I have tried Old Elk but haven’t bought a bottle or written on it, as what I have encountered is a pretty good but low proof bourbon. I have tried both the wheated (which really is comparable to Weller Green Label) and the high malt bourbons. But Hokus Pokus got this limited release $150 a bottle version of Old Elk, which is a blend of Old Elk’s high malt bourbon aged six years for 60% of the blend, and two Kentucky bourbons: a twelve year old that makes up 24% of the blend and an 11 year old that makes up the remaining 16% This would appear to be a cask strength bottling at 114.9 proof. I like an MGP high malt bourbon, after Sugarfield Spirits exposed me to it.
But before I write about this whiskey, it is important to note who is behind it – Greg Metze. He is not a self proclaimed master distiller of a new distillery. Rather, he earned his wings at MGP’s Indiana distillery for thirty eight years before venturing out on his own. The demand for bourbon and rye has skyrocketed, and thus the demand for MGP’s whiskies has increased as well. My experience with MGP is that their whiskies can be awfully good, even though a lot of folks turn up their noses at bourbons that are not from Kentucky. In any event, Metze left the distillery in 2016 after helping create over 120 different brands of whiskey and signed a pretty vicious non-disclosure agreement so he can’t take credit for all of his creations. Even six years later, a lot of Greg’s great whiskies at MGP are just now coming to market. If there is a brand that you like that contains MGP bourbon or rye, Greg Metze is at least partially if not totally responsible. He really is one of the rock stars of American whiskey, yet most people haven’t heard of him.
So if you are going to sell a bottle of bourbon for $150, a cool bottle helps, and a cool box does also. This has both. The color on the whiskey is a deep amber with shimmering gold flecks, which is reflective of the age of the largest part of the blend. The nose is not incredibly tense but it is pleasant – traditional bourbon notes of vanilla and oak, along with notes of cinnamon french toast made with real french bread. On the palate, this bourbon has a nice syrupy mouthfeel, with vanilla, caramel chews, and an array of baking spices, some cocoa, and pancakes (not real deal maple syrup but pancake syrup) with syrup notes but without being too sweet at all, along with wonderful charred oak notes in the background. I had my wife Catherine try this and while she was searching for words to describe it, I said, “this bourbon went to IHop for breakfast.” She said I was exactly right, along with the oak notes. The finish is long and lingering and the flavors turn to mild cinnamon candies and oak.
Fred Minnick recently reviewed this whiskey and found it wanting on the front of the palate, meaning that it lacks sweetness. I respectfully say to Fred that either his palate was shot that day and he needs to try this whiskey again, or he got a bad bottle. It has a sweetness – that of pancake syrup rather than confectioner’s sugar, and frankly, I think this is a feature and not a bug. I normally would not point out where I disagree with another bourbon connoisseur, but Fred and I both were fans of the Wild Turkey Master’s Keep Bottled in Bond release when others were less than enthusiastic about it, and we both had the same opinion on Screwball Peanut Butter Whiskey. So, I am baffled as to why we disagree on this whiskey, especially since Fred is a huge fan of Greg Metze. Really baffled.
This is a really good bottle of bourbon. Is it $150 good? Yeah, given the market today, but I do have to say I really like this one. It is in the process of being promoted from my kitchen bar where it sat unopened for a couple of weeks to the living room bar where the good stuff is.