Penelope Bourbon has quickly become a small sensation in the American whiskey world. By taking the familiar non-distilling producer formula of sourcing whiskey and then blending or finishing it to create a new product they’ve seen great success since they got their start back in 2018. Penelope’s founders were known in the brand’s early days to sell their products out of the trunk of their cars, but in less than four years they’ve graduated to a production facility and are distributed in more than half the states in the country – you could say they’re prodigious learners!
Speaking of learning, their 101 course for finishing came via a unique rosé cask finished bourbon which marked the beginning of their Cooper Series. That was soon followed by a Tokaji finished straight rye earlier this year, and now we will be considering the third entry in the series, Penelope Valencia, a four grain bourbon finished in Vino de Naranja casks.
Vino de Naranja, an orange wine, is produced in Andalucia, Spain and is an expressive, dark, and potent sweet wine made with macerated orange peels. True to the origin of those finishing casks, Penelope Valencia bourbon opens with aromas of warm pound cake followed by an enticing spiced orange note. I initially pick up major Old Fashioned vibes, minus the cocktail cherry, and over time aromas of vanilla frosting and the slightest bit of candied walnut emerge as well.
On the palate Penelope Valencia is resplendent with semi-sweet orange buttercream leading the charge at the tip of the tongue before dry walnuts and warming baking spices blossom on the back end. It’s the somewhat austere midpalate which keeps the tasting experience from fulfilling the rich promise it begins with, but a splash of simmering spice on the lingering finish made me grab my bottle just to double check whether or not it was a rye.
Upon revisiting the glass after allowing it some time to rest, the flavors continue to present themselves well, but I kept coming back to the ho-hum midpalate experience, and I believe the primary culprit here is the proof point. At only 97 proof this expression has a lot to say, but it seems as though it’s cut short from divulging all of its secrets. While I’d love to see how Valencia performs at a higher abv, taken as it is this is an approachable finished bourbon that has plenty to offer despite leaving a bit on the table.
B / $75 / penelopebourbon.com