Most of us are acutely aware of the boom whiskey has been going through, particularly with regards to bourbon. This explosion in popularity has brought with it an utterly stagging bottle selection for American whiskey in general. All this selection breeds competition, and one of the most popular ways for companies to make their products stand out is through finishing techniques. Some even take this concept and run with it by putting their whiskey through multiple finishes, including (but not limited to) Doc Swinson’s and their Alter Ego Bourbon line.
My first experience with Doc Swinson’s was through their Alter Ego Rye, where they took straight rye whiskeys and finished them in ex-rum casks while putting them through a Solera aging process. The results were sound, but not as wholly interesting as I’d hoped. I’m still more of a bourbon guy, however, so between that and the stats on Alter Ego Bourbon (Batch 21-004, just like the rye), I retained a certain level of excitement. This batch consists of MGP bourbon aged 5-6 years which is then finished for three months in three separate casks: PX sherry, Oloroso sherry, and Cognac.
Note: As with the aforementioned rye, Doc Swinson’s reached out to me and generously provided a sample for review purposes.
Nose: Compote, nut butter, and caramel sauce. Cashews, figs, dates, and vanilla laced throughout. Very sweet with moderate richness. Like a PB&J made with honey wheat toast and caramel added. Has a bit of a buttery maple syrup backbone.
Palate: Somewhat moderate mouthfeel. Caramel and nut butter dessert upfront with honey baked apricots rounding out the back heading into the finish. Brown sugar and vanilla-like notes come in for the mid-palate (likely the bourbon base). Traces of tannins here and there.
Finish: Medium with decent length. Brown butter, maple, apricot, and tannins. Some of the sweet nut butter residuals hang around, namely the cashews which develop into more of a praline note.
I can definitely rock with this. Ostensibly speaking, three months might not sound like a lengthy amount of time for finishing, but the end results prove to be heavily influenced. As with most finished whiskeys, this leans heavily on the sweet side, providing a profile that’s moderately rich and robust. The use of three casks does a considerable amount of lifting, combining to impart an expected array of fruit, nut, and caramel/vanilla flavors. It’s to the point that the whiskey almost feels drowned out by the finishing casks. I even get impressions of the cognac’s pot distillation throughout the experience, whereas the bourbon seemingly struggles to pop up.
Alter Ego Bourbon Batch 21-004 doesn’t strike me as an something that any bourbon fan will automatically enjoy. Those who prefer discreet levels of finishing influence will likely feel inundated; fans of dense, indulgent, and dessert-like pours are bound to fall head over heels. I stand firmly in the “like it” camp with this one. Despite the whiskey playing second fiddle to the sherry and cognac, I’d still call myself a fan. If stores in my neck of the woods start carrying Doc Swinson’s, this will be an expression I keep my eye out for. Not as a go-to, mind you, but definitely something to have on-hand when the sweet tooth takes over.