MEDLEY EXCLUSIVE SELECTION
Drammers Club Los Angeles, Barrel 1 (2019)
MASH BILL – Undisclosed low-rye mash bill
PROOF – 126.65
AGE – NAS
DISTILLERY – Undisclosed contract distiller for Charles Medley Distillery
PRICE – $76
BUY AGAIN? – Can’t! But…
I ordered this bottle online from K&L. After I picked it up and brought it home, I noticed it was filled with particles—like a jar of Sea Monkeys, those old-school novelty aquarium pets:
I emailed the K&L spirits buyer to ask if I should be concerned about this. He asked me how I’d received the bottle, as he couldn’t find my name on his Drammers Club LA list. Turns out I wasn’t supposed to have been able to purchase it. K&L handled distribution of the bottles between Charles Medley Distillery and the Drammers Club LA. I’d happened to be on the K&L website looking at their New Product Feed when it popped up accidentally. In the short time it was there, I managed to buy one.
Regarding the swirling debris, the spirits rep told me that Drammers Club LA had requested their barrel be bottled without even the minimal filtering. The particles were bits of barrel char and if I had received a cloudy bottle I was lucky.
Several week’s later, K&L’s own Medley’s Exclusive Selection store pick was released for $100. I felt even more lucky!
But how is it? Here are some notes, taken about two months after uncracking (it’s a screw cap) and just a few pours into the bottle. I tasted it in a simple brandy glass. Somehow that glass, as opposed to the more refined Glencairn, seemed the right fit for this very old school, very raw American bourbon…
COLOR – rich honey-orange with shades of copper
NOSE – ripe orchard fruits like apricot, nectarine, and apple, dusty oak that’s both sweet and drying
TASTE – those orchard fruits blended into tangy marmalade, rich texture like a syrup, a fiery burst on swallowing
FINISH – the orchard fruit marmalade softens into gentler fruit preserves that coat the mouth like a thick syrup, lingering long, with warmth from that fiery burst
OVERALL – an old school bourbon, and a fruit lovers delight with an edge
I’ve quite enjoyed past Medley experiences, like the 2015 Private Stock release and the weirdly foresty 2018 Wathen’s Barrel Proof #40. This 100% unfiltered Exclusive Selection lacks the pronounced saltiness of the Private Stock and the unique gravel and moss of the 2018 Barrel Proof #40. It has the signature Medley orchard fruit compote, with a crisp, almost biting edge that I can only assume comes from the extremely present oak char and its attendant tannins. The effect is rather schizoid—fruity and drying all at once.
I like this bourbon very much. It’s raw and flavorful, and likely the only bottle of whiskey I’ll ever have that is literally straight from the barrel, unaltered by even the slightest bit of filtering. It’s so peculiar that it’s not something I’ll reach for often. It demands attention. It offers a great story and a complex, striking tasting experience. An excellent conversation starter certain to be a high point of any tasting with friends. Presented in a simple screw-cap bottle like some common bottom-shelfer, it defies expectations with its slew of contractions. Is it good or bad? Is it sweet or dry? Do I like it or not?
I certainly do. It’s a tasty thinker.
Charles Medley Distillery contract distills their products, which is quite different from the average sourcing operation. While this means they are still not an actual distillery, since they are not distilling anything themselves, they do have control over every aspect of the distilling process—mash bill, yeast strain, entry proof, etcetera. And Charles Medley is no whiskey dilettante, having worked for years with the likes of the famed Stitzel-Weller Distillery.
The thought and attention that goes into these Medley bottlings is clear. And there is an under-the-radar quality to all their offerings that adds to the appeal. You don’t see people going mad for each new release online, so they are fairly obtainable. Medley products taste like high class stuff that never bothered to get the approval of high class society. The idiosyncrasies are key to the appeal. The typical fruity and salty aspects are classically tasty. And the unrefined aspects—like the 2018 Barrel Proof #40’s forestiness and this Exclusive Selection’s Jekyll & Hyde sweet/dry effect—lends these bourbons a small town, homemade feel.
Nab one of these barrel proof, single barrel Medley Exclusive Selections if you can find one. I imagine any of them would make a worthy adventure for a bourbon fan.