Beam Suntory’s venerable Old Overholt rye whiskey brand gets an extension and upgrade with this new bottled-in-bond expression, which ups the proof to 100, ensures the production is from a “single season” (not a blend), and guarantees it has spent at least 4 years in barrel. Otherwise, the distillery says the new Old Overholt Bonded is made using the same recipe and production methods, so from a flavor perspective, it should be similar, just bigger and bolder.
Let’s see, comparing the new OO Bonded against the original classic.
No doubt this is definitively bolder than rack Old Overholt. The bonded expression starts off with a nose that is intense with barrel char notes but also heavy with sinus-clearing eucalyptus and a classic smattering of cloves. Those cloves aside, the spicy-sweet notes that are essential to rye whiskey are largely lacking, even on the palate, where heavy-duty wood, clove oil, and red pepper dominate. It’s a bit one-note, but as the finish develops, the whiskey does take on an almond/marzipan character, at last showing some sweetness, which eludes this whiskey until the end. That’s redemptive, as the whiskey is otherwise a completely savory and quite tannic experience — a boon perhaps for some spirit-forward cocktails, but a little heavy on its own.
The rack version of Old Overholt is built for mixing and doesn’t really shine on its own, so my notes on the bonded Overholt shouldn’t come as a big surprise. It works just fine in cocktails, however, though whether you find it a significant upgrade to standard Old Overholt will likely be a matter of personal taste. I made otherwise identical Sazerac cocktails with each version of the whiskey, and other than a touch harsher alcoholic bit on the bonded version, I was hard-pressed to find any real difference.
B / $25