At Old Elk Distillery, in Fort Collins, Colorado, craft is everything. To them, excellence does not come from riding trends, but comes from experience and patience instead. Old Elk DistilleryClick to explore our complete library of reviews to help you choose your next perfect bottle.
OLD ELK BLENDED STRAIGHT BOURBON WHISKEY
NOSE: Musty Oak | Leather | Light Anise
TASTE: Juicy Fruit Gum | Rye Spice | Smokiness on back palate
FINISH: Rye spice that lingers but is not overpowering
SHARE WITH: Bourbon drinkers that are looking for something different. Scotch drinkers that are wanting to get into bourbon. Anyone who wants to #DrinkCurious.
WORTH THE PRICE: If $50 for an 88-proof expression doesn't bother you, this one could be for you. The sheer uniqueness makes it stand out against other craft bourbons.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: $50 for a sub-100 proof bottle is a bit on the fence for me. The uniqueness of Old Elk helps to justify the price, but you may want to try a pour before grabbing a bottle.
OVERALL: I’ve had a lot of bourbon that has a great nose, then everything is downhill from there. This one is very much the opposite. The noise isn’t strong, and the notes I get aren’t ones that I gravitate towards usually. A bit of musty oak and leather, and a very slight hint of anise. What the hell, a hint of black licorice! You know, the stuff that sits at the bottom of the candy aisle in that one corner market in your childhood neighborhood. You’ve never seen anyone eat it, the same box has been there forever, yet one package mysteriously disappears every few months. Maybe whiskey makers are secretly scouring the country for that candy. Anyway, it’s there in the nose of Old Elk.
The minute this hits my tongue I get a big burst of Juicy Fruit gum. It’s very unexpected given the nose, but welcoming because the nose lacked those fruit notes that I enjoy. A very sweet front palate yields to nice rye spice on the back palate that continues through on the finish for longer than I’d expect from an 88-proof expression. I get almost a Scotch note on the back of the palate, smokey and slightly peaty. This would be a good pour if you’re looking to transition a Scotch drinker to bourbon.
I didn’t read any notes on Old Elk prior to tasting it, I wanted to taste it as blind as possible. All I knew was it was a blended bourbon produced in Colorado but sourced. When I found out it was a high-barley mash (51% corn, 34% malted barley, 15% rye), the Scotch notes made complete sense. My initial sip left me feeling meh, but after waiting a week and coming back to the sample, I found it to be very interesting and much more enjoyable than it was at first pass.
I have been wanting to try Old Elk for some time, mainly because of their Master Distiller Greg Metze. Most of our readers know Metze from his tenure as Master Distiller with MGP (and LDI prior to the name change). MGP has produced some of my favorite American whiskeys, so I was very intrigued to try Old Elk, as what is currently on the shelf is distillate from MGP. They are building a larger facility, and have been distilling on site in their smaller facility for years, so eventually they will transition to their own distillate.
It’s rare for me to find a sub-100 proof expression that warrants my bourbon dollar, and Old Elk’s price point puts it right on the fence for me. The uniqueness of the mash bill and that heavy fruit up front on the palate are delightful. If you’re looking for a way to #DrinkCurious, Old Elk should definitely find its way into your home bar.
Oh, and one more thing I have to mention….
I must commend Old Elk on their marketing as well. In a world where marketing BS drives many brands, Old Elk has emerged with one of the most talked about items in recent memory: the Elk head bottle pourer. Last year the distillery released a gift pack with a beautiful, silver Elk head bottle pourer that flew off shelves instantly. If I have to choose between the Old Elk bottle pourer and the Blanton’s horsie…I’m taking the pourer. Bravissimo to whoever thought that one up!