Editor’s Note: This whiskey was provided to us as a review sample by O.H. Ingram. 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.
Ballard County, Kentucky, is home to the confluence of the Mississippi and the Ohio River. Much history has played out along the banks of these rivers, including the explosive growth and success of American whiskey. Much too, has played out on these waters.
In 2020, O.H. Ingram launched the first whiskey aged on the river in a floating rickhouse, though it is not the first whiskey aged on or under water, and not even the first intentionally aged on the Mississippi. Ingram designed a unique floating rickhouse to mimic aging that used to occur during river transport in barrel. This brings to mind modern craft Madeira aging, which mimics conditions the wines used to experience when transported on months-long sea voyages. It’s a modern-day interpretation of a historical necessity that adds to the final product.
Owner Hank Ingram began studying the effects of river aging in 2016 on test barrels. While his work is relatively new, the process itself speeds the aging of the whiskeys so we can see the results of his experimenting now. The company states that river aging impacts the whiskey in three ways.
First, the motion of the river churns the barrels, speeding the extraction from the wood. By staying in constant motion, the spirit comes in contact with the entirety of the barrel’s surface area, leaching more of that woody flavor into the whiskey. Second, the diurnal temperature swings on the river are dramatic, more so than on land. When the wood grain heats up, its pores expands, allowing the spirit to penetrate deep into the staves. When it cools, the pores shrink, which Ingram states that this squeezes the spirit back into the barrel, which it then mixes together from the motion. This expansion and contraction implies that more overall contact occurs into the staves. Lastly, the humidity on the river is greater. This slows the evaporation out of the barrels. In all, these three factors suggest that the spirit undergoes faster aging than a land-aged whiskey.
The O.H. Ingram River Aged Straight Bourbon Whiskey, launched in late 2021, is the fourth release from the producer, which also makes a straight whiskey, a straight rye whiskey, and a flagship bourbon. Using undisclosed bourbon base spirit distilled in Indiana, the whiskey is aged in the rickhouse for an undisclosed length of time. Personally, I would prefer more information regarding the mash bill and aging time. The concept is interesting, and I’d love to know the length of time these have aged to gain a better understanding of the speed in which the maturation takes place.
Tasting Notes: O.H. Ingram River Aged Straight Bourbon Whiskey
Vital Stats: Age unspecified, charred new oak, 52.5% ABV, mash bill: unspecified but includes wheat. SRP $69.99/ 750ml bottle.
Appearance: This is moderately deep golden amber color.
Nose: The aromatics are moderate. They open with notes of red apples, chalk dust, chlorophyll, and buttered croissant. This does not seem fruity on the nose, giving it a matured feel that I attribute to the river aging. I can pick up notes of buckwheat, dried apples, and blood orange juice. There’s a faint floral note underneath like fresh roses and lilacs. The aromatics are very pretty and harmonious.
Palate: The first impression on the palate is that this is quite neutral, reminiscent of watered down apple juice, with hints of honey, lime zest, and red apple peels. There’s a suggestion of pine. It’s fairly persistent for such a delicate whiskey, with a lingering flavor of rosehips and breakfast cereal. The alcohol feels a bit unbalanced on the finish, which also leaves a waxy feel from the tannins. The label includes an image of his great-grandfather’s river barge, a lovely homage to his family’s deep roots in the area and on the Mississippi River.
This is a delicate and decidedly not bombastic whiskey. Although I found the aroma and flavor to be enjoyable and harmonious, the finish left something to be desired. I think the aging process added much to this whiskey, which appears to be at peak maturity, but the base spirit seems a touch lacking. River aging seems like a promising endeavor and I look forward to seeing more releases (and information!) from this producer.
User Review4 (1 vote)
Suzanne Bayard struck out to the West Coast with her now husband almost a decade ago to explore the intersection of wine and policy in its world-class wine regions. She manages a Portland, OR bottle shop by day as the wine buyer and newsletter editor. She is also the Director...