1350 Distilling Reviews: Guardian & Code Four Bourbons, Leatherneck Rye


What do you get when you bring together a U.S. Marine, two teachers, and a graphic artist? You get the beginnings of the dream to form a distillery.


Phil Bragg had spent 27 years as a proud Marine, and his wife, Kandis, was teaching at Douglass Valley Elementary School on the grounds of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Her friend and fellow instructor, Abbie Weien, and her husband, Jake, became friends and decided to take the plunge and explore the world of distilling spirits. Planning took a couple of years, and in 2016, the two couples leased a 6000sf building in downtown Colorado Springs. It took another three years before 1350 Distilling was open to the public and released its first spirits: Bourbon, vodka, and rum.


We all know that in late 2019 and early 2020, the world was turned upside down when COVID-19 hit. Instead of backing off production, 1350 Distilling dialed things up. It released its entire portfolio, including four whiskeys, two vodkas, two rums, and a gin.


1350’s name comes from the stars and stripes on the current American flag. It donates 10% of its proceeds to local charities supporting the military, veterans, children, and families. Its current distribution is limited to Colorado, California, and Arizona. From its online store, it can legally ship to 37 states.


Today, we’re exploring three whiskeys: Guardian Bourbon, Code Four Cask Strength Bourbon, and Leatherneck Rye.  


I will sip each of these expressions neat from Glencairn glasses. Before I explore these Colorado whiskeys, I must thank 1350 Distilling for providing me with these samples in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest reviews. Now, let’s #DrinkCurious.


Guardian Bourbon


Guardian Bourbon is distilled from a mash of 99% corn and 1% malted barley. It aged three years in new, charred oak, and a 750ml, 40% ABV (80°) package has a suggested price of $55.00.


“The U.S. Coast Guard is our nation’s oldest continuous operating maritime service. Both a law enforcement agency and a military service, these ‘Guardians’ support, protect, and defend our country’s coasts and waterways, and rescue those in need. Here’s to the Guardians!”


1350 Distilling recommends this Bourbon can be sipped neat or as a mixer.  


Appearance: Inside my glass, Guardian is a shiny, brassy whiskey. It generated a medium-thin rim that shed thick, slow tears.


Nose: There were strong notes of butterscotch, vanilla, and caramel on my initial sniff. Delving deeper, I found coconut, nutmeg, and lemon zest. Drawing the air through my lips exposed golden raisins and corn.


Palate: Guardian had a watery texture. I tasted corn, vanilla, and nutmeg as it rolled across the front of my palate. The middle featured orange zest and sugar cookies. The back included oak tannins and black pepper.


Finish: The finish was medium in duration and left behind oak, black pepper, nutmeg, and corn.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The Guardian is an easy sipper because the proofing process dilutes many flavors. I can imagine that it would make a good base for an old-fashioned or similar cocktail. More time in oak or packaging at a higher proof would make for a better neat-drinking experience. I’ll be able to explore the latter with Code Four. In its current form, I believe a Bar rating is justified.  




Code Four Cask Strength Bourbon


Code Four is the cask-strength version of Guardian Bourbon. A 57.5% ABV (115°) 750ml package sells for $75.00.


“American police radio codes originated in the 1930’s and were derived from early military codes. They ensured clear and concise communication over low-tech radios. ‘Code Four’ informs the force that ‘everything is safe and good.’ Here’s to many Code Four’s for all of our law enforcement heroes!”


Appearance: This Bourbon produced more bronze coloring and a thinner rim. A curtain of slow tears descended back to the pool.


Nose: The aroma included bold caramel, molasses, and maple syrup notes. I wouldn’t normally find that combination, but it was lovely, along with the mild oak notes. Inhaling the vapor into my mouth gave me a taste of buttercream.


Palate: Code Four’s texture was weighty and filled my mouth. The front of my palate found maple syrup, bananas, and chocolate. Like the nose, it was an unusual first impression. At the midpoint, there were nutmeg, vanilla, and orange peel. The back included oak spice, ancho peppers, and tobacco leaf flavors.


Finish: Code Four had a longer finish than Guardian. It allowed me to savor the tobacco, orange peel, chocolate, ancho peppers, and maple syrup. It was almost like a good Mexican molĂ© sauce.  


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Code Four and Guardian had a night and day difference. Whereas Guardian seemed weak, Code Four was bold and full of exciting flavors. Its distinctive qualities set it apart from many others on store shelves. Is it worth $75.00? I believe so, so I’m crowning it with my Bottle rating.




Leatherneck Rye Whiskey


Leatherneck Rye is distilled from a mash of 75% rye. It is aged three years in new, charred oak barrels and is packaged at 45% ABV (90°). A 750ml comes with a suggested price of $55.00.


“Semper Fi! Born in a bar in 1775, the Marines wore a stiff leather collar to protect their necks as they boarded enemy vessels. Today, the term ‘Leatherneck’ symbolizes the indomitable fighting spirit of the United States Marine Corps. Here’s to the Leatherneck!”


1350 Distilling suggests Leatherneck Rye can be sipped neat or used as a cocktail base.


Appearance: Leatherneck’s color was that of dull brass. It generated a thick rim that retained its tears as long as possible before eventually losing to gravity.


Nose: I discovered an aroma of rye spice, mint, heavy dill, and ginger beer. Pulling the air through my lips left a sensation of rye spice. It smelled more like a 95% rye than a 75% one.


Palate: Leatherneck’s mouthfeel was thin and slightly oily. What began as black tea, brown sugar, and leather on the front of my palate quickly morphed into dill, rye spice, and candied ginger in the middle. The back tasted of mint, fresh cracked peppercorns, and oak.


Finish: Mint, raw ginger, dill, and rye spice remained for a medium-to-long duration.  


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: Leatherneck is a fitting name. There’s one heck of a punch on it for only 90°. I daresay if tasted blind, it could fool you into believing it is at least 20 points higher. On the other side of the coin, it was youthful, with sharp notes from beginning to end. It needs more time in oak. What it doesn’t require is higher proof. I’d be uncomfortable giving it a rating higher than a Bar.


Final Thoughts: I appreciate 1350 Distilling’s roots and charitable drive to improve the lives of those in the Greater Colorado Springs venue. The Bourbon is properly aged; that’s evident with Code Four. I’d recommend that Guardian matches Leatherneck’s proof. Leatherneck probably needs 1-2 more years in the barrel before it is ready for prime time – and considering that Rye tends to mature faster than Bourbon, that’s a weird recommendation from me. Code Four is fine just as it is. Given a choice between the three, Code Four is the clear winner.  


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 to do so responsibly.