Old Baldy: A Small Batch of Freedom
If you’re like me and you like variety, you love experimenting with different whiskies, and you
chug drink with an open gullet mind, then one area that is particularly interesting to explore is collaboration small batches. We’ve seen collaboration projects perk up recently coming out with cool releases such as Manifest Whiskey Project by Manifest Distillery and Blake from Bourbonr. There’s just a beautiful marriage of flavors when you collaborate… just ask craft breweries. Bringing minds together with different knowledge and experiences makes for a great product that I couldn’t be happier to help drink. But enough of that… I’m here to tell you there has been a spotting just outside Cincinnati. During this years Bourbon Heritage Month of September, a true beauty is perched on the shelves of a highly acclaimed, northern Kentucky bottle shop called Cork ‘N Bottle. That bottle, is Old Baldy.
Old Baldy is a collaboration between Cork ‘N Bottle’s Ed Bley, and Bourbon 30 Spirits. If you looked at the bottle in the picture above, you may have noticed there’s a name at the top of the label that reads J. Mattingly. That would be founder and owner of Bourbon 30 Spirits, Jeff Mattingly, who became great friends with Ed Bley after they met at one of Jeff’s barrel samplings where Ed played around with some blends that Jeff fell in love with and BOOM- here we are! “I met him as I went down to sample some of the barrels he had sourced. I played around a little with a blend down there and he loved it. I tossed out the idea of doing a private blend of some of the barrels he hadn’t released yet. He was all for it and its amazing the relationship we have formed since. He is a fantastic guy with a big heart. The freedom he gave me on the blend is unheard of in our business,” Ed describes. He explains the situation during the Old Baldy blending as “they just basically tossed me the keys and told me to let them know when I was done.” Ha! Although Jeff and all the other good folks at Bourbon 30 supplied the barrel selection, the true magic of the blend comes from Ed Bley.
Just Tell Me About The Bottle, Damnit!
Old Baldy is a small batch marriage of 4 year old, 8 year old, and 11 year old single barrels from Kentucky and Indiana. Ed explains in detail:
“The process was very complicated. There were 5 total barrels used in the blend. Came out at 320 bottles. There were 63 gallons in the blend. I went through 35 barrels to select the 5 I blended. I did 9 different blends (portions of each barrel.) There are 3 gallons of 4 year and significantly more 11 than 8. It’s 126 proof and drinks with sub 100 proof heat. It’s extremely velvety on the palate with notes of cherry pipe tobacco and butter. The finish is extremely long slightly dry and sweet. It’s very complex and each taste presents new palate experiences. It’s also the only bottle with my full name on it.”
Sometimes when you read someone else’s tasting notes, you naturally convince yourself that you’re picking up on the same notes once you try the whiskey and yet somehow end up in a conundrum of not trusting your own palate when you notice something totally different. However, I think Ed’s notes are simply, spot on. Specifically when he mentions that it’s 126 proof but drinks sub 100 proof heat. Apparently he’s able to achieve this by seeking out barrels that have significant oil components. I asked him what he was looking for specifically when choosing each barrel for the blend, and this is what he had to say:
“I was looking for stand out portions of the whiskey. It had to excel in either nose, palate, or finish. I was looking for a sweeter whiskey. It also had to have high oil content. I learned a long time ago that oil could be one of the most important components in whiskey. It hides heat and makes the palate chewy all while lengthening the finish.”
Released this September 2017, Old Baldy Small Batch is bottled at 63% ABV, 126 proof. For this review I will be tasting the whiskey with and without a few drops of water in a Glencairin glass.
Tasting Notes: Old Baldy
Contents: 63% ABV // 126 proof // Small Batch Whiskey // Blend of 4, 8 and 11 year old single barrel whiskey
Bottle #: 119 of 320
MSRP: $109.99 for a 750ml bottle
Appearance: Dark amber
Nose: Immediately after the pour there is heavy spice and burnt sugar tobacco. After 5-7 minutes of opening up there is a clear nutty aroma with a buttery French Toast.
Palate: Very rich, like a Red velvet cake. Clear hints of dark fruit on the backend. Going back for more pours I notice tobacco and cereal. It’s got an earthy and dry mouthfeel. Definitely coats the mouth.
Finish: Long and pleasantly gentle for 126 proof. Some youth on the after-taste accompanied with toffee and mild espresso.
This release is really fun to drink. As a lover of experimenting, I loved peeling back the layers on this one. It seemed to be an interesting blend of all my favorite characteristics in bourbon. It had the strong nutty notes famous in Booker’s and Knob Creek, it had the rich, oily, fruit sweetness of Four Roses, and the unique barrel char and spice profile in Heaven Hills’ products. The $110 price tag was a little scary at first given the fact that it’s a first of it’s kind, but Ed’s expertise is widely known and I’ve had other store picks from him that blow me away so I said what the hell. My only criticism of the juice itself has to be the youth on the finish. You do notice the sharp tannins from the 4 year in the blend coming out once you finish the sip. It’s not that I’m against young juice, but when I noticed it in this blend, it threw me off. The best part of Old Baldy is the rich, velvety oil mouthfeel that hides the 126 proof heat and leaves your jaw sore from chewing so much. I’d also add the amazing blend of different characteristics makes for a fun drinking experience as you notice subtle differences at each pour through out the
morning night. I hope Ed keeps making blends like this because it’s truly a home run and he should feel really good about this release.
Good or bad? Home run for sure!
Worth buying again? I’m sure these are all gone now, but I’ll 100% grab another when he does the next batch if it’s anything like this release!
Editor’s Note: This whiskey was purchased by Superfly Bourbon Club. In no way, does acquiring the bottle in any form manipulate the direction of this review.
Ed on Future Projects
“I am always on the lookout for new opportunities and you never know what the future will hold. I can tell you I really enjoyed the challenge in blending. It was extremely difficult and I loved it. I would expect to see another Old Baldy in the future and I just may have a few other irons in the fire!” – Ed Bley
Cork ‘N Bottle is located at:
584 Buttermilk Pike
Crescent Springs, Kentucky