PEERLESS SMALL BATCH BOURBON
Batch #150430201 (2019)
MASH BILL – Undisclosed
PROOF – 110.6
AGE – NAS (4+ years)
DISTILLERY – Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co.
PRICE – $77
BUY AGAIN? – Yes, when I’m feeling flush
Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. created a stir with their first whiskey, a mere two-year rye priced at a whopping $100. Critics and drinkers alike begrudgingly agreed it was good. But $100 for the first effort of a distillery, aged only two short years? And their “master distiller” is still in his twenties?
Now the Peerless rye is being released at three years, and the bourbon has been released at double the rye’s debut age. Given the undeniable accomplishment of the non-chill filtered, strictly sweet mash, barrel proof rye, the bourbon was something I was definitely curious about.
Here are some notes in brief, taken a month after uncorking, about a third of the way into the bottle, and tasted in a traditional Glencairn:
COLOR – a nicely vibrant, dark orange
NOSE – old fashioned caramel, nicely fragrant sun-dried moss and grasses from the rye, some cherry flavored taffy, oak, cinnamon red hots candies, cinnamon bubblegum…
TASTE – true to the nose’s promise, with the caramel, cherry taffy, cinnamon candies, and oak, but less of the herbaceous rye aspects…
FINISH – some floral rye aspects return, but the cherry and caramel now dominate and linger for a nice long time…
OVERALL – a nice creamy texture from nose to finish, very smooth, easy, rich but relaxed…
This is good. As with their rye, Peerless has created a young product that comes across a bit older. The sweet mash process provides a youthful clarity that allows the mature richness its depth and vibrancy, from the color into the nose and on through the taste and finish. It’s very steady in its personality, very consistent.
Also like the rye, the price on this bourbon is too bad. At about 30% less than the rye’s $100, the bourbon is the better deal—particularly given they are so similar.
So I tried the small batch bourbon next to the single barrel rye, the latter a store pick from Healthy Spirits in San Francisco that I’ve written notes on previously.
Tasted side by side, the bourbon and rye are indeed variations on a theme—fresh, clean, and lightly creamy. The bourbon leans into the caramels, vanillas, and cinnamons of the Peerless profile. The rye leans into the grasses and spices. They are not identical twins. But they’re certainly fraternal, almost to the point that having both available tastes a bit redundant. Why pay $108 for the rye when one can get a nearly equal tasting experience from the $77 bourbon, itself already pricey for a young bottling?
This comparison reminds me of the Willett single barrel ryes and bourbons, which both feature “barely legal” mash bills—meaning, the bourbon’s corn ratio and the rye’s rye ratio are just above the 51% minimum to qualify them as a bourbon and a rye respectively. These two Peerless offerings taste even more similar to one another than the Willetts.
Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. set out to offer high-end products without apology. The bottle is unique, with a cork like a fancy doorknob. The sweet mash process is uncommon. The low entry proof yields perfect bottling proofs—in this 110.6-proof outing, strong enough to pronounce the flavors clearly yet easy enough not to shout. These whiskeys are unusually thoughtful for their youth.
So, it becomes a matter of not just taste but also ta$te. I’m a big fan of the Peerless taste, not so much the Peerless ta$te. Like the rye, this bourbon won’t be a regular on my shelf. But it’s good enough that I’ll for certain check in with Peerless again once their whiskeys have another two years under their belts. Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. is without doubt a distillery to follow.