Whiskey is a confusing market. With several brands, categories, expression styles, and production methods available, the field can be daunting even for those who keep up with new releases and developments. Of little aide to this are store-exclusive brands, with Total Wine having a fair share across every spirit category. Grab a bottle of Two Star, Chestnut Farms, or Black Ridge and you’ll have a doozie of a time trying to figure out just what you hold in your hands.
Speaking of Black Ridge, that’s the brand we’re looking at today. According to Total Wine’s website, this bourbon is aged at least 5 years prior to being bottled by Clear Springs Distilling. This company, according to Distiller.com, is owned by Buffalo Trace while the whiskey itself is reportedly Barton 1792 distillate. This information is at least consistent since both Buffalo Trace and Barton 1792 are Sazerac properties. Now that we have that bit of digging out of the way, let’s see how the whiskey itself is. A sample was provided by a fellow whiskey enthusiast.
Nose: Vanilla and fruit. Banana, brown sugar, and a grazing of almond slices. Cherry licorice candy and Runts. Acetone as I nose deeper, but it’s not exactly hidden. Has some pleasing notes, but doesn’t smell well composed. Maybe some apricot and ginger candy. Acetone gone after sipping. Still light and fruity above all.
Palate: Sweet and grainy. Salt, lemon citrus, and brown sugar. Maybe pepper and light oak bitters. Whispers of banana and vanilla. Watery; lackluster.
Finish: Citrus and alcohol. Light and brief. Club soda, salt, and pepper.
“Weak” is the word that comes to mind with this dram. The nose had me nervous with its odd astringency, but if I set that aside, the discernible notes were more appealing than not. Then I sipped. One thing remains consistent from the nose to the palate and ultimately the finish: how lackluster the overall experience is. Black Ridge feels oddly savory and effervescent without the flavors to boot. Each sip I find myself asking “where are the goods?” It doesn’t take long for boredom to set in, which leaves me skeptical about whether this would even hold up in a cocktail.
This entire experience is the reward for a $30 price tag. I try to maintain an open mind with all pours, even if they come across as utterly uninspired. Black Ridge really pushes my limits in this sense. $30 isn’t exactly a critical spending decision to me, but it is a price point where I expect a certain degree of fulfillment. Larceny is a perfect example of this. I’m not the biggest fan of it (many aren’t), but I’d be remiss to say that it doesn’t bring flavor and potential to the table. That’s just one reason Larceny has its fans. Black Ridge is the opposite. This deserves to be priced similarly to Jim Beam White and Evan Williams Black, and I’d still take those over this.