Flight

Breckenridge Distillery once only known for their sourced bourbon, which was proofed down with Colorado mountain spring water, is rapidly expanding their portfolio. This 10 year old distillery is transitioning to their own distillate, and as a result, a widespread change in their whiskeys is taking place.

Relying less on sourced bourbon, their whiskey now tastes much younger and the “aged a minimum two years” statement on their labels seems to stick out more. This is a rather drastic flavor profile change, as the brand always tasted like they had been distilling bourbon for years. Before “non distiller producer” became a better known term with bourbon drinkers, many thought that’s just what Breckenridge tasted like: a well aged whiskey indistinguishable from Kentucky bourbon.

Nowadays their products taste younger, but in a way, more authentic. They also seem more open to trying new things as they now release higher proof varieties, private selections, flavored whiskeys, and barrel finished bourbons. It’s been five years since we reviewed their sourced Bourbon, and last year we tasted a private selection. So with four new products in hand, it's an opportunity to see where Breckenridge Distillery is currently at with their own distillate.

Breckenridge A Blend of Straight Bourbon Whiskeys

Classification: Blend of Straight Bourbons
‍Distillery: Breckenridge Distillery
‍Age: Aged a minimum of 2 years
‍Proof: 86
‍Mashbill: Breckenridge’s distillate is 56% corn, 38% rye, and 6% malted barley. Other bourbon mashbills used in the blend are undisclosed.
MSRP: $45

Nose: Spice springs from the glass, then followed by pine and barrel oak which slowly overtake it. Vanilla and maple gently mingle in providing a pleasant and somewhat memorable aroma.

Palate: It’s fairly straightforward with caramel and oak dominating the initial palate. Toffee and butterscotch then roll in before notes of youthful grain and malt push through. Slightly buttery and on the sweet side, with an overall thin consistency.    

Finish: Oak dominates on the medium long finish, that’s punctuated with a dry aftertaste. Basic and straightforward delivery.

Overall: This is an easy sipping whiskey, not only because of its proof, but also because of its flavors. Classic bourbon notes are on display which will service new bourbon drinkers the most. This isn’t a challenging bourbon, but one anyone can enjoy. It does taste on the youthful side, but not to a detrimental degree. This is because the grain and malt notes work well with the bourbon’s flavor profile. It probably won’t impress seasoned bourbon drinkers, but they will take more notice of how the blend tastes like it favors their own distillate versus sourced stock.

Breckenridge 105 High Proof Blend

Classification: Blend of Straight Bourbons
‍Distillery: Breckenridge Distillery
‍Age: Aged a minimum of 2 years
‍Proof: 105
‍Mashbill: Breckenridge’s distillate is 56% corn, 38% rye, and 6% malted barley. Other bourbon mashbills used in the blend are undisclosed.
‍MSRP: $50

Nose: A potent blend of sweet and spice. Rye spice mixes with sugar cookie and toffee, which results in an aroma that is quite pleasing. A touch of pine and winterfresh gum round it out.

Palate: A thick mouthfeel is the first thing I notice. The flavor profile is not overly complex, but has an enjoyable richness of vanilla and oak that work nicely together. While not a unique flavor combination by any stretch, it's well done and nicely capped off by a gentle hint of youthful grain.

Finish: A long lasting and flavorful heat constitutes this finish. This heat is surprisingly robust for the proof, but a welcome attribute. It adds a much needed punch and does a nice job distracting you from the whiskey’s overall simplicity.

Overall: The High Proof Blend is a noticeable improvement over their 86 proof version. Its mouthfeel and robustness are welcomed, but it still suffers from a simplistic flavor profile. Despite this, what’s in the bottle is a solid pour. The 19 proof difference is a major one and is more in line with what many bourbon drinkers want from their bourbon nowadays. I do think the grain notes add to the overall flavor profile, and unlike other young bourbons, actually provide an extra dimension to it.

Breckenridge Whiskey Port Cask Finish

Classification: Whiskey
‍Distillery: Breckenridge Distillery
‍Age: Aged a minimum of 3 years, finished in port casks for an additional 4-6 months
‍Proof: 90
‍Mashbill: 56% Corn, 38% Rye, 6% Malted Barley
‍MSRP: $60

Nose: Oddly muted overall, and not at all in the traditional bourbon wheelhouse of aromas. It took me some time to settle on the scents, but it’s a strange mix of wine cellar and tanning salon.

Palate: A bit musty and quite dry, it isn’t at all what I expected. Barely any sweet notes with muted dark red fruit, oak, and spice constitute its flavor profile.

Finish: A hard wine aftertaste creeps up, but then quickly fades. Overall on the dry side with only fleeting moments of sweetness.

Overall: This isn’t for me. It’s one of the most unique barrel finishes I’ve had and I’m not sure that’s a good thing. It tastes less of a port finish and more of an extra dry Merlot finish. I’m not sure if the whiskey is strong enough to hold up to the barrel finish as it tastes somewhat of an afterthought here. I wonder if the company knew this and why they used older whiskey for this release than their standard 86 and 105 proof releases. As is, it tastes like someone dumped Merlot wine in with bourbon which resulted in a minimal amount of natural fusion between the two.

Breckenridge Whiskey PX Cask Finish

Classification: Whiskey
‍Distillery: Breckenridge Distillery
‍Age: Aged a minimum of 3 years, finished in Pedro Ximenez sherry casks for an undisclosed amount of time
‍Proof: 90
‍Mashbill: 56% Corn, 38% Rye, 6% Malted Barley
‍MSRP: $75

Nose: A warming aroma of red fruit, oak, and vanilla. Nicely constructed and perfect intensity.

Palate: A punchy red fruit blend pops first that's followed up with slightly sweet, but more spicy flavor notes. Additional notes of dark fruit combined with oak and a rich vanilla are present, but don’t make a dramatic impact.

Finish: A mainly dry and slightly tannic aftertaste that errs slightly more on the spicy than sweet side. It's not quite the finish it needs, but it doesn’t derail the whole experience either. It's serverable. No more, no less.

Overall: I’m not sure how many people will have this and immediately fall in love with it. It’s a barrel finish that requires some time to acclimate to. Noticeably, the barrel finish and base whiskey are more closely connected with this release than in the Post Cask Finish. The sherry finish does a better job integrating with the whiskey and allowing both parts to shine. It's a bit drier than it needs to be and possibly older whiskey stock with more barrel char influence might have brought out more sweet notes to counter the dryness and spiciness. Overall its an interesting release that I feel just isn’t quite there yet despite some of its virtues.

Any company going through the process of transitioning from a sourced product to their own is going to have growing pains. Breckenridge gained a lot of cred very quickly and very early on with their sourced product during a time with less competition. This rise gave bourbon drinkers a false understanding earlier this decade during the bourbon boom that craft distillery bourbon may taste just like Kentucky bourbon, mainly because, well, a lot of the time it actually was. As demand has increased, sourced bourbon has become harder to procure and more expensive. Combine this with the pride of making your own distillate, and you have a perfect recipe for why Breckenridge started distilling their own bourbon.

Coming in between two and three years old, with possible older sourced distillate blended in, the company can claim more of their own. What’s now in Breckenridge’s bottles is more like what would be expected from an experienced company that’s been in the business for 10 years. It tastes somewhere in the middle of brand new start up and the sourced whiskey from years ago. Yes it suffers from a relatively simple flavor profile, but decent oak levels, mild graininess, and overall taste quality shows. At the same time I can’t say the same about their barrel finished whiskeys though. Having tasted these on more than one occasion with the fellow Breaking Bourbon co-founder Nick, we both came to the same conclusion: something isn’t right here.

On the pricing front, their 86 and 105 proof bourbons are priced at about market for craft distillate. Their barrel finished whiskeys do vary widely in price from retailer to retailer, and I can’t help but think it has do with overall reaction to them. The company also releases a Reserve Blend which is used for private selections for groups and stores. It’s released at 86 proof and shows an improvement over their standard 86 proof release. At this state in time, the company’s 105 High Proof Blend is your best bet. Its mouthfeel, proof and intensity stand out the most from their lineup, and and does its best to justify its $50 price tag.

Breckenridge has been around longer than most craft bourbon distilleries, and in turn, has a more interesting history as a result. It’s not a quick or easy transition to make, and a lot more eyes are on them than a brand new up-and-coming craft distillery has to deal with. I commend the distillery for moving away from a sourced product - in which they became known for - to their own distillate which still has some kinks to work out. Working out of their comfort zone could yield amazing results.

The samples used for this review were provided at no cost courtesy of Breckenridge Distillery. We thank them for the samples and for allowing us to review them with no strings attached.

Written By: Eric

May 24, 2019
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