By Jake Emen
Rowan’s Creek is one of several offerings in the Willett Distilling Company’s (Kentucky Bourbon Distillers’) lineup of Small Batch Boutique Bourbons. It’s named for, well, Rowan’s Creek, the watercourse which runs through the distillery grounds. The creek was in turn was named for John Rowan, a 19th century Kentucky statesman and politician whose family lived in Bardstown. The home sung about in “My Old Kentucky Home” was John Rowan’s. This is a bourbon which is Kentucky through and through.
Rowan’s Creek is, in fact, the best seller in the entire Willett family, which touts over a dozen products spread across several different series. So, does its taste and quality live up to those sales figures, and its Kentucky heritage?
On the bottle, a classic wine bottle in shape, you’ll find what looks to be a handwritten label, with a swerving line denoting a map of the creek itself. Rowan’s Creek is aged for 12 years, and is bottled at 100.1 proof, 50.05% ABV. You have to love that extra .1 in there, right?
Rowan’s is a deep, dark amber in the glass, and offers a strong spice on the nose, with a minty, herbal scent. I hate to say it, because it’s not meant derogatorily, but the nose calls to mind Listerine, between the herbal-mint and the tinge of alcohol.
On the palate, you’ll find a velvety bourbon which has the caramel sweetness you’d expect after 12 years in the barrel. There’s also a touch of pepper in there, and oak. The finish is long and starts sharp before mellowing and extending to a dry, spicy and woody finish with a bit of lemon which stays with you between sips. Add ice, and notice hints of molasses and chocolate on the palate with a quieter finish and less spice all around.
Rowan’s Creek makes for a fine sipping bourbon, even if it doesn’t quite match the lofty standards of older brother Noah’s Mill, which is stronger, and aged for several more years. It’s certainly smooth, but not quite as refined.
I’ve seen Rowan’s Creek for as little as $33 for a 750 ml bottle, a steal. More typically it’s found for about $40, and is widely available around the country and online.
Rowan’s Creek has hauled in many a medal over the years, including gold medals at the 2005, 2011 and 2012 San Francisco World Spirits Competition.