There isn’t much I can say about this bottle. It’s not that I haven’t tried to do my research, but the distillery responsible for this beautiful release, Preservation Distillery in Bardstown, Kentucky, has embraced the mystery surrounding this old and rare whiskey and they don’t give us much to work with! Nonetheless, if you know the history of the distillery and VOSN brand, you know there is a lot to be excited about with these special releases.
So what do we know? Well, this juice was distilled in 1981-1982 from a wheated mash bill at a famous distillery that has long-since closed it’s doors. It was aged for 17 years and then vatted in steel tanks in 1999 at full cask strength. This iteration of the VOSN brand was bottled in June 2021 and released only at the distillery for roughly $600. It is bottled at the original cask strength of 107.9 proof (53.95% abv).
*Disclaimer – this sample was provided to me free of charge by the distilley; however, this did not impact my review of this product.
Appearance – The color on this whiskey is nothing short of unbelievable! This is by far the darkest whiskey I’ve ever seen. It has a deep mahogany color and develops thick, slow legs in the glass.
Nose – The nose has so much going on that I almost didn’t even want to move on to the first sip! I initially found tart cherry, molasses, and tobacco, which created almost a cherry cola aroma. I also found notes of milk chocolate and caramel, along with plenty of musty barrel char. Interestingly, after quite some time in the glass, I started to pick up some faint notes of cedarwood and spiced citrus potpourri.
Palate – This whiskey is thick and velvety from the first sip. Rich notes of molasses, dark cherry, and musty oak give way to a surprising amount of spice mid-palate. The rich, sweeter notes begin to taper off to reveal prominent cinnamon spice, lemon peel, tart cherry, and fresh pear. This really is a dynamic and complex whiskey!
Finish – The finish is long and layered. The spice continues to develop mid-palate (although it doesn’t become too sharp), along with some sweeter notes of vanilla cake and dark caramel. I also found more musty oak, stewed dark berries, citrus, and just a hint of violet. Some oak tannins develop toward the end but the overall oak presence is lovely and not overpowering.
Overall – The VOSN brand has been the subject of quite a bit of controversy and/or criticism, especially in more recent years with the growth in consumer demand and the desire for increased transparency. I can understand why people are skeptical of many new products, especially when it comes to new or “revived” brands that try to invoke feelings of nostalgia or rarity as a selling point (usually with very high price tags). However, I think its fair to say that this is not your typical new release and I can appreciate that the nature of this product probably poses a difficult challenge when it comes to product labeling. However, as I’ve said on many occasions, all that truly matters is what is in the bottle. And in this case, what is in the bottle is a damn fine whiskey!
This 17-year bourbon is absolutely wonderful! From the first sip, this whiskey provides a phenomenal mouthfeel and a complex bouquet of flavors that is surprisingly well-balanced. Although this product did sit in oak for 17 years, it is not over-oaked by any means, and the oak actually provides a great foundation for the other flavors. And speaking of flavor, this whiskey has plenty of it! I’ve sat down with this bottle on two occasions now and I continue to be impressed with the depth and range of flavors that develop in each sip. It is definitely a whiskey that will keep challenging your palate. I was also very surprised at the amount of spice that came through on this wheated bourbon.
The price tag on this bottle is high, but that should be expected based on the history of the product and quality of the juice. If you ever have the opportunity, I highly recommend picking this up!