- DISTILLER: Produced by Never Say Die. However, the distillery behind the liquid is vaguely disclosed as "in Danville, Ky.," while mentioning that Pat Heist and Shane Baker are cofounders of this brand. In other words, Wilderness Trail Distillery.
- MASH BILL: 75% Corn | 21% Rye | 4% Malted Barley
- AGE: 6 years
- YEAR: 2023
- PROOF: 95 (47.5 ABV)
- MSRP: $75
- BUY ONLINE: Only available through online stores in England.
SHARE WITH: Any whiskey fan curious about what a trans-Atlantic voyage and year's stay in England won't do to a barreled bourbon.
WORTH THE PRICE: Nope.
BOTTLE, BAR OR BUST: Bar.
OVERALL: The nose is highly approachable: fruity aromas of canned peach, cherry syrup, cooked corn, a little oak and black pepper. The palate is more of the same, with a good mouthfeel and a long, warm finish. There's nothing to dislike about this bourbon, but for $75 a bottle, I'm not racing off to get one.
Perhaps the big question for most is whether the whiskey is noticeably influenced by its journey to and rest in England. For me, at least, the answer is no. It tastes like a 6-year-old bourbon should–like any bourbon aged here for six years would taste.
The only thing I don't like about this whiskey is the press release introducing it. For starters, it's six pages long, and in that English way, punctuation is both strange and optional. It's a fulsome pitch loaded with bunk such as this:
"... Never Say Die Bourbon made its maiden voyage from Kentucky to Derbyshire’s White Peaks Distillery, landing on English shores in July 2022 – to the acclaim of critics and bourbon-lovers alike."
Oh, the drama ... something akin to McArthur's soggy booted return to the Philippines!
"... further matured in England, at Derbyshire’s White Peak Distillery."
So? It aged at a distillery as opposed to No. 10 Downing St.?
It doesn't matter where you stash it in England; it's perpetually cool. At least Jefferson's Ocean travels into widely varying temperature zones. A straight shot 'cross the pond doesn't compare.
It’s a unique journey with three distinct climatic conditions (Where? Inside the ship, outside the ship and on the ground in England?) that not only accelerates the aging process but also leads to unique variations in each small-batch due to factors like the timing of the ocean voyage, and length of time resting at White Peak.
Firstly, wow, that's an impressive run-on sentence! Secondly, 10 years of aging in England is like ten months of aging in Kentucky. You can haul that whiskey there, but it ain't changing in a year's rest.
And I still don't buy the argument that the ocean's jostling changes whiskey appreciably. If the liquid is merely bumping against the barrel's charred inner surfaces, perhaps its color will be darker. But it's widely known that most barrel flavor is gained from deep within the wood, not on the surface. A jolly-good jostling on the way to England isn't forcing that liquid deeper into the barrel's staves.
But it's the Never Say Die name origin story that I wish would just, well, die. How many goofy bourbon-and-horse stories are on Kentucky whiskey labels already? And what makes this crew think theirs is interesting or believable? And did no one read this and say, "Hmm. If this brand's story includes a horse race, how about we limit the time it takes to read this release to the time it takes to run a horse race?" But that never happened. And as a result, the whole is a doozy ... because of such entries as this:
"In 1951, on Hamburg Farm in Lexington, KY, a foal had a rough birth and its life was in danger due to poor breathing. Legendary horseman John A. Bell III was on site and poured a shot of whiskey down the throat of the struggling foal. During the night, the young horse made a dramatic recovery and was aptly named Never Say Die."
Given the current state of American racehorse management, it's more likely that "during the night" the foal got a shot of a now-banned substance. But let's use our imaginations and muse a bit: Perhaps the whiskey was something dreadful, akin to Fireball, and it made the horse cough and start gasping for air, breathe deeply and thus revive.
Yeah, that sounds like a parody of "All Creatures Great and Small," or just another bad bourbon and horse story. In the end, the horse was named, Never Say Die. But keep reading, 'cause this contrivance isn't even flagging.
If you know your rock and roll history, you're likely ahead of me on this: Best was hired to drum for The Quarrymen, a group later renamed The Beatles. But in the end, Best's best wasn't good enough, and John, Paul and George replaced him with Ringo as the drummer.
No lie! They really included this story in a release about bourbon!
And in case you forgot, I wrote that Never Say Die Small Batch Bourbon is good. Not worth $75, but good nonetheless.
Our flagship product, with a mash bill using 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley. Considered a “High Rye” Bourbon, this offering has spicy notes characteristic of a rye, but with the complexity of a Bourbon whiskey, which can be enjoyed neat, on ice or in your favorite cocktail.
Disclaimer: Bourbon & Banter received a sample of this product from the brand for review. We appreciate their willingness to allow us to review their products with no strings attached. Thank you.