Classification: Blend of Straight Bourbons
Company: Old Elk Distillery
Distillery: MGP and undisclosed Kentucky Distillery[ies]
Release Date: December 2021
Age: Blend of 60% 6 year, 24% 12 year, and 16% 11 year bourbons
Mashbill: Blend of 60% Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon (51% corn, 34% malted barley, 15% rye) with two Kentucky bourbons comprising the remaining 40%, mashbill(s) undisclosed
Color: Bright Honeyed Bronze
Price: $150 (2022)
Infinity Blend is the first limited edition release from Old Elk, with annual releases planned for the future. Crafted by Greg Metze, Old Elk’s master distiller with 43 years of experience including a long tenure at the Seagram’s/LDI/MGP distillery in Indiana, the blend was built off a base of Old Elk’s signature high malt bourbon. Metze blended in two Kentucky bourbons of various ages until the overall blend was just right. According to the company’s press release, “The Infinity Blend is a nod to the current at-home whiskey enthusiasts creating their own infinity bottles.”
Traditional bourbon aromas of vanilla, aged and seasoned oak, and light caramel are accented by Bananas Foster and peach cobbler. A splash of allspice adds additional depth. What it lacks in overall intensity, it makes up for with impeccable balance and even delivery throughout.
The intensity of this bourbon ramps up, with hearty oak, caramel chews, and cinnamon bun up front. An array of baking spices emerges and intensifies, bringing with it additional energy. Cocoa and brown sugar add additional depth. It’s overall weight and viscosity further enhances the palate, offering a satisfying mouthfeel. Layers of flavor challenge you to explore further, but the bourbon doesn’t force the issue as it offers pure drinkability alongside its layered complexity. Very well done.
Spice intensifies, with a surge of allspice alongside a dash of cinnamon. Layers of tobacco, light baking chocolate, and charred oak mingle in alongside the spice. Medium to long, the finish rounds out the sip nicely, maintaining balance and noteworthy complexity throughout with a focus on lingering cinnamon spice.
In bourbon enthusiast culture, “infinity” bottles or blends are at-home projects that involve some level of blending various bourbons and whiskeys together to create your own unique custom blend. In its most basic form, as the blend is consumed, it is subsequently topped off with additional whiskeys to create an “infinite” blend that is ever-changing and one-of-a-kind. Barrell Craft Spirits’ Infinite Barrel Project, which was initially released in 2018 was the first widely accessible mainstream product that built off this concept.
Old Elk Infinity Blend takes a different approach than Barrell Craft Spirits, as it’s not a true “infinity” blend in the same sense, rather a complex blend that pays homage to the enthusiast trend of home blending. The distillery does plan to build off the concept for annual releases, however it is not clear yet how each release is going to tie together, or if they will tie together at all. That being said, the people behind Old Elk do genuinely seem to want to connect with their consumers, so giving a nod to this style of blending acknowledges that.
With respect to Infinity Blend’s taste, it builds off the foundation of Old Elk’s flagship High Malt Bourbon, adding a good deal of intensity that’s accented by an array of spice not present in the base product. It’s a satisfying end result that marries complexity with drinkability, though it still offers a balance of traditional bourbon flavors as a base. Combining a high malt base bourbon distilled by Metze at MGP with higher aged Kentucky bourbons, is likely what this familiar yet unique flavor profile is attributed to. This is not to say blending different bourbons from different states has not been done before, but when done right the final product is uniquely its own.
Clocking in at about three times the cost of Old Elk’s flagship product and about twice the cost of a barrel proof single barrel, Infinity Blend’s $150 price point isn’t shocking given their existing price structure and the state of limited edition pricing in today’s marketplace. The base for the blend is the company’s flagship blend, but notably comes with a 6 year age statement suggesting they pulled from some of their older stocks as the standard product is closer to the 4-5 year old mark. Factor in 11 and 12 year old Kentucky bourbons combined with more meticulous blending, and you arrive at a price point that isn’t unexpected, but still raises eyebrows given the fact that it is quite a bit more than their standard products and doesn’t have a proven track record.
Being the first blend done like this and at this elevated asking price, Old Elk has to try to impress right out of the gate in order to win over their fans. To that end, they succeed in elevating their product to a level that is consistent with a higher asking price, and that feeling of being “special,” resulting in a limited release that will probably leave most feeling like they’ve gotten their money’s worth. However it is important to point out it is still a $150 bottle, so value-seekers will find a lot to love with the brand’s single barrel releases for about half the price, though they will likely be more bombastic and less balanced by comparison.
Old Elk’s very first limited edition release, Infinity Blend gives a nod to bourbon enthusiasts and showcases Greg Metze’s ability to craft a satisfying, high quality blend.
Crafting a limited release comes with plenty of challenges. Maintaining consistency and relevance to your standard products, elevating quality to a notable degree, and speaking to your audience are all factors in this endeavor. Infinity Blend touches on all of these elements, speaking directly to the brand’s audience while also building from the base of their core product to satisfying results. The infusion of additional flavors while still allowing the base of their core product to show through is, to some extent, exactly what you might expect a brand’s first limited release to be. What results is a bourbon that is the very definition of a whole being greater than the sum of its parts. On the surface it offers a traditional bourbon base, with pure drinkability to the extent you could see it as a daily drinker. Digging below the surface reveals layers of nuance and depth, likely attributed to the range of components in the blend, that elevates the bourbon to a higher level. Modest and engaging at the same time, Infinity Blend hits all the right notes.