Calumet Farm is a brand I’ve wanted to explore ever since sampling their 10-year bourbon. Considering I’m a fan of Barton 1792, which is from where Calumet Farm likely source their whiskey, it stands to reason that slightly older material from them could be to my liking. I even considered buying a bottle of either Calumet Farm 14-Year or Sam Houston 14-Year shortly after posting my scoresheet and review for the 10-year, but decided to exercise patience. Turns out it was a good call: A fellow whiskey fan offered to send me a sample of the oldest Calumet Farm expression (along with three other samples) to try.
Like its younger siblings, this is a “single rack” whiskey, meaning it’s a combination of 19 barrels on a rack in the rickhouse. I’m already on record with my skepticism towards this approach to batching, but if the 10-year sample I tried was any indication, perhaps Calumet Farm know what they’re doing. The bourbon is non-chill filtered and proofed down to 48.1% ABV. Let’s see how it stands up.
Nose: Cherry, oak, and brown sugar. Ample supply of vanilla. Salted toffee and currents of citrus (orange and lemon). Brief hits of coconut. Sweet earthiness. With the citrus comes ethanol. Mashed up bananas—think banana bread pudding.
Palate: Moderate mouthfeel. Lots of tannic oak with traces of toffee, caramel, as well as burnt vanilla and brown sugar. Bit of cherry with toasted citrus (orange peel). Hints of crème brûlée topping. Tastes burnt overall, like burnt banana bread if you skimped on the bananas. Some citrus and ethanol as well.
Finish: Whispers of coconut return to combat the oak. Bit of brown sugar with bits of occasional toffee and caramel. Not terribly lengthy.
One of the more interesting realities I still have to come to terms with in whiskey is that age isn’t everything. It sounds obvious, but when shopping for a bottle I (and I’m sure others) often naturally gravitate towards those with older age statements. After all, the longer that whiskey stays in the barrel, the more flavor it extracts, resulting in a more mature and therefore superior whiskey, right?
I don’t even need to think about it: I prefer the younger Calumet Farm 10-Year to this. The presence of oak here simply feels unbalanced, be it due to age, proof, both, or something else. I’ve had bourbon older than this deliver rich, full-fledged experiences that make me a believer in higher double-digit age statements. Then there’s stuff like this that makes me step back and second-guess myself. Calumet Farm 14-Year wasn’t something I could simply enjoy, and even under an appreciation and analysis lens, it fell on the short side. This is a whiskey I have an easier time justifying for its age-to-price value proposition (14 years for around $120 checks out in my book) than I do for its price-to-satisfaction level. I wanted to be won over; ultimately, I was left underwhelmed.