Review: Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey (2017)
Crafted in Fort Collins, Colorado, by former MGP master distiller Greg Metze, Old Elk is a different kind of bourbon right out of the gate. “Blended” is a curious term to see on a whiskey label these days, and I’ll let Metze and crew explain what that means here:
We use traditional ingredients – malted barley, corn and rye – in an innovative, yet steadfast recipe to create a bourbon with smooth, rich flavors that act in harmony with caramel cues brought out by the charred barrels and spicy rye notes,” said Greg Metze, Master Distiller at Old Elk Distillery. “After testing a variety of proofing periods, we found that these flavors come together in a smoother bourbon when the proofing stages are longer. Instead of taking the usual 24 to 48 hours for proofing, we use a slow cut proofing process during which full-barrel proof bourbon is cut and left to rest – and we repeat this patient technique until the ideal character is achieved. It takes significantly longer than most common recipes, but taking the time to proof slowly makes all the difference.
Also of note, the mashbill for Old Elk is 51% corn, 34% malted barley, and 15% rye. That’s a wacky mash with a ton more barley than is typical for bourbon — and is responsible for the “innovative, yet steadfast recipe” to which Metze is referring. This bourbon is denoted as blended because it is sourced from a variety of producers (at least three, in different states), though all produce the whiskey according to Metze’s recipe.
With that all in hand, let’s give it a go.
This is a solid bourbon, through and through. Gingerbread notes are heavy on the nose, with spicy rye notes, caramel corn, marzipan, and a hint of cherry peeking through. On the palate the whiskey is round and soothing, with notes of brown butter, caramel sauce, and again a hint of that cherry fruit making an appearance. More almond and wood notes make a stronger appearance as the finish develops, which comes together as a slightly raspy character with notes of toasty wood, barrel char, and a heavier corny note. They’re all classic hallmarks of bourbon, to be sure, but nonetheless take the experience a bit too far to the savory side. Otherwise, it’s a unique bourbon — but not one that is so crazy as to throw you off — that is firing on all cylinders.
Pick up a bottle.