The folks at Penelope Bourbon have one of the more down-to-earth backstories as far as whiskey producers go. Rather than naming the brand after yet another famous figure in spirits history, founders Michael and Kerry Paladini chose a different source: the impending birth of their daughter in 2018. The idea was to “create a spirit that embodied the daily joy of celebrating life’s pleasures—big and small.” This more personal touch makes Penelope Bourbon inherently easy to root for.
Penelope Bourbon is also transparent about where their whiskey comes from: sourcing distillate from Ross & Squibb (formerly MGP) to create their flagship four grain bourbon and American light whiskey. They also source casks from Speyside Cooperage for finishes, including Rosé, toasted oak, and French oak. Today I’ll be looking at the upcoming batch of their Barrel Strength four grain bourbon. Per the bottle, this non-chill filtered batch consists of three bourbon mash bills aged a minimum of 4 years. Penelope Bourbon was gracious enough to send me batch 10 for review.
Nose: Lightly woody and a touch floral with mild ethanol vapors. Almond, pepper, and an orange cream note I tend to get in Ross & Squibb distillate. A light layer of tobacco begins lacing everything, reinforcing the upfront wood and floral notes. Light brown sugar moves up after sipping.
Palate: Mildly viscous. Bit of a powerplay between candy sweetness, proof, and spice, but the sweetness seems to persevere. Light vanilla and honey with caramel and some pepper. Orange peel, cream, and a hint of umami.
Finish: Teeters between clean and mildly spicey. Cinnamon cream, pepper, and minerality or effervescence. Faint traces of soft, mild butterscotch notes crop up.
There’s an interesting dynamic going on with this bourbon. Its uncut and unfiltered nature, combined with the rye and wheat grains, translates to an experience we don’t often see. Four-grain whiskey has the potential to be a real can of worms in less than capable hands. I wouldn’t say that’s the case with this batch of Penelope bourbon. Although the whiskey possesses a slightly sharp degree of heat, the greater presence of wheat in the mash bill softens both the flavor profile and overall experience. It’s a softening that keeps the pour from feeling overly aggressive while retaining some spice on the finish. I do think the relative youth holds it back some, but there’s enough realized potential here to satisfy the right palates.
Between my first impression with Penelope bourbon and the trend I’ve seen with batch reviews as they continue to release, I’d say they’re on the right path. As Michael and company come into older stocks, they’ll only further improve their blending and batching prowess. The overall composition is executed to a satisfying degree with just enough curiosity to help it stand out. If you want a fun, high-proof indication of what a four-grain bourbon is like, then Penelope Bourbon Barrel Strength is solid option.