Ever since I reviewed Bower Hill Barrel Reserve I had been wanting to get a hold of their cask strength bottling since I am all about cask strength bourbon. You are getting what comes out of the barrel, not watered down. Because no water is added, the oak flavors which are brought about by water soluable compounds are all there. Add water to bourbon and those wonderful flavors are the first to go. So, I was excited to buy this bottle.
First, I do have to say that the decanters they use instead of bottles are impressive. They are heavy and very nice looking. The barrel strength bourbon is dark copper with some red mahogany in it, which is similar to George T. Stagg or William LaRue Weller. This has some age on it; probably over ten given the color. On the nose is sweet corn and oak; a little leather too. Not overly complex but very nice. On the palate is wonderful sweet bourbon with delightful oak spices that hit the sides and middle of your tongue. Finish is dry and oak spicy and lingers for a bit. Very nicely done. It tastes a little hotter than the 118.8 proof would normally let on. But it’s not unpleasant in the cask strength bourbon world. I still think this is Heaven Hill/New Bernheim juice, but it categorically does not have that peanut finish that Larceny and Old Fitzgerald have.
This isn’t Pappy 23 or 15. This isn’t William LaRue Weller. BUT IT’S VERY CLOSE. I brought my glass to my wife to try. She asked me what it was and I asked her to try it first. I asked my wife, who is a whiskey aficionado in her own right having toured Scotland and Kentucky with me, what she thought it was. She said it was like Pappy 23. Now, she is more into scotch than Bourbon and she prefers Pappy 20 out of the Van Winkle line, which is lower proof and more floral. However she has tried them all and knows what they taste like.
This whiskey made her think Pappy 23. She thinks Pap 23 is too hot and overly oaked. For me, these things are features, not bugs. Bower Hill Barrel Strength definitely has those features.
This is high proof heavily oaked bourbon that is well done. Yes, it’s $120. But, at this point, it is non allocated and available. It would be a great gift for anyone who likes or wants Pappy or William LaRue Weller.
Well done Bower Hill!