Saturday, October 31, 2020

Old 55 Sweet Corn Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes

Sweet corn. Yeah, it's a thing. I absolutely love corn on the cob. In fact, I've been caught holding a cob with melted butter dripping down my arm. Sweet corn is awesome.

But, does it make good Bourbon?

Sweet corn isn't unheard of as a minor contributor to a Bourbon's mash, but it is far from common. Sweet corn is challenging to work with compared to, say, yellow dent. It is milkier, higher in sugar, and lower on starch. For the most part, sweet corn is for eating, not for distilling.

And then, there's Old 55 DistilleryOld 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 Fruits' 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.

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.

Old 55 took sweet corn, the same corn you'd eat right off the cob, then ground and distilled it for their 100% Sweet Corn Bourbon. This is a unique whiskey that defies the industry standard, and Jason's goal to discover his spotted unicorn.  Old 55 uses only the heart cuts with no heads or tails. After distillation, it is proofed between 112° and 115°, then placed into new, charred 30-gallon oak barrels. It is then bottled at 80°, carries no age statement, and retails for about $117.00.

Yes, you read that right. Before you thumb your nose at it, keep in mind how difficult it is to make a 100% sweet corn Bourbon. From what I could gather from both Jason and the TTB, nobody else does this. Unique comes at a cost.

The question becomes, when does unique become a smart buy? The only way to find out is to #DrinkCurious.  But first, I'd like to thank Old 55 Distillery for providing me with a sample in exchange for an honest, no-strings-attached review.

Appearance:  In my Glencairn glass, the 100% Sweet Corn Bourbon presented as a strong bronze color. It created a medium rim on the wall, which led to thick, slow legs to drop back to the pool.

Nose:  Aromas of corn and oak were easily identified. Underneath them was a floral quality, which then morphed to a crisp Sauvignon Blanc and grass.  When I inhaled through my mouth, I picked up Andes mint and, again, grass.

Palate:  A very viscous mouthfeel started the journey across my palate. At the front, it was most definitely corn. At mid-palate, I found creamy vanilla and ginger. Ginger isn't something I typically find in Bourbon. On the back, it was a mix of toasted oak and walnuts.  

Finish:  The finish was medium in length and gave up dry oak and barrel char.

Bottle, Bar or Bust:  The neck pour included an astringent quality that I'm used to experiencing in Scotch but not American whiskeys. I allowed the bottle to oxidize for about two weeks and then revisited it and that astringent quality disappeared. The other notes remained unchanged. At the end of the day, unique or not, expensive to produce or not, I demand a serious wow factor for something hitting the $100 and above tier. It just wasn't there. This is a good whiskey, and, because of that, you should try this one first at a Bar before committing to a purchase.  Cheers!

My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System:
  • Bottle = Buy it
  • Bar = Try it
  • Bust = Leave it 


  1. I would say Bust. I fell for it and bought the bottle. I have never been more disappointed with a Bourbon as I am with this one. Floral almost to the nail polish remover note. I get a little corn and not much sweetness. It has about as much bite as Basil Hayden. I know it 80 proof. I really hope this is just a sub-par batch.

  2. Mine was a barrel pick by Red Barrel in Mooresville... very pleasantly surprised.
    The batch may make a significant difference.


As we should drink in moderation, all comments are subject to it. Cheers!