Widow Jane Straight Bourbon Whiskey 10 Years Old
Barrel #853, Bottle #166, Date 2016
Taste score: 88
Category: Straight Bourbon, NDP, 10 Year Old
Whisky Cabinet Score: ★ ★ ☆ ☆
Widow Jane Distillery is the trending distillery out of Red Book, Brooklyn. The label is owned by Cacao Prieto, the maker of "beans-to-bar" fresh chocolates. Their list spirit products sold is extensive, and largely not distilled at their facility, but rather they purchase barrels of whisky from other distilleries and bottle them themselves.
This is a classic Non-Distillery Producer (NDP) that does have an on-premise still, and they are maturing their own whisky as well. This particular bottle that I tasted came from either Indiana or Kentucky. Unless I missed some text, the bottle failed to identify the location. This is an issue, as Chuck Cowdery notes when looking into a different release of Widow Jane Bourbon. It's also a common occurrence in many NDP whiskies. I do wish more producers would take notes from open bottlers such as High West Whiskey.
The name of the whisky comes from the Widow Jane Mine. The limestone water used is said to be mineral-rich. Assuming the water isn't filtered, this can affecting the flavor of the bourbon. This is the water the website identifies as being used to lower the proof on this 10 Year Old bourbon. I'm not one to fall for marketing gimmicks, but I will say that there was a nice touch to this whisky that didn't taste entirely familiar, despite it coming from familiar roots.
From a marketing viewpoint, the bottle itself is simple but unique. The label stands-out. The barrel number, bottle number, and date are written out in red pen. As a product, this packaging is ruggedly, utilitarian, and fits a bourbon of the name Widow Jane. Packaging is part of the joy of being a whisky owner, and Widow Jane scores the right points here. But how's the whisky inside?
Widow Jane 10 Year Old Bourbon doesn't quite taste like a Kentucky or Indiana bourbon, and from that standpoint, it succeeds in offering a uniquely flavored bourbon. On the other hand, there are better, more composed whiskies at this price point. It's hard to justify unless you're particular loyal to the look of the bottle or the brand itself.
That's ultimately how I look at these types of releases from distilleries that bottle other people's bourbon. While you're paying more for something similar, you're helping support a distillery in the early days when cash flow is critical. But do read Chuck's post on Widow Jane and their use of the name before deciding if this is a noble pursuit.
Nose: Nail polish, blue-flavored Gatorade, burnt caramel, and hints of candied banana.
Palate: Starts with warm caramel and burnt butter, gently slopes into a rich caramel, and orange peel zest. The peppery finish is fun and well complimented with the richness of the caramel. It lasts for days pn the finish.
Conclusion: Widow Jane is oddly familiar, and yet different. Distilled in either Indiana or Kentucky and watered down with mineral water from New York, there is something here that's not "Kentucky familiar." It's good whisky at a premium price. I'd love them to be more open about their products.
*Whisky Cabinet Rating Explained:
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ Not recommended
★ ☆ ☆ ☆ Good whisky, but not a ‘must-have’
★ ★ ☆ ☆ Your great regular rotation whisky that'll come and go
★ ★ ★ ☆ Excellent, a near must-have
★ ★ ★ ★ Extraordinary, memorable, and original