Review: First Landing Bourbon
Most people don’t associate Maryland with bourbon, but the founders of Tobacco Barn Distillery would argue that Maryland was actually ground zero for America’s native spirit. It’s true that icons of bourbon history like Basil Hayden and Henry Wathen lived in the Chesapeake Bay region of southern Maryland before heading west to what would become Kentucky, stills in tow. Whether either of those men would have contributed the same amount to bourbon history had they stayed in Maryland is a debate for another day, but it was that heritage that inspired the founders of Tobacco Barn Distillery to begin distilling in 2016. Their portfolio currently includes a bourbon, straight rye, and rum. We recently came across the bourbon, dubbed First Landing, which is made from a high-rye mashbill (25%) that uses corn grown on their own Tobacco Farm. Let’s give it a go!
The nose is earthy with a healthy amount of baking chocolate and cooked cereals. It’s very much what many probably think of when they think “craft whiskey.” The small-scale distillation (assuming a modest-sized pot still) is evident in the way the grains stand out, caramel-coated and sweet but still fresh and tied to the soil in a way. A bit of fresh oak and vanilla bean round out the classic, craft profile. On the palate, it’s oily and honeyed with a nice weight and even heat. The youthful cereals are still there, but there’s a good helping of maple syrup and brown sugar, as well. The rye content kicks up the baking spice a bit, but I honestly might have pegged this one as lower in rye. There’s a touch of orchard fruit amid more caramel and toffee, and the finish turns to slightly bitter cocoa powder and chocolate chip cookies. It has its rough edges, like a lot of younger craft whiskeys, but this one definitely shows promise.
B / $60 / tobaccobarndistillery.com
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