Classification: Straight Bourbon
Company: Sazerac Company Inc.
Distillery: Buffalo Trace / A. Smith Bowman Distillery
Age: 11 Years
Mashbill: Buffalo Trace Mashbill #1
MSRP: Not available for retail sale
This week’s Tasting Note Tuesdays features a private selection barrel of John J. Bowman that was chosen by two groups - DCG of Greenville, SC and The Book Club of Charlottesville, VA. What’s most interesting about this barrel was the selection process - after the barrel was selected, and after much deliberation, the groups decided to take a risk and age the barrel an additional six months in Bowman’s non-temperature controlled warehouse. “Rolling the dice” on whether the additional time in a hot warehouse would enhance or potentially ruin the barrel they selected, we had the chance to sample the result.
The bourbon is made from Buffalo Trace’s mashbill #1, twice distilled at Buffalo Trace and then re-distilled in A. Smith Bowman’s famous copper pot still. It entered the barrel at 125 proof and after 11 years emerged at a whopping 141.9 proof, though it was proofed down to the standard 100 for final bottling.
The end result is certainly a quintessential John J. Bowman Single Barrel flavor profile. Fresh leather, cigar box, baking chocolate, and a hint of green apple aromas introduce the bourbon to the senses. The sip reveals rich, earthy flavors of fresh leather, seasoned oak, and barrel char. Its notable astringency complements its earthy undertones. A warming heat accents the finish, with cinnamon spice and bouts of chewing tobacco giving way to hard cherry candy sweetness. It’s long and delicious. Leaving it in the glass for a prolonged period accents some of the more refined notes and subdues the astringency.
On the surface, leaving a barrel to age another six months doesn’t seem like that big of a deal. But if you’ve ever been part of selecting a barrel you know the risk of ruining it can be significant. At $10,000+/- for a barrel of bourbon, that’s a risk not many will likely take. Ryan Gossage, a member of the group who selected the barrel, reached out to us in May 2017 to ask our opinion of whether they should take that risk, and the best advice we could provide him was to say it’s basically a “crapshoot.” They already knew they had a good barrel and ran the risk of ruining it...and much can be said for stopping the aging process at the right time...tanked Sazerac 18 Year anyone? With that in mind it’s an interesting experiment and while I can’t say how much the additional six months of barrel aging changed the flavor profile from their initial selection, the result is as interesting as it is unique.
The sample used for this review was provided at no cost courtesy of DGC & The Book Club. We thank them for the sample and for allowing us to review it with no strings attached.