Whiskey Review: Bootlegger 21 New York Bourbon Whiskey - The Whiskey Wash

Whiskey Review: Bootlegger 21 New York Bourbon Whiskey

Prohibition Distillery, established in 2009 by Brian Facquet and John Walsh, draws heavily on local, historical, and Americana inspiration for everything from its branding to its bottling and the very spirits it produces. Bootlegging lore in particular resonates with this distillery – co-owner Walsh is a descendant of Frankie Walsh, a member of the turn-of-the-century through Prohibition era bootlegging street gang known as Egan’s Rats.

Based in Roscoe, New York – about two hours northwest of New York City, an area better known for its fly-fishing and location within the Catskills – Prohibition Distillery first worked with Tuthilltown Spirits on production, before opening the doors to its own proper distillery and tasting room in 2013, converting the historic 1929 Roscoe Firehouse and former Veteran of Former Wars (VFW) Hall.

Facquet and Walsh launched their Bootlegger 21 line of spirits with a 100% corn vodka, which has been well-received and garnered a number of awards, including accolades from the Best Domestic Vodka competition, the Beverage Testing Institute, and the New York International Spirits competition. The vodka was followed more recently by a gin, which has also generated positive attention.

Prohibition Distillery’s Bootlegger 21 New York Bourbon Whiskey is its third and most recent spirit venture. It comes with high expectations, coming on the heels of a vodka and gin that have both been praised for notable complexity and smoothness. At first glance, I found the bottle – somewhat unique in its smaller 375 mL size and throwback style, and full of a rich-looking bourbon – awfully inviting.

Tasting Notes: Prohibition Distillery Bootlegger 21 New York Bourbon Whiskey

Vital Stats: Bootlegger 21 New York Bourbon Whiskey is made from 100% New York corn mash. After being distilled in a 300-gallon copper pot still, the bourbon is aged in new charred American oak barrels “until [the distiller] feel they’re ready.” Barrel sizes vary between 5 and 30 gallons, depending on the batch.

Once aged, the bourbon is poured through cotton mesh to remove any particulate (so it is essentially strained, but not filtered) before being blended with water and brought to 92 proof for hand-bottling. The 375 mL bottle runs on average between $40-45.

Appearance: Rich amber, in both bottle and tumbler.

Nose: An initial pour reveals notes of citrus, baking spices and an after-tone of linseed. The longer it breathes, the sweeter the nose becomes, bringing to mind French toast and corn bread.

Palate: A rounded cinnamon candy bright spiciness is balanced by the expansion of a mouth-filling dark chocolate-covered coffee toffee. There is a pleasant lingering warmth in throat and chest. The final dissipation after a sip left me immediately wanting more.

Final Thoughts and Score:

This is a simple, and simply good, bourbon. Some critiques have described it as too young or too simple, but I don’t see simplicity as a bad thing when done right — and this bourbon gets it right. It is a bottle of juxtapositions, in some ways — spicy yet smooth, toasty yet cooling. But these contradictions make for a balance that works. Hudson Baby Bourbon, another 100% corn bourbon (and also from New York), offers an interesting side-by-side comparison. While there is certainly some overlap in the “what” of some of the basic sweeter notes — the “how”, or manifestation, is where the two really diverge. Hudson Baby Bourbon has more of a roasted, toasted rich quality, combined with a more prominent viscosity.

Bootlegger 12 New York Bourbon Whiskey, conversely, is more marked by its brightness and simplicity, and its balancing spiciness helps make these qualities work in its favor. I prefer the Bootlegger 12 New York Bourbon Whiskey neat, but also found a few drops of some barrel-aged bitters (I used barre-aged bitters by The Bitter Housewife) is a nice addition.