Old Baldy Round 2
Last September, magic emerged before us in the form of whiskey. Lightning struck twice with Ed Bley’s second marriage of
juice brown spirits, and for the last few months it has been an interesting bottle to analyze. We’re talking about the release of Old Baldy Batch 2.
Following the success of Old Baldy Batch 1, the demand emerged quickly and Ed wasted no time turning around a new batch in just 6 months on a mission to improve the “flaws” of Batch 1. He’s either a glutton for punishment, or just extremely dedicated to his passion – I’d say it’s definitely both. Watching the creation of this batch from start to finish, I couldn’t help but reflect on the lack of appreciation towards enthusiasts and professionals taking whiskey and messing with it to craft an interesting product. The words “Non-Distiller Producer” is garlic to the vampire bourbon snobs. If you don’t distill it yourself it can’t taste good! Many do not realize, or forget, that the magic happens inside the barrel. Ed explains it perfectly:
Being an NDP is nothing new. I would argue that those that don’t care for NDP’s aren’t true enthusiasts at all. When done correctly an NDP distillery can stand out. Willett, Van Winkle, smooth ambler, and even several younger ones such as New Riff have set the bar high. It is difficult to blend something to make a stand out product not to mention alternative aging methods such as various finishing and double barreling methods. We Bourbon enthusiasts pay so much attention to what happens before it goes in the barrel we forget that it all comes together after it’s been in the barrel. That’s the first impression everyone gets of the final product. Many don’t realize when it’s special, however, everyone realizes when it’s a mistake.
Thankfully, many realized Old Baldy was something special. My favorite thing about this new batch of Old Baldy was the collaboration between so many people who are passionate about whiskey and made this happen for Ed. Between Jeff Mattingly at Bourbon 30 Spirits, myself and Brett Atlas(Riekes Container and the blog Bourbon & Banter), the hundreds of people who camped out for the release, the people who helped him bottle, wax dip, label and work the day of the release, we all had a small part in the success of a sweet creation. I asked Ed what his favorite part of OB2 was and he describes feeling the energy as he was scrambling to get everything ready, “the amount of people that jumped in to help without any thought of personal reward. It was a special moment to me and one I will never forget. The other moment for me was seeing moms face Saturday morning when finally everything I had told her before she could see for herself. Her smile was worth all the stress, Miles, time and work.
Just Tell Me About The Bottle, Damnit!
Old Baldy Batch 2 is a balanced blend of 10% 4 year old, 30% 8 year old, and 60% 11 year old single barrels from Kentucky and Indiana. Ed explains in detail:
“I tried to find balance in batch 2. Batch one was famous for what it didn’t have. It had 0 heat and it was 126 proof. Batch 2 I tried to balance oak, sweetness, spice, tannins, age, youth and oil for an even whiskey with a great nose and long finish. I think it has those qualities.”
Like any sequel, it will undoubtedly be compared to the original and people will determine which one is “better”. I’ll save it for the tasting notes below, but I believe batch 2 is too different to determine which batch is best. Ed and Jeff seemed to repeat the same process from the first batch only with subtle tweaks – one of the biggest tweaks being a branding facelift. I was able to see just how passionate he is when he graciously allowed me to take the wheel on the design of the new bottle. Story has it, he calls me up to explain that the original molds for the glass bottles were delayed in shipping and wouldn’t come in time for the release of Batch 2. He quickly recruits myself and Brett to help with Plan B – I handle the new bottle design and Brett, the new bottles. Two days later we had the bottles ordered and on the phone scheduling a meeting with the printers to discuss the production of the new labels. Ontop of that, there was a huge concern over the headspace in the bottle due to the higher proof whiskey so Brett had to ask every glass bottle experts in the business whether or not the corks would stay in the particular bottle he found or become a future eye injury. Needless to say, it worked.
Something that slides under the radar in the bourbon community are the acts of charity. Ed regularly helps gather massive funds cleverly using bourbon as the incentive to donate. Batch 2 followed 1 in the donation efforts and raked in approximately $5,000 from those who entered in a chance to reserve a spot to buy the now coveted bottle.
I knew the word was spreading on the streets about Old Baldy 2 because of the amount of private messages I was receiving. It seemed like such an obvious opportunity to make a difference on the charity level. By reserving the first 25 bottles we were able to raise 5k for The Dragonfly Foundation. There have been countless other bottles donated to raise money for other charities from both batches! It really makes me smile and feel good to know there has been a lot of good deeds that were done because of that whiskey. Whiskey is fun but whiskey that raises money for the less fortunate is special.
Released April 2018, Old Baldy Batch 2 is bottled at 56% ABV, 112 proof. For this review I will be tasting the whiskey with and without a few drops of water in a Glencairin glass as well as side by side with Batch 1.
Tasting Notes: Old Baldy Batch 2
Contents: 56% ABV // 112 proof // Small Batch Whiskey // Blend of 4, 8 and 11 year old single barrel whiskey
Bottles Produced: 1118
MSRP: $109.99 for a 750ml bottle
Appearance: Dark glow of amber
Nose: Light oak, vanilla bean, stone fruit, small amount of baking spice. Nose is pleasant and not as hot as Batch 1.
Palate: Like Batch 1, it’s a Red Velvet Cake with layered frosting. Sweet orange peel, stone fruit, cream and cinnamon intermingle. Medium oil mouthfeel.
Finish: Medium in length. Drinks subproof with lingering gingerbread and brown sugar.
Just to make things clear, designing the bottle did not sway me towards favorable opinions of Old Baldy Batch 2. With that said, OB2 does not disappoint. I love that the signature red velvet taste was still present, but not as pronounced as the red velvet caramelized honey from Batch 1. Although Ed keeps the source of each barrel under wraps, the final blend has familiar characteristics of candied flowers in Four Roses and general sharpness of an average MGP single barrel. I thought that the approach to Batch 2 to improve on flaws of Batch 1 wasn’t completely necessary as OB1 was already amazing, however you can tell the differences between the two and can see what Ed was trying to do. Whether I’m exactly right or not, I thought there was three major differences between the two. The most noticeable difference was the disappearance of it’s youth. This is most likely due to the higher volume of 11 year in the blend, but a worthy improvement nonetheless. I also thought the heat was a lot more muted than the previous batch. As Ed explains, from nose to finish the balance of flavor profiles ring true. Lastly, the prominent characteristic was it’s sweetness of fruit rather than the velvety oak from OB1. The masses will always want a rating of better or worse, however the difference in taste is almost completely different allowing you to chose which batch you prefer. The red velvet note I detect is present in both batches however one expresses deeper and richer notes while the other is outspoken with ripe fruit and oak spice.
Editor’s Note: This whiskey was given to us at Superfly Bourbon Club. In no way, does acquiring the bottle in any form manipulate the direction of this review.