Editor’s Note: These whiskeys were provided to us as review samples by Pinhook. 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 links 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.
The Pinhook Bourbon brand is a label started in Kentucky in 2010. Its stated mission is “to bring the concept of vintages to bourbon and celebrate the tradition of Kentucky horse racing.” As is very common with whiskey start ups like them, sourcing for their releases has come to date from MGP produced whiskeys. 2020 has changed that however, with some of its latest bottlings being drawn from whiskey produced for them at the revived Old Taylor distillery in Kentucky, known these days as Castle & Key.
Pinhook Bohemian Bourbon Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, perhaps the most interesting of these new whiskeys before me, is drawn from the first set of bourbon barrels released from the former Old Taylor distillery since 1972. Said barrels started a trend in which the brand now does all aging, blending and bottling at Castle & Key and, since 2017, Pinhook has been distilling proprietary mash bills of bourbon and rye there as well.
For this whiskey round up, I got to encounter three different expressions from Pinhook. There’s the aforementioned Bohemian, as well as, the Bourbon War, and the Rye’d On. Each individual release gets the notation of a crop number in regards to the year. I’ll admit to finding the concept nostalgic, as this has been a challenging year and the fact that the Derby was postponed till recently. For several years, I have worked on the Derby day at my bar, amongst patrons and friends dressed up in their finest.
In regards to the name of the company, “pinhooking” is the process of purchasing select yearling horses, and thereafter the training them so that they may be one day ready to participate in races. Thus, is the same metaphor for the brand, as in selecting barrels for blending and having them ready when the time is appropriate.
Tasting Notes: Pinhook Bourbon War
Appearance: A lighter shade of orange, kinds of reminds one of a marmalade. In the glass found some legs.
Nose: A hit of citrus mixed with brown sugar. I gave it a rest and found a touch of honeydew in the background.
Palate: This was lighter bodied than expected. Definitely on the side of orchard fruits mingled with a hint of cocoa. When I thought about it, reminded me more of a Scotch style whiskey found more so in the United States.
Final Thoughts: I’ll admit that this was a bit of a head scratcher. It is a bourbon, but in many ways, did not reflect as such. This is one that I would prefer to re-visit when it’s a tad bit older.
Tasting Notes: Pinhook Rye’d On
Appearance: A pale yellow, reminding one of a heavily steeped green tea. I suppose that sounds weird, but it fits. In the glass, found this one to have multiple, long legs.
Nose: I found this one to be a tad bit flat. Definitely sweeter on the nose with notes of melon and honey, but nothing else.
Palate: Better than the nose. A lighter body, but full flavor. If one can imagine, green apple slices sprinkled with white pepper. Not much of a finish, just a kiss of nuttiness.
Final Thoughts: Found this rye to be pretty straight forward and simple. I enjoyed the intermingling of the fruit and spice notes. However, at the end of the day, found myself yearning for a bit more character from the whiskey.
Tasting Notes: Pinhook Bohemian High Proof Bourbon
Appearance: Light orange. It looked to be on the younger side. In the glass, there were closely knit legs.
Nose: Some heat, but not overly intense. Definitely nutty, and I might say toasted pecan. And there’s something else there, I believe a smidge of Earl Grey tea.
Palate: Tastes like it smells, with the addition of some citrus. A solid pecan presence intermingled with candied orange zest, and peppery moments. In regards to body, it was kind of in the middle with a longer finish. However, all in all, this was a simple, but solid whiskey.
Final Thoughts: This was by far, the best of the bunch. It had more flavor due to the higher proof and more balance of flavors.
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Kenji is a bartender in Portland, Oregon at the Pope House Bourbon Lounge. A bourbon enthusiast for decades. He likes big whiskeys, pretty much anything over 100 proof.