Classification: Straight Bourbon Finished in Honey and Brazilian Amburana Barrels
Release Date: May 2023
Age: NAS (Contains bourbon aged between 4-6 years per company website)
Mashbill: 75% Corn, 7% Rye, 15% Wheat, 3% Malted Barley
Color: Rusty Gold
MSRP: $90 (2023)
Honey graham cracker | Cinnamon | Burnt orange rind | Toffee | Nicely expressive
Honey | Greek baklava | Nutty | Sweet & savory
Graham cracker | Cinnamon stick | Cream soda | Roasted malt | Light cigar box | Lingering lavender honey cookie aftertaste
Penelope Rio combines two popular finishing styles together which results in an unexpectedly wonderful flavor combination.
Arguably the two hottest bourbon finishes right now are honey and Brazilian amburana, so it makes sense to combine the two. Perhaps it was simply a matter of good luck, as Penelope Bourbon had been developing Rio for two years and involved combining seven different whiskey blends together - the timeline couldn’t be more right. It also just so happens that it’s being released around the same time MGP Ingredients announced they would be acquiring Penelope Bourbon for $105 million. With so many things lining up perfectly for Penelope, does their latest release follow suit?
The whiskey opens with a rich honey coated graham cracker scent that’s quickly followed by cinnamon and burnt orange rind. There’s less of its bourbon base whiskey showing through on the aroma over the wealth of sweet and cinnamon scents that come out in full force. It’s potent to say the least, which after taking a sip is a theme you’ll pick up on throughout this whiskey.
The palate starts off with an unwavering honey sweetness which quickly combines with graham cracker creating the classic nostalgic combination of Golden Graham cereal. There’s a slight tilt to Greek baklava thanks to a mild nuttiness, fresh dough and sugary syrup. Sweet lovers rejoice. As honey-forward as the palate is, the amburana finish is ever quietly brewing below.
It’s not that the amburana flavors are absent from the palate, they just come out in full splendor during the whiskey’s finish. Raw cinnamon stick combined with cream soda, roasted malt, and cigar box encapsulates everything that amburana finished bourbons have become known for. This style of finish can also be divisive for many people as it is strong and overpowering. Penelope only finished this blend in amburana barrels for two weeks and even still, the flavor is unmistakable. The key with Rio, is how the honey helps offset the potency of the amburana barrel finish. It makes it much more palatable for people that haven’t fallen head over heels for amburana's particular style of finish. And that might be one of the biggest takeaways from Rio. It makes amburana approachable and the honey aspect not only plays nicely with it, it brings out its best side.
Penelope’s Cooper Series has featured a string of creative and unique finished whiskey and Rio is their best effort yet. It nails its concept, and better yet, Penelope has discovered and proven in one single release how well honey and amburana can work together. Make no mistake, Rio is a full flavored sip that bets big on the exchange of sweet and savory notes. Some will find it too strong, while others will enjoy its richness. Even so, there’s nothing quite like it available and its inventiveness cannot be overlooked.