Ironclad Distillery Co. opened its doors in Newport News, Virginia back in 2015. The name comes from the first naval battle between armored warships, called Ironclads, which took place in waters just off the Port of Newport News during the Civil War. The distillery is owned and operated by the King family and focuses exclusively on bourbon production using all Virginia-grown grains. To date, their portfolio includes a Small Batch and Straight bourbon, along with several different unique finishes (Honey, Coffee, and Maple Syrup cask). The bourbon is produced using a four-grain recipe (corn, rye, wheat, and barley), distilled on six different, custom 26-gallon stills, and aged in small barrels (26-30 gallons). We received samples of the Small Batch and Straight bourbons for review. Battle stations!
Ironclad Small Batch Bourbon – Aged for one year. The nose is impressive for a bourbon this young. It’s rich with dark caramels, hot chocolate, and sweet campfire. Subtle notes of candy corn and fresh grist show a youthful side, but they are by no means front and center. The palate is oily and bright. Flavors of orange rock candy and black tea add some complexity alongside the more classic toasted wood, pie spice, and toffee, all well-balanced. The youth is even less evident on the palate (with the exception of some creamed corn), and everything is laced with a touch of sweet and salty pipe smoke. One of the better young craft bourbons I’ve come across. 90 proof. A- / $39 (375 ml)
Ironclad Straight Bourbon – Aged at least two years. This nose is completely different from the Small Batch and quite unique. There’s almost no sign of the grain, but the barrel is front and center with a ton of seasoned wood, sweet lumberyard, old furniture, and shoe polish. It’s not woody in the traditional “over-oaked” sense, showing contrasting elements of herbal tea and black licorice. The palate is bigger and richer than the Small Batch with a more classic profile of caramel candies, butterscotch, and salted peanuts. There’s a bit more spice on the mid-palate, too, with cinnamon sugar and a sappy, maple syrup note that lingers into the generous finish. 95 proof. B+ / $75 (750 ml)