Recommend you go out and buy this one. Develops some interesting brandy-like characteristics upon slight dilution with water from barrel proof.
First Off: What is the point of a thrice-yearly release of Larceny Barrel Proof Bourbon you may ask?
Outside of obsessive bourbon collectors who will hunt down anything to expand their collections ( and sadly there are plenty of those) each release gives you a chance to try a variation on a basic company and brand profile at barrel proof ( which in and of itself varies from batch to batch). The point of this is to create a new bottling/batch profile while not straying too far from the established whiskey. To use a genetic analogy- to create a whiskey that is clearly from the same family like a brother- but not an identical twin or a clone. Something that is clearly a close match but sufficiently different to be interesting but recognizable. This is accomplished by the skillful blending of barrel stocks to achieve the delicate balance of producing a whiskey that will be immediately recognizable as its parent blend but subtly different in some other ways to make it unique but recognizable.
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, of 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 2023 of the new Larceny Barrel Proof series a barrel-proof product for this year. We expect further batches to be released in May and September of this year. At 125.8 it is at the higher end of the proof range (114.8 – 125.8) so far.
Last years releases (2022) were as follows. The first release/batch was in January of 2022 Labeled “A 1 22” at 124.4 proof, and the second was B521 at 123.8 Proof. Hence the Batch Code of “A” ( first release of the year) and 122 (Month 1, January) and year (2022).
The previous years’ releases (2021) are as follows; the first batch we reviewed was the A121 at 114.8 proof, the second one was B521 at 121 proof, and the third and final one was (C921) one weighed in a touch heavier in proof at 122.6.
Previous releases of 2020 we have reviewed were the A120, the B520 122.2, and the final batch for that year, the C920 122.4. These were the debut and first examples of the Larceny Barrel Proof line.
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. In case you were interested, that translates into roughly 7-8,000 bottles depending on the Angels’ share and assorted spillage and shrinkage factors They also have specified that the Heaven Hill wheated bourbon mashbill is ( of course since it is an outgrowth of the Fitzgerald line) is being used The mashbill is 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12 % malted barley The age range of the barrels used in the blend is 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) Decent color displayed that tells you you are probably in for a treat On swirling the bourbon leaves a thin crenelated coat on the glass with a1 crenelated edgeline that throws a few thick legs, then some droplets on the edgeline.
First Impression: Oddly different than all the other batches to date. The caramel nougat/ caramelized nutty notes than the previous batches are much less, and the Spanish cedar note seems more apparent. There is also a fruit and candy note to it that is rather new. Other notes are the usual wheat and the barrel aging that combine to come up with a honey and beeswax note with a dry mint and spice melange. Notes of leather, saddle soap, butter, dark fruit, 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: Actually this batch is a bit of an anomaly; to me. While I am quite used to drinking barrel-proof spirits and sometimes straight off the still distillate, this is by far the hottest of any of the Larceny barrel series I have had. Damn near undrinkable at barrel proof. Not because of the proof but the overall taste. Hot, dense, and a brandy burn rather than a grain/malt mouthfeel really. Definitely some aged Calvados/ fruit brandy type notes and an atypical grain.
Had to add some water to it to bring it down somewhere between 90- 100 proof to continue the review ( we dilute all the barrel-proof spirits down to this level to open them up for further review but this one really needed it). It is quite lovely proofed down and a stark contrast to the higher proof. Notes of apple/calvados and fruit brandy come to the fore with a nice if slightly aggressive warming.Lots of wood char and barrel aging notes give is a rustic charm which is quite pleasant. Much closer to a French brandy than a bourbon in some ways.
Nice mouthfeel on entry. The body seems a bit more subdued with additional notes of leather, oak, and hints of light tobacco mildly oily but persistent and dryish finish ending in barrel char,some fruitand spice.
Drinks: Makes a great Manhattan playing well with the other ingredients, and the fruitiness adds a nice touch/depth. Would also recommend Old Fashioned, and a respectable Whiskey Sour, possibly in a whiskey variation of a Sidecar too.
Bottle: We did not receive a production bottle on this batch so we cannot comment.
Cigars: Davidoff Puro d’Oro or a Joya de Nicaragua Dark Corojo would probably be contenders.Something that compliments but does not overwhelm this hearty bourbon.
Final Thoughts: A very interesting variation on their usual Larceny Barrel Proof series and well worth seeking out !
Note On Barrel Proof Spirits: 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 $59.99 proof bottles it is a slightly better deal – and hell it stands up to mixing a lot better. It is also more of a value compared to its Elijah Craig Barrel Proof siblings which have almost the same proof and cost $10 more per bottle on average. Yes, it does not have an age statement and is a bit younger, but especially for mixing and every day, this is a good go-to! 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
Quick loading and relatively informative website laid out in a logical and easy-to-navigate manner, Larceny does a decent if slightly cursory job on explaining the whiskey on this website.