Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by the party behind it. 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 in this review our site receives a small referral payment which helps to support, but not influence, our editorial and other costs.
Doc Swinson’s released some new whiskeys for the summer, so now is a perfect time to learn about this under the radar producer and to explore the range of offerings.
The company, founded in 2017, is an independent bottler and the house brand of Distillers Way LLC. As an independent bottler, they source barrels of whiskey to bottle under their own label, often blending them to create a signature style, finishing them in a wide variety of wood types, and cutting to proof, though, here, the whiskey tends to be released close to cask proof.
Doc Swinson’s calls Ferndale, WA home. This tiny town is located near Vancouver, BC about 100 miles north of Seattle along the bay. Here, a team of four runs the entire operation: Jesse Parker, the Head Spirits Master; Steve Main, the Sales Director; Chris Cearns, the Chief Financial Officer; and Keith Seidel, the Director of Operations.
Parker is young with no formal training, but he cut his teeth at a small, family-owned distillery where he began racking up primo awards for his creations. He’s gone on to win several dozen more for his blends for Doc Swinson’s, including winning best in class for finished bourbon at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
As an independent bottler, the brand sources all of their whiskies—nothing is distilled in house. The current line up all hails from Midwest Grain Products Distillery in Lawrenceburg, IN, aka MGP. Sourcing from this large distillery in Indiana can be a prickly subject for some, but the team at Doc Swinson’s makes no attempts to hide and certainly excels with their selections (see the aforementioned awards).
The lineup reminds me of some releases from Buzzard’s Roost I tasted last year, another producer that releases finished whiskies from rye-heavy MGP mash bills in a similar price range, though with a radically different char for the finishing barrels. Doc Swinson’s lineup tends not show the lushness, pillowy sweetness, and aromatic intensity I often associate with MGP bourbons. Instead they manage an unusual twist of reserved yet complex aromatics. Perhaps it’s just that salty Vancouver bay air.
To understand the core concept of the company, you can reach for the Doc Swinson’s Five-Year Blenders Cut Straight Bourbon. The sample on hand is coded 22-001. Per their press release, this is the base blend that they use for finishing. It’s a useful look into what they find exciting and want to manipulate further. This is bottled at cask strength or near to it. The two components are corn-based bourbons with heavy doses of rye in the mash bill. The tasting note from the company notes it tastes like “apricots, brown sugar, peanuts, toasted almond, charred oak, dark chocolate, and cream.”
Sounds delicious; let’s taste.
Tasting Notes: Doc Swinson’s Blenders Cut Straight Bourbon
Vital Stats: Aged for five years in new American oak barrels, 57% ABV, mash bill: 1: 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malted barley and 2: 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley, SRP $60/ 750ml bottle.
Appearance: This is a moderately deep amber in color.
Nose: Aromatically, this had something to prove. There were hints of burnt cherries, banana candies, and vanilla crème brûlée. Fiery and feisty, this was closed down at first but opened up with time in the glass. The aromatics remind me of walking on hot pavement past one of Portland’s finer ice cream shops while they’re making fresh waffle cones. There’s a green peppery note that I can’t pin down, a bit like freshly sliced jalapeño peppers.
Palate: The palate is musky and interesting with a delicate astringency. The alcohol is certainly high, and, in comparison to other whiskeys in their current lineup, this whiskey has a moderate to light-bodied feel that evaporates off the palate. In the mouth, it offers up flavors of melted chocolate, musk perfume, lemon zest, and rye crackers. The finish is moderate in length, with notes of candied walnuts, vanilla extract, and cooked blueberries.