Kings County Barrel Strength Bourbon – Distiller: Kings County Distillery. ABV: 55.8% (Batch 3). Age: 2+ years. Mashbill: 70% NY corn, 30% malted barley. Price: $35 (for 200ml)
Kings County Peated Bourbon – Distiller: Kings County Distillery. ABV: 45%. Age: 18 months. Mashbill: 70% NY corn, 15% peated Scottish barley, 15% unpeated malted barley.
Having recently spent a little time with Kings County Distillery’s Master Distiller Colin Spoelman, I was eager to spend a little time with his two latest releases: a barrel-strength bottling of KC’s straight bourbon, and a very intriguing peated bourbon, which won praise from Fred Minnick at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition.
Kings County was NYC’s first legal distillery since Prohibition, and they’ve benefitted from ramping up operations at a time when the craft/local/artisanal movement has been exploding nationwide. They’ve had the added advantage of being located in what’s arguably the movement’s epicenter: Brooklyn, NY.
More importantly, they’ve benefited from a particularly painstaking approach to distillation, and particularly careful use of small barrels (5-gallon for their straight bourbon, 15-gallon for their upcoming Bottled-in-Bond release). The results speak for themselves.
Let’s start with the Kings County Barrel Strength Bourbon. The nose is hot and flavorful, and strikingly reminiscent of Barrell Bourbon’s 7- to 8-year-old Tennessee bourbon releases: saddle leather, sweet tobacco, and a soft Dickel-esque mineral note. The palate’s equally flavor-packed. The more you sip, the harder it is to believe that this is just over two years old. Clean, distinct flavors of caramel and oak, with what seems to me like a house-style note of fresh, buttery Belgian waffles. The finish has dry cocoa, then another touch of minerality that shades almost into lemon.
Some folks miss the presence of a traditional flavor grain in Kings County bourbons (rye or wheat in addition to the corn and malted barley), but from what I’m tasting, nobody’s doing small barrel maturation better than these guys.
The Barrel Strength is an accomplishment, but the Peated Bourbon is something to write home about. Given that the mashbill contains 15% peated Scottish barley, I suspected this might resemble the High West Campfire–an interesting but divisive a blend of bourbon, rye, and smokey Highland scotch that’s unmistakably a marriage of opposites. It doesn’t. The Kings County Peated Bourbon has a profile all its own, and it’s seamless.
Gorgeous toasty nose that leads not with peat but with warmth and sophistication. Again those Belgian waffles. The palate starts with forest notes of pinecone and dried fir needles, then milk chocolate and spice–that’s the peat, beautifully integrated. The finish has roasted peanut and Cracker Jack notes. Unbelievable depth and maturity for its age. I can’t wait to blind taste some friends on this.
Kings County just won 2016 Distillery of the Year from the American Distilling Institute. Both these releases make it clear why.
Stayed tuned for our upcoming Q&A with Master Distiller Colin Spoelman–on his moonshining roots, the future of “craft,” distribution dilemmas, and more. Cheers, friends! – BO
Kings County kindly provided samples for review. As always, our opinions are 100% our own.