By Father John Rayls
Collabor&tion Straight Bourbon Whiskey finished in American Brandy Barrels is one of the first from the cooperation of Bardstown Bourbon Co. and Copper & Kings American Brandy Co. to hit the market. Apparently, it’s the first of many different variations to follow. It uses sourced 10 year old MGP (Indiana) Bourbon comprised of 75% corn, 21% rye and 4% malted barley additionally aged another 18 months in American brandy barrels. It’s bottled at 113 proof (cask strength). I always appreciate creativity and experimentation even when it doesn’t work out the way it was intended. Not being a big fan of brandy makes this a little more difficult to correctly assess. However, this certainly would not be a bourbon with which I would choose to spend many quiet hours contemplating life. Part of the marketing pitch is summarized in the statement from the companies: “Collabor&tion is not made to be collected; it’s far more special than that. Its heart is friendship, enjoying company, and bringing out the best in each other,” said Joe Heron, President & CEO of Copper & Kings American Brandy Company. “It is an exceptional bourbon that was made by friends for friends and is designed to be enjoyed with friends.” From thus we get the naming convention. Collabor&tion is a very limited release in Kentucky and at the two distilleries. It will also be available at a very limited number of retailers nationwide.
The look is a beautiful medium to dark brown with the expected reddish tints. The highlights are a burnished copper and dark gold. It is a very rich, inviting looking bourbon. However, the legs are very sparse and thin. The nose is aggressive and readily rises to surprise the unwary consumer. It’s filled with sweet fresh fruit and particularly with aromas of raisins and dates. The 113 proof makes its presence known early and continuously and does offer a light to medium alcohol burn immediately. There are additional faint aromas of caramel and very light oak.
On the palette, the mouthfeel is light and somewhat thin. It does drink hot and provides a surprise punch initially. Of course, it drinks more easily as you continue to sip the bourbon. At first there are sweet flavors of raisins and dates over some very light caramel. Unfortunately, it quickly turns a little sour and even somewhat pungent. Most of the action takes place at mid-mouth as the hot, long finish kicks in with pepper which quickly transitions to white pepper. The finish does lightly migrate to the front of the mouth involving the edges of the tongue and even up to the lips. There is an aftertaste that lingers as well.
For brandy lovers, this might be an interesting pour. For the rest of us bourbon lovers, it’s more of a stretch. “Exceptional bourbon will always carry beautiful dark fruit notes (figs, raisins, dates) as well as apple and pear to complement the classic honey, spice and butterscotch. Aging in brandy barrels not only accentuates these notes – it layers more on top of that foundation to create an incredibly rich, smooth and complex whiskey,” says Bardstown Bourbon Company Master Distiller Steve Nally. To be honest, I prefer the traditional bourbon flavors of oak, caramel and vanilla. You can find Collabor&tion Straight Bourbon Whiskey finished in American brandy barrels priced at just under $125.00.