Whiskey Review: Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey

At first glance, the copy on the Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey label is predictable sourced-whiskey fare: The whiskey itself is described as “smooth” and “rich,” while Old Elk’s master distiller is name-dropped in the vaguest terms possible. “Few have influenced the American bourbon landscape” more than Greg Metze, the label explains, saying he “guided” the production of this bourbon.

That name, though, will jump out to sharp-eyed drinkers. Old Elk is a sourced whiskey in that it was made at MGP. What’s unique about it is that when it went into barrels, Metze was the master distiller at the industrial-scale spirits producer.

That statement about his influence on American bourbon probably isn’t an exaggeration—although it is something of a lie by omission, as it leaves out Metze’s even bigger influence on American rye whiskey. Whiskey writer Fred Minnick calls Metze “perhaps the greatest rye distiller of our time,” noting that he’s responsible for the majority of the rye whiskey on the shelves today. According to a post on Minnick’s blog, when Metze left MGP in 2016, his plan was to start work as a spirits consultant. Between then and now, he partnered with Old Elk and is now “exclusive” to the Fort Collins, Colorado distillery.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, there aren’t many specifics available about the whiskey itself from Old Elk, although according to Minnick, the recipe is “51% Corn, 34% Malted Barley, 15% Rye and proprietary yeast. Char No. 4 oak barrels are used.” The final product is bottled at 44% ABV, and retails for around $45.

Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon

image via Old Elk

Tasting Notes: Old Elk Blended Straight Bourbon Whiskey

Nose: At first sniff, I’m taken aback by a strong cherry jolly rancher/cough syrup note, which mingles with brown sugar, vanilla, and sticky caramel. There’s just a whisper of oak in the background. After a few minutes in the glass, the artificial fruit note mellows out, and I get a rounder vanilla-butterscotch character, with some good spice layered in.

Palate: Flavor-wise, it’s mostly cloying and sugary—more caramel and butterscotch, mostly—but it’s surprisingly hot for an 88-proof bourbon, to the point where my tongue is almost numb after sipping it. That fake cherry note is back on the finish, an effect I don’t find particularly pleasant. With some water, it opens up, giving me a nice pie crust note alongside the caramel-vanilla ones, with an oakier finish.

The Takeaway

The Takeaway

Overall, I don't particularly care for this bourbon. I find the nose unbalanced, and I'm honestly mystified as to how the palate is so fiery hot at this ABV. Water improves things quite a bit, but at $45, I still wouldn't spring for this. Metze, obviously, is the real deal, and this project could show promise in the future, but this initial offering needs work.

2.5
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