OLD DOMINICK HULING STATION BOURBON
very small batch early 2020 release
MASH BILL – 52% corn, 44% rye, 4% malted barley
PROOF – 100
AGE – NAS (4+ years)
DISTILLERY – Old Dominick Distillery
PRICE – $48 (that includes shipping)
BUY AGAIN? – When this bottle runs out, sure!
I first heard about Old Dominick through Seelbach’s, the great craft-whiskey-centered online whiskey shop, from which I was introduced to Great Wagon Road’s Rua Single Malt, a spectacular McKenzie Rye single barrel, and others… Priced at $38, with shipping it ended up at $48. That’s on par or cheaper than quite a lot of craft whiskeys these days. The price, the mash bill, the distillery’s story, the superb bottle design, and the fact that Seelbach recommends it, all convinced me to give it a go. Even at uncorking I knew it was $48 well spent.
Let’s get right to it. Here are some brief notes up front, taken about three weeks after uncorking and three pours into the bottle, tasted in a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – a classic, vibrant, autumnal bourbon-orange leaning into soft warm ambers
NOSE – if small batch organic Vicks Vaporub was a thing, this might be it; a medley of mint: spearmint, peppermint, fresh mint leaves… through the minty fog some other herbal notes like licorice, anise, eucalyptus, and then a bit of faint toffee emerges, though it’s hard to pinpoint…
TASTE – the mint carries through up front and mid-palate, allowing some chocolatey caramel to emerge toward the end, some vanilla and chewy fresh-baked breakfast pastry, a black licorice note, with a warm tingly pepperiness, and… what is that? Something in and around the chocolate caramel note… more a dark round presence than a flavor…
FINISH – the various mints all darken here, the black licorice, now with some black tea leaf, some kind of spiced tea, mint tea of course, a bit of the breakfast pastry, and a minty cool heat lingering nicely at the back of the throat…
OVERALL – MINT! 🍃
Very clearly, mint rules the day here. I’ve tasted mint in other whiskeys—Four Roses, the occasional Knob Creek or Booker’s, certain ryes… But never has it come on so strong and in such variation as this Old Dominick. Given the low corn to rye ratio, making this a “barely legal” high-rye bourbon, it’s no surprise that it would have such a strong herbal quality. But it’s not the familiar Kentucky rye spice or even that clear and sweet Canadian rye spiciness. It’s MINT. Boom.
So I’ll have to be in the mood for something minty and refreshing, and when I am I will definitely reach for Old Dominick. I can imagine this nicely brightening up Spring, Summer, or any other sunny day cocktails.
I’ll admit it’s not the flavor profile I expected from the very classic packaging. The solid, heavy, angular bottle conjures up late 19th Century pharmacy bottles. The striking red and gold label with the old-fashioned grey etching of the bottle’s namesake—Huling Station on Front Street in Memphis, Tennessee—confidently declares “good old-fashioned bourbon.” Maybe this was indeed how high-rye bourbons tasted in 1866, when Domenico Canale, the Italian immigrant who first earned money selling fruit off a street cart, established a brick-and-mortar shop where he sold his “Old Dominick” whiskey.
This tasting experience does give credence to the traditional use of whiskey as medicine. “Medicinal” is not a pejorative in this instance. If cold medicine tasted like this, I’d gladly take more than a spoonful. At 100 proof it’s strong enough to realign your sinuses, yet smooth enough to go down easy. And those overwhelming mint aspects leave a cool sensation behind that feels bright and enlivening.
Today, Old Dominick whiskeys are driven by the company’s talented and inventive master distiller, Alex Castle. She has created a Tennessee whiskey that tastes nothing like Jack Daniel’s or George Dickel, arguably the dominant definers of the “Tennessee Whiskey” taste profile.
Castle contract distilled Huling Station with MGP in Indiana. So the mash bill is made to order, the yeast is proprietary, and the water used was shipped from Memphis. The bourbon is aged a respectable 4 years, rather than the 2-3 years many craft distillers go for. The barrels are charred to level 4, offering a stronger char influence than the more typical level 3 charred barrels. A great deal of thought and research went into making something distinct and enjoyable.
Despite the overtures to 1866 in the marketing, Old Dominick Huling Station is a distinctly 21st Century bourbon whiskey—fresh, unusual, rooted in history yet looking forward. Alongside Big River Distilling, another Memphis, TN, craft whiskey producer doing good and innovative things, Old Dominick is helping establish Memphis as a go-to destination for the modern whiskey movement.