Tasting Notes: Penelope Founder’s Reserve American Light Whiskey

Barrell, Old Carter, and Jacob’s Pardon have all been making use of long aged American Light Whiskey, which is a corn mashbill whiskey that is aged in used bourbon barrels. Seagram’s, now MGP in Indiana, had apparently distilled and aged a bunch of this whiskey but somehow had no use for it. So, newer producers in the market are snatching up these barrels, including Penelope, who has released a 13 year old American Light Whiskey, non-chill filtered, at a hefty 128.4 proof. Compared to some other releases, this one is about two years younger but priced at $83, which is less than Barrell and a lot less than Old Carter.

Color on this is a nice bright amber and is about right for thirteen years of aging in used cooperage. Super thick legs on the swirl. On the nose is sweet cream, baking spices, and vanilla. On the palate, you get baked peaches mixed with cream, along with some candied fruits, hints of vanilla, and loads of baking spices which carry over to the finish.

This whiskey’s sweetness and creaminess really lend itself to be an after dinner disgestif and would pair wonderfully with dessert. While I generally prefer bourbon’s complexity and richness, I do think American Light Whiskey, aged for ten years or more and bottled at cask strength and not chill filtered, has its place on the bar. It’s not bourbon-lite, but something else altogether, and is really a new category of American whiskey that is coming into its own. I do object to the name though. Light, referring to the color, ok. But calling it American Light makes me think of Bud Light or Coors Light – less calories and less flavor. Light, referring to the flavor or the proof in this type of whiskey is a big misnomer. Not a damn thing light about it. I still think this should be called Carondolet whiskey – Bourbon on the other side of Canal Street.

Thankfully, this does not have the craft bitterness that Penelope bourbons have, given that this was aged much longer. I also like that Penelope’s disclosures on the side of the bottle lets you know exactly what it is you are buying. This is by far my favorite Penelope release.

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