Seven-Three Distilling Company’s Bywater Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Seven Three Distilling Company is a distillery in New Orleans whose trademark is to name their spirits for various New Orleans neighborhoods, of which there are seventy three, thus the name of the distillery. 73’s mission statement if you will is to make spirits with a sense of place, that being New Orleans. In August, they released their bourbon, Bywater Bourbon, which is four years in the making given that it is labelled as straight without having a separate age statement. It is made from Louisiana corn and wheat, which makes sense that they are using local ingredients in everything they make and rye isn’t grown in Louisiana. Interestingly, instead of using barley malt to get the enzymes for fermentation, they malt some of the wheat in the mashbill. So, this bourbon is all corn and wheat, which is unique. Hokus Pokus sells it for $45. It’s now available all over Louisiana according to the website in liquor stores, bars and restaurants. The website says they will ship, and I expect 73’s products to start seeing wider distribution to other states in the future.

This whiskey comes in at 93 proof, and is a nice golden amber in the glass; a tad on the lighter side of color where I like to see my bourbon, but given its age and being proofed down, the color makes sense. Very nice film and legs on the swirl. Really nice vanilla on the nose, candied corn, some candied fruits, powdered sugar on fresh beignets (sense of place indeed), and notes of cocktail bitters (again sense of place). Despite being low proof, on the palate there is a good bit of flavor – tropical fruits, vanilla, bitters, a hint of clove, and oak. Nice mouthfeel. The finish is amazingly long for such a young, low proof, bourbon. There is some craft youthful bitterness on the palate and finish, but that’s to be expected.

For a craft bourbon, Bywater is excellent. I have had craft bourbons from Kentucky and Virginia that weren’t even close to as good as this and sometimes cost more. I like this a lot better than Ragged Branch as an example. I do think that another year or two in the barrel would really do the distillate some good, adding baking spice notes and softening the bitter notes. Wheated bourbon in particular needs more time in the barrel (or stave finishing in the case of Maker’s Mark) to really create great whiskey. I have seen newer distilleries’ whiskies improve over time and the Bywater 2021 batch release puts 73 on a good trajectory toward producing truly great bourbon in Louisiana from Louisiana ingredients.

But good on 73 waiting four years and releasing this as a straight bourbon with no age statement. So many craft distilleries rush their spirit to market aging their whiskey for less than four years and the whiskey suffers for it. The temptation of cash flow is hard to resist. That temptation may have been especially great given that the company is currently the subject of bankruptcy proceedings in New Orleans. I hope they come to a deal to save the company, given that this venture has great potential based on what I have tasted.

This would go great in an old fashioned or a Manhattan, but it is certainly drinkable neat.

Once New Orleans is back on its feet after Hurricane Ida and Covid is behind us I will definitely go there for a tour and will beg if necessary to try some of this bourbon right out of the cask.

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