Doc Swinson’s came out of nowhere a few years ago, and since then the brand (using all sourced stock) has absolutely exploded. What began as a handful of sourced whiskeys is now a bazillion different bottlings, filed into various series.
We recently received a care package of five of these expressions, so let’s get right to it.
Doc Swinson’s Session Blend Bourbon 5 Years Old – A blend of two 5 year old MGP bourbons: one 60% corn, 36% rye, 4% malted barley, the other 75% corn, 21% rye, 4% malted barley. Aged in white oak char #4 barrels with char #2 heads. A surprisingly oaky attack starts things off on the nose, then lots of rosemary and mint atop a layer of peanut shells and charred mesquite. More peanut and popcorn notes dominate the palate, which becomes increasingly malty as it develops, eventually showcasing baked apples and some graham cracker notes. Lightly peppery — more white pepper than black — later on, the finish is rather savory, with overtones of the lumberyard and smooth peanut butter. “Session” is the perfect descriptor for this otherwise harmless product. 90 proof. Reviewed: Release #23~0001. B / $35
Doc Swinson’s Blenders Cut Bourbon – Basically a higher-proof version of the Session Blend, with the same two MGP bourbons, aged five years (though there’s no detail on the casks as there is with the Session Blend) and then finished in “three types of fortified wine and spirits casks.” The extra abv and finishing help, offsetting that initial woodiness, though the green herbal notes linger — rosemary and sage dominant. Brighter and sweeter on the palate, there’s fruit here that’s backed up by lots of fresh ground pepper, a pinch of turned earth, and a slight element of anise. Bold but balanced, the savory qualities on the finish complement the fruitier attack rather than detract from it. Before I knew it, my sample was gone. 115 proof. Reviewed: Release #22~0001. A- / $48
Doc Swinson’s Exploratory Cask Bourbon French Toasted – The same two bourbons in the Session Blend above, both a minimum of 5 years old, separately finished in new, toasted French oak casks for 5.5 months and 9.5 months, respectively, then blended and proofed. It’s amazing how much the finish provides here, making for a much more enticing spin on the Session Blend. Vanilla cream aromas are backed up by gingerbread, dark red fruit, and some milk chocolate elements. The longer it spends in glass, the more the whiskey’s baking spice quality reveals itself. The palate showcases all of the above, layered with ever-sweeter notes of glazed almonds, coconut, and dried fruits — almost raisiny. Lengthy and sultry on the finish, this drinks like a far more mature and expressive whiskey than any 5 year old MGP I’ve ever had. I was sad to see the sample go. 110.8 proof. Reviewed: Release #23~0001. A / $67
Doc Swinson’s Exploratory Cask Bourbon Garryana – Same two bourbons as above aged 5 years, 10 months old, blended, then aged in a 350 liter Garryana oak cask (Garryana oak hails from the Pacific Northwest) for 2.5 months. Garryana oak is a divisive wood, and tasting this whiskey can be helpful in explaining why. Toasty — even smoky on the nose — the whiskey has a dense nuttiness and earthiness that smolders in the glass, obscuring pretty much everything else. Fortunately some sweetness manages to push past this initial rush of moodiness, and the palate brightens up, blending umami notes with prominent baked apples, sesame cookies, and gingersnaps. A little clove-heavy on the finish, but it’s otherwise clean and lively. Quite a journey. 108.8 proof. Reviewed: Release #23~0004. A- / $67
Doc Swinson’s Bottled in Bond Rye 7 Years Old – Still listed as “coming soon” on Doc’s website, this is MGP’s 95% rye/5% corn recipe aged in char #4 barrels for 7 long years. Less exciting than some of the bourbons, this is a boldly grassy and peppery rye that will be familiar to anyone who’s encountered this recipe before. Minty and laden with charred wood notes, the whiskey has a heavy vegetal quality that takes a gritty turn toward tobacco late in the game. Not unpleasant, but nothing special as far as rye goes. 100 proof. Reviewed: Release #23~0001. B / $60