Leopold Bros. Distillery in Colorado has been flying under the “craft distillery” radar since before people knew what a craft distillery was. The brothers established a micro-distillery in Ann Arbor, Michigan after the turn of the century and then relocated to their current location near Denver in 2008. They were forced by customer demand to expand operations in 2014. Leopold Bros. distills in excess of 20 different spirits (their Apertivo is, in my opinion, the best on the market and way better than Campari) including a rye and several bourbons.
This bourbon is bottled-in-bond, which means it has the requisite 50% ABV, is a straight bourbon, and was distilled in Leopold Bros.’ pot still during one distilling season. The bottle indicates it is 5 years old. My bottle is from the Fall 2015 season (bottled 2020). The website reveals the mash bill to be 64% Corn, 21% Malted Barley, and 15% Abruzzi Heritage Rye, which is an extremely high malted barley content for a bourbon (it is usually only included in small amounts to provide fermentation-assisting enzymes). The bourbon is not chill-filtered.
Nose: A dose of grassiness and a strong nose tickle suggest a rest in the glass. After, the green grass remains but is balanced by a soft layer of brown sugar, spicy cinnamon, and melty maple sugar candies. Piquant.
Palate: Very soft, silky body. A robust tongue burn (expected at 50% ABV) resolves into liquid cinnamon extract, blonde brownies, tannic oak, and catch-all spice cabinet spices.
Finish: Medium-long. Warming, but not mouth-drying. Slightly tannic, and somewhat bitter (vegetal bitterness). Fades with menthol and cherry cough syrup.
With Water: Several drops of water both amp up the grassiness and bring out a lovely coating of vanilla cake frosting. The palate is sweeter and softer, and the finish carries more of the flavor elements through. I highly recommend a few drops of water with this one.
Overall: This bourbon is a little hard to nail down. The aroma has bunches of sweet, oaky goodness with plentiful varieties of sugary baked goods… but also a marring layer of grassiness. The palate is similarly packed with flavor, now replete with spices, but falls into bitterness and medicinal-tasting cough syrup on the finish.
I will say from experience that this makes a tasty Old Fashioned, where I don’t notice any of those bitter/vegetal notes and the 50% ABV holds up very well. However, that’s not what I’m looking for when I pay upwards of $50 for a bottle of bourbon.
I like Bottled-in-Bond bourbon. I like 5 year-old age statements on bourbon. I appreciate that this is “real”, and not sourced liquid. I just ended up not loving this one.
I’ve been looking forward to Leopold Brothers making your list. I’d be curious for your take on their NAS small batch whiskey. Haven’t tried their non-whiskey products though–I’ll have to give the Apertivo a shot. Cheers!