Whiskey Name: Distillery 291 ‘E’ Batch #2
Distillery: Distillery 291
Whiskey Type: Bourbon
Release Date: 2017
Price: Bloody hard to find online. Not about in the UK, but somewhere around $100. I think.
Age: 333 whole days.
Mashbill: 80% corn, 19% malted rye, 1% malted barley
Introduction/Background: The only whiskey at the BBS Jim Murray tasting that pretty much no one knew anything about.
Distillery 291 has been based out in Colorado since 2011, and is the brainchild of Michael Myers, a former photographer. They make various bourbons, ryes, and American whiskies, but what sets them apart is a sort of accident. An ‘atrocious’ early attempt to distil an IPA was due to be poured away, when Myers noticed that the spillage had a rather nice citrus and hops tea element. Since then, a little of this spillage has gone into every product they’ve made.
The ‘E’ stands for ‘experimental’. Batches 1 and 3 were ryes – the spirit Myers originally set out to make – and batch 2 is a bourbon. What makes it experimental is the cooking of the grains. Traditionally 291 cook their mash ‘up’, meaning they start with a lower temperature water, add grain, then increase the temperature, add more grain, and so on. For E Batch 2, Myers also used grain which had been cooked ‘down’, resulting in a vastly different tasting mash.
After just under a year in 10 gallon barrels (37.8 litres, so very small by comparison with standard bourbon casks) E was good to go. Jim Murray rated it highly, which was how it ended up at our tasting.
Appearance: Dark for the age. Tiny barrels, high proof etc.
Nose: That malted rye is seriously noisy. Lots of notes I’ve only found before on high percentage rye whiskies, like the St George from Boutique-y. Postmix cola. Appletise. There’s an element of medicine cupboard too – germoline; again reminiscent of the St George. Decent mixture of depth and lift. Lime zest and green fruit pastilles. A little caramel too. Mega juicy, with dabs of sweet spice – star anise and clove.
Mouth: Still a fruit bomb. Granny Smith apples in very light caramel. Gingery – like a ginger ale almost. Very oily, but because of the freshness it’s a silky texture, rather than anything too mouthcoating. Lots of muscovado sugar. The rye still buzzes and buzzes; the ginger grows to immense proportions. Sugary cereal in the background. Borderline frosties!
Finish: The sugar fades off the cereal.
Value for Money: Bit steep. The craft thing again. I’ve seen much worse.
Summary: Not like any bourbon I’d ever really tried before. Bourbon in Rye’s clothing. In fact, as I tasted it (blind) I was reminded of several notes I normally associate with the 100% rye from Canada’s Alberta.
That probably works in its favour though; the flavours, whilst young, are of fruits and spices, rather than being anything too acetone or grainy. I certainly like it a lot more than I like a lot of craft bourbons, though I do think that $105 is too much.
But the spirit is good, and the cut is excellent; whistle-clean whisky, with some seriously big flavours. That ginger on the palate was immense, and I’m a fan of the texture. Not the most complex in the world, but that’s to be expected after only 11 months.
At about half the price I’d probably be really enthusing about this whisky. As it was, it was the pour that stuck in my head after the Murray tasting simply because it was so different and unique. It was better than a lot of craft bourbons I’ve reviewed here, if not quite in Balcones/Kings County territory.
Overall Verdict: I shall be keeping an eye out in bars for more Distillery 291 whiskey. Though I’m not in a hurry to buy a full bottle at the price, even if it was available on UK shores.