The writers here at the Whiskey Jar are fans of Pinhook; we like the guys behind it who are trying to put out good whiskey. Moreover, we were excited that they were aging and now having their whiskey distilled at the historic Castle & Key Distillery, whose former proprietor is a bourbon god, Col E.H. Taylor, who also was the proprietor of the distillery now knows as Buffalo Trace and the major force behind the Bottled in Bond Act. So, Pinhook bourbon distilled and aged at Castle & Key was something we were looking forward to.
Pinhook has released its first bourbon from Castle & Key, and they have named this horse Bohemian. This particular release is the high proof version, weighing in at 114.5 proof, but I note that it is not labeled cask strength. So, they watered this down a bit from its proof when barreled and when drained from the barrel, which was probably around 120 proof. Also, it is aged a mere 34 months, just shy of three years. It is labeled as unfiltered, and good on them for not adulterating their bourbon with chill filtering. But, that also means the bourbon has nowhere to hide.
The color is very straw like; light amber, and could easily be mistaken for a scotch. Truly showing its young age. On the swirl is a pretty serious film with thick oily legs. The distillation process appears to be good. On the nose, is heavy Halloween candy corn, very slight vanilla, lightly caramelized sugar, slight green apple, but otherwise lacking any real depth. On the palate, the candy corn is definitely there, with some baking spice, slight vanilla and caramel, and some sickly sweet flavors and craft bitterness. On the finish, the craft bitterness meets up with some yeast funk. Not the Beam family peanut funk, but a funk of a different kind. Swirling it vigorously to air this bourbon out helps immeasurably in muting the bitterness and yeast funk. But it is still there and basically ruins the taste. I will say that for a high proof bourbon it is awfully smooth; very little alcohol burn.
So, my conclusion is that this is a very well made bourbon, has a lot of interesting characteristics, and is very smooth at high proof. And it is a crying shame that Pinhook didn’t let this age another three years or more. This bourbon could have been a contender, but it’s like a magnificent horse that breaks it leg in the first race, after the first turn.
There is a reason the law requires Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey to have an age statement if it is less than four years old. Until it is four, it really isn’t worth bottling. Pinhook named this bourbon Bohemian, I would name it Wasted Potential. I had my wife Catherine sample it and she agrees.
My only hope is that they have some more barrels aging of this distillate. In three years I will be very interested in overpaying for a bottle because I bet it will be very good. If I had sampled this from a barrel, I would have said, this is coming along nicely, we should try this again in another couple of years.
And I am left to wonder why the guys at Pinhook didn’t say the same thing. My co-authors Robb Gibb and Mike Bonin have generally accused me at times of being too generous in trying to find redeeming qualities in whiskey I review. I will be interested to see what they say on this one, as this is probably my most negative review to date. On the positive side, as I drink this in search of redeeming qualities to write about, the high proof will give you a nice buzz. So that’s something…