Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: CJS Beverage Corp.
Release Date: March 2018
Age: 3 years
Mashbill: 70% Corn, 20.5% Rye, 4.5% Malted Barley
Color: Yellow Gold
MSRP: $50 (2019)
The Crop 18 Grouping by Pinhook is comprised of a rye whiskey named Rye Humor and Bourbon Country Bourbon. Bourbon Country comes in three variations including a standard Straight Bourbon, Single Barrel, and Cask Strength. Bourbon Country Cask Strength is the first cask strength bourbon bottled under the Pinhook name. The bourbon itself was distilled at MGP in Indiana. Pinhook states that the bourbon has an average age of three years and eight months and was aged, blended, and proofed by Sean Josephs at Castle & Key Distillery in Frankfort, KY.
Through a partnership with Bourbon Lane Stable LLC, each lot of Pinhook whiskey showcases an individual thoroughbred. For the first cask strength release, Bourbon Country was chosen. Foaled April 17, 2014, Bourbon Country was bred at Alamar Farm, LLC and is the son of Harlan's Holiday and Uninhibited Song. In addition to the horse, each release of Pinhook is distinguished by a different color wax, with Bourbon Country Cask Strength sporting purple wax for the first time in the brand’s history.
Light but lively, candied orange and white cake nicely blend together. They’re joined by a touch of vanilla, light oak, and pepper. A light layer of ethanol lies in wait, and appears with a heavy sniff. A nice way to start off the sip.
The palate is slightly youthful and a stark contrast from the nose. Where the nose is mostly sweet, the palate is a bold spicy burst of rye that really shines through. It combines with a mixture of nuts, oak, black pepper, and a touch of sweet vanilla. It’s surprising how much the rye shines through for the percentage in the mix, but the end result is a bold palate that surprises with each sip.
The finish starts with a touch of warming heat as the rye spice carries through. Additionally, there is a brief hint of vanilla and peaches to start the finish. These fade leaving straw, oak, and leather on the backend. The finish ends on a lingering spicy rye and dry leather note. While it’s a perfectly nice way to end, it's also the weakest part of the sip by comparison.
A cask strength bourbon in and of itself isn’t anything overly unique. Sure a nod should be given to Pinhook for offering Bourbon Country in standard, single barrel and cask strength versions, however this wouldn’t be the first time this was done. Makers allows this on a larger scale with their Maker’s & Maker's 46 lines, which come in standard, cask strength, and single barrel versions through single barrel selections that stores/groups do.
What makes Pinhook Bourbon Country Cask Strength really unique in my book is the interplay between the bright fresh sweet nose and the bold spicy palate. They’re so contrasting from each other and unexpected that it brings forth an experience so rarely seen in a cask strength bourbon. This contrast also plays well for the youth of this bourbon, as it masks the young age more than you would normally find for a bourbon this age. No matter how many times I sipped this, I was still surprised each time the transition happened. In a sea full of commonplace cask strength bourbons, it’s a nice change to experience.
Bourbon Country Cask Strength may seem expensive for a bourbon aged three years, in reality, it’s priced accordingly in today’s marketplace. It competes in the same price range that you’ll find bourbons such as Bulleit Barrel Strength, and for a few dollars less than what a bottle of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof generally sells for. While it depends on the batch of Elijah Craig Barrel Proof, generally speaking Bourbon Country falls neatly in between these two lines sipwise and is priced accordingly. The fair price lends to the fact that you can pair this with either a single barrel version of Bourbon Country or the standard version for $100 or less, for a fun and reasonably priced face off.
Pinhook’s first foray into cask strength bourbon delivers a solid start thanks to a surprising transition of flavors between the nose and palate.
Bourbon Country Cask Strength came as a surprise to me. While I’ve enjoyed their rye in the past, and knew they blend to mask the age well, I didn’t have high hopes for a 3 year old bourbon. However, after sitting with this bourbon on multiple occasions now, I walk away pleasantly surprised.
The youth of this bourbon plays a very little role in the overall sip. Despite its age briefly shining through in its palate, overall this bourbon punches above its weight, thanks in large part to its palate. Rich in bold spicy flavor, the palate delivers a delightful contrast to the lively nose, and I found myself going back often to experience this transition. There are better, more nuanced cask strength bourbons available on the market, but when factoring in the price and the flavors of the sip, Pinhook Bourbon Country Cask Strength delivers a solid first entrance into the brand’s cask strength line.
The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of Pinhook. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.