One of the best buys in bourbon right now. Yes, it is a relatively mass-produced whiskey, but it is a nicely done barrel-proof release of good bourbon to start with and the price/value ratio is a lot higher than a lot of newer craft whiskies that frankly are not as good – especially for the money.
Backstory: A little background 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 mash bill 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 the first release of the new Larceny Barrel Proof series a barrel proof product that was released in January of 2021. Hence the Batch Code of “A” ( first release of the year) and 121 (Month 1, January ) and year (2021) 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 gold-amber yellow shade that shows it is a nicely aged bourbon reaching a good age ( the shift in bourbon goes from yellow, gold to red). On swirling the bourbon leaves a medium coat on the glass transitioning to an edgeline with slowly forming droplets.
First Impression: Pronounced bouquet with a grainy, nutty, and buttery bouquet with oily, woody, oak notes with almonds, caramel, and spice. . Somewhat more closed than the standard 92 but wheat and the barrel aging come up. Slight 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 Spanish cedar 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: Nice mouthfeel on entry, thinner body than the A120 Batch, and an interesting dryness to it with a great deal more wood, but again almost more cedar than oak, 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. The drier nature of this batch makes for a more austere and drier cocktail – think more Scotch than bourbon in mixing characteristics
Bottle: Similar to the standard production bottle of Larceny with some important differences to look for. Look for the Barrel Proof label below the standard label with deep red letters on an ivory background on the left side and ivory lettering on a black background on the right. Notations are Batch # A121, Proof 114.8, Alc/Vol 57.4
Cigars: Davidoff Puro d’Oro or a Joya de Nicaragua Dark Corojo
Final Thoughts: Some important notes about barrel proof; 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-gas 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 on 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.
Website: http://larcenybourbon.comLarceny Barrel Proof