Going from a casual whiskey fan to something of a hobbyist has certainly impacted my perspective and spending habits. Where I previously considered $30 a big spend for a bottle of whiskey, I’ve now shelled out more than I care to admit on certain bottles. Sometimes those pricier bottles can open your eyes to the possibilities of higher quality whiskey, but it’s just as likely for those bottles to fall flat and leave you with a sense of buyer’s remorse. Those of us with higher levels of enthusiasm for whiskey more or less understand that this is simply part of the game that is exploration.
What does this preface have to do with today’s whiskey in question? In a word: Understanding. I think I speak for many drinkers when I say it’s easy to lose sight of restraint when it comes to buying bottles. But every now and then it does one well to step back and take pause. For example, when I first heard about the Very Olde St. Nick brand, I did a bit more than just tilt my head and squint my eyes. Preservation Distillery, the Bardstown-based company behind Very Olde St. Nick (along with Wattie Boone & Sons and Cowboy Little Barrel) claim to pot distill in 1-3 barrel batches. The Olde St. Nick Distillery also pitches itself as “part of the new micro craft bourbon operation opening as the First Official Craft Distillery in Nelson County, Ky.” Beyond that, little to no information is handily disclosed about the individual expressions in the Very Olde St. Nick line which, from I can gather, is mostly (if not entirely) sourced.
Despite these micro craft claims, Very Olde St. Nick did pop up around my area at one store. No, I didn’t buy a bottle (we’ll get into that), but I was able to try a sample of their 8-Year rye whiskey thanks to David from Whiskey Row. If you’ve read my previous two reviews, you may know where this is going.
Nose: Coconut and brown sugar. Toasted, sugary cereal. Has a sweet, turpentine-like essence. Odd, light mesh of mustiness and effervescence. Stale chocolate and generic citrus notes. After sipping, a pale impression of marshmallow comes out, but like the chocolate, it’s stale.
Palate: Effortless and borderline watery; about as gentle as you can get. Tingles of oak tannins, mild pepper, and rye. Molasses, ginger, and a body of off-putting citrus. Light above all else.
Finish: Oddly sour. More coconut, rye, citrus, and brown sugar. Brief and clean, aside from the citrus residuals holding out for a few short seconds. A touch grassy on the way out.
If I went into this whiskey completely blind, I’d likely respond with a resounding shrug. “Mostly inoffensive” is the expression that comes to mind. This is incredibly easy to drink, contrasting a light upfront sweetness with slightly off tannic notes. That’s fine and dandy until we factor in one teeny-tiny detail: A bottle of this starts at $150.
I’m on board with paying a bit more for craft distillers putting out quality products. New Riff, Woodinville, Pinhook, Balcones, and others are doing their own twist on things while charging prices that feel baked into reality. Then there’s Very Olde St. Nick. An 8-Year Canadian rye bottled at less than 90 proof with a nice bottle and old school label doesn’t exactly scream “premium pricing.” What’s more is the whiskey itself fails to leave anything other than a forgettable impression when served blind. As soon as we factor in price, however, that impression quickly turns sour. I have a hard and fast rule to not dock points from any whiskey due to poor value; Very Olde St. Nick Ancient Cask 8-Year Rye made me want to break that rule.