Welcome to a new addition to the blog called the Top Tipple Review. With these reviews I plan on reviewing all of the amazing once-in-a-lifetime samples or bottles that I’ve managed to get my hands on throughout the years. Many of the whiskies that will be featured will either be very far out of the typical bourbon drinker’s budget, very hard to find, no longer be available outside of auctions or personal collections, or a combination of these. I’ll probably never get a chance to try any of these whiskies again, and I cannot think of any better way to enjoy them than to share my experiences of them with my fellow bourbon folk! Sláinte – Paddy
Hailing from the Limestone Branch Distillery in Lebanon Kentucky, the Yellowstone whiskey brand has had a long and winding history dating back as far as 1872. Limestone Branch itself was set up by brother Stephen and Paul Beam in 2011, and originally produced corn and sugar cane moonshines. However, in 2014 spirit giant Luxco acquired a 50% stake in Limestone Branch and with this came the return of the Yellowstone brand to the Beam family who historically produced it. Thus, in honour of their family brand returning to them the brothers have used aged Luxco stocks to produce an annual limited-edition Yellowstone bourbon beginning in 2015. Now in its second year, the 2016 release of this whiskey features a blend between a 7 y.o and a 12 y.o high-rye bourbon that’s been finished in toasted wine barrels. Luxco has historically sourced all their stocks from Heaven Hill, however in recent times source from several distilleries that are not disclosed.
Name: Yellowstone Limited Edition 2016 (Bottle # 1028)
Age: 7 years
Proof: 101 Proof (50.5% ABV)
Type: Straight Bourbon
Mashbill: Unknown (blend of two high-rye bourbons)
Producer: Limestone Branch Distillery
Source: Luxco Stocks
Appearance: deep red
Nose: On the nose there’s an overall note of toasted barrel which smells like freshly machined warm oak. This dissipates as the pour spends in the glass to reveal tonnes of floral vanilla, slightly nutty caramel, and earthy rye with the proof coming through via a slight alcohol burn that’s almost a touch tannic on the nose.
Palate: On the palate there’s a viscous mouthfeel with notes of intense caramel brittle, syrupy vanilla, and a wave of white pepper and earthy rye. The longer you chew this one the more the earthy almost slightly minty rye comes through.
Finish: The finish is slightly spicy with intense vanilla and caramel that fades to earthy rye again and leaves a nice viscous coating of toasted oak in the mouth.
Once, in a DIY toasted oak finishing experiment, I heated several oak staves in the oven to toast them but left them in for too long. The results were that my entire kitchen smelled like a pile of wet oak logs that had just been thrown onto a bonfire and hadn’t started burning yet, i.e. intense and almost bitter oak tannins. From that day, and after spending hours in the smell, I’m convinced that I can smell a toasted barrel from 20 paces and this bourbon is definitely from such a barrel. However, unlike my home experiment, this bourbon is a success in showcasing how using toasted oak can really add another level of complexity, balance, and flavour to whiskey. Despite a persistent presence throughout this bourbon, the finishing has resulted in a pour that means business and won’t be taken lightly. Drinking this felt like I was drinking an old, delicious and complex spicy high-rye bourbon in a carpenter’s workshop after some seasoned oak had been machined. The nose is great, the palate surpasses the nose – as more of the intense bourbon flavours emerge – and the finish ties the whole whiskey together as a fantastic example of why the demand for toasted barrel finished bourbon outstrips supplies (looking at you Michter’s toasted barrel finish bourbon!). I think the folks over at Limestone Branch Distillery have really showcased their skills for not just blending two bourbon perfectly, but also for adding a finishing touch that transforms what would be a great pour into a fantastic pour. I liked this pour so much that after trying it once I pulled the trigger on a bottle and have absolutely zero regrets.
Try or buy?
Do you like a whiskey that’s invigorating, spicy and complex? Do you like a bourbon that’s very well balanced between toasted oak and traditional bourbon flavours whilst bottled at a great proof? If you answered yes to these questions then this bottle is the bottle for you! Sure, try it if you see it, and, like several bourbon drinkers I know personally, you will be on side in no time. However, if you happen to see a bottle looking lonely on a shelf somewhere for the right price – give it a loving home and it will reward your trust with a fantastic high-rye bourbon!