I wasn’t going to buy this bottle. I tasted it at an event where I tasted a dozen other whiskies with higher price tags and thought it wasn’t very good. Then David OG extolled its virtues on the K&L blog (I rarely disagree with the Two Davids’ superior palates and wide-reaching command of the current state of whisky both domestic and international), and I felt I owed Tom’s Foolery another look. Thus, I abused my advertising revenue to drop $50 on a four year-old craft bourbon. Plus tax.
Tom’s Foolery is actually made by an Ohio man named Tom (take that, modern whisky marketing!). He does this on a pair of pot-stills originally used by the Michter’s distillery in its “for the visitors” micro-distillery, the Jug House, which was shuttered in 1990. (Alas, these stills are now back at Michter’s and Tom is planning future batches of Foolery to come off his new (to him) antique Alembic still). The whiskey is made from a mashbill of 72% corn, 12% rye and 16% malted barley, and both the “pure pot still” nature and craft “bottled-in-bond” stamp make this product unique. Tom ages his bottled-in-bond Ohio Straight Bourbon in an honest-to-goodness US bonded warehouse (DSP-OH-15011) for four years in new charred American oak barrels. Some reviews claim that the bourbon is then finished in Applejack casks, but I can’t find a reliable source for this. Tom’s Foolery Distillery also has an Applejack and a rye.
My bottle is #1104 from Batch #1 (which was a total of 1200 bottles, now mostly sold out) distilled in Spring 2012. K&L carr(ied) it for $50, but it can be found at retailers closer to its midwest home for $40.
Nose: Heavy scents of pine and eucalyptus – exactly like barely-aged rye. The effect should be woodsy but is instead antiseptic and piercing. There is little else to discover under that aromatic blanket of pith and menthol, although a rest in the glass and some coaxing reveals some nougat.
Palate: Syrupy body. Medium tongue-burn (not bad for 100 proof). A tasty array of milk chocolate-covered nougat, light caramel and almond extract, but marred by an echo of that pine sap (or raw cardamom?) note.
Finish: Long and warming. A good balance between the young-rye pine from the aroma and the sweets from the palate, both of which linger. Fades without bitterness with more nutty nougat and a sudden dried fruit sweetness that is almost like fig (or apple skins?). At the tail end of this quite long (for a bourbon) finish, one finds the eucalyptus/menthol again.
With Water: Water, alas, intensifies the pine sap notes and renders the entire glass indistinguishable from a snifter of Pine Sol. (That’s conjecture, for the more literal-minded of my readers, as I’ve never personally sampled a snifter of household cleaner. I’m looking at you, guy who thinks I eat rotten fruit because I think a certain whisky tastes like rotten banana). Skip the water here, or water it down and let it sit for awhile to disperse the volatile esters.
Overall: A quandary. This smells like a $25 bottle of 2 year-old craft rye, but tastes like a malted confection, almost scotch-like in its balance of flavors but unquestionably bourbon. It also has a very successful finish, woodsy and sweet but without any unwelcome oaky bitterness. I hate to disagree with the Davids, but I can’t recommend this one. Still, Tom’s Foolery is a craft distillery to watch, especially if they can age out some of that piney rye. I just wouldn’t drop $50 on this unless you’re Ohioan and want to show some Buckeye pride.
Note that Sku’s review suggests that the “raw” notes (which I interpret as pine sap) largely dissipate after the bottle is opened once and sits for a week or more. The bottle I’m tasting from was opened about a week ago (for a nip), and it hasn’t seemed to help. Worth a shot, anyway. If I notice a change in the whisky as the level in the bottle goes down, I’ll post an update.
Update 9/23/2016: Tom from Tom’s Foolery asked me to take another look at the Foolery and compare it to Wyoming Whisky. Witness the Grudge Match here.
Update 10/24/2016: Batch 3 arrived, and is from a different mashbill. Does it fix the problems I found in Batch 1? Find out!