Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: CJS Beverage Corp.
Release Date: August 2019
Age: 4 Years
Mashbill: 75% Corn, 20.5% Rye, and 4.5% Malted Barley
Bourbon War 4 Year represents the first release in a 9 year vertical series. Every year Pinhook will create a small batch from a set of barrels that was distilled in Lawrenceburg, Indiana. This will allow consumers to experience the slight nuances of how bourbon changes as it gains an extra year in the barrel. The series will eventually conclude with a 12 year old bourbon released in 2027.
For the inaugural year, 150 barrels were selected and were proofed to 98 proof, however the proof may vary year to year as the series progresses. Additionally, the price won’t stay consistent either. Each annual release will increase an estimated $5-10, taking into account the cost of storing the barrels as they continue to age.
Through a partnership with Bourbon Lane Stable LLC, each lot of Pinhook whiskey showcases an individual thoroughbred. According to Pinhook, Bourbon War was foaled on February 23, 2016. Bourbon War after narrowly missing the 2019 Kentucky Derby, was able to run in the Preakness as well as The Belmont.
The nose opens with a theme of smoke. Toasted marshmallows, barrel char, and toasted grain pop up front. Lingering beneath are hints of baked bananas, green peppers, and corn. While the scents don’t hit hard, it’s a surprisingly complex nose for a four year old bourbon. The smoke theme plays well and continues to draw you back in for more.
Cereal grain, vanilla, and light bananas start off the sip. Searching deeper pulls out sweeter hints of summer fruits and bubble gum, along with an underlying line of oak. Overall while the palate is on the thinner side, it still delivers a pleasing set of flavors that make for a very easy sip.
The sip ends on notes of light sweet vanilla, oak, and sweet fruits. These flavors transition to white peppercorns and sweet fruits, eventually ending on a note of a tempered oak. After a stronger start in the nose and palate, the finish is the weakest part of the overall sip, as it just delivers a ho-hum ending to what otherwise is a well-rounded bourbon.
Vertical series isn’t a new concept. Orphan Barrel’s Rhetoric line is the most notable that comes to mind, and ran for a total of 6 releases. In fact, even Pinhook itself has done vertical series in shorter, 6 month increments in the past with their Bourbon Courage line that ran over a period of 3 years.
What makes Bourbon War unique is the length in which it will be run along with the age range it will cover. Bourbon drinkers will get the chance to try a series of bourbons as the barrels age from 4 years to 12 years, over a 9 year span. This will allow consumers to see the progression over time, and more importantly, hone in on what age is preferred by their own palate. With the 4 year bourbon setting a solid foundation, it will be really interesting to see how aging in oak longer helps progress these blends over time.
Coming in at $45, Bourbon War 4 Year will be the lowest cost of the entire vertical series, with the 12 year potentially showcasing a price of up to $135 or more. The sip highlighted in the initial release is good, forgoing many of the youthful traits you’d expect for a young bourbon. That said, it’s clear you're paying to buy into this experience, as $45 will still get you many great easy to find bottles, even in today’s marketplace.
In the end, the sip delivered, combined with the fact that this is part of a bigger broader experiment, helps justify its price for this edition. Now it has yet to be seen if this same logic will hold true for future releases, especially with their increasing price tag. My prediction is that some justify the price, while others may miss the mark, especially as they start to creep up to a triple digit price tag. In the meantime, the 4 year edition comes in at a fair starting point.
Bourbon War 4 Year kicks off a multi-year journey for bourbon drinkers with a decent sip that has potential to shine even more as time goes on.
I’m always excited when whiskey companies take a chance on something new. Whether it’s a unique barrel finish, differentiating grain, or in this case, an aging experiment, I always like when individuals help progress bourbon drinkers in their journey. In the case of Bourbon War Vertical Series, Pinhook is giving consumers the opportunity to hone in on their ideal age range, which might surprise some with what they walk away preferring.
From an actual sip perspective, Bourbon War 4 Year lays a good foundation. It starts strong in the nose and ends weaker in the finish, it provides unique yet balanced flavors that will be interesting to see how age progresses them. I would be remiss not to note that since these are blends, each year could present a totally different flavor profile, however that will be part of the fun of exploring this series over the coming years. If you do decide to go on this vertical journey, make sure you set a little aside from each year to compare. After all, 9 years is a long time away when it comes to the world of bourbon.
Editor’s Note: When this review was originally published, the MSRP was stated at $50 per the company's press release. The review was updated on 05/22/2020, along with applicable ratings, to reflect the now current MSRP of $45.