Kings County Distillery has been making waves in the American whiskey world for some time now, collaborating with the likes of Mast Brothers chocolate for an infused white whiskey, winning craft spirit awards, and putting out two books about this history of whiskey as well as a tasting notebook. While their whiskey may be resting, they certainly are not. Today I’ll be reviewing the first in their line of very small batch and experimental releases, a peated bourbon. The brainchild of this recipe, Rob Easter, actually has his own brand on the west coast called Workhorse Rye. The peated bourbon starts its life as:
70% New York State organic corn from Lakeview Organic Grain
15% Thomas Fawcett Golden Promise
15% Thomas Fawcett Concerto Medium Peated Malt
For those unfamiliar with peated malts are, it is malted barley [the primary ingredient in most Scotches] that is smoked and dried with peat moss, imparting a smokey flavour to the resulting whiskey. The Thomas Fawcett peated malt has an extimated phenol PPM of approximately 15 – 25, the higher the PPM, the more smoke you’ll taste in the resulting dram. After distillation the bourbon rests in new American oak barrels for up to 18 months before being cut down to 45% ABV [90 Proof] and bottled. Here’s how it tastes:
Nose: Heavy oak notes, hints of peat smoke but not as strong as you’d expect, a very salt air quality to it [which makes me happy] and a butterscotch bourbon sweetness beneath it all.
Taste: The heavy oak I expect from most Kings County whiskies, but surprisingly it’s toned down a bit here likely due to the malted barley. The salt shows up throughout and again the smoke is lighter than expected, maybe too light. Light leather and tobacco notes as it begins to finish, reminiscent of most American single malts, and even some bitter dark chocolate.
Finish: This is where I pick up the majority of the smoke and peat, the heavy oak from the young bourbon fades into burnt wood, here the leather and tobacco rise up to meet them and what began as a young bourbon comes into its own as an American malt, the salt and bitterness remain but in a pleasant Islay-esque fashion.
This is a confusing and pleasantly surprising whiskey, not at all what I was expecting going into it. You definitely taste the base young bourbon, but the peat plays an interesting role and turns this into a truly unique whiskey that rides the line between American single malt and bourbon that marries the qualities of each. That being said, I think there’s room for improvement, either age it longer or up the PPM. It needs a bit more character from either the barrel or the peat moss to really make it a winner in my books. However, the Kings County Distillery Peated Bourbon won a coveted double gold at the San Francisco spirits awards show so they’re doing something right.
Unless you’ve got deep pockets, this won’t be a daily drinker as a 200ml bottle will run you about $36 USD. Before you turn up your nose, this is a very small batch experimental whiskey, the work that went into this is reflected in the cost. From sourcing the ingredients, distillation, barreling, storage, bottling, and the human element. I don’t recommend this bottle to novices but those looking to branch out from the basics will find something truly enjoyable here.
If you’ve tried it, what do you think?