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Friday, August 23, 2013

NOT Single Malt Report: Breckenridge Bourbon Whiskey

In late September last year, Kristen and I traveled to Breckenridge, Colorado for the wedding of Andrew (Kristen's brother) and Leslie.  Seriously, with the two of them you will never find a pair of more humble, healthy, good-looking, athletic, warm, and intelligent people.  Actually, add Kristen to that list as well.  Three beautiful people; it's apparently a good idea to have the Midwest in your genetic structure.

Also this:

While in beautiful Breckenridge, we had an opportunity to wander around the town.  The sun was out, the temperature was brisk, the leaves were changing.  It was so nice to have some real weather!

It was here in Breck that we sampled all of the wares from Breckenridge Distillery.  Though there wasn't a bad booze in the bunch, we agreed that the bourbon was the best.  Now I have bottles, one of which was a gift from Andrew and Leslie!  I'd gone through almost an entire bottle without taking official notes.  So, now it's time.

Distillery: Breckenridge Distillery
Type: Bourbon Whiskey
Region: Breckenridge, Colorado
Age: minimum 2 years
Mashbill: 56% corn, 38% rye, and 6% malted barley
Maturation: new American White Oak 53 gallon barrels
Alcohol by Volume: 43%

Sku over at Recent Eats reviewed this bourbon back in June and noted that the current juice in the bottle is distilled in Kentucky.  While the Colorado distillery distills their own stuff, "they haven't marketed any of it yet".  The folks at the distillery shop were very forthcoming and told me the same big-rye mashbill that Sku lists on his site.  But they also told me the bourbon was made there in Breckenridge.

Now, this is an ongoing quirk with many American craft whiskies right now.  We're starting to see bourbons come from all over the country, but many of them are taking stock they've purchased from other distilleries (in Kentucky and Indiana), add their local water, then not being 100% up front (as in listing the information on the up front label) about it.  That's how we're getting bourbon from all over, especially from places that do not have a working distillery.

So one of two things are happening here with my Colorado-purchased Breck bottles:
1.)  They haven't marketed the Breckenridge-distilled bourbon outside of Colorado, but are selling it in Colorado.  Thus my bottles contain actual Colorado Bourbon, or
2.)  Sku's info pertains to the entirety of Breckenridge's current bourbon product.  Thus my bottle contains Kentucky-distilled bourbon with Colorado water added.

I'm leaning towards #2.  Here's why:

The bottle-printed label reads (italics added for emphasis), "A handcrafted bourbon whiskey made at 9600 feet with snowmelt from the Rocky Mountains;" and, "Produced and Bottled by Breckenridge Distillery."  Meanwhile the official website says, "...the perfect Breckenridge snowmelt water used for proofing. The natural minerality of our water source ensures the luscious mouth-feel, depth of flavor, and long finish."

Because there's no reference to the whiskey being distilled in Colorado and there are repeated references to their local water source, I believe they are indeed producing the whiskey in my bottle.  Producing.  As in, the bourbon is from elsewhere, but they use real Rockies water to proof it down.

But the whisky politics ends here because if you arrived at this page the real question you have is, "But is it good?"  The answer is, yes.

It has a deep copper color in the glass.  The nose starts with molasses, lemon pulp, bubblegum, and brine.  Curiously, the malt shows up even at its low percentage.  Also some pencil shavings, maybe something like pork fat mingling with mild rye spice.  But the real big buff rye bursts out on the palate with a zippy zing (technical term).  It's a little tart and a little bitter but nicely so.  There's some salt, cherry cough syrup, black pepper, brine, and a brief mango moment.  It's sweet but never too much so.  The texture is quite silky considering the low-ish ABV.  It finishes with the pepper and salt, black cherry syrup, and a bold tartness.  There's some dryness to match the sweetness.  And the whole experience lingers long considering (again) the 43% ABV.

I'd recommend this neat, BUT this stuff makes a great mint julep thanks to the zing from the rye.

The bottle says that the whiskey has been aged for a minimum of 2 years, thus it can't be called Straight Bourbon Whiskey (which needs 4 maturation years).   (Florin proved the preceding sentence wrong, in the comments section below.) The Breck won't blow your mind with its complexity since it's still a youngin' proofed down to 43%.  But all that rye helps make it a tasty Summer (or Autumn or Winter or Spring) treat.  In fact, could this be the highest-rye bourbon mashbill on the market?

If you're a high-rye bourbon fan you may want to give the Breck bourbon a try if you see it at a bar.  I agree with Sku that $40+ is a lot to charge for a new-to-market 2 year old bourbon, so I'd never shout "Must Buy!" about it.  But I do like the bourbon.

Availability - an increasing number of US retailers
Pricing - $40-$50
Rating - 84