- 86 Proof
One of the perks of being a "whiskey guy" is that when people come over to your house for cookouts, parties or whatever, frequently they'll bring a bottle of whiskey . . . and frequently that bottle will be left behind. Such is the case with this bottle of James Oliver American Whiskey. A neighbor brought this over last Summer and left it behind for me (intentionally). Which is good, because I don't know that I otherwise would have grabbed this off the shelf. So, in a way, he's expanded my horizons!
Per the limited information on the label, this is a bourbon distillate aged in used bourbon barrels. Hence the reason it's called an "American Whiskey." Beyond that, however, little information is offered. I have no idea of the mashbill nor the age of the whiskey. All I know is that it hails from the Northwest, which has really been hit or miss for me as far as whiskey from that region is concerned.
I opened this bottle with absolutely zero expectations. I'd heard nothing about the brand, and I certainly knew nothing about this whiskey. So, I was going in with a blank slate. So I poured my first glass and took a whiff, and I was taken aback by how much I really liked the way it smelled. It had notes of caramel and sawdust. It had a nice, spicy cinnamon tingle to it, as well as a bit of earthiness. The nose wasn't strong by any means, but what it had was a great blend of sweet, spice and earthy flavors that all worked really well together.
Unfortunately, the flavor took me down a different path. At first, I kind of liked this whiskey. It was very brown sugar forward, and was very sweet. But, for being a sweeter whiskey, I initially liked what it was doing.
However, the more I had, the more that feeling changed. The brown sugar seemed to absolutely take over this whiskey, to the point that I was trying to find out if it had additives or flavorings. It was that strong, and I absolutely could not get past that. It was a brown sugar flavored whiskey (even if no actual flavoring was added).
Going back over my notes, I was able to pick up other, interesting notes. At times I got distinct pecan pie flavors, with some nice nutty notes and maple syrup notes where the brown sugar notes usually were. I even got kettle corn at times, but even that was overshadowed by a dark corn syrup flavor. I even noted some peanut brittle notes at times.
But, those notes were fleeting, and ultimately the sweetness of this bourbon, and the pervasive brown sugar flavors, just became cloying. I found myself unable to have more than one pour of this in a sitting, which resulted in it taking a long time to finish this bottle. I found that, even despite its lower proof, it was better with a couple cubes to help water it down and cut that sweetness where I could. While it was fun to try something new, I don't see myself going back to this whiskey any times soon.