By Father John Rayls
The Watkins Select Bourbon Whiskey is a “bottom shelf” winner. Bottled at 80 proof, it’s a surprise find. This Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey is an interesting sample of sourced bourbon from Kentucky. Very little information is available for this bourbon, but it might be something you’re looking for to fill out your selection base. This is a bourbon that’s readily available, but has probably been overlooked. It isn’t a top tier bourbon, but it’s good enough to be on your shelf. Watkins Select is aged in Kentucky and bottled in California by LeVecke Corporation in Mira Loma. This isn’t the type of bourbon I would normally seek out, but it is definitely worth investigation particularly for mixing. Economically (more on this later), it is a gold star winner and has sufficient flavor to make it a bourbon of interest. However, it isn’t a great sipping bourbon but it is good enough.
The Watkins Select label is attractive and doesn’t have a “cheap” appearance. The label states it is a “Handcrafted Premium Quality Bourbon Whiskey”. What exactly does that mean? The whiskey has a typical bourbon coloring and presents an appropriate “aged” look. It is darker in the bottle with a medium brown color. In the Glencairn glass, the color is more dark gold with light gold highlights. The legs are very present, but they are somewhat thin. The nose is light to medium and brings light oak, leather (new) and caramel.
The taste is what you would expect from a “bottom shelf” bourbon whiskey. The mouthfeel is light with a short flavor profile. Most of the action takes place at the mid-mouth area. It especially activates the roof of the mouth. It’s light caramel and oak that fades quickly as the finish asserts itself. It’s the finish that is surprising. The spicey cinnamon kicks in quickly and establishes itself as the dominant experience and lifts this bourbon tasting into a very acceptable profile. The finish is long and is filled with sweet cinnamon. It doesn’t drink hot, but is instead a very smooth and yet spicey drink. The finish makes this a very appropriate bourbon tasting. I believe this would be a very good mixing bourbon useable in many scenarios and combinations. Surprisingly, it has won gold and double gold awards in the San Francisco Spirits Competition in the past.
The real “ace in the hole” is its price. At 16 bucks, it can hold a place of honor on your shelf. LeVecke is creative at their nose and flavor descriptions. However, don’t let that throw you a curve. In spite of their surprising and overly enthusiastic descriptions, Watkins Select Bourbon can be a very appropriate bourbon for your uses. Use it as a very good mixer and, occasionally, as a neat sipper to offer balance to your normal repertoire. At 80 proof, there isn’t any need to add water. Remember your disappointment when you’ve spent three and four times as much to simply achieve “meh” in your enjoyment. At $16.00, you’re risking very little to achieve a very interesting tasting experience especially for cocktails.