Fistful of Bourbon

Here’s an oddball. Blended bourbon is not a big playing field, and I can only bring two to mind (this and Breaking & Entering). It should be noted that the category is less like blended scotch (which is single malt blended with grain whisky) and more like vatted blended malt scotch, which is similarly a mixture of like-liquids from different distilleries. Bourbon isn’t equivalent to single-malt scotch, but you get the idea.

Even more odd, this blend of five straight bourbon whiskies is made by a Scottish company, the storied William Grant & Sons. Yes, the makers of Glenfiddich and The Balvenie.

The idea here is that the “fistful” is comprised of 5 straight bourbons, each “finger” intended to add a specific attribute to the final blend. This isn’t really different from any other blending activity, but the thoughtful intention and the description of the process as part of the brand’s marketing is an interesting approach. The five attributes are, abridged, “Sweet”, “Herbal/Floral”, “Warm Spices”, “Buttery”, and “Cinnamon/Licorice”. They claim the blend of five whiskies isn’t going to change “significantly”, which also isn’t different from other blends, which always try to maintain consistency across batches.

The blend is labeled “Aged a minimum of 2 years”, which is required for labels containing straight bourbon under 4 years of age. That also just means the youngest whiskey is (legally) 2 years of age, while the other components may be older. Unfortunately, that’s all we get to know. The 5 bourbons are anybody’s guess, although Wm Grant & Sons bought Tuthilltown Spirits, distillers of Hudson Bourbon a few years ago, so it’s likely to contain some of that. There’s doubtless something from MGP (formerly LDI) as well, since they produce whiskey for just about every non-distiller producer (NDP) in the country. Judging by some of the flavors I found below, I’d guess there’s some Beam juice in there, and possibly some Buffalo Trace (I get “fruit punch” notes that remind me of Benchmark No. 8). I’d have to put the fifth one at Heaven Hill, but that’s just because it’s a bit of a chameleon bourbon and more available for bulk bourbon sales than some others. Still, I could be wildly off, and I guess we’ll never really know.

Nose: Surprising complexity. Peanut brittle, peanut shells, sweetgrass, lemonade, green tea, cherry syrup, and anise (black licorice). There’s also a nice dark oakiness that smells like older bourbon, but it’s in the background.

Palate: Medium, almost syrupy, body. Dark oak, wood resin, cherry syrup, fruit punch, marzipan. Quite a departure from the aroma. It’s just as complex, but with different flavor elements.

Finish: Medium-long. Drying, with a little oaky tannin and only a bit of bitterness. Fades with just a hint of menthol.

With Water: Several drops of water initially mutes the aroma, necessitating a rest in the glass. The water seems to have confused the aroma notes, making them harder to differentiate. The palate seems unchanged, but the finish is sweeter. No need for water, here.

Overall: I did not expect that. This is very complicated stuff, with a bevvy of aromas and a different bevvy of flavor notes. All without any off-notes, grassiness, unbalanced bitterness, or youthful acetone. Shockingly good for the price. Reminds me of Breaking & Entering (another blended bourbon) and Old Tub. At $25 it’s a reasonable deal. At $17 (lowest I’ve seen online) it’s a steal.

I marked it a Must Try if you’re in the market for an inexpensive bourbon with a lot of flavor. It can’t stand up to any bourbon with significant age on it, and isn’t quite refined enough to replace Eagle Rare as my house bourbon, but it’s a solid way to spend $25.

Fistful of Bourbon
45% ABV
ScotchNoob™ Mark:
Price Range: $17 - $29
Acquired: (750ml bottle) Total Wine in San Jose, CA. $22.

Share This!