Whiskey Review: Blue Run 13.5-Year-Old Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon

Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by Blue Run Spirits. This in no way, per our editorial policies, influenced the final outcome of this review. It should also be noted that by clicking the buy link towards the bottom of this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.

Blue Run Spirits is making strides to expand expectations of what whiskey and bourbon should and could be. To be honest, their Single Barrel Cask Strength barrel that I sampled is not for the faint of heart, and that is OK. Because when something is truly unique, flavor and vision are more important than the status quo.

Blue Run Distillery was co-founded by Mike Montgomery and Jesse McKnight in 2020. The board is made up of a group of businessmen with past ties to Nike, Facebook, and even liquor distribution.

When I encounter a whiskey sold by people from outside the liquor industry, I hope the product is coming from a passionate vision and appreciation for the category. Their first step in the right direction was to bring in someone with the experience to not only source great bourbons, but do so with an eye on what they plan on delivering as their own production builds and they plan a transition from sourced to in-house spirit. Enter Jim Rutledge, former Master Distiller of Four Roses, who has been in the industry for around 50 years.

The bourbon sourced for this bottling is a 13.5-year-old single barrel cask strength powerhouse. The Whiskey Wash covered its release in more detail here. If you’re not careful, it will deliver a one-two punch to your senses. But can the flavor stand up to the kick?

Blue Run 13.5-Year-Old Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon

Blue Run 13.5-Year-Old Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon (image via Blue Run Spirits)

Tasting Notes: Blue Run 13.5-Year-Old Single Barrel Cask Strength Bourbon

Vital Stats: Aged 13.5 years, 129 proof. Single barrel, cask strength, suggested retail pricing of about $240 a bottle.

Appearance: Red tinted amber that, when swirled in your glass, drapes down the side in a single sheet.

Nose: Approach this with respect. Upon my first sniffs I got a bit close, and it lit my nose up. Once I knew what was coming at me, I was able to carefully indulge in a rich tapestry of traditional notes of buttery caramel, followed by a fruit salad of orange peel, a hint of peach, and just a bit of banana. There is a hint of malt and baking spices all rounded out by fresh brown sugar.

Palate: Much like my initial whiffs, I did not prepare well for the overpowering flavors and heat of this high proof bourbon. It has a sharp, prickly heat that dissipates on the lips but hangs on the tongue. Without dilution, it has a peppery bite and is so packed with flavor and heat, it is hard to distinguish one note from another. Then I got wise. I poured my sample over a large ice cube and allowed it to mingle in the glass and open up. The sugars have a lightly burnt quality to them for a pleasant balance of bitter and sweet. Cinnamon, clove, and fresh cracked black pepper dance across the middle of the tongue. Over ice the heat dissipates evenly, and more nuanced flavors emerge as you drink. It has a creaminess that comes from the caramel notes that balance its spicy nature. I was expecting a lot more citrus, but found it to be more like a savory crepe that has a squeeze of orange over top to sweeten it a bit. After a while it evolves to banana bread with a healthy dose of fresh churned butter.

The Takeaway

Summary

Not for the casual sipper, but it is for the curious ones. It is aggressive without ice and not sugar-forward as many bourbons. Even at cask strength, I expected a smoother sip from the get-go having been aged so long. At the end, once the dilution took hold, I had a buttery caramel sipper with a look towards the future balanced with the traditions of the past.

4.0
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