Whiskey Name: Kings County Peated Bourbon
Distillery: Kings County
Whiskey Type: Peated bourbon
Release Date: General release
Price: £33…for a 200ml bottle.
Age: “Two summers”. Between 14-24 months.
Mashbill: As far as I could discover, 70% corn, 15% malted barley, 15% peated malted barley. (No mention of ppm in the peated barley, for those wondering.)
Introduction/Background: A really tiny distillery operating out of the Paymaster Building in the Brooklyn Navy Yard. The idiosyncratic 200ml bottles are starting to pop up more regularly around the UK, and since the peated entity seemed the most unusual, it’s the one I’ve chosen to cover this month.
Fellow Scotch lovers probably need no introduction to peat. It’s used in several of the malts and blends North of the border; most famously in Islay malts like Laphroaig and Ardbeg. These days it seems almost every Scottish distillery is releasing a token peated expression though, since such things are terribly fashionable. A bit like Scotland’s answer to wheat-recipe bourbon in that sense, I guess. (Though about as opposing in flavour as it’s possible for two whiskies to be.)
It isn’t something that pops up often in the US, mind you. Westland use it in one of their single malts, and doubtless Corsair have tinkered with some at one point or another, but it’s pretty thin on the ground. Finding myself occasionally in irreverent yobbo mood, I’ve mixed peated malt with bourbon from time to time, with mixed results. So with those in mind I was greatly intrigued to see how Kings County’s had turned out.
Appearance: Dark. Walnut.
Nose: Now there’s a rather stately nose. Perfumed, polished wood – I’d put money on tiny casks being involved – with a dark cherry and (very) dark chocolate backdrop. Doesn’t smell especially peaty; what there is is overwhelmed by absolutely massive brown sugar.
Mouth: Deep, complex and very beguiling. Unctuous, oily texture. A good bit of orange, but mostly thick, dark caramel and brown sugar kept in check by mildly tannic oak. Alcohol very much a bit part; only there for structure and support. Against that much flavour and body, 45% really doesn’t stand much of a chance. So rich, so well-weighted. Peat grows quietly in the background.
Finish: Moves to fruitcake, whilst the stick-to-your-teeth caramel and ultra-dark chocolate persist. Peat patiently stays the course though, and when the other flavours have disappeared, that classic salt and wet wool sensation is what’s left in your mouth.
Value for Money: Bad. But, in this drinker’s opinion, worth spending £33 to experience.
Summary: Kings County confirms what I’ve learned from my juvenile tinkering: in a fight between new oak and peat, the new oak wins. Don’t expect this to be along the lines of a peaty Scotch, or even something like a Paul John, because it just isn’t.
What it is, however, is absolutely gorgeous. I really, really love this stuff, and I will 100% be trying anything else of theirs that I come across. Its flavours are unbelievably rich, and its texture in the mouth is as luscious as luscious can be. It flirts with becoming too sweet; perhaps it’s the peat that keeps that in check. Whatever. I adore it. How it’d be at 50-55% I can’t begin to imagine.
I can’t, however, ignore the large elephant in the room. Scaled up to 700ml, the bottle would work out at £115, which is a vast, vast sum. Too much, realistically, for a bourbon of this age, however small the producer.
That being said, the 200ml bottles mean that those adventurous of palate can still afford to taste it, albeit your helping will be less than a third the size of what you’d get elsewhere. But let me put it this way: once I’d tasted my drinks by the dram sample, I didn’t think twice before ordering a bottle. And I am very stingey.
Overall Verdict: Only one or two distilleries share Kings County’s place on the craft whiskey quality hierarchy. Too expensive. But so, so good.