% chocolate malt. Jade Peterson, the Master Distiller at KDA, distilled it at a low distillation proof of 119.5 and we put it in the barrels at 103 proof. It will be four years old in January 2022. It may be getting close to the time to bottle this Bourbon.
I have been patient with tasting this whiskey. I waited until October to taste it for the first time because I wanted to let the summer heat do its magic. It was October for the next two years as well. I knew it was going to be almost four years old in January of 2022, so I waited until December to taste it this year. I gathered a team of Rosemary, Matt Kohorst, Becca Hammer, Maggie Kimberl and Lisa Wicker and we met at the distillery. Jade had pulled the barrels out of the warehouse and we removed the bungs.
I was surprised how high the fill level of these barrels was after four years. You could see the liquid only about four or five inches down. We started with barrel one and filled glasses and a sample bottle to share with Bill when he comes to town. We were very happy with the taste – rich chocolate and coffee notes with caramel, and spice.
We then did the same for each of the other three barrels. Each barrel has a unique flavor and will work well if we bottle each as a single barrel product. Barrel Two was more rounded in flavor with lots of spice. Barrel Three was somewhere between one and two with notes of chocolate and spice. Barrel Four was closer to barrel one in flavor, but has more caramel and vanilla notes.
There was no consensus as to which barrel was the best of the four. We then filled a sample bottle with about 25% from each barrel and mixed it well. We all agreed that this was excellent Bourbon and could make an outstanding small batch Bourbon.
This led to the next question – what are we going to do with the barrels? Ultimately, it will depend upon Bill’s wishes. He is paying for this and he will be the one selling it at Jack Rose Dining Saloon in Washington D.C. I am inclined to do all four barrels as a small batch Bottled-in-Bond. Maggie asked if we could bottle half of each barrel as a single barrel and the rest as a small batch. Jade said that could be done. He then suggested doing one barrel as a single barrel and the other three as a small batch. The problem there is everyone liked different barrels, so which would be the single barrel? Lisa liked Jade’s idea as well. Matt liked all of the suggestions.
The answer is, I called Bill and he is coming to Louisville after the holidays. We are going to sit down and taste the samples we pulled and then play around with mixing three barrels together and see what those results would yield. Maybe we will find three barrels that marry together very well and do the fourth barrel as a single barrel. We may decide each barrel is interesting enough to do four single barrels. The one thing I do want to do is make whatever we do as a bonded Bourbon. The barrel proof is still only about 104 proof. To add that small amount of water will not alter the flavor much and I want to pay homage to bonded whiskey with these bottles.
The decision will be made in January when Bill is in town. I will write another blog about the choice when it is made. I would love to have Maggie and Lisa join us while we are making that decision, if they are in town and available. The one thing I can say is, it is going to be excellent Bourbon when it is bottled.
Photos Courtesy of Rosemary Miller and Maggie Kimberl