Review: Old Elk Cigar Cut Island Blend and Infinity Blend 2023

Review: Old Elk Cigar Cut Island Blend and Infinity Blend 2023

Old Elk recently (that is, at the end of 2023) released a pair of its big blends, both incredibly complex whiskeys that draw from a range of mashbills and finishing styles, all whipped up into a frenzy. We’ve got them both covered here — including the Cigar Cut and Infinity Blend, both in their 2023 editions.

Here we go.

Old Elk Cigar Cut Island Blend 2023 – This is the second annual release of Old Elk Cigar Cut, crafted entirely by Old Elk’s Production Manager, Melinda Maddox, designed to “extend summer with every sip, while embracing what fans of the category want seasonally.” It’s a rather complex blend of Old Elk’s Cask Finish Series, blending Old Elk’s base whiskeys, including the High-Malt Straight Bourbon Whiskey, Straight Rye Whiskey, and Straight Wheat Whiskey, before finishing them in Port, Sauternes, sherry, or rum barrels. The whiskey is aged a minimum of 6 years in its initial cask, then casks are variously finished for two months to two years before the final marriage occurs. Just as its recipe would suggest, it’s a hearty and complex whiskey, though the nose kicks off as rather rustic, with a surprisingly bold peanut and popcorn quality that I would have expected to see washed out by this point. Notes of black pepper, a heavy dousing of baking spice, and some anise ring the edges, but otherwise the nose feels familiar and traditional. The palate isn’t particularly “islandy” at first, though the rum finishing becomes more evident with time in glass. Coconut, tropical fruit, red berries, and vanilla are all emergent and expressive, with sweet honey notes lingering on the finish. Touches of lemon brighten things up. In the end, I guess the “island” does come out of its shell, though it takes a bit of time getting there. It’s worth the journey. 111.7 proof. A- / $130

Old Elk Infinity Blend 2023 – This year’s Infinity Blend — the sixth — starts with 15.3% Infinity Blend 2022, then adds in 40% 8 year old Old Elk High Malt Bourbon, 43.2% 7 year old Old Elk Straight Wheat Whiskey, and 1.5% 10 year old Old Elk Straight Wheat Whiskey. As with 2022, there’s a lot of wheat whiskey in the mix here, giving the nose a slight whiff of industriality. Otherwise, it’s bold and doughy, with overtones of spiced nuts, almond nougat, and some lemon oil. Quite a bit less cohesive than the 2022 Infinity Blend, but engaging and pointed. Quite sharp, with a healthy level of char keeping things toasty and a bit smoky. The palate feels more well-realized, the nutty elements creating a soothing almond-heavy base against which notes of vanilla and spice find purchase — later evoking fruitier notes of peaches and apricots. Sweetness continues to build as the whiskey rests in glass, the finish rather aggressive with brown sugar, toasted coconut, and bittersweet chocolate notes. It’s perhaps unfair to compare this whiskey against the masterful 2022, but at $150 I was hoping for another transformative encounter that I never quite got. Still, it’s worth a dram should you cross paths. 115.15 proof. B+ / $150

oldelk.com

Old Elk Cigar Cut Island Blend 2023

$130
9

Rating

9.0/10

Christopher Null is the founder and editor in chief of Drinkhacker. A veteran writer and journalist, he also operates Null Media, a bespoke content creation company.

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