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  • Writer's pictureJoseph Bourbon

McFarlane's Reserve Four Grain

By definition, bourbon must be at least 51% corn. Most utilize at least a small amount of malted barley to assist in the fermentation process. Beyond those traits, there is often a "fork in the road", if you will, and either the whiskey uses rye as a flavoring grain, or it uses the less commonly used wheat grain and is considered a "wheated bourbon". McFarlane's Reserve Four Grain goes down the middle, utilizing all four traditional bourbon grains.

Ties to the Rebellion

Bourbon labels, it seems, can be particularly mysterious; part truth, part legend, and heaping dose of lore. From the label, we learn that during the Whiskey Rebellion of 1794, Major James McFarlane's rebels descended on Bower Hill where a small band of troops and the tax collector were holed-up. The rebellious throng was there to protest the Whiskey Tax imposed by Alexander Hamilton and the Federal government. On the second day of the standoff, a white flag was raised by the surrounded troops. McFarlane stepped forward and was mortally wounded.

More violence came until troops led by General (and President of the United States) George Washington quelled the rebellion. The brand pays homage to our intimate and storied history with our Native Spirit.

The label further shares that the product is distilled in Kentucky and is bottled by Kentucky Whiskey Bottling of Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Hmmmm … a little more sleuthing. Ultimately, it leads us to the IJW Whiskey Company. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because its rickhouses are adjacent to the rapidly expanding Wilderness Trail Distillery (and Harrodsburg is literally a stone’s throw from WT’s facility in Danville). IJW has been quietly accumulating great whiskey from their next-door neighbor, so I’m not surprised to track this down to being distilled by Wilderness Trail (and I recall WT trying some four-grain releases, as well). You can find out more about IJW from our review of First Call Bourbon.

The Tasting

There’s no hint of a mash bill, other than indicating it is four grain straight bourbon whiskey. Recall that straight bourbon indicates the finished product is at least 2 years-old; and if less than 4 years-old, it must carry an age statement. No age statement is present, so we are assuming it is at least 4 years-old. The finished product is bottled at 90-proof in a shouldered-bottle in gold and red parchment carrying large “MR” initials”.

Eye: Golden honey with a ring of short legs displayed in the Glencairn glass. The color is light and this definitely looks like it’s towards the younger end of the spectrum.

Nose: Vanilla with light orange-citrus notes - like an Orange Dreamsicle ice cream treat. A second nosing lends itself to more creamy vanilla and mandarin orange notes. I make a lovely orange cookie at the holiday time, and that’s my mental visualization with the scent.

Palate: A thin mouthfeel, but smooth with vanilla and baking spices. The orange is definitely in the background, but it does appear as it starts down my throat.

Finish: Medium with vanilla, spice, oak, and malted grains arriving at the end, leading to a slightly dry finish.

Overall: Not bad - but also not inspiring. A little one-dimensional. Pleasant, but not one that would be on the top of my buy-again list.

I found this at a Total Wine (where they seem to have an abundance of sourced bourbons, such as these from IJW). At $34, it’s pushing the price limit on a four-year bourbon, especially when some everyday finds, like Evan Williams Bottled-in-Bond, Old Forester, and even Old Tub are considerably cheaper.

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