Penelope Rio Bourbon Review & Tasting Notes


Two childhood friends, Mike Paladini and Daniel Polise, along with Mike's wife, Kerry, went into business together and created their own brand of Bourbon. Mike and Kerry were expecting a child and knew they wanted to name their daughter Penelope. That inspired them to name their brand Penelope Bourbon


Penelope Bourbon earns kudos from me with its comprehensive transparency. Penelope makes no secret that it is distilled by MGP. It partners with Speyside Cooperage to source casks for its various oak finishes. Penelope’s whiskeys were initially blended and bottled at Castle & Key Distillery. However, those operations have since moved to Bardstown Bourbon Company.


Then, in May this year, Penelope Bourbon was acquired by Luxco, MGP’s consumer-facing subsidiary.


Since our initial product launch in 2019, it has been amazing to watch consumers embrace our brand. We look forward to expanding our partnership with MGP and building on our legacy.” - Daniel Polise


Today, we explore Penelope Rio, a Bourbon inspired by Brazil’s Carnival celebration. Rio is a four-grain Bourbon distilled from 74% corn, 16% wheat, and 3% malted barley that went through a double-cask finish of American honey and Brazilian Amburana.


“Our latest Rio is a party in a bottle – the finishes complement each other so well, resulting in a fun and surprising mix of flavors. This year’s release delivers a dessert sweetness combined with a nice baking spice on the finish. It’s a fantastic and different combination of rich and sweet, with depth.” – Michael Paladini


Rio carries no age statement. It is non-chill filtered and packaged at 49% ABV (98°). A 750ml comes with a suggested price of $89.99.


Before we #DrinkCurious and dive deep into this Bourbon, I must thank Luxco for providing me with a sample in exchange for my no-strings-attached, honest review.


Appearance: I sipped this whiskey neat from my Glencairn glass. It was the color of caramel. A gentle swirl produced a thick rim and slow, widely-spaced tears.


Nose: The Amburana influence was immediately evident. That familiar cinnamon roll smell wafted from the glass, teasing my olfactory sense. I held the glass steady for a couple of minutes, allowing me to get lost in pleasure. Beneath the Amburana were oak, praline pecan, and vanilla. As I drew the air through my lips, it left a taste of raw honey in my mouth.


Palate: Rio’s texture was velvety. Unsurprisingly, the front of my palate encountered cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Midway through, I found honey and pastry dough. Cinnamon returned to the back, followed by oak and vanilla.


Finish: The very long finish featured cinnamon rolls with vanilla frosting, honey, and nutmeg.


Bottle, Bar, or Bust: The best part of this experience was the nosing. The mouthfeel and taste were good but not what I could classify as outstanding. The Amburana influence was too bold for my taste; it steamrolled the other flavors. Don’t get me wrong, I love Amburana-finished whiskeys and enjoy cinnamon notes. I love Cinnabon. I just wanted to taste other things in tandem with it. For $90.00, I suggest you try this one at a Bar before committing to a longer-term relationship. Cheers!



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.