Old Carter has recently released batches 2 and 3 of their Straight Kentucky Whiskey, and I picked up a bottle of batch 3 for $180, which is not cheap but generally in line for retail pricing for Old Carter whiskies. Now, I am really not sure what this is. Batch 1 was reported to be a high corn bourbon mashbill distilled in Kentucky and aged in used cooperage. When I was growing up, Brown Forman put out an Early Times product that was bourbon mashbill whiskey aged in used cooperage. However, the color on this is much darker than most used bourbon cooperage whiskies I have tried. However, the Carters do tend to finish their whiskies in new charred oak barrels as they did with Kentucky Owl, so they may have done that here and thus the darker color. The only other option, since this is not labelled as bourbon or rye, is that it is a mashbill that is split between bourbon and a flavoring grain like rye, along with barley malt, so that neither the rye or the bourbon is the dominant grain – think Shenk’s from Michter’s. Only one way to find out -try it, as there is virtually nothing on this whiskey on the internet. This is high proof at 131 proof, so it is possible that this is used cooperage whiskey, as those tend to be higher in proof, and the blue label over the cork is used for Old Carter’s American whiskey category, whereas they used black or sometimes red for bourbon and green for rye.
The color on this whiskey is a really solid copper amber, with a nice thick oily film and legs on the swirl. Pretty traditional bourbon nose with vanilla and lots of fruit notes. On the palate, the fruits dominate, primarily orange zest and candied cherries, with some pretty healthy clove, cinnamon, black pepper notes, and a hint of herbal rye. On the finish, the candied cherries and orange zest linger with some drying oak tannin and clove coming to the fore.
This whiskey is very deep and complex, but reminds me more of bourbon than American light whiskey, mostly due to the barrel influence and rye spice notes, and the absence of the peach notes I typically get on American light whiskey. If this was aged in used cooperage I would be surprised and the finishing barrel must have exercised a whole lot of influence on this whiskey – meaning the finishing barrel was like Calvin and Hobbes’ transmogrifying machine. For now, I am buying my theory that this is cask strength Shenk’s Homestead. But, given the internet, I am sure someone will tell me I am wrong and have proof that this finishing barrel is the transmogrifying machine, and I will be like, ok. UPDATE: After setting aside the bottle for two days and waiting to post this review, this whiskey is showing some sweetness which indicates used cooperage then finished in new barrels. I changed my mind.
At the end of the day, this is really damn good whiskey. However Mark and Sherrie Carter came up with this bottling, it is excellent.