Nose: I picked up some corn scents along with something light that reminded me of varnish. It isn’t overpowering but is does have an “industrial” bent to it. It also has just a slight moonshiney smell to it. The smell isn’t super inviting, but as we all know, that can be deceiving. Palate: The first sip was pretty hot. So much so, that I couldn’t pick up any flavors at first. The burn lasts a long time and toward the end, I was getting a lot of cinnamon. On the second sip, the heat is only slightly reduced. With a now somewhat accustomed palate, I picked up youthful but not moonshiney corn and then there was a kick of rye spice in the finish. The mouthfeel seems about medium, but it is hard to tell because of the heat. On later sips, the heat is still there, but it is in evidence mostly as a pretty strong tongue tingle. Flavorwise, it seems like even the basic caramel and vanilla are struggling to get noticed past the heat. Comments: This is from a barrel chosen for the PA Fine Wine and Good Spirits state liquor stores and a sticker on the label indicates it is a single barrel selection from “Batch 1” and “Barrel 1”. It is 126.6 Proof. The mashbill is 70% corn, 20% rye, 10% malted barley. The company website (hiddenstillspirits.com) indicates that it is aged in 53 gallon Kelvin Cooperage barrels for 3 years. This is pretty hot, but considering it is 126.6 proof, that should come as no surprise….especially for a younger whiskey. I usually like the challenge of a high proof bourbon, and this has a combination of flavors, but it is hard to get past the heat to enjoy them to the fullest. The youthfulness of this starts to become evident on later sips. I would be very curious to see what a little more time in the barrel would do to this. I think it has potential, but in its current state, it is just too young and too hot to truly enjoy to the fullest. This prompted me to do something I rarely do….add some water. I was lazy and did not go down to the saloon to get the distilled water. Instead, I added about 1/2 teaspoon of tap water. I’m guessing this is about 10-15 drops worth? The extra water brought out more youthfulness in the nose and got rid of the varnish smell. It had more corn, but also more moonshiney scents. The water definitely cut the heat….a little bit. But there’s still a decent amount of tongue tingle. I thought the water might bring out more rye spice, but it didn’t. It did highlight the cinnamon, which is the predominant flavor. With the water, I also got a little woodiness that might be barrel oak. I was surprised how long the tongue tingle lasted, even with the water. I suspect this is barrel strength, but could not confirm it. I think the lesson learned here might be that barrel strength can be a delightful experience…..when the bourbon has been in the barrel long enough. This one, I think, would need a couple more years to warrant putting it out at the proof it is. BUT….it is a newish craft distillery and I give them credit for the effort. I think, like a small percentage of them, this one warrants keeping an eye on to see what they do in the future. The good news through all this is, that it wasn’t that expensive. On sale, this was in the mid to upper $30 range, so it didn’t break the budget. Add some water. If it is still too hot, add some more. THAT is the beauty of high proof! BUT….the bottom line on this one is, give it a couple of years to see what they do and then give them a shot….unless, of course, you like a youngish bourbon at high proof, in which case, maybe you’ll like this.
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