Monthly Archives: August 2009

Wathen’s Single Barrel

wathensWathen’s was a new one for me when I saw it on the shelf a few weeks ago.  I’d never even heard of this brand which claims to be the product of “whiskey’s royal family”.  A little digging on Google reveals a ten-year old string of postings on Straight Bourbon in which Chuck Cowdery and some others discuss the arrival of this new bourbon – so apparently I’m a bit late to the game.

Wathen’s seems to have an interesting and typically complicated (for bourbon) history as a brand, having been the result of distilleries being bought, sold, closed, and revived.  In the end however, we have Wathen’s on the shelf of a New York City liquor store, where I got my hands on a bottle from barrel number 841.

There is no age statement on this one with the exception of the statement of the bourbon-making family’s age (eight generations / 250 years).  This worries me a bit, not knowing what I’m getting into, but I’ll hope for the best.

Stats:

- $40ish

- Made by the Charles Medley Distillery

- 94 proof

Presentation:

Wathen’s comes in a rectangular bottle whose height is approximately twice the width – this gives it a slight squat look.  The sides are marked with indented grips, and the neck is short and thin.  The labels are made of a rough brown-paper-bag style material and adorned with the image of a barrel over which the name and family’s distinguished age is declared.  At the bottom is a short note from C. Medley himself, assuring the reader that the contents of the bottle are from a barrel which he himself has selected.

The bottle also includes an informational tag that’s filled with the familiar familial chest-puffing of bourbons.  We have here whiskey royal family, I’m led to believe.

Tasting:

On the nose it’s a soft, dry wheat and bananas for the most part.  There’s something of a burnt-pine deep at the center of it.  Also, while taking these whiffs, I can’t help but note the fine legs on this bourbon, I’m expecting a quite velvety texture here.

At first on the tongue, Wathen’s comes across with a crisp cherry, then oddly I get a bit of that dried/burnt pine sensation going on in the background.  There’s a touch of that banana there as well, but very slight compared with the scent.  The finish is long, slow and warm.

Over all:

For some reason ‘crisp’ is the word that keeps coming to mind in describing Wathen’s.  My fears about the age turned out to be unfounded: however long it sat in that barrel, that was the right time.  I can see myself pulling this off my shelf from time to time, it’s not overly complicated, but there’s a subtlety behind that crispness which I enjoy.


Harvest Spirits’ Pear Brandy

pearbrandyBack on the brandy train I guess.  This time, however, will be the first non-apple brandy I’ll have written about.  This time, I gone with pears.  Pears don’t have quite the same aura of Americana that apples do – no Johnny Pearseed, for instance.  In fact, according to this map of the pear harvest from Wikipedia, the only place where pears are grown in the US is the Northeast.  Fortunately – that is where both I and Harvest Spirits are based.

Harvest Spirits also seems like and interesting operation.  First of all, if their distiller’s notes are at all accurate, they’re quite new – about as old as this blog is, in fact.  Secondly, their main product is an apple-derived vodka, a spirit I’ve only tasted once when Ralph Erenzo from Tuthilltown Spirits ran a tasting at a nearby liquor store.  Finally, they actually have a decent website.

Stats:

- $25ish

- Made by Harvest Spirits

- 80 proof

Presentation:

There’s not much to their bottle.  It’s tall and slim with a textured label that almost completely wraps around the bottle.  The name “PEAR” falls vertically down the front and is topped with the eponymous fruit.  The back of the label has a small block of text that begins with the over-dramatic statement: “Pear.” before going on the describe the brandy in sparse terms and suggesting that you serve it chilled.

Tasting:

This definitely smells like fresh distillate.  It’s sweet, with pear, and something almost oily to the scent.  On tasting, there’s an immediate and very full mouth feel.  To its credit, it is not nearly as harsh as the aroma, but at the same time there isn’t as much of the fruit to it as I’d hoped, or as much as you might expect after tasting so many apple brandies.

Over all:

This is a pretty descent brandy.  I would really like to see this after a bit of aging to smooth some of the rougher edges.  That said, impressive mouth feel and solid pear-essence comes through.  I would recommend chilling it though.


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