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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

Larceny Small Batch Bourbon

Introduced in 2012, Larceny bourbon is one of the newer additions to the bourbon industry. Produced by Heaven Hill, Larceny plays on the trend of wheated bourbon, with the likes of Maker's Mark, Weller, and the Pappy Van Winkles, it has quickly become a favorite of bartenders and bourbon fans alike who seek the smooth taste profile of a wheated bourbon.

Gatekeepers of the Warehouse

Many bourbons carry names of founders or master distillers, such as Blanton's, Elmer T. Lee, Elijah Craig, or Evan Williams. Larceny draws its name from the Treasury agent that guarded the warehouse.

On the label, you'll notice the name John F. Fitzgerald - a Treasury agent. These officials were assigned to distiller's warehouses to ensure that all rules of the Bottled-in-Bond Act were followed and the appropriate taxes were collected by the U.S. government. They were, in fact, the only individuals, other than the distiller, entrusted with a set of keys to the warehouses.

The modern label pays tribute to those keys - the same ones that Fitzgerald used to discreetly enter the warehouses and thieve into some of the best barrels of bourbon. With a knack for discovering good bourbon, these barrels were known as Fitzgerald Barrels.

Of the thousands of bourbons in the United States, only a handful use wheat as the secondary grain; most use rye. The act of larceny means theft of personal property, and today's brand pays tribute to the Old Fitzgerald brand (unconnected to John Fitzgerald). Today's Larceny uses about 23% more wheat than most other wheaters.

The Tasting

Larceny is listed as a small batch bourbon, indicating it is a blend of a small number of barrels. Perhaps no other phrase in bourbon lore is more ambiguous than small batch. For some distilleries, this may be as few as 5 or 10 barrels; for others, several hundred or even a thousand or more. According to Heaven Hill, the maker's of Larceny, around 200 barrels are used in the blending process.

The mash bill is 68% corn, 20% wheat, and 12% malted barley. There is no age statement stated and the finished product is bottled at 92 proof in an attractive key-hole-shaped bottle.

Eye: Dark copper

Nose: Vanilla along with some lighter summer fruit notes (I get peaches). Toasted oak and light spice are present, as well.

Palate: True to the nose, there is plenty of vanilla along with spice and toasted wood. This is smooth and very approachable. Compared to traditional Maker's Mark, I find Larceny tends towards the sweeter side (and this may be what makes it such a pleaser).

Finish: Medium with peppery spice and oak char.

Overall: At around $25, Larceny has quickly become a fan favorite for cocktails and those expanding their palate into American bourbon. I do find the notion that wheated bourbons tend to be smoother than bourbons using rye as a secondary grain. Case in point: Wilderness Trail makes both a wheated bourbon and a high-rye small batch bourbon. Both of these are Bottled-in-Bond, and most would anticipate that the wheated bourbon would be smoother. Side-by-side, though, I really prefer the smoothness and the profile of their high-rye product.

Heaven Hill puts out some fine wheated bourbons, including the Old Fitzgerald brand and the absolutely incredible Henry McKenna Bottled-in-Bond. While not in the same tranche as McKenna, for a similar price point with Maker's Mark, this is a fine and workman-like bourbon, great for everyday use.

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