Based out of Colorado, Leopold Bros. is a family-owned distillery run by Scott and Todd Leopold. Originally started in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1999, the distillery was moved to Colorado in the mid-2000s and the current distillery space they operate out of opened in 2014. The company floor malts their barley onsite, where they currently have the largest traditional floor malting room of any distillery in the United States.
For their straight bourbon release, the company states that they “utilize open fermentation in wooden tanks with both house-cultured and indigenous yeast strains.” They go on to state that the bourbon is pot distilled and unfiltered, and is “aged four years in new American white oak charred barrels on earthen floors in the distillery's unheated dunnage-style bonded warehouse.”
The bourbon being reviewed was barreled in summer 2016.
A combination of earthiness and sweetness arises the moment you lift up the glass and inhale the aroma. Scents of freshly shucked corn, followed by hints of freshly cut oak and grass hit first. Directly following and contradicting these are bold candied oranges, marmalade, and honeydew. Slightly youthful, the nose showcases unique scents that you normally don’t encounter. It’s an intriguing yet pleasing opening to the sip.
A base of light oak and bold dough are immediately noticeable. These are joined by a vanilla wafer note and powdery baking chocolate. There’s a slight hint of muddled oranges and cherries adding sweetness. The mildest of rye spice appears on the backend, but in general, the main focus is on the unusual combination of flavors that preceded it. It’s an interesting combination, with the high percentage of malt having a clear impact on the flavor. Those interesting flavors also have a tendency to be overwhelming, as the dough notes come across as too strong and lower the appeal of the midpoint of the sip.
The dough from the palate carries over, along with a more noticeable appearance of rye spice. Joining in are notes of oak, green peppercorn, and dull tobacco. As the flavors drop off, the rye spice and dough remain, wrapping up the finish. It offers just enough to be interesting, but overall it’s on the unmemorable side as it quickly fades away.
Leopold Bros. Straight Bourbon is an interesting product. It doesn’t taste like a traditional bourbon, nor does it taste like a typical craft whiskey. This can most likely be chalked up to the fact that brothers Scott and Todd Leopold have been honing their craft at Leopold since 1999. The distillery has recently been making a name for itself in the rye space, with their Three Chambers Rye release making our Best Rye Whiskeys list in 2021. The ability for the company to floor malt their own barley most likely also helps contribute to their unique tasting whiskeys.
In Leopold Bros. Straight Bourbon’s case, the resulting pour pulls forth a mix of earthy and sweet notes throughout the entire sip. With the added doughy and dry flavors present throughout, the whiskey could easily be mistaken for an American single malt versus a traditional bourbon. A large part of this is most likely due to the mashbill containing a high percentage of malt. However, it’s not without its faults either. The fact that the palate comes across as more muted due to its muddled flavors certainly holds it back. When taken as a whole though, it’s a unique pour that will intrigue those looking for an untraditional bourbon flavor profile.
Leopold Bros. isn’t exactly known for producing budget-friendly whiskeys. Their rye products sell for $250 and even their collaboration with the Dickel Distillery was $100. While it comes as a surprise that their standard straight bourbon retails for $50, that also doesn’t make it entirely justified either. The sip present while intriguing is overall just average due to its doughty nature. Those looking for a more traditional bourbon flavor will be able to find bottles for much less, while those looking for a traditional American single malt flavor need just to spend a little more to find a more well-developed sip. Taken as a whole, at its current price, this is a below-average value, plain and simple.
An unusual combination of flavors allows Leopold Bros. Straight Bourbon to present a very unusual bourbon pour.
Leopold Bros. Straight Bourbon whiskey has a hard time deciding what it is. It certainly does not present a traditional bourbon flavor profile, and at times, is reminiscent of an American single malt. The bourbon brings forth unique flavor notes, particularly with some of the aromas present in the nose, however, it has a tendency to also be muddled in areas too. This is a bourbon for those looking for an untraditional flavor profile and are willing to pay the higher asking price to achieve it. Fans who have come to love Leopold Bros. rye releases, will likely find that this bourbon doesn’t deliver to the same excellent level. However, if you’re looking for a more unconventional flavor profile, Leopold Bros. Straight Bourbon may be a whiskey that you want to seek out.