The Mattie Gladden – Single Barrel Pick!

Single Barrel #515 selected by Seelbach’s (2022)

MASH BILL – 55% corn, 35% rye, 10% malted barley

PROOF – 101.7

AGE – 4 years

DISTILLERY – Spirits of French Lick

PRICE – $59

WORTH BUYING? – Absolutely

This is my second bottle of Mattie Gladden, the first also being a cask strength single barrel from Seelbach’s. (The regular release is Bottled In Bond.) That first bottle took some time to grow on me. But once I came around to it, I quite appreciated its combination of tart apricot compote, herbal, and grain—not grainy—aromas and flavors. Spirits of French Lick’s motto to “respect the grain” seemed truly manifest in this bourbon.

So when I picked up a bottle of French Lick’s William Dalton Wheated Bourbon I also nabbed this latest single barrel of the Mattie.

Like the first, this too did not wow me at uncorking. But I knew to wait. After a week I tried it again. Already it was fruitier, sweeter, more complex and well-rounded than at uncorking. But still uneven with some rough notes, primarily in the form of cardboard flavors—a deal breaker for me. I set it aside again.

Now here we are, two weeks after uncorking and a handful of pours into the bottle. These brief notes were taken using a traditional Glencairn.

COLOR – soft glowing oranges

NOSE – cooled baked apricot, a porridge made with fresh milled grains and cream, fresh-ground black pepper and salt , dry wide-leafed grasses, dried sage, eventually a whiff of bright red cherry pie with caramel drizzled on the crust

TASTE – the fruit notes right up front and very syrupy, then a nice dash of black pepper and salt, drippy caramel like on homemade vanilla ice cream, a nice splash of heat at the end

FINISH – the caramel, savory black pepper, and apricot / cherry notes all lingering with a steady warmth

OVERALL – There it is! That’s good bourbon—fruity and dry, sweet and savory, familiar and unusual all at once

Well ol’ Mattie Gladden has come around once again. This second experience remains very reminiscent of the first—a bit closed and wobbly out of the gate, and then very soon quite excellent.

I just love the drippy syrupiness of it, and the way that freshly ground black pepper and salt note adds to the rich, bright baked fruit notes. The herbal notes likewise compliment the whole. Disjointed at uncorking, the bourbon now tastes quite integrated, its various flavors distinct but fully complimentary.

And no cardboard! On the nose I can occasionally catch it off in the distance, only it’s thoroughly dusted over by the herb and spice notes. Overall this is a bourbon I most want to drink in the garden on a sunny afternoon in spring, summer or autumn. Come winter it might brighten the gloom!

To help cut down on my alcohol intake, and to save it for when I’m just drinking and not formally tasting, I’ve lately been mostly spitting during these blog write-ups, only swallowing once or twice to ensure a full impression. But most of this pour went down the hatch, I will admit. And I’m ready for another! Always a good sign.

Though what Spirits of French Lick has achieved here might still not satisfy a purist who just wants those good old-fashioned Kentucky flavor profiles, or the ubiquitous but excellent Indiana-MGP flavor profile, still it is a craft operation that gives craft a good name. They keep one foot in tradition and the other in experimentation. And they’ve got that whole “respect the grain” thing down.


3 thoughts on “The Mattie Gladden – Single Barrel Pick!

  1. The distiller is very fortunate to have someone like you (patient and willing to return for several “tries”) reviewing their product. Seems to me they might want to address this “waiting period” directly with their customers. These days, people seem to be very short on patience. Of course, admitting to customers that it might take several weeks of waiting after the bottle is open might not be a winning strategy for the sales dept.!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I found this to be the case as well with my bottle, but now that it has I am absolutely in love with it. The period of flatness, then near acidity, has completely gone and is now simply a wonderful, consistent grain and sweetness that I hope doesn’t change.


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