Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Craft Whiskey Week - Bowen's Whiskey from Bakersfield

What with the massive explosion in craft distilleries, it's sort of surprising that Southern California hasn't seen much in the way of craft whiskey. After all, there are new distilleries in New York and Chicago and the Pacific Coast from San Francisco to the Canadian border has so many distilleries it's practically its own whiskey region. There is, however, not a single whiskey distillery in the city of Los Angeles, and only one in Los Angeles County (St. James Spirits in Irwindale, whose single malt I reviewed here).

For this reason, I get excited anytime a distillery opens south of Monterey, even if it's not exactly close. The latest southern California distillery is Bowen's Spirits in Bakersfield, named for owner Wade Bowen.

Bowen's is sort of a mysterious operation. They sent me a bottle but give very little information about what's inside. It's labeled "whiskey" but neither the label nor the website give any hint as to the grains used to make it. I asked what grains were used and how old it was and was told that the information was "proprietary." Well, let's see what it tastes like.

Bowen's Whiskey, 45% abv ($40)

On the nose this is very raw with wood chips, young wood, that Home Depot smell; you know what I mean. On the palate it has the same young wood notes with a bit of sweetness and a touch of mint; it tastes a bit diluted as well. The finish is minty, like mouthwash.

If I had to guess, I'd say this was a wheat whiskey aged in small barrels. It's got the mildness of wheat with the fresh wood of young whiskey in small barrels. The label features a campfire and describes the whiskey as "smokey" but I don't get smoke at all.

This is not a whiskey I'd recommend.

UPDATE: I'm told the Bowen's mashbill is 100% corn, so hey, what do I know?


sam k said...

Ha! I guess you'll be getting even fewer unsolicited craft whiskey samples now. Not that less of the low-end crafts would be much of a loss...

Anonymous said...

How do you not taste smoke? In the finish it is undeniable!
You are not a reviewer I'd recommend.

Matt said...

Tastes like a watered down and muted Laphroaig, with the medium-light body structure of a Highland scotch. Little to nothing at the initial attack except for a laughable attempt at smoke. Some slight caramel and floral notes on the finish. Reminds me of Gentlemen Jack.

Underwhelmed. Maybe it's a good entry for those just learning about whiskey. Currently priced at $40. Appropriate price is more around $25-$30. Not below $25 though because it is smooth and its heat doesn't come off as being 90 proof.