A Bouquet of Penelope Bourbons (Four Grain, Four Grain Barrel Strength, PX Sherry Cask Finish, Olorosso/Cognac Cask Finish)

American Whiskey Reviews #61-64: A Bouquet of Penelope Bourbons (Four Grain, Four Grain Barrel Strength, PX Sherry Cask Finish, Olorosso/Cognac Cask Finish)

Distillery: MGP

Bottler: Penlope

Region: Indiana

Price: Samples provided to the Nebraska Bourbon Society Facebook group for a virtual tasting

This past week, the good folks over at Penelope hosted a virtual tasting for members of the Nebraska Bourbon Society Facebook group. For this tasting, they shipped each of us 4 samples. Two from their current products–the Four Grain Straight Bourbon and Four Grain Straight Bourbon Barrel Strength–and two from what they called their “experimental” series–the PX Sherry Cask Finish and the Olorosso/Cognac Cask Finish. All of the whiskey is sourced from MGP in Indiana and barrels used for their cask finishes are sourced by Speyside Cooperage.

American Whisky Review #61: Penelope Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey

ABV: 40%

Age: NAS. 2-3 year.

Mashbill: 75% corn, 15% wheat, 7% rye, 3% malted barley

Color: 0.9, Amontillado Sherry.

Nose: (according to the wife) It’s really light. Notes of fresh pineapples, other assorted tropical fruits, and floral perfume come out.

Palate: Fairly smooth and sweet but there’s not a whole lot going on here. I get a bit of sugar, a nice dose of corn mash, but that’s about it. No depth or complexity. Very easy to drink though.

Finish: Short. Crisp apples and pineapple. Disappears incredibly quickly.

Conclusion: Not a whole lot going on here. It’s easy to drink, very easy to drink, but really lacking in any kind of flavor or depth. It’s a decent, inoffensive whisky that probably would work very well as a mixer.

Final Score: 71

American Whiskey Review #62: Penelope Four Grain Straight Bourbon Whiskey Barrel Strength Batch #4

ABV: 58.3% Cask Strength

Mashbill: 75% corn, 15% wheat, 7% rye, 3% malted barley

Age: NAS. 2-3 year.

Color: 1.2, Chestnut/Oloroso Sherry.

Nose: (according to the wife) It’s still fairly light though it clears out the sinuses very quickly. More of the corn comes through here. It’s a tad plastic-y with a note that smells a lot like Halls cough drops.

Palate: It’s a lot richer and sweeter than the non barrel strength version. The first note out of the gate is a lovely, very rich salted caramel. Notes of corn mash come out afterwards before transitioning into a bit of a buttery corn bread. It does show its youth as it is a bit hot. I’d leave it at full strength if you can because with water, this whisky quickly loses flavor at the expense of cooling down.

Finish: Short, there’s a tiny note of vanilla cake. With water, some baking spices from the rye pop in and overtake the cake.

Conclusion: This barrel strength is a clear upgrade on their 40% ABV version. It’s got some nice flavors going on so long as you don’t add any water to this. The nose is a bit off-putting and the finish leaves a bit to be desired. Still, not bad at all.

Final Score: 77

American Whiskey Review #63: Penelope Bourbon PX Sherry Cask Finish

ABV: 56.1%

Age: NAS. 2-3 year.

Cask Type: Small ex-PX Sherry cask (I believe I heard 50-ish liters)

Color: 1.9, Brown Sherry.

Nose: (according to the wife) It’s light and very minty. Very refreshing to smell. There are bits of sherry popping in here and there, kind of like a mint and sherry flavored gum.

Palate: It’s incredibly heavy on the sherry, any more of it and I might’ve been worried that I was drinking sherry straight instead of a bourbon finished in it. There are some salted caramel notes that pop through the sherry haze which provides a nice bit of savory element to this.

Finish: Medium in length. Oak dominates the finish here

Conclusion: I have to say, I really like this. It’s definitely not your average bourbon whatsoever. The few months they put into finishing this whisky in sherry casks has transformed this into an absolute sherry bomb and it’s quite a treat. The rich salted caramel notes that appeared in the Barrel Strength version of their Four Grain pop in here again and marries very well with the fruit from the sherry. I know this is an experimental whisky but I’d definitely consider adding a full bottle of this to the collection.

Final Score: 80

American Whiskey Review #64: Penelope Bourbon Olorosso/Cognac Cask Finish

ABV: 56.05%

Age: NAS. 2-3 year.

Color: 1.8, Old Oak.

Nose: (according to the wife) Very earthy and herbal. There’s well aged leather along with an herbal tea. A tiny bit of caramel comes along to sweeten things up.

Palate: The cognac comes through heavily here. There’s a lot of oak and you that rich, boozey oak that can come along with cognac. The sherry does seem to get drowned out a bit, which is a shame since this could use some of the dark fruit notes to help balance out the oak. With a bit of water, a note of orange solvent comes out.

Finish: Medium. Peppery with a lot of spices and a lot of oak.

Conclusion: Cognac and sherry, that’s not a combination you hear of everyday. It is, at least for my taste, a bit too heavy on the oak notes and the cognac does appear to dominate a tad. If they can fine tune this to get a bit of the deeper Olorosso notes to shine, I think this would be quite the interesting whisky. As it stands, it’s not for me.

Final Score: 74

Final Thoughts: After all of the madness that’s happened in the world these past few months, this was a nice bit of “normal”. It was a lot of fun tasting these whiskies and hearing what the guys running the show had to say. While their products are clearly still being refined, I have to say I love their creativeness going out and trying various cask finishes on their blend. The PX sherry one is pretty darn good as it is, the cognac and Olorosso mix one is a very interesting concept. They mentioned that they’re going to try a rosé cask finish here in the near future and I’d be incredibly curious to see how that pans out.

American Whiskey Review #61-64, Bourbon Review #48-51, Whisky Network Review #308-311

Scoring Legend:

  • 96-100: The perfect dram, nectar of the gods.
  • 90-95: Near perfect, there is something truly special about this whisky.
  • 85-89: Amazing, will always try to keep a bottle of this in my collection (if feasible).
  • 80-84: Very Good, maybe only one minor nitpick about the whisky keeping it here.
  • 75-79: Good, quite enjoyable to drink.
  • 70-74: Solid, wouldn’t go out of my way to get it.
  • 60-69: Meh, still drinkable.
  • Below 59: If you have a bottle of this, start cooking with it instead.

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