Watkins Select

Watkins Select

Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey

80 Proof

This is a “Kentucky Straight Bourbon,” so it must be made somewhere in Kentucky unless they are totally breaking the law using that classification, but I can’t find a soul that will tell me what distillery it comes from.  It is bottled in Mira Loma, California by one of those big bottling and branding corporations–“LeVecke Corporation,” though on the bottle it says it’s bottled by Fairmont, Ltd in Mira Loma.  If you look up Fairmont you just find LeVecke.

In a fairly interesting interview about his company, Neil LeVecke calls his people “master bartenders,” though they are more properly “Spirit Rectifiers.”  They take high proof grain alcohol and mix it with reverse osmosis water (this is the same filtering process Coca-Cola uses on Atlanta city water before selling it to you bottled as Dasani) and bottle and brand it.  I have to admit, I’m not into companies like this, especially for whiskey.  It just takes all the heart out of it for me.  I have no problem with people sourcing whiskey from a distillery and selling it, but at least tell me where it’s from or at least do something cool to it like further age it, blend it, finish it in a cool barrel of some sort–something that shows me you care.  LeVecke is responsible for 2,500 different spirits and cordials that you find on the shelves, and something about that just feels wrong.  But they are an independent company, and I’m sure they are making a killing, so I guess yay America.

Watkins Select appears to be some kind of house bourbon for Total Wine & More stores across the country–I’ve never seen it anywhere else anyway, and the staff at TW&M definitely push it hard.

Nose: decent nose, some classic bourbon notes mixed with some perfumey/medicinal notes.  At 80 proof I’m surprised to find the alcohol creeping up and tickling my nose hairs!  Geez.  Stale saltine cracker with honey on it.  Not a powerful nose, one of the few whiskeys I noticed that I stopped smelling it before I drank it each sip.  For contrast, with most Buffalo Trace products I take about 20 times as many whiffs as I do sips!

Palate: whoa, spicy and smokey, didn’t really expect that.  It’s smooth and harsh at the same time, is that possible?  Oak is present, but at about 3 years old I’m not surprised to find it lacking the deep woody notes we love so much.  And at three years old I’m also not surprised to find it lacking the sweetness that can come from all the sugary goodness in the walls of that charred oak barrel.  I’d love to taste this exact same distillate at 5-6 years.   Body is thinner than I like, but for the proof it works.

Overall, this is a good value bourbon, but I’m pretty shocked it won gold and double gold medals at the San Francisco Spirits Competition (2012 and 2013).  We could very well be dealing with an inconsistent product (I wouldn’t necessarily trust a factory in California to deliver consistent Kentucky Bourbon batches every time), but the bottle I’ve been drinking the last couple weeks is nothing special.  For the same price you can get a half gallon of Evan Williams Green Label, which I’d rate right around the same as this if not better.

Rating: 5.8 / 10

Bought at Total Wine & More in Greenville, SC for…cheap…$15 I think.

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One thought on “Watkins Select

  1. Just got a bottle for an early Christmas present. Have not opened it yet, but appreciate this overview as I was not familiar with it! I thinking I would have enjoyed the Evan Williams better too.

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