Classification: Bourbon Finished in Nocino Barrels
Company: Watershed Distillery
Distillery: Watershed Distillery
Release Date: November 2022
Age: 5 Years
Color: Dark Walnut
MSRP: $100 (2023)
Brown sugar | Coffee bean | Molasses | Toasted walnut
Walnut | Cocoa | Cedar | Pomegranate | Slight clove | Dark brown sugar | Rich
Thick oak | Mixed nuts | Coffee | Pure maple syrup | Dark chocolate | Lingering maple & oak aftertaste
Though it remains essentially region-locked for now, Watershed continues to improve their Nocino Finished Bourbon to the point where it's ready for the national stage.
When I was introduced to Watershed Distillery Nocino Finished Bourbon in early 2021, I was instantly spellbound by it. The whiskey’s rich tapestry of dark flavors is the result of being finished in nocino barrels. Being unfamiliar with the liqueur, it is traditionally produced in Italy and is created with unripe walnuts that are still soft in their husks. Watershed Distillery creates their own version of nocino and finishes it in their used bourbon barrels. These barrels are then used to finish their barrel strength bourbon which results in Nocino Finished Bourbon.
In the short time since tasting Batch 001, Watershed Distillery has grown and matured as a distillery. They now feature a 4 year old Bottled in Bond Bourbon and a 6 year old Apple Brandy Finished Cask Strength Bourbon, both of which have shown noticeable improvements over the years. There’s an expectation that distilleries get better with age from the more experience they amass. It’s also an assumption that doesn’t always pan out. Yet Watershed, whose product was already good a few years ago, has noticeably leapfrogged their own bar in 2 years.
Tasting Watershed’s latest Nocine Finished Bourbon batch, it’s immediately apparent how much of an improvement Batch 003 is from the already great Batch 001. Revisiting the original batch against their newest one, the flavor conveyed in Batch 003 is impressive. While the proof has jumped 12 points, it's the fine-tuning and integration of the nocino finish that helps this whiskey excel. Its extra layer of sweetness contrasted against its mild bitterness that makes it such a dynamic sip. It has traditional barrel proof bourbon attributes at heart, but layers on such an impressive tapestry of dark flavors fueled by its nocino finish that makes it stand out in the crowded finished bourbon marketplace. As for now, it remains a very limited regional release confined to their distillery and a few Ohio-controlled liquor stores. I continue to hope Watershed is able to scale their production of this release as more whiskey drinkers deserve a bottle of it in their collections.