Montana 1889 Whiskey Scoresheet & Review

When people think of American whiskey, the two states that instantly spring to mind are Kentucky and Tennessee (and Indiana for some). Yet as interest in the often-colorful spirit continues to grow, other states have taken notice with craft distillers popping up, either hoping to get a piece of the pie or to contribute something slightly different for consumers. Bozeman Spirits of Montana are just one of these many players in an industry that continues to experience overwhelming growth.

With regards to whiskey, Bozeman have three expressions: 1889, 1889 Single Barrel, and Bobcat Gold. The one we’ll be looking at today, 1889, derives its name from the year Montana was added the Union. Bozeman tout their use of “pure Rocky Mountain water sourced from our backyard in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem to produce the finest locally crafted spirits.” It’s also on the young side, bearing a minimum age statement of one year. Can that much time impart anything noticeable to easily distinguish it from new make? Only one way to find out:

Nose: Typical young profile. Corn mash (yeasty) with a vegetal essence—think cauliflower. Any barrel influence is subtle at best, boasting the lightest of corn syrup notes with fleeting whispers of wood and lemon. You could hand this to any non-whiskey drinker and they’d tell you it’s cheap hand sanitizer.

Palate: A sliver of silkiness ultimately gives way to a watery dram. There’s a degree of sweetness, but nothing truly distinct emerges. Impressions of wood just barely work their way in. Hint of pepper around the front and mid-palate with a general cereal grain essence breezing about. Comes across like a cup of weak tea.

Finish: The proof and age show their weaknesses here. Unimpressive grain and pepper residuals. Maybe a blip or two of vanilla. After multiple sips a waxy feeling creeps onto my tongue and upper jaw.

It’s easy to scoff at a whiskey with such little time in the barrel, especially when many of us are accustomed to seeing double-digit age-stated bottles. And as you can tell by my notes, there isn’t much separating 1889 from the unaged distillate you might try at a distillery. This is only compounded by 1889’s low proof point, which feels like it’s meant to mask the whiskey’s potentially abrasive qualities. Yet I can’t say that I didn’t derive something of value from this pour, that being a shade of perspective.

Much of the aged American whiskey out there is three to four years old; it’s rare we see whiskey on shelves bearing one to two-year age statements (Texas bottlings being an exception). While I drank 1889, it made me ponder how whiskey from other, more renowned distilleries might taste at the same age and proof point. It’s something I wish was on offer, even as a gift shop exclusive, for those who might want to find out first-hand how their favorite whiskey evolves over time. Granted, this is curiosity more than anything, and it says even less about 1889, which isn’t a product I think most people would enjoy outside of those who share my curiosity.

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