Review: Penelope Bourbon Barrel Strength (2020)
It’s our third go-round with Penelope, a unique “four grain” whiskey that blends three MGP whiskeys together: a rye-mash bourbon, a wheat-mash bourbon, and a “corn bourbon” made from just corn and barley. We’ve reviewed the standard bottling in two separate batches. Now we turn to Batch #2 of the Barrel Strength expression. (Though, note, these bottles are not labeled with batch numbers; you’ll need to use the proof information to determine which version you have. Batch 1 was 116.6 proof.)
For this batch, proprietor Daniel Polise told me, “With the wheated bourbon barrel selections, we looked for further notes of soft vanilla and light florals which I think made it through the corn dominance of the blend.”
Let’s see if the tweaks have made any difference. Thoughts follow.
The nose of the whiskey is redolent — aggressive, even — with elements of nutty baked goods (think almond croissants and peanut brittle) and the wealth of the spice cabinet — definitely a touch of dill evident here. A bit dusty and heavy with barrel char, the wood lies in wait underneath the spice and nut elements. At full proof, I found the whiskey unapproachable, attacking the back of the throat with a surprising aggressiveness. Chalky and rough, I dosed the spirit with ample water before really getting to understand its charms — and there are plenty of them. Notes of butterscotch, vanilla, dark chocolate, and more peanut brittle are all in effect, though the barrel remains dominant throughout. Looking back at my notes for Batch 1, I don’t see any major departures — except that this batch pushes the power of the barrel to an extreme.