Whiskey Review: Pearse Lyons Reserve

Dr. Pearse Lyons, the Irishman who founded Alltech’s Lexington Distilling Company, comes from five generations of barrel-forging coopers. He received a degree from the British School of Malting and Brewing, and in 1999, Lyons purchased Lexington, Kentucky’s oldest brewery: Lexington Brewing Company.

Because of his brewing experience at Guinness and Harp, and his distilling experience at Irish Distillers (makers of Jameson,) Lyons was able to revive the whiskey-making arm of his new venture. In the fall of 2011, he opened Town Branch Distillery (a subset of Alltech,) which utilizes the brewery to produce the wash for products like Town Branch Bourbon, Bluegrass Sundown, and Pearse Lyons Reserve.

Lyons instilled Scottish dual copper pot stills in his (then) new distillery, but the product he produces is American Malt Whiskey all the way. The liquid is also aged in used Bourbon beer barrels, which previously housed the cohabiting brewery’s flagship barrel-aged ale, Kentucky Bourbon Ale. The whiskey inside this bottle represents the first malt whiskey produced in Kentucky since Prohibition.

Tasting Notes: Pearse Lyons Reserve

Vital Stats: 80 proof. Made from 100% malted barley. Aged in charred oak barrels that once held Bourbon and Kentucky Bourbon Ale. $35/750ml

Appearance: Pours a brilliant orange, with dull rust-like tones at the glass’ edge. Viscous wavelike legs cascade slowly down the interior of the bulb, trailing off in to smaller legs over time. Inviting and warm to observe, this whiskey sits elegantly in the glass.

Nose: Mind-boggling hybrid aroma which seems to bridge the Irish/American style gap as noted above. First waft is full of ripe raspberries with a touch of iodine. There is some oaky marshmallow present which helps tame the bright, tart, berry-like angle in the aroma. Deeper inhales bring out some off notes including chemical cleaners, plastic, and old ice cube. It is certainly an interesting whiskey to smell, and it keeps me going back to delve in further. Unfortunately, it’s more to understand why it’s so confusing and chaotic. The answers may exist in the taste.

Palate: At first taste, this liquid comes across as a typical malt whiskey, grainy acidity in the front, followed by a larger bouquet of fresh red fruit, preceded by the raspberry notes in the aroma. There is some plastic, mold, and fresh cut grass in the late palate finish, and the green flavors tend to linger. The oak helps to dry out what could be a dangerously sweet whiskey, but adds a bit too much astringency when layered over that grassiness.

The Takeaway

Fans of Irish whiskies and malt whiskies will find a reason to like this particular drink, and it's recommended mostly for those drinkers, especially one who is seeking out something a bit more unconventional. While different and interesting, it doesn't seem too well-constructed and suffers from extremes of fruitiness and dry astringency.

2.5
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Jim Bonomo