Not only do you get the extra proof but a lot of subtle aging characteristics and aromas that would have been lost in the proofing down process! Worth the extra money for the extra proof and all the goodness that comes with it!
Backstory: In a break from my usual I am going to quote from an older press release directly on the amusing but somewhat complicated story of how this bourbon got named and a little bit of the back story before I jump in with my analysis/review of the actual product:
” Larceny is the heir to the wheated Bourbons that make up the historic Old Fitzgerald franchise that Heaven Hill acquired in 1999. In fact, it is the somewhat controversial history of John E. Fitzgerald and his eponymous Bourbon brand that provides the story, and name, to Larceny Bourbon, and then I will get on to this, the latest new label/incarnation of Larceny from the venerated distillery that produces Evan Williams and Elijah Craig Bourbons and Rittenhouse Rye.
Larceny Bourbon continues the Old Fitzgerald tradition of using wheat in place of rye as the third or “small” grain in the whiskey’s grain recipe, or mashbill as it is commonly known. The use of winter wheat replaces the spicier, fruitier flavor notes that rye provides with a softer, rounder character that is the hallmark of Old Fitzgerald and other “wheated” Bourbons such as Maker’s Mark and the Van Winkle line.
It is actually the story of the Old Fitzgerald brand, made famous by the late Julian “Pappy” Van Winkle Sr., that forms the historical basis for Larceny Bourbon. According to industry lore, John E. Fitzgerald had founded his distillery in Frankfort, KY shortly after the Civil War ended, making his Bourbon available only to steamship lines, rail lines, and private clubs. This story was furthered by S.C Herbst, who owned the “Old Fitz” brand from the 1880s through Prohibition, and “Pappy” Van Winkle, who purchased the brand during Prohibition and made it his signature label. However, it was revealed by Pappy’s granddaughter, Sally Van Winkle Campbell, in her 1999 book But Always Fine Bourbon—Pappy Van Winkle and the Story of Old Fitzgerald, that in fact, John E. Fitzgerald was not a famous distiller at all. He was, in reality, a treasury agent who used his keys to the warehouses to pilfer Bourbon from the finest barrels. His discerning palate led those barrels to which he chose to help himself being referred to as “Fitzgerald barrels”. ” As I said, amusing and interesting story, certainly a lot better than most we have heard over the years on how some brands got their names. The tagline “A taste made famous by an infamous act”
Notes: This is a barrel proof product at 123.2 proof in this example. Standard proof for Larceny is 92 proof so you are getting ( roughly) about 1/3 more alcohol and a more flavor concentrated profile than the standard. There are going to be 3 releases of this whiskey each year January, May, and September – so look out for them! The proofs will vary slightly and so will the taste to a limited degree. They will want to preserve the brand profile but that does not mean no variation to keep it interesting – just not a huge departure from batch to batch. Some other side note on this; Finally, someone has defined what they call a small batch – a previously very slippery and elastic term in the whiskey industry – in this case, 200 barrels or less. They also have specified that these barrels came from the high storage areas of the 4th, 5th and 6th floors and range in age from 6 to 8 years, with the profile striving to be that of a 6-year-old bourbon, but a very mature 6-year-old.
Appearance: Lovely clear copper-amber yellow shade that show it is a nicely aged bourbon reaching a good age ( the shift in bourbon goes from yellow, gold to red). Lovely color displayed that tells you you are probably in for a treat. On swirling the bourbon leaves a lovely thick coat on the glass transitioning smoothly to lovely looking legs
First Impression: Somewhat more closed than the standard 92 but wheat and the barrel aging come up. Not much nose burn, more a tickle, alcohol is still nicely subdued and not overwhelming the other elements. The wheat gives it more a bread (pain levan- not wonder bread) note than a rye bread you normally encounter with leather, saddle soap, butter and toffee notes for a smoother nose than you would expect for a barrel proof issue. Some warm water opens it up nicely and lets you enjoy all those lovely aromas that would have been lost in the distillery when they proofed it down there – a definite bonus!
Taste: Lovely weighty mouth feel on entry, thick oily body with touches of sweetness, mint, caramel, corn and mildly spicy in a nicely understated way with leather, oak, and hints of light tobacco. Nice long pleasant fade to finish.Smooth for a barrel proof and dangerously easy to drink!
Drinks: Makes a great Manhattan playing well with the other ingredients, also great Horses Neck, Old Fashioned, and a respectable Whiskey Sour
Bottle: Interesting and distinctive a pinched waist flask-shaped clear glass bottle with a segmented silkscreened plastic label with a large keyway as part of the design. Separate label underneath the main label Has “Barrel Proof ” in red letters on a light yellow field on one side and the Batch,Proof and Alcohil by Volume on the other side to quickly identify that it is 1, Barrel proof. 2. The particulars of each batch as they will change with each batch ( 3 times a year) so they are easy to distinguish from each other.Type, style, and color scheme is slightly reminiscent of Knob Creek and a few others but a standout and attractive bottle that draws the eye on either a commercial or home bar. Easy to spot and identify at a distance.
Cigars: Davidoff Puro d’Oro or a Joya de Nicaragua Dark Corojo
Final Thoughts: One thing to be said about barrel proof – you get ALL the aging characteristics and long-chain esters that develop in the aging process. Anytime you add water to proof it down you end up with an exothermic reaction ( it heats up) and breaks those molecules that were created over time and the spirits off-gasses the wonderful aromas into the air where they are lost to the Angels. Better to go with higher proofs and add as little water to a barrel as possible over an extended time to preserve these lovely flavors. As a barrel proof whiskey you are getting this whiskey relatively intact and untouched.Also with 1/3 more alcohol by volume for the price and a more concentrated taste at $49.99 versus $35.99 is about a 25 percent bump roughly speaking so depending discounting of the 92 proof bottles it is a slightly better deal – and hell it stands up to mixing a lot better. Just be careful on your overall consumption and try to go a bit lighter on the ratios to achieve your flavor profiles.