THE OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN
Bottled in Bond – Batch 11 (2021)
MASH BILL – 82.4% organic yellow corn, 11% organic rye, and 6.6% malted barley
PROOF – 100
AGE – 4 years
DISTILLERY – Tamworth Distilling
PRICE – $80 (includes shipping)
WORTH BUYING? – Yes and no…
With a label like that, what’s inside has a lot to live up to!
But to date I’d say this Old Man of the Mountain Bottled in Bond Bourbon tops the list for me. Having grabbed my attention on the Seelbach’s website, my Googling didn’t then turn up much about the bourbon itself, save a very unflattering Reddit post. And the Tamworth Distilling website provides minimal information. In addition to the basic stats above, they also share this:
Old-World double pot distilling methods used in traditional Scotch and Cognac distillation were applied to maintain the new bourbon’s natural flavors during the aging process in #3 char, Kentucky-made 53-gallon barrels… Visit OldManoftheMountainBourbon.com for more information.
But a visit to OldManoftheMountainBourbon.com doesn’t actually reveal more information. It’s a verbatim repeat of the same info on the main Tamworth Distilling site, plus a few cocktail recipes.
So, with stats that aren’t unprecedented or particularly unusual (save the fractional grain ratios in the mash bill), there’s very little to go on beyond the exceptional label. But when the good people at Seelbach’s decide to sell a whiskey, I trust it’s going to be something. I took a chance.
And so here we are. Tasted two weeks after uncorking and three pours into the bottle, these brief notes were taken using a traditional Glencairn.
COLOR – a toasted orange-amber that goes vibrant cherry in certain light
NOSE – a dense multi-grain bread or cake, rustic oatmeal with savory seeds stirred into it, marzipan, brown sugar, honey, savory herbs one might use on roasted meats, pinecone and a slightly astringent pinewood sap
TASTE – very like the nose, with that astringent pine note tempered by the creamier oatmeal and softer marzipan and brown sugar notes
FINISH – bright and dark at once, the bright coming from the pine and honey and the dark from the various baking notes
OVERALL – a rustic and bready dessert pour, hampered only by that astringent aspect that doesn’t dominate so much as nag from the sidelines
This Old Man is not just on the mountain but deep in the woods. There is a dense, rustic quality to this bourbon that conjures flavors and images of overgrown forests, thick with trees and bushes and shrubs and grasses with large bulges of granite pushing out from among them. The wildness is sweetened by unrefined baking flavors—uncut marzipan, crumbly chunks of brown sugar, honey dripping so slowly it’s already starting to crystalize, like that sap glazing the tips of the pinecones.
Altogether, I’m most reminded of the 77 Whiskey Wheated Bourbon, which shares the Old Man’s thick oatmeal and grain aspects. Old Man is a lighter variation on that experience, with the added prominent pine. Those pine notes take me to the 2021 batch of Rubicon Rye, though here they are sharper and less complex than in the Rubicon.
So I poured a bit of the 77 Wheated. Nosing them side by side, it’s indeed the desserty-bready aspects that link them, that sense of a rich, creamy, grain-laden oatmeal or porridge. The 77 leans much darker and subtler than the more zingy Old Man, with chocolate notes in contrast to the Old Man’s pine. On the taste, the 77 roars with the fire of its 130 proof. Once that heat subsides, the decadent chocolate and dark red and black fruit notes pour forth. It’s no fair to sip the Old Man after that. Its mere 100 proof is now obliterated by the smoldering 77 Wheater.
Next to the 2021 Rubicon Rye, the Old Man is again a much brighter taste profile. The Rubicon’s rich exploration of all things pine forest shows itself well, with added maple and bacon notes giving it weight next to the lighter, grainier Old Man of the Mountain.
On its own, Old Man of the Mountain offers a lighter, still desserty, grain-forward, and piney experience. It’s not bad. But in its peculiarity it’s not quite interesting enough to warrant its cost. At double the age and 30 proof-points higher, the 77 Whiskey Wheated Bourbon offers more bang for the buck, even at a higher cost. So, given the crossover in their flavor profiles, I would certainly be very curious to taste an older cask strength version of Old Man of the Mountain. Based on this Bottled in Bond release, that could be stunning!
So I wouldn’t say this bourbon is living up to the promise of its label in terms of overall elegance and panache. But there is a liveliness to it—a busyness, is actually more accurate—that does find expression in the multiple fonts and trilly etchings of the label art. It’s a curious bourbon, for sure, though not yet a great one. As a curiosity, it’s well worth the money. Purely as a tasting experience, not as much.