Wathen’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.
– Made by the Charles Medley Distillery
– 94 proof
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.
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.
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.