Another in a long line of sourced whiskies, with marketing story and packaging proudly proclaiming its California heritage, while actually being distilled in Indiana. At least these barrels were aged at a warehouse in Healdsburg California (aka Napa), giving them some vestiges of individuality. In fact, while the label says it was distilled in Indiana, the web says it’s a blend of bourbons from distilleries in Indiana, Tennessee and California. This blend, “comprised of 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% barley” spent 3 years and 2 months in new American oak barrels with #2 char, and is bottled at 45.5% ABV in small batches of 600 bottles (that’s 2 barrels at a time). Expect batches to vary! My review is from batch LRB13 (hand-written on the label, a nice personal touch).
As for the providence of the whisky, the Indiana portion is almost certainly made at the ubiquitous MGP facility. The Tennesse portion could be from Prichard’s Distillery, which is (to my knowledge) the only Tennessee distillery large enough to sell contract whiskey, and which is making bourbon on pot stills and without using the Lincoln County Process. The California portion is anybody’s guess.
Nose: Spicy, but with a lingering waft of acetone. Rye-centric spice cabinet notes of clove, cinnamon, star anise, fenugreek, and fennel seed pervade, but one must continually ignore the nail-polish remover entwined with them. Very slightly grassy, this reminds me a bit of Buffalo Trace in its leanness. Not much sweetness at all.
Palate: Thin body. Moderate tongue burn. Flavor is fleeting, mostly in the realm of cinnamon candy and cake batter.
Finish: Medium-long. A lot of sugar (caramel/toffee) appears on the finish, with a maple-tinged funugreek focus, and fades without much bitterness.
With Water: A few drops of water heighten the nose tickle and do little to reduce the acetone. The palate might be a little thicker, and the tongue burn less, but nothing much is achieved by adding water.
Overall: This is an oddball. On the nose, it smells like Buffalo Trace bourbon (vegetal) mixed with straight rye (spice) and aged about 2 years less than it should be (acetone). On the palate, it tastes like commodity whisky (bland). On the finish, it mutates into a sweet maple-y concoction with great oak/sugar balance and no bitterness. For the first time (ever), I find myself rushing through the stages of smelling and tasting so that I can relive the finish.
Since nobody buys a bottle of whisky for its finish alone, and because when mixed into cocktails this is indistinguishable from Buffalo Trace (which is $8 cheaper), I cannot recommend Lost Republic’s current batches of bourbon. Let’s see what happens when they get a few more years on those California-aged barrels.