Whiskey has recently gotten big. Like, real big. This is especially so for bourbon, which is going through a boom that seems to have no end in sight. One of the least surprising results of this explosion in popularity is the rise of new brands. It’s to the point that, depending on what liquor store you go to, shopping for whiskey can be downright overwhelming, even for enthusiasts. What inevitably happens is each of us may get used to seeing certain brands, whether big or small, new or old, and pass them by all the same. You may notice them time and time again, but other than a passing glance, they’re rarely given much thought.
Fortunately for me, one of these brands I always passingly noticed only to disregard is up for evaluation thanks to a fellow whiskey fan. The expression in question, Calumet Farms 10-Year, is described as a “single rack” bourbon, comprised of 19-barrel batches on, you guessed it, a single rack. So it’s an additional twist on the small batch concept. What makes me curious is how each batch may compare to the next since, in theory, sticking with a single rack means they’d have less control over the actual batching process. The result may be a messy product, right down to an individual bottle. Yet I think every brand should be given the benefit of the doubt, so let’s dig in.
Nose: Big rye fruit notes and caramel. Very rich. Cherry and blackberry syrup, butterscotch, and sweet oak with the slightest tannic spice. Get a bit of pepper spice and tobacco on the back with some brown sugar, and an air of anise and molasses.
Palate: Big, juicy fruit. Cherry, caramel, and to a lesser extent, vanilla. A soft blend of blackberries, raspberries, caramel, and a bit of cream. Good amount of oak and brown sugar on the back-palate. Very syrupy and viscous. More sips bring more of the rye influence out, but mainly with regards to the fruit and brown sugar.
Finish: Butterscotch and caramel with a considerable undercurrent of fruit essence. The age and oak influence begin to shine here on the back with some nicely dialed in oaky warmth. Warm, buttery brown sugar and caramel. Get the occasional hit of vanilla weaving through the fruit notes, which remain dominant.
Well I’ll be a monkey’s uncle, this stuff is quite tasty! Calumet Farms almost certainly get their whiskey from Barton, who are also behind 1792. Considering that brand’s small batch is one of my personal favorites for under $30, it makes sense that this left a strong impression on me. It honestly tastes like 1792 with less spice. Were it not for the difference in proof, I’d be interested in pitting this against Russell’s Reserve Single Barrel as well as a similarly priced and proofed 1792 product. But that’s just the thing with Calumet Farms: The price.
Based on this particular sample, I’d definitely be tempted to purchase a bottle next time I’m looking for a $60+ purchase. The main issue is that there are some seriously heavy hitters at that price point, each of which could easily put the value (and quality) of Calumet Farms into perspective. What’s most important is whether you’re already a fan of Barton or not. If so, Calumet Farms comes highly recommended. If not, then something else should likely be sought out. And if you’ve yet to form an opinion on Barton, grab a bottle of 1792 Small Batch and see what you think. As for me, Calumet Farms 10-Year is priced just high enough to give me pause, but I’d be lying if I said I never plan on owning a bottle.