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Friday, May 27, 2016

NOT Single Malt Report: Noah's Mill Bourbon, batch 15-18

Upon the recommendation of one Bourbon Truth, I purchased a bottle of Noah's Mill, batch 15-18.  I'd drunk Noah's at bars before but never my own bottle.  Mr. Truth was so very ecstatic about this particular batch, and I found a bottle for such a good price while in Arizona, that I risked a blind buy.  After I bought the bottle, I found an emphatic negative review of this same batch by Reddit user XenonBloom, then a moderately positive one by user ShooterFlatch.  I handed out some samples from my bottle to get some feedback.  My friend Linda, who knows bourbon probably better than I, liked the whiskey a lot.  My Annoying Opinions has a sample and once his sniffer is back to 100% functioning power, you may see his review of this bottle.  (And I'll try to remember to post a link of his review when it's up.)

Though bottled by the Willett folks, Noah's Mill was distilled by the Midwest Grain Products WonderFactory™ another undisclosed Kentucky distillery.  It used to have a 15 year old age statement, but now it's NAS.  I've read online that it's now a mix of bourbons between 4 and 20 years old, but I don't know if that's just rumor.  What is curious about Noah's Mill is that nowhere on the bottle is the word "Straight".  As in "Straight Bourbon Whiskey".  Does this mean there are additives in the mix?  Or are they using whiskies younger than 4 years, and thus by not stating the <4yo age, they then can't call it "Straight"?  I know they're not required to use the Straight designation, but it just seems a little odd to me.  Anyway, on to the review!

Brand: Noah's Mill
Owner: Kentucky Bourbon Distillers Ltd, (aka Willett Distillery)
Distillery: unknown, other than that it's in Kentucky
Type: Bourbon
Mashbill: ???
Age: ??? (maybe 4 to 20 years, thus maybe 4 years)
Batch: 15-18
Alcohol by Volume: 57.15%

Right up front, the nose shows furniture polish, lumberyard, roasted corn, and honey.  It opens up considerably with air, picking up flower blossoms and an orange meringue thing.  Burnt vanilla beans (if that's a thing).  A hint of mango juice and confectioner's sugar.  On the palate the heat reads as chili oil.  It's not too sweet, but rather leafy with some bitter chocolate and halvah.  With some breathing time it picks up some white fruit juices and almonds.  It has a BIG tannic finish.  Very spicy, almost rye-ish.  Lots of black pepper and burnt toast.  Caramel, vanilla, and barrel char.

WITH WATER (~50%abv)
The nose gets fruitier and reveals some nice green herbal notes.  Less oak, more old school Robotussin.  Melting sugar and rock candy.  Not much change in the palate.  Less heat, more sweet.  More black pepper than chili oil now.  A slight tart and bitter bite.  The finish is also sweeter.  Still drying and tannic with bitter wood notes.

I love the nose on this one, though it needs a lot of time to open up and adding some water won't hurt it either.  Two things I like about the palate: A.) it's not super sweet; and B.) the oak is the quietest here.  The palate doesn't take to water as well, so overall I'd recommend it neat, even with the high ABV.  Like the nose, the palate works best with a lot of breathing time.  The oak does roar back into the finish, so be prepared for that.  When it comes to big American oak, I think it works much better in American whiskies (appropriately) than in Scottish ones.  But here the finish's wood attack is a bit above my tolerances.  I will naively guess there's quite some old whiskey in this batch or else the barrels were extra active.  It still makes its way into the "B" range because the nose is so good.

If you can find this batch for less than $50 and you have a high oak tolerance, then I recommend it.  But if your retailer is selling it for $60+ and you're more of a Scotch fan, my recommendation would be much less emphatic.

Availability - Noah's is widely available at US specialty liquor retailers, look for the brown sticker on the side of the bottle (see above photo) for the batch number
Pricing - $45-$65
Rating - 84


  1. Glad I was not the only one who found this rather too oakey, bitter, and dry. I don't mind some tannic sharpness, but this one did overdo it, for me.

    1. Don't know if you have this same experience, but switching over to bourbon is always really challenging for me after drinking only scotch for weeks. As a result, many of these older bourbons are too tannic in the finish for me. People who only drink bourbon probably don't have this issue.

  2. Does it say "distilled in Indiana" on the bottle? There's lots of KY in the top picture and I wonder if it's a blend of distilleries, case in which it would not qualify for "straight".

    1. Sadly I tossed the bottle three weeks ago. The only label I can't clearly see in my photos is the back label, so perhaps it was on there. But you have a good point. I had thought KBD sourced only from MGP/LDI for this bourbon, but that could be the wrong information. Next time I'm in a liquor store I'll check out a Noah's Mill label.

    2. So it turns out that the whisky was distilled in Kentucky, not in Indiana. I've updated the post above. Still don't know why they don't use the straight designation...

  3. I've only been able to find NAS bottles of Noah's Mill in Tokyo, but just haven't been able to bring myself to pick one up. After reading this review, I feel better about not having done so.

    1. I think they removed the age statement four years ago here, sneaking it right off the small diagonal upper label. If I can source a sample of the 15yo I'll review it here, but I have a sneaking suspicion it may deliver massive oak notes in the finish due to so many years in the barrels.