Borough Bourbon Batch #3

BOROUGH BOURBON BATCH #3
finished in 50-year-old Armagnac casks

MASH BILL – Undisclosed sourced high-rye mash bill

PROOF – 88

AGE – 5 years

DISTILLERY – Republic Restoratives

PRICE – $22 for a 200ml bottle

BUY AGAIN – A 750ml bottle, no. But another 200ml bottle, sure!

I first encountered Republic Restoratives online, when I was doing research into women-run distilleries in preparation for my interview with Ali and Sam Blatteis of Home Base Spirits. Looking over the Republic Restoratives website and reading a few articles, the Washington D.C. establishment seems a hip operation, with an attractive modern distillery, craft cocktail bar, and event space designed to house their community-oriented ethic. Their website nutshells their basic idea:

Republic Restoratives stands for community, authenticity and most of all friendship. We believe that cocktails create community, and that you, our customers, are at the core of what we do and why we do it. Our goal is to create experiences where people feel as connected to Republic Restoratives and to our products as they do to one another.

They got rolling in 2015 with some crowdfunding. In contrast to the rugged, masculine image typically projected by the traditional whiskey world, Republic Restoratives are proudly women-owned, openly gay-friendly, literally transparent as evidenced by their window-walled building, and their tag words are “Outspoken, Disruptive, American.”

I dig it.

All of this left me interested to find out how these ethics and values manifest in their whiskey. So when I happened upon a 200ml bottle of this recently released, and not widely distributed, Borough Bourbon Batch #3 I eagerly picked it up. Here are some notes in brief:

COLOR – vibrant honey yellow

NOSE – fresh fruit bread, fresh milled grains, baked boozy apricot, honey, vanilla, almond, light buttery caramel, some rye florals, mild dusty oak tannins

TASTE – youthful yet rich, a buttery vanilla, with a light buttery texture, the Armagnac cask adding a subtle but lush sweet roundness

FINISH – subtle, buttery, rich, warm, faint tannic oak, lightly tingly on the tongue 

OVERALL – buttery, sweet, bready, and light

At uncorking, I had to sip at this a bit to pull its flavors out of the glass. Sampling it in a brandy glass, the faintly fragrant nose prompted me to also try it in a Glencairn. The nose was more forthcoming in the brandy glass, actually. But in both glasses, I really had to pay attention. The buttery aspects predominated, washing over other less forceful flavors like the vanilla and almond. Out of the gate, it’s not a bourbon that pushes itself on you.

But then, with time and air, it all gradually opens up and steps forward. And then it stays forward. In subsequent tastings it was more immediately forthcoming than at the uncorking. Still relaxed, but more present. Air was clearly the key, so, a bourbon that likes its freedom.

All in all, it’s a very pleasant sip. I presume it’s the Armagnac casks that bring about this high-rye bourbon’s sweet buttery waves, which roll steadily from the nose through the taste and on into the finish, without ever breaking into any familiar high-rye spices.

Usually when I think of “rich” as a tasting quality, it’s in regard to something intense like a dark chocolate cake or heavily creamed ice cream. This Borough Bourbon is rich in a far less overwhelming, totally un-insistent way. That could be the low proof. At a higher proof, I wonder what would step forward more, the sweet and buttery aspects or those background tannins and grains? At its current 88 proof, this bourbon would make a great warm up for a flight of richer, deeper, more robust whiskeys.

I will say, this is refreshingly not in the vicinity of two-years-old. So many craft whiskeys hover near the two-year “straight whiskey” border. Of course, this is usually the case with craft distilleries making their own distillate. Republic Restoratives sourced a respectably five-year-old bourbon to then finish it in the half-century-old Armagnac casks they found. This mix of youth and age has proven fruitful. Borough Bourbon Batch #3 is not a mind-blower. But it’s certainly more interesting than many gritty young craft bourbons.

And yet, although it’s legitimately enjoyable, somehow it still tastes incomplete. Something is missing. Some slightly more definite note, perhaps. I can’t put my finger on it. I can imagine it contributing very well to various cocktails. Given Republic Restoratives’ stated belief that cocktails create community, perhaps that’s the point.

Borough Batch #2 was sourced from somewhere in Bardstown, KY. So this Batch #3 could also originate at one of the well-established Kentucky distilleries. That’s indeed a decidedly different prospect from a true grain-to-glass craft distillery product. Republic Restoratives has taken an experienced distillate and contributed to it their fresh taste for finishing. It works. I don’t need another bottle of it; This 200ml sample will be fine. But I will enjoy it, while looking forward to Republic Restoratives’ future bottlings.

From their building to this whiskey, Republic Restoratives’ tastes are thoughtful and thought-provoking. Their clear aim is approachability and an easy-going attitude. The subtle richness of this Borough Bourbon Batch #3 also speaks to a desire for quality experiences that have some attention to detail, and that are significant without being overwhelming or showy. Not everyone might be excited by this whiskey. But I can’t imagine anyone being put off by it. In its balance and its easy, intelligent attitude, it’s a very welcoming and inclusive whiskey. 

So, Republic Restoratives is yet another small operation I look forward to following. The future of American whiskey is bright.

Cheers!

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