“Watershed Distillery was built to make exceptional spirits. Firmly rooted in the belief that success doesn’t happen overnight and certainly not by chance, Watershed seeks to create and celebrate change within the community and beyond.”
NOSE: Malt | Rye Spice | Oak
TASTE: Rye Bread | Malted Grain | Walnuts
FINISH: A solid medium length finish that carries over almost directly from the palate and is dominated by spice, malt, nuts, and wood. Finally get a little touch of lingering vanilla just as everything else begins to fade.
SHARE WITH: Those who are turned off by the characteristic sweetness of traditional bourbons, or those who typically prefer rye whiskey or high rye bourbons. This could even be something scotch drinkers could get into due to the strong malty notes. I am a scotch drinker, but when I do drink American whiskey, rye is my first choice, and I think that’s why this bourbon appeals to me personally.
WORTH THE PRICE: If this is in your wheelhouse or you are looking to try something different from your everyday bourbon, I’d say it is worth it. $40 craft bourbons are few and far between, and this one is unique enough that I’d be happy to add it to my collection.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: While the distillery is growing, production is not on par with your big time distillers and availability in bars may be limited outside the Ohio area. But again, if my notes appeal to you, I’m more than comfortable putting this in the ‘Bottle’ category.
OVERALL: From the initial pop of the ‘cork’, an enticing spicy sweetness rushed from the bottle like a newly awoken genie. I have the word cork in quotes because it’s not an actual cork… between breakage, crumbling or other quality control issues, many distilleries are beginning to move away from natural cork and toward synthetic options. Fortunately, whatever it's made of still gives the highly anticipated “POP” sound I so look forward to when opening a new bottle.
Once poured into a Glencairn glass, there was much less sweetness on the nose than I was initially led to believe I would find. What was found was a real malty, earthy overtone that was accompanied by the rye grain and barrel / oak influence. It took a few minutes to develop, but a sweetness did eventually emerge. It wasn’t your typical syrupy, corny sweetness but a milder, earthier, less fragrant aroma. More corn husk than candy corn.
It was a little thin on the palate but really quite flavorful, with the rye punch and the malty goodness leading the way. While the malt flavor and rye spice dominated the profile, considering how many different grains are in the mash (5), they all seemed to be dancing to the same song. Speaking of all the different grains, I must admit I had to look up what spelt is. To save you the trouble, I’ll tell you that it’s a grain strongly related to wheat, and while it does contain gluten, it has a different molecular makeup than the glutens in modern wheat, making it more fragile and easier to digest. I also learned that spelt is known for its slightly nutty flavor, which may help explain the walnuts I was picking up on.
While I was really digging around in an attempt to identify additional flavors, I came to accept that beyond the few dominating notes, the remainder of the profile is very well balanced. Yes, it had a good dollop of malty rye spice up front, which I really enjoyed, but the remaining grains were all singing in beautiful harmony. Any fans of the a-cappella R&B group Boyz II Men out there? Well, the malty rye is the ever present funky baseline that carries the song, while the barley, wheat, and spelt harmonize so well you can’t always tell exactly who is singing which part. And the corn?? Well, it was there, but stayed mostly in the background, humming… still an important member of the group, but without the flashy style of the lead vocalist.
Along with the Watershed Bourbon, I also received a sample of Watershed Distillery’s pre-bottled Old Fashioned, which I presume uses this bourbon as the base and adds premium bitters, raw sugar, and Ohio cherry juice to create a ready to drink Old Fashioned. I’m anxious to try it and will be reviewing that as well in a future post, so be on the lookout for that soon.
Disclaimer: Waterford Distillery provided Bourbon & Banter with a sample of their product for this review. We appreciate their willingness to allow us to review their products with no strings attached. Thank you.