Big Escambia Spirits in Atmore, Alabama was founded in 2014 and is producing bourbon from locally grown special non-gmo corn and other locally sourced grains where those are obtainable. I suspect barley doesn’t grow very well in southern Alabama, so using out of state barley is certainly forgivable. Their line of bourbons is named Dettling, the last name of one of the founders although the name is owned by a swiss distillery Arnold Dettling, AG, who has granted a license to Big Escambia Spirits to use the name. The 1867 date on the label is the year of the founding of the Swiss distillery, and Big Escambia is sort of claiming that bourbon is the next chapter of the Dettling family history in distilling.
Unlike Clyde May’s Alabama Style Whiskey and Bourbon which are distilled, aged, and bottled in Indiana, this whiskey is distilled and aged actually in Alabama. And not in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains in the northern part of the state which would have a similar climate to Tennessee where a lot of whiskey is made and aged, but in a county right on the Florida border. So, it is hot there and doesn’t get very cold. The back label also takes some swipes at Clyde May’s, noting that this is farm to bottle bourbon actually made in Alabama, with “no compromising, no shortcuts, and no sourcing.”
They have a few different expressions, including the green label which is a 2 year old 80 proof whiskey, a bottled in bond bourbon that has been aged for four and half years (which I tried Saturday and it was pretty good), and a Cask Strength Single Barrel aged for five years and three months. After I tried both the bonded and the cask strength, I decided to purchase the cask strength for a full review. I liked the Dettling had a lot of disclosures on the bonded and cask strength expressions as far as aging. The cask strength is 113.6 proof and cost me $73. I have seen in priced in some locations over $100.
Now, I normally don’t complain about wax coatings or difficult to open bottles, but I have to say something here. The type of top Dettling uses is of a type that the wax will adhere to it. And I mean ADHERE. It took some knife work to get this bad boy open.
The color on this is beautiful – really dark amber with a lot of mahogany. Really red in color, and really beautiful in my copita. Super amazingly thick film and legs on the swirl. On the nose are big notes of vanilla and clove. On the palate, big vanilla notes along with dark cherry syrup are there along with some oak and clove. I had Catherine try it and she agreed with my notes but said it was floral to her on the end. On the finish, the cherries, cloves and oak are present, but there is a hint of bitterness on the fade. This is not your typical craft bitterness however, and it reminds me more of the absinthe bitterness on a Sazerac cocktail. I am also left to wonder if the dark cherry syrup notes are an intentional homage to Dettling’s Kirsch, which is a clear brandy liqueur that is similar to Schnapps and made with cherries.
Great story with ties to a historic distillery in Europe, stupid top for the bottle, and a really interesting bourbon with an interesting and different flavor profile but that is definitely 100 percent bourbon. This drinks way older than it is. Much to Dettling’s credit, my wife’s less forgiving palate really liked this one, and I have to say this one is starting to grow on me. The information hound that I am says they need to update their website; the bottled in bond version is now out and no longer coming soon and now they are being distributed in Louisiana. But my palate says forget the website just keep this bourbon coming.