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Rock Town Single Barrel Bourbon

Barrel # 271

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@VictorReview by @Victor

15th Mar 2016


Rock Town Single Barrel Bourbon
  • Nose
  • Taste
  • Finish
  • Balance
  • Overall

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Distribution of ratings for this: user

  • Brand: Rock Town
  • ABV: 56.2%

Rock Town distillery is located in Little Rock, Arkansas. The reviewed sample is from my sister's bottle. The bottle was opened 7 months ago and immediately decanted. This is a "corn and wheat bourbon", "less than 4 years old". This is from bottle 22/62 from barrel # 271. The colour is medium dark. My guess is that this barrel was aged between 12 and 18 months

Nose: strong intensity; I smell the corn, interestingly. The wheat nose is there, strongly enough also, but is not very distinct from the wood flavours. The wood influence is quite adequate for such a young whiskey, but there is no doubting that this is whiskey "aged less than 4 years". Char is not noticeable to me on the nose, which is a plus. Pleasant, especially after 10 minutes air time. Water added brings out nice sweet maple and caramel. This nose is good with water. Score: 22/25

Taste: lots of flavour in the mouth. The alcohol greeting is relatively strong for mere 56% ABV whiskey. Truly, I've tasted many whiskies over 65% ABV with no real alcohol bite. This has some. I'm also getting substantial char flavour in the mouth too. The corn and wheat flavours are strong, but are still somewhat obscured by the char, alcohol, and wood flavours. I don't very much like the quality of the wood flavours from this particular barrel either. Water added mellows the overall effect a little bit, but it's no big improvement. Score: 18.5/25

Finish: long, intense, and ends on tart alcohol and bitter char. Not great. Water raises the pitch of the finish, but it is still char-y and sharp with alcohol. Score: 17/25

Balance: this barrel doesn't quite work for me. It needs less char taste and less alcohol bite. Score: 17.5/25

Total Sequential Score: 75 points

Strength: very strong flavours. Score: 24/25

Quality: nice, but obscured grain flavours; too much char; too strong an alcohol greeting; not so good wood. Score: 17/25

Variety: enough variety. Score 20/25

Harmony: very good harmony in the nose, adequate harmony on the palate; poor harmony on the finish. Score: 17/25

Total Non-Sequential Score: 78 points

Comment: the nose is very good here. While I don't much like what I've had of barrel # 271 in the mouth, I don't rule out that other products from this distillery may appeal more. My suggestion to the distillers: cut down on the char. I'd like to be able to taste the wheat in a wheated bourbon. That is hard to do with this barrel


Frost commented

@Victor thank you for insight on a distillery I've never heard of. You really get to try some interesting expressions.

8 years ago 0

Victor commented

@Frost, last I checked there were still something like a dozen new distilleries being opened each month in the USA. Maybe something like a third of those plan to make whiskey as one of their products at some time. I don't even try to sample them all. Their whiskey products are almost always three to five times as expensive as a large efficient legacy producer, so they are almost always pricey. Fortunately my sister buys a lot of bottles from these new guys after she samples them at stores, and so I get to taste them at my leisure. For the moment these hundreds of small US distilleries are moving forward, but I think that there has to be a shake-out for a lot of them at some point. In order to sell very young whiskey, they almost always use a heavy degree of barrel char to get the most from the new oak in a short amount of time. You do taste that heavy char. Often it dominates the taste of the whiskey, which, for me, is not a desirable thing.

8 years ago 0

Frost commented

Can we say: heavy char, the bane of the young American whiskey? Used to cover up a young dram.

8 years ago 0

Victor commented

@Frost, yes, I do think that heavy char is the bane of young American whiskey. Not all of them overdo the char, but many of them do. While I don't feel that there is usually anything wrong with the grain flavours of young American whiskeys, I do strongly feel that the effort to bring adequate wood flavours into the whiskey by the use of heavy char usually adds too much bitter char flavour in the resulting product. They do succeed in getting a lot of wood flavours using the heavy char, but they get too much char, too. I don't like tasting a lot of bitter char in my bourbon. It is distracting and it messes up the balance of flavours.

Interestingly, Jim Murray named Rock Town Distillers the 2015 US Microdistiller of the Year. Looking through his reviews, they all appear to be for rye bourbons. I suppose that this barrel # 271 reviewed here is one of their early efforts at wheated bourbon. I would say that heavy char is more forgiving with rye grain than it is with wheat.

If you get wheated bourbon right, the world will beat a path to your door, a la Pappy Van Winkle or William Larue Weller. I admire Rock Town for putting out barrel strength whiskeys. I would not be surprised to find future bottles of theirs very much to my liking.

8 years ago 0

jerryclyde commented

Victor, it was quite by accident that I came across your review for Rock Town Single Barrel Bourbon. I was just finishing my bottle of Barrel 375 (Bottle 75 of 94), bottled at 56.72% and was very interested in your review Your whisky/whiskey knowledge simply astounds me. My experience with Barrel 375 was far more pleasurable than yours. I found Barrel 375 to be full of light syrup, corn, licorice and light as a feather on the palate. Spices buzzed nicely along and there was no bitterness from the barrel. The label states that the whiskey distilled from "Arkansas grown corn, Arkansas grown wheat and malted barley." That jumped out at me. If this was indeed a mash bill and not just some marketing text, was barley used as a substitute for rye? (as you noted, Rock Town has a history of making rye influenced bourbons). Also in your response to my review of Cu Bocan recently, you gave an excellent discussion on charred vs. toasted cooperage, and stated that corn and barley don't react to char as well as to toasted wood. This whiskey was "aged 21 months in new charred oak barrels." As I mentioned, there was absolutely no tannin bitterness. Do you think that the quality of the distillate and the Arkansas summers can mitigate the negative influence of bitterness caused by char? On a side note, I visited the distillery two years ago with my brother in law and did some tastings. There was no one available who could answer any detailed questions, but the attendant did give us more than the usual amount of samplings. They are doing some inventive things such as distilling a sorghum whiskey and experimenting with peated barley. Our sampling was limited to various bourbons and ryes (the ryes were uniformly excellent). If you do come across another Rock Town bottling, I think that you might want to give it another try. Thanks again for all you do for this site.

5 years ago 1Who liked this?

Victor commented

@jerryclyde I always enjoy your postings, no doubt partially because you often see things similarly to the ways that I do.

I'd love to: 1) try your bottle, 2) re-sample the one I reviewed, owned by my sister, and 3) see what yet other bottles would demonstrate. All assessments are subject to revision based on additional experiences.

If the char is heavy, I don't see it as being significantly mellowed out by any measure that I can think of.

Thanks for joining in, and thank you very much for your kind words!

5 years ago 0

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