Ask 20 different people to make you an Old Fashioned and you’ll likely get 20 different variations of this classic cocktail. While it has very few ingredients, the options within those basic ingredients can vary widely. Rye whiskey or bourbon? High proof or low? 1 oz or 2? Orange or cherries? Maybe you like both – or maybe neither. Then there’s the bitters… 1 dash or 5? Agnostura bitters? Orange bitters? Chocolate bitters? Even the sugar used will affect the taste. Raw sugar, refined sugar, simple syrup, agave syrup, artificial sugars… and so on.
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I would say that it is. Remember back when blended whiskies were in vogue and more sought after than single malts? Well, neither do I, but I understand that used to be the case. Blends were more coveted because of their lighter, sweeter, more accessible flavor profiles compared to the rawness of single malt whiskies of the time. Here we have a hand blended, bottled, sealed and labeled blended-malt that combines the best parts of nine different single malts to come up with an “unapologetically peated, yet warm and welcoming” pour. Adding to its charm, it is non-chill filtered and no artificial color is added.
This Blended Straight Bourbon is ‘duller’ on the nose, but at the same time, much deeper. Despite the slightly higher ABV, the alcohol vapors were not as prevalent and I was able to more easily pick up the bold notes of chewy molasses and robust baking spices. The overall profile is much richer, earthier, and rounder without all the overpowering alcohol notes.
It’s not the most robust Highland Park I’ve ever tried, but certainly presents a reasonable entry point to begin exploring the line. While they state that a ‘high proportion’ of first-fill Sherry seasoned American oak casks are used in the maturation, for my preferences, they didn’t use enough. But then again, more sherry casks would translate into a higher retail price, and I think that would defeat the purpose of this release in the first place.
I wish I could have been able to taste this blind, because I just can’t seem to get over the fact that it comes in a turpentine can. It definitely stands out on the liquor store shelf, and I get that Stillhouse is trying to “reinvent the idea of what bourbon should be”, but this misses the mark in my opinion. I applaud their innovation and willingness to be different, but I have to agree with G-Eazy when he says “our bourbon is unlike anything else on the planet.” I like bourbon, I love coffee, and I really wanted to love bourbon rested in coffee. But I don’t.
Maybe you’ve already figured this out, but I’m a huge fan. While I admittedly still have mixed feelings about NAS whiskies, (a topic for another post altogether) this is a fantastic pour. It is not one that I’d reach for as I plop down on the couch after a long stressful day when you just need to unwind. No… this one deserves a little more attention and should be savored after dinner in your pajamas. I mean, it takes me 20 minutes to take the first sip because I have a hard time moving on from the deliciously enticing nose.
Before even opening the bottle, based on visuals alone, I was anticipating a much sweeter profile. Maybe it was the pink coloring of the label, or the prominent “Wine Cask Blend” (also written in red lettering) that threw me off, but once poured into a Glencairn glass, the whisky was much more golden in color than my first impression. As I raised the glass to my nose, my expectations were quickly crushed. This was not very promising…