A Cross-Atlantic Cocktail
Scotch and Bourbon in one Bottle
The past month we focused on a wide range of whiskey styles and flavors, from Scottish & French terroir focused single malts to home aged “bourbon”. As we move into July, we wanted to shift our focus away from single malt whisky to highlight bourbon, the quintessential American spirit. Since many of you will have some knowledge of the more popular bourbon brands, our goal will be to feature some more eclectic bourbon bottles to demonstrate the full range of this historic whiskey. To help ease our transition, this week’s selection builds a bridge between single malt Scotch whisky and classic bourbon.
We touched on the prolific growth of craft distilling in our post reviewing two different whiskeys from Koval. Kings County Distillery is another example of a company combining traditional production with a penchant for pushing the boundaries of classic whiskey categories. The distillery opened in 2010 and in addition to straight bourbon, it features rye, single malt, moonshine, and even a chocolate whiskey that incorporates product from nearby Mast Bros. Chocolate (which happens to be one of our favorite chocolate producers). Several of the varieties use malted barley from the United Kingdom as a component of the mash bill, and the single malt connection does not stop there. The company’s website indicates that it uses Scottish pot stills. The idea of mixing these two whiskey styles intrigued us, and the use of peated malt is an added plus that made the Peated Bourbon a natural choice for us to review.
Kings County Peated Bourbon
There are many ways to imbue a whiskey with the essense of peated single malt. For example, distilleries such as Glenlivet and Benromach have produced single malts aged in casks that previously held peated whisky. For their Peated Bourbon, Kings County uses a mash bill consisting of corn and peated malt from Scotland. The company states that the whiskey was made following the rules for producing traditional bourbon which includes ageing in a new, freshly charred oak barrel. The result is a true hybrid whiskey.
On the Eyes: Kings County branding is quite different, utilizing a flask shaped bottle with a simple label that features text that looks like it was produced using an old typewriter. The liquid has the color of varnished wood, with deep red tones; Peated Bourbon is a bit of a thinner whiskey in the glass, with legs that start thick on top but retreat quickly.
On the Nose: The first impression we picked up was like being in a sawmill—lumber, cut wood, and paper. The aroma was very faint; not much of the smoky or medicinal aromas which we expected from the peat malt.
To the Taste: Conforming to the nose, the first flavors we detected were of wood shavings, followed by the impression of dry chalky tannins similar to those in a dry red wine. The palate then built a leather and salty flavored heat that peaked and then instantly vanished. Though there was a hint of smoke, we did not get much of the classic peat elements we expected.
And the Finish: Though the finish is quick, we tasted bits of extra dark chocolate mixed brown sugar and vanilla—classic bourbon flavors that gave the Peated Bourbon a pleasant finish.
While we did not find the Peated Bourbon to exude much of the characteristics we typically associate with peated single malt—bonfire smoke, maritime aromas, medicinal or earthy flavors, the whiskey exhibited strong elements of Scotch whisky DNA. We think the flavor echoes elements of a highland single malt that has spent a lot of time in the barrel. The marks of a good bourbon were also present in the whiskey, with the deep and rich color, the sweet vanilla finish, and a slight hint of charred wood. Kings County has managed to pull off a challenging experiment and have created a whiskey that brings something new with each sip. Peated Bourbon is no gimmick and is worthy of a taste.