Small towns are great to shop in. I'm always discovering unique and interesting finds. And so it was today with this bottle of Casey Jones Single Barrel at Oak and Flame.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Real Casey Jones
At first glance, one might think that Casey Jones refers to the famous train engineer. Located in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, the Casey Jones Distillery pays homage to Casey Jones of nearby Golden Pond, Kentucky (now part of the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation area).
During Prohibition, Jones was a master stillmaker, creating unique and meticulously crafted stills for moonshiners. Spirits produced by his stills generated quite a stir for the exceptional moonshine they produced. Fans included gangster Al Capone from Chicago who, shall we say, took quite a "shine" to moonshine made by a Jones' still.
Once asked how he learned to build such great stills, Jones could only reply, "The first still I ever saw was the first still I built". Some are just naturals. Using only copper, he created his famous stills and sold them for about $20 (along with a gallon or two of the finished product as liquid currency). An interesting feature of Casey's stills were that they were square - as opposed to round or pot-shaped - so they could fit in the back of a wagon or pick-up truck, allowing for hasty getaways. Ultimately, the law caught up with Jones and he served a couple of years in Mill Point Prison in West Virginia.
Today, Casey's grandson Arlon Casey Jones ("AJ") carries on the family tradition. Casey built his last still nearly 60 years ago. That served as a model for AJ's still that is used today, though you can catch a glimpse of Jones' final still on display at the distillery.
This single barrel spirit from Casey Jones utilizes their four grain wheated bourbon recipe: 26.5% Bloody Butcher Corn, 26.5% Yellow Dent Corn, 35% wheat, and 12% malted barley. This is from barrel number 920, filled on 3/20/2019, having first received a #4 char after being heavily toasted. After aging 4 years, the finished product was bottled at 109.5 proof in a tall bottle bearing the red Casey Jones label.
Eye: Dark copper with numerous thin legs along the inside of the glass.
Nose: Sweet, with caramel, vanilla, apple and pear, balanced with cinnamon and oak.
Palate: Fresh and lively, sweet, smooth and balanced. This one tastes pretty delicious. There is a burst of sweet vanilla balanced with apple pastry-like notes along with savory spice and oak. The mouthfeel is slightly creamy and tasted blind, you'd never suspect the higher proof.
Finish: Medium-long led by toasted oak and ending in a baking spice crescendo that let's you know it's a barrel strength bourbon without overstaying its welcome.
Overall: This award-winning bourbon may be slipping under the radar of a lot of whiskey drinkers. The day we visited the extensive array of bourbons at this small town store, another patron came in, did a quick scope around for allocated, rare bourbons, and walked out empty handed.
While I'm often not craft bourbon's biggest fan, this is one that earns my respect. The uniqueness of the grains used, the sufficient aging (i.e. not rushing young bourbon to market), along with a solid flavor profile leads me to conclude this is one worthy of the craft bourbon price ($69). Be on the lookout for this one and don't pass it by if you catch it. You won't be disappointed.