By Richard Thomas
Admirers of old fashioned, pre-Prohibition style bourbon love to hear two words in connection with a new bottle of Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey, namely “cask strength” and “small batch.” Granted, “single barrel” and “cask strength” is even better, but a reasonably priced, no waiting list bottle of cask strength, small batch bourbon is a thing to be prized, and that is what the Kentucky Bourbon Distillers have produced in Noah’s Mill.
Kentucky Bourbon Distillers are a rarity in this modern world of corporate consolidation in the beverage industry, as they are an independent, family-owned and -operated distillery and bottler. They started out as Willett Distilling Company, and have been plying the bourbon trade in Bardstown, Kentucky since 1935. Kentucky Bourbon Distillers often puts out products under fictitious names, however, so don’t be fooled by the “Noah’s Mill Distilling Company” that appears on the label of Noah’s Mill. The bourbon is definitely a product of Kentucky Bourbon Distillers of Bardstown.
Noah’s Mill Small Batch is aged for 15 years, making it one of the oldest small batch bourbons around, and that serves to mellow what would otherwise be a hefty wallop. It’s mashed with a high proportion of corn, and bottled by hand at 114.3 proof (57.15%). The bottle is a simple, conventional one with an old-timey label that would not go amiss in Oh Brother Where Art Thou? and a black wax-sealed plastic and cork stopper. Wisely, the label was kept modest to show off the dark, heavy amber coloring of the whiskey within.
The long aging period becomes evident in the nose, which is heavy with vanilla, red fruit sweetness and woody old oak. Noah’s Mill doesn’t disguise its alcohol content either, which is quite evident in the scent. It isn’t harsh or unpleasant, but the whiskey’s nose is full-bodied and not subtle. On the palate, that maturity and heft carry through with strong flavors of brown sugar and caramel, bourbon smokiness and dry, leathery wood. The finish is very warm, just barely crossing the line into fiery burning.
Addendum by Jake Emen
Bringing home a bottle of Noah’s Mill is an exercise of joy and anticipation for a bourbon fan, particularly one who doesn’t allow himself ample opportunity to try many of the finer, more expensive offerings found on liquor store shelves. Bottled by hand at 57.15% alcohol, 114.3 proof, it’s billed as “genuine bourbon whiskey, handmade in the hills of Kentucky”. So let’s dive in and see.
Opening the bottle, which showcases a screw-top cork stopper and looks more like vintage wine than fine whiskey, two things are immediately noticeable, a lingering sweet aroma, and the stiff alcohol it masks. Despite the lofty 57% alcohol content, Noah’s Mill is exceedingly smooth. It gives you a wonderful warm without an unnecessary burn, gracefully walking that fine line.
Once poured into a glass, the sweetness dissipates a bit, bowing to the alcohol. A first sip reveals a rich, full flavor profile. While not too smoky, it provides classic bourbon taste, one that stays with you long past the time when you put your glass down. It’s sharp but easy to drink, and the sweet aromas carry back through after your first taste. The smoothness combined with the high alcohol level makes it easy to finish a glass quickly and feel the effects. This one is for savoring though, not haphazardly devouring, so cork it back up and put it away for another evening.
Noah’s Mill is a new favorite and something I’ll be coming back to in the future, and I’ll break it out only when in the mood to sip it slow and proper.
Noah’s Mill Small Batch bourbon whiskey can sometimes be found for as little as $45, but a price tag in the mid-$50 range is more common. That is expensive for a premium small batch (clearly well above a standard like Knob Creek, but in the same rage as Booker’s), but few such bourbons are aged for 15 years and bottled at a level approaching cask strength.