Thursday, March 26, 2020

Old 55 Single Barrel Bourbon Review



Did you know there are more distilleries in Indiana than MGP?  Oh, they're the biggest, no doubt, but there are many other Indiana distilleries that create and age their own distillate. I've reviewed a few, and today I'll do that again with Old 55 Distillery located in Newton.


Old 55 is a grain-to-glass distillery founded in 2014. The grains are all grown on the 140-acre Fruits family farm that belonged to distiller Jason's grandfather, a former navy vet, who bought a feed service and feed mill, or by one of the neighboring farms. Everything from the growing of the grain, to creating the mash, to distillation, to aging, to bottling is done in -house. Nothing is outsourced. It relies on a custom-built pot still crafted by Kothe Destillationstechnik of Germany.


Everything that is distilled utilizes a sweet mash method and uses 100% hearts. Entry proof is between 112° and 115°, although Jason is experimenting with entry proofs of 100° to 125°.  What's released now was aged in new, charred 30-gallon barrels, but they're getting ready to release a Bottled in Bond in 2021 that was aged in 53-gallon barrels.


The warehouse may be the most interesting aspect of what separates Old 55 from others. That's because it is in a renovated 1942 school.  The top floor is storage for empty barrels. Yeah, I know, big deal.  The actual aging is done completely underground in the basement, where there is high humidity and temperatures range from only 50 to 66 degrees all year long. 98% of the barrels wind up being over-proofed - meaning at least 50% alcohol by volume.


Jason told me he knows he can't compete with the big boys and as such, he concentrates on quality over quantity.  His goal is to create his own "spotted unicorn" - something that nobody else can offer, which means he is always trying to do something new.


Today I'm reviewing Old 55 Single Barrel Bourbon.  This comes from a mash of 80% Hoosier corn and 20% red winter wheat. On a side note, I've been informed the upcoming Bottled-in-Bond mash is the same. It carries no age statement and is bottled at 111.4°.  Jason suggested the age was "four years and some change." Retail is between $70 and $75, and distribution is currently in Canada, Kentucky, Illinois, and Indiana.


With all of these unusual qualities, how does Old 55 Single Barrel Bourbon taste?  The only way to know for sure is to #DrinkCurious. But first, I'd like to thank Old 55 for providing me a sample in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review.


In my trusty Glencairn glass, it presented as true orange amber. The medium ring generated created very fat, wavy legs to drop back to the pool of liquid sunshine.


Stewed fruit was the first aroma I inhaled. Charred oak soon followed. I also picked up light pepper mixed with corn. Despite letting the glass rest for about 15 minutes, ethanol remained trapped in the glass. When I inhaled through my mouth, I again found fruit and oak.


The initial sip offered a thick, spicy mouthfeel. The more I sipped, the thicker it became. Up at the front, cotton candy led to sweet corn. There was no middle whatsoever. The back was very dry oak and barrel char with hints of fruit.


The finish was very, very long and warming. It numbed my lips but left my palate intact. I'd estimate it went on for almost three minutes before finally fading. What hung around was sweet corn, apricot, and white pepper.


Curiosity made me wonder what would happen if I added water. Using my eyedropper, I set two drops of distilled water into the whiskey and gave the Glencairn a gentle swirl.


Cherry came out of nowhere to blast my olfactory senses. The ethanol vanished. The stewed fruit at barrel proof was replaced with apple pie, and the corn remained. When I inhaled through my lips, it was all apple pie.


The mouthfeel became very creamy. There was no spiciness at all. At the front, it was caramel-coated apples. Mid-palate appeared and remained apples sans the caramel. On the back end, the oak remained but was less dry, but the char remained.


The finish was not quite as long but remained spicy yet less intense. White pepper was unchanged, the corn as well, but now caramel joined in for the fun. I found no evidence of apricot or any other fruit notes.


Bottle, Bar or Bust:  Old 55 Bourbon isn't overly complicated but it is tasty. Between the two, I preferred it proofed down a bit. It isn't unusual for folks to add water to over-proofed whiskey. It was nice to have the caramel and apple together, almost like a special treat. I realize that $5 isn't a lot of money when you're talking $70 to $75, but this is a lot closer to a $70 whiskey than $75. You do pay a premium for barrel proof and I'd be okay staying at $70 or under. With that, it gets a Bottle rating. Above $70, I'd say try it at a Bar first.  Cheers!



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