So how were they?
Sample One, at 61% ABV, felt a little unready. Intense; no slouch in jumping out of the glass, but the cereals felt a little farmyardy and over-prominent, the spirit a little meaty. It’s still an adolescent – needs a bit more time in the barrel to knit itself together.
Sample Two we loved at first sniff. 61.7% ABV, but of all four samples, this one took the alcohol best in its stride. Sweet, balanced and full of lovely caramels and sugars, just edging towards something floral. Cask strength on its best behaviour; heat really dialled back and controlled by flavour and body. Crowd-pleasing in the sense of being a high-proof bourbon you could pour to a newcomer, confident it wouldn’t be met with a wince.
Alcohol jumped upwards for the next one – to 64.2% - and it showed. Sample Three was quite enigmatic. Lots of floral character, with some of Sample One’s cereals returning too. There was certainly a lot to like – but nothing defining really screamed out “pick me, pick me.” Whilst I know I preferred it to Sample One, it still feels the least memorable of the tasting.
And then there was Sample Four. Biggest of the lot, at 64.5%, but more significantly the biggest by far on flavour. The booze did really wallop you on the nose to begin with, but that died back after a moment or two, after which wonderful things happened. By far the most rye-forward; real firmness and definition of spicy grain, but then layers and layers of deep dark chocolate and caramel and oak. An absolute stunner.
When it came to voting there was an overwhelming favourite, and no prizes for guessing which. Definite honourable mention to Sample Two – shame we’re not taking both! – but all but one of us voted Sample Four as our pick. The first British Bourbon Society Barrel had been chosen.
There’s more work to do. Label designs are flying back and forth, then of course bottling and the small matter of shipping those bottles to the UK needs to happen. But the wheels are in motion. Pretty soon 150 or so lucky people will be charging their Glencairns with BBS-label F.E.W. Cask strength, naturally. We’ll keep you updated.
And hopefully this is just the beginning. After the tasting a lot of the talk surrounded “which distillery next?” ... “who would you most want a barrel from?” ... “there’s still some of that sample left – can I take it?” (That last one was me.) At any rate, it seems certain that at some point in the unseen but imminent future we’ll be back at Milroy’s in pursuit of BBS Bourbon the Second.
in the meantime, it’s fair to say that we’re pretty chuffed with Number One. Hopefully you will be too. Like I say, we didn’t pick the booziest on purpose. But it’s nice when things work out.
Massive thanks to Paul Hletko and the whole F.E.W team. Also to John Young, Michael Vachon and James Goggin.
@britishbourbonsociety @whiskybunker @london_liquor @barrelproofandy @the_bourbonator @mcrbourbon @edkinguk