Based out of San Francisco, Fat Labrador Distillers is following a playbook similar to so many other American craft distillers. While their own distillate is aging, they’ve sourced stocks from other major producers to help create both brand awareness and sales. Their Whiskey Town releases cover a variety of mashbills, some of which are finished at facilities in San Francisco; these include “oak stave,” pinot noir, and cabernet-finished expressions.
Today, we’ll be looking at their 3 year-old straight bourbon, distilled and aged in Indiana (one may assume MGP) from a 75% corn, 21% rye, and 4% malted barley mash. The whiskey was then shipped and “craft finished” in San Francisco on additional oak staves.
It’s bottled at 90 proof and retails for $55. Let’s dive in.
The whiskey has an intensely dark color for a 3-year-old bourbon, which I’m guessing comes from the additional stave finishing. On the nose, there’s an immediate hit of grain that dominates at first. Quickly, that gives way to some dark fruit, predominantly raisins and dates. There’s also a bit of a rum quality here, and the whole thing reminds me of rum-soaked holiday fruitcake from old family gatherings (emphasis on the soaked). But there’s still enough of a prominent grain note to suggest this is a whiskey on the younger side of four years.
The first sip is a bit muted and dissipates quickly; this comes through both drier and less fruity than I expected. A second sip does yield some sweetness, particularly a honey note that slides over the palate but doesn’t bring a ton of warmth with it. There’s also a chocolatey quality here, almost milk chocolate before giving way to something darker with a tinge of cocoa bitterness.
On the finish, there’s leather and a continued chocolate note. Though as the milk chocolate gives way to dark chocolate, the step beyond is slightly bitter for my liking, and it’s bordering on a touch sour in contrast to the initial honey sweetness.
There’s been some interesting work done here to add depth to young Indiana whiskey, but overall it wasn’t a consistent improvement across the nose, palate, and finish, leaving a few components lagging behind others. There are some very welcome and flavor-forward notes here, which then get bogged down by a relatively flat midpalate and finish that veers slightly bitter. The high notes, however, left me wondering what Fat Labrador’s finishing process could accomplish with an older, more balanced base spirit. It’s certainly something to keep an eye on.
B / $55 / fatlabradordistillers.com