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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

First Call Double Oak

"Just get a couple bottles", she said, as we discussed the bar details for my daughter's wedding reception. But then, she started going through the guest list, and I suddenly realized there were more than just a "couple" of bourbon drinkers on the list. Not wanting to break the bank, we headed to the nearby Total Wine. As my wife and daughter loaded up a cart with beer and hard seltzers, I headed for the bourbon aisle to load more than just a couple bottles. The large display of First Call Double Oak caught my eye, and the friendly employee was happy to allow me to sample before buying - a real treat!

Kentucky's Newest Distiller? Bottler? Or what?

When we reviewed First Call in 2021, we found the name "IJW Whiskey Company" on the label. On our tour of the Wilderness Trail Distillery, we noticed several IJW warehouses adjacent to the property. Our guide shared that Wilderness Trail had been contract producing for IJW and filling the four warehouses with more than 100,000 barrels of whiskey. For more on IJW, check out our prior review here.

First Call Double Oak shares that the product was distilled in Kentucky and was bottled by Kentucky Whiskey Bottling of Harrodsburg, Kentucky. KWB's website shared that they do contract bottling and packaging for the whiskey industry. Whether these two companies are "one in the same" remains to be seen. If this sounds like a bit of a quagmire, welcome to the whiskey business. Obscuring who's actually producing the bourbon in your glass isn't new to the trade - in fact, it might be as old as the moonshining and distilling business itself. One look at the Meadowlawn Distillery from almost a century ago and you’ll find that smoke and mirrors have long been associated with bourbon.

The Tasting

First Call Double Oak is packaged in a tall, shouldered-bottle, with a dark label displaying a copper-etched horse and rider in jockey silks along with the race course bugler. The bourbon derives its name from the tune - “The First Call” or “The Call to the Post” - that signals that it will soon be off to the races. It is bottled at 90-proof. It is labeled as Kentucky Straight Bourbon Whiskey, without an age statement, indicating the spirits have been aged for at least four years. Note that in our prior review of First Call, it carried a 3-year age statement, so this bourbon has spent a few more months aging in a second barrel.

Eye: Lovely dark amber, with a myriad of legs of all lengths displayed on the inside of the Glencairn glass. honey.

Nose: Vanilla, oak rickhouse, and butterscotch hard candy disks. Overall, pleasant and inviting.

Palate: A light mouthfeel, but full of flavor balanced between vanilla, oak, and spice.

Finish: Medium with oak and pepper-spice ending with a slightly dry, tannin finish.

Overall: This is a middle-of-the-road, straight-forward bourbon. Priced at $39, this is cheaper than some of the better double-oaked products, such as Woodford Reserve Double Oak and Old Forester 1910. Those bourbons, I feel, have more dessert-like notes of marzipan and chocolate, as well as vanilla and caramel. First Call Double Oak, while oaky, was tempered in its flavor expression with less complexity and layers.

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