So, two guys from New Jersey decide to get in the bourbon business and name their bourbon after one of the founder’s baby daughter, Penelope. Definitely not your traditional bourbon story, but, like Pinhook, they are sourcing their bourbon from MGP in Indiana and bottling at Castle & Key in Kentucky. Interestingly, they source their casks from Speyside Coopoerage, which manufactures oak barrels in the United States, leases them to bourbon producers, and then ships them to Scotland to age scotch. This is a pretty good cost saving measure: leasing, rather than buying casks. You can purchase their bourbon through Mash & Grape, although my local, Hokus Pokus, is now carrying it. I picked up Barrel Strength Batch 5 at Hokus Saturday. I had been seeing some internet traffic about this bourbon so I was eager to try it.
This is a four grain bourbon, and this particular batch has a mashbill overall of 76% corn, 15% wheat, 6% rye, and 3% malted barley, although it is a blend of three different bourbons with various mashbills. Barely a kiss of rye in this bourbon, and it smells and tastes like a wheated bourbon. The barrels that went into this batch are 3-4 years old and aged in oak barrels with a number 4 char. And, a big plus, this bourbon is non-chill filtered; I think chill filtering really hurts the flavor of most bourbons.
The color on this is pretty nice given its youth – a nice medium amber, with thick long legs on the swirl. The nose is traditional wheated bourbon – grainy with notes of baked goods and cinnamon, but with green apple, which is interesting. On the palate, the green apple carries over from the nose and you get slight caramel and a bunch of cinnamon, and a little oak char. I would describe this as green apple pie cooked to very dark brown on the cusp of being burnt as far as the crust. On the finish, the cinnamon notes you would find on wheated bourbon really dominate but with a slight hint of try spice.
The only downside to this bourbon is that if you sip it without letting it air out in the glass and without giving it a full Kentucky chew, there is some craft youthful bitterness on the palate and finish. While their process for sourcing and bottling is similar to some Pinhook releases, Penelope is way better in my opinion, as Pinhook’s craft bitterness is overwhelming. I bought this for $54, which is cheaper than Pinhook cask strength as well, and is about what you would pay for Knob Creek Single Barrel or Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel. Cask strength or high proof bourbon just costs $50 or more.
I definitely recommend this for fans of wheated bourbon; the rye element in this bourbon is very minimal, and the really good elements of this bourbon and the price point make the craft bitterness due to the young age forgivable. Good bourbon, particularly cask strength or high proof, is getting harder and harder to find, and the offering of these two New Jersey entrepreneurs is definitely welcome in today’s bourbon market.