Wollersheim Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon
Webster's Dictionary defines the word crapshoot as something that has an unpredictable outcome. There's probably a picture of American whiskey or bourbon next to that definition. There seem to be 3 distinct outcomes of small whiskey distillers: awful, underaged product; a great back story of a family recipe only to see that it is sourced from a major distillery in southeast Indiana; or truly great stuff. The question begs, what camp does Wollersheim Bottled-in-Bond Bourbon fall into? Let's learn a little more about this Midwestern bourbon.
Where there's Wine, there's Whiskey Wollersheim Distillery is more widely known for its winery; both are located in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin. Distilling isn't new to the Kehl family - the builders of the current winery. Back in the late 1800s, the father and son winemakers often made brandy to fortify wines and act as a natural preservative during shipping. A century later, Wollersheim's founder - Bob Wollersheim and his son-in-law Philippe Coquard contemplated restarting brandy distillation. Wisconsin regulations, however, prohibited Wisconsin wineries from distilling spirits. Finally, by 2009, regulations relaxed and allowed wineries to once again distill spirits. Brandy was the first spirit barreled, as it's made from distilled wine that is aged in oak barrels. Their first release in 2013 sold out in weeks. The current distillery was built in 2015. In addition to single barrel bourbon aged four years, and a bottled-in-bond variety, production also includes rye whiskey, brandy, gin, and absinthe.
The Tasting Wollersheim Bottled-in-Bond comes in a tall wine-styled bottled. The label shares that is was distilled in the Spring 2016 and bottled in Spring 2020, resulting in a four-year age statement. The mash bill is 75% corn, 15% malted barley, and 10% rye. To be labeled as Bottled-in-Bond, the bourbon must be a product of a single distillation season, from one distiller, at a single distillery, stored in a federally bonded warehouse under US government supervision for at least 4 years, and the finished spirit bottled at 100 proof. In addition, this product is labeled as Straight Wisconsin Bourbon, indicating that all of the grains (including white corn) have been sourced from Wisconsin. Even the barrels have been sourced from a Wisconsin cooperage and are toasted to a #3 char. I'm a huge fan of bottled-in-bond products, as they are age-labeled, and reflect a nod to the quality and stringent standards instituted more than 120+ years ago.
Eye: Medium amber with a spiderweb of interlocking legs displayed on the inside of the glass. Nose: This has a heavy nose. Vanilla and malt, followed by apple-peach jam and citrus. This is delicious smelling. Palate: A very creamy and thick mouthfeel, with mix of grilled sweet corn, caramel corn and white-chocolate glazed popcorn. Finish: Medium, with an initial dose of oak and spice, followed late by a wave of vanilla and orange zest. Overall: I've shared before that I haven't always been wowed with craft distilling, especially as many have rushed very youthful products to market. Kudos to wine maker Philippe Coquard and Tom Lenerz for sticking to their guns, following in the Bottled-in-Bond tradition, and waiting patiently four years to release a great product. At $49, this, true, craft bourbon is one that's welcome in my cabinet any time.