Bespoken Spirits, like Lost Spirits, Endless West, and Terressentia, is a startup operation built around the idea of making spirits — just whiskey and rum, in Bespoken’s case — that tastes old. The catch is that it goes “from concept to bottle” in about a week, thanks to the magic of technology. Much like Lost Spirits (though it’s not the same tech), Bespoken’s process involves heat and pressure applied to young distillate and a tiny piece of wood, which turns it into something that tastes like a “real” whiskey in a matter of hours. (Unlike most of these operations, Bespoken seems to rely on immature but partially aged spirits to start things off, instead of using new-make white dog.)
The sell here is that the aging process isn’t just much faster, it’s far, far cheaper than traditional whiskeymaking. And it also gives the company a lot of creative freedom. Bespoken says it has generated over 1000 styles of whiskey in the last few years, six of which it has released on the market under its own brand. (As well, the Menlo Park, California-based operation also provides its services to other distilleries as a consultancy.)
Also, Derek Jeter is an investor!
With all of that prologue, let’s give two of Bespoken’s products a try and see how this Quick Whiskey actually tastes. Products (all sold as 375mls) are individually numbered with batch and bottle number.
Bespoken Spirits American Light Whiskey – Light whiskey is distilled to higher proof, giving it a cleaner, lighter flavor. This is made from a mash of 99% corn, 1% malted barley and it doesn’t begin with new-make spirit. Rather, it’s made with sourced barrels of light whiskey already aged at least 3 months before being further refined in Bespoken’s equipment. Like most light whiskey, this is sweet stuff, its nose heavy with melted butterscotch candies, spun sugar, and an indistinct note of fortune cookies. Much the same on the palate, though things are filtered through a vodka-like astringency, with peanut butter notes lingering on the back end. That’s not out of bounds for a light whiskey, but it doesn’t make for that exciting of an experience, coming off closer to a flavored vodka than a real whiskey. 100 proof. Reviewed: Batch #1B. B- / $30 (375ml)
Bespoken Spirits Bourbon Whiskey – This starts with 3-month-old (or older) “baby bourbon,” made from a mash of 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley which is then refined in Bespoken’s system. This is a fully credible bourbon, though it will hardly shake you to the core. Young and expressive, it’s got a meaty aroma alongside a slick of brown sugar and some spiece, the whole affair showing a decent level of balance. Notes of beef jerky, peanut shells, then spice and butterscotch all emerge on the rounded but somewhat uneventful palate, notes of graphite giving the whiskey a bit of grit on the tongue later in the game. The finish keeps the theme going with soothing caramel and lots more of that peanut character. If I didn’t know any better, I’d readily assume this was a young bourbon from somewhere in Kentucky. That said — at $70 for a 750ml equivalent, this is wildly overpriced. 94 proof. Reviewed: Batch #1. B / $35 (375ml)