We all know the saying “the more you learn, the less you know.” The overall whiskey industry is no stranger to a wide array of categories and expressions. Like metal subgenres, it can quickly feel overwhelming. Sometimes people will namedrop expressions other than stuff from more established brands and I’ll tilt my head with a perplexed “what?” A few of these aren’t even from craft distilleries, necessarily speaking. One of the latest examples of this for me is Shenk’s Homestead, a brand out of Michter’s, who have more than a handful of sought-after releases.
According to the distiller, Shenk’s Homestead is a sour mash whiskey meant to honor John Shenk who, in 1753, founded a distillery that eventually became Michter’s. In-between those points in time, the distillery also went under the name Bomberger’s, which is another expression the Louisville distillery introduced in 2018.
The sample I’ll be taking a look at today (courtesy of a fellow whiskey enthusiast) is from the 2019 release, which was partially aged in a version of American oak called Chinquapin, which can be found growing in a variety of states to include Kentucky, Texas, and Florida’s panhandle.
Nose: Standard, light blend of fruit, caramel and vanilla. Smells a bit like a combination of Werther’s and peach ring candy. If I was going in blind I’d suspect this was a Buffalo Trace product. Has a softness to it that makes me think there’s some wheat in the mash bill. After sipping I get a buttery maple syrup note that goes nicely with the aforementioned fruit and caramel notes.
Palate: More soft stone fruit notes (peach, apricot) with notes of light caramel and butterscotch. A slight undercurrent of a rather unique oak that tames the sweetness. Mainly comes across like a light, fruity custard.
Finish: Soft, slightly bitter but also sweet oak warmth. The fruit flavors mellow out nicely, almost in a buttery pie-like way.
I’m a bit torn about this whiskey, but not for the reasons you might suspect. This is a good, borderline great pour. It’s pleasant, sweet (but not overly so), and possess a nice level of subtlety and nuance. I’d even go so far as to say this is might be a bourbon for Speyside or Highland scotch fans. So what’s the problem? Shenk’s is a non-aged stated (NAS) annual release, meaning availability is limited and pricing is bound to be all over the place. I can’t say that I’ve noticed a bottle of this, which may be slightly unfair considering this is only its third year in existence. As for pricing, MSRP on this expression appears to be $80, give or take. Yet secondary can potentially see this nearing or exceeding $200.
All of this begs the question: Does the pour I described sound like a whiskey that earns up to triple digits for its price tag?
As enjoyable as this sample was, I ultimately found myself thinking “this would be a perfect spring and summertime daily, or cocktail pour.” Then I looked into the expression itself. Yet this seems to be what appeals to most of the high-paying bourbon drinkers. Yes, this is to say that I’d lump Shenk’s into the group of bourbons that could be described as “so smooth.” Yet here’s the thing: If “smoothness” is what you’re looking for and you suddenly want to hunt down a bottle of this for that very reason, then I’m going to let you in on a little secret: There are plenty of available bourbons that can be described as this. Shenk’s is definitely one of the better low-proof pours I’ve had to date, but even at MSRP, I’d be hard-pressed to buy a bottle.