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.
The Old Elk Distillery was founded in 2013 in Fort Collins, Colorado, a lovely city located about an hour north of Denver, and an hour south of Cheyenne, Wyoming. With the Rocky Mountain National Park, and its breathtaking peaks (eighteen of which exceed 13,000 feet) only 35 miles to the west, the Old Elk Distillery takes its name from the herds of elk that roam those very peaks and valleys.
Of course, most casual imbibers usually only think of Kentucky and Tennessee when they think of bourbon, but the explosion of craft distillers over the past decade has certainly put Colorado distilleries on the map.
Heading the creation of Old Elk’s portfolio of spirits and the creation of their custom mash bills is Master Distiller, Greg Metze, who “began his distiller’s journey after completing an undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from the University of Cincinnati.” Greg earned the title of Master Distiller in 2002, and first began working with Old Elk, with the creation of the distillery’s first custom mash bill, while still a Master Distiller at Midwest Grain Producers (MGP). In 2016, Greg went in-house with Old Elk as the distillery’s full time Master Distiller.
In 2021, Old Elk Distillery launched the Cask Finish Series, a limited national release featuring a Port Cask Finish Straight Bourbon Whiskey and a Cognac Cask Finish Straight Bourbon Whiskey. In 2022, they added a Rum Cask Finish, which is finished in 14-year-old Barbados rum barrels. “The Cask Finish Series is based on Old Elk’s core products, including its award-winning High-Malt Bourbon and Rye Whiskey…” In 2021, the Cognac Cask Finish whiskey was the winner of a Gold Medal (92 points, exceptional) from the Beverage Testing Institute.
When it comes to proofing their whiskey before bottling, Old Elk uses what they’ve named the Slow Cut proofing process. Instead of adding water over a 24–48 hour period like many distilleries, they introduce the water over multiple weeks. Old Elk’s marketing materials state, “Instead of a day, we spend weeks adding small increments of water to keep our liquid cool and save the delicate flavors our team works so hard to produce during mashing, fermentation, distillation, and maturation.” For readers interested in a little more information on proofing, check out The Whiskey Wash article, Proofing: Watering Whiskey Down the Right Way.
What I’m reviewing here is Old Elk Straight Bourbon Port Cask Finish, which is aged a minimum of five years and finished in 59-gallon aged port casks from Portugal for an additional 10 months to 1 year.
Tasting Notes: Old Elk Straight Bourbon Port Cask Finish
Vital Stats: Aged a minimum of five years and finished in 59-gallon aged port casks from Portugal for an additional 10 months to 1 year; 108.1 Proof, 54.05% ABV; Mash Bill: 51% Corn, 34% Barley, and 15% Rye; 750ml; MSRP $99.99.
Appearance: It’s quite lovely, with a rich tawny and auburn color that even holds up against a light background. In a lowlight bar, this would certain be perceived more like old oak or burnt umber.
Nose: Apples, port, oak, a hint of sweet fruit and a moderate ethanol kick.
Palate: The overall experience is a classically bold bourbon, with a dash of rye spice, oak, stove-warmed sugar, and a subtle hint of port from the year of finishing. The 108.1 proof certainly pops right out of the dram, and had I not known the actual proof in advance of my first sip, I would have pegged this a touch higher. Now, to be clear, that’s not a bad thing (at all) but for those more casual drinkers that stick to lower proofs, you will note it. Add a few drops of water or a small ice cube and this offering is more than approachable for even a causal bourbon fan.
Whiskey Review: Old Elk Straight Bourbon Port Cask Finish
A port finished bourbon isn’t anything new, but in combination with Old Elk’s fairly uncommon 34% malted barley in the mash bill, the combination certainly elevates this limited release straight bourbon. At $99.99, the price seems on-point for the quality and unique flavor of this bourbon.
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Devon Lyon has spent the past two decades producing video content as well as writing copy and scripts for clients around the globe. But no matter how strong his natural wanderlust, it’s the Pacific Northwest he calls home. Whether it’s the growing local craft spirit scene, world-class wines, or a...