By Jake Emen
Grand Traverse Distillery out of northern Michigan is a small, emerging distillery, currently in its sixth year of operation. They currently produce a smattering of spirits, some vodkas here, some gin there, and rum on the way. You can even buy a small aging barrel and fill it up with one of five separate unaged single grain distillations from Grand Traverse and commence your own at home aging experiments.
However, at the heart of their operation is a lineup of 5 different whiskeys, including Ole George, an award-winning straight rye whiskey which Whiskey Reviewer has already reviewed, and this here, their Grand Traverse Bourbon.
Grand Traverse Bourbon is aged for three years and three months in new charred oak 53-gallon barrels, in a climate controlled warehouse. From the barrel, they mix in glacial water from the Great Lakes to get to their bottling strength of 46% ABV, (92 proof). Grand Traverse handcrafts all of their spirits, and does not chill filter any of their whiskeys, including the bourbon.
The bourbon has a mash bill of 70% corn, with 20% rye and 10% malted barley. The corn and rye come from Send Brothers Farm in Michigan, with the barley coming elsewhere from Wisconsin and Minnesota.
The corn is strong on both the nose and the palate, but you certainly get the kick of a 20% rye mash bill. It may be far from a “high” rye bourbon these days — consider Breckenridge Bourbon’s 38% rye mash bill, or Big Bottom Bourbon’s 36% — but nevertheless, the rye noticeably provides a spicy character to the bourbon.
Also present is a fairly strong dose of molasses, and the sweet flavor lingers through its easy, warm finish. Grand Traverse Bourbon is thick and smooth, and also features dry, leathery notes.
On ice, a hearty corn flavor really moves to front and center. You’ll notice a sweeter taste as the rye fades, interlaced with a bit of vanilla. A soft, warm finish remains.
There’s some very nice flavor here, and this is an easy-sipping bourbon. Still, it makes me wish for a finished product which spent even more time in the barrel with fuller, deeper and more mature character.
Grand Traverse Bourbon should cost $28 for a pint bottle and $48 for a fifth bottle, depending (as usual) on local taxes.