As the team behind the podcast Bourbon Pursuit releases new bottles under their Pursuit Spirits brand, they’re leaning into flavor territory beyond just blending. For the first bourbon and rye in “The Oak Collection,” founders Kenny Coleman and Ryan Cecil have imparted additional wood influence via a variety of oak finishes.
As outlined in a recent episode of Bourbon Pursuit, they’ve done this with the help of Innerstave, which allows producers to “finish” with different woods utilizing wood blocks, staves, and other products that can be inserted into batching tanks instead of refilling individual barrels, much like Maker’s Mark’s finishing series.
Today, we’ll be looking at batch #11CC of both bourbon and rye in Pursuit Spirits’ The Oak Collection. Let’s dive in.
Pursuit United Bourbon Finished with Toasted American and French Oak – The standard Pursuit United Bourbon release contains a blend of whiskey from Kentucky (Bardstown Bourbon Co.), Tennessee (undisclosed), and New York (Finger Lakes Distilling). The blend used in The Oak Collection release differs and replaces the Kentucky component with Indiana (MGP). The whiskey used is four to six years old.
The nose punches above its proof, and it’s heavy on the ethanol and more astringent than I expected. I get some sweetness and hot cinnamon, then a touch of orange rind. But there’s not a lot of depth here, and this unfortunately noses in a way that reminds me of fresh distillate. There’s certainly oak influence, but surprisingly I get more grain than oak up front.
On the tongue, there’s a pop of hot cinnamon, a bit like red hot candy, that dissipates rather quickly. That’s followed by woody barrel char and just a touch of vanilla wafer, with some light gingerbread. There’s more sweetness than the nose suggests, and for a very brief second, it warms the palate quite nicely. But the midpalate is short, and the flavor doesn’t stick around for nearly long enough. The thin mouthfeel contributes to a fleeting finish that left my palate much drier than I would have liked. For me, this is a rare miss from the Pursuit team. 108 proof. C+ / $75
Pursuit United Rye Finished with Sherry French Revere Oak – Unlike the bourbon, The Oak Collection’s rye contains the same components as the normal Pursuit United release. It’s sourced from Kentucky (Bardstown Bourbon Co.) and Maryland (Sagamore Spirit). Again, the whiskey used is four to six years old.
The nose strikes with rich and exotic fruit, including papaya and guava, with cloves and baking spices (allspice, cloves, and cardamom stick out). There are some familiar and welcome rye notes with a touch of novelty. Then there’s a bit of lemonade and tea — an Arnold Palmer, anyone? — that plays nicely with the classic rye spice. Unlike the bourbon, this doesn’t overpower with ethanol, and I found myself really wanting to spend time with the nose.
On the tongue, there’s balance from the first sip and an interplay between three zones: sweet, spicy, and fruity. It’s similar to the standard Pursuit United Rye with some clear additional influence from the oak. It’s a full bodied sip, and I get some herbal notes similar to the regular release. Those are just a little subdued here, though not drowned out. It’s tough to pick out specific fruit notes on the tongue, but overall they bring some nice acidity to really hit from multiple angles. There’s also a lovely dark caramel sweetness.
The finish is significant with warming baking and rye spice that switch to a bit of cooling spearmint as one might expect from a blend containing some 95% rye mashbill. The mint lingers nicely and invites the imbiber back for another sip to restart the sweet-fruity-spicy cycle. There are a lot of flavor layers here, which is fun, but that’s at the slight expense of the intensity of the regular rye release. There might be one too many cooks in the kitchen here, though it’s an enjoyable pour. 108 proof. A- / $75