A while back, Sku, Jason and I did our second collaborative review. When we picked Wild Turkey Rye, we did so not knowing what was going to happen to it in the marketplace. It was a bit of dumb luck that made it a timely review. Unfortunately, by the time the review ran, stocks of the rye were quite low and it was hard to find. Even at this point, the new lower proof rye has not shown up with any regularity on the west coast.
Fortunately, today’s group-reviewed whiskey is much more easily available: Noah’s Mill. Virtually any store with a halfway decent selection will have a bottle of Noah’s Mill on hand. If you’ve been wondering about this one, wonder no more. (Or keep wondering, as I am…)
Noah’s Mill is a Kentucky Bourbon Distillers bottling, meaning that it’s sourced from an unknown distillery and bottled by KBD. There’s no indication that it’s distilled elsewhere than Kentucky, but beyond that, the origin distillery is unknown.
This is not actually my first brush with Noah’s Mill, and I held a previous encounter as a pivotal moment for me. In all honesty, I was not a big fan of bourbon prior to an encounter with Noah’s Mill; I tended to view it as a bottom shelf offering and saw Scotch whisky as the real, genuine deal. Noah’s Mill turned all that on its head. It had a ton of oak and a very strong note of black cherry and a certain candied sweetness. It was unlike anything I’d ever had, and it opened the door to American whiskeys for me. Since then it’s been an obsession, but you never forget the one that changed you.
However, Noah’s Mill has been a batched release, so those batches are subject to some variance. I was hoping this had a very consistent profile batch to batch, even in spite of the fact that Noah’s Mill lost its 15 year old age statement a while back. It’s always hard to tell, but I was optimistic that perhaps this batch would live up to the past memory.
The bottle we’re reviewing today is from batch 11-121, and weighs in at a respectable 57.15% ABV.
The nose is woody up front, in a very strong and prominent way. There’s light toffee and a strong black cherry presence. Some earthy clay and vanilla are there, and there’s also a light hint of a more raw sugar sweetness.
The whisky is mouth-coating and almost immediately brings considerable heat. Cinnamon and a dash of cayenne drive the heat. There’s some maple syrup as a base note and lots and lots of wood. Honestly, I think it moves in the direction of being over-oaked. Black cherry and vanilla give some dimension and there’s a raw sugar note that starts to develop and seems somewhat out of place against the oak.
The finish is very hot initially, but quickly cools and leaves tons of oak and goes slightly bitter. There’s a bit of orange zest but the finish is mostly heat, pepper and wood.
Even adding water didn’t do a lot for this – the nose became more musty; the palate’s heat was tamed but it felt over-oaked still, and the finish was not measurably changed.
I have to say I was really disappointed by my return to the bourbon that lit my fire for the stuff. It’s either a change in my palate or this batch, but in either case, I don’t know that I’ll be coming back for more. It’s a shame – I used to love the stuff.
I hope the other guys liked this one more than I did.
At a glance:
Noah’s Mill (Batch 11-121) 57.15% ABV
Nose: Woody up front, quite prominently so. Light notes of toffee lie under stronger notes of black cherry. A little bit of earthy clay and some vanilla. Water doesn’t do this much favor and it’s sort of malty and musty. There’s a light hint of sugary sweetness in the back.
Palate: Quite mouth-coating, it’s almost immediately off to the races and starts heating up. Cinnamon, cayenne pepper in a small dose. Behind that there’s some maple syrup and plenty of wood and it’s pushing into over-oaked. A little black cherry, a little vanilla. Light sugary note on the palate as well. Water tames the heat considerably but it’s still all about the wood.
Finish: Very hot initially on the finish, recedes leaving tons of oak and leaning slightly bitter. A little whisper of orange zest but it’s mostly heat, pepper and wood. Again, water does this no favors.
Comment: This is either a measure of the change in my palate or this batch (I have no concept of how consistent Noah’s Mill may be or the overall batching approach – go for something unique or maintain a profile). I remember Noah’s Mill being much sweeter, with and verging on being almost candied. This one feels overoaked to me and off kilter.
Bonus notes: Last tasting of Noah’s Mill, circa late 2010
Noah’s Mill, Batch 10-57, 57.15% ABV
Nose: Vanilla, caramel, cherries, wood and a bit of cotton candy. Diluted to 40% the vanilla, wood and cherry merge a little more cleanly.
Palate: Moderate spice, sweet, dark fruit – plum and black cherry, wood on the back of the palate, heating continously. Diluted subdues the heat, the wood takes on kind of a varnished quality and the cherry intensifies but stays dark.
Finish: Warming, remains with the dark fruit notes and some sweetness but not cloying. Some light toffee.