While at the St. Louis Bourbon Festival, I was talking to the people from the Ben Holladay Distillery. They were telling me about their newest releases – their Ancient Cave Collection. When Ben Holladay built the distillery in the mid-nineteenth century, he found a cave on the property. He used the cave to store and age meat. The cave has been used for many different purposes over the years, but the newest owners decided to age some whiskey in the cave. These whiskeys are finished products and I believe that they took aged Bourbon and placed it in the finishing barrels and then put the barrels in the cave to allow a slower aging process to take place. Often the problem with finished whiskey is that it matures too fast and most of what you get from the finishing barrel are the tannins from the wood. A slower aging process allows more of the sweet notes from the barrel to come out. The cave mimics the bottom floors of a warehouse in temperature and is constant all year round. It would be interesting to compare barrels aged in the cave with barrels from the bottom floor of the warehouse. I am sure that there would be a difference, but I am not sure what that difference would be.
The representatives of Ben Holladay arranged for me to get a bottle of each of these whiskeys sent to me. I believe that there is a limited amount of this whiskey and they are only selling them in the distillery gift shop and in 375ml bottles to allow more people to purchase them. I like the amount of information that Ben Holladay Distillery put on their labels. They tell you the mash bill, the age and the proof of the whiskey. I received the bottles the other day and Matt and I sat down to taste them. Here are our tasting notes.
Ben Holladay Double Oaked Ancient Cave Collection
Age: Seven Years, Three Months Old
- Mike: Caramel, apricots, cardamom spice, and oak wood.
- Matt: Cherries, strawberries, cinnamon, and oak wood.
- Mike: Caramel, apricots, cinnamon, nutmeg spice, and oak wood. Tasted with a dried cranberry and the spice becomes a white pepper. Tasted with a pecan and notes of milk chocolate and white pepper come forward.
- Matt: Cherries, cinnamon, and oak wood. The dried cranberry added notes of caramel. The pecan brought out the flavor of cherry wood smoke, caramel, cinnamon spice and oak wood.
Ben Holladay Smoked Applewood Finished Ancient Cave Collection
Age: Seven Years, Three Months Old
- Mike: Vanilla, apricots, apples, cardamom spice, oak wood and a hint of smoke.
- Matt: Caramel. brown sugar, marshmallows, cardamom spice and oak wood.
- Mike: Vanilla, apples, cardamom, oak wood and a hint of smoke. The dried cranberry enhanced the apple flavor. The pecan made the spice a white pepper and enhanced the oak and the smoke.
- Matt: Caramel, citrus, apricots, apple, oak wood and a hint of smoke. The dried cranberry enhanced the citrus and apple notes. The pecan brought out notes of baked apples with brown sugar and cinnamon.
- Mike: Medium long with oak wood, cardamom spice, apples and smoke. The dried cranberry added a lingering vanilla flavor to the finish. The pecan added lingering note of caramel to the finish.
- Matt: Smoked apples, cherry wood and oak. The dried cranberry made the finish longer with more apple note in the finish. The pecan added a note of leather and cinnamon spice to the finish.
I would pair these fine Bourbons with a My Father The Judge cigar. I think the chocolate notes in the smoke would pair well with the sweetness found in these Bourbons.
photos courtesy of Rosemary Miller