Last February, I had the pleasure of visiting Sugarfield Spirits craft distillery in Gonzales, Louisiana, and I purchased bottles of Batch 1 and 2 of their bourbon, which were awfully good. Well, they have sold out of those bottles which were each from single barrels, but they have bottled their next three barrels as a small batch. When I was there I got to sample one of those three barrels, and, indeed, more quality bourbon that spent a few months after their arrival from Virginia in Sugarfield’s distilling room. So, I found out from Facebook that batch 3 had just been released, and despite Covid-19 travel restrictions, I got my hands on a bottle. Priorities, you know.
Like the previous batches, this bourbon is 92 proof and aged at least four years, so it truly deserves the straight bourbon moniker. But, I got the distillery to send me a sale sheet which has a lot more information on the bourbon. The mashbill is pretty unique – 64% corn, 14% rye, and 20% malted barley. What this means to me is that the spirit is not going to be heavy on corn sweetness, about average on rye spiciness, and should have some nice barley malt flavors in there, which should make for a richer whiskey with a nicer mouthfeel. The malted barley would also have contributed to better alcohol extraction from the mash by the yeast, as malted barley has an enzyme that allows yeast to process sugars into alcohols more efficiently.
The distillery’s tasting notes indicate that there will be caramel and leather on the nose, with some tobacco notes. On the palate, there should be a soft and smooth mouthfeel with notes of caramel, light citrus, and sweet oakiness. The finish should have subtle spice, with hints of dark chocolate. But, let’s see what I pick up.
The color is a nice amber, medium to light, and about right for a whiskey aged four years in Virginia and a couple of months in Louisiana. On the swirl is rich, oily, thick legs. Amazing given the relatively low proof. On the nose, I get light caramel, some citrus, and oiled leather, and yes, sweet Virgina and burley American pipe tobacco. There is a little bit of the craft bourbon smell on the nose due to the youth of the bourbon, but it is overshadowed by the other wonderful scents. On the palate is some caramel, a little dark chocolate, and rather than the light citrus the distiller notes, is heavy citrus, mostly lemon but with some burnt orange in there, that I would expect in a very well made scotch aged in bourbon casks for along time, and unrefined sugar (makes me think of Sugar in the Raw) with a hint of oak smokiness you might pick up from a steak cooked over oak charcoal. Very nice medium bodied mouthfeel. Finish is fairly long with the same flavors turning into herbs and spice showing off the rye in the mashbill.
What is really impressive with this bourbon is the high amount of citrus fruit flavors, that I would attribute to the high amount of malted barley in the mashbill.
As I noted before, this is the best whiskey bottled in Louisiana and I pretty much try everything just to see. But, I have to admit having tried the first two batches and now this, I have had craft bourbons from all over the country and even from Kentucky that weren’t nearly as good as this. While I generally prefer higher proof whiskies because they have more flavor, this bourbon has a lot of great flavor at low proof that, like Old Forester Single Barrel, drinks like it is higher proof.
But, of course, I had to pull out my half bottles of Batch 1 and 2 to compare, which I have hesitated to drink because when was I going to be able to get more, but never mind. Batch 2 for me continues to be a virtual clone to Woodford Reserve, and, at $40, I would buy this all day long. It is darker than batches 1 and 3, so I think it just got some extra action from the barrel, and my bottle of batch 2 is being promoted from the kitchen bar to a top shelf of my living room bar, so I have to have good cause to drink it. Six weeks of opening up since I last had a bit of it, really benefitted this bourbon, which was good to begin with. If you have a bottle of batch 2 on your bar, it’s a keeper. Batch 1 is very similar to Batch 3, with a hint more cinnamon on the palate and finish, but less citrus fruit. I had Catherine try them again, and she agrees with my assessment.
And then, it occurs to me. When did I ever think I would spending an evening splitting hairs over how good a Louisiana bottled bourbon is among batches from a local producer? Well, this side of never.
Kudos to Sugarfield Spirits for making Louisiana bourbon a thing. In any event, if you can get there you should definitely pick up a bottle of Batch 3, as well as their rum and vodka. I frankly can’t wait to see what they do next.