Whiskey Review: Breaker Bourbon Port Barrel Finish

By Jim Bonomo / February 2, 2018

We introduced the world to Ascendant Spirits’ Breaker Bourbon back in January of 2016, a Tennessee-sourced whiskey blend that is produced in small batches from “hand chosen barrels that have been aged for at least five years.” We noted that one of the more interesting spins on their blended base, a port cask finished bourbon, was on the cusp of availability. It’s now in our hands, and the time has come to sit down and dwell over this “Special Edition Hand Crafted Bourbon.”

Ascendant Spirits is located in Buellton, smack dab in the center of California’s most prestigious wine country. With wineries all around, including Terravant Winery directly next door, it makes sense that a fusion of wine and whiskey would at some point emerge from this five-year-old operation. The lack of usable ground water in California, however, has led master distiller Steve Gertman to outsource distilling and promote sourced blending. The distillery itself presents very little information on this product’s pedigree, but the tasting notes are a promising gathering of mouth-watering descriptors.

Breaker Bourbon Port Barrel Finish

image via Jim Bonomo/The Whiskey Wash

Tasting Notes: Breaker Bourbon Port Barrel Finish

Vital Stats: 90 Proof. Blend of Tennessee-distilled whiskey finished in “beautifully seasoned port barrels acquired from a local winemaker” $42/750ml

Appearance: This whiskey pours with a muted vermilion hue with drab blotches of orange enrobing it. Thickness is apparent in its steadfast legs and slow drips. It bounces playfully as the glass is swirled, but the dullness in appearance does not do much to visually promote this product.

Nose: The initial sniff finds a cohesive, yet busy aroma wafting off this whiskey. A mapley, brown sugar sweetness permeates and lands in the forefront, barely, as a soft, powdery oak presence creeps up behind it. The meddling of grapes proudly offers an extra element, aromatically, in the form of sniffable tannins and a touch of Welch’s. Notes of cinnamon weave through this experience, adding to the maple character, producing a lasting smell of freshly baked holiday cookies.

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Palate: When grape juice and cookies are hinted at in the aroma, sweetness is an expected hazard ahead, and this bourbon makes good on that promise. The first sip follows through on the big blast of brown sugar, molasses sans dark depth, and dances with the richer, more profound sweetness of port in the finish. Further enjoyment brings out a nuttiness from the oak akin to pecan pie, and some heat joins the party to offer some semblance of balance on the palate. Additional sipping finds a leatheriness reminiscent of an oiled baseball glove, and the aromatic cinnamon spice translates flavorwise to enhance this note. It’s an interesting flavor overall, certainly twisted by the port barrel, yet dominated by sweetness.

The Takeaway

Breaker Bourbon Port Barrel Finish certainly showcases the effect that port wine barrels can have on whiskey. It's just a shame they chose a sweeter bourbon, which throws the balance here out of whack and hides some of the more interesting tannic and dry notes that grapes and oak tend to offer to the world of experimental whiskies.

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