If you don’t recognize his name, you are probably familiar with the whiskey brand he founded in 2008: WhistlePig. Raj Bhakta sold it in 2019; since then, he’s created BHAKTA Spirits.
“BHAKTA Spirits is built on a simple, optimistic premise: the world abounds with treasures. We seek these treasures - forgotten spirits, decrepit properties - with an eye for overlooked quality and latent potential. Our search spans continents and centuries. Our foundation rests on Four Pillars: we seek the Rare and the Exquisite, in the service of Value and Purpose.” – BHAKTA Spirits
Amazingly, Raj has curated spirits from every year between 2023 and 1868! These include whiskeys and brandies. And today, I have an opportunity to taste BHATKA 2013 Bourbon.
True to its name, this Bourbon was distilled in 2013 by MGP from a mash of 99% corn and 1% malted barley and spent nine years and five months in American oak. The Bourbon was then finished for a handful of months in wet French oak that previously held 50-year-old Armagnac. It is bottled at its cask strength, but this is where things are confusing. My sample bottle shows 60% ABV (120°), whereas BHATKA’s website states 50.3% ABV (110.6°). I’ll find out what it likely is once I start sipping it.
BHATKA 2013 Bourbon has a suggested retail price of $149.00, and if you order from its website, it will start shipping to 41 eligible states on March 27th. However, 2000 cases have been distributed in a dozen states: New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, Wisconsin, Colorado, California, Texas, Georgia, Vermont, and Tennessee.
BHAKTA Spirits provided me with a sample of Bourbon 2013 in exchange for a no-strings-attached, honest review. However, it also included a sample of its 50-year-old Armagnac, which I’m admittedly excited about. I thank BHAKTA Spirits for sending both; let’s #DrinkCurious and explore this whiskey.
Appearance: I poured this Bourbon into my Glencairn glass and drank it neat. The orange-amber liquid left a thin, fragile rim on the wall, releasing tiny, sticky droplets.
Nose: This is one of those whiskeys you can smell from across the room. It burst with chocolate, vanilla, plum, red berries, nutmeg, and oak smells. I encountered plum and nutmeg as I pulled the aroma through my lips.
Palate: A silky mouthfeel introduced me to plums, berries, and baked apple flavors. As it moved to my mid-palate, I tasted a combination of Nutella and butterscotch. The back offered French oak, dry leather, and sweet tobacco.
Finish: The plum flavor carried the entirety of this Bourbon—Butterscotch and baked apples mingled with dry leather and tobacco. But, before all was said and done, my throat stumbled upon hazelnut. All in all, the finish was long and warm.
Bottle, Bar, or Bust: I get squirrelly at $150.00 Bourbons younger than a decade. The sample bottle’s printed proof is likely mislabeled, and the website’s stated 100.6° is accurate. It was warming but not enough to make me think the proof was higher.
I’ve sipped Armagnac-finished Bourbons before but never finished in a wet barrel, and let me tell you: these are two different animals entirely. There was significant fruitiness and dryness of good French brandy, yet the Bourbon notes were not lost in the process.
This Bourbon had a richness to it that must be experienced to appreciate, and while an awesome whiskey bar may have a bottle available, that will be a rare event. My recommendation? If you see this on your store’s shelf (or in its locked case), grab a Bottle. You won’t regret it. Cheers!
Oh Yeah, The Armagnac: I’m not penning a review on the brandy, but I did pour some to discover what smells and tastes it possessed. And, because this was a half-century old, I grabbed myself a clean glass (I’m not an animal).
It is 48.2% ABV (97.4°), and the label states it comes from Barrel 23. BHAKTA Spirits has its 1972 vintage Armagnac listed on its website for $419.00. I smelled plenty of dried fruits, including raisins and cranberries. Conversely, it tasted of old leather and cigars. But I also found flavors of raisins, dates, and figs. Cocoa powder had the last words. It was a dry brandy and vaporized any moisture in my mouth, leaving plenty of what I call pucker power, meaning I was left smacking my tongue and lips.
My Simple, Easy-to-Understand Rating System
- Bottle = Buy It
- Bar = Try It
- Bust = Leave It
Whiskeyfellow encourages you to enjoy your whiskey as you see fit but begs you do so responsibly.
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