I love Cognac and I love Bourbon. Laws Whiskey house, based in Colorado, is doing me a favour with this one and is marrying the two together. I wasn’t the biggest fan of their four grain Bourbon, but Travis Watt, co-founder of PWS Imports, the agency responsible for bringing this brand to Canada, was undeterred and fed me a few samples of their other expressions to review. How will I get on with this one?
This Laws Whisky House Special Finish Series release involves their Four Grain Straight Bourbon. After its initial maturation in new American oak casks, it was transferred to ex-Cognac casks of various sizes for a secondary maturation. Finally it was dumped into a 1,600 L Cognac foeder. This works in a solera process where some of the whiskey is dumped from the foeder and new whiskey is added in its place. In this way, older whiskey blends together with new whiskey. You don’t see this solera process very often with whiskey, but it is pretty common with Sherry, fruit-based spirits such as brandy, and occasionally rum.
Nose: Where their entry level Bourbon was pretty youthful, there is none of that here. Now I can see why people are raving about their slightly older stock. That being said, the cognac cask and additional solera aging isn’t shy on the nose either. This is all Christmas cake for me. The dark fruits from the cognac influence are married with the spices from the American and French oak. Sultana raisins are definitely hogging the bullhorn, but there’s a pretty good prune note in there as well. Some candied fruit are tossed in for good measure. Clove and allspice are actually coming through stronger than the cinnamon. The French oak certainly is making its influence felt in that regard. A good earl grey tea note is coming up now, but not too heavy on the bergamot. Fresh peaches and a good dose of Crunchie Bar sponge toffee cap this off.
This one evolved quite a bit in the glass. Again, it can’t be over-stated how luscious this nose is. Time For a sip.
Palate: Where the nose was all about the dried fruit, the palate is all about the chocolate and spice. This is one of those whiskies that starts on the inside of a chocolate spice cake on the entry and works is way out to the crispy caramelized crust on the exterior. It started off light and creamy, but as the development progresses, the dark chocolate and pretty much all the dark baking spices in your cabinet start to dry this out a little. All the way to the end, some toffee sweetness helps to balance this out a bit. As I smack my lips, lightly toasted walnuts add to the fruit effect.
Finish: This is very long. The experience continues to dry out, with those dark baking spices continuing to chug along. Now I’m getting that black tea again along with leather. A note that I don’t normally get in a younger Bourbon.
If you pay an extra $35 CAD over their entry-level Bourbon, you can still get your hands on this one in Alberta, as of this writing. At $135 CAD, the price may seem a little high, but this is an exceptional whisky in which a great deal of thought and care has gone into its presentation.
On a recent local radio show appearance, I remarked how the American craft whiskey space is bringing a fresh new look to the world of Bourbon and Laws is certainly helping to lead the charge.
And regarding the regular release Bourbon from Laws, I’ve heard that a healthy splash of 10 year old stock will be be blended into future releases so expect a redux review of that one soon!