For a long time, any bourbon you might find on a shelf that carried the words “Distilled in Indiana” on its label was almost certainly produced by whiskey powerhouse MGP. That’s all starting to change though, because the craft distilling craze hit Indiana the same way it did the rest of the country, and several smaller Indiana distilleries are beginning to distribute well-aged bourbon beyond their borders. One of those is the oddly named Spirits of French Lick, a distillery that grew out of the French Lick Winery (get it?) in Salem. They are the largest pot-still distillery in the state with an impressive portfolio of brown and botanical spirits.
The Mattie Gladden is Spirits of French Lick’s first bottled in bond bourbon offering. It pays tribute to a famous 19th century madam that kept her popular bordello on Salem’s Main Street, catering to lots of travelling businessmen, including the showman P. T. Barnum. The bourbon is made from a recipe of 55% corn, 35% rye, and 10% Victoria malt, fermented with two yeast strains (one brandy and one in-house culture), and double pot distilled before aging for four years.
The Mattie Gladden has a dark and toasted aroma with warm notes of caramelized sugar, roasted marshmallow, dark fudge, and a bit of black cherry. The grain elbows in at times, but I can’t tell if that’s the Victoria malt or a little earthy youth or both. Either way, generous barrel notes keep things well enough in check. For such a high-rye recipe, I expected more spice on the nose, but this is quite soft and nicely balanced. The grain is more prominent up front on the palate with sweet cinnamon biscuits and chocolate malt balls giving way to a warming rye spice and a bright, fruity mid-palate. It’s oily with a generous finish full of big baking spice notes that continue to evolve well after your consumption is done. It’s solid stuff as is but has lots of potential with perhaps a little more time in the barrel.
B+ / $45 / spiritsoffrenchlick.com