Wathan’s Single Barrel
Wathan’s Single Barrel Bourbon
Barrel 4647, Bottled on 6.5.2014
No Age Statement
Wathan’s is one of those whiskeys that is hard to pin down. It is named after Henry Hudson Wathan, a contemporary of Elijah Craig who some sources say was operating a whiskey distillery a year before EC himself. According to the bottle, Wathan’s Single Barrel is distilled in Kentucky (doesn’t say where), and bottled by Charles Medley Distillery in Fairfield, CA. However if you go to the Wathan’s website (one of the least informative, most dated websites I’ve been to in the last few years), it says that the Charles Medley Distillery is in Owensboro, KY. Digging a little deeper it seems like the distillery in Owensboro has been quiet for a while, though Angostura, Ltd purchased it in 2011 and I believe plans to start distilling whiskey there after renovations. The Fairfield, CA address led me to Frank-Lin Distillers Products, which is basically a giant contract bottling house that bottles and distributes hundreds of spirits and wines. So we don’t know where the whiskey actually comes from, but somewhere in Kentucky. If you think it’s crazy that they ship a Kentucky bourbon all the way to California to be bottled and distributed than you are not alone, but unfortunately this kind of thing isn’t that rare.
The thing is, Charles Medley was the distiller at Charles Medley Distillery for years, and based on this fascinating post from 1999, he was super passionate about his work and a pretty eclectic guy. He probably made some amazing whiskey in his time. Why the distillery closed, I have yet to find any info on (anyone got anything?). I’d love to get my hands on a Wathan’s Single Barrel from back in the day, one he crafted, selected, and hand bottled, but for now we are drinking juice from an unknown source, bottled by some dudes in California and shipped back across the country. Maybe he is still at least picking the barrels, maybe not. If the story of your bourbon is important to you, this one is kind of a disappointment.
But hey, it’s here, so let’s taste it. Nose is pretty basic, lots of vanilla, oak, and orange. Kinda creamsicley with a little bit of an earthiness to it. Hints of tobacco. Drinking it my first impression is “very sweet,” golden raisins and cherries, but before I get to enjoy any of that sweetness I’m kicked with a ton of spice and oak, chili peppers, too much really. This is a spicy bourbon on the mid-palate and finish, and unfortunately the way the sweet and spice take turns gives you a too sweet beginning and a too spicy ending, I much prefer the two to be a little more in tandem. I haven’t taken a sip in five minutes and my tongue feels like I ate a habanero pepper, so spicy! Balance would have really helped this bottle shine, but it’s still not a bad pour. This is the only bottle I’ve tried, and of course Single Barrel bourbons can vary greatly, so take this for what it’s worth. For the price I’d much rather be drinking Ridgemont Reserve 1792 or Johnny Drum Private Stock.
Rating: 6.4 / 10
Bought at Total Wine & More in Greenville, SC for $29.99