I’m not going to lie: The flood of releases, both bourbons and ryes and all named after race horses, is daunting and confusing. There were at least 6 special editions in 2018, and 4 so far in 2020. Keeping track of what’s what isn’t easy.
Today we look at 4 releases from Pinhook, all of which are distilled at Castle & Key in Kentucky. Three of these are 2020 releases, and one is a 2019 “crop,” per Pinhook’s parlance. Let’s dig into the lot.
Pinhook Bourbon War Bourbon Vertical Series 4 Years Old 2019 – 75% corn, 24.5% rye, 4.5% barley. “The Vertical Series is a one-time opportunity to follow a group of barrels, all filled within months of each other, as they age. Every year over the next 9 years, Pinhook will select 150 bourbon barrels and 50 rye barrels to be blended and proofed creating the most balanced expression for the vintage. Join us on the journey beginning with our inaugural 4 Year old bourbon and collect and enjoy the Vertical Series in annual releases from age 4 to age 12.” So here we go at the beginning: 4 years old. Indistinct on the nose, with a vague menthol, leather, and barrel char note, it opens up considerably on the palate to reveal a rush of butterscotch and peanut butter, tempered by more tanned leather, pepper, and forest floor notes. With time in glass, an interesting blackberry note begins to emerge, layered with baking spice elements. The finish sees some chocolate and vanilla, though the overall profile is on the young — and wood-forward — side. I’m definitely game to follow this whiskey for the next 8 years to see how it evolves. 98 proof. B+ / $52 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Pinhook Tiz Rye Time Rye Vertical Series 4 Years Old 2020 – 95% rye, 5% barley. Same concept as the Bourbon War, this will evolve from ages 4 to 12 over the next 8 years. In this inaugural edition, an intensely herbal character dominates, the nose full of dill, thyme, and savory greenery that all but fills the room when you pour a glass. Those herbal notes are hard to shake, and they own the palate completely, giving the whiskey a savory, verdant quality that sends one’s thoughts from the greenhouse to, eventually, the lumberyard, as a mild barrel influence takes hold on the finish. There’s the barest hint of honey sweetness here, but overall the pungency of this rye won’t win any fans looking for a more easygoing experience. That said, it’s definitely a sign of significant promise — which is, I suppose, exactly the point of this series. 97 proof. B / $50 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Pinhook Rye’d On Rye 2020 – 60% rye, 20% corn, 20% barley; aged over 2 years. Immediately and surprisingly dessert-like, with a nose of cinnamon toast, gingerbread, and brown butter. The palate takes the dessert theme and runs with it. It’s considerably sweeter than the typical rye — which these days often comes across as guttural and heavy — offering more of the same, plus notes of Bit-O-Honey, candied apple, and Fig Newtons. Extremely soft, I would never have guessed this was 60% rye — but perhaps it’s that 20% malted barley that gives it its silky, doughy finish. Definitely worth experiencing as part of a comparative lineup. 97 proof. A- / $44 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]
Pinhook Bohemian Bourbon High Proof 2020 – 75% corn, 15% rye, 10% barley; an overproof version of Bohemian Bourbon, limited to 100 barrels. Aged a minimum of 34 months. Lots of peanut and caramel corn on the nose here gives this whiskey a quite traditional approach. It’s definitely on the young side, but not overbearingly so — with a gentle pop of rye spice in the mix. The palate doubles down on peanut elements — creamy, like a peanut butter ice cream — with notes of coffee bean, toasted coconut, barrel char, and a mixed, savory spice note popping on the finish. There’s youthful exuberance here, for sure, but also more complexity (and fun) than I’d expected. 114.5 proof. B+ / $53 [BUY IT NOW FROM CASKERS]