This was my initial thought after nosing the new 2015 limited edition small batch, Jim Rutledge’s final gift to the bourbon world. It was especially exciting because I had no preconceived notions about the olfactory journey this juice would be taking me on.
I wish after huffing that glencairn for the first time I would have had some video footage of my facial expression. Eyes closed, glass over the nose, a soft inhale of the golden brown liquid. Eyes quickly open, jaw drops. “Whoa.” A quick swirl of the glass. Eyes closed again, glass to the nose, inhaling with a little more bravery, not fearing the sting of alcohol. Head nods in righteous approval, smiling intensely. “Yes, yes, yes!”
I continued to nose the small batch in this fashion for a good 30 minutes. I simply didn’t want it to end. It was, in a word, incredible.
In fact while doing this tasting I commented to one of my friends that the flavors are not necessarily complex. In fact they are quite easy to pick out. What makes this bourbon truly special is the way the flavors evolve over the life of the pour, like scenes in a Shakespearean play……
Act 1: The Nose. The nose punches hard out of the gate with an extra heavy shot of spearmint. It’s the bourbon scent version of a kid in 1969, putting on his giant Pioneer headphones, dropping the vinyl on the turn table, the first album by some band called Led Zeppelin. Crackle. Pop. Sizzle. Crack. And the fierce guitar crashes in with two of the most powerful chords ever beaten out of a Telecaster. BOM BOM!!…..BOM BOM!! The kid sits straight up, knowing this is not the ordinary listening experience. Ditto the small batch.
I nose the spearmint a little more, slosh the glass and set it down. I think my daughter is running around when she should be asleep. I say to myself “I’ll go check on it and let the juice reset.”
When I come back I pick up the glass, and wonderful char hits my nostrils before I have a chance to really breathe deep and soak it in. Not too heavy. It’s still minty, but on a crash course of descent into something else. Can’t put my finger on it. At this point I need to put some laundry in the dryer, so I slosh the glass and set it down.
After finishing the closest thing to a workout I’ll get tonight, I pick the glass back up and bury my face in it. Whats this? What on God’s green earth is this? Heavy but equal doses of sweet heady chocolate and sugary toffee? This is chaos! Utter Madness! Katy, bar the door! What happened to the char and spearmint?? Oh it’s so heavenly. I suck it in until I’m fairly certain the nose is depleted or my smeller is broken.
I slosh the glass once more. I’m hungry. But I don’t want to eat anything that might throw off my taste buds, so I just stand in the doorway of the pantry staring at a bag of Cool Ranch Doritos, casting an eye back to the bourbon, then back to the chips. Feelings of anger and longing course through me like a bad breakup in 12th grade. No, I won’t ruin this pour.
I tell myself this is the last sniff, that I must move onto the tasting phase, lest I nasally ingest this drink or absorb all the aroma out of it leaving me with tasteless stale water. Oh the thought. One last foray into the glencairn with you, nose. Pull hard. I’m instantly transported back to my Papaw’s farm, the fruit cellar under the old house, sitting in the doorway in late summer, letting the cool air waft out with the hard musty scent of 5 gallon buckets overflowing with drying walnut rinds….and bushel baskets filled with wild cherries waiting to be canned. That cherry……
How is this possible? How are all of these distinct and beautiful aromas able to coexist? How can this all-star cast of players not completely overwhelm the show, but rather complement each other and unite into a stronger team? I can only assume that the various recipes are somehow separating themselves from each other inside the tiny glass, competing for dominance as the air unlocks them, blossoming fully before bowing and stepping back, allowing another recipe to share in the spotlight and shine like a superstar.
I am utterly amazed and smitten and have yet to do anything but smell it.
Act 2: The Flavor.
There should have never been any doubt that the flavor would live up to the nose. Jim Rutledge didn’t hang around to pad his 401k, nor release this bottle just to toss any old pond water out there. I hold the glass up to the light and marvel at the colors, still trying to understand the chemical make-up that allows it to pack in so many discreet flavors.
Time to taste.
I tilt my head back, letting the juice hit my lips. Immediate burn…and…..SPICE! Spice! More spice! There’s my OBSK. At 16 years old, I assumed you would bite me sooner or later. This bourbon is a spicy devil, yet at the same moment its ultra juicy. There is nothing soft about this one, it’s as bold as you would want drink yet still be within the realm of enjoyable without proofing down or wishing you had your money back.
Yet it’s delicate too. There are underlying fruit flavors that dance around in the background. Not necessarily important enough to decipher one by one (though I tried), yet the show wouldn’t be nearly as good without them. There is also a bold component of cinnamon candy, which was new to me from a Four Roses pour. I swish the juice around in my mouth, it’s like I’ve loaded my fist with sugary dried fruits and Big Red gum. I keep getting surprised and delighted by how delicious this is! The spice comes in waves, crashing against my lips and the roof of my mouth like high tide before a storm, hanging around long enough to make its point and inflict a little beach erosion before slowly descending back. The wave washes away, followed quickly behind with a smattering of spicy mint. I have to say I like the mint, it’s almost a welcome cool down.
This all leads into Act 3, the Finish. Fini. Finir. Esperanto. Un fini lisse.
Big, bold, burn. Think not so much a great Chicago fire, or even Brooklyn in the 70’s, but more so a wonderful fireplace, crackling oak logs, heat that warms your soul. It’s a wood burning stove baking a juicy cherry cobbler. The juices are overflowing the crust and dripping onto the wood, delivering a sweet scent of charred cherry. What I really enjoyed was the hint of rich chocolate behind the heat. It hangs high in the mouth and drags over the top of the tongue and down the back of your throat into your chest, closing like a curtain.
If you want a little more fun, don’t wash your glencairn. Leave it to sit out overnight. The next morning take a whiff of the heavy cocoa being emitted by thee residue of the glorious pour you had the night before.
To me, this is an absolute A+ pour. Well done Mr. Rutledge, your magnum opus. Please take a bow.