Whiskey Name: Holland’s Ghost
Whiskey Type: Bourbon finished in stout barrel
Release Date: July 2017
Price: $125. (Not available in the UK)
Age: At least 1.5 years before finishing
Mashbill: 70% corn, 15% rye, 15%wheat
Introduction/Background: A collaboration between Reservoir Distillery and local restaurateur and whisk(e)y bar owner, Mac McCormack. Spent the first portion of its life in Reservoir’s signature 5 gallon barrels, before being vatted into a single 53 gallon ex-Stout barrel from the local Ardent brewery. So local bar meets local distillery meets local brewery. What’s not to like?
BBS tasted this as part of our recent lineup of the Reservoir range at the Lexington. We were phenomenally lucky to get our hands on a bottle; this stuff sold out the day it was launched, so big thanks to David Cuttino for letting one slip our way.
One slightly obvious question may be occurring to you; namely why bother reviewing a whiskey that was never available in the UK, and which has already sold out even in the US? Well, two reasons. Firstly, the stout finish intrigues me. You see a lot of finished bourbon these days, and more often than not the second home is a port or other fortified wine cask. But I rather like the stout idea. It’s another grain-based product, and in this instance was selected to make up for the absence of barley in the mashbill. To me, finishing in casks that have held another grain product makes a lot of sense; surely less likely to encounter a flavour clash, or a case of the whiskey being overwhelmed. And far less of a schlep to trot over to a local brewery than to cross the Atlantic in search of the Quintas of the Douro.
Secondly, this was the pour that stuck in my head the days after the tasting. Eventually we’ll get all of the Reservoir pours up in our reviews vault, but Holland’s Ghost really stuck with me, so that’s the scribble for today. (In any event, none of Reservoir’s Whiskies are easily findable over here yet, so it’s really a case of “six of one”!) Onwards.
Nose: Reservoir’s ‘house’ whiskies tend to be about big, upfront, charred oak, but this chap has really mellowed in his stout barrel. The aromas are much more languid in oozing from the glass, and perfumed rather more elegantly when they do. Orange, as seems to be common to Reservoir, but this time expressed in chocolate orange crême form. (I know that sounds pretentious, but those are what I dive into the Quality Street box for first, so trust me on this!) Creamy and chocolatey all round.
Mouth: You wouldn’t peg the proof on this; really oily and full-bodied. I’m going to have to start rationing my use of the word ‘creamy’, but that’s definitely what comes to mind first. Lots more caramel, and the influence of the stout flavours creep in, besides a herbal rye smokiness. Almost seems relaxed for the proof and age; certainly not as vivaciously intense as, for example, Reservoir’s wheat or rye.
Finish: Creamy Velvety. The chocolate lingers besides a little more oak influence.
Value for Money: Pricey. But a rarity that offers a pretty unique place on the flavour map, and brings a lot to like to the table. I don’t think many people who bought a bottle will feel disappointed or ripped off.
Summary: This sparked a fair bit of discussion when we tasted it next to Reservoir’s other juice. Consensus seemed to be that whilst it was probably the most complex number of the bunch, some of Reservoir’s signature intensity and focus had been shaved off.
It’s a very different experience to the flagships; the charred oak is far less overt. Perfume and elegance atop fatness of body are the standout points. If the flavours and aromas had been a little more prominent, this would have been my pick of the day. As it was, it was close.
This is a bourbon to relax with at the end of the day. For me it conjured images of armchairs in dimly-lit rooms. On final note; you’ll see in the article on the tasting that Mac McCormack was attempting to mimic the flavours of a particular other bourbon. For my money you’re best of judging Holland’s Ghost simply on its own considerable merits. Just my two cents though.
Overall Verdict: Tasting this next to other Reservoir whiskies may have made me a touch harsh on that intensity. Regardless, this sits on the more interesting and higher quality side of the craft whisk(e)y ledger; admittedly with a rather hefty price tag. I’d definitely like to see those Ardent stout casks again though. And I definitely definitely want to see Reservoir this side of the pond.
Words by WhiskyPilgrim