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Whiskey of the Week is a new review series on Spy. Each week, we’ll review a different bottle, from newly released small-batch bourbons to our favorite cheap well whiskies.
The Spirit: Penelope Bourbon Rosé Cask Finish
The Distillery: MGP
Proof: 94 proof / 47% ABV
Availability: Limited release
Penelope Bourbon is a relatively new brand created a few years ago by husband and wife team Mike and Kerry Paladini along with their friend Danny Polise. The flagship bourbon is produced at MGP, the large distillery in Indiana that makes whiskey, including a lot of rye, for many different brands (Bulleit, Templeton, and Dickel, to name a few). It’s a four-grain bourbon, meaning it’s made from a mash bill of corn, wheat, rye, and malted barley, as opposed to the typical three-grain recipe of corn, barley, and either wheat or rye. It’s actually a blend of three different four-grain mash bills, it’s bottled at 80 proof, non-chill-filtered, and aged for two to three years. And, most importantly, it’s a good, young bourbon, made by the experts at the MGP whiskey factory that works quite well in cocktails.
This summer, the second batch of the cask-finished version of Penelope Bourbon came out, part of the brand’s Cooper Series in what is now an annual summer release. This is the same bourbon as the core expression, but it has been finished in French Grenache rosé wine casks from the Southern Rhône region of France for an unspecified period of time, and it’s bottled at a higher 94 proof. This last step is a very welcome one, as the complexity increases with this higher but not overpowering ABV. It’s also a very small batch release, and this expression is limited to just 2,600 bottles.
This is a really tasty sipping whiskey, with a soft, buttery nose that offers a hint of the fruit that comes into play on the palate. A sip reveals a sweetness backed by notes of cherry and plum, but the familiar vanilla and oak notes are still very present. I’d recommend enjoying this bourbon neat, but go ahead and try making an Old Fashioned with it as well, or use it in a Perfect Manhattan with equal parts sweet and dry vermouth to reduce the sweetness of the drink.
Another recent Penelope Bourbon expression to try is the Barrel Strength expression. Again, same mash bill, but this is an older whiskey. I’ve only had a chance to taste the previous batch, but the latest, Batch 7, is 3.5 to 5 years old and the proof is 115.2, just slightly less than the 115.8 of Batch 6. This is high but it doesn’t overpower your palate with alcohol, allowing flavors of peach, almond, caramel, and espresso bean to shine through. Add a bit of ice to this if you’d like to proof it down a bit.
Penelope continues to impress with its bourbons, and offers a commendable degree of transparency by revealing the mash bill and not obscuring the source of the whiskey. Yes, the liquid is a bit on the younger side, but these bourbons are proof that even a whiskey less than three years old can be a solid sipper if distilled, matured, and blended properly.
You can find Penelope Bourbon Rose Cask Finish online at Caskers.