The top-level team at Old Elk come from an intriguing combination of backgrounds. Founder Curt Richardson and CEO Luis Gonzalez both worked at Otter Products beforehand, the former being the mind behind OtterBox itself. Master Distiller Greg Metze (whose name accompanies every Old Elk bottle) came from a 38-year career at Seagram’s (now Ross & Squibb) and is the name most people associate with Old Elk. The Colorado-based producer has brought several expressions to market since their inception in 2013, but their key offerings seem to be the wheated bourbons and wheat whiskeys. These have become especially popular for cask strength barrel selections.
Anyone who keeps up with the r/bourbon Single Barrel Program should know about the many Old Elk wheated bourbon picks, of which there have been several. These seem to drop during times that money is tighter than normal on my end, so despite my interest, I’ve had to pass on each. Thankfully, a blind sample of Cosmic Wheat II recently came my way, so I was able to get my initial notes prior to reveal, and revisit after learning what it was. This selection was bottled at 57% ABV and aged six years.
Nose: Buttery. Vanilla, crème brulee, cornbread, and butterscotch. Big time cream soda vibes, as well as powdered donuts. Maybe a hint of sassafras buried beneath the decadent dessert notes.
Palate: Perfectly matches the nose. Cream soda, vanilla frosting, and buttermilk pancakes. Sweet custard for days. Reminds me of Redbreast with how rich and buttery it is. Just-caramelized brown sugar comes out with subsequent sips.
Finish: A gentle touch of oak and pepper barely offset the lingering desserts that continue to be light-in-flavor but rich-in-delivery. Hint of lemon cake barely creeps up as the finish slowly fades out.
Absolutely delightful. This is the exact profile I search for when purchasing a wheated bourbon. Whether this experience has more to do with the sourced distillery (Ross & Squibb), the barrels Old Elk have handy, or the selection prowess of u/t8ke and company, the fact remains: I’m swooned. There’s an irresistible buttery component that hits me the way Redbreast can, except where that has fruit and the occasional earthy hint, this is confectionary dessert. In many ways it’s like having donuts and Entenmann’s and all that’s missing is some coffee.
My only nitpick is that this could use some darker flavors (likely from additional aging) to deepen the profile and overall experience. Even so, what’s on display here is too enjoyable to even consider finding fault with while drinking. The combination of wheat and corn grant this a dessert-y palate that’s so easy to be won over by. Easily one of my favorite r/bourbon releases and stomps the life out of almost every wheater I’ve tried.