What’s one extra year’s worth of maturation time in whiskey? If you’re talking Scotland with its cool(ish) climate, it hardly makes a difference. Not so in other places around the world. Generally, hot and/or temperate climates really help to supercharge the aging process. Although not known for its searing heat, Boulder, Colorado is certainly temperate to cause noticeable differences from one year to the next.
Since I last wrote Boulder Spirits reviews, quite a lot has happened in the American whiskey world. Most importantly, American Single Malt, like Bourbon, is now an officially recognized category by the American Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). This has been a years long effort by a consortium of US distilleries such as Boulder Spirits, Balcones (Texas), and Westland (Washington). Although the rules are slightly less stringent than Bourbon, it is nevertheless a huge hurdle that has been overcome and will hopefully encourage still more distilleries to hop on board the barley train.
Since Boulder Spirits has been distilling single malt for quite a while now, they are one of the first distilleries in the country to be able to offer a whiskey that is Bottled in Bond (as well as their Bourbon, by the way). In the United States, Bottled in Bond whiskey requires the spirit to be distilled in a single season, matured for at least four years in a federally bonded warehouse and bottled at no less than 100 proof (or 50% abv). Their New American expression is one year less than the Bottled in Bond (which is in my glass today) and bottled at 46% abv. They are both matured in new American oak barrels that have been treated to a #3 char.
Let’s answer that initial question now, shall we? In the process, I’ll compare both the Bottled in Bond and American Oak.
Nose: It’s a bit shy at first. Give it a few minutes to open up. The cask has taken a firmer hold on the whiskey after an extra year. Quite a noticeable change. A nice balance between spirit and cask. The New American expression was bright, youthful, barley sugar with a slight hint of cardamom pods. This Bottled in Bond is much darker and richer. Grilled pineapple, ripe cherries, toasted cinnamon, freshly shaved nutmeg. After nosing more, I get a tiny bit of coconut.
Palate: Quite sweet on the entry. Vanilla cream and caramel with a little bit of zest thrown in. Tart cherries start the development, but dark roast coffee, cocoa powder, and a hint of dark chocolate mix with that not soon after. The sweetness from the entry mostly fades mid-way through the development, drying out the experience a bit. At the end of the development, there’s a ton of cinnamon. It’s kind of overpowering the rest of the spices.
By comparison, the New American retains that sweetness all the way through the development, allowing that spice cake/ginger snap cookie vibe to shine through at the end. That’s what I wanted to see with the Bottled in Bond as well, but instead, I’m treated to a richer experience. It’s a trade-off, for sure.
Finish: The coffee and cocoa powder hang on, but slowly fade along with the cinnamon. There’s just enough sweetness to prevent this from becoming too bitter at the end. The finish is definitely on the long side.
The finish on the New American isn’t as long, but I like the ginger snap cookie/cocoa powder notes more than the Bottled in Bond.
With water added
The grilled pineapple and cherry notes come out a lot more on the nose now, nicely balanced with the cinnamon from the cask influence. Water has made a huge difference in the development. The sweetness from the entry hangs on a lot longer, giving me that spiced cookie note that I love from the New American expression. The finish is sweeter and not as bitter.
With water, I like this more that the New American. Just with one year more, the Bottled in Bond gives me the best of both worlds. The richness that I got without water added, combined with the extra extra sweetness that I like from their New American.
Although I had some quibbles with this Bottled in Bond initially, it not only stands up incredibly well to water, it actually improves the experience dramatically. The same can be said of their New American expression as well. To me, this is a mark of a quality whiskey: one that has enough depth of flavor so that it doesn’t collapse with a few drops of H2O.