Hokus Pokus got another barrel selection in, this time from Hotel Tango, a veteran owned distiller in Indiana. Hotel Tango gets its name from the names of the founders, Hillary and Travis Barnes. Travis served in Iraq and was hit by several IEDs, resulting in traumatic brain injury and PTSD. He returned home and went to law school, met his wife, and started making whiskey as a hobby and then turned it into a business. They distill a lot of their own spirits, but this particular bourbon is sourced in Kentucky from Green River Distilling Company. Green River was originally founded in 1885, and was owned mostly by members of the Medley family over the years, with distilling ceasing in 1993. Historically, the various Medley bourbons, Old Ezra bourbon, and Mellow Corn were distilled there. The distillery was restarted in 2014 under new ownership. Green River’s own brand spirits are sold under the flag of Owensboro Distilling Company. So, this is a craft distiller in Indiana sourcing Kentucky bourbon from a restarted historic distillery. Typically, it is the other way round, as in the case of Pinhook, who bottles in Kentucky and sources mostly from Indiana.
This promises to be very interesting, in that I am getting to sample what the Green River distillery is putting out at cask strength at two years old. This is a preview of what is to come in the future from Green River.
This particular selection for Hokus was made by Jeremy Vincent, himself a veteran, along with two other veterans who work for Hokus Pokus in Prairieville. The mashbill is 70% corn, 21% rye, and 9% barley, and is aged two years. This is bottled at cask strength at a healthy 116.7 proof. My guess is the barrel proof was 115 and some water evaporated leaving this at higher proof, which to me is desirable. This bottle is $40.
Color is a staw amber, which is unsurprising given its young age. On the swirl is an extremely thin film (kind of hard to see actually) but which then thickens with nice legs. On the nose this bourbon smells very young; candied corn, grassy almost agricole rum notes, some herbal rye, and a hint of caramel. On the palate, the caramel notes begin to dominate over the corn and grassy notes but are then met with flavors of unfiltered Indonesian clove cigarettes, black pepper, and cinnamon, and these flavors carry over to the long finish. The mouthfeel on this is quite luscious. The grassy notes are interesting as I get those notes on the current releases of the Medley bourbons now distilled elsewhere. The grassy note must be a Medley thing.
The folks at Hokus described this to me as “light and easy”, and I have to say I totally disagree with that assessment. When it first hits the palate, the caramel notes are pretty light and easy, but then the flavors go big and bold and that carries over to the finish.
This bourbon is a lot better than a lot of craft bourbons I have tried. While it tastes young, it doesn’t have that craft bitterness, which I have to attribute to the spirit that was distilled. Clearly top drawer grains went into this, probably Red Star yeast as well, and the taste is such that the heads and tails of the distillation were appropriately discarded. Totally enjoyable now and, despite the label telling you to put this in a cocktail, it is totally drinkable neat.
More importantly, in another three to six years, Green River bourbon promises to be totally amazing, either at cask strength or 100 proof or higher. With another couple of years barrel time, this particular bourbon will take on some vanilla, oak, more complex baking spices, and will be combined with these wonderful clove notes and an excellent mouthfeel.
I have to give Hokus some real kudos on arranging such a unique barrel selection, and not just for supporting our veterans. It is not often you get to try some excellent bourbon from a newly restarted historic Kentucky distillery at cask strength as a preview of what is to come, short of going to the distillery and getting a sample from a barrel with a copper thief.